Marilyn Ferguson

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Marilyn Ferguson (April 5, 1938 in Grand Junction, Colorado – October 19, 2008) was an American author, editor and public speaker, best known for her 1980 book The Aquarian Conspiracy and its affiliation with the New Age Movement in popular culture, credited as "the handbook of the New Age" (USA Today) and a guidepost to a philosophy "working its way increasingly into the nation's cultural, religious, social, economic and political life" (New York Times).

Marilyn Ferguson, author and pioneer, circa 1980.
I was drawn to the symbolic power of the pervasive dream in our popular culture: that after a dark, violent age, the Piscean, we are entering a millennium of love and light — in the words of the popular song, "The Age of Aquarius," the time of "the mind's true liberation."
Whether or not it was written in the stars, a different age seems to be upon us; and Aquarius, the waterbearer in the ancient zodiac, symbolizing flow and the quenching of an ancient thirst, is an appropriate symbol.



The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980)


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  • The spirit of our age is fraught with paradox. It is at the same time pragmatic and transcendental. It values both enlightenment and mystery... power and humility ... interdependence and individuality. It is simultaneously political and apolitical. Its movers and shakers include individuals who are impeccably Establishment allied with one-time sign-carrying radicals.
  • "It" has infected medicine, education, social science, hard science, even government with its implications. It is characterized by fluid organizations reluctant to create hierarchical structures, averse to dogma. It operates on the principle that change can only be facilitated, not decreed. It is short on manifestos. It seems to speak to something very old. And perhaps, by integrating magic and science, art and technology, it will succeed where all the king's horses and all the king's men failed.
  • In their sharing of strategies, their linkage, and their recognition of each other by subtle signals, the participants were not merely cooperating with one another. They were in collusion. "It" — this movement — was a conspiracy! At first I was reluctant to use the term. I didn't want to sensationalize what was happening, and the word conspiracy usually has negative associations. Then I came across a book of spiritual exercises in which the Greek novelist, Nikos Kazantzakis, said he wished to signal his comrades, "like conspirators," that they might unite for the sake of the earth... Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau... quoted from a passage in which the French scientist-priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin urged a "conspiracy of love."
  • Conspire, in its literal sense, means "to breathe together." It is an intimate joining. To make clear the benevolent nature of this joining, I chose the word Aquarian.
  • Although I am unacquainted with astrological lore, I was drawn to the symbolic power of the pervasive dream in our popular culture: that after a dark, violent age, the Piscean, we are entering a millennium of love and light—in the words of the popular song, "The Age of Aquarius," the time of "the mind's true liberation."
  • Whether or not it was written in the stars, a different age seems to be upon us; and Aquarius, the waterbearer in the ancient zodiac, symbolizing flow and the quenching of an ancient thirst, is an appropriate symbol.

Chapter One, The Conspiracy

  • A leaderless but powerful network is working to bring about radical change in the United States. Its members have broken with certain key elements of Western thought, and they may even have broken continuity with history. This network is the Aquarian Conspiracy. It is a conspiracy without a political doctrine. Without a manifesto. With conspirators who seek power only to disperse it, and whose strategies are pragmatic, even scientific, but whose perspective sounds so mystical that they hesitate to discuss it. Activists asking different kinds of questions, challenging the establishment from within.
  • Broader than reform, deeper than revolution, this benign conspiracy for a new human agenda has triggered the most rapid cultural realignment in history. The great shuddering, irrevocable shift overtaking us is not a new political, religious, or philosophical system. It is a new mind — the ascendance of a startling worldview that gathers into its framework breakthrough science and insights from earliest recorded thought.
    The Aquarian Conspirators range across all levels of income and education, from the humblest to the highest. The Aquarian Conspirators range across all levels of income and education, from the humblest to the highest. There are schoolteachers and office workers, famous scientists, government officials and lawmakers, artists and millionaires, taxi drivers and celebrities, leaders in medicine, education, law, psychology. Some are open in their advocacy, and their names may be familiar. Others are quiet about their involvement, believing they can be more effective if they are not identified with ideas that have all too often been misunderstood.
  • Whatever their station or sophistication, the conspirators are linked, made kindred by their inner discoveries and earthquakes. You can break through old limits, past inertia and fear, to levels of fulfillment that once seemed impossible ... to richness of choice, freedom, human closeness. You can be more productive, confident, comfortable with insecurity. Problems can be experienced as challenges, a chance for renewal, rather than stress. Habitual defensiveness and worry can fall away. It can all be otherwise.
  • In the beginning, certainly, most did not set out to change society. In that sense, it is an unlikely kind of conspiracy. But they found that their lives had become revolutions. Once a personal change began in earnest, they found themselves re-thinking everything, examining old assumptions, looking anew at their work and relationships, health, political power and “experts," goals and values.
  • They have coalesced into small groups in every town and institution. They have formed what one called "national non-organizations." Some conspirators are keenly aware of the national, even international, scope of the movement and are active in linking others. They are at once antennae and transmitters, both listening and communicating. They amplify the activities of the conspiracy by networking and pamphleteering, articulating the new options through books, lectures, school curricula, even Congressional hearings and the national media.
  • Others have centered their activity within their specialty, forming groups within existing organizations and institutions, exposing their co-workers to new ideas, often calling on the larger network for support, feedback, back-up information.
  • New perspectives give birth to new historic ages, Humankind has had many dramatic revolutions of understanding — great leaps, sudden liberation from old limits. . . A paradigm is a scheme for understanding and explaining certain aspects of reality. . . Usually at the point of crisis, someone has a great heretical idea. A powerful new insight explains the apparent contradictions. It introduces a new principle — a new perspective.
    New paradigms are nearly always received with coolness, even mockery and hostility. The idea may appear bizarre, even fuzzy, at first because the discoverer made an intuitive leap and does not have all the data in place yet.
  • When you understand the basic change taking place in any one major area, it is easier to make sense of the others. This discovery of a new pattern transcends explanation. The shift is qual-itative, sudden, the result of neurological processes too rapid and complex to be tracked by the conscious mind. Although logical explanations can be laid out up to a point, the seeing of a pattern is not sequential but all-at-once. If a new concept does not click into place for you on first encounter, read on. As you move through the book you will come upon many related ideas, connections, examples, metaphors, analogies, and illustrative stories. In time, patterns will emerge, the shifts will occur. From the new perspective, old questions may seem suddenly irrelevant.
  • Once you have grasped the essence of this transformation, many otherwise inexplicable events and trends in the immediate environment or in the news may fall into place. It is easier to understand changes in one's family, one's community, the society. In the end we will see many of the darkest events in the context of a brightening historic picture, much as one stands back from a pointillist painting to get its meaning.
  • In literature there is a trusted device known as the Black Moment, the point where all seems lost just before the final rescue. Its counterpart in tragedy is the White Moment — a sudden rush of hope, a saving chance, just before the inevitable disaster. Some might speculate that the Aquarian Conspiracy, with its promise of last-minute turnabout, is only a White Moment in Earth's story; a brave, desperate try that will be eclipsed by tragedy — ecological, totalitarian, nuclear. Exeunt humankind. Curtain.
  • We stand on the brink of a new age, Lewis Mumford said, the age of an open world, a time of renewal when a fresh release of spiritual energy in the world culture may unleash new possibilities. “The sum of all our days is just our beginning." Seen with new eyes, our lives can be transformed from accidents into adventures. We can transcend the old conditioning, the dirt-poor expectations. We have new ways to be born, humane and symbolic ways to die, different ways to be rich.

Chapter Two, Premonitions of Transformation and Conspiracy

  • The emergence of the Aquarian Conspiracy in the late twentieth century is rooted in the myths and metaphors, the prophecy and poetry, of the past. Throughout history there were lone individuals here and there, or small bands at the fringes of science or religion, who, based on their own experiences, believed that people might someday transcend narrow “normal" consciousness and reverse the brutality and alienation of the human condition.
  • The premonition was recorded, from time to time, that a minority of individuals would someday be yeast enough to leaven a whole society. Serving as a magnet culture, they would attract order around them, transforming the whole. The central idea was always the same: Only through a new mind can humanity remake itself, and the potential for such a new mind is natural.
  • These courageous few have been history's radar, a Distant Early Warning System for the planet. As we will see, some of them expressed their insights in a romantic vein, others as intellectual concepts, but all were pointing to a larger view. "Open your eyes," they were saying, "there is more." More depth, height, dimension, perspectives, choices than we had imagined. They celebrated the freedom found in the larger context and warned of the dangerous blindness of the prevailing view. Long before global war, ecological stress, and nuclear crisis struck, they feared for the future of a people without a context.
  • Although they themselves moved beyond the dominant ideas of their day, they carried few of their contemporaries with them. Most often they were misunderstood, lonely, even ostracized. Until this century, with its rapid communication, there was little chance for linkage among these scattered individuals. Their ideas, however, served as fuel for future generations.
  • Those who had premonitions of transformation believed that future generations might detect the invisible laws and forces around us: the vital networks of relationship, the ties among all aspects of life and knowledge, the interweaving of people, the rhythms and harmonies of the universe, the connectedness that captures parts and makes them wholes, the patterns that draw meaning from the web of the world. Humankind, they said, might recognize the subtle veils imposed on seeing; might awaken to the screen of custom, the prison of language and culture, the bonds of circumstance.
  • The themes of transformation have emerged with increasing strength and clarity over time, gathering impetus as communication expanded. At first the traditions were transmitted intimately, by alchemists. Gnostics, cabalists, and hermetics. With the invention of moveable type in the mid-fifteenth century, they became a kind of open secret but were available only to the literate few and were often suppressed by church or state. "...
  • Meister Eckhart, the German churchman and mystic of the fourteenth century; Giovanni Pico della Mirandola in the fifteenth; Jacob Boehme, a German, in the sixteenth and seventeenth; Emanuel Swedenborg in the seventeenth and eighteenth. We are spiritually free, they said, the stewards of our own evolution. Humankind has a choice. We can awaken to our true nature. Drawing fully from our inner resources we can achieve a new dimension of mind; we can see more.
  • "I see through the eye, not with it," said poet-engraver William Blake, who lived in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The enemy of whole vision, he said, was our reasoning power's divorce from imagination, "closing itself in, as steel." This half-mind was forever making laws and moral judgments and smothering spontaneity, feeling, art. To Blake, his age itself stood as the accuser, characterized by fear, conformity, jealousy, cynicism, the spirit of the machine. Yet this dark force was only a "Spectre," a ghost that could be exorcised from the minds it haunted.
  • The Transcendentalists — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, and Margaret Fuller, along with several dozen others — rebelled against what seemed the dead, dry intellectualism of the day. Something was missing — an invisible dimension of reality they sometimes called the Oversoul. They sought understanding from many sources: experience, intuition, the Quaker idea of the Inner Light, the Bhagavad Gita, the German Romantic philosophers, historian Thomas Carlyle, poet Samuel Coleridge, Swedenborg, the English metaphysical writers of the seventeenth century. Their term for intuition was "transcendental reason." They anticipated the consciousness research of our time in their belief that the brain's other mode of knowing is not an alternative to normal reasoning but a kind of transcendent logic — too fast and complex for us to follow with the step-by-step reasoning powers of our everyday consciousness.
  • In Cosmic Consciousness, written in 1901, Richard Bucke, a Canadian physician, described the experience of an electrifying awareness of oneness with all life. Persons who experienced such states of consciousness were becoming more numerous, he said, walking the earth and breathing the air with us, but at the same time walking another earth and breathing another air of which we know little. "This new race is in the act of being born from us, and in the near future it will occupy and possess the earth."
  • In 1902 William James, the great American psychologist, redefined religion not as dogma but as experience — the discovery of a new context, an unseen order with which the individual might achieve harmony. Our ordinary consciousness filters out awareness of this mysterious, enlarged dimension, yet until we have come to terms with its existence we must beware lest we make a "premature foreclosure on reality." Of all the creatures of earth, James said, only human beings can change their pattern. "Man alone is the architect of his destiny. The greatest revolution in our generation is that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives."
  • Gradually Western thinkers were beginning to attack the very foundations of Western thought. We were naive in our expectation that mechanistic science would explain the mysteries of life. These spokesmen for a larger worldview pointed out how our institutions were violating nature: Our education and philosophy failed to value art, feelings, intuition.
  • In The Open Conspiracy: Blueprints for a World Revolution (1928), novelist-historian H. G. Wells proposed that the time was nearly ripe for the coalescence of small groups into a flexible network that could spawn global change. “All this world is heavy with the promise of greater things," Wells once said, "and a day will come, one day in the unending succession of days, when beings who are now latent in our loins shall stand upon this earth as one stands upon a footstool and shall touch the stars."
  • Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst, was drawing attention to a transcendent dimension of consciousness usually ignored in the West, the union of the intellect with the intuitive, pattern-seeing mind. Jung introduced an even larger context, the idea of the collective unconscious: a dimension of shared symbols, racial memory, pooled knowledge of the species. He wrote of the “daimon" that drives the seeker to search for wholeness.
  • After a visit to the United States in 1931, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin sailed back to China from the San Francisco Bay. Enroute the Jesuit paleontologist framed an essay, "The Spirit of the Earth," inspired by his growing conviction that a conspiracy of individuals from every layer of American society was engaged in an effort "to raise to a new stage the edifice of life." Back in Peking he set forth his major thesis: Mind has been undergoing successive reorganizations throughout the history of evolution until it has reached a crucial point — the discovery of its own evolution. This new awareness — evolving mind recognizing the evolutionary process — "is the future natural history of the world." It will eventually become collective. It will envelop the planet and will crystallize as a species-wide enlightenment he called "Omega Point."...No one can call himself modern who disregards this evolutionary thrust, he said. To our descendants it will be as familiar and instinctive an idea as the third dimension of space is to a baby.
  • The Phenomenon of Man was limited to private circulation during Teilhard's lifetime because the church forbade him to publish it. In it, he warned that a mind awakened to this evolutionary concept may experience fear and disorientation. It must create a new equilibrium for everything that had once been tidy in its inner world. “It is dazzled when it emerges from its dark prison."
  • In the late 1930s a Polish count, Alfred Korzybski, pointed out yet another aspect of consciousness — language. Language molds thought, he said, laying out the principles of General Semantics. We confuse it with reality; it creates false certainties. With words we try to isolate things that can only exist in continuity. We fail to see process, change, movement. If we are to experience reality, Korzybski and his followers said, we must acknowledge the limits of language.
  • The egg is breaking, the chromosomes are splitting to go forward with a new pattern of life. Those of us who seem most alien . . . are the ones who are going forward to create the life as yet inchoate. We who are affected cannot make ourselves clear... This is the era when apocalyptic visions are to be fulfilled. We are on the brink of a new life, entering a new domain. In what language can we describe things for which there are as yet no new names? And how describe relations? We can only divine the nature of those to whom we are attracted, the forces to which we willingly yield obedience. . . .
  • In a 1940 letter Aldous Huxley said that although he was profoundly pessimistic about collective humanity at the moment, he was "profoundly optimistic about individuals and groups of individuals existing on the margins of society." The British author, living in Los Angeles, was the hub of a kind of pre-Aquarian conspiracy, an international network of intellectuals, artists, and scientists interested in the notion of transcendence and transformation. They disseminated new ideas, supported each other's efforts, and wondered whether anything would ever come of it. Many of Huxley's interests were so advanced that they did not come into their own until the decade after his death. When such ideas were heresies, he was a proponent of consciousness research, decentralization in government and the economy, paranormal healing, the uses of altered awareness, visual retraining, and acupuncture.
  • In the mid-1950s psychoanalyst Robert Lindner touched off controversy by his prophetic warning that there was an impending "mutiny of the young": Into them we have bred our fears and insecurities, upon them we have foisted our mistakes and misconceptions. In our stead they are expressing the unrelieved rage, the tension, and the terrible frustration of the world they were born into They are imprisoned by the blunders and delusions of their predecessors, and like all prisoners, they are mutineers in their hearts.
    Must We Conform? asked the title of a book he wrote in 1956. "The answer is a resounding No! No — not only because in the end we are creatures who cannot . . . but no because there is an alternate way of life available to us here and now. It is the way of positive rebellion, the path of creative protest." The key was enlarged awareness, Lindner said — recognition of how we are crippled by unconscious fears and motives. "I believe profoundly that the tide can be turned."
  • C. S. Lewis, novelist and essayist, described what seemed to him a kind of secret society of new men and women, "dotted here and there all over the earth." One could learn to recognize them, he said, and clearly they recognized each other.
  • To make the best of both worlds. Oriental and European, the ancient and modern — what am I saying? To make the best of all the worlds — the worlds already realized within the various cultures and, beyond them, the worlds of still unrealized potentialities.
  • Indeed, diverse cultures were impinging on each other more by the day. In his enormously influential Understanding Media (1964), Marshall McLuhan described the coming world as a “global village," unified by communications technology and rapid dissemination of information. This electrified world, with its instant linkage, would bear no resemblance to the preceding and of the human family, a single consciousness?
  • Psychologist Abraham Maslow described an innate human drive beyond basic survival and emotional needs — a hunger for meaning and transcendence. This concept of "self-actualization" rapidly gained adherents. "It is increasingly clear," Maslow wrote, "that a philosophical revolution is under way. A comprehensive system is swiftly developing, like a tree beginning to bear fruit on every branch at the same time." He described a group he thought of as Transcenders, "advance scouts for the race," individuals who far exceeded the traditional criteria for psychological health. He compiled a list of around three hundred creative, intelligent individuals and groups of individuals whose lives were marked by frequent "peak experiences" (a term he coined). This was his Eupsychean Network — literally, "of good soul." Transcenders were irresistibly drawn to each other, he said; two or three such people would find each other in a roomful of a hundred, and they were as likely to be businessmen, engineers, and politicians as poets and priests.
  • In 1967 Barbara Marx Hubbard, a futurist moved by Teilhard's vision of evolving human consciousness, invited a thousand people around the world, including Maslow's network, to form a "human front" of those who shared a belief in the possibility of transcendent consciousness. Hundreds responded, including Lewis Mumford and Thomas Merton. Out of this grew a newsletter and later a loose-knit organization, the Committee for the Future.
  • Erich Fromm, in Revolution of Hope (1968), foresaw a "new front," a movement that would combine the wish for profound social change with a new spiritual perspective; its aim would be the humanization of a technological world.
  • If we look at the reality of the world from the viewpoint of the industrial era, it is clear that there is no hope But there is another way to look at our situation. We can discover the large number of people who have decided to change. ... If we do this, it seems equally impossible that we shall fail to solve our problems.
  • George Cabot Lodge, statesman and Harvard business professor, said, "The United States is in the midst of a great transformation, comparable to the one that ended medievalism and shook its institutions to the ground. . . . The old ideas and assumptions that once made our institutions legitimate are being eroded. They are slipping away in the face of a changing reality, being replaced by different ideas as yet ill-formed, contradictory, unsettling.”
  • "We are living at a time when history is holding its breath," said Arthur Clarke, author of Childhood's End and 2001 , "and the present is detaching itself from the past like an iceberg that has broken away from its moorings to sail across the boundless ocean."

Chapter Three, Brains Changing, Minds Changing

  • Until a few years ago, claims that consciousness can be expanded and transformed rested on subjective evidence. Suddenly, first in the handful of laboratories of a few pioneer scientists, then in thousands of experiments around the world, the undeniable evidence began coming forth. Awakening, flow, freedom, unity, and synthesis are not "all in the mind," after all. They are in the brain as well. Something in conscious functioning is capable of profound change. The subjective accounts have been correlated with concrete evidence of physical change: higher levels of integration in the brain itself, more efficient processing, different "harmonics" of the brain's electrical rhythms, shifts in perceptual ability.
  • Many researchers say they have been shaken by their own findings about changes in conscious functioning because of the implications for widespread social change. There are hard facts to face, not just soft speculation.
  • The capacity for denial is an example of the body's sometimes short-sighted vision. Some of the body's automatic responses hurt over the long run more than they help. The formation of scar tissue, for example, prevents the nerves in the spine from reconnecting after an accident. In many injuries, swelling causes more damage than the original trauma.
  • And it is the body's hysterical overreaction to a virus, rather than the virus itself, that makes us ill.
  • Our ability to block our experience is an evolutionary dead end. Rather than experiencing and transforming pain, conflict, and fear, we often divert or dampen them with a kind of unwitting hypnosis. Over a lifetime, more and more stress accumulates. There is no release, and our consciousness narrows. The floodlight shrinks into the slender beam of a flashlight. We lose the vividness of colors, sensitivity to sounds, peripheral vision, sensitivity to others, emotional intensity. The spectrum of awareness becomes ever narrower.
  • We have two essential strategies for coping: the way of avoidance or the way of attention.
  • In his 1918 diary, Hermann Hesse recalled a dream in which he heard two distinct voices. The first told him to seek out forces to overcome suffering, to calm himself. It sounded like parents, school, Kant, the church fathers. But the second voice—which sounded farther off, like "primal cause"—said that suffering only hurts because you fear it, complain about it, flee it.
  • The only way out of our suffering is through it. From an ancient Sanskrit writing: Do not try to drive pain away by pretending that it is not real. If you seek serenity in oneness, pain will vanish of its own accord.
  • Conflict, pain, tension, fear, paradox... these are transformations trying to happen. Once we confront them, the transformative process begins.

Chapter Four, People Changing

  • Another liberation — freedom from "attachment" — is perhaps for most Westerners the least understood idea in Eastern philosophy. To us "nonattachment" sounds coldblooded, and "desirelessness" sounds undesirable.
  • We might more accurately think of nonattachment as nondependency. Much of our inner turbulence reflects the fear of loss: our dependence on people, circumstances, and things not really under our control. On some level we know that death, indifference, rejection, repossession, or high tide may leave us bereft in the morning. Still, we clutch desperately at things we cannot finally hold. Nonattachment is the most realistic of attitudes. It is freedom from wishful thinking, from always wanting things to be otherwise.
  • By making us aware of the futility of this wishful thinking, the psychotechnologies help free us from unhealthy dependencies. We increase our capacity to love without bargaining or expectations, to enjoy without emotional mortgages. At the same time, enhanced awareness adds luster to simple things and everyday events, so that what may seem a turn toward a more austere life is often the discovery of subtler, less perishable riches.
  • Another discovery: We are not liberated until we liberate others. So long as we need to control other people, however benign our motives, we are captive to that need. Giving them freedom, we free ourselves. And they are free to grow in their own way.
  • Another discovery: uncertainty. Not just the uncertainty of the moment, which may pass, but oceanic uncertainty, mystery that washes across our beaches forever.
  • Or, as Kazantzakis expressed it, the real meaning of enlightenment is "to gaze with undimmed eyes on all darknesses."
  • In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig described the risk of pressing reason to its furthest reaches, where it turns back on itself. "In the high country of the mind," he observed, "one has to become adjusted to the thinner air of uncertainty, and to the enormous magnitude of the questions asked"
  • The more significant the question, the less likely there will be an unequivocal answer.
  • Vocation is the process of making one's way toward something. It is a direction more than a goal. Following a peak experience, one of the conspirators, a housewife who later became a filmmaker, said, "I felt as if I'd been called to serve on somebody's plan for mankind." The conspirators typically say they feel as if they are cooperating with events rather than controlling them or suffering them, much as an aikido master augments his strength by aligning himself with existing forces, even those in opposition.
  • The individual discovers a new kind of flexible will that helps in the vocation. This will has sometimes been called "intention." It is the opposite of accident, it represents a certain deliberateness, but it doesn't have the iron quality we usually associate with the will.
  • To Buckminster Fuller, the commitment is "kind of mystical. The minute you begin to do what you want to do, it's really a different kind of life." Remarking on the same phenomenon, W. H. Murray said that commitment seems to enlist Providence. "All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamt would have come his way."

Chapter Five, The American Matrix for Transformation

We have it in our power to begin the world again. -Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)
A New Order of the Ages Begins, says the reverse side of the Great Seal, and the Revolutionaries meant it. The American experiment was consciously conceived as a momentous step in the evolution of the species.
  • Whose American dream? The dream is a chameleon; it has changed again and again. For the first immigrants, America was a continent to explore and exploit, a haven for the unwanted and the dissenters—a new beginning. Gradually the dream became an ascetic and idealized image of democracy, bespeaking the age-old hope for justice and selfgovernance. All too quickly, that dream metamorphosed into an expansionist, materialist, nationalist, and even imperialist vision of wealth and domination—paternalism, Manifest Destiny. Yet even then, there was a competing Transcendentalist vision: excellence, spiritual riches, the unfolding of the latent gifts of the individual.
  • As we shall see, there have always been two "bodies" of the American dream. One, the dream of tangibles, focuses on material well-being and practical, everyday freedoms. The other, like an etheric body extending from the material dream, seeks psychological liberation—a goal at once more essential and more elusive. The proponents of the latter dream have nearly always come from the comfortable social classes. Having achieved the first measure of freedom, they hunger for the second.
  • The Original Dream. We have forgotten how radical that original dream was—how bold the founders of the democracy really were. They knew that they were framing a form of government that challenged all the aristocratic assumptions and top-heavy power structures of Western history. The Revolutionaries exploited every available means of communication. They linked their networks by energetic letter writing. Jefferson designed an instrument with five yoked pens for writing multiple copies of his letters. The new ideas were spread through pamphlets, weekly newspapers, broadsides, almanacs, and sermons.
  • As historian James MacGregor Burns noted, they also formulated their protests as official appeals to the king "shipped across the Atlantic after suitable hometown publicity."
  • Hardly anyone expected the American uprising to succeed. Thousands of colonists emigrated to Canada or hid in the woods, certain that the king's armies would tear the colonial regiments to shreds. Nor did a majority of the people support the struggle for independence, even in theory. Historians estimate that one-third favored independence, one-third favored retaining British ties, and one-third were indifferent.
  • The revolution was in the minds of the people. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution. Long before the first shot is fired, the revolution begins. Long after truce is declared, it continues to overturn lives.
  • Although it is rarely noted in histories of the American Revolution, many of the arch-Revolutionaries came from a tradition of mystical fraternity. Except for such traces as the symbols on the reverse side of the Great Seal and the dollar bill, little evidence remains of this esoteric influence (Rosicrucian, Masonic, and Hermetic). That sense of fraternity and spiritual chisement played an important role in the intensity of the Revolutionaries and their commitment to the realization of a democracy.
  • A New Order of the Ages Begins, says the reverse side of the Great Seal, and the Revolutionaries meant it. The American experiment was consciously conceived as a momentous step in the evolution of the species. The cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind, Thomas Paine said in his inflammatory pamphlet Common Sense (1776).
  • In... Without Marx or Jesus, (1971) Jean-Francois Revel described the United States as the most eligible prototype nation for world revolution. "Today in America—the child of European imperialism—a new revolution is rising. It is the revolution of our time . . . and offers the only possible escape for mankind today." ...[Revel]...described the United States as the most eligible prototype nation for world revolution. Real revolutionary activity, he noted, consists of transforming reality, that is, in making reality conform more closely to one's ideal. When we speak of "revolution" we must necessarily speak of something that cannot be conceived or understood within the context of old ideas.
  • The stuff of revolution, and its first success, must be the ability to innovate. In that sense, there is more revolutionary spirit in the United States today, even on the Right, than elsewhere on the Left. The relative freedom in the United States would make it possible for such a revolution to occur bloodlessly, Revel said.
  • If that happened, and if one political civilization were exchanged for another, as seemed to be happening, the impact might be felt worldwide by osmosis. This radical transformation would need the simultaneous occurrence of smaller revolutions—in politics, society, international and interracial relations, cultural values, and technology and science.
  • There also must be an internal critique of injustices, of the management of material and human resources, and of abuses of political power. Above all, there must be criticism of the culture itself: its morality, religion, customs, and arts. And there must be demand for respect of the individual's uniqueness, with the society regarded as the medium for individual development and for brotherhood.
  • Like Transcendentalism, Revel's revolution would encompass "the liberation of the creative personality and the awakening of personal initiative" as opposed to the closed horizons of more repressive societies.
  • The perturbation would come from the privileged classes, he said, because that is the way of revolutions. They are launched by those disenchanted with the culture's ultimate reward system.
  • If a new prototype of society is to emerge, rather than a coup d'etat, dialogue and debate must occur at the highest levels.

Chapter Six, Liberating Knowledge: News from the Frontiers of Science

  • Recall the model of the paradigm shift introduced by Thomas Kuhn: Every important new idea in science sounds strange at first. As the physicist Niels Bohr put it, great innovations inevitably appear muddled, confusing, and incomplete, only half-understood even by their discoverers, and a mystery to everyone else. There is no hope, Bohr said, for any speculation that does not look absurd at first glance.
  • If we stubbornly refuse to look at that which seems magical or incredible, we are in distinguished company. The French Academy announced at one point that it would not accept any further reports of meteorites, since it was clearly impossible for rocks to fall out of the sky. Shortly thereafter a rain of meteorites came close to breaking the windows of the Academy.
  • Today we are on the brink of a new synthesis. In the past four centuries western science has experienced a continuous shattering and reforming of its basic concepts. Now the scientific community has begun to recognize striking correlations between their findings and those expressed abstrusely by ancient mystics. This is a convocation of visionary men and women pioneering this new synthesis.
  • Mental states such as loneliness, compulsion, anguish, attachment, pain, and faith are not just "all in the head" but in the brain as well. Brain, mind, and body are a continuum. Our thoughts—intention, fear, images, suggestion, expectation— alter the brain's chemistry. And it works both ways; thoughts can be altered by changing the brain's chemistry with drugs, nutrients, oxygen. The brain is hopelessly complex. Biologist Lyall Watson spoke of the Catch-22 of brain research: "If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn't!"
  • Science has always tried to understand nature by breaking things into their parts. Now it is overwhelmingly clear that wholes cannot he understood by analysis. This is one of those logical boomerangs, like the mathematical proof that no mathematical system can be truly coherent in itself.
  • The Greek prefix syn ("together with"), as in synthesis, synergy, syntropy, becomes increasingly meaningful. When things come together something new happens. In relationship there is novelty, creativity, richer complexity. Whether we are talking about chemical reactions or human societies, molecules or international treaties, there are qualities that cannot be predicted by looking at the components.
  • Half a century ago in Holism and Evolution Jan Smuts tried to synthesize Darwin's evolutionary theory, Einstein's physics, and his own insights to account for the evolution of mind as well as matter. Wholeness, Smuts said, is a fundamental characteristic of the universe—the product of nature's drive to synthesize.
  • Because we have not understood the brain's ability to transform pain and disequilibrium, we have dampened it with tranquilizers or distracted it with whatever was at hand.
  • Because we have not understood that wholes are more than the sum of their parts, we have assembled our information into islands, an archipelago of disconnected data. Our great institutions have evolved in virtual isolation from one another.
  • Not realizing that our species evolved in cooperation, we have opted for competition in work, school, relationships. Not understanding the body's ability to reorganize its internal processes, we have drugged and doctored ourselves into bizarre side effects.
  • Not understanding our societies as great organisms, we have manipulated them into "cures" worse than the ailments.
  • Sooner or later, if human society is to evolve—indeed, if it is to survive—we must match our lives to our new knowledge. For too long, the Two Cultures—the esthetic, feeling humanities and cool, analytical science—have functioned independently, like the right and left hemispheres of a split-brain patient. We have been the victims of our collective divided consciousness.

Chapter Seven, Right Power

  • This chapter is about politics in the broadest sense. It is about the emergence of a new kind of leader, a new definition of power, a dynamic power inherent in networks, and the rapidly growing constituency that can make all the difference.
  • In the spirit of the Eightfold Path of Buddha, with its injunctions about Right Livelihood, Right Speech, and so on, we might also think in terms of Right Power—power used not as a battering ram or to glorify the ego but in service to life. Appropriate power. p.190
  • "The new person creates the new collectivity," said political scientist Melvin Gurtov, "and the new collectivity creates—is— the new politics." The changing political paradigm concedes that you cannot sort out the individual from the society, nor can you separate "politics" from the people who engage in it. The person and society are yoked, like mind and body. Arguing which is more important is like debating whether oxygen or hydrogen is the more essential property of water. Yet the debate has raged on for centuries.
  • The Crisis: Our institutions—especially our governing structures—are mechanistic, rigid, fragmented. The world isn't working.
  • The Prescription: We must face our pain and conflict. Until we quit denying our failures and muffling our uneasiness, until we confess our bewilderment and alienation, we can't take the next and necessary steps. The political system needs to be transformed, not reformed.
  • According to Confucian writings, wise individuals, wanting good government, looked first within, seeking precise words to express their hitherto unvoiced yearnings, "the tones given off by the heart." Once they were able to verbalize the intelligence of the heart they disciplined themselves. Order within the self led first to harmony within their own households, then the state, and finally the empire.
  • The discovery of freedom, for instance, means little if we are not empowered to act, to be free for something, not just from something. As fear falls away, we are less afraid of power's Siamese twin, responsibility.
  • There is less certainty about what is right for others. With an awareness of multiple realities, we lose our dogmatic attachment to a single point of view. A new sense of connection with others promotes social concern. A more benign view of the world makes others seem less threatening; enemies disappear.
  • "He had won the victory over himself," says the concluding line of George Orwell's grim novel, 1984. "He loved Big Brother." Just as hostages sometimes become fond of their abductors, we become attached to the factors that imprison us: our habits, customs, the expectations of others, rules, schedules, the state. Why do we give away our power or never claim it at all? Perhaps so that we can avoid decisions and responsibility. We are seduced by pain-avoidance, conflict avoidance.
  • In Colin Wilson's science-fiction novel, The Mind Parasites, the protagonist and his associates discover that human consciousness has been victimized, dragged down, and intimidated by a strange parasite that has been feeding on it, sapping its power, for centuries. Those who become aware of the existence of these mind parasites can get rid of them—a dangerous, painful undertaking, but possible. Free of the mind parasites, they are the first truly free human beings, elated and enormously powerful.
  • Just so, our natural power is sapped by the parasites of the centuries: fear, superstition, a view of reality that reduces life's wonders to creaking machinery. If we starve these parasitic beliefs they will die.
  • Just as scientists inevitably come across facts that contradict the existing paradigm, so individuals within a society begin to experience anomalies and conflicts: an unequal distribution of power, an abridgement of freedoms, unjust laws or practices... If this conflict is too intense or focused to be suppressed, a revolution eventually occurs in the form of a social movement. The old consensus is broken, and freedoms are extended.
  • A political paradigm shift might be said to occur when the new values are assimilated by the dominant society. These values then become social dogma to members of a new generation, who marvel that anyone could ever have believed otherwise.
  • Generation after generation, humankind fights to preserve the status quo, maintaining "better the devil you know than the devil you don't know," a bit of folk cynicism that assumes the unknown to be dangerous. p. 197
  • Gandhi carried the concept of the powerful committed minority into the twentieth century, first gaining recognition of the rights of Indians living in South Africa and then achieving India's independence from British domination. "It is a superstitious and ungodly thing to believe that an act of a majority binds a minority," he said. "It is not numbers that count but quality.... I do not regard the force of numbers as necessary in a just cause."
  • The revolutionary principle introduced by Gandhi resolves the paradox of freedom. He called it satyagraha, "soul force" or "truth force." Satyagraha was essentially misunderstood in the West, described as "passive resistance," a term Gandhi disavowed because it suggests weakness, or "non-violence," which was just one of its components.
  • Satyagraha derives its power from two apparently opposite attributes: fierce autonomy and total compassion. It says, in effect: I will not coerce you. Neither will I be coerced by you. If you behave unjustly, I will not oppose you by violence (bodyforce) but by the force of truth—the integrity of my beliefs. My integrity is evident in my willingness to suffer, to endanger myself, to go to prison, even to die if necessary. But I will not cooperate with injustice.
  • Satyagraha is the strategy of those who reject solutions that compromise the freedom or integrity of any participant. Gandhi always said it is the weapon of the strong because it requires heroic restraint and the courage to forgive. He turned the whole idea of power upside down. When he visited the mountain hideout of Indian militants and saw their guns, he said, "You must be very frightened." p. 200
  • The new political awareness has little to do with parties or ideologies. Its constituents don't come in blocs. Power that is never surrendered by the individual cannot be brokered. Not by revolution or protest but by autonomy, the old slogan becomes a surprising fact: Power to the people. One by one by one. p. 240

Chapter Eight, Healing Ourselves

  • Something we were withholding made us weak Until we found it was ourselves.
    • Robert Frost
  • The hope for real social transformation need not rest on circumstantial evidence. One major arena, health care, has already begun to experience wrenching change. The impending transformation of medicine is a window to the transformation of all our institutions. Here we can see what happens when consumers begin to withdraw legitimacy from an authoritarian institution. We see the rise of the autonomous health seeker, the transformation of a profession by its leadership, the impact of the new models from science, the way decentralized networks are effecting wide geographic change.
  • The autonomy so evident in social movements is hitting the old assumptions of medicine hard. The search for self becomes a search for health, for wholeness—the cache of sanity search for health, for wholeness—the cache of sanity and wisdom that once seemed beyond our conscious reach. p. 241
  • Within a few short years, without a shot's being fired, the concept of holistic health has been legitimized by federal and state programs, endorsed by politicians, urged and underwritten by insurance companies, co-opted in terminology (if not always in practice) by many physicians, and adopted by medical students. Consumers demand "holistic health," a whole new assortment of entrepreneurs promise it, and medical groups look for speakers to explain it. p. 242
  • We have been alienated by costs that soared beyond the means of all but the well-insured or wealthy; by specialization and the cold, quantifying approach that brushes past human concerns, and by the growing despair that comes from spending without regaining health. p. 244
  • Health care (including medical insurance) is now the third largest industry in the United States; medical costs are roughly 9 percent of the Gross National Product. Federal health costs are over fifty billion dollars. Neighboring hospitals duplicate expensive equipment, doctors order unnecessary laboratory tests to protect themselves from malpractice suits ("defensive medicine"). Even a simple office call now represents a major expenditure to the average person. Runaway costs, especially hospital charges, have made it all but impossible to enact any sort of national health plan. p. 244
  • If we respond to the message of pain or disease, the demand for adaptation, we can break through to a new level of wellness.
  • For all its reputed conservatism, Western medicine is undergoing an amazing revitalization. Patients and professionals alike are beginning to see beyond symptoms to the context of illness: stress, society, family, diet, season, emotions. Just as the readiness of a new constituency makes a new politics, the needs of patients can change the practice of medicine.
  • Everything of importance is already known, a sage said—the only thing is to rediscover it. Much of the current excitement about healing is a kind of collective remembering, a homecoming to the old wives and old doctors.
  • Scientific discoveries about the richness and complexity of nature reveal the poverty of our usual approaches to health, especially our efforts to deal externally, forcefully, and invasively with systems whose delicate balance can only be corrected if the inner physician is recruited. Just as outer reforms have limited effect on the body politic, external treatments are insufficient to heal the body if the spirit is in conflict.
  • In many instances traditional ways are being re-adopted, not out of nostalgia but because we recognize that our "modern" approaches have been an aberration, an attempt to impose some sort of clumsy order on a nature far more ordered than we can imagine.
  • The twentieth century gave us four-hour bottle feedings of infants, induced labor of childbirth and Caesarian-section deliveries for the convenience of hospitals and doctors, birth and death segregated into isolated, sterile environments empty of human consolation. p. 269
  • A healing state of mind has specific benefits for the healer, however, and for the rapport between therapist and sufferer. A British scientist has observed a particular configuration of brain rhythms in most of the spiritual healers he has tested. (England has thousands of licensed healers, and they are permitted to work in hospitals.) One anxious physician wired to the brainwave device did not show that pattern. Finally the sympathetic researcher said, "Imagine you are about to treat a patient. You have no medicine, no equipment. You have nothing to give but your compassion." Suddenly the physician's brainwave activity shifted into the "healing state" pattern. p. 277

Chapter Nine, Flying and Seeing: New Ways to Learn

  • We are in the early morning of understanding our place in the universe and our spectacular latent powers, the flexibility and transcendence of which we are capable.
  • If our memories are as absorbent as research has demonstrated, our awareness as wide, our brains and bodies as sensitive; if we can will changes in our physiology at the level of a single cell; if we are heirs to such evolutionary virtuosity—how can we be performing and learning at such mediocre levels? If we're so rich, why aren't we smart? p. 279
  • This chapter is about learning in its broadest sense. It's about our surprising capacities, new sources of knowledge, mastery, creativity. It's about the learner within, waiting to be free. And it's about how the learner came to be unfree... about our culture's great learning disability, an educational system that emphasizes being "right" at the expense of being open. p. 280
  • We begin to see the unease and disease of our adult lives as elaborate patterns that emerged from a system that taught us young how to be still, look backward, look to authority, construct certainties. The fear of learning—and transformation—is the inevitable product of such a system.
  • You can only have a new society, the visionaries have said, if you change the education of the younger generation. Yet the new society itself is the necessary force for change in education.
  • It's like the old dilemma: You can't get a job without experience, but you can't get experience because no one will give you a job.
  • Schools are entrenched bureaucracies whose practitioners do not compete for business, do not need to get re-elected or to attract patients, customers, clients. Those educators who would like to innovate have relatively little authority to change their style.
  • Of the Aquarian Conspirators surveyed, more were involved in education than in any other single category of work. They were teachers, administrators, policymakers, educational psychologists. Their consensus: Education is one of the least dynamic of institutions, lagging far behind medicine, psychology, politics, the media, and other elements of our society.
  • There are heroes in education, as there have always been heroes, trying to transcend the limits of the old structure; but their efforts are too often thwarted by peers, administrators, parents. Mario Fantini, former Ford consultant on education, now at the State University of New York, said bluntly, The psychology of becoming has to be smuggled into the schools.
  • Yet there are reasons for optimism. Our error has been in assuming that we had to start with the schools. Schools are an effect of the way we think—and we can change the way we think.
  • Another strong force for change: crisis. All the failures of education, like a fever, signal a deep struggle for health.
  • The business of the Aquarian Conspiracy is calm diagnosis of that illness—to make it clear that synthesis is needed—paradigm change rather than pendulum change.
  • If the streambed of education is being enlarged, one formidable force altering its contours is competition. Learning is where you find it: on "Sesame Street," in inner games of tennis and the Zen of everything, in teaching and learning cooperatives, in computers, on FM radio, in self-help books, in magazines... and television documentaries.
  • The most potent force for change, however, is the growing recognition of millions of adults that their own impoverished expectations and frustrations came, in large measure, from their schooling.
  • If we are not learning and teaching we are not awake and alive. Learning is not only like health, it is health. p. 282
  • Long before Thomas Kuhn observed that new ideas may have to wait for a new generation's acceptance, folk wisdom made this bittersweet point. A Hebrew proverb warns, Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time. Karl Pribram once commented that a new generation will learn about paradox in the early grades and will grow up understanding concepts of primary and secondary levels of reality. p. 321
  • A junior-high student, John Shimotsu of Los Angeles, tried his hand at interpreting for his fellow eighth graders the holographic model of reality proposed by Pribram and physicist David Bohm. In conclusion, he said:
    Why can't you perform actions that we consider paranormal? I think it is because you do not think you can. You may say you wish to, or may sincerely want to, but that will not change what you subconsciously think. Our culture says that those actions would not be possible, so that is what you think is real. To change your reality, you would have to alter your innermost thoughts. The holographic idea is fascinating. What is theory today may be fact tomorrow.
  • All over the world, children and young people are being exposed, via the communications revolution, to such ideas. They are not limited to the parochial beliefs of a single culture. p. 321
  • If education cannot be mended, perhaps it can metamorphose. As someone pointed out, trying to explain the difference between reform and transformation, we have been trying to attach wings to a caterpillar. Our interventions in the learning process to date have been almost that crude. It is high time we freed ourselves of attachment to old forms and eased the flight of the unfettered human mind. p. 321

Chapter Ten, The Transformation of Values and Vocation

  • Making a life, not just a living, is essential to one seeking wholeness. Our hunger turns out to be for something different, not something more. p. 323
  • Buying, selling, owning, saving, sharing, keeping, investing, giving—these are outward expressions of inward needs. When those needs change, as in personal transformation, economic patterns change.
  • Spending is an opiate to many people, a balm to disappointments, frustrations, emptiness. If the individual transforms that inner distress, there is less need for drugs and distractions.
  • Inner listening makes clearer to us what we really want, as distinct from what we have been talked into, and it might not have a price tag. We may also discover that "ownership" is in some sense an illusion, that holding on to things can keep us from freely enjoying them. Greater awareness may give us new appreciation for simple things.
  • If work becomes rewarding, not just obligatory, that also reorders values and priorities. We will look at the evidence for a new paradigm, based on values, which transcends the old paradigm of economics, with its emphasis on growth, control, manipulation.
  • The shift to the values paradigm is reflected in changing patterns of work, career choice, consumption... evolving lifestyles that take advantage of synergy, sharing, barter, cooperation, and creativity. . . the transformation of the workplace, in business, industry, professions, the arts... innovations in management and worker participation, including the decentralization of power . . . the rise of a new breed of entrepreneurs . . . the search for "appropriate technology" . . . the call for an economics congruent with nature rather than the mechanistic views that have propelled us into our present crises.
  • Because the economy is such a political issue it is propagandized, rationalized, lied about. Because our beliefs about the economy affect it, as in the "confidence index," business and government try to buffer the reaction of investors and consumers to unnerving economic news. And because divergent viewpoints are loudly argued, you can choose whom to believe
  • There are illusions of rescue by technology, by the reshuffling of moneys and resources. But our temporary easing of this chronic illness—scarcities, dislocated markets, unemployment, obsolescence—is as dangerous as the medical treatment of symptoms when the cause of disease is unknown. Our intervention in the body economic, like intervention by drugs and surgery, often leads to severe side effects requiring further and deeper intervention.
  • The crisis is evident in the chronic nature of unemployment and underemployment: the technological obsolescence that has overtaken millions of specialized skilled workers, increasing numbers of the highly educated vying for too few white-collar jobs, increasing numbers of teenagers and women trying to enter the work force.
  • Our best hope now is to pay attention, to recognize the ways in which our lives and livelihood have been influenced, even run, by outmoded structures. Our ideas about work, money, and management grew out of an old stable social order irrelevant to present flux and were based on a view of humankind and nature long since transcended in science. The real world turns on different principles than those imposed by our partial economic philosophies.
  • Rather than debating whether capitalism is right in its emphasis on opportunities for the individual or socialism in its concern for the collective, we should reframe the question: Is a materialistic society suited to human needs? Both capitalism and socialism, as we know them, pivot on material values. They are inadequate philosophies for a transformed society.
  • In synthesis may be our salvation—the path between right and left Aldous Huxley called "decentralism and cooperative enterprise, an economic and political system most natural to spirituality."
  • Just as health is vastly more than medicine, just as learning transcends education, so a system of values is the context for the workings of any economy. Whatever our priorities—self aggrandizement, efficiency, status, health, security, recreation, human relationships, competition, cooperation, craftsmanship, material goods—they are reflected in the workings of the economy. p. 326
  • In the nineteenth century John Stuart Mill saw past the early materialist promises of the Industrial Age: No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes place in their mode of thought. In the 1930s historian Arnold Toynbee spoke of "etherealization"—the development of higher, intangible riches as the ultimate growth of a civilization. There seems to be growing sympathy, if not a mandate, for reversing the materialist trend. p. 330
  • The true source of wealth, Eugen Loebl concluded while brooding about economics during his fifteen years as a political prisoner in Czechoslovakia, is not its productivity, its Gross National Product, its tangible assets. Creative intelligence is the wealth of a modern society. If we see gain as a function of man's ability to think, and if we recognize the importance of the intellectual level on which the economy is based, then our prime interest will be oriented toward the development of this level. . . . We can change our reality toward the goals we desire. p. 360
  • On his historic visit to the United States, Tocqueville sailed down the Ohio River. On one hand was Ohio, a free state; on the other Kentucky, a slave state. On the Ohio side of the river he observed industrious activity, rich harvests, handsome homes. The Ohioan could enter any path fortune might open to him. He might become a sailor, a pioneer, an artisan, a laborer. On the Kentucky side Tocqueville saw only indolence. Not only were the slaves half-hearted in their labors, but the masters themselves were enslaved. They could not work their own land because that would demean their status.
  • For too long, like the Kentucky slaveholders, we have turned our best energies toward the pursuit of secondary excitement, hoping to find in such distractions the reward that comes only from vocation. But we have a choice; now we can emigrate to a freer state, finding there new heart, new enterprise, and values that match our deepest needs.

Chapter Eleven, Spiritual Adventure: Connection to the Source

  • Spiritual or mystical experience, the subject of this chapter, is the mirror image of science—a direct perception of nature's unity, the inside of the mysteries that science tries valiantly to know from the outside. This way of understanding predates science by thousands of years. Long before humankind had tools like quantum logic to describe events that ordinary reason could not grasp, individuals moved into the realm of paradox through a shift in consciousness. And there they know that what cannot be is.
  • Millions living today have experienced transcendent aspects of reality and have incorporated this knowledge into their lives. A mystical experience, however brief, is validating for those attracted to the spiritual search. The mind now knows what the heart had only hoped for. But the same experience can be deeply distressing to one unprepared for it, who must then try to fit it into an inadequate belief system. p. 362
  • By radically altering one's values and perceptions of the world, mystical experience tends to create its own culture, one with wide membership and invisible borders. This parallel culture seems to threaten the status quo; as Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, Western society is outraged if an individual gives his soul as much daily attention as his grooming.
  • Critics call them narcissistic, not knowing the thoughtful nature of their inward search; self-annihilating, not knowing the spaciousness of the Self they join; elitist, not knowing how desperately they want to share what they have seen; irrational, not realizing how much further their new worldview goes toward resolving problems, how much more coherent it is with everyday experience.
  • The spiritual quest begins, for most people, as a search for meaning.
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, ...spoke of an "increasing yearning for something spiritual" in advanced Western societies where materialism has proven unsatisfying. People are discovering, he said, that 5 percent per annum more goods is not the definition of happiness. Traditional religion, he conceded, does not provide a substitute: This is why there is a search for personal religion, for direct connection with the spiritual.... Ultimately, every human being, once he reaches the stage of self-consciousness, wants to feel that there is some inner and deeper meaning to his existence than just being and consuming, and once he begins to feel that way, he wants his social organization to correspond to that feeling.... This is happening on a world scale. p. 364
  • Contemporary mystical experiences from many individuals and many parts of the world have centered in recent years on a collective and intensifying vision, the sense of an impending transition in the human story: an evolution of consciousness as significant as any step in the long chain of our biological evolution.
  • The consensual vision, whatever its variations, sees this transformation of consciousness as the moment anticipated by older prophecies in all the traditions of direct knowing—the death of one world and the birth of a new, an apocalypse, the "end of days" period in the Kabbalah, the awakening of increasing numbers of human beings to their godlike potential.
  • The seed of God is in us, Meister Eckhart said. "Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God seed into G o d .
  • The instruction booklet for Stargate, a contemporary symbolic game relating to consciousness, opens: The turning about is upon us, the turning of mind, the expansion of eyes... the light that shapes from within.
  • Always, the vision of evolution toward the light. Light is the oldest and most pervasive metaphor in spiritual experience. We speak of enlightenment, the city of light, the Light of the World, children of light, the "white-light experience."
  • L i g h t . . . light, wrote T. S. Eliot, visible reminder of invisible light.
  • To Honore de Balzac, it seemed that humankind was on the eve of a great struggle; the forces are there, he insisted: I feel in myself a life so luminous that it might enlighten a world, and yet I am shut up in a sort of mineral.
  • In The Reflexive Universe Arthur Young, inventor of the Bell helicopter, offered in speculative scientific terms an idea as old as myth and Plato: We represent a "fall" into matter from light, and the lightward ascent has begun again. p. 385
  • The dream of light and liberation is poetically expressed in an apocryphal contemporary Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ. For too long, it says, our temples have been the tombs of the hidden things of time. Our temples, crypts, and caves are dark. We have been unable to see the patterns. "In light there are no secret things.... There is no lonely pilgrim on the way to light. Men only gain the heights by helping others gain the heights.... We know that the light is coming over the hills. God speed the light. p. 386

Chapter Twelve, Human Connections: Relationships Changing

  • The personal paradigm shift is like a sea-crossing to the New World. The immigrant, try as he might, cannot persuade all his friends and loved ones to make the journey. Those who stay behind cannot understand why the familiar did not hold the immigrant. Why did he abandon his accustomed homeland? Saddest of all, how could their affections not hold him?
  • Ongoing personal transformation moves one away from the Old World—sometimes abruptly, more often over years. As we have seen in an earlier chapter, people change jobs, even vocations, in the wake of shifting perceptions.
  • Many old friendships and acquaintances fall away; new friendships, even a whole new support network, take their place. Based as they are on shared values and a shared journey, these new relationships are perhaps more intense.
  • Relatives, colleagues, friends, and marriage partners, understandably threatened by these changes, often exert pressure on the individual...These pressures only widen the gap. You don't stop an immigrant by trying to revive his hopes for the Old World.
  • Relationships are the crucible of the transformative process. They are bound to alter, given the individual's greater willingness to risk, trust in intuition, sense of wider connection with others, recognition of cultural conditioning. p. 387
  • The wider paradigm of relationships and family transcends old group definitions. The discovery of our connection to all other men, women, and children joins us to another family. Indeed, seeing ourselves as a planetary family struggling to solve its problems, rather than as assorted people and nations assessing blame or exporting solutions, could be the ultimate shift in perspective.
  • If we consider that any child being abused is our child, the problem changes. When we see our culture, our social conditioning, or our class as an artifact rather than a universal yardstick, our kinship expands. We are no longer "ethnocentric," centered in our own culture. p. 402
  • A society in flux will have to create its families in new ways. The new family is emerging from networks and communities, experimental and intentional groups, friendships. The American Home Economics Association redefined the family in 1979 as two or more persons who share resources, share responsibility for decisions, share values and goals, and have commitment to one another over time. The family is that climate that one 'comes home to,' and it is this network of sharing and commitments that most accurately describes the family unit, regardless of blood, legal ties, adoption, or marriage.
  • Human beings have a kind of optical illusion, Einstein once said. We think ourselves separate rather than part of the whole. This imprisons our affection to those few nearest us.
  • I have seen the truth, Dostoevski said. It is not as though I had invented it with my mind. I have seen it, seen it, and the living image of it has filled my soul forever.... In one day, one hour, everything could be arranged at once! The chief thing is to love.
  • Love and fraternity, once part of an ideal, have become crucial to our survival. Jesus enjoined his followers to love one another. Teilhard added, "or you perish." Without human affection, we become sick, frightened, hostile. Lovelessness is a broken circuit, loss of order.
  • The worldwide quest for community typified by the networks of the Aquarian Conspiracy is an attempt to boost that attenuated power. To cohere. To kindle wider consciousness.
  • In this time of uncertainty, when all our old social forms are crumbling, when we cannot easily find our way, we can be lights to each other. p. 403

Chapter Thirteen, The Whole- Earth Conspiracy

  • Victor Hugo prophesied that in the twentieth century war would die, frontier boundaries would die, dogma would die—and man would live. "He will possess something higher than these—a great country, the whole earth... and a great hope, the whole heaven."
  • Today there are millions of residents of that "great country, the whole earth." In their hearts and minds, war and boundaries and dogma have indeed already died. And they possess that large hope of which Hugo wrote. They know each other as countrymen. The Whole Earth is a borderless country, a paradigm of humanity with room enough for outsiders and traditionalists, for all our ways of human knowing, for all mysteries and all cultures. p. 405
  • At first glance, it may seem hopelessly Utopian to imagine that the world can resolve its desperate problems. Each year fifteen million die in starvation and many more live in unrelenting hunger; every ninety seconds the nations of the world spend one million dollars on armaments; every peace is an uneasy peace; the planet has been plundered of many of its nonrenewable resources. Yet there have been remarkable advances as well. Just since the end of World War II, thirty-two countries with 40 percent of the world's population have overcome their problems of food scarcity; China is becoming essentially self-sufficient and has controlled its once-overwhelming population growth; there is a net gain in world literacy and in populist governments; concern for human rights has become a stubborn international issue.
  • We have had a profound paradigm shift about the Whole Earth. We know it now as a jewel in space, a fragile water planet. And we have seen that it has no natural borders. It is not the globe of our school days with its many-colored nations. p.407
  • All countries are economically and ecologically involved with each other, politically enmeshed. The old gods of isolationism and nationalism are tumbling, artifacts like the stone deities of Easter Island.
  • We are learning to approach problems differently, knowing that most of the world's crises grew out of the old paradigm— the forms, structures, and beliefs of an obsolete understanding of reality. Now we can seek answers outside the old frameworks, ask new questions, synthesize, and imagine. Science has given us insights into wholes and systems, stress and transformation.
  • The greatest single obstacle to the resolution of great problems in the past was thinking they could not be solved—a conviction based on mutual distrust. Psychologists and sociologists have found that most of us are more highly motivated than we think each other to be!
  • If we see each other as obstacles to progress, our assumption is the first and greatest obstacle. Mistrust is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our old-paradigm consciousness has guaranteed its own dark expectations; it is our collective negative self-image.
  • The shift for which we have waited, a revolution of appropriate trust, is beginning. Instead of enemies, we are looking for allies everywhere. When an international conference, "The Future of the West," convened at the University of Southern California, the authorities agreed firmly on one point: The conference had been misnamed. The West, they said, can have no future apart from the East.
  • The global village is a reality. We are joined by satellite, supersonic travel, four thousand international meetings each year, tens of thousands of multinational companies, international organizations and newsletters and journals, even an emergent pan-culture of music, movies, art, humor.
  • For millennia...we have lived under the power paradigm, a belief system based on independence and domination. Yet it has always existed alongside the components for a peace paradigm: a society based on creativity, freedom, democracy, spirituality. To foster a global shift...we can now create "a web of reinforcement": leadership comfortable with uncertainty, heightened public awareness of the contradictions in the power paradigm, exciting models of new lifestyles, appropriate technology, techniques for expanded consciousness and spiritual awakening.
  • Once these ideas coalesce into a coherent new paradigm grounded in transformation, we will see that humanity is both a part of creation and its steward as well, "a product of evolution and an instrument of evolution."
  • We need not wait for a leadership. We can begin to effect change at any point in a complex system: a human life, a family, a nation. One person can create a transformative environment for others through trust and friendship. A warm family or community can make a stranger feel at ease. A society can encourage growth and renewal in its members.
  • We can begin anywhere—everywhere. "Let there be peace," says a bumper sticker, "and let it begin with me." Let there be health, learning, relationship, right uses of power, meaningful work.... Let there be transformation, and let it begin with me.
  • Because human choice remains sacrosanct and mysterious, none of us can guarantee a transformation of society. Yet there is reason to trust the process. Transformation is powerful, rewarding, natural. It promises what most people want...The new world is the old—transformed.
  • Historically, movements for social change have all operated in much the same way. A paternal leadership has convinced people of the need for change, then recruited them for specific tasks, telling them what to do and when to do it. The new social movements operate on a different assumption of human potential: the belief that individuals, once they are deeply convinced of a need for change, can generate solutions from their own commitment and creativity. The larger movement inspires them, it supports their efforts and gives them information, but its structure cannot direct or contain their efforts. p. 413
  • The Hunger Project assumes that solutions do not reside in new programs or more programs. According to the best informed authorities and agencies, the expertise to end hunger within two decades already exists. Hunger persists because of the old-paradigm assumption that it is not possible to feed the world's population... The Hunger Project does not compete with older hunger organizations; rather, it publicizes their activities and urges enrollees to support them.
  • The Aquarian Conspiracy is also working to ease hunger—for meaning, connection, completion. And each of us is "the whole project," the nucleus of a critical mass, a steward of the world's transformation.
  • In this century we have seen into the heart of the atom. We transformed it—and history—forever. But we have also seen into the heart of the heart.
  • We know the necessary conditions for the changing of minds. Now that we see the deep pathology of our past, we can make new patterns, new paradigms. "The sum of all our days is just our beginning...."
  • Transformation is no longer lightning but electricity. We have captured a force more powerful than the atom, a worthy keeper of all our other powers.
  • The nations of the world, Tocqueville once said, are like travelers in a forest. Although each is unaware of the destination of the others, their paths lead inevitably toward meeting in the center of the forest. In this century of wars and planetary crisis, we have been lost in the forest of our darkest alienation. One by one the accustomed strategies of nation-states— isolation, fortification, retreat, domination—have been cut off. We are pressed ever more deeply into the forest, toward an escape more radical than any we had imagined: freedom with—not from—each other... the end of winter, the watering of deserts, the healing of wounds, light after darkness—not an end to troubles but an end to defeat.
  • Awakening brings its own assignments, unique to each of us, chosen by each of us. p. 417

Quotes about Marilyn Ferguson

  • Reagan was on the rise, the anti-war movement had sunk to a low ebb, and the New Age was barely christened when The Aquarian Conspiracy appeared in 1980. Overnight Marilyn Ferguson’s book became famous and sold in the millions. I was a young doctor who had just learned to meditate when I picked up a dog-eared paperback copy at a Catskill spiritual retreat. Ferguson’s message shot through me like electricity: a “benign conspiracy” was bringing about the greatest shift in consciousness in the twentieth century. In one stroke Ferguson unified a movement that seemed like small, isolated outposts on the fringes of respectable society.
    Ferguson was a uniter and a futurist. By showing feminists what they shared with environmentalists, New Age spiritual seekers with peace activists, her book inspired a movement that didn’t define the future in terms of technology. She was a one-woman movement for hope. She promised every voice in the wilderness that there were a thousand other voices like theirs.
  • Marilyn Ferguson is the best reporter today on the farther reaches of investigation into the life and human sciences. She represents a new kind of investigative journalist—not a sleuth after the corruptions of a politician but one tracking the spoor of a new research idea in all its windings; following it to its sources and its affinities in allied fields, its conclusions, its implications for the whole spectrum of human thought and consciousness.
    • Max Lerner, in the Forward to The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980)
  • Nietzsche talked of philosophy as the gaya science, the joyful science, and to Marilyn Ferguson the area of knowledge she has staked out for her reporting and synthesizing is a joyful science. She describes with excitement the world of those who have strained to see past the blinders on the human spirit and have thrown them off, and she matches her own mood to their sense of optimism. "I bring you good news" is her message. It is news that we are in the midst of a knowledge revolution that shows signs of breakthrough: that researchers in the human sciences are moving independently in converging lines toward common targets; that they are discarding traditional models of the cosmos and ourselves—of the nature of nature and the nature of human nature—and reaching for new ones...
    • Max Lerner, in the Forward to The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980)

Quotes about The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980)

  • The reader will meet a number of key concepts on these pages—paradigms and paradigm shifts, entropy and syntropy, holism, holographs, the uncertainty principle, dissipative structures, punctuated evolution. This is not a "popularization" that reduces the essence of these concepts in any way. It is, rather, the humanizing of the research and discoveries that have heretofore been beyond the reach of all but the initiates... Amidst the prevailing gloom the news the author brings us is of an open human nature in an open universe. Like the work of the people it describes, this is a book drenched in sunlight.
    • Max Lerner, in the Forward to The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980)

See also

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