Our resident shaman Daniel Pinchbeck continues his monthly countdown to 2012 and asks what it truly means to be free
So many things are happening simultaneously in this time that it can seem overwhelmingly difficult to isolate the underlying trends. Our immediate future as a species is threatened by accelerating climate change and species extinction – planetary processes humanity unleashed by ignoring the byproducts of rapid industrialisation. Reenacting the myth of Icarus, we sought freedom from all natural constraints, and we are now rapidly plummeting back to earth, as winters become more brutal, glaciers melt, bees and butterflies disappear, farmland shrinks, and so on. Today, the average person in the First World enjoys a freedom and comfort of existence, a diversity of taste and access to information, that were beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest prince in the pre-industrial past –yet we are facing a future of imminent scarcity. To a great extent, modern civilisation completed the Renaissance goal of refashioning the world in humanity’s own image. But we did this at the price of forfeiting the health of the planet and threatening the lives of our descendants, as catastrophes like the Gulf oil spill and the nuclear meltdown in Japan make clear.
With the spread of Eastern metaphysical thought and practices like yoga and meditation across the west, we find that freedom lies within us. We can’t be free until we have unchained our minds from old beliefs, social conditioning and psychological imprints – from everything that stops us from being present to the ever-changing flow of our lived experience. My own exploration of ayahuasca shamanism and other psychedelic substances convinced me that there are many dimensions of the psyche that await further discovery. As we gain more flexibility in our thinking and emotional lives, reducing projections and attachments, we become more available to synchronicity, surprise and wonder – we become, internally, more free.
But this internal freedom needs to be meshed with external action. I meet many people who practice yoga or Buddhism, or whatever, and espouse spiritual ideals while working as marketers or shills for corporations that use sweatshop labour, practice greenwashing or harm the environment. This kind of obvious contradiction seems increasingly grotesque and out of touch. Perhaps freedom begins with the courage to actually live your values to the fullest, and trust that the universe will provide for you, when you do so. This is a difficult undertaking in a culture founded upon separation, where each person is forced to compete against everyone else to succeed. To become free in a positive sense, people need to join together, to share and collaborate toward a common goal. This happens naturally in crisis situations. There is often a sense of authentic communion during a disaster or catastrophe, as people instinctively come together to help each other, without calculating their own self-interest.
Modern civilisation is not a machine built to last. I believe that humanity, on an unconscious level, is self-willing the world toward cataclysm in order to initiate a new level of connectedness and coherence – a new consciousness of freedom as something built out of relationship with others, and with the living body of the earth. The more that we can awaken to this now, the more we can prepare for the changes ahead. We can use our lives to model the new regenerative culture that needs to emerge, while facing the wreckage our psychopathic civilisation is still busily creating, removing the splinters it has left in our psyches. We manifest freedom as we master ourselves, overcoming distraction and decadence to align with a deeper purpose.
Along with the increase of earthquakes and tsunamis, the revolution in Egypt aligns with the prophetic calendar of the classic Maya. December 21, 2012 is the end of the “great cycle” that began over 5,000 years ago when the pyramids were built in Egypt, at the dawn of modern civilisation. It seems numinous that, as we approach the end of the cycle, modern Egyptians erupted to overturn the hierarchical pyramid of power ruling over them. This may turn out to be only the first note in a new octave of movements toward liberation that will unfold across the earth: a political and spiritual awakening that will change the direction of human civilisation – that will touch, and then transform, each of our lives.
DANIEL PINCHBECK is the author of Breaking Open the Head, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, and the just-published Notes from the Edge Times. He edits realitysandwich.com and is featured in the documentary, 2012: Time for Change.