While exploring shamanism and non-ordinary states, I discovered the power of intention. According to the artist Ian Lungold, who lectured brilliantly about the Mayan Calendar before his untimely death a few years ago, the Maya believe that your intention is as essential to your ability to navigate reality as your position in time and space. If you don’t know your intention, or if you are operating with the wrong intentions, you are always lost, and can only get more dissolute.
This idea becomes exquisitely clear during psychedelic journeys, when your state of mind gets intensified and projected kaleidoscopically all around you. As our contemporary world becomes more and more psychedelic, we are receiving harsh lessons in the power of intention on a vast scale. Over the last decades, the international financial elite manipulated the markets to create obscene rewards for themselves at the expense of poor and middle class people across the world. Using devious derivatives, cunning CDOS, and other trickery, they siphoned off ever-larger portions of the surplus value created by the producers of real goods and services, contriving a debt-based economy that had to fall apart. Their own greed — such a meager, dull intent — has now blown up in their faces, annihilating, in slow motion, the corrupt system built to serve them.
Opportunities such as this one don’t come along very often and should be seized once they appear. When the edifice of mainstream society suddenly collapses, as is happening now, it is a fantastic time for artists, visionaries, mad scientists and seers to step forward and present a well-defined alternative. What is required, in my opinion, is not some moderate proposal or incremental change, but a complete shift in values and goals, making a polar reversal of our society’s basic paradigm. If our consumer-based, materialism-driven model of society is dissolving, what can we offer in its place? Why not begin with the most elevated intentions? Why not offer the most imaginatively fabulous systemic redesign?
The fall of capitalism and the crisis of the biosphere could induce mass despair and misery, or they could impel the creative adaptation and conscious evolution of the human species. We could attain a new level of wisdom and build a compassionate global society in which resources are shared equitably while we devote ourselves to protecting threatened species and repairing damaged ecosystems. Considering the lightning-like pace of global communication and new social technologies, this change could happen with extraordinary speed.
To a very great extent, the possibilities we choose to realize in the future will be a result of our individual and collective intention. For instance, if we maintain a Puritanical belief that work is somehow good in and of itself, then we will keep striving to create a society of full employment, even if those jobs become “green collar.” A more radical viewpoint perceives most labor as something that could become essentially voluntary in the future. The proper use of technology could allow us to transition to a post-scarcity leisure society, where the global populace spends its time growing food, building community, making art, making love, learning new skills and deepening self-development through spiritual disciplines such as yoga, tantra, shamanism and meditation.
One common perspective is that the West and Islam are engaged in an intractable conflict of civilizations, where the hatred and terrorism can only get worse. Another viewpoint could envision the Judeo-Christian culture of the West finding common ground and reconciling with the esoteric core, the metaphysical purity, of the Islamic faith. It seems — to me anyway — that we could find solutions to all of the seemingly intractable problems of our time once we are ready to apply a different mindset to them. As Einstein and others have noted, we don’t solve problems through employing the type of thinking that created them, but rather dissolve them when we reach a different level of consciousness.
We became so mired in our all-too-human world that we lost touch with the other, elder forms of sentience all around us. Along with delegates to the UN, perhaps we could train cadres of diplomats to negotiate with the vegetal, fungal and microbial entities that sustain life on earth? The mycologist Paul Stamets proposes we create a symbiosis with mushrooms to detoxify eco-systems and improve human health. The herbalist Morgan Brent believes psychoactive flora like ayahuasca and peyote are “teacher plants,” sentient emissaries from super-intelligent nature, trying to help the human species find its niche in the greater community of life. When we pull back to study the hapless and shameful activity of our species across the earth, these ideas do not seem very farfetched.
In fact, the breakdown of our financial system has not altered the amount of tangible resources available on our planet. Rather than trying to re-jigger an unjust debt-based system that artificially maintains inequity and scarcity, we could make a new start. We could develop a different intention for what we are supposed to be doing together on this swiftly tilting planet, and institute new social and economic infrastructure to support that intent.
Daniel Pinchbeck is the author of Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism (Broadway Books, 2002) and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006). His features have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Wired and many other publications. reposted from http://consciouschoice.com/2009/01/pinchbeck0901.html