Waking Up in Time


The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

W.B Yeats

We are not slouching towards Bethlehem, as Yeats concludes in his poem The Second Coming. We are being catapulted there. Bethlehem, or wherever -- we’re headed there faster and faster. Indeed, since the first edition of this book in 1992, signs of Yeats’“rough beast” are prominent. But so is the hope that we may finally awaken from “twenty centuries of stony sleep.” However, you look at it, the sense that humanity is now facing its evolutionary moment of truth is almost tangible. We are living through the most exciting, challenging, and critical times in human history -- possibly the most excting, challenging and critical times in the history of life on earth. Never before has so much been possible; and never before has so much been at stake. And never before has the rate of change been so fast. We are being led ever more rapidly toward what I have called a “white hole in time.”

This unusual phrase became the title of the first edition -- The White Hole in Time . The title was certainly intriguing, but it did not always convey the right impression. Many thought it was going to be a book about cosmology or new science -- a sequel to Stephen Hawking’s book “A Brief History of Time”. Although I did study under him, and it does mention black holes, briefly , a “white hole in time” is the term I use to describe what the French priest and paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, called “The Omega Point” -- the point of unimaginably rapid change towards which our species’evolution seems to be headed. That is what the book is really all about.

The publication of a new edition by a new publisher seemed a good opportunity to improve the title, and, of course, update the book in the many ways. I went through the text with a mental toothcomb, rewriting bits I was not completely happy with, removing irrelevancies, adding more examples, clarifying ideas, and generally editing the text to make it read better. In the end, hardly a paragraph was not modified in some way or other.

The text also needed bringing up to date. The acceleration of evolution is a central thread to the book, and I was amazed at just how fast things had changed. When the first edition was published in 1992, no one then had heard of the WorldWide Web. Indeed, it had only just been devised. And now six years later, there can be hardly anyone who has not heard of it; many of you probably use it. Never has a new technology taken hold so rapidly, and never has a new technology contributed so much to the further acceleration of change.

Not only had the world around me changed rapidly, I had also changed. As I travelled around the world speaking on the themes of the book, my thinking on various matters had fleshed out. Experiences in my personal life had led me to let go of some of my assumptions. I had learnt more about myself, delved more deeply into the spiritual value of our relationships, and come to see the global situation in a different light. A new edition was the chance to include some of these developments, and so bring the book up-to-date in terms of my own thinking -- which is probably the most important update of all.

As I worked on the text, I became aware of another subtle way in which the book was out-of-date. When I finished the original edition we were entering the nineties, heading towards a new century, and a new millennium. But although the turn of the millennium was on many people’s minds, it was still a decade away. Today it is much closer. For many of you reading this, it will be very close indeed, for others it will have already come and gone. Writing with this perspective in mind, had a quite unexpected effect. No longer was this most celebrated date in history “out there”, sometime in the future; for me the shift in thinking had begun. Just as when walking towards a street lamp there comes a point where we become aware we are in its light, I had entered the ambience of that moment to which I had so long been looking forward.

Bon Voyage

This book is not about one single theme. It is a tapestry of ideas; a picture of many colors, drawing upon many areas -- physics, biology, philosophy, religion, psychology, and personal experience, to name but some. Not all of the ideas will be new to you. What may be new is the picture that forms as the various themes weave together. Then the familiar becomes fascinating, and a new vision emerges of ourselves and our place in the Universe.

In building on the contemporary scientific understanding of the world, I do not wish to imply that this worldview is necessarily correct. Perhaps the only eternal truth of science is that all theories change with time. What I am interested in are the broader implications of our as-yet imperfect understanding of the world. What is it pointing towards? Where does it suggest our species may be heading?

Touching as it does on many themes, a lot has been packed into the pages of this book. The material in any one chapter could easily be expanded into a book of its own. But rather than pad the material with examples, I have tried to explain each point briefly and clearly, fit it into the larger picture, and then move on to explore another piece of this cosmic jigsaw.

Naturally I have tried to make it an easy read -- what writer doesn’t? But it is nevertheless a read that requires your participation. Some of the material contains implications that I only touch on, or occasionally merely hint at. There may be many points where you want to pause and digest, or perhaps explore the ramifications for your own picture of the world. In short, it is a book to meditate upon as much as simply read.

It need hardly be said that the picture painted in these pages is only one of many possible pictures. You may well want to weave the threads together in a different way. Please do. My aim is not to prove a theory. It is to explore possibilities that we may not have considered, and to see where they lead. I want to raise questions more than give answers.

Above all, I hope you receive as much inspiration from the reading as I did from the writing. And as much enjoyment.

San Francisco,
The third of the third
of the third before the Third

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