As shown in the "New letters on yoga" section in this issue, readers are still kicking around the spiritual implications of the Internet.
So is John Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group devoted to protecting civil liberties in cyberspace. Barlow, a contributing editor to Wired magazine, was recently named by Utne Reader as one of "100 Visionaries Who Could Change Your Life."
In a panel discussion called "What Are We doing On-Line" in the August 1995 Harper's magazine, Barlow observes:
I have said on numerous occasions, and I still believe, that with the development of the Internet, and with the increasing pervasiveness of communication between networked computers, we are in the middle of the most transforming technological event since the capture of fire. I used to think that it was just the biggest thing since Gutenberg, but now I think you have to go back farther. There has been much written both celebrating and denouncing cyberspace, but to me this seems a develop ment of such magnitude that trying to characterize it as a good thing or a bad thing trivializes it considerably. . . .
Over the long haul, I'd say that society, everything that is human on this planet, is going to be profoundly transformed by this, and in many ways, some of which will be scary to those of us with this mindset [refusal], some of which will be glorious and transforming.
In his article "The Great Work," published in the January 1992 Communications of the ACM (Association for Computer Machinery), Barlow makes some observations that may interest Collaboration readers--especially since Teilhard de Chardin has often been compared to Sri Aurobindo:
Earlier in this century, the French philosopher and anthropologist Teilhard de Chardin wrote that evolution was an ascent toward what he called "The Omega Point," when all consciousness would converge into unity, creating the collective organism of Mind. When I first encountered the Net, I had forgotten my college dash through Teilhard's Phenomenon of Man. It took me a while to remember where I'd first encountered the idea of this immense and gathering organism.
Whether or not it represents Teilhard's vision, it seems clear we are about some Great Work here . . . the physical wiring of collective human consciousness. The idea of connecting every mind to every other mind in full-duplex broadband is one which, for a hippie mystic like me, has clear theological implications, despite the ironic fact that most of the builders are bit wranglers and protocol priests, a proudly prosaic lot. What Thoughts will all this assembled neurology, silicon, and optical fiber Think?
Teilhard was a Roman Catholic priest who never tried to forge a SLIP connection, so his answers to that question were more conventionally Christian than mine, but it doesn't really matter. We'll build it and then we'll find out.
In a nutshell, Barlow says, something really weird is happening--a fundamental shift taking place that will have consequences that can hardly be imagined.
I too think something weird is happening. These days I'm getting a funny feeling at work, where, as a member of a digital technologies group at a national research center, I have been ordered to surf the Net for an hour a day. So, I explore sites on a particularly interesting part of the Net called the World Wide Web. World Wide Web (WWW) sites are like suites of rooms containing data--text, graphics, animation, sound. A Web site can look like a library, a store, a newspaper, a museum, or any other facility, depending on focus. More importantly, a Web site connects to related sites through a maze of "hyperlinks," which can take you through cyberspace quicker than a Star Trek transport beam.)
On the Net, I am experiencing the magnitude of humanity's growing connectedness. Physical distance is vanishing. Information travels so easily and so fast, it's like being in the same room with people 12,000 miles away. Indeed it resembles the nascent global "Unity" of a Julian May science fiction novel (Metaconcert, etc.). Incidentally, Julian May is a big fan of--what a coincidence!--Teilhard de Chardin.
Barlow again, in an interview posted on the Net:
I think that very rapidly, human consciousness is going to change to a much more explicit awareness of the continuity of mind. They are going to see that the apparent idea that you've got your mind and I've got mine is nonsense. That you have your thoughts and I have mine is ridiculous. It absolutely is. Mind is absolutely continuous. It's bodies that aren't continuous. And if you actually start thinking about all the invisible life between bodies, then you can see how continuous they are as well. It's just that it's not visible to you. So I think that after a couple of generations on the Net, what one thinks will not be what one thinks. There will not be "one thinking."
I personally believe that the Internet is a massive and wholesale expression of universal mind. And I think that once we get get a handle on universal mind--experientially, every day, at home and in the office--we will be ready for a larger universality.
The Internet has created channels for thought, a dedicated structure for intelligent awareness. Right now it's manas and buddhi--sense mind and refined understanding--using these channels; but after all, if mind proper is finally established at this enormous scale (after epochs of material and vital reign), the higher planes of mind--illumined mind, overmind, supermind--may be moving in soon. Today the Internet lets us search scientific archives and download Lion King videos; tomorrow it may prompt us to be more than human.
Think of this: August 9, the day Jerry Garcia died (see p. 24), there were thousands of messages per hour posted to the Internet; by noon there were candlelight vigils being organized at cities all over the country. What would happen if people with online connectivity began to catch hold of the vijnana? What if they sent off field notes to their cohorts and correspondents, scattered here and there around the earth, via the Net? (Already in Aurodiscuss and Auroconf, we are sharing experiences with each other, and the number of members in these groups grows each week--see p. 10.)
There would be no more waiting for a treatise to be written, edited, typeset, printed, and distributed every few years--gnostic awareness could flash its way across continents in real time. Truth is contagious. If the Internet can instantly globalize news of a coup in Russia, why can't it be used by supramental apprentices to share and transmit a more divine vibration?
a) Those of us who never met Sri Aurobindo and the Mother absorb their vibration through the written word; electronic words, traveling over wires at megabits per second, can also transmit vibration. Fiberoptic cables are made of God, and can convey God's heat. Ethernets can packet switch the power, love, and bliss of the Divine. If "all this is for habitation by the Lord," to quote the Upanishad, surely the Lord can inhabit a UNIX workstation.
b) As to the possible objection that gnostic awareness has no need of networked computers, remember that Mother often made use of material photographs to connect inwardly with disciples. (It may be that in the future, communication will be between psychically aware collaborators, not masters and disciples.) Mother also advised using the simplest tool: if you break a bone, use a splint, not just spiritual force, to fix it.
c) I realize that premature accounts of personal supramentalization are common, delusional, and to be viewed with discretion; also, that it may be all most of us can do to gain intuitional clarity, to say nothing of the supermind. Nevertheless, I believe that here, now, today, even though prone to stumbling and error, we can worthily aspire to transformation. I also know this: the transformation will happen--and not by miracle, but through established, earthly instrumentation.
Consider: The Indianapolis 500 has a Web site; you can find out why Valvoline is the choice of nine out of ten race car drivers. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota and Tamil Nadu, India, both have Web sites. There are Web sites for asthma, incense, and hurricanes. And now there is a Web site for the Integral Yoga (see p. 10), complete with links to Ashram and Auroville information. Already, this site is being visited by seekers unknown to many of us in the traditionally tight-knit (inbred?) U.S. Auro community. I suspect that this Web site, along with other Internet applications, will touch a new and wider audience with Sri Aurobindo's vision.
Finally, everybody, everywhere observes that with the Internet, no one's in charge. No one's directing it. A friend of mine at work says, "With all the other revolutions, there were obvious, exoteric reasons--in France in 1789, for instance, the peasants revolted because they were starving. The Internet, however, is a great, spontaneous revolution without apparent cause." Barlow likens it to a historic force beyond societal control. Me, I point a finger at the Divine Perpetrator. I have a hunch that this whole Internet thing might be God-engineered for a specific and huge purpose--perhaps, if you get my drift, terrestrial supramentalization.
But back to Jerry Garcia. For readers who may not know, Garcia was lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead, a rock and roll band that began playing together in the 1960s and who are featured in this issue's "Music and consciousness" section. I have employed the Grateful Dead as a spiritual evolu tionary device ever since 1970, the year I first experienced transcendence listening to an extended metaphysical jam called "Dark Star." The mass media often report that appreciation of Grateful Dead music is a factor of drug-induced stupification; they are wrong. Grateful Dead music is not about drugs, tie-dye, or 60s time-warps; it is about consciousness.
And by the way, in addition to his many other capacities, John Barlow has also been, since 1971--what a coincidence!--a lyricist for the Grateful Dead.
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We apologize for the irregularity of our publication schedule. NexUS and Collaboration have been, for the most part, one-person operations; this editor has been in submarginal health; and all work is volunteer effort limited to a few hours on nights and weekends. Ergo, it's difficult to publish with clockwork precision. SAA is working to acquire a fax, a scanner, and a modem for the Boulder Collaboration office as well as distributing responsibilities for more efficient multitasking. In this context, we are rotating the editorship: one issue in three will be produced in Vermont, the other two in Colorado. Gordon Korstange is currently working on the next issue, so stay tuned.