The Global Brain

Peter Russell

by Marilyn Ferguson


When Peter Russell’s book, The Global Brain, was first published in 1982, it was well ahead of its time. Its strongest appeal was to futurists of all kinds–business people, social critics, and others who are insatiably curious about the day after tomorrow.

During the intervening years the notion of a global brain has become almost a given, at least insofar as the worldwide communications link. Events like the "Live Aid" concert and dramatic international co-operation, as in the rescue of the whales in the Bering Straight, pointed up the power of our communications network and the connectedness of all peoples.

But we are a little slower in recognizing the extent to which we are linked spiritually and psychologically. Many of the corporate clients who call on Peter Russell as a consultant or teacher are probably unaware of his earlier works: The TM Technique, The Brain Book, and a translation of The Upanishads. Russell came to his vision of an emerging world-mind through reflection and personal insights over many years.

I first met the author in 1978, shortly after I had begun to publish Brain Mind Bulletin, a Los Angeles-based newsletter devoted to cutting-edge research. While visiting London I met with several subscribers. My visit with Peter at a sidewalk café was the beginning of a long, immensely educational and entertaining friendship.

The trait I most value about him is the way his work regularly changes direction to reflect his new insights and understandings. He does not repeat himself. He has not tried to spin a single idea, however good, into fabric enough to clothe an entire career. Rather he observes, reflects, and records his reactions in a helpful, direct way.

Is there a global brain?

Research in recent years suggests that human beings are capable of subtle communication. For example, when experimenters in Mexico instructed two people, who were sitting silently in a lead-lined enclosure, to tune into each other, their brainwave patterns suddenly became synchronized. Female friends who live in the same dormitory hall tend to become synchronized in their menstrual rhythms. Men develop temperature cycles that match the ovarian cycles of the women with whom they live.

Bonds between infants and mothers, mysterious modes of communication among animals and insects, and individual incidents of apparent rapport–all these are clues that something ties all of life together. Judging from surveys, the majority of people have experienced inexplicable communications from others in distant places.

No doubt such links seem mysterious only because we have too primitive an understanding of nature’s complex energies. In the earlier stages of our physics we expected to identify concrete building blocks of matter, but matter disappeared into elusive subatomic particles that behave more like thoughts than things. In our medical hypotheses we imagined clear-cut boundaries between the tangible physical world and the invisible realm of thought. Now the new scientific field of psychoneuroimmunology is identifying mechanisms whereby our emotions directly effect our health.

At the same time, the "Gaia Hypothesis" is attracting ever more serious, as well as popular, interest. The idea, introduced by James Lovelock, that Earth is a living entity, with potential for self-healing and self-maintenance, seems increasingly plausible. But Lovelock also acknowledges, now, that humanity might tip the balance so seriously that Earth cannot recover–at least, not in time for our continued well-being. In other words, our planet might survive our escapades, but our species might perish.

What difference does it make to you and me if we are the cells of a global brain rather than isolated inhabitants of a planet? For one thing, the fine line dividing "individual" and "social" becomes more a convention than a reality.

Peter Russell points out the urgent need to ensure that our global brain is sane rather then insane. Each of us "neurons" can take a few steps toward collective sanity. We can make sure, for example, to conserve physical resources in our personal lives. We can discover new methods for personal renewal. We can try to elect and support leaders who seem to respect the interdependence of all people. We can be those leaders.

We can also move beyond survival. We can deepen our own sense of meaning by using our imaginations. We can see ourselves as part of a greater whole, a humanity emerging into the springtime of a new understanding.

Marilyn Ferguson

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