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Chapter 6: Your Future in Cyberspace

"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."
Mahatma Gandhi

"Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing
there must be acting. Otherwise what is the use of seeing?"

Thich Nhat Hanh

"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth
will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you,
what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

Timothy Leary
(Quoting the Bible)

"Reality is a network of relationships."
Fritjof Capra

     Cyberspace is already tugging at your mind through the attraction of the Internet, otherwise you would not be reading this book. Some readers may have already made a decision about the part they intend to play in the colonization of this new land of mind. Others instinctively realize that changes of great evolutionary importance are underway and are beginning to see that the Internet can be pivotal in these developments. Then there are those who still are not sure what all the fuss is about. After all, the year 2000 arrived rather uneventfully. There was no apocalyptic end to the world, nor was there a global computer crash, as foretold by some. (1) Now, as the 21st century begins its inexorable march into the future, the odds seem to favor a continuation of the rapid, yet steady progress we witnessed during the last century, without any quantum change in our species' consciousness taking place. Of course, some of us believe otherwise.

     It is true that the vast majority of the human species remain unconnected to the growing global consciousness now taking root in the Internet. By the end of the 20th century only a few hundred million people had access to the Net. (2) From the perspective of total world population, this represents an extremely small minority, particularly when one considers the fact that almost one-half of those with Internet connections, at the beginning of the 21st century, reside in the United States and Canada. However, when one compares the amount of time it has taken to connect 300 million people to the Internet with the amount of time it took for telephones and television to achieve a significant number of users, this number becomes quite significant. (3) Keep in mind here that we are talking mainly about a technology, the World Wide Web, that was only ten years old at the beginning of the 21st century.

     The speed with which this technology has been adopted is several orders of magnitude greater than we have ever witnessed before. Something much more powerful than money is pulling our minds into cyberspace at this incredible pace. Even government and business leaders who abhor the Internet's anarchy are being drawn into its chaotic embrace. Along with the exponential growth the Internet is experiencing, we are also seeing major advances being made in other important new technologies, such as human stem cell research, biology-based computers, and high-speed wireless communications, just to mention a few. Underpinning much of this progress is the communications medium we call the Internet.

     With each passing day, the Internet extends its tendrils of information ever more deeply into our lives. In hundreds of little ways, most of which are never even noticed, our species-mind is growing and evolving in cyberspace. Each day brings with it a new wave of minds, each one experiencing the Internet for the first time. There are now only a few hundred million minds that frequent cyberspace, but before the next two decades have passed there will be billions of minds with access to the Net. What will a first Internet experience be like for them? I speak not about new technology here but about the degree of freedom we will have in cyberspace at that time. The answer to that question, of course, is wide open. It has not been predetermined that speech will remain free on the Internet, nor has it been clearly established what is even meant by "free speech" in relation to the Net. These great issues remain for us, as a global community-at-large, to define. Reality is in our hands.

Consciously Evolving Reality

"Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains."
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Social Contract (1762)

     In what kind of universe do you live? Is your world view still governed by Newton's laws of mechanics, or do you live in a quantum mechanical universe? If you hold a belief in the laws of quantum mechanics, then, if you haven't already done so, you may want to adjust your world view to fit your physics. In a quantum mechanical universe, "reality" depends on observation to precipitate the objective world out of a myriad of quantum possibilities. The fact that you are not a nuclear physicist does not mean you can ignore the implications of their discoveries. A revolution of consciousness has already begun!

      How do you read the title of this section? Do you think it means, "[We are] Consciously Evolving Reality," or do you think it means that reality is evolving on its own, but in a conscious manner, i.e., "Reality, Consciously Evolving?" I see it both ways. My point is that it is wise to keep in mind that the various ways in which we use and interpret our language is what shapes our view of reality. Listen to what Terence McKenna has to say about evolution and language:

That's why it is so important to communicate, for all of us to put our best foot forward, to put our best metaphors on the table. Because we can move no faster than the evolution of our language. And this is certainly part of what the psychedelics are about: they force the evolution of language. And no culture, so far as I am aware, has ever consciously tried to evolve its language, with the awareness that evolving language was evolving reality. (4)

     If McKenna is correct, and I believe he is, what can we do to accelerate the evolution of language itself? Sadly, we have allowed ourselves to reach a point where we have actually outlawed most entheogens, and where we have marginalized persons who practice various shamanic techniques, which are some of our best tools for linguistic evolution. We have been so arrogant as to brand Mother Nature an outlaw for evolving and continuing to grow these plants. For all but a few brave psychonauts and shamans, using entheogens to accelerate the evolution of language is far too dangerous to undertake. Fortunately, a new communications technology has evolved-one that can launch us into a mind-space in which we can more rapidly evolve our language, and thus our reality. Those who hear Gaia's plaintive cry for help can now use the portal of the Internet to launch their minds into cyberdelic space. It is there that the collective human species-mind, the noosphere, can enter into union with Gaian consciousness and form a true World Soul, which has the power to evolve our common reality any way we choose.

     By suggesting that the Internet serve our species as a new sacred medium, I am in no way implying that the shamans and psychonauts of this world discontinue using various archaic techniques for entering entheospace. However, I think most of these bold warriors will agree that only those with the requisite mind-set will want to undertake some of the more demanding ecstatic practices. What I am saying is that we now have a tool, the Internet, which all persons on Earth can eventually use to expand their consciousness. Within twenty years, virtually all people on the planet will be able to launch their minds into cyberspace. Once there, the minds that are most in tune with Gaian consciousness will find their way to cyberdelic space where they can come together, in all their complexity, and jointly awaken in the noosphere.

     Will entering entheospace by way of cyberdelic space provide less potential for mind expansion than the ingestion of entheogens? This depends upon how one defines "potential." I see the different portals for entering entheospace as having more of an effect on the type of thinking than on a potential for expansion of mind. For example, reports from shamans about their journeys after ingesting a sacred plant sometimes convey an other worldly or cosmic perspective of the reality they encountered. This is both good and necessary, but as The Tibetan Book of the Dead warns, "Do not take pleasure in the soft white light of the gods, do not be attracted to it or yearn for it." (5) Only extremely well grounded people are able to resist the lure of the ecstatic experience that is found in psychedelic space. It takes years of training for a shaman or psychonaut to learn how to move beyond the god-realm, where existence is full of pleasure but is often unproductive. Entering entheospace through the portal of cyberspace may provide a degree of protection from this appealing trap for those who do not have a serious enough intent in the beginning.

     Recently, I had the good fortune to receive a copy of a little book titled Brainticklers II. Imagine my delight, when reading the introduction to this book, to hear the authors say:

Questions jump start thoughts. Within the world of chemistry and physics, thoughts can be understood as chemical reactions with electromagnetic effects in the mind and body. Since every action ripples subtly through the universe, it appears that all thinking has universal impact. Our thoughts also shape our beliefs which, in turn, frame our every action, whether as individuals or as nations. As technology propels us forward into the age of information, thoughts have become more transformative than in any previous millennium.

Often a question must be asked before significant new thoughts occur. (6)

     In addition to being a tool to use in tailoring one's world view to quantum reality, this book exemplifies the old adage that questions are far more important than their answers. What sets Brainticklers II apart from other such exercises is that to answer them you first move your mind forward in time to the year 3000. If you follow the authors' brief instructions, I think you will find that the questions they pose will actually force your mind to expand. Here are a few examples:

To what degree will humans be able to manage and prevent what we now call natural catastrophes-tornadoes, earthquakes, lightning? How would society decide when to intervene? (7)

If we find positive proof of extraterrestrial life, how will this affect our view of God, angels, ourselves? (8)

In 3000, what 20th century human-built structure will be visited by the most people? Why? What human-built structure of the 20th century is most likely to confuse people in 3000 as to its purpose? Why? (9)

     Before you ponder these questions, first try answering them from the perspective of a person living in the year 1000 who is being asked these questions about the year 2000. By so doing you will stretch the bounds of your consciousness just enough to let it expand into a space where it begins to form rational answers to questions like these. If you take the time to think about such large questions you will soon see how they effectively stretch your mind. By joining discussion groups that are working on similar questions, your consciousness cannot help expanding. Already there are thousands of global discussions taking place on topics that are directly related to the long-term survival or our species and the environment in which we live. Maybe it is time for you to add your voice to this worldsong, if you have not already done so.

     The evolution of our consensual reality is one of the most important projects to which we can apply the new technology we call "Virtual Reality," VR. As the pioneers in this new medium of mind improve their art, everyone will benefit. Before long, this technology will reach the point where you can enter a VR world that is governed by the laws of nature you establish, and is also very realistic in its primary details. As you become the master of your virtual worlds, you will find it much easier to bring these visions to physical fruition once your mind returns from cyberspace. By first exploring new modes of living in virtual worlds, we will be much better equipped to navigate our way through the infinity of parallel universes that await our arrival. For our species to survive, it seems imperative that we build a new consensual reality, one that fosters a deep understanding of our planet's ecology.

A Recapitulation

"We see what we believe and not just the contrary;
and to change what we see it is sometimes necessary
to change what we believe."

Jeremy Narby
The Cosmic Serpent (1999)

     While it is not my intention to provide a specific plan of action, throughout this book I offer suggestions on ways in which one might better infuse oneself with the spirit of the Internet and thus become a more integral part of the noosphere. The following is a brief summary of these earlier suggestions.

Have Daily Conversations with Gaia

     From time to time I have read scholarly speculations about the birth of the ego. One school of thought on this subject is that, until around the time of the Greek poet Homer, when men and women heard a little voice in their head they thought they were hearing the voice of the gods speaking directly to them. Eventually, some hypothesize, it was recognized that this little voice was actually the human ego and not the gods speaking directly to us. Perhaps it is time to reconsider the source of those little voices. Perhaps our ancient ancestors actually did hear voices other than their own.

      During this past year, I have paid more attention to the source of some of my thoughts. In doing so, I have come to the realization that more and more of my thinking has to do with this planet, her ecology, and the biosphere as a whole. My Western-trained mind, of course, notes that these thoughts obviously come from somewhere in the depths of my psyche, that my subconscious has deemed it time to bring these thoughts to the surface of my mind. Yet I cannot help thinking that perhaps, just perhaps, it is Gaia's voice I am hearing. Is it possible, I wonder, that humankind became so enamoured of this thing we call the ego that we lost our awareness that there are other entities who still communicate with us in some non-verbal ways? Shamans claim to have the ability to communicate with non-human entities. Why shouldn't everyone be able to use this facility, I ask myself?

     Now I approach these questions from a different point of view. To satisfy my Western mind, I allow for the possibility that these thoughts of deep ecology that seem to spring forth unbidden are simply evidence of my own consciousness becoming more aware of the world in which it finds itself. To satisfy my soul, I like to think that Gaia is speaking directly to me. So, when I see a little shard of glass while walking on the beach, it isn't my conscience telling me to pick it up, it is Gaia, herself. For me, the message has more meaning if I think of it in this way. In the end it really does not matter where these thoughts are coming from, as long as I heed them.

     If you give it just a little thought, you know, deep in your heart, that it is important that we quickly change the way we are treating our environment. Our little planet is groaning under the weight of the billions and billions of human beings who have come to live here. Most nations on Earth have strict laws governing the admission of new residents. Yet where are our planetary restrictions on the admission of new spirits who come to live in human bodies? Common sense alone reveals population control as the starting point for much environmental action. Recycling is no longer an option, it is one of our more important survival strategies. Searching out and supporting companies that have a Gaian consciousness, "green" companies, is no longer just a nice thing to do, it is a survival strategy for our species.

     Unfortunately, most of us do not have the luxury of spending as much time outdoors as we would like. In fact, most of us spend more time involved with our technology than we do with what we think of as nature. Think of how many daily interactions each of us has with technology. Our kitchens, bathrooms, sources of entertainment and news, books, even the shoes we wear while walking in the woods are all technological artifacts. Just because our species has become quite expert at harnessing technology doesn't mean our technology is without spirit. This book is about some of the ways in which the Internet is infused with spirit. It is not a cold or dead piece of machinery. The Internet is as much a product of the evolution of life as we are. It is the physical manifestation of our species-consciousness. Through the proper use of this sacred medium we can not only communicate with each other, but also better understand what is on Gaia's mind.

Join and Build New Communities

     It is belaboring the point to continue encouraging you to become more active in the universe of global villages that are to be found on the Internet. Yet this may be a good place to make it clear that there are many important online communities that do not have their focus only on the ecological crisis our species is now facing.

     Virtual communities are forming around every aspect of our lives and the life of this planet. One of the great advantages the Internet brings us is that no longer are we restricted to only the physical communities in which we spend our daily lives. Granted, it is very important for us to remain involved in our local communities, be they small towns, farming communities, or a neighborhoods in a larger city. It is to these communities we can bring the lessons we learn from the virtual communities to which we also belong.

     The human mind is far too great to be constricted to just the confines of these physical bodies that now support our consciousness. Human consciousness is, or at the very least appears to be, one of the high points reached in the evolution of biological life on this planet. This great gift of consciousness is far too precious to remain in just one geographic location. There are countless communities of mind already functioning in the Internet, but if you don't find one to suit you then begin to build your own community in cyberspace.

     While I appreciate the concept of virtual communities, I would like for us to develop a better way to think of these assemblages of minds. Again, I am dissatisfied with the word "virtual." Online communities are every bit as real as the community in which your body interacts. As you become more involved with this new form of community you will experience, at your deepest level of awareness, just how real are these minds with whom you have connected. Not one of us is alone on this journey through space and time. At times our situations may seem to be without hope, yet we know better. We are truly all connected, both to each other and to all life forms. So it really comes down to opening up your life a little more. If you do, you will most certainly find one or more communities of mind in which you can live quite comfortably.

Assume Responsibility

     I find it remarkable that there are still so many people who do not see how their daily actions, collectively compounded by millions of others, are destroying our environment. In the United States, our gluttony has made millionaires out of many fast food kings. That same gluttony is one of the primary reasons the Amazon's rainforests are being decimated. Fully one-third of all the species of life to be found on this planet live in this incredible place. Yet we endlessly quest for another hamburger, more lumber, more captive birds for our homes, and on, and on, and on it goes until the day arrives that we discover that it actually is too late! What are we going to do then?

     Hopefully, there may still be time to stop this rape of Gaia's body. It is important that we quickly come to an understanding, on the level of our species-consciousness, that we are literally ripping out our own lungs, not just in the Amazon, but in forests throughout the globe. The Internet is a good place to begin spreading more awareness of these important issues. Perhaps what we are now seeing, as the green movement continues to grow in cyberspace, is the first stirrings of awakening in the noosphere, the awakening of our collective consciousness.

     Just because the Internet provides nearly instantaneous access to information, patience and advance planning are still required when purchasing material objects from online merchants. The next time you order something online, take a deep breath just before selecting the shipping option, and then select the most energy-efficient method your schedule will allow. This is not always going to be an easy decision. It may even take some research on your part to find the best shipping methods for a given product. (10) Assume responsibility for even the smallest details in your life, for they are directly connected to everyone else's little details, which if left unattended can sometimes roll up into a big problem for our environment.

     If your company offers a work at home policy, take advantage of it. Telecommuters and other home-based workers are already reducing our nation's overall energy consumption. Today most of these savings are in the form of lowered energy requirements for commuting to and from work. As more businesses see the value in having home-based employees, we hope to also see a reduction in the construction of large office complexes along with their high energy demands. If your company does not offer the option of working at home a few days a week, promote the idea yourself if it makes sense for your type of business.

     Now that human consciousness has become actively involved in directing some of the processes of evolution, we each have the option of deciding how big a part we wish to play in the conscious evolution of our species. These are serious steps we are taking, and if we let our hearts be guided solely by personal desires and greed, what are we teaching our children? It is by our examples that we teach our children, and our children are the ones who will soon be called upon to make some very difficult decisions-decisions that will affect the state of all life on this planet for millennia to come. Let us teach our children well.

Help Save Free Speech

     It will come as no surprise that there are mighty forces being marshaled in an effort to end the freedom of speech we now enjoy on the Internet. The surprise to many people, however, may come in knowing the source of one of these threats. While we citizens of the U.S. smugly assume that it is only communist dictators who want to limit access to information, we have not been paying close enough attention to our own back yard.

     One official United States government web site has already been caught planting hidden cookies on the personal computers of some people. (11) Allied with businesses that record our meanderings through cyberspace to better target advertisements, the White House was caught using information gathered from reading cookies to track the Internet habits of people who appeared to have any kind of interest in "drugs." This illegal monitoring of U.S. citizens even included surveillance of people who were reading about ways in which to keep their children from getting involved with drugs. If you ever visited the White House web site and on some later date visited another web site that discussed any aspect of drugs, there is a good chance your name still is filed under "drug interested person" in a government data base.

     Another instance of a governmental attack on free speech and privacy comes from the United States Congress. In 1996, Congress passed legislation providing for censorship of a significant amount of online information. This was done under the guise of protecting our children. Fortunately, our courts struck down this proscriptive legislation. (12)

     The fact that restricting free speech is unconstitutional does not seem to bother today's legislator. Using our children as a shield to pass Internet censorship legislation did not make it past the courts. Today, the War on Drugs is the reason being given to restrict what is already widely available information, both on the Net and in print. Champions of the emotional anti-flag burning crowd, Senators Orinn Hatch and Dianne Feinstein have also teemed up to bring us the "Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999." From its title, this act sounds like legislation the majority of Americans would favor. The heart of this act, however, has something far greater in mind than controlling an outlawed substance. It is information that is the target of this act. Here is what one online news organization has to say about it:

The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act shows a complete disregard for the First Amendment and the principles upon which it was based. Hatch and Feinstein's alliance represents a desperate attempt to stop the flow of information to a public that has grown increasingly tired of a war on drugs that appears to be both ill-reasoned and socially harmful. (13)

     It may be difficult to understand what is going on here, but veterans of free speech battles involving the Internet are well aware that those in positions of power will take whatever means necessary, under any guise they choose, to restrict our access to information. Laws like those proposed by Hatch and Feinstein are obviously unenforceable. Even elementary school children know enough about the Internet to realize that there simply is no way to constantly check and re-check links on every web page to see if they lead to some "unacceptable" information. What acts like this are meant to do is to force people to censor their web sites for fear of being arrested if they provide a link to any information our esteemed members Congress do not think we are mature enough to have. Let us as least be honest in our debates and list these confrontations under their proper category, the War on Freely Available Information.

     In the final analysis, free speech is actually the cornerstone of the Internet experience. Those who have already experienced this wonderful and exciting exchange of ideas and information have, I believe, an obligation to see that the Net remains a place where any and all ideas may be freely exchanged. As Erik Davis so clearly points out, however, we cannot simply sit back and expect to see the Internet's atmosphere of freedom remain unchecked:

The Dutch media activist Geert Lovink calls the initial years of the Net's mass popularity Dream Time: "a short period of collective dreaming, passionate debates, gatherings, and quick money to be made." Unfortunately, such periods do not last long before they succumb to the tug of more prosaic historical forces, and especially to the powerful undertow of money and power. In different ways, this has been the sad story of communication utopias from the telegraph to radio to television. Creative possibilities and novel social forms are winnowed and routinezed [sic]; technologies are packaged for consumers rather than hacked; commercial interests and the state alike colonize the new communications space as a "natural" extension of their domains.

Whether or not the Internet will simply replicate this admittedly simplistic scheme remains to be seen. (14)

     The Internet has given our species its best hope yet to break free from the shackles of those who want to control information for their own ends. Since the earliest days of the Net, the mantra has always been, "Information wants to be free." We all have a big stake in how securely the basic human right of free speech becomes established on the Internet, and it is up to every one of us to do our part, no matter how insignificant, to ensure that freedom of speech remains a fundamental characteristic of the Internet.

     There are many things you can do about attacks on free speech. If you are technically inclined, become involved in the work of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). (15) So far they have done a terrific job in keeping the government at bay. Or write to your Congressperson and Senators about your beliefs regarding free speech and the Internet. Perhaps you agree with legislation that I find too restrictive. If so, then do some research, establish your position, and then make your position clear to your family, friends, and neighbors. But in one way or another, take part in the global discussion of this issue. Whatever you do, please do not take your right of free speech and its resulting state of cognitive liberty for granted. It is perhaps our last and only hope for building a better world.

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