Thursday, October 23, 2008

While we were out...

Back in my early post-psychedelic period, when I became a spiritual seeker, I discovered the work of Edgar Cayce, known as “the sleeping prophet.” Cayce, who died in 1945, had a gift, while in a trance state, for what he called “readings” of people’s souls and bodies. So many of the naturopathic cures he recommended for people who came to him with ailments turned out to have real healing ability that the American Medical Association once called him “the father of alternative medicine.”

In the course of these readings, Cayce also talked about spiritual forces at work, both in his clients and in the world at large. Many of the “predictions” for the future he made—for example, the rediscovery of Atlantis—have not come to pass. Given his record of accuracy on the physical readings, I’m not particularly troubled by these seeming failures, for two reasons. One, he qualified these predictions by saying that humanity always possesses the power to alter its own future. And two, I think he always spoke on purely spiritual issues in symbolic language, like the language of the Bible around which his own spiritual life revolved (he analyzed the Book of Revelation, for example, as a map of an internal spiritual journey, rather than a prediction of apocalypse).

Because, over the course of decades, my personal spiritual “language” has moved beyond the Christianity that Cayce centered his beliefs on, his teachings no longer have the importance for me that they once did (though I still practice meditation, which was at the core of his practical spiritual recommendations). But, even though it may not be unfolding in the exact way he predicted, I think he was right about the enormous changes the world and humanity would experience at the turn of the millennium.

What brings this up for me today is one of the characteristics Cayce gave to the period in which we’re now living. He called it “the quickening.” It’s a phrase that I’m reminded of practically every day. This is a momentous, unprecedented era in which we live. Now we know firsthand why the ancient Chinese wish, “May you live in interesting times,” was considered a curse.

There is, of course, unprecedented and understandable interest in the American presidential election worldwide. I think that even most Americans, who have pretty much let their democracy operate on cruise control since World War II, are aware of the historic nature of the shift in global power that is occurring now, thanks to George W. Bush’s wholesale destruction of the American (and perhaps global) economy, as well as its military and government.

But there any number of issues that have been put on the back burner during this campaign, the discussion of which has been reduced to sloganeering, at best, by both campaigns (see Reid b’s comment at my post, “Hope and the left” for a good observation about this). And these issues will inevitably face whichever candidate “wins” the election. (With the recent spate of articles in the Charleston Gazette about touch screen voting machines already switching votes from Democrat to Republican, I think we can safely say an Obama victory is not a sure thing, no matter how many points he’s ahead in the polls, or even, more importantly, how many votes he gets.)

It was telling, for example, that at the last debate, when moderator Bob Schieffer asked a question about climate change, the answers from both candidates immediately veered into national energy policy, and the very real effects of climate change—agricultural destruction, water shortages, disease, rising oceans, and mass extinctions of plant and animal life, among them—went completely unremarked upon. Schieffer, corporate propagandist that he is, let it slide and did not, as he had promised before the debate, follow up.

Similarly, there’s no real discussion in the campaign about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither candidate wants to address the conclusions of a National Intelligence Estimate that was leaked a few weeks ago, that essentially says that the present “truce” between Sunni and Shia factions in Iraq is tenuous at best, and full civil war can break out at any time. This renders both McCain’s promise of “victory” and Obama’s promise to remove combat troops as too simplistic to address the real-world situation there. Nor will either candidate address the fact that the American military is facing the same ignominious defeat in Afghanistan that every would-be conqueror from Alexander to Andropov has been forced to swallow.

To Obama’s credit, he does address, with his tax policy, the inequality between the rich and everyone else that has grown so noticeable in the last eight years—but only to a degree. But it’s only to be expected that neither establishment candidate, supported as they are by a corporate-dominant political system, will discuss the fundamental question of whether the consumer culture on which the entire global economy is built has itself reached its natural endpoint, and is in collapse. Is Gaia, the Earth-spirit, in the process of self-correction?

Once the election is over, these questions will remain. Meanwhile, keep your seatbelts strapped tight. “The quickening” is a wild ride, and no matter what happens, it’s guaranteed that the world will change dramatically.

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