Global Shift

Ervin Laszlo is a systems philosopher, integral theorist, and classical pianist. Twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, he has authored more than 70 books, which have been translated into nineteen languages, and has published in excess of four hundred articles and research papers, including six volumes of piano recordings.

Dr. Laszlo is generally recognized as the founder of systems philosophy and general evolution theory, and serves as the founder-director of the General Evolution Research Group and as past president of the International Society for the Systems Sciences. He is also the recipient of the highest degree in philosophy and human sciences from the Sorbonne, the University of Paris, as well as of the coveted Artist Diploma of the Franz Liszt Academy of Budapest. Additional prizes and awards include four honorary doctorates. This article was found at

Global Shift

In the first decade of the 21st century we face the choice between living in the last decade of an unsustainable, crisis-prone civilization, or in the first of a new and more peaceful world.

The world we have created is changing under our feet.  On New Year’s eve the Russians celebrated in the former Red Square without a trace of ice and snow; in January New Yorkers walked in Central Park in shirtsleeves; the center of Greenland is taken up by an unfrozen lake the size of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and Lake Eyrie combined, and there is hardly any of the legendary snow left on top of Kilimandjaro.

The climate is just one of many changes under way.  Connected with climate change are a host of other processes that are just as prone to change as the ecology: economic, social, and political.  In more respects than one, continuing to tread the path we have been treading up till now takes us to a dangerous tipping point. 

Interestingly and importantly, also our map of the world is changing: science, too, is in the midst of a paradigm-shift.  Understanding the emerging paradigm is important—it shows that the changes we face are not haphazard and chaotic, but have a deep logic of their own.  Complex systems such as human societies do not evolve smoothly step by step: their development is highly nonlinear.  Step by step they evolve merely to a point, then they reach a threshold of stability and either break down in chaos, or break through to a new way of functioning.

Yet the key contribution of science is not just theory, but a new and vital insight.  It is the confirmation of what people have long felt but for what they could not give a rational explanation: our close connection to each other and to the cosmos.  As the smallest particles we call quanta are connected with each other throughout space and time, so there are subtle but real connections among living beings throughout the biosphere.  Recognizing these connections is vitally important, for it can inspire the solidarity we urgently need to live in harmony with each other and with nature.

The key insight from the sciences can be not only understood; it can also be experienced.  To experience our connections with others, with nature, and with all of reality we need to foster inner growth: meditate, pray, open our consciousness to the subtle impressions and intuitions that flow into it when we do not repress them.  When we no longer view the world through five slits in the tower but open the roof to the sky we develop empathy with other people and other cultures and sensitivity to animals, plants and the whole of the biosphere.

We need to evolve our consciousness. This is possible, for human consciousness is not a permanent fixture: cultural anthropology testifies that it developed gradually in the course of millennia. In the thirty- or fifty-thousand-year history of homo sapiens the human body did not change significantly, but human consciousness did.

How our consciousness will evolve next has been foretold by a number of thinkers. The Indian sage Sri Aurobindo considered the emergence of superconsciousness as the next step; in a similar vein the Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser spoke of the coming of four-dimensional integral consciousness, rising from the prior stages of archaic, magical, and mythical consciousness. The American mystic Richard Bucke portrayed cosmic consciousness as the next evolutionary stage, beyond the simple consciousness of animals and the self-consciousness of contemporary humans.

Ken Wilber’s six-level evolutionary process leads from physical consciousness pertaining to nonliving matter energy through biological consciousness associated with animals and mental consciousness characteristic of humans to subtle consciousness, which is archetypal, transindividual, and intuitive. It leads in turn to causal consciousness and, in the final step, to the ultimate consciousness called Consciousness as Such. And Chris Cowan’s and Don Beck’s spiral dynamics sees contemporary consciousness evolving from the strategic “orange” stage that is materialistic, consumerist, and success-, image-, status-, and growth-oriented; to the consensual “green” stage of egalitarianism and orientation toward feelings, authenticity, sharing, caring, and community; heading toward the ecological “yellow” stage focused on natural systems, self-organization, multiple realities, and knowledge; and culminating in the holistic “turquoise” stage of collective individualism, cosmic spirituality, and Earth changes.

Reaching a more evolved stage of human consciousness is possible, and it is needed to reach a more evolved civilization. The connection between consciousness-evolution and civilization-evolution was recognized by many Native American cultures, the Mayan, Cherokee, Tayta, Xingue, Hopi, Inca, Seneca, Inuit, and Mapuche among them.  They told us that we are presently living under the Fifth Sun of consciousness and are on the verge of entering under the Sixth Sun. The Sixth Sun will bring a new consciousness and with it a fundamental transformation of civilization.

These traditional cultures and modern philosophers are right.  Achieving an evolved consciousness will further progress toward a civilization based on empathy, trust and solidarity.  But it will be effective only if it spreads to a critical mass.  How could people come up with the will to pull together to confront the threats they face in common; elect leaders who support projects of economic cooperation and intercultural solidarity; adopt strategies in business where the pursuit of profit and growth is informed by the search for corporate social and ecological responsibility; bring on line an E-Parliament that links parliamentarians worldwide in joint efforts to serve the common good; and organize an effective network of nongovernmental organizations to restore peace in war-torn regions and ensure an adequate supply of food and water for endangered populations—how could they do all this and more if they do not have a higher level of empathy and solidarity? In the absence of an evolved consciousness in a critical mass the motivation needed to take effective action may have to await the actual occurrence of crises and catastrophes—and if these involve major tipping points, a timely transformation will be difficult, if not impossible. 

The evolution of our consciousness is our best chance to shift toward a positive future.  The complementary avenues of attaining relevant insight through information, and meditating, praying, and entering on the path to inner growth are the best ways to live up to our ineluctable responsibility not to be part of the problem, but become a part of the urgently needed solution. 

Ervin Laszlo – accessed 10.08.10