The Intuition Network, A Thinking Allowed Television Underwriter, presents the following transcript from the series Thinking Allowed, Conversations On the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery, with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove.


JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. I'm Jeffrey Mishlove. This is Part 2 of our two-part series on "Time and Transformation." With me is Peter Russell, visionary writer, filmmaker, management consultant. Peter is author of a number of books, including The White Hole in Time, The Global Brain, and The Creative Manager. Welcome again, Peter.

PETER RUSSELL: Nice to be back again. Thank you.

MISHLOVE: We've been talking about time, and the way in which social change and technological change, even evolutionary change, has been accelerating more and more rapidly, until when we get to the now moment, things are going at an incredibly rapid pace as compared to even only a hundred, two hundred years ago, which is a very short span of time.

RUSSELL: Right. We talk about the pace of life is accelerating. I think what we don't realize is this acceleration has been going on throughout the history of the universe. In the very beginning of the universe it took billions of years, probably ten billion years, for our sun to form. And then once the earth formed things started speeding up. Life evolved much faster. In fact the way I chart it very often is to chart things up the side of the World Trade Center, to give a little visual picture. If you do that, then it's like the bottom of the World Trade Center is the formation of the planet. Life begins about the twenty-fifth floor, which is about a quarter of the way up; there are 108 floors in the World Trade Center. And then multicellular organisms occur over halfway up, about the sixtieth floor. And then fish come about the ninety-fifth floor; dinosaurs about the 105th floor, very near the top. Mammals come at the 108th floor -- mammals only at the very top. Human beings appear just a few inches from the top, and the whole of what we call modern history is just thinner than a layer of paint on the top of the World Trade Center.

MISHLOVE: And yet there's probably been more change in that thin layer than there's been in the four or five billion years preceding.

RUSSELL: Yes, and I think part of the problem is we tend to think of time as physical time. Time is a measure of change, and we think of physical change, and the earth goes around the sun, and a pendulum swings at a certain rate, and cesium atoms vibrate at a certain rate, and they're all commensurate, which means that you can match them all together. So we have this idea of physical time. If you take evolutionary time it's very different. The change -- first of all, it took five billion years, sun time, to occur, or if you like, space time. And then the change took less time, and then it took less time, then it took less time. So now we're seeing as much change, as much significant change, maybe in a decade, as previously would have taken millions of years. I mean, the change from one bacterium to another bacterium might have taken millions of years to evolve. We can now go into the lab and do it in five minutes. So what is fascinating to me is this speeding up which has been going on throughout the whole history of the universe. We see it now in our own lives. The future is going to continue getting faster and faster and faster and faster. What we now consider changes which happen in ten years, in ten years' time will be happening in maybe three years, and then faster than that -- six months, and faster. We can see it now with computers, information technology, how that is speeding things up. And the reason this happens is each new invention makes it easier for the next step to happen.

MISHLOVE: So even though we're not necessarily expanding the human life cycle very much at this point, we're cramming an awful lot more into every lifetime.

RUSSELL: Right. We have already experienced more change in our lives than anybody else has ever experienced, and we will experience in the next ten years more change than we've experienced so far. And it's going to keep on like that. And to me there are two fascinating implications of that. One is, where's it all going? Because if you start charting it out, the curve suddenly goes vertical after awhile. It gets faster and faster and faster and faster and faster, till change has gone from like millions of years to thousands of years to decades to years to months to hours to minutes. It's getting faster and faster and faster.

MISHLOVE: Well, there are obviously some limits here. I mean, we have only so many resources on this planet. And the other, I think, crucial issue here is that change in and of itself doesn't mean that things are getting better. It doesn't mean that we're moving towards any sense of goodness.

RUSSELL: Well, I think change, the actual form of change, is going to change, if you like. And that has happened already in the past. We have change in terms of matter; in the beginning it was matter that was changing. And then as life evolved it was organisms, life, that was changing. Now, in our society, we as human beings haven't physically changed. What has been evolving over the last few thousand years is human culture, and what we're seeing is human culture has been accelerating. We're seeing now the acceleration of our technological culture. But it's moving in a certain direction, and I think we're not going to continue to see the acceleration of technological culture. What we're going to see is that acceleration is going to move into a new area, a new form, which is our own self-understanding. It's going to be the acceleration of our conscious evolution, is the next change. It's that which is going to be happening in months and days, rather than external change.

MISHLOVE: It seems to me that many people are now in a position in their lives where they can say, "I have everything that I've ever wanted. What good is it doing me? What is really meaningful? What are the things of true value? How can I find them? Where do I look for them?" It's not going to be in the acquisition of more possessions, particularly when we can see the social and ecological cost of that acquisition.

RUSSELL: Yes. And that's what all that's happening at this current time is pushing us towards. We can see that we know we're trying to do things faster and faster. Why do we want to do things faster? Why do we build freeways to get from one place to another faster, or build planes that go faster? We have this belief that if we do things faster, we will accomplish more, we will achieve more, we can have more. And what we're realizing today is we don't need anything more material, and we have to ask ourselves, what is it we really want? And I think underneath everything -- and this applies, I think, to every single creature in the universe, every human being, every single creature -- we are looking to avoid pain, avoid suffering, and to put ourselves in a more peaceful, enjoyable, happy state; you could call it happiness, peace of mind. But this is our basic, most fundamental motivation -- to avoid pain and suffering, to feel OK inside. We're actually looking for an inner state. If you're hungry, for example, hunger is unpleasant. You eat because having eaten you feel better; that's why we eat. That's why we do anything we do. We go to the dentist; we may not like it, but we have the belief that we won't feel so much pain in five years' time. So we're continually seeking to avoid pain and feel better inside.

MISHLOVE: That inner state might be the equivalent of real wealth in some sense.

RUSSELL: I think it is. I think that is the ultimate wealth. That is the kingdom of heaven we are looking for, that inner state.

MISHLOVE: And I suppose philosophers have debated over the centuries, you know, what is that inner state? Is it simply being happy, or does it involve some sort of deeper level of joy and satisfaction than the mere sort of satiation of our desires?

RUSSELL: For me I think it's an inner peace that comes from itself. It's not just the satisfaction of desires. It's a peace which is there within us, which I think we block the whole time. And I think particularly in our society today we block it in several ways. In the previous program we were talking about fear. I think all the time we have fear in our mind -- fear of other people, fear of insecurity, these things -- we can't be at peace, because almost by definition a mind that is wrapped up in concern and worry cannot be at peace. So part of being at peace is learning to let go of those fears. So that's why I think we have to do the inner work to find that peace.

MISHLOVE: Well, I suppose if you look at the human species, there is a kind of restlessness among us. Some of the thinkers that I've interviewed talk about the human being as a being of many minds competing with each other for attention and wrestling -- there's this internal tension always going on. I suppose that's why we built cultures, and gorillas perhaps did not.

RUSSELL: Well, I think there are two reasons we built cultures. One is we have language; we can share our experiences, our knowledge of how to do things in the world. And combined with that we have this little thing here, a thumb, a fully opposable thumb, which is a beautiful instrument for manipulating the world. And you combine those two things -- a species which understands the world it lives in, understands how things work, and then can start playing around with it -- and you have this incredible creative species. And naturally we turn this incredible creativity to try to make things better for ourselves, try and be more at peace. To begin with, that may have meant building better caves for ourselves to shelter from the storm, developing agriculture so that we didn't starve in the winter. And then we did various things like that to make life more comfortable. And then along came the Industrial Revolution, and we discovered we could do all these other things. We could take ourselves out of the field, out of agriculture; we could begin to produce central heating systems; we could look after disease in a better way. I think what's happened over the last hundred years is we've become so enamored by our technological power that we can do almost anything we like. We believe that if we're still not happy, it must be because we haven't got enough, we haven't done enough.

MISHLOVE: We need a pill.

RUSSELL: Yes. And that's the trap we've got into.

MISHLOVE: Modern psychologists, especially the humanistic, transpersonal psychologists, suggest that we've become alienated from our own deepest nature. Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychiatrist I refer to often on this program, wrote a book titled Modern Man in Search of a Soul. We in some sense have gotten so involved with the trappings of civilization that we've lost touch with some very, very essential part of ourselves, and the acceleration of technology would seem to be accelerating our alienation in some way.

RUSSELL: Well, I think our whole culture is accelerating it. Our culture does not want us to look within. There's that beautiful line from Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson; he said, "Society is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members." It doesn't want us to understood ourselves. And the belief system that runs our society is so -- "Don't bother. Inner? No, it's just an illusion. Consciousness is something that happens in the brain; we don't know. What's real is the material world. If you're not happy, do something -- buy a new product, get a new relationship."

MISHLOVE: Whoever dies with the most toys wins.

RUSSELL: Yes, and that's what our society is telling us. To find our soul, we've not only got to begin to look within, we've got to buck the whole trend of our society. We've got to have the courage to say society's got it wrong. It was great when we were starving in the fields; we needed to do something to improve the quality of life. Now we have all that we need physically -- I'm not talking about the whole world, but most people in Western culture don't starve. There are some, unfortunately, yes, who are on the streets. But most people have the food, the shelter, the water they need, the clothing. What we are missing is not more physical things; it's something inner. But our society won't let us see that. It keeps on telling us, "You're missing something outer. You're missing the latest model of sports car, or the latest refrigerator, or the latest TV game," -- whatever it is.

MISHLOVE: Well, do you see any reversal?

RUSSELL: Yes, yes. I think what's happening today -- and it's happening in the more affluent areas of Western society -- is people are realizing that this doesn't work. They're beginning to say we need to look within. I think you see this in the whole growth movement, which has flourished over the last twenty, thirty years -- humanistic psychology, these sorts of areas, people beginning to explore themselves -- say, the therapy movement, people who feel, "I need to understand myself better."

MISHLOVE: If as a culture we were to invest as much money in our own inner awareness as we have invested in just one small area, military technology, it would be immeasurable what we might achieve.

RUSSELL: Military technology at the moment, we are currently spending something around one trillion dollars a year on so-called defense. A fraction of that could be applied to self-understanding, psychological experiments, understanding how we get trapped in our fears, how our attitudes get stuck, how we judge other people, how we lose touch with our own soul. It would take a minuscule amount of money, and that would change the world far more than any military budget. But you try telling a politician that.

MISHLOVE: I'm trying to figure out whether you're feeling optimistic or pessimistic. It sounds like you're optimistic about what could be done.

RUSSELL: Yes. People often ask me that one. I'm not optimistic in the short term. I think there is no way out of what is coming. I think we have messed things up pretty badly on this planet, and we're in for some pretty heavy times. But I'm optimistic in the long term, because I think what we are coming up against is a learning experience, and the people who are already turning and saying this isn't the right way are the heralds of something new which is to come, a new way of thinking, a new way of operating. But I think in the short term -- five, ten, fifteen years -- things are going to get worse. I think we're going to see a lot of crumbling of our society, and that is going to be painful. But I believe out of that something new can arise which is a much better way. We'll have learnt from the mistakes of the past. But maybe we have to go through the pain to learn it. You know, the same thing happens with an individual. You tell an individual, "If you keep living that way, eating that sort of diet" -- whatever it is -- "you're going to get sick." And maybe it takes the person having a minor heart attack or something like that to cause him to say, "Uh-oh; the doctor was right. I need to change." And there have been many people saying we need to change, and we're going on the same insane way.

MISHLOVE: And I don't think it's going to benefit anybody who may be listening to us right now to know that a couple of guys here say we have to change. But how easy is this kind of change?

RUSSELL: It's actually, I think, very easy, but it requires a lot of discipline and time. It requires the willingness to look at oneself, to begin to understand oneself. And we've talked a lot about fear. A very simple thing to do is whenever you notice yourself behaving in a slightly strange way -- getting angry at someone, you can't quite work out how, or saying something you didn't mean to say, upsetting another person -- just to stop, pause, and say, "What was going on there? What was my fear? Ah, I feared, you know, they might run away from me, or something, or leave me. Is that a very realistic fear? No." You know, you begin to just dispel these fears. That's a very simple thing you can do. When we find ourselves making a judgment on another person -- this is a bad person, or this is a nice person -- we're not actually seeing the person as they are. And to begin to spot that and see it happening in ourselves. There are little things like this which we can do, and the benefit of doing that is that our own life changes, that our own life becomes more enjoyable, more peaceful, and we begin to become more compassionate and loving to other people -- which in itself is valuable, that we actually experience our own life differently. But then there's a spin-off into society, that we become a more integrated, more compassionate member of society. And as more and more people do that, that is how I think society will change -- not from government saying, "Thou shalt explore thyself," but people realizing that that is the way to find the peace and joy and fulfillment that we are each looking for, and that we've come to the limit of finding it externally.

MISHLOVE: You've been a student of the world's spiritual traditions. You've even written a book, a translation of, I believe, the Upanishads.

RUSSELL: The Upanishads, yes.

MISHLOVE: One of the great spiritual writings of the East. Do you feel that in this day and age those ancient traditions can sustain us through the changes that we need to transform through?

RUSSELL: I don't think so, no, because I think those traditions were right for that time that they arose. I think what is happening today is the recreation of a new tradition. I think we are going through a global spiritual renaissance, which is something that hasn't happened before. In the past the traditions arose because one individual arose, having realized the answer to how to live life, and spread it to others. Today something different is happening on the planet. There's no one individual -- there are many, many spiritual teachers alive today, but there's no one Buddha there teaching the whole world. Instead we have millions of people, all together learning and cross-fertilizing each other -- like we here are talking; I'm learning from you, you're learning from me, people are learning maybe from watching what we're saying. You read a book; you learn something. Somebody has a conversation with somebody in a bus about themselves and their own learning. We are learning from each other the whole time, so we're all teachers to each other. And that hasn't happened before, and it hasn't been possible before. I think it's through our communication technologies, the ability for me to come into a studio with you -- this wasn't here a hundred years ago. All this is accelerating the process. So I see we're going through a religious revival, but one that isn't with any particular leader, and that is unique. And I think it's important that we rediscover that wisdom in twentieth-century terminology, language, metaphors -- not the language of India three thousand years ago, or Iran two thousand years ago, or whatever -- but in terms of our culture, now. Because I think the wisdom is timeless, and we need to put it in contemporary terms, not past terms.

MISHLOVE: Well, classically spiritual teachers say that the deep voice of spirit or of intuition is the still, small voice within. You seem to be suggesting that this still, small voice within could start to play a larger social role -- that we could acknowledge it; we could speak of it publicly. It could become part of the acceleration of time itself.

RUSSELL: Yes, absolutely. I think this is what's going to accelerate our culture more, as more and more people begin to tune in to that. And that's why I think every spiritual tradition has meditation as a part of the tradition in one way or another. And meditation is a way of stilling the mind, stilling all this verbal thinking that goes on, this voice in our head which is telling us what to worry about, or should we go, what to buy, what's on our shopping list, and don't forget to do this, and oh dear, did I do wrong yesterday. It's that voice in our head which keeps us out of touch with ourself, and that's why we need to learn how to still ourselves -- which is even harder in a world that's getting more and more hectic. There's a paradox there; we have to learn how to be still in a world that's going crazy in terms of acceleration. If we can do that and get in touch with that inner voice, I think we all have within us an incredible source of guidance which we can draw upon to guide us through the complexities of this world we're living in. I think we're going to need that guidance more and more and more, because the old guidance, the world we've grown up in, isn't working.

MISHLOVE: Guidance from within -- Peter, I wonder if you could amplify on that.

RUSSELL: I think we have this inner voice; we have this wisdom. And for me it's about how we see things. It's not guidance of how to do things. What I ask for guidance in myself, I don't ask, "What should I do? Should I do this or should I do that?" because if I do that, I can't distinguish between what I call guidance and garbage. I don't know whether it's my own stuff, my own ego, telling me I should do something, or not. The guidance I ask for is how to see things. If I'm in a difficult situation, I quieten my mind, I meditate, and then I just ask myself, "Is there a different way of seeing this situation?" If I'm having a difficult time with a person, I'm in some kind of argument, or things aren't going well, can I see this situation in a different light?

MISHLOVE: We often get so locked into positions it's hard to imagine that anybody in our position would ever see it differently.

RUSSELL: And in that situation what tends to come up very often is realizing that here is another human being; they aren't as awful as you think. It's another human being, so just like me he's looking for love, looking for peace, looking for exactly the same things, but because of their past happens to be doing it in a way that conflicts with the way I'm doing it. There's nothing wrong with them; we just happen to have different pasts, different experiences. But fundamentally we are all the same. We are all creatures looking to be more at peace, looking for love in various ways. And it's that guidance of how do you see things that for me breaks it. If I ask, "How shall I handle this person?" the ego comes in, "Oh, do this, do that." If I ask, "How shall I see this person?" I get back in touch with a spiritual perspective, a much more loving perspective.

MISHLOVE: Peter, you've written a book called The White Hole in Time, and it refers, I think, to this kind of possibility for a new inner awareness taking place in these times. Can you amplify on why you call it the white hole?

RUSSELL: It's actually a double, almost a triple pun. There's one sense which is the acceleration of time we were talking about, the acceleration of change; it's going towards this point of infinitely rapid change, and I call that a white hole in time because it's similar to a black hole in space. A black hole forms through a process of acceleration of a star. It goes from millions of years to thousands of years' process to tens of years, and it goes faster and faster and faster, and the black hole forms in about fifteen minutes. And the same thing with our evolution, we're going faster and faster and faster and faster. There's a parallel there. But also I use the term in a different way -- that consciousness is like light, and the white hole in time is ourselves. Our innermost self I do not think exists in time and space. Our bodies exist in time and space, and our senses exist in time and space, and all the time we identify ourselves with the world we observe around us, our consciousness is locked into time and space. But I think ultimately consciousness is outside of time and space. It's an illusion that it's in time and space. So we are like I -- not Peter Russell -- but I think we call it I, the unique thing that we all have, that sense of consciousness -- is outside of time.

MISHLOVE: I am that I am.

RUSSELL: Yes. That is the hole in time we have to step through to step out of time, to realize that eternal being, which is the eternal being in all creatures, all conscious beings.

MISHLOVE: It almost suggests -- I'd like you to comment on this -- something akin to the fundamentalist notion of the Rapture that will come, when all will be filled with the spirit of the Lord.

RUSSELL: Yes, yes. I think you can find the same teaching in all religions, or similar teachings. It's how they get misunderstood. We were saying in the earlier program about how things gradually get distorted over time and decay, and I think that happens with all spiritual teachings. So for me it's not so much going back and saying what do these things mean, but what is actually happening today? Yes, the Rapture, I think, is for lack of some sort of premonition or prophecy of this time we are heading towards now.

MISHLOVE: And yet there's this delicate point of is this going to come from our choice, or is it going to come as an act of grace, or is it some sort of historical inevitability?

RUSSELL: I think it's all of those, because we are part of history, and the choices we are making right now are not sort of inevitable, but we are part of the process. We were talking about how we are beginning to realize that material goods aren't the answer to everything. In a sense it's inevitable that any culture that got very materialistic would sooner or later reach a point at which it realized that was not the answer to everything, and that it needed to make that choice to begin to explore itself. That's on the macro level. We could say the same thing happens in our own individual lives. We're going to reach points which are inevitable sooner or later. The actual timing we may be able to predict, but sooner or later these changes are going to happen. It's like if an egg gets fertilized, sooner or later it's going to be born.

MISHLOVE: And I guess, in these crucial moments, my hope would be that people listen to these words -- that if enough people commit themselves to being agents of positive transformation now, perhaps we can avoid some pain that would otherwise be inevitable.

RUSSELL: I think we can certainly reduce it, yes. I think the more we tune into ourselves, the more we hear conversations like this -- and there are more and more conversations like this, not just happening on television or video, but in the streets, in books, in newspapers. It's a trend in our society.

MISHLOVE: Peter Russell, it's been a great pleasure sharing these two half-hours with you. Thank you so much for being with me.

RUSSELL: Thank you. I've enjoyed it immensely.

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