Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jump Time: Shaping Your Future in a World of Radical Change

Book Review: Jump Time: Shaping Your Future in a World of Radical Change
by Jean Houston (Sentient Publications 2004)

Dr. Jean Houston is a psychologist and cultural anthropologist as well as being a New Age guru of sorts. She also writes about myth and the human predicament and human potential. This book is a brainstorming type of study about preparing for the future and about preparing for change. Jump Time refers to the jump of an evolutionary leap – mainly in expansion of consciousness. It is a good book to contemplate, but for me it was a bit wordy and digressive at times. Also even being a mere six years old it seemed outdated in places – as technology moves fast.

She suggests that our current stage of collective growth is being spurred by five forces:
1) The Evolutionary Pulse from Earth and Universe – basically I think this refers to the Earth and Universe as aspects of a collective mind, or as representations of the whole so ideas like earth stewardship and participating in the cosmic dance of the universe apply – but this on is a bit vague for me.
2) The Repatterning of Human Nature – changing our ways of thinking – the rare skills and talents of the few through training and opportunity- she says – can be learned by the many. She calls these matured possibilities. Perhaps max potential.
3) The Regenesis of Society – new ways of connecting with others, new community forms, inclusiveness, emphasizing process over product (which she suggests is a contribution of women)- going from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric – seeing the world and society as ecology
4) The Breakdown of the Membrane – dissolving barriers and phobias; realizing a more collective destiny, developing more inclusiveness, diversity, and fusion.
5) The Breakthrough of the Depths – convergence of worldwide spiritual traditions yielding opportunities; tapping the inner to better fashion the outer.

The author draws on her extensive and often intimate experiences with indigenous cultures throughout the world as an anthropologist. She talks of experiences with the Maories of New Zealand, the Aborigines of Australia, different castes of India, in Africa, in South America, as well as among Americans and Europeans. She does have a cosmopolitan perspective.

Evolution – she points out is made up of critical Jump Time changes, or mutations, that led us to better adapt to our environment becoming more and more complex and self-aware. Newer evolutionists point out that evolutionary changes seem now to be more abrupt than thought in the past, by Darwin and others. As more of the fossil record was filled in the gaps still remained. There is a term referred to as “punctuated equilibrium” or “punk eek” where a species jumps to a new order of being in order to stabilize an unstable situation/state.

Through examples like Archimedes and Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance – she stresses the ideal of realizing one’s destiny, or as Aristotle referred to it, one’s entelechy. She describes this as linking one’s personal destiny to the Universal destiny. She comes up with another term to describe a healthy means of us experiencing many selves or personalities. Instead of split personality – or schizophrenia she talks about an orchestrated personality of many facets which she refers to as polyphrenia. She relates this to mythic stories of shapeshifters, particularly Proteus, the soothsayer in Homer’s -The Odyssey. She talks of mult-tasking, and playing different roles, and leading simultaneous lives.

Next she promulgates her idea of the three regions of the psyche: “... I call them the realm of “This is Me,” which pertains to the local and historical self in everyday reality; the realm of “We Are,” the place of archetypal persona and the source level of principles and patterns of ideas and creative forms; and the realm of “I Am,” Being Itself, or even God as the unity of all being.” She makes an interesting suggestion that shamanism can better access the archetypal modes because it is pre-political and so is unmediated direct transpersonal experience. But shamans too have to be polyphrenic, especially nowadays! She also talks about “the World Self” – sort of the story of the unfolding of the cosmos. Tapping into this is akin to tapping into “Cosmic Consciousness” or the “Universal Form.”

Her next subject is a look at reforming our educational systems as a way of re-patterning human nature. She looks at the educational environment of Shakespeare which derived from the system of the 16th century German humanist Desiderius Erasmus. It involved incorporating the multi-media of the time – plays, poetry, story, etc and also learning by emulation or imitation of previous forms. She also takes about modern cutting-edge education such as the Clara Barton school in Minnesota where the importance of the arts, creativity, imagination, and bodily learning are emphasized. She emphasizes the importance of multi-sensory learning, consciousness training, ethics training, and education in the appropriate use of technology. She also like teaching-learning communities where everyone teaches and everyone learns. This has been the norm in New Age, pagan, and magickal communities for years now. (Indeed this is one aspect of my copious book-reporting).

Next she mentions her notice of four levels of the human psyche: 1) sensory 2) psychological 3) mythic or symbolic 4) integral or spiritual. Since we relate at all these levels we should analyze them as much as possible, seeing how they inter-relate.

Next she relates a long chapter called “Peacemaking and the Global Longhouse” based on the story of the great Iroquois peacemaker, Deganawidah. She relates this story throughout and compares the challenges of 12th century Native America to modern ones. The Peacemaker was able to cut through warring tribalism and create a new paradigm of inter-tribal cooperation culminating in the federation of tribes of “the people of the long house.” Some have even suggested that these ideas influenced the ideas of the founders of the USA. She relates the interesting story of the Peacemaker and Hiawatha first developing the condolence ritual of the wampum beads where one strings shell beads to remove obscurations of sight, hearing, and speech in order to overcome grief. The beads are then worn as a reminder. The Peacemaker’s idea of the Great Council form of government is also quite interesting. Each session was begun with group acknowledgements of thanksgiving.

Next she talks about the inevitable modern manifestation of fusion as different cultures interact. She talks about the cosmopolitan City of Alexandria in Ptolemaic Egypt – founded by Alexander the Great in 300s BC then reaching its heyday in 1st few centuries AD. It was a great city of diversity and a cross-roads of many paganisms and a great Mecca and repository of the knowledge and science of the time until succumbing to the fanatical Christians of the time which culminated in the destruction by burning of the greatest library of the known world at that time. This was the place of birth of Hermeticism where the Greek Hermes (Roman Mercury) was merged with the Eqyptian Thoth. Some of this knowledge later made it to the Byzantine Empire which preserved it until the fall of the Ottoman Turk Empire. After that it became available again, sparking the great new interests in magick, of the Renaissance, another great Jump Time according to the author. She also mentions the backlash of fusion, the distrust born of fear of others that caused the downfall of Alexandria and threatens any other fusion phenomena. We see this today in the forms of protest against depictions of religious forms and in perceived blasphemy.

Next she talks about the internet and its possibilities. Strangely at 6 or 7 years past a lot of this seems outdated already. The net does potentially create opportunities for what the author calls – The Regenesis of Society – or new forms of community. Internet communities are thriving and do have great possibilities – especially with a high level of participation. I am hoping for more in this realm – maybe too much – but it seems we can do much if we work at it.

Next section is about on-going cosmology and spiritual scenario influenced by fusion of spiritual traditions and other influences such as sci-fi books and movies and implications of things like quantum physics and relativity and cutting edge biology. Three things she suggest that we do to better integrate ourselves are: 1) De-condition old habit patterns 2) Enter the silence or celebrate the fullness – which means to practice meditation or some form of contemplative practice. 3) Find a Community – work with others on re-creating and re-patterning. She describes two types of contemplative practice which she calls “the way in” and “the way out.” The first way is meditation on the inner and the second is being mindfully aware of the fullness of the outer world. Nowadays we can practice these techniques from various traditions the world over: Buddhist-style meditation, New Age guided meditations, centering prayers, shamanic journeying, martial arts meditation, yogic style practice, etc etc.

As far as the Re-genesis of Society, the author offers these six forms:
1) participation- everyone has a chance to participate and a responsibility to participate. 2) rediscovery – honoring the capacities of others, rediscovering the potential of one’s own neighborhood 3) creativity – creating in community, making creativity a group effort 4) healing – healing rifts in local societies 5) celebration – illuminating the story of our changing society with the arts, songs, and stories – also on local levels. 6) hope –seeing problems as opportunities. This is akin to the idea that every situation is workable.

This was a useful book to read and the ideas of change and the future are most worthy of contemplation. I think maybe we should all consider this topic more deeply and more frequently and write our own books on the subjects of change, human potential, and future forms of humans and society.

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