The Global Brain

by Scott London

In his new book, visionary physicist Peter Russell expands on the ideas of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo, suggesting that humanity has advanced to the point in its evolutionary journey where it is poised to make the “next evolutionary leap” — the critical shift from personal to global consciousness.

With the latest breakthroughs in telecommunications and globe-spanning computer networks, we are already seeing the signs of an embryonic “global brain,” he says. “The interlinking of humanity that began with the emergence of language has now progressed to the point where information can be transmitted to anyone, anywhere, at the speed of light. Billions of messages continually shuttle back and forth, in an ever-growing web of communication, linking the billions of minds of humanity together into a single system.”

According to Russell, creating a planetary consciousness also involves transforming individual human consciousness. “Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness,” he says quoting Vaclav Havel, “nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as humans, and the catastrophe toward which the world is headed — the ecological, social demographic or general breakdown of civilization — will be unavoidable.”

The consciousness crisis we find ourselves in today, he observes, can be attributed in part to the Enlightenment view that the universe is composed of loosely connected and distinct objects. The notion of ourselves as atomized and separate individuals, combined with the cultural belief that we will find happiness by changing the world around us, is one of the critical dilemmas we face today.

Echoing the point he made in his book Waking Up in Time (see review), Russell argues that we need to break out of this mindset and develop a consciousness of ourselves as part of a grander system. The basic wisdom already exists in the spiritual traditions of almost all cultures. The challenge at the dawn of the 21st century, Russell says, will be to tap this wisdom and embrace it, rather than simply speak it.