The following is from the new book Birth 2012 and Beyond: Humanity's Great Shift Toward the Age of Conscious Evolution, available from Shift books.
We are learning to become cocreators of the Shift through a variety of processes and practices, personally and in small core groups. But we still face the larger question: Will humanity be able to act in time to tip the scales in favor of a positive future at the global level, given the rapid escalation of problems that threaten our survival?
Ironically, as planetary conditions become more chaotic, the prospects for positive change actually become better. Evolution is able to adapt by repatterning itself quickly during times of extreme instability. And it is here that we can find a scientific basis for our potential to "cross the gap."
At each crossroads in biological evolution, the immediate crisis of survival faced by a species or an ecosystem is what drives its processes of adaptation. Indeed, the threats we currently face are catalyzing millions of us to engage in personal transformative processes. These practices are a crucial part of the urgent work of the re-patterning of human society. But they are just a prelude to the path of social transformation that we will examine in this chapter. Crucial innovations in all sectors of society, plus a variety of new methods of social synergy, will soon reveal a powerful collective path of repatterning.
In order to deepen our understanding of such a profound evolutionary process, let us return to the basic science -- which in part arises from the application of complexity theory to biology -- and ask this question: How does nature's capacity to take unexpected "quantum jumps" apply to us in our current situation?
How a Living System Cooperates in Its Own Self-Transcendence
I had been searching for years to find the missing link that could help us get across the gap, when I discovered a vital clue in the New York Times in 1977. It was a story about the chemist and Nobel Prize-winner, Ilya Prigogine (pronounced prig-a-gene). He had discovered the process whereby life evolves into more complex systems even in the face of the second law of thermodynamics, which states that in a closed system energy inevitably increases in entropy or disorder. Based on this "fatal" law, scientists predicted that the universe would inevitably end in a "heat death" -- the degradation of all energy in the universe to a state of inert uniformity. This law formed the scientific basis of much of modern pessimism.
How, then, in the face of this inevitable tendency for the universe to increase in disorder, has more complex order increased for billions of years? What are the mechanisms whereby higher order is achieved in nature? And how might we learn from this process to facilitate our own leap to higher order?
The answer seems to lay in Prigogine's theory of dissipative structures. A dissipative structure is any living system in nature whose form or structure is maintained by a continuous consumption of energy -- known in physics as "dissipation." All living systems are dissipative structures -- including humans. In a real sense, living things have been running uphill in a universe that is supposed to be running down!
Here's how it works: The continuous movement of energy through the system results in fluctuations, which, if minor, do not alter its structural integrity. But if the fluctuations reach a critical size, they perturb the system. They increase the number of novel interactions within it. The elements of the old pattern come into contact with each other in new ways and make new connections. The parts reorganize into a new whole -- and the system "escapes" into a higher order! In other words, life has the potential to create new forms by allowing a shake-up of old forms. Prigogine showed that the elements of a dissipative structure cooperate to bring about this transformation of the whole.
When I read this, I immediately realized how society could make a quantum jump from our current crises to a future that is equal to our new powers. Back in 1977, I could already see that we would never get there by linear, incremental steps alone, given the world's accumulating crises; all the more so now. But thankfully, the process of transformation is not linear! Systems become more complex by nonlinear processes, exponentially increasing the numbers of interactions of incremental innovations.
At some point, apparently insignificant innovations connect in a nonlinear manner. As Teilhard de Chardin might put it, everything that rises converges and connects, becomes synergistic and cocreative. The system then cooperates in its own self-transcendence in an apparent sudden shift. This shift has been building for a long time and born out of myriad innovations silently and invisibly interacting and connecting beneath the surface of our attention.
Let's apply the Prigogine model to our personal and social evolution. If nature has been working through dissipative structures for billions of years, the same process must be working through us now. Let us enter the Hub of the Wheel of Cocreation and find out!
Today our global civilization is a large dissipative structure increasingly perturbed and undergoing fluctuations, and throughout the world, systems are increasingly unstable or dysfunctional. We are using more of our energy to handle these problems but in ways that seem ineffective -- like building more and more weapons and prisons for greater security or fighting a war against drugs when kids roam aimlessly in the streets with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Hunger, poverty, social and economic injustice, global warming, resource depletion, pollution, overpopulation, the loss of rain forests -- all these factors are escalating and are now tending to converge in catastrophe. The essay contribution in this book by Ervin Laszlo, one of our Welcoming Committee members, lists these challenges in detail.
At the same time, innovations of all kinds in all fields, or "new mutations," are springing up everywhere. Thousands of acts of caring, sharing, and healing, as well as new social and political solutions are emerging. Applying the model of dissipative structures to our situation, we see that while threats are accumulating that are destabilizing the system -- social innovations that share a similar value system are also converging, connecting, and networking at an increasing rate. And this process is accelerating rapidly with the help of the Internet.
But will the convergence of positive innovations happen before the convergence of destructive tendencies? Will the planetary system repattern to a higher order, or will it fall apart into the political chaos and environmental collapse that has been predicted? This, of course, is the great question. There is no guarantee that a dissipative structure will repattern to a higher order. It is merely a tendency, just as it is the tendency of each baby to survive its birth, although many do not.
It is precisely at this point that we need a new social innovation to facilitate the increased interaction among the positive innovations-a fresh articulation of the whole to facilitate the convergence. And this is the purpose of introducing the Wheel of Cocreation. As it turns, we can set in motion a new social function to hasten the nonlinear interaction of positive innovations and thereby facilitate the natural repatterning of our society to a more harmonious order, thus saving ourselves from predicted catastrophes. Joseph Chilton Pearce put it this way in his 2002 book, The Crack in the Cosmic Egg:
A system in balance and functioning well is difficult to change, but as a system falls into disorder, change becomes more and more feasible and finally inevitable. At that inevitable point the least bit of coherent order can bring to order the whole disorderly array. Which direction the change takes depends on the nature of the chaotic attractor that lifts the chaos into its new order. If that chaotic attractor is demonic, the old cycle simply repeats itself, which seems to have been historically the case for our species. But if the chaotic attractor were benevolent or "divine," the new order would have to be of that same nature.
My 1984 Electoral Campaign for a Positive Future
After I discovered this clue of how nature evolves with the help of the Prigogine model, I wanted to find a way to test my discovery in the real world. In 1984, I decided to do an experiment in conscious evolution by bringing the ideas of Prigogine, Abraham Maslow, Teilhard de Chardin, Buckminster Fuller, and many other new-paradigm thinkers into the political arena. I became an "idea candidate" for the future of humanity, offering a method to accelerate the interaction of positive innovations and help the system repattern itself in the midst of its crisis.
After a great deal of consultation with others, I formed the Campaign for a Positive Future. I told all my friends and colleagues that I was in the running for selection as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate by whomever was nominated for president. I asked them to arrange opportunities for me to speak in order to gain support for my ideas. Many were delighted. Meetings were arranged, and I set out upon the most fascinating journey of my life.
To launch the campaign, I created a new social function called the Office for the Future, or Peace Room, whose purpose would be that of converging crucial innovations at the highest level of power. It was to reside in the office of the vice president of the United States, and in its design this office would become as sophisticated as a war room. In our war rooms we track enemies and strategize on how to defeat them; by contrast, the Peace Room would identify, connect, and communicate our successes and models that work. I proposed that the Office for the Future should have four functions that would facilitate the repatterning of our society to a higher order of consciousness, freedom, and synergistic order:
1. The office would scan for breakthroughs in all fields -- health, education, media, science, government, business, the arts, and community. It would also invite citizens at the local level to form centers to scan their communities for creative innovations; our foreign ambassadors would even be asked to establish Peace Rooms in their countries.
2. The office would map these innovations according to sector and geography to discover the pattern and design of what works. We envisioned large maps and graphs in the White House that would show progress toward the evolutionary agenda -- the hierarchy of social needs -- with constant input based on what innovators are doing that works.
As part of the official United States Bicentennial celebration in 1976, I organized a Syncon, a successful conference for "synergistic convergence," in Washington, DC. This early version of a Peace Room had a similar goal: We graphically presented a social-needs hierarchy. From all over the country, people called in with their social innovations, which were placed on the chart. The conference participants came to understand how a new social system was evolving in a coherent way. (I discuss the phenomenon of Syncons later in this chapter.)
3. The office would help social innovators make vital and necessary connections with others. When we find our teammates and partners, the deep human desire to relate, to connect, to join our genius is satisfied. Cocreation does not mean service at the sacrifice of Self; it means service through the actualization of Self. Self-actualization occurs when we find our vocations and express them meaningfully in the world. Our vocations are drawn forth by the process of finding others we need to work with, by enlivening our individual lives and the quality of life in our communities.
4. The office would communicate via all levels of media the stories of the human family's successes and model projects. I suggested there be a weekly broadcast from the White House -- What Works in America -- calling for greater public participation, inviting people to join projects, to start new ones, to find their life purpose, and to come together to create the works and acts needed for the future of the human family. Volunteerism would come alive as the expression of our love and creativity in chosen work.
Positive Future Centers Spring Up
With this proposal, I sent out a "high fidelity bird call," as economist Hazel Henderson put it, and I got a certain kind of bird. It was thrilling. Everywhere I went people said they wanted to form a center for "it" -- whatever it was! We were not quite a political philosophy or a new party; I came to realize that "it" was the creative essence in each person awakened, amplified, and manifested in cocreative action. People sought communion and community, not something that any leader could do for them. Yet they found it exciting to have a political candidate support them in their initiatives.
One of the most amazing aspects of my campaign is that little centers spontaneously sprung up everywhere calling themselves Positive Future Centers. They were actually embryonic centers for cocreation in the Hub of the Wheel. In these centers, people meditated and prayed; they worked on themselves and they reached into their communities, making contributions by expressing their life purpose.
Wherever I went during the campaign, I was at home. Each center was resonant with the evolutionary agenda and affirmed the new paradigm. People were interested in both human and social potential. They were eager to carry their inner work into the world. Our goal was to model the change we wanted to see in the world. "The best solution is our own conscious evolution," was one of our slogans.
As the weeks and months passed, the time finally came to attend the Democratic National Convention. Politically sophisticated people told me, "Don't go to San Francisco, dear. You have done a good job at the grassroots level, but they will destroy you at a national convention." We had no money left, no media attention (we were told we were "too positive"!), and no passes to the floor (the Democratic National Committee had ignored our campaign entirely).
However impossible it seemed from any rational logic, ten of us decided to go to the convention; my guidance was clear that we had not yet completed our mission. My purpose had been to speak at the convention and call for the Office for the Future and the Peace Room. I was to tell the story of humanity's evolutionary potential in a political context and plant the idea of the evolutionary agenda as an approach to politics that focused on what works.
Our task was to have two hundred delegates sign a petition that would place my name in nomination; this would make me eligible to make my nominating speech before the convention, the nation, and the world. We were racked with doubt, for I had enough sense as a political science graduate to know that this goal was impossible. I should give up before suffering the humiliation of being totally ignored, for the chances of a grassroots, futuristic, unknown woman being nominated for the vice presidency of the United States was less than zero. I was told we would be lucky to get one delegate, even if she were my mother!
We decided, however, to act as if we were going to succeed and to practice every metaphysical discipline any of us had learned. We arose at five every morning. We prayed; we loved one another; we forgave one another; we did creative visualizations of the nominating speech; we affirmed our victory with certainty.
As the proceedings opened, we went into the hallways, the bars, the restaurants, and the early morning caucuses to sign up delegates. Occasionally I was given thirty seconds to speak at the caucuses. I was able to say, "My name is Barbara Marx Hubbard, I am running for the vice presidency to propose an Office for the Future that will scan for, map, connect, and communicate positive innovations that work." And the delegates signed up. My team of ten people -- only one of whom had ever been to a national convention -- obtained most of the signatures. The resonance we had created among ourselves radiated and seemed to mesmerize the busy delegates. Still, the odds were against us; many powerful political leaders were vying for this nomination, for it meant a televised speech before the world. We were up against a substantial field of well-known political leaders who were also attempting to obtain the two hundred required signatures.
The first day we had one hundred signatures. The second day we had another hundred. On the third day, my campaign manager, Faye Beuby, took the petitions to the Democratic National Committee at the convention. We had more than two hundred valid signatures. The Committee was horrified! Someone had gotten through the net. Then the announcement came: two women's names were to be placed in nomination for the vice presidency of the United States: Barbara Marx Hubbard and Geraldine Ferraro. I was stunned. It was a political paranormal experience! The impossible had happened! Social synergy had won the day!
A few days later, when I was taken to the huge dais to speak to the convention, a guard led me to the microphone, holding my arm gently. "Honey," he said, "don't worry, they won't pay any attention to you, they never do . . . you're saying this for the universe." And so I did. I said, "The purpose of the United States of America is to emancipate the creativity of people everywhere."
With all the power of my being I called for a new social function, the Peace Room, in the White House. The delegates were milling around, paying no attention, but as I spoke the words I realized for the first time the enormous power of focused action and faith. If a disorganized band of grassroots environmentalists, businesspeople, housewives, futurists, and human potentialists could achieve this, imagine what we could do if we were well organized!
Today we have this ability to get organized, and of course a key vehicle is the Birth 2012 campaign itself, plus the global movement it will catalyze with the help of The Shift Network, the Welcoming Committee, and you. In 1984, ninety Positive Future Centers arose overnight in the United States; and now, a generation later, Shift Circles are being formed worldwide, inspired by this possibility of the Great Shift. We are fostering a more cocreative society and a more participatory, synergistic democracy -- not by revolution but by evolutionary action.
Reprinted with permission of Shift Books ©2012.
Barbara is currently co-producing with The Shift Network a global multi-media event entitled, "Birth 2012: Co-Creating a Planetary Shift in Time" on Dec. 22, 2012 which aims to unify 100 million people worldwide in coherence and social synergy to birth a new "evolved" era and "universal humanity." Birth 2012 and Beyond : Humanity's Great Shift To the Age of Conscious Evolution is being released in May 2012 by Shift Books.
The Shift Network presents Barbara Marx Hubbard and friends for Conception Day 2012 , a FREE global webcast featuring Michael Beckwith , Jack Canfield, Neale Donald Walsch, Lynn McTaggart and more on March 22, 2012 from 7-9pm PT. Conception Day 2012 kicks off a nine-month Birth 2012 Campaign -- a movement to help mobilize the critical mass of change agents needed by December 22, 2012. During Conception Day we will set our intentions for a more viable, evolved, sustainable, cocreative world and catalyze a global network of organizations and innovators that move forward the changes our planet needs!