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Daniel Pinchbeck, Author of the Month for November 2009

The Intention Economy (cont.)
By Daniel Pinchbeck

Enlightenment Reason or Occult Conspiracy?

What holds our world together is not only the laws of physics, but language, myth and story. Our narratives create the framework in which our actions and our intentions have meaning, or at least some kind of order. It is very hard for us to live without any coherence at all. It may even be impossible, as our minds immediately begin to weave together some type of fable to support whatever it is we find ourselves doing.

Lately, I find myself switching back and forth between divergent models or myths of reality and seeking to integrate them. One of them is the story of progress and reason, the inheritance of the secular and scientific Enlightenment. The progressive believes that a flawed society can be improved by rational policy and political pressure. The world can be made better for more people, inequities reduced and healthcare guaranteed. Although he has been strategic in his pronouncements, Barack Obama seems the model of a progressive reformer, promoting the type of sensible policies that led to the New Deal and the Great Society.

The other mythic structure that entices me is occult and conspiratorial. According to this story, there is a hidden agenda beneath the façade of chaotic events. This agenda is orchestrated by "them," that group of elite cabals and secret societies, an amalgam of Free Masons, Vatican priests, the descendents of the Nazi scientists brought to the U.S. after World War Two, and so on. To approach this concealed dimension of world affairs, to separate accurate insights from disinformation, is extremely difficult, and perhaps impossible. The quest involves long reading lists of small-press and self-published tomes and many hours on YouTube, watching lectures presented by anxious men in drab conferences. From such unreliable sources, one learns that much alien technology has already been recovered and reverse-engineered, that a New World Order of total social control is being orchestrated, that the Ark of the Covenant is a torsion field generator perhaps hidden in the Pentagon, that shapeshifting reptilians are controlling everything, and other tidbits.

Personally, I don't reject the possibility that there is an occult element in global affairs, a distorting factor that makes true understanding difficult to achieve. During my shamanic work, I encountered spiritual and demonic forces, appearing as visions and voices, but also causing effects that seemed to cross the barrier between the psychic and the physical. According to shamanic traditions, spirits operate across the entire field of our world. Rather than a fine-tuned conspiracy of elite cabals, the true story might be far more muddled, with various factions holding pieces of a puzzle, mired in outmoded rituals and incoherent beliefs, lacking shamanic skills. Many of those involved in these cabals may suffer from guilt and fear the consequences if their shadowy actions are revealed to the public.

Out on the esoteric edge of the cultural imagination, one finds an increasing convergence of thought-streams. The works of Steven Greer, David Wilcock and Richard Hoagland, as well as Nassim Haramein's DVD set, Crossing the Event Horizon (available at theresonanceproject.org) all suggest that, beyond a certain threshold, technological advances may be linked not just to technical knowledge but to our level of consciousness, requiring higher awareness as well as purified intentions in order to function. As Haramein theorizes, the Ark of the Covenant might have been an actual device preserved from antediluvian civilizations, capable of generating extraordinary amounts of energy - enough to open a passage through the Red Sea - but requiring an initiate on the level of Moses to operate it without causing mayhem. Many of these thinkers offer intriguing scenarios in which alchemical or extraterrestrial possibilities could manifest in tangible forms.

Can someone pursue Enlightenment ideals while simultaneously exploring occult conspiracies? If we avoid becoming obsessive or dismissive, it seems possible to hold contrasting myths or models of reality in our minds at the same time. We can study the Mayan Calendar, extraterrestrials and Gnostic cosmology while fighting for social and environmental justice, campaigning for political reform and so on. Whether or not our corrupt system can be changed, we could learn a great deal by joining any valiant effort made in that direction.

For Enlightenment thinkers, the sun symbolized the clear light of reason they adored. The clear light of reason may stream from the sun, but, as the French philosopher Georges Bataille noted, if you turn your gaze upward to look at its source, you find yourself blinded. Those who stare at the sun for too long may go insane. The source of reason in itself produces unreason, blindness and madness. Reason appears to have an innate contradiction at its center. Reason, by itself, may not be enough to get us out of our planetary plight. If spiritual forces operate within our world, then meaningful social change requires, along with political reform, initiatory processes and shamanic practices that could, perhaps, open our minds to new myths of reality.

Building a Scaffold for Social Change

For the most part, the mainstream media and federal government still treat the economic collapse as something that can be fixed, so that economic growth can resume in a few years. Some commentators are beginning to realize that our meltdown represents a deeper and more permanent paradigm shift. The physical environment can no longer withstand the assaults of our industrial culture. We are experiencing a termination of Capitalism as we have known it, a shutdown recently dubbed "The Great Disruption" by Thomas Friedman, in The New York Times. Until recently a leading cheerleader for Neoliberal globalization, Friedman has come to the late realization "that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall." The longer that the general population is allowed to remain in denial about what is happening, the more dire the probable consequences, such as widespread famine, civil unrest, and a disintegration of basic services.

The truth is that we need to make a deep and rapid change in our current social systems and in the underlying models and ideals of our society. It is highly unlikely that those who have been part of the power structure, whether within government or the mainstream media, possess the necessary will, vision, or inspiration to make this happen. Also, when we consider their self-serving support for a delusional model of infinite growth on a finite planet, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, our mainstream pundits and politicos have clearly forfeited any claim to authority, and should never be trusted again.

Many elements of an alternative paradigm, a participatory model in which power is restored to local communities, have been developed over the last decades. In previous columns, I have discussed the "Transition Town" model from the UK as a foundation to help communities move toward resilience and self-reliance. Extraordinary initiatives are presented annually at the Bioneers Conference, and their website maintains an archive of these projects, from bioremediation to complementary currencies, that could be rapidly scaled up if the collective will is mobilized. The nonprofit organization Pro Natura has developed an alfalfa leaf extract that can fulfill a person's annual nutritive needs for a negligible sum - and many other innovators and activists are holding crucial pieces of the new puzzle we need to assemble quickly.

What blocks real efforts at social transformation is the current level of human consciousness. The Italian political philosopher Antonio Negri has noted that the most important form of production in our post-industrial culture is the "production of subjectivity" - our media and education systems have mechanically imprinted a certain level of awareness onto the masses, a passive, consumer consciousness. People have not been encouraged to think or to act for themselves. Now, their very survival may depend upon learning these unfamiliar skills.

Since I comprehended the full depth of the crisis heading our way, I have been working with friends and collaborators to envision and enact solutions. We saw the need for an alternative social network and media that could integrate many aspects of the new paradigm while providing a scaffold for a large-scale process of social transformation. Facebook and MySpace have shown the extraordinary power of social networks to reach an enormous audience, but they have mainly provided a place for people to display and distract themselves in new ways. Most popular social networks are designed to support what media critic Thomas de Zengotita has called the "flattered self," constantly craving attention. The main purpose of these networks is to make a profit for large corporations.

We recently launched Evolver (www.evolver.net), an independent social network, built on open-source software, that is designed to support collaboration between individuals and groups, and to engage people in the process of transforming their own consciousness and their local communities. While we still use many of the standard social networking tools, we have shifted the focus to members' mission and projects. We have also created an internal rating system for members to vote on the initiatives presented by other members, so that the best ideas in every area will rise to the top and gain more attention. We are currently facilitating a network of local groups, across the US and eventually globally, that meet in person every month, and engage in immediate actions to change their world. These groups are called Evolver Spores - you can check Evolver.net to see if there is a Spore in your area, or start your own.

Years ago, Barbara Marx Hubbard wrote, "If the positive innovations connect exponentially before the massive breakdowns reinforce one another, the system can repattern itself to a higher order of consciousness and freedom without the predicted economic, environmental, or social collapse." We are quickly approaching the critical threshold where breakdown or breakthrough becomes inevitable. I don't know if Evolver will reach mass popularity as a tool to bring about this repatterning. Of course, I hope this is the case. In the guise of a for-profit company, we have sought to create something akin to a social utility. At a turbulent time when nobody knows what is going to happen next, it feels good, at least, to have launched something into the world that can help the process of transformation.

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