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.
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 herself.vi
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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1WTX_I4deM.
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.