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Much has been made of the planetary configurations at the time of the Winter Solstice in 2012, which is the date usually associated with the end of the Mayan Calendar. One theory is that the Maya conquered, enslaved, and abused so many people thet it lead to a revolt of such magnitude that it wiped out the entire culture, so that no one was left to continue the calander. In that case the end of their calendar has no significance for us other than a warning against aggression.

However the fact is that the transiting Sun will be passing opposite the Galactic Centre and on June 26, 2010, which is also considered the completion of the 26,000 year Precession of the Equinoxes cycle, and some say it also signifies the end of a 104,000 year cycle. There seems to be a 2012 hysteria brewing, and if you scan the Internet or believe the marketing campaign behind the movie "2012," you might be forgiven for thinking so. Dozens of books and fake science websites are prophesying the arrival of doomsday that year, by means of a rogue planet colliding with the Earth or some other cataclysmic event.

Besides fearing a rampaging planet, the worriers think the sun might lash out at the Earth with some calamitous electromagnetic force if there is a Polar Shift  in 2012. They also fear that an alignment between the Earth and the center of our galaxy could unleash catastrophe.

Such hysteria usually indicates a lack of understanding of the meaning of current events in the light of larger cycles (remember Y2K?). But if we are at the end of a cycle, it offers us an opportunity to gain an overview of out times cycle and to learn from it as we begin a new paradigm.

About 5,000 years ago, at the end of the last great Ice Age, the first towns appeared on earth. For a long time before that, humans had followed migrating herds of animals living off fertile grasslands left as the receding ice melted. Humans learned that by planting seeds of grain along the edges of rivers that overflowed each spring they could settle down and live in one place. At the end of the great Neolithic revolution, the first cities appeared when the development of agricultural techniques assured surplus crop yields large enough to sustain a permanent population.

Other important changes happened at this point. No longer did each family survive or perish by being lucky at hunting and gathering. They changed from being migratory clans of hunters to agricultural communities and some could now hope for the security of a home and a job. Architecture was born, partly In order to store the grain. And in order to protect and distribute the grain, a new form of government was needed including the military. And with the advent of money and a merchant class an important new paradigm evolved.

This paradigm has had a dual nature. Wealth has fostered a leisure class yielding art, music, education, literature and science and many of our greatest accomplishments. But at the same time wealth has brought greed, war, and exploitation of people and the environment, to the point it has become unsustainable.

It is this unsustainability that marks the end of a 5000 year paradigm of domination. Serious damage to the environment is accompanied by economic distress, war and terror. Personal debt soars as personal income diminishes. As old values fail, there is less deference to anyone or anything. Little is sacred when everything is for sale to the highest bidder. If change is upon us and institutions and traditions seem to be failing, maybe it to make room for the new.

The appropriate mode of feeling and behavior and believable role models are hard to find. The media has degenerated into dehumanizing ultra-violence and sleazy pandering. Everywhere we see depictions of not very nice people being not very nice to each other. A child that has never been shown respect has no respect to offer others. Globally there are about 10 million people incarcerated and basically discarded.

Illness and disease is rampant, and much of this is because simple, wholesome food is too scarce. Over 90 percent of our food supply has been tainted or degraded by profiteers. About one third of the world population lives in abject poverty and hunger. Many people who could be growing some of their own food don’t know how, and don’t even understand the value of it. They have been brainwashed so that they actually prefer junk food.

Great wealth has been concentrated so that a small group of people now have assets equal to a similar number of nations. Although they may deny or not even understand the big picture and their role in it, they basically control most of the world’s food supply, energy, medicine and military. Their individual wealth is so great that they rely on cadres of experts who engineer ever greater profit efficiencies, at the expense of consumers.

It sometimes seems that we are drowning in dufus and confusion. We live in a world that is out of balance, and we know it. But what is to be done? How can it be made right?

The soul screams for nurturance.”  -Deepak Chopra

At such a time between two great paradigms, there is unprecedented opportunity for synthesis and interpretation. To gain overview we must not lose sight of the fact that the old must give way to the new. When something wears out, it has to be discarded, replaced. As the old paradigm decays it is a death and rebirth. Grief is the appropriate response to death. But after a pause to re-evaluate, we move on.

Crisis brings both danger and opportunity. Danger arises when old values start to collapse and there is a knee jerk reaction of panic and clinging to old stuff. Fundamentalism of all sorts may run rampant. But wisdom includes while ignorance excludes. And moving toward our fear is ultimately going to be beneficial.

The old wisdom stories - mythology, legend, and folklore -- can be used to explore inner states. There is a close parallel between the mythical imagination and dreams, the unconscious, emotional dynamics as they represent forces of the psyche. After we have wandered around theologically and philosophically, this can give us back a sense of transcendence, a new way of seeing the radiance of life.

Stories and myths can help people see the major transitions in their lives, such as those that occur naturally as we age, as transformative opportunities. Joseph Campbell's model of the hero's initiatory journey is very upsetting and it's sometimes terrifying -- is that what you have grown familiar with is no longer working as it once did. It's falling apart. The maps are not showing us where we need to go. The compass is spinning. It's time for something to break."

Mr. Campbell points out that this sequence of events is present in many of the great wisdom stories from all times and places. And if we would ponder these stories and how they show the way through these challenges, we can deal with them better. It will give us hope and guidance in the process. The whole point is that we have a good deal of wisdom to gain in the difficult thresholds of passage.

The pattern is very much the same in the folk tales. Some are darker than others, but they make the same point: first of all, that you are not alone; this has happened before. There are maps. Prepare to be scared, it's not the end of the world. Prepare to be stronger than you knew.

In order to start doing something new you may first have to stop doing what you have been doing. Real rehabilitation does not mean putting things back like they were, or going around in a dead, closed circle. It means going to a new level, as in a dynamic spiral or helix. All venerable traditions extol a balance between polarities and teach that honoring body, mind and spirit is the way to harmony and growth. The main difference between science and spirituality was that in spirituality you look within (subjectively), while scientists look to external sources (objectively). But now, scientists are beginning to look within, to solve external scientific problems, because new information is coming out that does not make sense under the old science.

Einstein said that he chose what to pay attention to using his intuition. The initial goal of science was, of course, not to separate science and spirit, but instead to understand nature. Materialism, which is the theory that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in scientific terms. According to this way of thinking, physical well-being and worldly possessions became the greatest good and had the highest value in life. The world was thought of as a machine, and there was no need for God or metaphysics / spirituality. Even the idea of the unknowable was disallowed for a time.

Reductionism is sometimes seen as the opposite of holism. Scientists sought to understand behavior and disorders try to reduce experience to its most basic parts-and assume that those parts are universal, that people develop and think in the same ways according to a standard set of "rules." In the process, they neglect models-such as wholeism, emergence and Gestalt, and instead see human experience as varied and individualistic.

In the early 20th century, scientist like Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger and other founders of quantum theory discovered that the physical universe is essentially non-physical. It seems to arise from a field that is even more subtle than energy, a field that seems to be more like intelligence or consciousness than matter. These are ancient metaphysical teachings, and metaphysics has no problems with these ideas.

Thinking falls into one of two primary modes of thinking: digital or analog. If you think of it in terms of light switches, digital is a typical switch. It has two positions- on or off. Analog is like a dimmer; it can be either on or off, but it can also be turned to any level of light or darkness in between.

Whether we tend to be a digital or analog thinker affects how we interpret events. If an event happens that is vague, or has multiple perspectives, the analog person is able to see and understand the various gradients in the situation. However, the digital person must push the event to one side or the other. Since there is no in-between for the digital thinker, the distance to either polarity must be accounted for, and this is where distortions begin to form. The more committed the digital person is to a certain position being true, the greater the potential for distortion. If the event is closer to "off", but the digital thinker needs it to be "on", then more distance must be made up, and the perception is further skewed.

The one thing not controlled by the mighty is information. As we move into the age of information there is great hope for the future. Soon almost all human knowledge will be digitized and made available through search engines. Every book and song ever published, all science, history and cultural achievements can be researched instantly.

Computing capacity has been doubling about every two years, so that in another decade or two it will far exceed our own brainpower, at least numerically. But the ability to quantify does not automatically yield wisdom. In fact it seems to have at least temporarily distracted us from the ability to qualify. More is not always better when balance is what is needed.

We are a mystery and we live in mystery, and we know it – some of us. If we get far enough away from the trees to see the forest, we may find a new sense of awe and wonderment. We live in a universe that creates stars and galaxies and planets like our own where magnificent mountains, oceans are teeming with amazingly elegant life forms in great profusion. And just as the flowers of the field and the birds of the air have a rightful place here, so do we, if we can but recognize it.

The design of all this is exquisite beyond our understanding. So if we, in our ignorance make a mess of things, eventually things will be put right again. Perhaps even now on a newer planet orbiting a distant star, a few cells of blue-green algae are beginning anew the slow process of evolving eyes and ears and brains that are the universe becoming aware of its own magnificence.


Now that 2012 has apparently come and gone uneventfully, what have we learned?

The idea of the end of the world appeals to people who are discontented. If the sky is falling you won't have to pay the rent. As has happened before (Y2K), capitalizing on sensationalism sells books and promotes a certain kind of notoriety
.  If 2012 does represent the end of a paradigm, the interesting question becomes, "what's next?"

It is becoming ever more evident that what is most unsustainable is violence and exploitation (greed). In his new book ‘Science Set Free,’ Rupert Sheldrake takes a look at some of the ways scientific materialism has contributed to these problems. The Materialist world view has dominated science since the 18th century is the belief that matter is the only reality and that:

  • matter is unconscious,
  • consciousness is nothing but the activity of the brain,
  • nature is purposeless and machine-like,
  • the laws of nature are fixed,
  • the total amount of matter and energy in nature is always the same, etc.

All these beliefs are part of a mechanistic world view that is trapping us and stopping us from progressing. But the kind of matter and energy we know about makes up less than 4%, while dark matter and dark energy make up 96% of the total. And we know almost nothing about the latter. This is one of a series of inconsistencies that holds us back and constricts our understanding of what is, and alienates us from the world in which we live.

This world view has assumed this view appeared to be true because science seems so successful in that it allowed us to create machines, cell phones,and jet planes, and so on. But these don't prove our science, but only evidence the power of technology. Machine theory is good for making machines but is not very good for understanding nature.

Everyone feels that they have to pay lip service to this mechanistic view, at least during working hours. But there is a split between the mechanistic world view and the romantic view. There has been a rebellion since the beginning of the mechanistic world view, which is a return to nature and the natural world view which recognizes feelings, emotions, impulses, and the imagination.

This romantic movement was played out mostly in the arts -- music, painting, poetry and literature, but the whole culture is now split between the two value systems. The materialistic values rule our working hours, while the romantic rules our leisure time and private lives. We endure the one while anticipating the other.

To get beyond this split which pervades not just our culture but ourselves, we need to recognize that our scientific values are incomplete and relative to the times in which we live. Materialism is only a series of assumptions, and science is a method of inquiry, and each new era reveals the false assumptions of the previous era. Scientism presumes to have all the cards in the deck when that is not even possible. 

And science always needs funding which too ofen plays into the idea that might makes right. Totalitarian despots seek to gain control of science by compelling a few scientists, but their own despotism eventually brings them down.

Walt Whitman wrote that is is obvious there is more to a man that what is seen between his hat and his shoes. And it is ever more apparent that reality cannot always be weighed, measured, and quantified with old fashioned tools. What is hopeful about the next paradigm is that reality is obviously more intricate and subtle than we had imagined.

If the unsustainable must eventually fail, along with the institutions that support it. And hopefully our species will come to appreciate what is sustainable. Hopefully 2012 will have been a turning point in that respect.

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