“Global Spirituality for the Next Age”
Q: Fine. But what’s this “Next Age” thing all about? Are you holding yourselves out as prophets or something?
Absolutely not. This has always been and always will be a strictly non-prophet organization.
But we are hopeful that certain things will come to pass in the future. Philosophers are forward-thinkers by nature. Give us an acorn, and we see a fully grown oak tree. Many fellow philosophers, unfortunately, see a dead one or, if theologians, one that needs to be rescued from the birth-death-rebirth cycle of existence as if it were a punishment. Not us! Ours is not a caravan of despair, to borrow from an old friend. And to borrow from ourselves, “the tools we need to thrive in the next epoch are forged in the funeral pyres of the old.” What is death to the seed is birth to the tree.
In a generic sense, “the Next Age” signifies a time to come after a theoretical paradigm shift, such as what followed when the Copernican Revolution changed the dominant viewpoint of earth’s place in the universe. The similarity to “New Age” is intentional because the latter is a successful marketing brand, but the distinction is also important for the same reason –we’re after something a little deeper than a brand.
There are many things to like about New Age philosophy, and primary among them is the suggestion that the reality we seek is already present, and the new way of seeing that makes it consciously so is already available. Very true. But if most of us don’t yet have the perceptive tools to understand this way of seeing and make use of it (or, perhaps more appropriately, the know-how to use the tools we do have), there is little comfort in that. It does little good to tell you, for instance, that you already dwell in the Garden of Eden if you are sitting alone in the cosmological equivalent of a parking garage –sterile, nice neat compartments where everything has its place– waiting for fruit trees to magically grow up through the floor. Nor does it do much good to hand you a packet of seeds and expect you to figure out how to plant them in the asphalt. This is why a paradigm shift is needed, and must come from the ground up (pun very much intended): we need to start by correcting a fundamental flaw in the current predominant worldview that makes the ground appear lifeless and infertile, then we can talk about what makes your Garden grow.
So the premise of Not Two involves (of course) two seemingly divergent and contradictory notions that are actually quite well aligned. We propose that:
- the Paradise sought perennially by humankind and symbolized so many different ways in our spiritual literature and doctrines is here now, omnipresent and fully realized, AND
- it is also evolving into being –progressively, but in stochastic fits and spurts that defy a sense of linear progression– as we learn to recognize it even through the veil of our dualism.
The contradiction is resolved by realizing that the former is our ontological truth –the world as it is, independent of linear time, which depends on perspective– while the latter is our conceptual simulacrum of reality –the world as we can’t help but see it and categorize it from our own perspective in time-space, through the analog technology of language.
The key to aligning the conceptual mind with ontological reality is Non-Duality, the state of Nature outside of our verbal simulacra. Language does not express non-duality directly, not in the way that it can lay down the lines of Good and Evil, or preserve thousands of pages of oral history like the Mahabharata. At best, it points us away from itself toward direct awareness of non-dual reality, usually through metaphor and allegory (and sometimes just through simple trickery, such as with Zen koans). Non-dual philosophy, in other words, succeeds when it gets out of its own way, and leaves us slightly confused in the head, but with an unspeakable clarity of the heart that overrides any confusion.
This is because the mental dexterity to use non-duality is not actually centered in the conceptual mind, but in intuition, which sees connections and wholes where concepts left us with fragmented parts. Intuition doesn’t need a mental map to get from point A to B to C to D –it already connects A and D backwards and forwards and via E through Z.
That leads us from the general idea of a Next Age to the specific Next Age we are writing about here. It is an evolutionary process of aligning more and more conceptual minds with non-dual reality, making the jump through increased capacity for recognizing and using intuition.
An entire series-in-progress, “Emergence of the Contemplative Shaman,” is devoted to this application of the Next Age concept, so I won’t bog down our FAQ article with too much detail. But here’s a peak of what is going into the series’ new Introduction:
“Like many of you, we see a strange paradox in modern civilization: a world that has grown less violent but more volatile, that seems to be at once evolving and disintegrating. Both intelligence and wisdom are broadening and deepening across the populace in most cultures, but we are still ruled by the same strain of corporate and governmental power brokers who seem more flawed and brutish by comparison. In so many fields, it seems, there is this hump that limits our potential that we are so close to getting over, and when we do we will be able to achieve wonderful things as a species, but we are stuck where we are, and can’t seem to get out of our own way.
The Next Age is a set of speculative ideas about what it could take to get us over that hump. Drawing on the shift in perception that comes along with non-dual awareness and embrace of pantheism, we propose that the Next Age would be a paradigm change no less profound than the Copernican Revolution. It is an apt comparison qualitatively as well, for both paradigm shifts involve a trust that the sensory information available to an individual organism is limited by space-time perspective, and that Nature, like the elephant in the courtyard investigated by blind men, has holistic properties that simply cannot be grasped individually. Deeper knowledge, we’ve learned, requires trust in something inclusive of but greater than oneself.
The Copernican Revolution helped establish the collective inquiry process known as the scientific method as a superior means of gathering information about our physical reality. The next great shift in perspective, we speculate, will address our metaphysical reality, our “final frontier,” and re-empower the individual to listen to and trust his/her intuition –the inherent quality of the human organism bridging its limited perceiving self to the universal Self.”
3. Fine. But what’s this “Next Age” thing all about? Are you holding yourselves out as prophets or something?