“A really new and radical theory is never just an addition or increment to the existing knowledge. It changes basic rules, requires drastic revision or reformulation of the fundamental assumptions of prior theory, and involves re-evaluation of the existing facts and observations.“
Stanislav Grof, Beyond the Brain (1985)
Change is in the air, and most thinking, feeling people can sense a significant shift is happening right under our feet. If we are to fully appreciate just what it is that we humans are now transitioning into, it is imperative to understand where we are and how paradigm shift happens. What we’re really talking about here is collective consciousness and consensus world view – both of which are in major flux in response to (r)evolutionary ideas.
These kinds of shifts in consciousness happen relatively slowly, as it takes time for radical new ideas to displace entrenched and comfortable old ideas. Stanislov Grof likes to half-jokingly say that a paradigm shift only happens in science when all the people who held the traditional views die out. Fortunately, that is not literally true, and one thing we can all agree on is that the pace of change has really picked up since our world became fully wired. Nonetheless, it remains the case that these paradigm shifts happen both suddenly and over generations.
There have been two radical, earth-shaking ideas in the last century that together comprise our current cultural cauldron for the transition from the 2000-year old Piscean Age to the more revelatory Aquarian Age. And each is as radical in its implications as Copernicus’ discovery of the sun, not Earth, at the center of our universe.
The first paradigm-shifting idea is obvious: quantum physics, which first emerged in the 1930s but is only now really starting to shape our world view. The basic takeaway from quantum physics is that, contrary to Newton’s mechanistic world view, there really are no “things” to be found anywhere – no objects in the world; there are only relations. This relational world view, referred to in scientific circles as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, emerges inexorably from what most scientists and philosophers still agree is the most astounding scientific discovery in the history of Western Civilization: namely, that the very bedrock upon which science has been built, that of the objective experiment, is effectively a lie.
What physicist Werner Heisenberg discovered, much to even Einstein’s astonishment, was that the smallest bits (“quanta”) of reality can manifest as either a particle or a wave – depending on the perspective, or even the expectations, of the observer! What we see as the material world is actually 99.99% empty space, and what little matter there is in this world of illusion actually exists only as a wave of potentiality which, effectively, collapses when it becomes the subject of our awareness.
As a great astrologer once observed, life is a cyclic interplay of bi-polar forces. Reality is not a given, in other words, but instead results from the interplay between our field of consciousness and the phenomenal world’s field of potential.
Now you might ask how is this particular discovery from the last century actively shaping our world view today? The answer is self-evident, if you think about it: we are in no way separate and apart from our environment, as was long-believed to be the case. To borrow a now-popular idea from quantum physics, we and our environment are entangled. The very word environment is a fiction.
Prior to quantum physics, the consensus world view was known as “Cartesian” (or “Baconian”) dualism, based on the philosopher Rene Descartes famous idea “I think, therefore I am”- the implication of which is that for humans, at least (God’s chosen species), there is a ‘self in here’ that is separate from the ‘world out there.’ Much closer to the truth is the ancient maxim from the Rig Veda: “I am that.”
That objectivist, dualistic world view happens to be the basis for our economy, as well, since it views the world through the dualistic lens of consumers and resources – including the idea of ‘natural resources’ and ‘human resources.’ We can readily see where that world view has gotten us! Both in psychology and in Buddhism, the devil is found in ‘reification’ – the mistake of seeing something that is only conceptual as somehow “real” (e.g., money), existing from its own side (ego), and even in some cases unchanging (e.g., the way we used to see the ocean). This objectifying world view sees ownership everywhere it looks – even at us – and can not die out soon enough for all of our sake.
And of course, while we are rapidly moving from the more religious Piscean Age into the more idealistic Aquarian Age, with the advent of the world wide web and our increasing ‘relational awareness’ of interdependence and interbeing, there are still those traditionalists clinging to the Manichean views of the Piscean Age, and/or to the more predictable Newtonian world view. These folks either dismiss the idea of climate change entirely, on fantasy-based religious grounds, or accept climate science but remain convinced that we can somehow “fix” the climate with still more objective science and all our related technological know-how, as if the planet is just one giant petri dish in which we can continue this grand experiment by turning this knob or controlling that variable.
Our Mother is Calling us Home
Which brings us to the second major paradigm-shifting idea of the last century.
As transformative ideas go, this one is of even more recent vintage than quantum reality, and we’ve barely begun to consider all its ramifications – let alone integrate its radical implications into our emergent world view. In fact, I strongly suspect that, in time, this idea will be even more profound in its impact than any of the discoveries by Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, or Heisenberg. It began as an hypothesis put forward in the 1960s by NASA scientist James Lovelock, with subsequent collaboration from microbiologist Lynn Margulis (married for a time to Carl Sagan), and was inspired in part by the astonishing view of our blue home planet from outer space. While ridiculed at first, it developed in the 1980s into a widely accepted theory, based upon empirical validation:
Earth is a living organism. (Please note I refrained from saying “the Earth,” which shows how reflexively we objectify reality).
Gaia theory is right up there with the theories of relativity and gravity now when it comes to revolutionizing our world view and driving further scientific discovery. Planet Earth is a living, breathing and self-regulating complex organism – not just the “3rd rock from the sun.” As a stark example of how this relational view is already beginning to change our world view, consider the mycelium! Who would’ve dared suggest even twenty years ago that trees communicate with one another, recognize their family members, and exchange information – even medicine – via a complex neural network in the soil?!
That a forest, in other words, exhibits all the signs of being aware and having sentience?
Who, that is, apart from our Indigenous brothers and sisters, who we are learning quite quickly as a matter of both science and ethics are the more advanced of the two parallel human civilizations.
It is almost like we’ve stumbled upon Gaia’s brain in the thin layer of fertile humus beneath our feet! The popularity of the 2019 consciousness-shifting documentary “Fantastic Fungi” (100% on Rotten Tomatoes!) attests to how quickly this phenomenal new way of seeing our world is already spreading – like the fungus among us, as our mycologist friends like to say.
Not coincidentally, millions of us are now inexorably drawn to so-called “mystical experiences” with entheogenic substances in our search for meaning, in a world in free fall – so much so that law enforcement no longer concerns itself with trying to stop us from expanding our minds. (That may be the biggest story nobody is really telling right now).
So from quantum physics, there are no objects, only relations; and from Gaia theory, the world is a living organism. This is where we find ourselves as we transition into what is being described and deeply felt as a new age.
What are we to make of this? After all, it is only a “new age” because we designate it as such, and with the crystallizing effect of consensus-based reality, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s just how collective consciousness comes into form. As the visionary artist and author Paul Levy so eloquently puts it: “our act of observing the universe influences the universe that we are observing, which is to say that our act of observation is creative. By our very nature we are interpreters of our experience and generators of meaning, a process which deeply affects our experience of both ourselves and of the universe.”
This participatory, organic view of the cosmos helps explain why the archetypes we have long projected onto the orbiting planets seem to exert so much influence on us individually and culturally. There is an implicate order that underlies all, meaning that everything is relative and all relations are meaningful.
As Dr. Stanislov Grof points out, “in the last analysis, the current global crisis is a psychospiritual crisis; it reflects the level of consciousness evolution of the human species.” And so it becomes vitally important that so many of us from so many varied perspectives are keen to reflect on just what it is we are feeling and perceiving at this pivotal point in Gaia’s life. Reality is a co-creative endeavor, and that implies responsibility. It is worth mentioning that scientists also have us moving into a new age: the Anthropocene. And the reason that I favor that terminology, while many have objected, is precisely because of the implied responsibility the term carries: we broke it, now we have to own it. Like it or not, the decisions we are making individually and collectively will have a profound effect on the future of all life forms.
I myself have a rather diverse psychospiritual portfolio that includes the formal studies of thermodynamics, quantum physics, depth psychology, deep ecology, archetypal astrology, natural law, and Eastern theories of mind, nature and awareness. I also have decades of experience with disciplined meditation practices under the tutelage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and many of his close students, which much to my surprise culminated recently with the affirmating, full cathartic release under the influence of 5-MeO-DMT – the so-called “God molecule.” That climactic psychospiritual experience, a kind of ‘gnosis’ (direct knowledge) or ‘bodhi’ (awakening), revealed in all its splendor and grace the meaning-saturated continuum of the cosmos vast expanse, which is quite beyond my linguistic ability to express.
And so it is from this holistic, integrated perspective that I now share my own working hypothesis concerning the remarkable, synchronous procession of Jupiter and Saturn – the former “outer planets” – into the first degree of Aquarius on, of all nights, the long night of the solstice -that darkened yin point that signifies the return of the light. From the standpoint of archetypal astrology, the significance of this remarkable cosmic confluence cannot be over-emphasized.
We are standing on the threshold of a dream – or nightmare. Depending…
Gaian Consciousness & the Aquarian Age of Awareness
It is awareness that collapses the wave of possibilities, or alternate realities, in a world of quantum weirdness. Making awareness, in a very ‘real’ sense, the most powerful force in the universe. And this appears to be true at the macro scale as well is the micro scale. After all, there is no more powerful social force on the global stage right now than collective awareness.
How can that be?
Pursuant to the emerging quantum world view, our universe is a heaving sea of energetic potential that exists in indeterminate time across non-local space – much like Indra’s net of dewdrops strung on the nodes of matrix-like webbing, where all dewdrops are reflected in each dewdrop, and each dewdrop is reflected in all the others. With such an interpenetrating, implicate cosmic order, change appears to occur almost instantaneously when catalysts are introduced, as with a large flock of starlings, due to the non-local effects of many interrelated phenomena enmeshed in morphic fields of resonance. This is the view of totality.
We see this at the level of collective consciousness as well as in the psycho-physical world of phenomenal reality. When we train our collective awareness on an intolerable reality, like misogyny or racism, collective consciousness can appear to shift all at once. After many years of demonstrations and outcry without making much headway, George Floyd’s tragic death pierced our collective psyche. Overnight we witnessed a conscious shift at a species-wide level. The number of people who viewed racial oppression as intolerable literally jumped from 30% to 70% overnight, like the quantum leap of an electron from an inner shell to an outer shell without ever being detected between shells. We’ve recently seen similar, if not quite as dramatic, shifts in collective consciousness with the ‘MeToo’ and ‘TimesUp’ movements, gay marriage, and with the abuse of children by the Catholic Church (and Boy Scouts).
In every one of these cases of dramatic shifts in public opinion, what changed was that we focused awareness, at the scale of the collective, on a moral issue which had been hiding in plain sight all along. These are examples of quantum change, as opposed to the old boring reality of linear (incremental) changes carried out over much longer time frames. Change is in the air now, as captured so poetically by Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Aquarius is that part of the Zodiac we associate with air, spiritual ideals, and purification. You may have heard cultural references to “5D” consciousness by now, which is another way of expressing the conscious evolution of our times. The 3D world is the old scientific-materialist world of objective, physical empiricism. 4D refers to the mind/body connection, which is especially relevant to more effective healing modalities and the placebo effect.
But according to an even newer way of thinking about healing, all of our illness, suffering and general dis-ease is rooted in deep feelings of separation and alienation from our true nature. As Darren Starwynn, O.M.D. puts it, our fifth dimensional self is the part of us that has never been wounded, traumatized or abandoned, abiding in a kind of quantum realm of unlimited human possibility. As alluded to earlier, this 5D consciousness is something many of us have now experienced with the help of plant medicines, or entheogens, found in nature. Full cathartic release from “heroic” or “shamanic” doses of these entheogenic substances commonly gives rise to a dramatic shift in consciousness that is characterized by a greater awareness of the larger organism in which we are integrated.
I alternatively think of this as “Gaian Awareness” or “Quantum Awareness,” depending on the context. It is a way of seeing the world through a subjective relational lens, as willing participants in a higher intelligence we can never fully grasp, rather than seeing it through the old objective, thing-making lens of self and other. To appreciate how this emerging world view is co-creating a new reality that seems directly responsive to our long emergency, nominally labeled the Aquarian Age, consider this timely missive from archetypal astrologer and psychotherapist Dr. Maureen B. Roberts:
As an archetypal field of transformative energy, Aquarius [symbolizes] the divine individual who, in service to all, consciously pours the Water of Life like balm onto the Earth; in doing so, s/he topples all hierarchical paradigms that – via an authoritarian minority – continue to harm and exploit Mother Gaia, or belittle, dehumanise, subjugate and seek to control others. When, therefore, we work to live in harmony with and protect our Mother Gaia, when we stand shoulder to shoulder with our oppressed brothers and sisters – to protest injustice, lawless brutality and soulless, cruel exploitation – we are moving with the flow of Tao into Aquarius by saying ‘Yes’ to ourselves as ‘divine Nature’ – and yes to our shared ‘divine humanity’, in defiance of any tyranny that seeks to undermine, or squash that deepest of all solidarities – our oneness with and compassion for all beings as fellow family members of the World Soul.
“Do not be anxious, or despair, then, for this is where we are heading, however painful the birth pangs, however great the necessary chaos and upheaval, however much we must fight and suffer for the change that must come in every arena of life if we are to survive as children of Gaia – and as a ‘divine humanity’ who honour and care for one another – as we limp and dance individually and together throughout our sacred and wounded World.”
~ c. 2020 Maureen B. Roberts, PhD www.psychiatrywithsoul.com
I really can’t say it any better than that! I will leave you with the one surprising message that came through me when I was plugged into the collective through the wisdom of the Sonoran Desert ‘Toad of Dawn’: Gaia loves you!