The Spiritual Crisis of the Twenty-first Century

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.

–William Butler Yeats

We live in interesting times, rich with opportunity and fraught with danger. Illusion at every turn, truth mixed with error, it is a moment cosmically ripe for spiritual revolution. Even the sense of time is different. It seems to move faster in reference to exterior events, perhaps because centuries old traditions and institutions are collapsing or are endangered. Inwardly time is not being measured in days and weeks or seconds and minutes but in increments of growth, change and insight and all of this appears against the back drop of the slow-motion catastrophe that appears in the world news. The difficulties and obstacles confronting each and everyone on the spiritual path in this moment of transition are the tenuous stepping stones to the New Era.

Awareness of the fine line separating light from darkness brings into focus who we are and who we may become in our journey toward greater psychological and spiritual wholeness. The evolving soul is delimited by the world view she has embraced and by what has been transmitted through parents and culture, consciously and unconsciously. Inherited and often largely unexamined beliefs about life have created a ceiling restricting the natural upward evolution of self and society, of consciousness itself. It is difficult to rise higher than the philosophies with which we have encumbered ourselves. But all of this is changing. Lord Talbot in King Henry VI reminds us of the latent potential of our higher, more noble Self, "No, no, I am but a shadow of myself: you are deceiv’d, my substance is not here; for what you see is but the smallest part, and…were the whole frame here, it is of such a lofty and spacious pitch, your roof were not sufficient to contain it."

Historian Arnold Toynbee said, “Of the twenty-two civilizations that have appeared in history, nineteen of them collapsed when they reached the moral state the United States is in now.”  That was more than thirty-five years ago. In 2012, conditions within every area of human experience are undergoing change at an accelerating rate. Toynbee said, “The approach of the climax foreseen intuitively by the prophets is being felt, and feared, as a coming event. Its imminence is, today, not an article of faith; it is a datum of observation and experience.”

William van Dusen Wishard explained the Jungian perspective. “What Jung sees happening in our era is that the Self, the central archetype of order and meaning has been activated in the collective unconscious.  And when the Self becomes activated, it means a change in the collective world view…a new God image, a new relationship to the Divine.”


Carl Jung said, “The Self or Christ is present in everybody a priori, but as a rule is unconscious to begin with…” Elizabeth Clare Prophet takes this one step further when she writes, “Just as man has a Divine image, so the society in which he evolves also has a Divine image.” Thus, we have Christ and Buddha as the summit of the individuation process and the New Jerusalem and Shamballa when this process culminates at the societal level.

The great tragedy of modern history has been the attempted creation of utopian societies in the absence of God or the engagement of the higher Self, such as the bloody catastrophe of world communism. But the drive for a better society will always be present, not just because of common sense and common need, but because of the spiritual imperative to create based on Higher Truth, “…I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts…”  That is to say, the blue print for the ideal society exists a priori within the soul, not withstanding all evidence to the contrary. It is the driving force of evolution.

At one level, a pastoral view of history is impossible. As historian Oswald Spengler points out,

“The question of whether world peace will ever be possible can only be answered by someone familiar with world history. To be familiar with world history means, however, to know human beings as they have been and always will be. There is a vast difference, which most people will never comprehend, between viewing future history as it will be and viewing it as one might like it to be. Peace is a desire, war is a fact; and history has never paid heed to human desires and ideals …”

This is an objective view and an honest appraisal in view of the facts but it is culturally deterministic and spiritually limited. It is the material Darwinian view of man pre-occupied with war, survival and the will to power.  It completely bypasses the psychological imperatives for life, wholeness and spiritual maturation.  In Christ, a Symbol of the Self, Jerry Wright noted that the prevailing view of society “elevates the literal, outer, visible and material aspects of life and tends to denigrate that which is symbolic, inner, invisible and spiritual.”  Today, it is exactly that which is inward, invisible and spiritual that is compelling and powerfully in play.

In the Judeo-Christian perspective, God participates in the history of His/Her people. Shakespeare said “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will.” Consciousness can evolve and the course of human evolution is preordained. It is preordained in the same sense that an acorn is destined to become an oak, that is, if the soul is made in the image and likeness of God, then the goal of evolution is the fulfillment of that Divine matrix. The spiritual impetus is the pre-condition of organic growth that underlies all Life.  When a shift in paradigm occurs such as we are today experiencing, “…the human mind is following the numinous archetypal path that is unfolding from within it.” –Richard Tarnas

The driving force and prime cause of evolution is spiritual not material. Therefore, history is not static–it has a trajectory and our lives and the civilizations we have participated in, past and present have ultimate purpose.  Carl Jung writes of a divine Spirit which “grows and out grows its earlier forms of expression…This living spirit is eternally renewed and pursues its goal in manifold and inconceivable ways throughout the history of mankind…the names and forms which men have given it mean very little, they are the changing leaves and blossoms on the stem of the eternal tree.”

The quality of life on this planet, for better or worse, is a direct reflection of our spiritual evolution. The light of God which emanates through the clouded and opaque prism of humanity’s consciousness results in the present quality of our culture, our economy and our government. Everyone today is implicated by the results.  In this sense, all of our affairs and interactions are necessarily a reflection of our spirituality and spirituality cannot be divorced from our affairs. One cannot separate the political and the economic dimensions of life from the spiritual for they are expressions of the same thing and deserve the same earnest consideration.  Church and State do not lie outside the spiritual sphere but are contained within it. Culture, then, is the externalization of the psychological and spiritual state of our collective consciousness. Therefore, the truest measure of our spirituality may be found in our deepest meditation …and on the front page of the newspaper.

This understanding is vitally important because it raises the awareness of what constitutes the spiritual life, which is everything; it is who we are and what we do.  We say I am a Buddhist, a Catholic, a Hindu or agnostic but this only partially explains our particular world view and not how we act upon that view or the quality of heart.  Neither does it express our dreams, aspirations and hopes.  At the deepest level, there is a shared universality of the spirit that is understood by all and desired by all. It is beyond all mental constructs and belief systems.  This light seeks expression through us and throughout our culture.  It cannot be confined nor can it be narrowly defined.  It is the motive force for all positive change and reform.  On the other hand, our cultural malaise and ennui are the results of the intellectual cul-de-sac the modern mind entered through the denial of our greater spiritual reality and connection with Cosmos. In the purely materialistic view, progress is measured technologically—a toaster in every kitchen. In the spiritual view it is measured by the intangibles of the heart. The economist and statesman whose work contributes to the growth of freedom are engaged in an exceptionally spiritual act. Every act has a spiritual dimension and consequence for our evolution.

Collective and individual consciousness is governed by a psycho-spiritual dimension that seeks enrichment and growth. It is not static.  In this respect, to say “Well, that’s just the way she is”  or “Big Government is here to stay” is to accept an illusion. Just under the veneer of the status quo is a dynamic life force seeking to free itself from degradation.  When we accept our greater spiritual potential and reality, we are not in that moment freed from pain, neurosis and flaws but we realize they are not permanent features of our identity.  The first step toward freedom, as William James said, is to choose it.  When we choose freedom we are accepting accountability for our life and become actively engaged in the creation of the future.

Destiny has been described by existential psychologist Rollo May as “…the design of the universe speaking through the design of each of us”. We need to listen. Sometimes we are actually made to pay attention, often through calamity or hardship and it is that which brings us to deeper levels of awareness. Destiny, in a sense, is more than an inner calling but as May says “the condition which forces us to see our bondage,” to shake us from our complacency and conformity and to bring us to a greater awareness of essential freedom and greater access to our real Self. He said that the freedom of each of us is in proportion to the degree with which we confront our destiny. “There is no authentic inner freedom that does not, sooner or later, also affect and change human history.”  Evolution does not occur because we are acted upon by the environment, though we are, but it occurs because we are engaged in the creative act of being.

A Time of Choosing

In no other time in history has the individual been able to consciously effect and guide change on a global scale simply by being aware of the magnitude of the moment and in the moment affirming good and rejecting evil. To deny the existence of human evil is to jeopardize the possibility of its healing. Freedom creates the possibility for evil but doesn’t demand its acceptance.

There is great social and civic power in disengaging our conscious and subconscious support of institutionalized hypocrisy, corruption and injustice, and withdrawing from a psychological co-dependency with inequity. Evil perpetuates itself as an historic inevitability, a ‘fact of life.’  This is unacceptable; we are not helpless before it and do not need to sustain it by placing our faith in it as a natural and permanent phenomenon of temporal existence.  I do understand the concept of “original sin” and the tragic view of humanity but I also believe in redemption. Freewill is the Archimedean point of transformational change. This is the fact that matters most. Light may increase; darkness may decrease. Virtue may expand; vice may diminish. Moses’ words have a renewed intensity in 2012: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”  We have the power to choose a higher path and a nobler outcome.

Facilitating Change

Joseph Campbell, possibly the world’s foremost authority on the symbolic and psychological meaning of myths, noted in a New York speech that every one of the world’s “great spiritual traditions is in profound disorder.”  The world, he concluded, “is passing through perhaps the greatest spiritual metamorphosis in the history of the human race.”
 –William Van Dusen Wishard

We can facilitate the epochal changes that are occurring by going deeply within our great spiritual traditions in order to reinterpret them in a way that makes them intelligible to the emerging sensibilities and to the psychological reorientation that is taking place. This does not mean diluting Truth. For example, Elizabeth Clare Prophet was an extraordinary synthesizer of the teachings of the East and West and of the esoteric traditions and mysticism that animate the world’s religions.  Whether discoursing on the Bible or the Kabbalah, she had the ability to cast the gifts of humanity’s spiritual heritage into a vibrant and immediate relevance. This is urgently needed because the context of our life is radically different than it was 2,000 years ago or even 50 years ago.

Rollo May said, “The language of spirit is image, symbol, metaphor, myth; and these also comprise the language of freedom.”  The mystics spoke this language; we need to contemplate the deep interiority of their experience, their poetry, wisdom and inspiration in order to reclaim our wholeness. Empirical thinking only engages the left brain and doesn’t engage the whole circuit of consciousness.  We have been left paupers in the midst of treasures.  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  –Philippians 4:8

Christianity emerged from Judaism, Buddhism from Hinduism, and Confucianism from the Taoism. Each can stand on its own, yet each one builds upon the other eventually transmitting its revealed truth into new social institutions and reforming old ones. Today, we are in a cross-cultural embrace. What is occurring in the life cycle in the West is affecting the entire world. The wisdom of East and West are not in a competition, but are more like the double helix of humanity’s spiritual code. The infusion of the wisdom of the East is the key to the resurrection of the West because it unlocks a deeper understanding of Christ while loosening the grip of materialism and positivism that has captivated the Western mind. This process was exemplified when Swami Vivekananda addressed the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. He began: “Sisters and Brothers of America…” but before he could say another word, he was drowned out by a thunderous three minute standing ovation. The Western psyche was ready to receive the Light of the East.

There are individuals such as Ashoka the Great or groups such as Christ’s disciples that act as fountainheads for a new dispensation that spreads throughout society like an electrical impulse within its neural circuitry.  But it spreads out from the individual through all social networks, connections and strata by interior resonance.  The spiritual shift which is taking place today is not something that can be engineered as a top down projection of the ruling elite but emerges as society aligns with the next highest iteration of its unfolding.  It is something to which the soul says yes.

Confucius provides an outline of the process, “When true knowledge is achieved, then the will becomes sincere; when the will is sincere, then the heart is set right; when the heart is set right, then the personal life is cultivated; when the personal life is cultivated, then the family life is regulated; when the family life is regulated, then the national life is orderly; and when the national life is orderly, then there is peace in this world.”

I believe the truth we need in this “Time of Troubles” is available and accessible, if we will seek it.  I also believe we have the necessary inner capacity to meet the challenges of our time.  More than anything else we are confronted with a choice.  Are we willing to undergo the pain and suffering that attends spiritual death and rebirth? Richard Tarnas said, “There is no question that if we look around at the world today, we cannot avoid the fact that something big is dying. We are watching it and we are experiencing it. But the great challenge that all of us face as individuals is also being faced by our civilization. That is, can we go through that death at an inner level? Can we recognize the great spiritual, archetypal dimension to that death and go through it at that level? Or, will we be unconscious, blind to that deeper reality and act out self-destructively by making our world ecologically unlivable or killing each other in nationalistic competition, or whatever? Those are the choices.” Can we get past the seduction of death and the fatalism that attends the passing of an age?  Will we have the necessary courage?

The Shift

The time has come to proclaim a nobler humanity, the freedom of the spirit, and to no longer have patience with men’s tearful regrets for their lost chains.
–Friedrich Von Schelling

From the beginning, the leitmotif of Western Civilization has been a process. The process is Spiritual evolution. Everything that is occurring is consistent with this process, painful though it may be.  What is demanded of us is a turning within to discover the creative responses necessary to meet the challenges of recurring hardships of these final stages. Arnold Toynbee felt that not only were “The breakdowns and disintegrations of civilizations… stepping-stones to higher things on the religious plane.”  But that the rediscovery of its spiritual life could lead a civilization to its next higher iteration.  He called this process etherealization.

Toynbee made it clear that every new civilization rose upon a religious theme. The decline and death of previous civilizations occur when the ruling elite no longer have the allegiance of the majority and the majority shifts its loyalty away from the corruption and moral decay of the old order to the principles of the new.  A spiritual vanguard, the creative minority acts as the midwife for the New Era in large part through actions, discoveries, and revelations that resonate with the interior shift taking place throughout.  This excerpt from Scott London’s interview with Richard Tarnas reflects the seriousness of our time:

London: But what you’re talking about, it seems to me, is not so much a collapse as a transition or renewal.

Tarnas: I don’t necessarily see a simple decline and fall. I think something subtler is happening. What will happen will very much depend on the consciousness that human beings in our society — and particularly a certain core of our society — bring to this moment. Was it H. G. Wells who said, “Our civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe”? It is that kind of choice we are in right now. The education isn’t just (as I think Wells would have had in mind) the European, rational, Enlightenment education — better science, better rational understanding of our situation. It’s more than that. It involves a psychological awakening to the unconscious impulses that are at work inside us and in our civilization. It is a psychological and spiritual education that has to occur…”

Just as the earth’s tectonic plates are moving, the tectonic plates undergirding society are also shifting.  In his extraordinary essay, Navigating a Breakpoint in History, William van Dusen Wishard explores the psychological meaning found in the Book of Revelation in order to help clarify the moment we are in:

The contemporary psychological reorientation is perhaps divided into two overlapping phases. On the one hand, disintegration, psychic rupture, and destruction have become not only cultural motifs, but an inherent and essential part of the process a culture and civilization must experience if the birth of a new worldview is to take place. This is in keeping with the progression of the four symbolic phases of the Apocalypse archetype, which manifests itself in the:

Revelation of new truth about life’s origin, development and potential;
Judgment of existing beliefs and institutions against the background of the new truth;
Destruction of existing beliefs and institutions that are no longer functionally an expression of the new truth; and
Rebirth of belief, culture and civilized order in accord with the archetypal expression of the new truth. This sequence is a process embedded in the nature of the archetypal psyche. Such disintegration is simultaneous with a new and greater integration seeking expression. Humanity is seeking a more common and complete manifestation of our relationship to our individual self, to each other, to the planet, and to the universe.

The misalignment of our culture with its inherent spiritual prerogatives and possibilities requires a significant and undoubtedly painful course correction.  Hamlet said, “The time is out of joint. Oh cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right.” This is a cynical and nihilistic response. If we engage in the avoidance of our responsibilities, we will never create a future that is different or preferable to the situation we find ourselves in today.  Apathy is another form of this evasion, illustrated by the following limerick:

There once was a man named Voltaire
Who found his best hope in despair,
If that sounds perverse,
It could have been worse.
Voltaire could declare, “I don’t care.”

For external conditions to change, we must commit to the difficult challenges that psychological and spiritual growth require of us. It is useful to bear in mind Jung’s comment, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.”  It appears obvious that society has been procrastinating. Carl Jung compared our present milieu to the beginning of the Christian era when he wrote:

[A] mood of universal destruction and renewal…has set its mark on our age.  This mood makes itself felt everywhere, politically, socially, and philosophically.  We are living in what the Greeks called kairos –the right moment—for a “metamorphosis of the gods” of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing…So much is at stake and so much depends on the psychological constitution of modern man…Does the individual know that he is the makeweight that tips the scales?

It has been said that 2012 is not just the terminus of a two thousand year cycle but a far greater 28,500 year cycle.  It is also the beginning of a new two thousand year cycle and 28,500 year cycle. What is most extraordinary about our time is that we have arrived at the advent of enormous societal and individual transcendence.  History and consciousness have been catalyzed and accelerated by the Aquarian shift. We are beginning to see that we are not the result of evolution but its cause.  Sri Aurobindo said, “Man occupies the crest of the evolutionary wave.  With him occurs the passage from unconscious to conscious evolution.”  We are in the place of determining our own evolutionary dynamics, direction and meaning. In a sense, one might say, God is becoming conscious within His creation.

Christ stands as the open door to the New Era.  In the metaphysical sense, Christ as symbol of our higher Self is the only door to the New Jerusalem for the unregenerate human consciousness cannot enter in; change is required of us.  Our capacity for change is the very thing, the only thing that allows its possibility. The New Jerusalem is not just a reference from the bible, it is a powerful psychological archetype embedded in the collective unconscious. It is the symbol for society as it merges with its highest potential.  The New Jerusalem is the fulfillment of humanity’s eons long dream of resolution and reunion with God.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.
And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

Does this symbolism seem implausible? The potential to attain a higher level of consciousness would be abstract speculation or fantasy had not the saints East and West walked this path before us.  How long the evolutionary path is, I couldn’t say.  It must go out into infinity, because God is infinite, but I do know it begins at the front door.


Pico della Mirandola’s Oration was a defining moment in the Renaissance. It was a proclamation of the inherent freedom and dignity of humanity and its power of self-creation.  In the Oration, the Creator speaks these words to Adam:

Neither heavenly nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal have we created thee, so that thou mightest be free according to thy will and honor, to be thy own creator and builder.  To thee alone we give growth and development depending on thy own free will.  Thou bearest in thee the germs of universal life.

It has been said that the Renaissance was created by about two hundred people. I wonder, outside of this core group, how many people were truly as aware and alive to their moment as we are to ours. Today there are so many more people on the leading edge of profound societal change than there were then but the magnitude of our moment is greater; it is global and the forces of opposition are stronger, both within and without. Life is in the balance.

How we react to the crises that lie ahead will determine what we create.  It is important that during moments of extremity, we learn to default, not to instinct but to wisdom; that we act not through fear and violence but through love and forgiveness. If the means we use to achieve our goals will always be as noble as their ends, we will have a sufficient quotient of moral force to guide and augment the trajectory of civilization upward.

There is a new world waiting to be born. What can we do together? What will we create? A thousand years hence, what will be said of our age?  What will they write about our arts and our culture?  And what of the battle of Armageddon that occurred not because we sought escape from this world but because we fought to change it. Is there any greater moment to be alive? This is our time.

I write down My notes of possibilities and come to the conclusion that all is possible just now. It is a rare thing when higher faith travels the path with higher unbelief; when blasphemy and glorification are in the same chorus; when fury and tranquility give birth to joy.  When misfortune is manifested as a sign of success and when withdrawal serves as a sign of nearness, then the currents of emanations of the luminaries are blended with the inner fires.  Such a time denotes a new cycle, and the Community itself, not even yet adopted, serves as a bridge.
El Morya, New Era Community

By Michael McCann

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    • BG
    • March 13, 2012

    Here is another penetrating discourse from the World Wide Ashram, “It” is a must read. The Spear Shaker has placed Her Helmet, who shall be Her next Odysseus?

    • Ceridwendas
    • March 20, 2012

    This is so awesome. In the original meaning of that word.
    It sort of coalesces what I’ve been watching for and feeling. Such great quotes and references.
    I have been reading the Yeats poem many times over- but the rest of the quotes- they were so spot on, and like a pleasant surprise because I hadn’t read them before or had forgotten.

    As he’s writing about the real self and the collective self/community he seems to be making it more Here.

    I have had this feeling- that the best and truest way to ‘fight’ the problems in society is to live your life the way you truly believe life should be lived, and create what you want for yourself and make it available for others.
    Kind of like Ghandi said “be the change you wish to see”
    But I don’t mean in the form of protests, marches, etc. For this time and place I mean begin these communities- be Your Self, treat others like their Self. (Get out of your comfortable misery and get into the life:)
    And be together on this. The more we can reach out to one another and be a network the better.

    I have experienced what he was saying about the ceiling in dreams. I often hit a ceiling and though i Know I’m dreaming i keep breaking through one ceiling to meet the next. I know it’s all just mental entrapment/block. It’s the matrix! ha ha. And just about as ridiculous. One time I managed to leap into the stars- but the adrenaline rush woke me up.

    This paper helps us get stars level. like a strand of our old/new Valhalla bridge.

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