The following article was presented at St. Mary’s College on October 1, 2014
Good evening! I am delighted to be here with you on this jewel of a campus, nestled in stunning hills just beyond the gates of one of my favorite cities in the world. I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak with you about two of my passions: Interfaith Engagement and the Emerging Culture of Peace - convergent movements that are changing our world forever.
I would like to begin by inviting all of us to share a moment of silent meditation. At the United Nations, there are thousands of affiliated non-governmental organizations, or NGOs. When religious and spiritual NGO representatives organize meetings and events, we always begin with a moment of silence. The national delegates themselves stand for a minute of silence at the opening session of each year’s General Assembly, but it is a rather perfunctory affair. When we do it, the purpose is to bring our hearts and minds into spiritual attunement in a way that words can never do.
So you are welcome to close your eyes if you like, take a couple of deep breaths and feel the Earth beneath your feet. You’ll have to feel through all those layers of socks and shoes and floor and foundation, but she’s there. Now let’s visualize a world at peace – clean air, sparkling water, healthy plants, abundant wildlife, and happy people. Let’s take a quiet moment to hold that vision together. [...] Thank you!
INTRODUCTION : AN EXTRAORDINARY MOMENT OF TIME WE ARE LIVING IN HERE ON PLANET EARTH
What an extraordinary moment of time we are living in here on Planet Earth! Just when humankind is threatened by looming climate change and we are also facing multiple systems collapse, something new is emerging just over the horizon: the greatest transformation in human consciousness that the world has ever seen.
We who are on the planet at this time are not mere bystanders to these historic events, but active participants. And those who are waking up to the unprecedented opportunities are on a great adventure whose stakes could not be higher. If we fail, the Earth may well rescind our invitation to inhabit the only planetary home we know. If we succeed, we will collectively usher in the flowering of a global civilization beyond our dreams.
I will speak today about the worldwide culture of peace emerging with the essential element of interfaith engagement. And the context for my remarks will be set in good part by the contributions of the visionary authors, scientists and educators who are known collectively as Evolutionary Leaders.
First, a brief aside about the word “evolution.” The Evolutionary Leaders circle has had lengthy discussions about whether they are comfortable with the word “leader,” but no one has questioned “evolutionary.” Their understanding of evolution – not quite the same as Charles Darwin’s – is that the very force of nature within us all is propelling us forward toward greater complexity and higher life forms. This need not be seen as in any conflict with religious interpretations of human origins. Because whether we view the impetus for this evolution as coming from God or nature, we are all speaking of the destiny of humankind. And right now, that destiny is in our hands.
THE STATE OF OUR WORLD
Evolutionary Leader Gregg Braden, scientist and author of “The God Code” and “Fractal Time,” tells us (http://www.healyourlife.com/2012-peril-or-promise):
“We’re living the end of time.
Not the end of the world, but the end of a world age – a 5,125-year cycle of time ... The present world age began in 3,114 B.C. and [ended] in A.D. 2012. Because the end of anything also marks the beginning of what comes next, we’re also living the start of what follows the end of time: the next world age [...].
From the epic poems of India’s Mahabharata to the oral traditions of indigenous Americans and the biblical story of Revelation, those who have come before us knew that the end of time was coming. They knew, because it always does. Every 5,125 years, the earth and our solar system reach a place in their journey through the heavens that marks the end of precisely such a cycle. With that end, a new world age begins.
[...] To put it into perspective [...] the last humans to witness the shift from one world age to the next lived in the year 3,114 B.C., approximately 1,800 years before the time of Moses.”
Some say that we are also at the end of an approximately 26,000-year cycle based on astronomical calculations of the precession of the equinoxes.
What are the signs of the time? We are threatened by dramatic climate change. Our most trusted systems are in need of comprehensive overhaul: our educational system is training 21st century young people for 20th century lives, our political system is almost at a standstill, our agricultural system poisons the soil with chemicals, our health care system costs too much and does not keep us healthy, our overfished oceans are choking on plastic bags and medical waste, our industries and transportation and homes are powered by fuel that is becoming more costly to extract while it cripples us politically and pollutes the air we breathe, and our economic system has shifted from providing more and more comfortable lives to everyone into a new era of rampant insecurity. Our support systems are also endangered: the crumbling family unit struggles with less help available from religious institutions losing ground or government programs being cut by diminishing economic resources. And these conditions are all here in America, where we are living in the greatest time of safety, comfort and opportunity that has ever existed in history as we know it!
The good news is that it may be that precisely the level of chaos we are experiencing is creating the necessary conditions for something truly new to emerge.
Dr. Bruce Lipton, Evolutionary Leader, cell biologist and author of “The Biology of Belief” and “Spontaneous Evolution,” tells us that evolution happens in a quantum leap when an organism reaches a level of complexity that it can no longer contain. The first life forms on Earth were bacteria, 3 billion years ago. A single-cell bacterium takes in information from the outside world through its membrane, which functions as a brain, interpreting which data or nutrients are useful to the organism. After about 2 billion years, suddenly there was too much information for some to process, and the microorganism took an evolutionary leap into a whole, new multi-celled organism with specialized higher functioning within a greater, expanded membrane/brain.
We who live in the current Information Age have all experienced what it is like to be deluged by information. What would it be like to jump-shift into a new era where our capacities were multiplied exponentially? What would it feel like to evolve from the inside out?
We often think of the butterfly as a symbol of transformation, but few of us actually understand what it goes through to accomplish this feat.
Evolution biologist, futurist and Evolutionary Leader Elisabet Sahtouris writes:
“A caterpillar can eat up to three hundred times its own weight in a day, devastating many plants in the process, continuing to eat until it’s so bloated that it hangs itself up and goes to sleep, its skin hardening into a chrysalis. Then, within the chrysalis, within the body of the dormant caterpillar, a new and very different kind of creature, the butterfly, starts to form. [...] Cells with the butterfly genome were held [...] that biologists call 'imaginal cells', hidden away inside the caterpillar all its life, remaining undeveloped until the crisis of overeating, fatigue and breakdown allows them to develop, gradually replacing the caterpillar with a butterfly!
... Our bloated old system is rapidly becoming defunct while the vision of a new and very different society, long held by many 'imaginal cell' humans who dreamt of a better world, is now emerging like a butterfly, representing our solutions to the crises of predation, overconsumption and breakdown in a new way of living lightly on Earth [...].
If you want a butterfly world, don't step on the caterpillar, but join forces with other imaginal cells to build a better future for all!” [www.sahtouris.com]
So, dear imaginal cells, we are in the soup, the dark uncertainty of the chrysalis – but we are co-creating something beyond what our minds can even dream right now: what author and visionary Dr. Jean Houston, another Evolutionary Leader, calls the “possible human.” Jean states:
“We are coded with possibilities and potentials, few of which we ever learn to use. [...] For we are suffering from an ecological catastrophe that comes from a gross overuse of the outward world and a terrible under-use of the inner world. [...]
[...] The world can thrive only if we can grow. The possible society can occur only if people begin to consider ways to become possible humans.” [The Possible Human, by Jean Houston]
So what is this possible society that we imaginal cells are co-creating? The United Nations actually has a name for it: they call it a Culture of Peace.
Rev. Deborah Moldow, Ordained Interfaith Minister, is the Representative to the United Nations of the World Peace Prayer Society. She is the Co-chair of the International Day of Peace NGO Committee, and a Facilitator of the United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circle.