I turned 72 this summer, my wife turned 74. She’s a writer and I’m an artist. Together we are elders. We have reached the last phase of our lives. In July we went to Australia for a six-week visit with our daughter and her husband. They live on Green Goddess Farm, a five-acre organic farm located in the Northern Rivers part of New South Wales, two hours drive inland from the east coast city of Byron Bay.
Rhys and Sasha grow food, lots of it. They have tropical apples, peaches, figs, passion fruit, oranges, lemons, olives, macadamia nuts and even a few avocados. Rhys harvests honey from his bee-hives while Sasha grows cabbages, kale, broccoli, carrots, cilantro, beets, chard, corn, tomatoes, arugula, and lettuce. Together they do potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, ginger, turmeric, melons and the finest winter squash you’ve ever tasted. They green crop to fertilize their fields and have a quarter acre fenced for chickens that yields a bowl full of fresh eggs every morning. Sasha is an accomplished cook who also makes her own line of herbal salves and ointments. She is also heavily involved in fermenting enzyme rich foods.
Rhys uses environmentally friendly biodiesel to power his truck and farm machinery. He is a talented welder and a natural mechanic. He knows the names of all the trees and birds. He also is somewhat of a celebrity for his out-of-this world cups of decaf coffee that he tops with his own homemade nut milk.
The two of them generate photo-electric power, have a kick-ass roof mounted solar hot-water system and harvest rainwater into huge tanks, as do many Australians. They use a wood stove for heat. They diligently avoid using plastic. (In Queensland, a retailer supplying banned plastic bags may be fined up to $6,500 per offense!) They have recycling drums for metal and paper.
Sasha and Rhys are living the dream. But they are also living the reality of what it means to live within their ecological footprint and to respect the earth as a living conscious entity. They have chosen this lifestyle and built their farm in 10 short years despite a devastating flood in 2017 that nearly wiped them out. It hasn’t been easy.
I arrived at their farm fresh from absorbing an article by the futurist Duane Elgin entitled Seven Stages of Great Transition. I was stunned by his view of what our species may have to endure over the next 80 or more years.
There was something about the “Seven Stages” paper that utterly snapped my being to attention. Perhaps it was living so close to nature so far from town or the ensuing nation-wide drought or the absence of car horns, noisy jets, ambient city lights or police sirens. Maybe it was the apple orchard blooming in the middle of winter or Rhys telling me that the heat wave of 2016 was so hot that they had to water every hour just to keep the crops cool enough to survive and that he was still traumatized by what they had endured. Maybe it was my daughter’s grief over the future her parent’s generation had squandered. Whatever it was, I felt flooded with a sudden grief, urgency, and shock.
At Green Goddess Farm accelerated climate change became real to me. Beyond all the facts, reports and controversy, I had a profound “felt sense” that our species had officially crossed a line, a point of no return, where life would never again be the same. I palpably felt that we had entered an era of chaos and disruption, a profound dismantling, and a period of increasing exponential intensity like a hurricane that is one day a few miles in size and the next the size of an entire ocean.
There was an ominous sense that we have lost something we will never get back. In a word, everyone, regardless of race, religion, belief system, or socio-economic status is simultaneously in the grip of an unprecedented collective spiritual emergency or crisis.
A spiritual emergency is a rapid chaotic, and overwhelming psychological transformation that may appear pathological but which ultimately has a healing trajectory leading to an expanded awareness of the unity of all life.
A collective spiritual emergency however means that the paradigm, the entire shared collective belief system that informs us as to who we are and why we are here is collapsing. It is the rapid decay of an outmoded cultural mythos or Great Story to a new Great Story but the new Great Story is not yet in place. We are moving into liminality, neither here nor there.
Increasingly we are faced with the no-exit prospect that we will not be able to survive what we ourselves have created until or unless we can bring in a new Great Story, a new paradigm, or a new, shared collective belief system that will renew our identity and redefine us.
This is why it’s a crisis of epic proportions. For the entire world to suddenly change how we see who is “us” and who is “them” to include everyone else as ourselves and every place as “here” constitutes a collective spiritual emergency. To change how we see nature from something dead to exploit to something sacred, intelligent and alive is mind blowing. It shatters our ideas of separation and rugged individualism and entitlement. It challenges rampant materialism and exploitation of the earth because to continue to do so guarantees our extinction. It brings up outrage, fear, grief and shame and all the ancient unattended wounds of the species.
Seeing all this I thought, “What have we done?” “What have we allowed to happen?” “How will we live?” “How will anything live?” “What can we possibly do now?”
As I walked around the farm, listening to the insane chatter of the kookaburras, the raucous cries of cockatoos, the maniacal caws of the Australian crows, I watched the Ibis birds soaring on a thermal current and the rustling flocks of wild turkeys moving like acrobats on branches high above the creek. I began to connect my own personal spiritual emergency to the collective spiritual emergency that our species is now undergoing. The symptoms seemed very similar.
I have had two spiritual emergencies in my life, once in my late 20’s and once 9 years ago, out of which the art that I do now fully emerged. I have experienced first hand how devastating it feels when a rapid, chaotic psychological transformation deconstructs one’s old identity and releases a tsunami of terror, rage, grief and helplessness. I remember well the desperation and dread that came from believing that God had abandoned me and the feeling of deepest despair as I endured an endless dark night of the soul. The shock of everything shifting in my psyche from one day to the next was like a magnitude 10 earthquake. I felt I was going crazy.
Like many of us in a similar situation, I raged, blamed, and pleaded with God. “What did I do to deserve this?” “It’s not fair!” “Why me?” But in the end there was nothing left to do but to accept my fate and forgive myself for every self-judgment I could find.
I soon realized that the kind of God I was terrified of and raging towards looked a lot like my father who in turn looked a lot like the God of my Mormon upbringing. We all know this God, the one of hell-fire, retribution, and vengeance. This God is like a supreme alpha wolf in the sky who tolerates no dissent, no disobedience, and who can condemn you to eternal hell for just looking wrong in the lineup. It’s kind of like God Donald Trump, the one who’s for the 1%! The rest of his creation can just go to hell.
I began to realize that I had to change my image of God away from the dysfunctional madman of the Old Testament to an entirely new one of a God filled with love, mercy, joy, and compassion. Instead of God and the Devil, sin and salvation, my new image integrated good and evil, light and dark, male and female into one.
Original sin became a metaphor for how we separate ourselves, not for who we are. My ordeal was not God punishing me for my sins but blessing me because I was the same divine spark as Itself. God wanted to give me a gift. The darkness WAS the light, burning away my illusion. I had to relocate my image of God, bring it down from the clouds and put it into every single thing on earth including myself so that I could feel what sacred actually means. I had to dissolve the old fundamentalist imprints right down to the cellular level so that I could see that the world I create flows out of the image I have of God. It was that simple.
This realization reflects what Duane Elgin wrote:
“The most urgent challenge facing humanity is not climate change, or species extinction, or unsustainable population growth; rather, it is how we understand the Universe and our intimate relationship within it. Our deepest choices for the future emerge from this core understanding.”
Behind the apparent disaster within my own personal psyche, a blessing emerged. It was precisely the sheer intensity of this catastrophic psychological undoing that enabled me to see a hidden gift. My art emerged spontaneously. The blessing from the ordeal revealed a healing trajectory that lead towards an expanded awareness of the unity of all life. It also exposed the truth that if the crucifixion I was enduring was an act of love, then maybe I was being chosen to endure the ordeal for a reason. But if I was being chosen, then maybe we all are being chosen. Maybe there is no such thing as a chosen people and an un-chosen people. Maybe that’s the old story, the old God-talk. Maybe we are all chosen now to endure the ordeal that is a blessing so we can see the fact that we are all one being whose nature is divine love.
The Great Transition is purposeful. We are going through the most extraordinary spiritual emergency imaginable, one that has been millions if not billions of years in the making in order to have a massive spiritual awakening about who we really are, why we are here and what our true relationship is to the cosmos.
I felt that we are at a profound pivot point in the evolution of the species in which we confront everything about our old identity that we thought was true but isn’t. We are not just updating our operating system, we are downloading an entirely new one. The enormity of facing our own extinction has the power to awaken us from the trance of separation, which is so convincing that it has literally brought us to the point of killing our own Mother.
I want to leave you with some words by my good friend Chris Bache, which is included in his forthcoming book, Diamonds From Heaven and also in his earlier book Dark Night Early Dawn. Chris is a teacher, a writer, a veteran psychedelic explorer and a visionary. During one of his visionary experiences, he saw the following:
I saw humanity climbing out of a steep valley and just ahead on the other side of the mountain was a brilliant, sun-drenched world that was about to break over us. The time frame was enormous. After millions of years of struggle and ascent, we were poised on the brink of a sunrise that would forever change the conditions of life on this planet. All current structures would quickly become irrelevant. All truths would quickly be rendered passé. Truly a new epoch was dawning. The lives of everyone living in this pivotal time in history were helping bring about this global shift.
It is said that where there is no vision the people perish so it is up to us to imagine the trajectory our collective ordeal is arching towards. I believe the trajectory bends towards love and the certain knowledge that love is our nature and the fundamental law of the universe. Waiting for us is a Great Awakening and the birth of a new human.