“The Word ‘Apocalypse’ means ‘uncovering’ – and in these last clock ticks of this world age, all must be revealed, uncovered, so that all can be known” -From Daniel Pinchbeck’s 2012: The Return of Quetzacoatl
On the walk to and from everyday, I pass the doomsayers of NYC: people elegizing in subway stations or pontificating on scratchy microphones over the amorphous crowds. They spout words of damnation and condescension, giving out pamphlets to solicit our guilt. To their surprise, I take a pamphlet whenever they find me. Although I appreciate their boldness and have a sincere interest in eschatology, nothing makes me fumigate more than people damning anonymous pedestrians to an invented hell. Here’s a passage from one of their packets describing the end of days:
“In Romans 3:10 the Bible declares: ‘There is none righteous, no not one’…God must obey His law and therefore, if all the people of the world are sinners, He finally must destroy the world.”
If God made a world that’s inherently evil and sinful, and if he must follow his law and destroy the world that sins, then is not God structurally at an odds with himself, seeking his own destruction? Of coarse these prophecies can be rationally refuted, but does not this apocalyptic sentiment speak to something bubbling in the waters of collective consciousness? Here, the desperation of street preachers is psychologically telling: false prophesies often seek their own fulfillment. Like priests who flagellated themselves to appease the absent creator, the apocalypse pundits subconsciously yearn for the paternalistic punishment and catastrophe that they claim to be saving us from.
In this age of uncertain futures, the ambiguity and uneasiness that comes with globalization and ecological shift breeds fundamentalism and nationalism: fear-based ideologies that deem their own interpretation of God worth dying and killing for; schools of abeyance that curb the evolution of the individual for the safety of an institution. However, there is a scattered yet growing population of spiritual orphans and eccentric seekers who take the numinous seriously but are lost in a world ancient dogmas and new age commodity. And here is where luminaries like Daniel Pinchbeck come in.
As a young freelance journalist in 1994, Daniel was deemed one of “Thirty under Thirty” who would change the course of our culture. Now as a veteran documenter of spirit, Pinchbeck is neither doomsayer nor gainsayer, and not to be pigeonholed with the New Age inane. He doesn’t promulgate junk science or an oversimplified devotion to positive thinking, and he forgoes the hauteur of the dogmatist for the curiosity and agility of a journalist-philosopher hybrid.
Pinchbeck’s new book Notes from the Edge Times is a slight departure from the subjects he explored in his first two books (Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl) which primarily investigate prophesy, psychedelics, UFOs and shamanism. Now he takes a somewhat more Marxist (almost Zizekian) slant on where culture should head in the midst of socio-economic collapse. According to Pinchbeck, human culture has reached a precipice where we must permanently puncture the bubble economy and break the cycles of our current social stasis, a time where we need to evolve and adapt or face extinction as a species: “we actually need to build the scaffold for the new society and value system while the old one melts down. I find that most people from the older generation share this blind spot. Many artists embrace the culture’s destructive tendencies, even glamorizing the dysfunctional characters who emerge from our cynical doom-spiral state. We tend to dwell upon the muck, rather than use art to envision and inspire the way out of it” (p166).
Although I emphatically agree with Pinchbeck’s core mantra – Evolve! – I understand critics who point out that Notes from the Edge Times simply restates this same message over and over again in different ways, albeit in beautiful and compelling ways. He provides numerous examples, anecdotes, and aphorisms, but all his writing circles around a mystified endorsement for spiritual evolution and a general discontent with the modern capitalist ethos. For me, Pinchbeck is the perfect writer to augment one’s own undertaking of this so-called ‘Great Work,’ the emptying of the ego to enter into a confrontation with the unconscious, the gateway to the numinous, the higher Self. As Pinchbeck describes “The Self doesn’t give a hoot if we drive a fancy car or score with supermodels, and might even prefer to smash delusion of the ego to incite deeper realization.” However, for those who haven’t regenerated after spiritual self-decimation (or breaking open the head) should note that Pinchbeck’s writings are a supplement and not a supplanter for such experiences and journeys. Like Jung, he’s the type of spiritual thinker who deters people from becoming clones or fanatical disciples. For example, in one of the book’s chapters, Pinchbeck confesses that “I have taken as my personal mantra the not very transcendent phrase, ‘I don’t know.’”
“Some theorists propose that we have reached a point in evolution where we have the capacity to consciously co-create reality, and choose our own script for the future, this feels fuzzily plausible to me. On the other hand, our past actions and intentions have created the reality we experience now. It seems highly unlikely we can phase-shift to hyperspace, the fifth dimension, or what ever it is, until we have learned how to take proper care of this material world, and those who share it with us. Although maybe I am wrong and we will get a free pass. I just don’t know.”
This chapter captures the essence of Pinchbeck: an honest and brilliant writer who filters through an impossible nebula of information and experiences, assembling it all into prose and accepting none of it as objective truth. Spiritual inquiry desperately needs this quality of ciphering, decrypting, and deconstructing. We should longer accept faith alone as an intellectual or spiritual strength. In these days of apparent rapture, too many have turned towards divisive factions of thought out of fear. Here, we need to scratch at something new, beyond duality, something beyond the excess that capitalism necessitates for its own economic distention, beyond its Darwinian behavioral deadlock, and definitely beyond the hellfire soothsayers that crave paternalistic punishment. Many open hearted individuals look to the horizon in yearning for a new renaissance of perception, where we shed our ‘us versus them’ mentality for a new global awareness, a paradigm that avows the radical equality of all earthlings. We need Pinchbecks now more than ever.
I emphatically endorse that people read anything in Pinchbeck’s oeuvre; however, while Notes from the Edge Times provides enlightening commentary and critiques of today’s cultural and spiritual climate, it ultimately forsakes the force and otherworldliness of his previous works for a more pragmatic world view and perspicuous style of writing. If you want to read DP at his most prolific and pure, I recommend Quetzalcoatl.
Tags: 2012, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, Apocalypse, Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism, Daniel Pinchbeck, New Age, Next Age, Notes from the Edge Times, Queztcoatl, Review, today