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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Evolving towards Cloud Consciousness: A MYSTIC LOOKS AT THE INTERNET OF THINGS

Ten years ago, I wrote Digital Dharma as a way to look at the emerging technology of the Internet as a challenge to our old “consciousness of separation.”i I saw the development of our telecommunications networks as a mirror and guide to the evolution of our global consciousness, and the social/spiritual issues at each level, as reflections of the chakra system and its seven “energetic transponders.” I started with the on-off (first chakra) binary signaling of the telegraph, through the telephone, radio, television, the internet, virtual reality and social media, and ended with what I saw as a model of seventh-level chakra consciousness: the emergence of peer-to-peer (P2P) “grid computing” and the wireless micro-connectivity that would enable “the internet of things.”

Today, the grid-based “cloud” is indeed our dominant communications metaphor, and the United States and China are rushing to control the fifth-generation (5G) communications platform that will allow the smallest “intelligent devices” to connect with that cloud. One one level, it is important that we debate what country manufactures and controls this new technology, as well as the potential dangers of engulfing every corner of the earth in 5G signals, but from a mystical perspective, there is a deeper esoteric question reflected in the electrical structure of cloud technology: are we ready to move from separation consciousness to shared intelligence, from tuning into the grid, to becoming the grid itself?

The Transpersonal Metaphors of the Cloud

In my early posts (and book chapters) dealing with the television, the Internet, and virtual reality, I discussed the critical challenges of always-on-connectivity, and the resulting fear response of “wall building,” projection of a “curated self,” and a retreat from the belief in truth itself.ii Countering these fears requires us to step into integral thinking: seeing the world as one living network, accepting our “data nakedness,” and staying open to wonder of the “tweets of all beings,” as we tune to the voice of Gaia herself. This new “networked awareness” is also at the heart of deep-seeing practices: such as energy balancing, past-life repair and family constellation work, channeled guidance, and other forms of quantum healing. Our new challenge however, is not about our individual connections as nodes on the Divine Network, but in moving past individual identity itself, seeing the universe simultaneously from a place of self, and at the same time seeing ourselves as holograms containing the entire network in our separate being. If the Internet, social media and encoded reality held the projection of the old challenge, the Internet of Things is the mirror of our new transpersonal, inter-subjective evolution.

As we move more and more of our computer memory and processing into the shared space of the cloud, we find the core metaphor of shared intelligence. Cloud-based technology allows for data storage, software and computing processors to reside out on the network "grid" and be called forth only when needed. The cloud has become the "place" where we store more and more of our cumulative human intelligence, relying on ever-more-powerful search engines and "data mining" algorithms, crowd-sourcing and social media recommendations to make sense of this overflowing abundance: the collages and mash-ups, meshes, mixes, remixes of our popular culture.

The cloud-based “internet of things,” is more than a way to envision self-driving cars and talking personal assistants, but a physical representation of the embedded intelligence of a self-aware universe, where each node monitors its surroundings and shares its experience with the grid itself. Of course, this scenario has a frightening side: in the service of our "lower selves" these technologies can lead us to a beehive-like world devoid of quiet personal space; where global corporations use 5G wireless to extend their control to the most remote corners of the planet; where the smallest personal action is tracked in giant marketing databases; a world where physical nature and even human love are replaced by computer simulations. The spiritual metaphor is the blasted open Crown Chakra – connecting unfiltered to all the ginns and tricksters of the astral plane; lost in the psychic hall of mirrors, caught in never-ending technology-enabled spiritual attention deficit disorder.

But when seen through the lens of spiritual metaphor, the very structure of the cloud offers us a path to a very different outcome: what mystics have understood as "unity consciousness," the simultaneous knowledge of the knower and the known, of individual identity and cosmic oneness. Here knowledge resides equally, both in the network, and at all of its nodes and the spaces in betweeniii; not hoarded by one tribe, gender or species, nor projected into an unreachable central God Authority.

As I wrote in Digital Dharma:

Beyond the web of communicating appliances is the seventh-level vision of an interconnected creative culture… And beyond this cultural vision is this spiritual teaching: We can create a world where all beings are simultaneously aware of their common Source (the universal intelligence of the Grid) and their power to download all the divine love and light their field can handle… deciding to fully connect with every other being, and simultaneously with something greater than oneself… We are conscious of our own programs, but we also hold space for the greater field that connects us all. This is a web where connectivity extends, in Matthew Fox’s words, “into the heavens and into the past (to our ancestors) and the future (to our descendants) to make community happen… it is light meeting light.”iv

Living in Cloud Consciousness we are challenged to see that our intelligence has always been connected in every action – past, present and future, and that we and all the other individual processors are sharing the same memory and power source. On the internet we learned to process our own data, drawing from external repositories as needed; in the cloud we hold all the repositories in common, consciously downloading those wisdom programs that use our human consciousness for a higher purpose. Our bodies and our life experiences become vessels of divine curiosity; and our prayers of gratitude become the uploading technology that refreshes and heals the great web of Being..

i Digital Dharma: A Users Guide to Expanding Consciousness in the Infosphere (Quest Books, 2007; JAICO, 2012)

ii See my “teleconsciousness” blog posts at or my Facebook Digital Dharma Notes at

iii Patricia Albere’s “Mutual Awakening Process” is one new approach to tuning into the inter-subjective wisdom between our individual fields. See:

iv Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh (Harmony Books, 1999), p.112

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Three Spiritual Metaphors of Social Media

    As Above, So Below: The Three Spiritual Messages of Social Media

An electronic web now surrounds the planet. The Infosphere – the totality of our electronic systems for sharing knowledge, is now a field that engulfs our physical, mental and spiritual bodies. The human nervous system has been “outered” (as media sage Marshal McLuhan predicted in the early 1960’s) into a global embrace.

Today, this embrace seems to be choking us! Our social media feeds, while promising connection, often seem to cut us off from really seeing each other’s true inner essence. Fear-filled rumors and hate speech seem to be traveling faster on Facebook and Instagram than any pro-social memes. Teenagers with calluses on their thumbs from sending text messages every few minutes cannot hold a face-to-face conversation, while too many parents spend more time checking their online “friends” than listening to their children. Wireless connectivity seems to have forever breached the border between work and home; destroying what little rest we have eked out for our inner self, while the radiation from the myriad of devices around us has put us into an electromagnetic energy soup of still unknown effects.

Yes, communications technology impacts all aspects of life for good and for bad. But those of us who see the world through spiritual eyes, must also recognize that this relationship works in three ways: (1) technology impacts and changes our consciousness, (2) it is a product of consciousness, and (3) “as above, so below,” it is an external mirror of the evolution of consciousness – reflecting with all of its confusion and shadow, and its misdirected hunger for true Divine connection, the current state of global mass consciousness.

As we commit ourselves to bringing forth a new way of seeing the world: moving from dualism to holism, and separation to unity, we are opening our eyes to the wisdom teachings manifesting all around us. We should also include those metaphors and reminders encoded in our electronic devices of increasing complexity, interactivity, and awareness, and the networks of silicon, radio and fiber-optics that link them together. The electronic web we have created is but a thin representation of what we are truly capable of. The energy body and its chakras are already pre-tuned to the frequencies of the planetary grid. We are being called to activate those higher energetic connections, and by looking closely at the structure of the technologies that have us so worried, we may find some needed tools. Taking the best of them and applying them not just to our online interactions, but to how we connect with the natural world, with each other, and with our spiritual essence, is our contemporary “digital dharma.”i.

Looking at the Infosphere with a mystic’s eyes, we see three important teachings:

  • Its time to wake up to our connection to all beings on the great web. We’ve always been connected on a soul level, but now our challenge is to manage this connection in the world of matter, not by building walls of isolation, but by learning appropriate filters for these new inputs.

  • Its time to step up to see and hear beyond our habitual reality. In this fully open and aware state, we can fully appreciate the depth of Gaia’s mystery, and in our humbleness, live in radical honesty, compassionately witnessing all of humanity’s light and shadow.
  • Its time to hook up our separate “reality-processors” into the “smart grid” of Divine Intelligence. Our tools of artificial intelligence and deep-data modeling are showing us that our true job is to awaken into our role of co-creating and embodying a light-filled reality for all beings.
These themes are reflected back to us in the structures of the electronic web. The Infosphere is a metaphor for, and a challenge to, our move to global oneness. We can use it as a template for higher connection, or we can get swept up in all of its distractions and false promises. From a grounded place, connected to spirit, we can see it for what it is: a blueprint for our next evolutionary step, not the step itself. With that in mind, each of these three spiritual teachings being made manifest in the Infosphere, offers a lesson, not about technology, but about the awakened soul!

Always-On, Always Connected to the Other

Out in the Infosphere, the process of moving into Oneness Consciousness was first reflected back to us on the flickering black and white screens of television – an extension of the fourth chakra emotional heart, a close-up visual medium of expression and feelings. It came into our homes as a conscience-stimulating medium of human and animal rights and environmental awareness. Its focus on bringing the “face of the other” into our living rooms stimulated a new generation’s sympathy for the “underdog,” as it introduced us to people of different colors, tribe and nation. It challenged us to open our eyes and see the entire planet as one Spaceship Earth, and for the first time it brought the carnage of war into everyone’s consciousness.

Today, our video screens (now in full color and high resolution, pocket-sized or room-filling giants,) still invite us to look out at the world and emotionally connect or emotionally recoil, but the world we’re seeing is no longer safely out there. For while television offered an opportunity to look at the multicultural world, the internet has brought us the gift and the challenge of actually connecting with it. In this world, the “other” is not just a face on a screen out there, but someone, invited or not, inside our personal space.ii

Connected to potentially millions of faces, we are discovering that without appropriate grounding and appropriate “energy filters,” stepping into relationship with all the beings sharing planet earth is not such an easy task. Everything now touches us, everything calls for a response, and everything we do impacts everyone else. We are in a place where we can no longer ignore the multiple overlapping voices of minority peoples and cultures; a place where everyone is speaking all at once, where all secrets are outed and every dark corner’s shadow (institutional or individual) is revealed to all. In the babel of this open marketplace is an emerging opportunity for people of spirit to connect outside of our “safe silos,” modeling the creativity that comes from rubbing against new peoples and new ideas. From a spiritual perspective, the internet’s core metaphor of “we’re all connected,” offers an opportunity to embrace the true interconnection of all life, and the possibility of creating new tools to better integrate humanity into the biosphere.

Yet, for many people without the gift of a spiritual connection, the recognition that one’s secrets are no longer safe, and that “transparency” works in both directions, has left them feeling vulnerable, unprotected and overwhelmed. From massive data thefts and cyber-attacks on the technological pillars of the information economy, to the transmission of horrific acts of violence, the internet has shown us the darker side of being part of one web-linked world. It is no surprise that this move into a networked world would generate push-back from those hurt by all this connectivity: those left out of the information economy, those frightened by the appearance of the “the other” on every video screen, and those who felt that their (formally unquestioned and dominant) voices were being challenged by those they could no longer ignore. More broadly, projected outwards, this connection-anxiety is reflected in our heightened fear of infection – from computer and real-life viruses, and from the waves of destitute global migrants pressing on the borders of the developed world – and the resulting calls to “protect our borders” by building stronger (physical, technological, or cultural) walls.

Connecting our separate personality-selves into a greater Oneness is our contemporary evolutionary task. The light and shadow of the internet is only a mirror of this challenge. Turning away from the distractions of digital reality to our deeper knowing, we see that we are being called to open our “spiritual receivers” to Gaia’s voice and the guides and helpers that surround us. Spiritual practice teaches us that we can handle this new receptivity, not by abandoning ourselves to every channeled message from the “other side,” or by building thicker energetic walls, but by strengthening our core grounding to the earth. Yoga, breath-work, meridian tapping and tai chi, are all available mechanisms to balance the over-stimulated (and over-radiated) nervous system.

 We can take these same practices into our relationship with technology. We can program our smartphones to remind us to “stop and take a deep breath,” and, as spiritual pilgrims have been doing for millennia, we can choose the gift of the Sabbath – a time for technology disconnection, walks in nature, and sharing the gift of community in face-to-face group interaction, celebration, and support. From this centered place we can open ourselves to the “tweets of all beings” – listening to the song of our microbiome, the wisdom of the giant whales and redwoods, the pulsing of the stars, and the heart rhythms of everyone we meet.

As we continue to become more and more comfortable with our real-time connection to the planet’s multiple voices, we will continue the evolutionary process of shedding our old way of seeing ourselves as individuals competing for resources, power or status. Looking at the mirror of the computer grid and networked cloud, we will see ourselves as self-aware nodes in a joyously communicating system. And with that system awareness comes the chance to connect, not only with every other being, but through conscious awareness of that unity connection, with the Divine network itself.iii Moving into the true wonder of being part of this evolving planetary system, we can embrace our responsibility for Tikkun Olam: reweaving (at the most personal to the most global) the frayed threads of the web of life.

Deep-Seeing: From Data Nakedness to Soul Transparency

Beyond (fifth chakra level) connection, the internet has opened our communal (sixth chakra) third eye, and with it has come more powerful ways of seeing and hearing, and a deep anxiety about the loss of privacy. We are not only connected, but we are constantly looking, and are constantly looked at. On the internet nothing is protected from our eyes and ears: from leaked reports of government and corporate malfeasance, to all levels of violence and pornography. Every credit card purchase, every trip through the grocery store, and every phone call or text is now “on the record.” On the positive side, balancing the power of government or corporate “Big Brother” has come “Little Brother with a camera” to hold the powerful accountable: from predatory priests and gurus to rogue police and crooked politicians. Every person with a cellphone camera is now a threat to the old order of secrecy and control.

Is it any wonder that one response to always being observed is the creation of a false online self: always happy, always chatting, always presenting the best side to the world, and the concurrent sense of loneliness that so many hooked on social media feel? At its worst, this is a shadow place where much of everything is artifice and falsehood; a dark world where nothing can be believed; a place full of bots, scammers, and poseurs; where everything is “fake news” and dark conspiracies.

From a spiritual perspective, refocusing the third-eye’s capacity for deep-seeing offers a way out of the addictive routine of counting “likes”, responding to false friends and struggling with maliciously-spread false truths. In a world where everything is seen, and it only takes a few keystrokes to pass judgments seen by thousands, communicating with “radical honesty” is probably the wisest choice. Opening our eyes to the light and shadow of the world calls for looking at each other from “witness consciousness.” Holding one’s center in equanimity, refusing to get hooked by every mediated outrage, and choosing to radiate compassion and loving-kindness to every new face, strengthens our discernment filters for truly living with eyes wide open. Our commitment to deep-seeing will help us understand someone’s “bad” behavior – their childhood wounds, their inherited family trauma, or even their soul’s karmic agreements, and the same holds for looking compassionately at our own faults.

Numerous sages have told us that “solid physical truth” is really only a set of quantum probabilities and shared mental algorithms. For those who have not yet woken to this esoteric truth, this is indeed frightening. The fear-based response is either to shut down, withdrawing into to a cynical disconnected stance, or to invent a safer “alternate reality” with its own “facts” and historyiv. We can see it in the popularity of videogame escapism, or in the retreat to a mythical past of ethno-tribal greatness. But should we truly look at our world with fully open sixth-chakra “eyes of wonder,” we will find beauty and creativity beyond our wildest dreams.

The internet has blessed us with easy access to millions of positive images: videos that fly us over every boundary, macro- and micro- cameras that take us to the outer reaches of the universe and into the workings of the smallest cell, time-lapse and slow-motion movies of once-hidden, unheard or ignored natural processes all around us. We are indeed seeing more than we ever used to see!v We can observe wild animals (from nesting baby bald eagles on city skyscraper ledges, to deep-diving seals, to tiny insects in the canopy of the rain forest), or travel to remote monitoring stations under the sea or on the tops of mountains, listening to the voice of Gaia

Our spiritual challenge is to insist that these new planetary awareness tools are used for the highest good: to electronically track and publicly display such warning signs as the encroachment of the deserts, the size of the islands of plastic floating in the ocean, or the decline of the ocean’s diversity; subscribing to regular tweets from grid-connected whales, sea turtles, giant redwoods or tiny mushrooms living in the Amazon. Could it be that these new “deep-seeing technologies” are suggestions in the physical plane that we use our spiritual power to zoom out to the bigger picture of Creation, seeing ourselves as part of an evolving whole, where no one is separate, and all beings hold the reflection of our shared unity?

Deep Mind: Co-creation in the Cloud

In the recent years we’ve seen the image of the internet morph from a two-dimensional “grid” to a three-dimensional pervasive “cloud.” Cloud technology allows for storage, software and computing technology to reside out on the network in large interconnected data centers far removed from the local user. The cloud is becoming the place where we store more and more of our cumulative human intelligence, relying on ever-more-powerful search engines, "data mining" algorithms and crowd-sourcing to make sense of this overflowing information abundance. At the same time we are building a distributed processing network, we are adding more and more self-aware intelligent devices at its periphery into “an internet of things.” Many office machines already call in service technicians before their owners are aware of any problems. Tiny sensors monitor soil and water conditions, alerting farmers when to irrigate and harvest. Similar devices in bridges send wind, wave, and traffic data to the highway department, while some vending machines already adjust their prices depending on supply and the current weather and traffic conditions, texting when they need restocking. And, of course, all those self-driving vehicles we are told are in our future will depend on massively-interconnected cloud intelligence.

This rapid shift to a world of machine-augmented interactions, driven by the emerging power of complex (and invisible) self-learning pattern-recognition software, threatens to leave us all “outside the computational box,” watching with great unease. No one wants to see a surveillance-based marketplace that uses these tools to monetize everything about us, including our decision-making processes. Clearly, there is a need for a debate over the role of cloud-connected “AI” and how it can be managed in a democracy.vii

But again, stepping back and looking at the evolution of cloud intelligence, we see a reflection of our work towards our next level of human co-creation. We are individual beings, holding our own stories in our own memory banks. Yet, we are also part of an intelligence greater than we can imagine! Our devices are learning to share knowledge and experience over a grid of 5G radios and fiberoptics, calling upon each other to donate computing cycles to the larger program. So too, we are learning to connect with each other in the soul matrix, understanding that our individual processing of incarnation that seems so important to us, is really part of a larger spiritual computational project: the manifesting of Divine thought in physical form.

Self-learning, self-aware, and self-healing networks are not just computational terms, but are the very essence of the communities of co-creation, directed prayer, and shared intention that are coming together to bring about quantum healing and planetary transformation. Open to deeper connections, looking with deep-seeing eyes, protected by appropriate discernment filters, and with an energy body grounded to the earth, we are prepared to tap into the power of a greater grid: the cloud of divine intelligence that has been with us since Creation. Here knowledge resides equally, both in the network, and at all of its nodes; not hoarded by one tribe, gender or species, nor projected into an unreachable central God Authority. This is a web of seventh-chakra connections, where connectivity extends, in Matthew Fox’s words, “into the heavens and into the past (to our ancestors) and the future (to our descendants) to make community happen.”

Our spiritual challenge being modeled by “cloud computing” is how to stay fully aware as we “run our individual apps of incarnation,” while simultaneously staying connected to the “big network” that is the mind of God – living our lives with full presence, taking in all experiences, and when we die, uploading our soul’s experience to the greater field of All That Is.

i In my 2007 book, Digital Dharma (Quest Books and also available from Amazon) I explored the Infosphere as reflection of the psycho-spiritual aspects of each of the seven chakras.

ii As New York Times’ columnist Tom Friedman writes, “Suddenly connectivity became so fast, cheap, easy for you and ubiquitous that it felt like you could touch someone whom you could never touch before and that you could be touched by someone who could never touch you before.”

iii This is what the mystics have understood as "unity consciousness," the simultaneous experience of individual identity and cosmic oneness (which is awesome).

iv However, just as we must validate every internet-delivered “fact,” so too with our expanded spiritual communications reception. From crop circles to messages from the dolphins and redwoods, from extra terrestrials, spirits, angels, ancestors, and avatars of all forms, our communal intelligence is being bombarded with new data that we too must carefully filter through the discernment of our anchored heart and grounded body wisdom. There are tricksters on both sides of the esoteric grid!

v See Louie Schwartzberg’s great time-lapse videos of flowers opening, and his data-driven mapping of the global movement of clouds, water, airplanes and ships at sea at

vi These tools are already powering a new “ambient awareness” of our complex interconnected natural systems, tracking myriads of data streams, synthesizing their impact and displaying them in easy-to-understand visual representations, living maps, or physical devices One example is a “cyber cat” whose tail changes color as electrical consumption increases and whose purr is replaced with a sad grumble as more carbon-based power is added to the supply mix.

vii In a world where every data device reflects the possibility of grid intelligence, we must hold the highest vision. Left to the forces of the marketplace and the surveillance state, the ego-self will be swept up in a false world of constant stimulation, false presentation and unbroken forgetfulness: a world where the “grid” is an echo-chamber of separation – from our bodies, from the earth, and from our Divine nature. This is a desolate earth where the unemployed masses are enthralled by electronic media circuses, and where the super-rich dream of escaping to survival bunkers, colonies on Mars, porting their brains to robot selves, or if all else fails, to the deep freeze of a cryogenics tank.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Tom Friedman's Warning that Everything is Going Deep"

I just finished reading an essay by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman [Warning! Everything is Going Deep,” January 29] that aligns fully with the core thesis of Digital Dharma. “Technology moves up in steps,” he writes, and each step is “biased toward a new set of capabilities.” And right now, our society is experiencing the change from the technology metaphors of “connectivity” driven by the Internet and social media, to those associated with “deep knowledge.” According to Friedman, we’re all being driven by the explosion in complex systems-learning, AI, and huge database analysis, “to the deep end of the pool” where the forces of surveillance capitalism swim like sharks, and the regulatory lifeguard (government, social institutions, business and religious leaders) “doesn’t know how to swim!”

Readers of my 2007 book Digital Dharma (and this “teleconsciousness” blog), are already familiar with the idea that communications technology impacts all aspects of social, spiritual and cultural life, and that most importantly, this impact is a two-way street: our technology is both a product of the evolution of consciousness, and a mirror of this evolution; and it also reveals the light and shadow facing us at each stage of that evolutionary process.i Our shift from the issues of “connectivity” to those associated with “deep pattern processing” is indeed momentous, as the technologies of social media, smart devices, predictive algorithms, virtual reality and the all-encompassing Cloud, envelope, seduce and enrapture us, impacting our social, political and spiritual lives.

In this short essay I will expand on Friedman’s thesis of technology-driven metaphors. Using the 2012 election as an anchor, I will start a bit earlier: looking at the shift from a world dominated by television to that of the Internet. I will also go deeper into exploring the impacts of these shifts on our political and social life, and most importantly, look at how each shift brought forth a new set of spiritual challenges reflecting both our highest aspirations and lowest fears. Finally, I will look ahead, suggesting that Friedman’s “deep processing” metaphor can be split into two memes: our current “crisis of truth” reflected in the work deep seeing, and the emerging challenge of deep mind, brought about by AI, smart devices and the cloud.

2012: From Television to Twitter to Trump

Back in the late 1950’s, media scholar Marshall McLuhan watched as television swept across Canada, ending the dominance of radio and print media, but more importantly, changing family life, social norms, and even political beliefs. He coined the phrase, “the medium is the message,” to get us to look at the impacts of a communications technology form that had nothing to do with the programming delivered on it. Hundreds of books and thousands of articles have analyzed television through McLuhan’s lens, looking at the deep changes wrought by this flickering “electronic hearth.” In Digital Dharma, I proposed that television was an extension of our emotional Heart: a medium of expression and feelings, stimulating both sympathy for those different than us, and an addictive hunger to suppress those new feelings by stuffing ourselves with food, material objects and distractions.ii

Television’s gift to the “boomer” generation was its face-to-face close-up view of the world’s diverse community. Despite its menu of cowboys and Indians, crime-fighters and often violent cartoons, TV also introduced us to the humanity of outsiders of different colors, tribe and nation. It connected us, along with the Space Program, for the first time to our entire planet as one Spaceship Earth. It was the medium of human and animal rights, the environment and holistic thinking. Balancing its diet of “hard news” and glorified sports violence, it was also a medium of the feminine: of the intimate family narrative and soap operas of personal disclosure, bringing the carnage of the Vietnam War into every living room. And, at the same time TV was bringing the world to the developed west, it was exporting these values, and the images of consumer wealth, to the rest of the world, destabilizing the old regimes, and stimulating migratory dreams.

In its reflection of the “shadow” aspect of the heart, television gave us addictive emotionalism: the glorification of desire, and its fulfillment at bargain-basement prices. Instead of true compassion, it offered a chance to feel pity or disdain for the parade of the world’s “losers” brought to our screens (or faux corporate boardrooms), a half-response that only deepened a sense of spiritual depression and disconnection. As consciousness evolved, television’s world-view of naive optimism, self-pity and addictive consumerism, became easier and easier to mock. Donald Trump’s network producers understood this, and brazenly used television itself to belittle its soft emotional (feminine) side, offering in opposition, a parody television masculinity: a loud-mouthed, unfeeling, so-called self-made millionaire, beauty-pageant and wrestling promoter.

At the same time The Donald was being introduced to the nation’s viewers, the Internet was moving from a carrier of email and a place to “surf the web,” to the home of Facebook, blogging, podcasts and all forms “social media.” If television was an extension of the heart, then the all-connected, all-present online world, was an extension of our skin.iii Over-connection, not over-emotion, would become the new challenge.

While television offered an opportunity to look at the multicultural world, the Internet brought us the gift and the challenge of actually connecting with it. As Friedman writes, “Suddenly connectivity became so fast, cheap, easy for you and ubiquitous that it felt like you could touch someone whom you could never touch before and that you could be touched by someone who could never touch you before.” In this world, the “other” is not just a face on a screen out there, but someone, invited or not, inside our personal space. This is the multi-cultural, globally-cosmopolitan, knowledge-based, world of today. It is a place where we can no longer ignore the multiple overlapping voices of minority peoples and cultures; a place where everyone is speaking all at once, and everything about us is revealed. At its best, a place for organizing decentralized online communities, and the creativity that comes from rubbing against new peoples and new ideas. Its metaphor of “we’re all connected,” offers an opportunity to embrace “holistic awareness,” an understanding of the true interconnection of all life, and the possibility of new tools to better integrate humanity into the biosphere.

Yet at the same time, the deep anxiety that comes from this realization leaves on feeling “data naked,” unprotected and overwhelmed by incoming signals. From the pandemics of AIDS, SARS and Ebola, to the waves of global migrants at the door of the developed world, to the data thefts, and cyber-attacks on the technological pillars of the information economy, the Internet has made us vulnerable to the darker side of being part of one web-linked world.

This was the world that Barack Obama symbolized. His campaign was based on data-driven Internet organizing, and his Presidency was based on the “cool management” of a less self-inflated nation in a multi-polar world. It is no surprise that this move into network-style governance would generate unease and push-back from those hurt by all this “connectivity.” All those left out of the capital flows of the information economy, those whose jobs were outsourced to internet-linked factories overseas, those frightened by the real or imagined appearance of the “the other” at the door, and those who felt that their (formally unquestioned and dominant) voices were now being drowned out by those they couldn’t shut down due to the new codes of “political correctness.”

In the 2016 campaign, at a time of deep social division and growing distrust of the new networked global financial corporations and financial institutions, the Democrats offered a candidate steeped in television’s aspirational memes (fairness and multicultural “rights”), coupled with an unpleasant air of boomer entitlement (“its my turn”). Donald Trump, who rose to fame manipulating television’s shadow as the exemplar of me-first materialism, crass cynicism and melodrama, easily embraced the role of anti-Internet metaphor avatar. Like many of the “strong man nationalists” coming to power today, he ran as the anti-connectionist (anti-diversity, anti-politically-correct speech, anti-feminist, anti-immigration) candidate. Trump effectively channeled his attacks against the metaphors of the multi-polar, all-connected internet (“America First,” “Build the Wall”), using not just his television persona, but even more radically, by mastering a regressive communications medium whose operative metaphor (“Here I Am”) is most aligned with the older values of security, survival, and fight or flight: the command and control, one-way 280-character mini-telegram solar-plexus broadcasts of the Twitter feed.iv In its declarative pronouncements, free of nuance (without even the perfunctory hellos and goodbyes, let alone the empathetic responses of telephone talk), Twitter communication is a throwback to the Victorian Internet, a rejection of holism and its complexities – the perfect medium of competitive narcissism.

Trump’s attacks on the “deep state” tap the very unease that Friedman calls “swimming in the deep end” – the sense that our interconnected databases and complex pattern-recognition software, while “abstracting complexity at a speed, scope and scale we’d never experienced before,” are leaving us “on the outside,” blind to what’s happening inside the algorithms that have begun to control our lives, while at the same time the surveillance state and the corporations of surveillance capitalism could see everything about us, including our decision-making processes that we hardly knew existed. Is it any wonder that one response to this sense of “not seeing” is the creation of a social media world of curated presentation – where everything is artifice and falsehood, where nothing can be believed, a place full of bots, scammers, poseurs and grifters, where everything is “fake news.”

How to manage the ethical challenge of deep seeing is our present dilemma and opportunity. Faced with the dark shadow of our smart technologies, and a President who is leading the charge away from even discussing its implications, Friedman sees great peril. He calls for trusted seers and navigators that can “offer the public deep truths, deep privacy protections, and deep trust.” Perhaps these attributes will be the focus of our next presidential race, as a number of candidates have embraced a return to complex policy analysis and are touting their “inner nerd.” We can hope that the rejection of science won’t continue in the face of global ecological catastrophe.

From an integral perspective, the spiritual “third eye” metaphor of deep-seeing offers a way out of the deep waters of false alarms, false friends and false truths. Recognizing that every sound and image we perceive might be manipulated, that every “solid physical truth” is really only a set of quantum probabilities, can lead us to a deeply cynical disconnected stance: to immersion in virtual reality escapism, or the passions of tribal regression. But it can also lead us to a more holistic understanding of our place in this complex universe.v Many spiritual traditions urge to recognize the bigger picture of creation: to see ourselves as part of an evolving whole, where no one is separate, and the face of the Other is a reflection of our shared divinity. Could it be that the metaphor of deep-seeing is an invitation to mindfully “watch the codes” of our own thought processes?

The second set of “deep processes” identified by Friedman are those associated with thought itself – artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, and predictive algorithms. In a future blog post I will look at these technologies as reflections of consciousness itself: are we separate thinking beings or part of one larger global brain?vi Are we stand-alone processors, or nodes on a giant network? Is our work to protect our ego-selves, or Tikun Olum – to repair the grid of Creation? To dance and sing together in community rituals and share in small face-to-face healing circles? Or to embrace the libertarian fantasy of preserving one’s separate self by fleeing to a bunker in New Zealand, a colony on Mars, or worst case, into a liquid-nitrogen-cooled brain-storage unit!
i Of course, I didn’t invent this idea! It is drawn from the field of media ecology pioneered by Marshal McLuhan, the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber, and the consciousness evolution model of Spiral Dynamics.

ii Philosopher Ken Wilber has called this response “boomeritis” – utopian dreaming and multicultural sympathies bordering on collective guilt for all the world’s victims, mixed with unacknowledged attachment to material luxuries and high drama. 

iii In Digital Dharma (DD), I linked it to the Fifth Chakra: the Throat Center, the place of our voice and all communications.

iv In Chapter One of DD, I called texting “the telegraph of Aliveness,” and suggested that this medium was the perfect voice of adolescence: the time when kids start to push away and declare their individuality, announcing and reinforcing their ‘Beingness’ to their peers, calling attention to their cleverness. Adults usually grow out of this narcissism. When they don’t, in Maureen Dowd’s words, “its as if your id had a typewriter.” Twitter combines this First Chakra hunger to announce oneself with the broadcast power of radio, the Third Chakra medium.

v I looked at the impact of digital audio and video compression on our sense that “not everything we see is real,” and the resulting response of the “curated-self” in DD Chapter Five.

vi This is the work of the Crown Center, discussed in DD Chapter Seven.