The first part of the book, The Quickening, sets the scene. It opens with the increasing pace of life we are all experiencing today. I show how this trend is not limited to modern times, but can be traced back through history all the way to the beginning of creation. What we are experiencing today is the culmination of billions of years of ever-accelerating development.
Why does evolution accelerate? The answer lies in the fact that new evolutionary breakthroughs often facilitate future advances. Multicellular organisms, sexual reproduction, and the emergence of nervous systems have each done their part to hasten the pace of evolutionary change. Now, with the emergence of human beings, two new features are speeding development yet further. Speech allows us to share our experiences and understandings with each other, giving us the ability to accumulate a collective body of knowledge. While our hands, one the most versatile organs Nature has evolved, have given us the ability to take the clay of Mother Earth and reshape it to our own ends. Combining these two evolutionary breakthroughs has made us the most creative species this planet has ever known. And the more we apply that creativity, the faster things change.
The second part, The Crisis focuses on the less welcome consequences of humanitys rapid development, and the devastation we are bringing to the rest of the planet. How is it, we ask, that a species that is in some ways so intelligent can in other ways be so short-sighted? Where have we gone wrong?
These questions lead on to an exploration of our inner needs and the way our societies have seduced us - in effect hypnotized us - into a set of false assumptions about what it is we really want, and how to go about achieving it. Amplified by the might of our technologies, these errors of thinking are now having global ramifications. We see that the global crisis is, at its root, a crisis of consciousness.
If we are to navigate ourselves safely through this critical moment of history we must make a break with the past, and look at ourselves and our world with fresh eyes. This will entail a fundamental shift in thinking and perception - a shift in consciousness more profound and far-reaching than any in our history. It will mean awakening to the wisdom that lies within us all, of which the great sages have always spoken. This is our next step in evolution, not an outer step, but an inner step.
The third part, The Awakening is more spiritual in tone. It asks: How can we wake up? How can we liberate our minds from outdated habits of thinking and make the inner changes that are being demanded of us? The answer involves learning to be more in the present moment, less caught up in our judgments of the past and our attachments to future outcomes. One of the most important areas of practice is our personal relationships. It is here that we frequently meet the various patterns that we need to let go of, and here that we have the most opportunity to learn new ways of thinking and perceiving. As we do, we rediscover the true meaning of love.
The final part, The Future , looks at where we may be headed. It considers some of the many prophecies that seem to foretell these turbulent times. And it looks behind their literal interpretations to deeper meanings, suggesting that they are metaphors for inner transformation and awakening.
Will we wake up in time, and avoid catastrophe? That is still an open question. If we do not, evolution on this planet could be set back to a new Dark Age perhaps; or worse, back to the primeval soup. On the other hand, if we do come to our senses, then it seems very likely that our rate of development - particularly our rate of inner development - will continue to grow faster and faster. What will happen if change is compressed from decades to years to months . . . ? We could be approaching a time of unimaginably rapid personal and social transformation - an evolutionary climax more profound than most of us have ever dared imagine?
Finally, we ask whether there could, after all, be a purpose to evolution? Recent work in cosmology suggests the answer may be Yes. The Universe seems to be set up so that conscious creatures like us can evolve, capable of knowing Creation in all its dimensions. Could we be on the brink of completing this process of cosmic self-discovery here on planet Earth? The answer to that is up to us.