Rationale for a Global Mind Change:
Understanding the Dynamics of a Transformation in the World System of Humans
A History and Future Scenario
Desmond Berghofer PhD
Visioneers International Network
By the middle of the 20th century, accumulating evidence was pointing towards serious instability in the world system of humans on planet Earth. Dominated for more than two millennia by the influence of the Western Mind around ideas of separation, conquest and control, humanity had suffered through two world wars in the space of 30 years and had released the power of the atom to construct and use weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, world population was beginning to spiral towards non-sustainable levels, and the human presence on the planet was beginning to threaten the destruction of ecosystems and other species. A new science of Futurism was born as a field of inquiry to systematically study future possibilities for life on the planet. Warning signals went up from a number of sources.
History of Concerns about the Future
Writing from the vantage point of the 21st century about the projections of the future by futurists of more than 50 years ago gives one the perspective of having lived through the future they were predicting. We can now look at it as history and draw some conclusions, which may be instructive for the future we are facing in the 21st century.
One of the early futurists was Fred Polak, a Dutch sociologist, who in 1961 published an exhaustive study of the history of images of the future throughout three thousand years of Western civilization entitled The Image of the Future. His conclusion and concern was that his generation in Western society (most notably European and American) had lost the capacity to think positively about the future because they no longer believed in either the value of human striving or divine intervention. Ten years later George Kateb (Utopia, 1971) put it this way: “Things get better; things get worse; things get better as they get worse; things get worse because they get better.”
Polak was concerned that Western civilization would be overwhelmed by outside influences from the East and said that the urgent need of his time was to find the best nourishment for a starving cultural awareness and creativity. Polak’s fears were not completely realized. The West went through many decades under the threat of the Cold War with the Soviet Union until the latter collapsed in 1989. But the perturbations of those times are still with us and the spectacular rise of China in the 21st century adds a new dimension to the issue.
Polak’s admonition to reawaken positive images of the future
through intention and creativity can be considered
as important advice in our time.
In particular his ideas of reinvigorating the educational system and reforming the influence of mass media (to which we now have to add the influence of social media) are critical. Polak was not alone in arguing for the importance of creating positive images of the future through systematic study and creative thinking. Even earlier, noted American anthropologist, Margaret Mead, argued in 1957 for the establishment in universities of Chairs of the Future to prepare students with a future orientation.
Another early futurist, Lewis Mumford, in The Pentagon of Power (1970) argued that Western civilization was in trouble because it took a wrong turning in the past by adopting a mechanical view of the world. This mechanized worldview, seeing humans and their world as a complex of interacting machines rather than as living organisms, he asserted, had brought his present generation to a desperate situation.
All this goes back to the birth of Western science and its continuing inability to deal satisfactorily with the phenomenon of consciousness.
Science and technology became wedded to power and productivity. Progress came to be associated with concepts of more and further, leading to a culture of consumption and waste and the continued operation of the megamachine. In return, a privileged portion of humanity received the benefits of material comforts for which they were paying, even in Mumford’s time, with costs in the form of a deteriorating physical and social environment. Mumford forecasted that the monolithic megamachine could not long continue and if a change in worldview did not take place the result would be the extermination of all life on Earth. As we have seen, humanity has stretched the duration of the mechanized worldview into the 21st century, but we are now facing the worst of Mumford’s fears with an immanence that is rapidly becoming intolerable.
Mumford’s assertion of an alternative scenario for humanity is worth noting today in his own words: “For its effective salvation mankind will need to undergo something like a spontaneous religious conversion: one that will replace the mechanical world picture with an organic world picture, and give to the human personality, as the highest known manifestation of life, the precedence it now gives to its machines and its computers.” Like Polak, Mumford believed that the making of the future is an essential part of humanity’s self-revelation, but unlike Polak he looked to the emergence of a new world culture rather than the mere saving of Western culture. Everything he is saying is very relevant to us today.
We will leave these important insights from early futurists and turn now to the way they can play out in our current existential struggles in the third decade of the 21st century.
The 1960s was a decade of contradictions. Flower power and youth rebellion were the order of the day in Western countries, most notably the USA. Fear of the spread of communism morphed into an American nightmare war in Vietnam with the loss of countless thousands of lives and damaged psyches on both sides. Treating the other as an evil enemy lay at the heart of the conflict, and nothing was really resolved at the end of hostilities.
Ironically, at the height of the conflict in Vietnam, America achieved its finest hour with the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon in July 1969.
A courageous band of astronauts supported by the greatest assembly of engineering and manufacturing talent the world had ever seen launched humankind into the space age with technology that was probably still too primitive for the monumental task asked of it.
Stimulated by competition with the Soviet Union, which had been the first into space, the moon landing was hailed as a supreme achievement for the whole world: “One giant leap for mankind,” in Neil Armstrong’s famous declaration as he stepped onto the surface of the moon.
The most important side benefit of the Apollo program was the creation of what has become known as the “overview effect.” Astronauts described the powerful change of perception in physically seeing the beautiful blue planet Earth from space, and along with that came the perspective that humanity was not living up to its responsibility to take care of its planetary home and was woefully inept at providing equality among its inhabitants.
Perhaps the most powerful of these metaphysical perceptions was experienced by astronaut Edgar Mitchell on the way back to Earth on the Apollo 14 command module. His training as a test pilot and MIT PhD dropped away as he experienced a shift in consciousness as he looked out at Earth from space.
In The Overview Effect (2021, 4th edition) Frank White quotes Mitchell in his own words: “What happened was that I knew the materialist point of view that everything is the result of matter was not a correct philosophy. It assumed away consciousness, and you couldn’t do that.” On his return to Earth, Mitchell founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, now internationally recognized for its research on consciousness studies.
But nothing ostensibly changed for life on the planet as a whole. The old Western paradigm remained dominant; economics based on 18th century thinking continued to prevail with a twist towards globalism that still benefited the rich nations over the poor; attacks on innocent people by terrorist groups broke out and increased in frequency and ferocity; environmental degradation became increasingly more evident; and a fear emerged that humanity was actually affecting the climate.
During the 1970s and 80s a new influential futurist voice began to be heard, that of Willis Harman, who in 1977 accepted the invitation of Edgar Mitchell to become the President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
Echoing Lewis Mumford from 1970, Harman said in Global Mind Change (1988) that “world society cannot continue much longer on its current, increasingly nonviable tract” and that what was needed was real action in changing fundamental assumptions.
Harman was convinced that humanity had to undergo a global mind change, but that this had to happen at the level of the individual and could not be prematurely forced. He saw “the next decade or two as particularly critical” and that the task was to help society understand the nature and necessity of historical change. He was committed to the process of dialogue to bring this understanding, but unfortunately he died in 1997 before the results of his efforts could be fully seen. His work and ideas remain a towering source of inspiration for those who continue with this struggle.
Another voice from that time was that of Robert Muller, who after suffering through the rigours of the second World War on the border of France and Germany committed his life to peace and joined the fledgling United Nations where he served for 40 years, many of them as Assistant Secretary General to three Secretaries General. Muller never lost faith in the United Nations to have an extraordinary impact on the improvement of prospects for humanity. He was personally responsible for setting up several of the UN’s specialized agencies and in co-founding the United Nations University of Peace in Costa Rica with the then President of the country.
Inspired by Willis Harman, I raised my own voice in 1992 to try to influence this mind change. I chose to do it through a work of fiction in which readers could see the action of characters who were influencing mind change. I called my characters Visioneers and the title of the book is The Visioneers: A Courage Story about Belief in the Future. I shared the manuscript with Willis before it was published in 1992, and he was kind enough to say that “through the medium of an engrossing novel, you have given us a fantastic tool.” I was fortunate, too, to have the support of Robert Muller in moving the book into the world.
The book had a small impact at the time, and life in the 1990s continued much as before, though I and my wife, Geraldine Schwartz, continued to promote the process of dialogue about global mind change, with a particular emphasis on ethical leadership. In 1997 we created the Institute for Ethical Leadership www.ethicalleadership.com.
In my book, I described an earth-spanning event called “The Congress of the Global Mind.” I was convinced of the need for such a global exchange of ideas and actions reinforced by local groups, but what I could not see was how such global dialogue could be conducted and coordinated, because the technology to do so had not yet been invented. There was an important piece missing in my understanding of the dynamics I was trying to influence. Thirty years later in 2021 that missing piece has come to light.
The Life Cycle of Evolution
With the publication of his latest book, Beyond Knowledge: How Technology is Driving an Age of Consciousness (2021), a futurist voice in the tradition of Lewis Mumford and Willis Harman has burst meteorically into the debate about global mind change. This is the voice of William Halal, Professor Emeritus at George Washington University DC. who is recognized as one of the top 100 futurists in the world. In his book, Halal sets forth an incredibly powerful insight called the Life Cycle of Evolution.
In one illuminating chart, Halal displays the historical evidence that life on Earth has passed through a succession of Ages beginning in the Geological Age (before biological life) at the birth of the universe 13.8 billion years ago and culminating in the Knowledge Age in the two decades from 2000 to 2020. Significantly, the work of all of the people I have so far described in this essay took place before the Knowledge Age in what Halal describes as the Service Age from 1950 to 2000. The technology needed to carry out my concept of the Congress of the Global Mind in 1992 was still in the birth canal at the time and has matured only in the last few years in the form of digital communications technology as the Internet, and in the hardware of personal laptop computers and smart phones.
The Knowledge Age is culminating in the invention of Artificial Intelligence and quantum computers to run it, all of which is about to burst forth into our lives.
Halal argues, we are going Beyond Knowledge into a new Age of Consciousness. This argument is based on the conviction that only humans are uniquely conscious, particularly in the subjective sense of values, beliefs, emotion, purpose, will, choice, imagination and vision.
This is the territory in which humans will flourish while technology takes care of objective levels of consciousness such as memory, data collection, analysis and decision-making.
The vision of what this future will look like is not particularly clear, but from the point of view of achieving a global mind change, that is not important.
What we are concerned with here is the potential for humanity to shift global awareness away from the old destructive paradigm that has plunged us into world wars, living with the threat of nuclear holocaust, terrorism, destruction of ecosystems, human-induced climate change, extinction of species and the potential extinction of the human species.
The vision of shifting into an Age of Consciousness, no matter how ill defined, is a powerful attractor where we can envisage living lives of cooperation, collaboration, empathy, caring, and kindness, knowing that we live in a universe of one unified whole filled with spiritual energy of which we are an integral part.
Moving from Here to There
The discussion of moving through the Knowledge Age into the Consciousness Age takes place in the context of examples of the worst features of the old paradigm of separation and conflict. Right at the beginning of the Knowledge Age in 2001, America experienced one of the worst terrorist attacks so far in history in the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City. Even the hallowed halls of American democracy have come under assault with the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016, who clearly showed that he preferred autocratic rule to that of democracy, and ended his term with a refusal to accept the results of the election and the instigation of an assault on the Congress by his followers on January 6, 2021. Right up to date on the other side of the world, in February 2022, Russia under the autocratic leadership of Vladimir Putin has invaded neighbouring Ukraine, clearly operating under the brutal mindset that triggered past Russian invasions in Europe. Though the Ukrainian people are suffering terribly, significantly, what is happening as a result of this invasion is overwhelming support of Ukraine and its people by governments and citizens, not only in the West but around the world. Russia and its leaders are being isolated as pariahs from which there will be no easy way back into the world community. The communication systems of the Knowledge Age are working to thwart the blunt cruelty of an obsolete mindset.
What are we to make of such obvious negations of any sort of global mind change?
It would be a grave mistake to take these as cues that humanity is doomed
to run out its time on Earth bogged down in the worst of which it is capable.
Rather, we should see such events as extreme examples of resistance
to a change of an old paradigm, which we know must be dissolved
before a new paradigm can take hold. We are called to move forward
with confidence and determination, following the best
of the scholarship and consciousness that I have described
and not miss any cues that can take us into a future
our children and grandchildren will feel privileged to live in.
As part of that process, Geraldine and I have brought back the thinking behind the Visioneers story of 1992.
Twenty-five years later in 2017 we created the Visioneers International Network and we have been working ever since to build a platform that will showcase a Visioneers mindset of cooperation and empathy and connect people around the world who are acting in this way.
Specifically, under Geraldine’s leadership, we have used the best technology we can find to create an international People’s Virtual Campus, consisting of a Virtual Exposition where Visioneers have their own pavilions to tell their story www.thevisioneers.ca/virtual-expo. This has grown from 40 to over 300 in the past year and features some truly outstanding people and projects that are making a great difference in spreading the alternative mindset that futurists have been calling for. In addition, we have created the Masterworks Emporium www.thevisioneers.ca/masterworks where the work of Visioneers can be displayed in multiple formats of writing, art, film, documentaries, podcasts, etc. and can be available for others to purchase and use. Finally, the people and projects have been linked to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations www.thevisioneers.ca/sdgs to show how the goals are being supported on the ground.
All of this is building towards an impressive display of observable evidence that humanity is a noble species that can rise above its difficult and tortured past to usher in a future of peace, harmony, collaboration and sustainability on our planetary home.
We are presently laying plans to launch this project in October 2022 in such a way that it will catch the attention of mainstream people and media wherever they are on the planet.
Remarkably, just as this is unfolding with the Visioneers project, another synchronous development has occurred that we are linking to our work.
Global elder and distinguished philosopher, scientist and systems theorist, Ervin Laszlo, released in February 2022 his latest book and project called The Upshift: Wiser Living on Planet Earth. This is a handbook for urgent action, because Laszlo and his Institute have identified the decade of the 2020s as the time for humanity to begin to significantly turn things around.
Laszlo is making a unique contribution to the process of global mind change by identifying the world’s assembly of human beings as a system, which can be expected to behave following laws and processes common to all systems. Most significantly, in regard to our present argument, the human system has reached such a point of instability (remember that Lewis Mumford said it was unstable back in 1970) that it can be expected to bifurcate in one of two ways, either to upshift to a higher order of stability, or to downshift to a more unstable condition than the present, which will end eventually in chaos and breakdown.
Laszlo believes the bifurcation process is about to begin (maybe already has begun) and will continue throughout the decade. His book and all of his work is now dedicated to ensuring the shift goes in the right direction.
What if we can now orchestrate a combined effort of Ervin Laszlo’s upshift, Bill Halal’s shift into the Consciousness Age beyond knowledge, and the Visioneers international Virtual Exposition to make a declaration to all people on Earth that the global mind change has begun to shift into a higher order of consciousness and spirituality on Earth such that there will be no going back to the conditions that have for too long kept the human species bogged down in conflict and inequity and are threatening the very ecosystems on which all life depends.
To explore the potential for such an orchestration of effort we now offer a scenario, dateline January 2024, to consider how all of this could unfold if we act with intention, creativity and faith that the universe is calling for this to come forward at this time.
And now for a bit of fiction we intend to make real
Scenario, Dateline January 2024
Envisioned as comment from a third-party source
With the start of a new year in 2024, we can look back and trace the events that have led to the extraordinary upsurge we are now seeing in awareness of a new way for humanity to live together on the planet. The media are now leading with stories of cooperation and collaboration and the start of the new year is being heralded as a time for resolutions to honour the golden rule of treating everyone as you would wish to be treated yourself. This is a far cry from narcissistic wishes for more of everything for oneself that usually fill people’s minds at this time of year.
How did we get here from where we were just two years ago when the whole world was being turned upside down by the egregious invasion of Ukraine by Russia? From fears of a return to the darkest days of world conflict not seen since the end of World War II in 1945, world opinion is now turning to optimism that humanity can find its way through the morass of crises confronting it. How was such a shift possible in such a short time?
The answer lies in part with the efforts of a determined group of people head-quartered in Vancouver, Canada called the Visioneers International Network. In October 2022 this group launched a movement, which has been picked up and supported by other like-minded groups around the world.
The Visioneers made a bold declaration that the world was on the cusp of moving into a new Age of Consciousness.
This might have been a fuzzy feel-good concept, but the Visioneers anchored it in solid science and influential opinion and launched it with a small but inspirational event that has given energy to spread the concept around the world.
This was not an overnight phenomenon. The Visioneers had been preparing for it for several years. In fact, one of the founders of the group, Dr. Desmond Berghofer from Vancouver, likes to say that the movement has been building for over 70 years, since the time when he began charting the warnings of futurists that the civilization humankind was building on Earth was nonviable for a long-term future. The term Visioneers comes from a book Berghofer wrote 30 years ago in which he told the story of a band of people called Visioneers who charted a new direction for the world. However, even though institutions like the United Nations, UNESCO and the World Health Organization had been created to promote peace, education, health and well-being, not much changed over the decades to improve prospects for the future. With the growing threat from climate change evidenced by increasingly frequent and severe weather events from floods, wildfires and drought around the world, and with the outbreak of a pandemic in 2020 that killed millions of people worldwide and crippled national economies, then followed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it seemed that life on Earth was already becoming very precarious.
But quite suddenly in 2022 a set of new insights came to the fore. By this time the Visioneers Network had created what they called a Virtual Exposition showcasing the good work for humanity being carried out by hundreds of people and their projects.
The Visioneers argued that all of this and much more was observable evidence
that humanity as a species was basically decent and caring of each other.
They were getting ready to launch their argument and evidence into what would surely be a skeptical world. But they didn’t quite know how to do it. Some pieces were missing in thr creative approach they were undertaking.
Then came a landmark publication by Dr. William Halal from George Washington University DC called Beyond Knowledge: How Technology is Driving an Age of Consciousness. Halal is recognized as one of the top 100 futurists in the world, so he had credibility. He says in the book that humanity has just come through a Knowledge Age, what with the invention of the Internet and the spread of laptop computers and smart phones to the point that many of us despair at being able to escape from the flood of information and distractions. This is being capped by the development of artificial intelligence such that we worry about computers taking over the world and people being discarded. But not so fast, says Halal.
What is really happening is that people are moving into the next stage of social evolution in which their unique abilities to experience emotion, empathy, and compassion, and to act with purpose towards a vision created with imagination will create a new Age of Consciousness in which people will cooperate and collaborate for the good of all, while the computers take care of the mundane stuff of data collection and running operations.
The leaders of the Visioneers team saw that Halal’s book was giving them the kick they needed to launch their own good news story. So they teamed up with Halal to create an event which would be the launch of this new Age of Consciousness with the Visioneers acting as the catalyst to spread the message around the world. Then something else happened to support this joint initiative. Berghofer likes to call this a synchronicity, but be that as it may, it certainly helped.
The new development happened in February 2022, just as Vladimir Putin sent his troops into Ukraine. That’s probably negative synchronicity, but whatever.
What happened was that another major player in the world of futurism stepped forward with his latest publication declaring that humanity was on the cusp of shifting up to a higher order of living on the planet.
The book is called The Upshift: Wiser Living on Planet Earth and the author is planetary elder, Professor Ervin Laszlo. Laszlo has outstanding academic credentials with the state doctorate (the highest PhD) from the Sorbonne in Paris, one of the world’s most prestigious universities, and honorary doctorates from universities in several countries including the United States and Canada. He is a philosopher, scientist, and systems theorist and has taught at Yale and Princeton, served in highly specialized capacities at the United Nations and other world bodies, and is the founder of the influential Club of Budapest and the Laszlo Institute of New Paradigm Research.
The Visioneers named Laszlo as a Hero of Humanity and gave him a Visioneers Award for his lifetime of work and for his latest publication.
Significantly, both Laszlo and Halal were saying that the decade of the 2020s was pivotal for the shift to higher global consciousness.
The Visioneers recognized that they now had two powerful allies to help them launch their message to the world.
The Visioneers launch In October 2022 was designed and produced by the other co-founder of the Visioneeers Network, Dr. Geraldine Schwartz. Entitled “Entering the Age of Global Consciousness: A Catalyst” the event was conceived as an opportunity to conduct an award ceremony for the Heroes and Heroines of Humanity and for Visionary Leaders on the Visioneers platform and link them as agents of a global mind shift now beginning to take hold around the world. Halal and Laszlo were brought in as on-line presenters and gave powerful presentations of why the shift was about to take off, making the decade of the 2020s a turning point in the history of humanity.
Other Visioneer award winners were included as big screen on-line presenters, in particular Anne Baring from the UK who gave a succinct and captivating account of how the feminine influence on world development was blunted 4000 years ago but had begun to reassert itself beginning last century and would in the new Age of Consciousness take a major leadership role. Barbara Muller from Santa Barbara California was another dynamic presenter who from her close connection with the United Nations was able to show how that organization will step up its role as an agent of human well-being, particularly through its work on promoting its 17 sustainable development goals. One of the most powerful moments of the event occurred when the Visioneers projects supporting these goals were displayed as a wall of stories on the big screen while Barbara’s late husband and former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, Robert Muller, played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” on his harmonica. The audience was on its feet singing along as awareness soared of the magnificence that people can achieve when they act with intention to do good.
Several other rapid-fire presentations from Visioneers were included, but the most captivating part of the ceremony came as young children filed on stage singing their hearts out with an original song by Visioneer Cheryl Melody Baskin in which the children could see themselves growing up to be part of one people on the one planet they called home. Adult choirs also raised the emotional level with other original songs, and Visioneers Artistic Director, Tatiana Speed performed and orchestrated her inspirational music. The ceremony concluded with a solo and massed performance of a song that has been part of the Visioneers tradition for 20 years called “Why Not?” composed by Edith Wallace.
The audience was sent out singing and marching with the thought of why not replace the whole sordid history of human conquest, exploitation and abuse on the planet with a new Age of Consciousness in which humans would finally show their magnificence as a noble species destined to fulfill their role as the universal life force of the cosmos.
All of this was captured by skilled videographers and produced into a video by the Visioneers technical team of Jamie Magrill and Paul Adamson. The video has been playing on multiple platforms around the world ever since. Moving first into the vast networks represented by Visioneers and their strategic allainces, it has since moved through social media outlets into mainstream households of people around the world. Translations into multiple languages are underway so that its reach can only increase over time.
Side by side with the launch video, stories of other Visioneer achievement have been produced and are playing sequentially on outlets around the world in convenient times for local viewing. Through use of participatory technology participants everywhere have the opportunity to interact with presenters and build their own expertise. As the months have gone by, many additional stories are coming in, locally produced to add to the already extensive catalogue of examples of the Age of Consciousness coming into bloom.
So, the word is now out that the Age of Consciousness is with us. It is only the beginning, and a massive amount of work has to be done to transform life on the planet into the full flowering of respect, equity, justice, peace and happiness that we can conceive. Institutions will have to be reformed, new more participatory forms of governance invented, and massive changes made to how people conduct their lives in harmony with the natural world.
It will take time, but the upshift envisioned by Ervin Laszlo has begun
and will feed upon itself through this next stage in the life cycle of evolution.
What lies beyond, we cannot yet know, but the lure of space exploration is in our sights, which we can now consider with greater certainty of purpose, knowing that the course correction for our own Spaceship Earth has been made.
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