Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dawn of the Akashic Age: New Consciousness, Quantum Resonance, and the Future of the World

Book Review: Dawn of the Akashic Age: New Consciousness, Quantum Resonance, and the Future of the World  - by Ervin Laszlo and Kingsley L. Dennis (Inner Traditions – Kindle Edition 2013)

This book was good but also redundant in some ways. There are some good insights within. I enjoyed Laszlo’s Science and the Akashic Field but this book was far less about science and more about politics, sociology, and the future, with somewhat of a New Age-style emphasis. Much of the terrain has been covered previously in other places, it seems. It also seems everyone wants to define the age and predict the future. That is fine but there is much variation. I am in basic agreement to most of their suggestions of what we should begin to do as a species but who knows if and when the needed positive changes will occur.

Akasha, or space, is the fifth element in the Vedic/Indian system of thought. It is said to be more fundamental and all-pervading, pervading all the other elements. Possible synonyms are cosmic matrix, nu-ether, Unified Field, and physical space-time continuum. This idea of the ‘Akashic Field’ emphasizes the interconnectivity of all matter and life. This book is a speculative exploration of the fall of old systems of thought and action and the arising of new ones. The hope is for a “sustainable global civilization” to come about.

It begins with an examination of the evolutionary history of humans. One turning point was our control of fire. This allowed us to be protected from large predators and to extend the “shelf-life” of meat foods. Later domestication of plants and animals allowed us to live settled lives and for population to increase. But like the story of Prometheus, the authors ask whether we have really mastered fire. The Industrial Revolution and cheap fossil fuel energy allowed exponential population increase. Nuclear energy can destroy much of us if we are not careful and fossil fuel energy may be slowly destroying the livability of the planet.

The authors state that understanding the nature of humans and the nature of societies can predict the future and make things better, so biological evolution and sociocultural evolution are examined. Dawkin’s “selfish gene” idea and E.O. Wilson’s Sociobiology (whereby individuals seek to maximize their evolutionary “inclusive fitness”) are examined. Thus, our lives are influenced by the interplay of individual fitness and group fitness. Genetically designing optimum humans on this basis would not be possible for several reasons. We could mutate naturally but trying to create that mutation through actual selecting could be dangerous if not impossible. We do not know if any accidental biological mutation would be beneficial or detrimental. But we can attempt to form a “socially, culturally, and civilizationally new human.” These are nice thoughts but it is all very vague.

Deterministic and probabilistic models of predicting our future are considered and they think we are entering an Integral Age they refer to as the Akashic Age, where different scales of society, such as the local, regional, and global, become more integrated. They compare this to a systems view and to nonlocality, presumably to the concept as used in quantum physics but they are not very clear about this. Systems sciences are more probabilistic than deterministic, more chaotic and non-linear than linear. They mention the six stages of human development according to cultural historian William Irwin Thompson:

  1. Homonization: 4,000,000 – 200,000 BCE
  2. Symbolization: 200,000 – 10,000 BCE
  3. Agriculturization: 10,000 – 3500 BCE
  4. Civilization: 3500 BCE- 1500 CE
  5. Industrialization: 1500 CE – 1945 CE
  6. Planetization: 1945 CE – present

We now have planet-wide interconnected networks of several types: energy, communication, transportation, etc. Cheap energy drives economic growth but there is a limit to both that we may see soon enough. The authors see new “bifurcations” coming. These are changes due to shocks on systems that are fast becoming obsolete. One interesting thing they mention is a change from notional wealth (paper wealth) to real wealth (knowledge and people skills). Another prediction, shared by Jeremy Rifkin and many others, is a shift from top-down (vertical) hierarchical models to collaborative (horizontal) social models that are democratic and participatory. A shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy is another rather obvious necessity. Fossil energy is finite and even renewables have limitations due to needed components. Infinite economic growth and ever-expanding population are simply not possible. The end of growth economies is probably near so different approaches are going to be required. Society may become fragmented, or show some collapse features. Two things are needed, say the authors: collapse preparedness and new technologies. Resource depletion will grow as a problem as the more energy-dense fossil fuels become more rare and expensive. Energy is likely to adopt more local and distributed forms as we seek to reduce transport infrastructure waste and inefficiencies. Abundant fossil fuels allowed a situation where a small percentage of people could produce food for all. The authors suggest that this may be changing and more people will be required in agriculture in the future. They also note that the Arab Spring was also caused by escalating food costs and that will be a recurring issue in the future. Water access is another issue but I believe the problems will be confined to areas with scarce water supplies. Urban water needs will increase. Desalination will increase, but it is energy intensive. Declining supplies of metals, particularly the rare earth elements, will be issues in the future. The authors see financial crises and austerity measures becoming more common as growth economies implode.
They think the processes begun in the 2008 economic downturn will continue to get worse around the world, although things seem to have stabilized momentarily. They think a radical overhaul of the world economic system is needed and is immanent. Urban population continues to rise. Refugees continue to rise due to conflicts, currently mostly in the Middle East. Larger urban populations are also more susceptible to economically damaging natural disasters. The authors suggest that with coming disruptions immanent there are covert actions currently being taken by various governments to secure things like food, energy, water, and land. Geopolitical relationships will shift, they say.

The authors suggest a shift from materialistic, individualistic, short-sighted values and beliefs to more communal, conservationist, and sustainable values and beliefs. The reality of resource limitation needs to be dealt with. The unfairness of the competitive fitness notions of Social Darwinism should be limited. Social and economic justice should be available to all. Income disparity is imbalanced and unsustainable. Free Market dynamics and ideologies cannot solve all problems, we should realize. They say that:

“Market fundamentalism is a lethal cultural belief.”

While free markets do stimulate economic activity and innovation they also have led to economic disparity and unfair advantage and disadvantage for different peoples. Consumerism is also becoming obsolete as people come to realize that happiness is not composed of possessions and those possessions create much unnecessary waste and pollution. Another dying paradigm suggested is that of Militarism, or peace though war.

There is a chapter about Quantum Resonance that puts forth a new physics paradigm whereby space, as the akashic field, is seen as more real than what is in it or passes through it. The analogy given is that the sea is real but the waves are less so – just passing through. Waves travel across the sea but the water does not so the motion of waves is an illusion, not what it appears to be. Similarly, all things are part of the matrix of space. Thus, all things are inseparable from the matrix of space and their separation is an illusion. This akashic paradigm sees the world as a whole. It is a holistic view whereby all things are connected and related into a coherent whole. Quantum nonlocality strongly suggests this coherence, which can be seen as a fine-tuning. The authors think that recognizing our inseparability and coherence is paramount to our solving of world problems:

“Incoherence in a system is unsustainable. It is at the root of the unsustainability of the human world in our time.”

Maintaining such coherence on the human level, where it often becomes temporarily unbalanced, calls for widespread cooperation and collaboration. Systems that are coordinated and finely tuned, ie. coherent, are the most successful. The authors argue that the idea of coherence is fundamental to systems. It can be argued quite convincingly through systems theory that we are not merely individuals. We are also one with our species, the biosphere, and the cosmos.

The authors think that of necessity the future will become more local. Local collectives and co-operatives centered around basic resources like food and energy will become the norm. Local self-dependency will become more important. Greater connectivity is predicted and the need to collaborate will trump the need to compete. A more participatory consciousness due to our online social connectivity will lead to more egalitarian and less centralized social structures. Modern social media is decentralized. They predict empathy as a future core value of social life that is now emerging. Sharing of online content is vast and intricate as we are connected in so many ways. The internet model is horizontal and distributed, and non-hierarchical. The authors point to the democratization of information and communication. Transparency and whistle-blowing make the unfairness of old models more apparent. The new model is based on shared interest rather than self-interest. Throughout this book the authors emphasize the crucial importance of this decade to 2020 in determining our new future.

New ‘Akashic’ models are explored. Regional federations of countries are becoming the norm and initiating projects so that democratic multi-country projects are happening. Economies may become more distributed with participatory capitalism replacing ‘big player’ capitalism. Collaborative funding helps some projects get going, so-far mostly in the arts and creative product realms. This is a more localized, distributed form of venture capitalism. New and local currencies are explored. I am a bit skeptical so far after the recent Bit Coin fiascos. Socially responsible entrepreneurs have initiated some useful projects and hopefully that trend will continue. Philanthropy seems to be in a conflict state where some want to prop up the old models and others want to build new ones. There is much waste along these ideological lines. Those who subsidize sustainable practices also subsidize the future. Fossil fuels will become gradually less profitable and renewables will become gradually more profitable until parity is achieved and then renewables will really take off. Efficient utilization of all energy sources is required now. Distributed energy sources will be a part of that efficiency as localizing energy where it is needed cuts losses through transmission. Smart grids and demand response will also increase efficiency. These investments will pay off, even now. There is great potential in Africa and in developing countries, to build localized renewable energy projects. New educational models are explored. Online learning favors more interaction and diversity in some respects. Apparently, there are actually several on-line universities, some free. This accords with the authors’ idea of a model of distributed peer-to-peer learning. This is a bit different than traditional teacher-student models where one relies solely on the authority, the teacher. Education should also become more transdisciplinary, rather than focusing on single disciplines.

The rest of the book explores making the world of 2030 and includes essays from many different people who are exploring the future. Some of these essays are quite interesting. They predict that between 2012 and 2020 will be a time of social protests, civil disobedience, and austerity measures. So far it has been quiet since Occupy and Arab Spring (much of which has devolved into squabbling). By 2020, they think things will begin to settle as new aspirations take root and by 2030 a more stable world will be operating under new models. New designs for cities may come about where individual transport is banned and public transport expanded. Interestingly, they predict a stabilization of population at around 7.5 billion in 2030 rather than the 9 billion predicted by 2050. They predict standards of living to improve in Africa and Asia. Civil society will replace militaristic society throughout the world as problems are solved by global forums. They predict a sort of people’s council to succeed the United Nations that will include business people and NGOs.

“Global-level coordination is a precondition of successfully restoring the viability of the environment.”

They also predict a World Environmental Council to function as an arm of the United People’s Council. They also predict a global financial restructuring and a global currency, the Gaia. While much of these predictions may sound sensible and useful I find it hard to believe that things could change much at all, let alone this drastically, with humans still wanting to recreate and enforce things like ancient and medieval religious and behavioral codes. A big missing piece from this big picture is the issue of human rights in developing and dogmatic countries that lag far behind. Even social justice among socio-economic classes in developed countries has a ways to go. Women’s rights are another immense issue. These will have to be worked out before any great global coordination of societies can take place. They put much faith in the younger generations, in so-called Generation Y and what they call the Phoenix Generation, to make change. I hope they are right but it seems the old paradigms keep getting passed along. This Phoenix Generation they think will be hyperaware. Personally, while I think many young folks are quite sharp, I have not seen any evidence of this – but maybe I don’t get out enough. I hope they are right in suggesting that a new-wave of thinking is creeping into the social structures as these sharp, aware, and empathic youngsters enter the professional workplaces. The authors give a Manifesto of New Consciousness which emphasizes our connectedness to one another, society, biosphere, and planet.

Now we come to the 2020 world visions of others’ varying perspectives, and indeed some of these are more interesting and useful than others. First up is John L. Peterson with – A New Human…And A New World. He talks about a spectrum ranging from Great Disruption to Rapid Evolutionary Change. He gives four possibilities of possible futures based on two perspectives: hard and rough difficulty and enlightened engagement. On the Enlightened Engagement side there are two possibilities: Joyous Birth as a reaction to Rapid Evolutionary Change and Armageddon Cheated as a reaction to Great Disruption. In Joyous Birth there are no major disruptions so transitions can be smooth. Hard and rough response to Rapid Evolutionary Change is called Old World Fights Back and hard and rough response to Great Disruption is called Dark Before Dawn. I did not find this essay very useful – too speculative and inundated with New Age optimism about consciousness change. Next is The Other Side of the Shift by Nicolya Christi. This one explores the shift that was thought to occur in Dec. 2012. This article is also full of New Age optimism and hope for breakthroughs in consciousness. She does speak of the need to heal the psychological split caused by centuries and generations of human conflict and warfare. I do not disagree with her prescription of cultivating positive attributes such as empathy, inclusiveness, compassion, understanding, equality, mindfulness, etc. in order to be more spiritually authentic but other than that not much was said.

Next is: The PostGrowth Economy by Charles Eisenstein. This one is interesting. He compares ecosystems, humans, and civilizations as all going through a stage of rapid growth before settling into a mature steady state of stability.

“The ecological limits to growth are by now well-known: peak resources and the biosphere’s limited capacity to absorb our waste.”

An end to growth would be disastrous in “an interest-based monetary system.” The choice is whether to continue the old-style economy or switch to a de-growth economy. A successful de-growth economy would have to be based on principles of ecology such as waste-recycling. His predictions by 2020 are interesting: 1) green taxes (not only a carbon tax but taxes for tapping into any ecosystem services such as topsoil depletion and habitat destruction. 2) Payments to less-developed countries and regions for ecosystem services. This means such things as paying those who are destroying rainforests (for profit) for not doing it. Recently, I heard that the value of global ecosystems was calculated at 150 trillion dollars which is double the GDPs of all the countries of the world together. Currently, there is profit in developing ways to more efficiently extract energy and materials, but that will begin to change soon, he says. Money will change into a system based on ecological values, he says. Defining economies in terms of values like GDP will become less meaningful as a quantitative to qualitative shift occurs. A de-growth economy need not be one of scarcity. Much of the value due to scarcity we pay today is artificially induced scarcity, an artifact of our monetary systems. Without our conventional monetary systems there would be a need to make some sort of “social wage” based on one’s level of contribution to society. Such an idea may be inherently difficult due to both stigmas against “socialism” and how to determine one’s value. There may be a choice whether to consume more or work less. The current monetary system favors – consume more – since it is a growth model. He predicts upcoming radical movements for economic democracy. He mentions some ideas like a demurrage-based monetary system to undo the effects of interest so that through negative interest money decays, mimicking the decay in an ecological system. The old economic paradigms of concentration of wealth, short-term thinking, and growth, will have to fade away.

Next essay is: A New Superpower: An Earth Voice Movement by Duane Elgin. Our systems- economic, ecological, energy, climate, etc are all connected and when one breaks down it affects the others. System-wide problems require collaborative unity to solve. The new superpower mentioned is simply the collective voice of those who see the necessities of change and how to bring them about. With the advent of better cloud computing and faster online interaction, there is opportunity for new technologies (maybe an example is – the internet of things –stuff like home climate control) and more detailed services. These improvements also allow more people to communicate instantaneously and simultaneously. This may foster collective voices, says the author. The internet has served to enhance transparencies so that injustices are harder to hide. Emotional intelligence and collective maturity may be required to find this voice. New times may require humanity to become more of a collective species, reducing waste and balancing the interconnected systems. Different levels of networking may become refined. He mentions local Community Voice associations that have two roles: to listen to the concerns of the community and to have electronic town meetings to discuss those concerns and vote on policies. Sustained and meaningful dialogue is the goal.

Next is: Well-Being and Well-Having by Marco Roveda. He mentions redefining our perception of well-being away from materialism and consumerism. The slowness of humans to change may have to do with our habits and instincts. He interestingly notes that the internet and social media has freed us from trends, channels, and agendas. We have more freedom of choice. The idea of media and information control is losing its grip, although there are other insidious things like hoaxes and replication of misinformation. There is greater ideological and technique diversity. People, Planet, Profit – is the mantra. People are the subject, planet the theatre of existence, and meeting survival needs is the root of profit. The corresponding principles are ethical, ecosustainable, and equitable. The development and flowering of social entrepreneurship may come about by 2020. Those with controlling power over large companies will be required to help the public good, not through the charities of their choice , but through re-structuring their companies toward sustainable and social well-being goals. Better, safer, and more environmentally-friendly practices and processes with be required in all industries.

Next is Social Accupuncture: How Facilitating Integral Philanthropy is the Future of Impactful Humanitarianism by Joshua Raymond Frenk and Mary Ann Thompson Frenk. Globalization has enhanced our interconnectedness. Our psychological, sociological, and spiritual systems must adapt to the interconnectivity of our technologies. Environment, economy, and human rights are inseparable as parts of the same interconnected system. Regarding philanthropy, the authors note that humanitarian efforts will have to become more efficient and effective, with some organizations merging or forming alliances with more cooperation and collaboration among non-profits. Because of the current allocations of wealth mainly in business, there will also be important collaborations between non-profits and for-profits. Such would be an example of what they call – integral theory of philanthropy. Environmental and social problems require collaboration. They say traditional philanthropy treats symptoms while their integral philanthropy is more holistic. Being able to facilitate collaborative behavior based on shared connections is what the authors call social acupuncture.

Next is: The Way to the Solar Age by Hazel Henderson. Breakdowns lead to breakthroughs as old systems are replaced by newer and better ones. We as humans are one species who all share the same earth. NGOs and larger orgs like the UN helped to bring systems thinking into the worldview and into academia. Green standards, ecosystem assessments, and various footprint calculators have come from such orgs and their conferences.

Next is: Thrivable Education by Alexander Laszlo and Jean Russell. Here we learn that more systems-oriented educational models will be more applicable in the future. Some models include lucid learning through gaming. Our systems need to be optimized to preserve and repair our environment and social equity. Thrivability is basically optimized sustainability whereby the system thrives. They give the ‘coherence domains’ of thrivability as: personal thrivability, interpersonal thrivability, thrivability in one’s relationship with nature = ecosystem or transpersonal thrivability, and evolutionary or integral thrivability.

Next is: From the Vantage Point by Scott Noppe-Brandon. He emphasizes our responsibility to be sustainable. The value of imagination in solving problems is underrated. It enhances creativity and innovation. Imagination is involved in empathy. As futurists and contemplators of better futures, it is our responsibility to imagine better futures. We all have the seed of imagination to work with.

Next is: The Evolution of Leadership Consciousness Through 2020 by Jefferson Cann. He gives the three dimensions of leadership: space, time, and being. Time has to do with being in the present moment as much as possible to be responsive to needs. Leadership in space relies on self-leadership, the ability to lead oneself successfully in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual realms. Such discipline can only be an aid to leading others. Within our great interconnectivity, all conscious and evolved leaders should be ready to “lead the world.” In the “being” dimension, a leader is aware, connected, and able to transform. As we develop leadership consciousness, we minimize ego and selfish pursuits.

Next is: If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It by Toyoma Nonaka. She is a Japanese businesswoman who was CEO at Sanyo for a while and came up with product line and research known as Think Gaia. After a while the products got nixed due to less profit but she believes that was a mistake. She has come to see the dangers of fossil fuels and of nuclear energy after Fukushima and sees creative renewable energy as the future. Her rallying cry is – if you can dream it, you can do it.

The afterword states optimistically that we can develop a holistic and integral worldview and base our actions on it.

“Our diversity is strengthened through our connections, collaborations, and shared consciousness. Our unity is enhanced through our empathy, compassion, and shared sense of responsibility and destiny.”

“For the first time in our history as a human species, we will be making a conscious decision to create a shared future for ourselves as a planetary society.”

It will become a more primary responsibility to develop humanitarian, ecological, and equitable systems. Our consciousness may well develop along with these systems as we develop new ways to work and act in the world.

“The new Akashic paradigm recognizes that the coherence of the whole is a precondition of the functioning of the parts.” “… it gives us a coherent view of ourselves, of nature, and of the cosmos.”

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