Evolution - Brave new age
by Saurabh Bhattacharya
It's quiz time, folks. Bang into a new millennium, still wet behind the ears, we are faced with the quiet query: what's next? Stupid question, did you say? Think again. In millennia past, it seemed we'd done it all. We realized that, all said and done, the earth was round and there was nothing you could do about it. We expanded our geographical horizons to discover all the land that was available for discovering—and promptly over-populated them. We walked on the moon, found water on one of Jupiter's satellites, cloned a few sheep (and raised an ethical storm), created the computer, the Internet, robots, keyhole surgery, supersonic jets, 'mind-expanding' drugs, and agreed that everything under the sun was relative.
While playing with new toys, we also acknowledged the wisdom of our ancestors by returning to the past in search of the future. We rediscovered ayurveda , pyramid energy, yoga , naturopathy , crystals, paganism, sorcery , shamanism, meditation , and the primal sound. We confirmed that there was more to the human mind than Freudian sex, affirmed that the true means of human study lay in transpersonal psychology, and concluded that God resides, in the literal sense of the word, within. We established, organized, diluted, corrupted and finally left old religions to create new ones. The West went East in search of God and drugs and the East turned West seeking Mammon and true followers.
The past 1,000 years were also a period of contradictions. We burnt heretics and then iconised them. We slaughtered witches and then made witchcraft chic. We eradicated species ad infinitum and then raised funds for their upkeep. We slashed and burnt our way through nature and then found out that earth was actually a sentient being that went by the name of Gaia. Embarrassed, we turned vegetarian!
Since our genesis, we humans, like an insatiably curious child, have poked, squinted, tumbled, straightened, unmade, remade, lost and won the game of life. But we still haven't managed to figure out the rules. The enigma remains ever elusive, ever-tempting. Hence, after the roller-coaster of a millennium, we barely have time enough to catch our breath before plunging back into the game by daring to ask: what's next? What follows is a glimpse of "what's next" on the agenda of human evolution. Dissenters could address their queries to life. For, in this quiz, Life's decision is final.
THE FAMILY WAY
The family has always been considered the representational unit of any period. So, we begin our millennial ride with Pa, Ma and the child. The move from a joint to a nuclear family is old hat. What is emerging now is the sub-nuclear-super-joint family. This means a unit that contains just one individual who, when connected to a larger, more diffuse network of individual units, becomes part of a super-joint family.
Confused? To comprehend this futuristic society, let's turn to Aldous Huxley's Utopian Island, in which every child has two groups of parents—biological and intellectual. Such a scenario would have been implausible a few years ago. But life has changed since the Internet. Now, virtual families are the norm. As Delhi-based American diplomat and New Age observer Lewis K. Elbinger points out: "The Net has given everybody the chance to return to the joys of a joint family without compromising on individualism. Today, despite being in Delhi, I can share a virtual Christmas with my family and friends in the USA. I can break the virtual wishbone with them and drink the virtual toast. Only, the virtual turkey doesn't taste as good as the one my wife makes."
Futurologist Howard Rheingold, pioneer of the virtual community concept, feels that soon this global community will be a healing force for individuals alienated by the stress of modern day society. "Hundreds of thousands of people rely on their virtual communities as a real lifeline," he states. "People whose illness or disability prevents normal communication, people who are caregivers or who suffer from even one of hundreds of diseases." Huxley's Island is on the verge of becoming a reality.
Yet another factor that will increasingly link humanity together is the rise of people with strong ESP—the result of a lifestyle that commands lesser attention to daily bread earning and more to the cultivation of inner resources. More and more people would be able to keep in touch through nonverbal, psychic communication. The instances of this are all-too-visible in the naturally esoteric New Age community. Harsh words that would have earlier led to a split in the family will remain unstated, and the message will be passed in the form of a thought pattern.
Tomorrow's family will seek complete harmony through individual space and psychological comfort. It will not be necessary—or even desirable—for the millennial parent to keep a hawk's eye on his/her offspring as that would limit the growth of both parent and child. Almost every second modern guide on parenting, from the classic Baby and Child Care by Dr Benjamin Spock to the ultramodern Speed post by Shobha De, emphasizes the need for spaces in a relationship. And what better way to remain close and not cloying than a sub-nuclear-super-joint family model?
Winds of change are blowing fast and furious in the work world also. But here, technology is giving way to the soul's evolution. As S.H. Venkatramani, specialist in corporate communication, notes: "The corporate world is now realizing that in the new millennium the competitive edge will come from hi-tech as well as certain basic human values. There is an increasing recognition of intangible assets such as work ethics."
The days of behavioral psychologist Abraham Maslow's self-actualization' needs are here in earnest. As Anil Sachdeva, MD of the Eicher Consultancy Service, says: "Companies and individuals that provide people with the best opportunities to realize their potential and live by their values would get the best talent." This is the world of 'Transform Inc' where the material and the metaphysical become indistinguishable. For an upwardly mobile and burgeoning global middle class, a psychological feeling of well-being has become almost a necessity. And this feeling has now overflowed from the home and office to flood the neighborhood supermarket as well.
While the New Age of the nineties has already turned the faith-money equation on its head, its millennial avatar will create a radically new definition market economics. "Money," exclaims Leonard Orr, California-based rebirth pioneer and creator of the Money Seminar, "Is the basic mantra of society today. It teaches you how to give, for the more you give, the more you receive."
The key term of the future, however, is 'abundance'. Workshops on how to create this abundance are multiplying, conducted by people who come across more as corporate execs than offbeat spiritual gurus.
The best part is that the consumer/seeker finds no contradiction in paying for spirituality. Elbinger notes: "New Age marketing considers the non-material aspects of economic activity an attempt to manifest the highest ideals while exchanging the most mundane objects." Gone are the days of a spiritually enhanced elite that is fed and clothed by the more materialistic masses. Transformation is now an individual's birthright, and if a company has the means to provide the necessary infrastructure, it is justified to pay for services promised.
So, even organized religion—the ultimate arbitrator of matters spiritual—is giving way to ordinary people with extraordinary fix on spirituality and an increasing emphasis on techniques rather than talk. Meditation and yoga remain the hot favorites, and the bottomline is spiritual self-empowerment.
Meanwhile, the religious boundaries are getting diffused. Increasingly, people are blending faiths to create a spiritual cocktail, which suits their individual tastes. Says, international corporate trainer, Sukhdeepak Malvai: "Why do I have to believe only in the religion I was born in? I'd rather have the freedom to admire the all-embracing philosophy of Hinduism , the innate compassion of Buddhism , Christ's unselfish love for all, and the immediacy of Zen. Faith is a matter of the soul, not a label that is passed on from generation to generation."
THE HEALER'S WITHIN
The spirit's yearning for nirvana today comes hand-in-hand with the body's desire for holistic health. In fact, the last two decades saw a near-obsessive fascination with physical health, albeit restricted mostly to chiseling a sexually attractive figure, according to the fashion of the moment. But the millennial man or woman is interested in more than bulging biceps and sexy legs. Increasingly, instead of introducing alien therapeutic ingredients within the body, the body itself is being made self-healing.
Consider the research of Prof Peter Zilla, South African doctor who has been trying to make the human body re-grow its own parts! Till now his work involves 'tricking' the body into growing new arteries and heart valves, but the day is not far when we would be able to mould our whole physical structure to near-perfection—without any side-effects.
Already, doctors are planning to grow heart, liver and kidneys from the recipient's own stem cells in vitro and then transplant them into the body. If today, we can get a new arm by using a prosthetic limb that is connected to a peripheral nervous system, tomorrow we might get limbs that will connect directly to the motor portions of the brain, which would improve efficiency and also simulate the sensation of touch .
This is not all. That health is actually a play of energy between the body and mind will be a matter of course for 21st century civilization and beyond. From there on, the next logical step is obviously to tap and utilize the energy all around for physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Yogis and ascetics down the ages have known the secret—that's why they are able to live in remote places without any obvious source of food.
The end in sight, it is never difficult to construe the means. Take the example of the controversial tachyon was defined by one of its leading proponents, scientist Gerald Feinberg, back in 1977 as a "faster-than-light, subatomic particle". Once this free energy is properly harnessed, the word 'ailment' could become obsolete. Already, some companies abroad have started selling commonplace products charged by tachyon cell, such as tachyon headbands, rings, pendants and belts.
But what makes tachyon tick? The website http://www.tachyonenergy.com interestingly equates this energy to the cosmic or 'zeropoint' energy. Tachyon is part of this cosmic energy and it contains the whole. It is "omnipresent, limitless and has all the potential information to create perfect form in the universe". Remember the futuristic clinic abroad USS Enterprise in the sci-fi serial Star Trek, where most of the healing was done by medication suitably charged with photon energy!
Soon, mainstream medicine will shrug off its 'toxic' label and alternative healing techniques will also make their presence felt in hospitals. Already, laser surgery eliminates the consequences of cutting up the body. The newly inducted body-mind section at New Delhi's Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, headed by cardiologist Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, provides ayurveda treatment, yogic exercises and even de-stress programs for expectant mother so that the fetus feels at peace in the womb.
The doctor may be on his way out, but the healer is definitely 'in'. In another 50-odd years, a visit to your local hospital for a bypass will feel uncannily like visiting a holistic consciousness camp where the allopathic pill comes with a heartwarming smile, the anesthetist is actually a psychic hypnotist, the surgeon performs reiki on the incision, the heart that is transplanted is built from your own cells, and the bed wakes you up with healing mantras.
NEVER SAY DIE
Death. From the beginning of humanity, poets have metaphorized it, philosophers have muddled it, religion has mystified it… and the transhumanist plans to modify it. Not much just enough to ensure immortality !
Transhumanist who? The bewilderment is justified, for the transhuman movement is still in its teething stage. But it doesn't lack bit. In recent years, it has come up with some breathtaking ideas for the future of humanity. It contends that there is no reason to believe that Man is mortal. "The new paradigm," notes Nick Bostrom, professor of philosophy at the London School of Economics, "rejects the crucial assumption that the 'human condition' is at root a constant…Clearing away that mental block allows one to see a dazzling landscape of radical possibilities." Some of these may catapult us to immortality—even Godhood!
Super-intelligent Machines: Super-intelligence means any form of artificial intelligence, may be based on "self-taught" neural networks that is capable of outclassing the best human brains in practically every discipline. Futurologists claim that both the hardware and software needed for superintelligence might be developed in the first few decades of the next century.
Personality Pills: Drugs and gene therapy will yield far more than shallow one-dimensional pleasure. They can also modify personality. They can help overcome shyness, eliminate jealousy, increase creativity and enhance the capacity for empathy and emotional depth.
Uploading consciousness into virtual reality: "If we could scan the synaptic matrix of a human brain and simulate it on a computer," notes Bostrum, "then it would be possible for us to migrate from our biological embodiments to a purely digital substrate. By making sure we always had back-up copies, we might then enjoy effectively unlimited life-spans." In other words, a life of consciousness that would make the body itself unnecessary. Far-fetched? Development of neuro/chip interfaces is already on. It might one day enable us to build neuro-prostheses to 'plugin' to cyberspace.
In his book The Secrets of Youthing, Orr also argues that immortality is not only probable but possible too. He himself refuses to give his age and claims to be well on the way to eternity. Orr believes that human beings die because they want to. "You are alive now," he writes. "Therefore, your life urges must be stronger than your death urges. As long as you strengthen the former and weaken the latter, you will go on living in increasing health and youthfulness.
Agrees Herb Bowie, author of the book Why Die? A Beginner's Guide to Living Forever: "Life and death are the results of decisions we make, and not things that just happen to us." Bowie further states: "Physical and biological sciences have found no fundamental principles that would make immortality impossible…The phenomenon of evolution has brought humankind to the brink of a new phase of history, in which immortality is our next logical step."
The search for the fountainhead of life eternal has almost concluded. By the next century, mankind may touch an average lifespan of 250 years in the physical body and at least 1000 plus as a sentient, conscious presence on the meta-network of technology. But if immortality is inextricably linked to the passage of time, isn't the next move a transcendence of time itself?
WRINKLES IN SPACE-TIME
Meet the Damanhurians of Italy who claim to travel back and forth in time at will. Their mode of travel is something called a 'time cabin', whose function is described by the cult leader Oberto Airaudi: "In a solid body, it's position of the observer, which determines the meaning of high, low, long or wide. If we take a wood cube, define its dimensions, writing them on its faces, they will change as soon as we rotate it with respect to us, so that 'high' becomes 'long', and so on…Now, let's change the words height, length and width with future, past and present …"
Unfortunately, the Damanhurian theory is still too abstruse for millennial humanity to have tea with Napolean. For one, how can we define past, present and future in absolute terms when itself is an ever-flowing concept? Further, the various paradoxes involved with time travel could have nightmarish consequences for mankind. Can we go back and kill Hitler, as that would mean the non-creation of Israel even though Israel exists today.
Much more intriguing than time travel is dimension-travel and travel beyond our universe. Ever since the first landing on the moon, space scientists and theorists have been struggling to make human journey to the stars viable—with little success, as the primary limiting factors remain the human body and the lack of an efficient fuel source.
But future inter-galactic and trans-dimensional travel may not actually need the body or any fuel. We are talking here of a snazzy 17 breath New Age technique called merkaba meditation, which is slowly gaining ground. Created by Drunvalo Melchizedek, who claims to have 'walked' into his present physical shape from a different dimension, merkaba is a massive geometrical 'vehicle' comprising two tetrahedrons interlocked within a sphere of pranic energy that the meditator visualizes over a span of 17 breaths. On the 16th exhalation, a disc, 55 ft in diameter, flips open from your middle. By the 17th breath, the merkaba is rotating around you at the speed of light and, at the end of the 17th breath, you are all set to take off for any dimension or galaxy you like! All in half-an-hour.
The growing popularity of merkaba in recent years clearly proves that what may seem bizarre today could well be the norm tomorrow. If so, what otherworlds would millennial humanity (and family) visit on weekends? Would going to the beach mean basking beside the moon's Sea of Tranquility? And will our children take their homework lessons at the elementary school on Dimension 36?
THOSE INSCRUTABLE ALIENS
"Of course, I believe in aliens. I don't know from where they'll come—stars or other dimensions. It would be arrogant to assume that we are the only intelligent species in this whole universe," says Malvai, a far cry from the usual UFO freak with rolling eyeballs. Still, he believes that a close encounter of the third kind may be round the corner.
In a similar vein, mantra healer and former governor of Assam, India, Lokenath Mishra states: "Yes, I've seen spirits. What's so great in that? Spirits are nothing but beings that live in other space-time dimensions. They have their own families, own lifestyles. And if you can cross your own space-time continuum, you will be able to see them as clearly as you see me." And he doesn't betray a hint of manic intensity or awe.
At the turn of the calendar page, the world seems ready for the realization of the biggest dream—and, in some cases, the worst nightmare—of science fiction writers and UFOlogists contact with extraterrestrial. Not that alien contact is a novel phenomenon. In fact, there were more alien sightings during the '70s and '80s than the last decade. But today, this phenomenon is psychologically acceptable. As Malvai states: "Future generations will be more open to these ideas, primarily because they will have more time to introspect and realize that the world is not all that meets the eye."
Does this mean that contact with otherworldly intelligent life will be possible in the coming millennium? Going by the plethora of New Age psychics, that contact has already happened and most of these higher-intelligence species are nothing but the spiritual masters of humanity, preparing us for the great dimensional shift to a four-dimensional existence. In fact, most New Agers strongly believe that human evolution itself was somehow jump-started by some aliens from the stars. Remember the first scene of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. In which a prehistoric human is taught the science of making and using tools by an alien black obelisk?
But is the world of tomorrow really prepared for the ultimate contact? Again we turn to science fiction for clues-and what we find is hardly uplifting, although fascinating. The alien visualized by sci-fi writers is either anthropomorphic-replete with limbs, eyes, mouth, ears—or reptilian and bug-like, like the one in James Cameron's film Alien or in Larry Niven's book Protector. True, there have been amazing innovations on this basic design. But the design remains basic.
We may argue that the unknown can be defined only by known parameters. But what happens when the real alien turns out to be something completely unearthly, totally a-human? Are we ready to accept such a being? Or shall we shun it out of sheer ignorance and lose the chance of a crucial interaction? The turn of events on that crucial day could actually redefine the whole history of humanity and, perhaps, reconfirm how much we have really evolved since our prehistoric gambol in the wilderness. But for that, we might need to wait another small century—and that would, of course, be another story altogether.
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