by Charles Eisenstein

The Age of Separation, the Age of Reunion, and the convergence of crises that is birthing the transition

Technologies of Reunion


Cyclicity. Abundance. Connection. The money system and economy that embody these qualities of water will give rise to a new mode of technology as well, one that is no longer an agent of separation. Because we have so long associated technology with the qualities of fire—separating, purifying, consuming—some of the new technologies that will define the Age of Reunion we might hesitate to even call by that name. Others will seem mundane or even archaic to us today. There will be a revival of technologies thousands of years old, mixed with new inventions so unexpected as to seem miraculous. A common theme will unify this melange of low and high technology: all will rise from—and contribute to—the economics, science, and mentality of Reunion that I have described.

Who knows what heights green design and organic agriculture could reach with the full backing of a different currency and a different conception of the human role? What will happen when the trillions of dollars and millions of scientific careers currently devoted toward armaments turn to other purposes? Who knows, when there is an overriding business incentive to do so, how many industrial products and processes will be replaced by ecological alternatives? Who knows what the marriage of tradition and technology will bring to bicycles, to gardening, to sailing ships, hand tools, edible landscaping, fiber production, and farming?

Aspects of the restorative economy are already appearing today, in fits and starts. Wind is the fastest-growing source of electricity. Here and there buildings are going up that are net energy exporters. BMW is building cars that can be disassembled and the parts reused; Matsushita makes washing machines that can be completely disassembled with a single screwdriver.[28] The trend is especially evident in agriculture, from Wes Jackson’s permaculture to the movement of thousands of organic and small farmers away from the factory production model. Most of the technologies of the restorative economy exist already and have existed in some cases for decades. All that is missing is the cultural and economic context: the structural incentives to reward sustainable technologies, and the spiritual revolution that will end our dualistic alienation from nature.

Concurrent with the resurgence of many “low” technologies will be the continued development of certain trends in high technology. For example, the storage, distribution, and manipulation of data will continue to demand less and less of a physical substrate. It will require less and less energy as well. Even nanotechnology, whose inflated promise I derided in Chapter One, will produce new wonders. We will not, however, conceive of nanotechnology as a new level of domination over nature, but as a new arena of intimate, cocreative partnership, motivated by beauty not profit. (Or actually motivated by both, as the two will no longer be at odds.) Again, I do not advocate the abdication of our human gifts of hand and mind. Only the motivation, and therefore the direction and application, of technology will change. We can expect continued “magic and miracles” from technology-as-we-know-it.

Some of the science-fictiony scenarios of future communications technology correspond remarkably to the shift in the human sense of self I have described. We can look at cell phones and instant messaging already as a form of telepathy. These technologies, after all, allow us to share our thoughts with other people over a distance. The dephysicalization of communication media could make such communication even more direct, to the point where we could indeed have access to large parts of each other’s minds. Let’s go through one of these scenarios, ignoring for now its truly Orwellian implications. Imagine that instead of a keyboard and mouse, implanted data input devices were directly linked to neurons so that we could type (or point and click) at the speed of thought. (Crude prototypes of such devices already exist.)[29] We could also upload to a computer archive any thought we wanted to remember or make available to other people. Meanwhile, we could receive messages with implanted devices that automatically stimulate auditory and optic neurons. Words, voices, and images would flash through our brains from an external source. But what is external? Wouldn’t these collectively-accessible data banks be an extension of our own brains, of our own selves—an extension shared with others, a common mind? How would the boundaries of self change, when our private thoughts are no longer private, and the voices and images in our heads might come from somewhere else?

When the linear technologies of certainty and control retreat to develop in their proper sphere, the way will be clear for other kinds of technology. What would a technology look like that were not rooted in the ontology of the discrete and separate self? Like the technologies of water, it would utilize connections that our present delusion of separateness renders invisible to us today. These connections are mediated not just by water but by electromagnetic fields, by DNA, and by vibratory media presently unrecognized or unexplored by science; yet they are foreshadowed in principle by 20th-century science: by the observer-dependency of quantum mechanics, by the spontaneous organization of non-linear systems, and by the cooperation and interconnectedness of all life on earth.

This mode of technology seeks human growth not by dominating an external environment, but by exploring and reifying the true vastness of what we actually are. The next stage of human development will come about because we stop resisting it and allow it to happen, not by engineering reality into some new and improved shape. This is a difference in motivation and conception, but not the end of science. The best of science will remain: the humility of the Scientific Method, the curiosity and wonder that drives it, and the awe and the mystery that sanctifies it. The goal will be different though. In contrast to the ideology of ascent described in Chapter One, which seeks to control what is by knowing what is, future science will seek to know what should be. It therefore will require a knowledge of ourselves and our rightful place in nature. In this regard, it will draw from the new paradigms of biology described in Chapter Six, in which environmental purpose helps determine the evolution and behavior of the individual. It will draw as well from the primitive ritual sciences and shamanistic technologies, which sought a reconnection with the natural order and not its domination.

For the natural order is far greater than we imagine it to be. I am not suggesting a retreat to some brute existence where we content ourselves with smelling the flowers and listening to the birds. Wait, let me take that back—there is far more to the scent of flowers and the songs of birds than we realize! What we label “nature” is an important key to unlocking human potential that few people today can imagine.

The scents of flowers. . . did you know that there is a sophisticated, highly nuanced technology that uses the “vibrational” essence of flowers as an agent for psychospiritual healing and personal development? Dismissed as New-age hooey, flower essence therapy, aromatherapy, and related modalities have tens of thousands of adherents in North America and England whose primary texts exhibit an emotional sophistication and internal logical cogency that defy facile dismissal. They are part of a resurgence in herbal medicine that appeals to a connectedness between the human and plant worlds that goes beyond known biochemical relationships. I especially recommend the books of Matthew Wood, Stephen Buhner, and Eliot Cowan for their placement of herbalism into a vaster, non-reductionistic paradigm. Conventional science, to the extent it recognizes the effectiveness of herbs at all, explains it reductionistically in terms of the direct linear effects of this or that “active constituent”. But as Wood, Buhner, and Cowan convincingly demonstrate, plants work as well through mechanisms that, for lack of better understanding, we can only call “energetic”, “vibrational”, or “magical”. And this “lack of better understanding” is the hallmark of a science in its mere infancy, hinting at a future science of magic, energy, or vibration that is to present efforts as a supercomputer is to an abacus.

Another technology of Reunion that produces astonishing results through a harmonizing with, and not a domination of, nature is biodynamic agriculture. Derided by some for its seemingly mystical elements, it is another infant technology that even its most ardent proponents are barely beginning to understand. Together with more mundane technologies such as permaculture and more mysterious technologies such as the intuitive gardening techniques developed by Machaelle Small Wright, it holds the promise of a ?garden earth?. I was about to call it a ?cocreative partnership between humans and nature?, but the true potential is greater than that. It is the release of the divide between human and nature, between the domestic and the wild. We can envision an agriculture that incorporates all the characteristics of an ecology rather than seeking to resist them.

Besides water, biological chemicals such as DNA, enzymes, and pheromones are also media of interconnectedness. They act together to transmit information from one part of Gaia to another, one part of any ecosystem to another, one part of an organism to another so that each component can fulfill its function in the greater whole. If we human beings are to do the same, it stands to reason that future technology would fully develop the capabilities of each of these media. I am not talking here of “genetic engineering,” which attempts to subvert DNA to narrowly-conceived human ambitions—the program of control on the molecular level. I refer rather to the untapped, even unsuspected, genetic potential already present inside us and our symbiotic partners (all of life, including viruses). Sequestered amid our “junk” DNA lies dormant coding for capacities few can imagine today, awaiting the appropriate “switches”—stimuli from the somatic or external environment—to become active.

The biosphere is a treasure-trove of genetic riches that we have barely begun to explore. It contains the means to achieve purposes undreamed of. Paul Stamets did not genetically engineer his mushrooms to detoxify toxic waste—those capabilities existed already. He is merely a student and a steward of a marvelous Nature. His work, and the work of horticulturalists for thousands of years, suggests a different conception of technology—to receive the gifts of the earth and pass them on. That is the “spirit of the gift” applied to science and technology. It is not a passive receiving though. Careful observation, insight, and patient work are necessary to discover these gifts. The difference is a trust in the fundamental providence of nature that makes control-based technologies such as genetic engineering unnecessary.[30]

I just input “DNA activation” into my search engine and got 120,000 listings, a veritable cottage industry utterly outside the bounds of established science. Much of it is in the highly subjective realm of intuition, angelic channeling, and so forth, sometimes dressed up in flimsy pseudoscientific jargon. I find it more authentic when they don’t pretend it is science. I was especially disappointed when I looked into Gregg Braden’s “God Code” and found one egregious abuse of mathematics after another in his proposition that our DNA encodes text from the Old Testament of the Bible. “Disappointed” is the word, not contemptuous, because on the level of poetry and myth, Braden is speaking some important truths. He is speaking to the innate sacredness and limitless potential of life. Underneath the New Age dross in this and related areas like biophotonics and bioenergy, there is valid insight and in some cases even sound scientific research.[31]

Pioneers always get something wrong. Keep in mind that these technologies are in their infancy. Not just DNA but all of our biology harbors untapped potential that can be applied to healing, creativity, and the fuller participation in our cosmic purpose.

Another aspect of our interconnectedness with each other, the planet, and all life is electromagnetic. Once thought to be an insignificant epiphenomenon, the noise of the machine, the electromagnetic fields generated by our brains, hearts, organs, and indeed every living cell are now recognized by a few visionary scientists to carry information to which all life responds. Already, medical pioneers are exploring how to apply this principle to healing through a proliferation of gadgets you can find on the Internet, most of them backed only by anecdotal evidence. Given this unexplored realm of electromagnetic communication that interweaves every living cell, the standard control-based response would be, “How can we take advantage of this knowledge to exert more powerful, more precise control over reality?” In the Age of Reunion, the response will be to become more attuned to the ocean of being in which we are embedded. From that attunement will arise knowledge, such as that we label “intuitive”, that would seem supernatural to our present way of thinking. Corresponding to that knowledge will arise undreamed of ways to communicate with each other, with plants, animals, disease organisms, and even our own organs, tissues, and cells. Technologies are already emerging that amplify or clarify this communication; among them are the Feldenkrais Method, EFT, Spinal Network Analysis, applied kinesiology, and numerous “energy” modalities.

While scientific orthodoxy generally rejects the conclusions I’ve shared above, they are at least plausible in the sense that they appeal to known physical forces. A responsible scientist might say, “Well, it could be true but I doubt that it is”: irresponsible conjecture but at least possible. Unfortunately, “known physical forces” apparently cannot account for all the phenomena that are observed in alternative medicine, psi, qigong, and many other fields. For example, effects that might be explained in terms of electromagnetic frequencies often do not obey the inverse-square rule. Others apparently violate causality by projecting effects backward in time. I propose that the mechanisms of water structure, electromagnetism, DNA and so forth described above are just a few of the manifestations of a fundamental principle of interconnectedness or holism that will be the organizing principle of future technology.

With the demise of Cartesian objectivity, the intrinsic inseparability of observer and observed has suggests the possibility of influencing reality through focused belief and intention. Experiments at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR) have shown, over millions of trials, a statistically significant observer effect on supposedly random quantum events. Other experiments pioneered by Helmut Schmidt seem to show that this effect can extend backward in time to affect prerecorded data. The HeartMath Institute has performed experiments documenting a measurable emotional response to disturbing photos randomly placed among a series of banal photographs—several seconds before the photograph is actually viewed. Cleve Backster has spent decades investigating how plants exhibit a galvanic response not only to damage to nearby plants, but even to the intention of doing such damage. Then of course there are the numerous studies on the effects of prayer on healing, including double-blinded studies published in top medical journals. These are but the tip of the iceberg in the world of “anomalies research” which I mention here only to suggest a possibility, not to convince you that it is real. I leave that to others! In the interests of honest disclosure: I believe it is real—with a caveat, however. What does “real” mean? It is very difficult to define real apart from the objective reality “out there” of the Newtonian World Machine. In fact, all the phenomena I’ve touched upon in this chapter, and many I have not discussed, are notoriously elusive in the laboratory. The more rigorous the controls, the less visible the phenomena, inviting the conclusion that they are but artifacts of sloppy procedure. The most dramatic effects are anecdotal and impossible to verify, experimental results are often not reproducible, the conventional wisdom of thousands of practitioners merges into the placebo effect in the strictest double-blind studies. This elusiveness is a central feature of the phenomena and the key to understanding them. For now, just ponder what “real” might mean in a world that is not objective, where something can happen for me and not for you, where there is no absolute universal Cartesian coordinate system that is the stage for reality.

I mean it: put down this book for a minute and ponder what “real” could mean without an objective backdrop. I’ve been thinking about this almost daily for ten years now and the concept still gives me vertigo.

Curiously, a similar elusiveness has plagued other controversial areas of science such as cold fusion. In this case, the original researchers, Fleischmann and Pons, announced a dramatic result which other scientists were unable to replicate. Or were they? Many actually did get results; others did not. But did the latter follow the original protocol exactly? Some of the laboratories that failed to replicate Pons and Fleischmann’s findings had a vested interest in rejecting them—many were part of the “hot fusion” research establishment. Particularly egregious was the definitive M.I.T. rejection of cold fusion when their attempt to replicate the experiment failed to produce the levels of neutrons that conventional theory predicts. It couldn’t be happening, they concluded. Only later did it emerge that the M.I.T. experiment actually did produce anomalous heat. The controversy still simmers today, with the general consensus being that the phenomenon is an artifact or a fluke. Much of this comes down to the old standby, “It isn’t true because it couldn’t be true—there is no known mechanism to explain it.” However, a third possibility exists. Perhaps cold fusion only works in an appropriate atmosphere of belief, and only works regularly and generally if that atmosphere of belief pertains to the society as a whole. Perhaps we must understand cold fusion, too, as a technology of mind as well as a technology of matter.

Technotopians fondly dream of a new source of clean, cheap, limitless energy—then all our problems would be solved! But perhaps we can only tap into these sources when we have let go of the ideologies of separation that cut us off from the plenitude of the universe. Perhaps our mentality of lack, want, and scarcity necessarily projects onto our energy technology, and true abundance cannot come until we cease trying to enclose reality into a private human realm of ownership and control. In other words, limitless energy sources will come when we are ready for them. Even if individual researchers in cold fusion (and many other “infinite energy” fields) are getting positive results, an ideological force thwarts their broad application. This will not change until our fundamental world view, the mentality of scarcity and separation, changes. I for one am glad we don’t have infinite energy yet!

Well, actually we do. Even if cold fusion, zero point energy, hydrino energy, and all the other infinite energy technologies are fantasies, the current mounting energy shortage is still the indirect result of our mentality of scarcity. Our universe is awash in limitless energy. Imagine that all the money spent on oil wars in the last half-century had gone toward developing wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal power. Imagine that we had a financial system that encouraged the capitalization of future energy savings. We already have the technology of energy abundance. Most of the uses to which fossil fuel energy is put do little to contribute to human happiness. What proportion is devoted to the manufacture of armaments and the conducting of wars? To shoddy consumer goods that quickly end up in landfills? To energy-hungry McMansions in which people are isolated, lonely, and miserable? To running the car-dependent infrastructure of suburbia, in which people are no happier than in compact villages served by bicycle and rail? The green technologies mentioned earlier in this chapter do not detract from our quality of life, and they needn’t await some magical new invention. Yet just as with the more magical “infinite energy” technologies, it is our beliefs that keep their abundance at a distance. At bottom, it is our fundamental belief in the discrete self, separate from nature and from each other, that generates the war, the economic system, the acquisitiveness that consumes the vast part of our energy cornucopia. Many of the ways that beliefs affect reality are quite mundane.

The technologies of mind suggested above come at a price: the loss of certainty. However powerful they are, they cannot be used to impose control over an external universe. Imagine it were all true: that the human mind can in fact bend spoons (and maybe much more), that people can learn to levitate or be two places at once, that cancerous tumors can melt away like snowballs on a hot stove, that people can materialize objects at will, or see into the human body to diagnose disease. And imagine that the scattered stories of such events point to only a tiny fragment of our true potential. A future where the technologies of fire have retreated to their proper place need not be stagnant or dull! But when such technology is possible only through intention and belief, then we must let go of the ideology of the rational observer who sits back and makes observations on which to base beliefs. I mentioned in Chapter Six the idea that it is beliefs that determine observations and not vice-versa as we suppose. If that becomes the foundation of a new science, then the technology arising from that science must also abandon the very same certainty.

In place of certainty, we will have self-exploration, an awareness of choice, and a sense of empowering creativity. Realizing the illusory nature of the self/not-self distinction, the falsity of an independently existing universe “out there”, we will abandon the futile program to force life into a mold of security and ease that is at odds with the deep anxiety and insecurity which gives the program rise. As we step more and more into the realization of our connectedness, our actions will reinforce that connectedness and bring it even further into our experience. Reality will become more malleable to our beliefs, assuming more of a fluid dreamlike quality. Paradoxically, by releasing the mentality of control, certainty, and proof, we will exercise far greater power to determine our experience of reality, choosing what we shall experience rather than impotently struggling against what we have unconsciously chosen.

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[28] Hawken, p. 72

[29] At the present writing, most or all of these are for medical applications. For example, Cyberkinetics Inc. has built an implantable device that allows paralysis victims to control     prosthetic devices. And implantable microchips are now commonplace for a variety of medical and security applications.

[30] The deep problem with genetic engineering is that it tries to impose linear control over something that is highly non-linear. All kinds of unexpected consequences arise from such bumbling. We know not what we do. I think we are thousands of years away from having the knowledge and wisdom to use this kind of technology.

[31] See for example the work of the HeartMath Institute, the International Institute for Biophysics, and the Qigong Institute.

Creative Commons Non-Commercial Copyright2008 Charles Eisenstein