Like Daniel Pinchbeck in our last issue, Jonathan Bethel's views fall within the latter category.
Jonathan Bethel is the Director of the Omega Point Institute, a futurist think tank, consciousness research group, center for spiritual studies, and singularity watch group that studies the relationship between human consciousness and the accelerating trends within science, technology and culture. In a word, Jonathan is a singularitarian. His shamanic name is Seshua. He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia where he is recovering from an automobile accident that broke his nose, right ankle, his right shoulder, and all of the ribs on his right side, collapsed his lung, and put him into a coma for just over a month.
NEOFILES: We have had some lively discussions with advocates of transhumanism, revolving around technology, humanist philosophy, politics …yet you are only the second person that we've spoken to who seems to advocate these expansions of human attributes as a spiritual or religious path. Do you think your vision is isolated, or are there more people out there thinking along these lines? And explain a little bit about how you see the techno-scientific alteration of humanity as a spiritual process.
JONATHAN BETHEL: Searching the World Wide Web, I have not yet encountered other individuals with a similar perspective. Although, I figure they must exist, on a planet with 6.5 billion people. As we approach this ultra-novel event, it will begin to take on spiritual and religious qualities for people. A lot of the talk about the Age of Aquarius and a "new age" of spirituality has to do with the realization of the divine man within. I believe you will begin to see groups gather around the concept of this awakening.
A lot of our religious material, especially prophecy, has to do with the awakening of super-humanity at a specific time in the future. If a technological singularity is really going to occur, then it has always existed on the temporal landscape; it has always been accessible to any shaman who is able to alter his or her consciousness and view the time continuum. This is exactly what John of the Island of Ptamos saw prior to scribing the Book of Revelations. We can look on it as a new heaven and a new earth, or as the idea of a New Jerusalem. I think all the talk about the second coming is about the realization of the transhumanist man.
Also, Aleister Crowley's concept of the Age of Horus depicts this current environment, as in "The unveiling of the company of heaven" and "Every man and women is a star." This has yet to occur, but if the singularity happens, our own divine natures will be revealed. In "Keys of Enoch," J.J. Hurtak describes the release of material man into a whole new reality, a fundamentally spiritual event. Also, Nietzsche foresaw the realization of the Übermensch, or super-human. It is obvious to me that we have been glimpsing this attractor for some time. Of course, I can't imagine what great minds will achieve with nanotechnology, faster-than-light technology, robotics, or super chemistry.
Will history end when the Mayan calendar ends, in the year 2012?
Science is also skirting the edges of the twilight zone; a unified field theory appears to be within our grasps. There is even a doctor experimenting with a time machine capable of sending particles back in time. And then there is our genetic understanding, such as the human genome project and cloning.
As we approach the singularity, I foresee a shared reality transmitted through a virtual reality type of technology, with all participants, likely through a wireless linkup, experiencing the inside of a Matrix, where everyone can participate in ongoing ritual and worship.
NF: You're site has some materials on the 2012 idea. This meme has been spread by Terence McKenna and by Jose Arguelles that humanity will go through a radical transformation, a sort of singularity, in that year. The notion is based on the Mayan calendar, McKenna came to believe this as the result of a long psilocybin mushroom experience. With all due respect to psychedelic visioning, why should we believe or even consider this? What is the epistemological evidence for believing this?
JB: It is strange that when Terence McKenna arrived at his date, he was unaware of the Mayan connection. Like McKenna, I believe that psychedelics allow us to see multi-dimensionally. So the fact that he distilled his Timewave from a shamanic psychedelic experience doesn't detract from it at all. Society finds all this suspect because it has rejected shamanism. Personally, I've had two visions involving the singularity — popularly called the rapture — utilizing deep shamanic trances. These types of experiences will never make it into textbooks and they are obtained by unorthodox means. That should not negate them.
Aside from that and the acceleration of science and technology, there is no evidence to support this end date, and I don't think we should expect too much. The date makes me think of a cosmic alarm clock; just because it's ringing doesn't mean you're going to get out of bed right away. As Terence was known for saying; all this requires "a hard swallow."
NF: You show some attraction to Rupert Sheldrake's theory of morphic resonance? What would you cite as the evidence for this theory?
JB: There are several points of evidence that suggest Sheldrake's theory. One point is the formation of schools of fish and flocks of birds. It is amazing to watch the formation and movement of these entities. The overall movement of each seems to indicate they are tied to one field. There appears to be some form of order behind all the random behavior. Sometimes during a heightened state of mind, one can almost merge with these morphic fields and get into mental sync with the flock. It is obvious to me that the world is structured around hive minds. I believe everything in our universe, even apparent randomness, follows some sort of higher order. Synchronicity exemplifies this order.
There is also the strange awareness of homing pigeons; they have that uncanny ability to find their way home from just about anywhere. It is equally odd that a dog can travel vast distances to find its way home. In addition, it is also known that pets get restless and anxious when their owner's are very close to home. In my opinion, this is evidence to suggest that some animals perceive hyper-dimensionally.
On a human level, the silence that falls over a crowded room seems to be an instance of morphic resonance. It is as if some form of group intelligence hushed the whole room simultaneously. It is very telling that we say, "Will you get off of my wavelength" when
Someone says what we are thinking. I think we have an innate understanding of all this; unfortunately, we seems to have lost our true connections to it somewhere in our past.
One of the main criticisms of the morphic theory is that there is no medium upon which information can resonate. This is a reductionist criticism that ignores the quantum inseparability principle - information can travel vast distances instantaneously.
NF: Could you describe a bit more your shamanic experiences in seeing a coming singularity? What was the methodology and tell us more about what you saw?
JB: I smile mischievously! I must say, I really don't want the public getting the wrong idea about me, especially about shamanic power plants. So, I'm a bit hesitant. I'm sure you will handle the description in an intelligent and gentle manner.
These two experiences of the omega point/singularity were the exception, not the rule.
"I think all the talk about the second coming is about the realization of the ranshumanist man."
Most people knew me as Seshua, the shaman. Shamanism was always a very important part of my worldview. I would describe myself magickally as a Thelemic-Shaman-Kabbalist. I mainly utilize chaos magick. For 18 years, I have been into any method that brings on a deep trance state. For me, these included: meditation, pranayama,
sleep deprivation, sex magick, hypnosis, concentration, brain-wave synchronization - otherwise known as light-sound goggles, etc. … In my opinion, the most powerful catalyst that brings on paranormal effects is the various shamanic power plants. They create the elixir par excellence!
These two incidents go back a bit in time. The first happened in June 1996. I was still dating Neysa Wentworth. We decided to go camping and enter into the archaic mode of mind. Timothy Leary had died about a week before. I took my shamanic drum and my Tibetan bowl to the campsite. After we set it all up, I gathered some of the shamanic power plants in that area and prepared them. I began drumming and chanting, as ego death progressed, I talked to Neysa about Timothy Leary, immortality, and Osiris. As I told her, I could feel and sense information fields coming together and coalescing. I heard the familiar crumpling sound in my head. Then I heard some sort of blast, an auditory hallucination that sounded like a concussion. All of a sudden, I was inserted into a pure field of gnosis. I then uttered, "We don't really die!" I could actually hear Timothy Leary chuckling in my head.
This gnosis was beyond anything I had ever experienced. I had the unmistakable sense that mankind was evolving toward an elevated plane, and I was getting a preview of that development. It was as if I was part of a future rapture. This is before I ever researched the omega point or the technological singularity, although I was aware of Terence McKenna's notion of infinite novelty in 2012. I kept telling my revelations to Neysa. I would tell her that we needed to wake up from the primordial sleep that has grabbed all of humanity.
I told her most humans were walking around totally asleep. I realized and understood how death was conquered utilizing genetics, super-chemistry, nanotechnology, cloning, and the uploading of human consciousness to computers. It was as if the universe was communicating directly to my soul. Its main points were that humans could overcome death and they would arrive at divinity. I had the sense that we were to be connected to everyone we ever cared for, like a cosmic instant messenger… I contemplated how mathematics was to reveal it all, especially the dawning of a unified field theory…
I understood how we were just holographic projections into a 3rd dimensional manifold. I even spouted off some formulas in my mania.
The best way to describe it is to call it an understanding. This seemed to be something I knew in a very close way, a gnosis.
I couldn't maintain the trance; it was too much for me to process, and I lost lucidity. I came to about an hour and a half later. I was left realizing that I had witnessed something truly magnanimous. I firmly felt as if I had witnessed a future moment of transcendence and graduation for myself and the whole of humanity. It was as if we were lifted to a new order of being. I began studying and researching fervently. In my research, I came across Vernor Vinge and his concept of the singularity. Mathematical probabilities now described what I witnessed. This deep trance allowed me to be aware of the future evolution of mankind. I believe Tielhard was right when he says that evolution is destined to arrive at an omega point. I concluded that this singularity or omega point is ingrained into the genetic archives of humanity. It is a dwell point and strange attractor that has existed on the temporal landscape the whole time.
Any shaman can voyage through this genetic archive/morphic field/temporal landscape. They can travel either forward or backward thru time. The journey does not always happen in a controlled fashion; many times the shaman gets taken on a random ride into the unknown and sees a variety of evolutionary content.
I have been present when an atavism from the past wells up and takes over a group's perceptions. It is like a template is overlaid over reality, and the perceptions are all filtered through that paradigm. I remember when a whole group of individuals I was a part of saw suckers and aquatic features in everyone present. I also remember the time that we all saw the various forms of vegetation exhibiting their own communication dishes, a cone-like extension that seemed to be a part of the vegetation. If the genetic archives can show you things from our evolutionary past and other possible outcomes to evolution, why couldn't it also bring you information about our
I had several more shamanic voyages into the fractal frontiers, yet I never achieved the same gnosis as I did in June of 1996. Then, on Halloween 1998, my then girlfriend and I gathered at her sister's house. We prepared the shamanic plants to everyone's liking. It worked very well, and things got very strange. Then it happened! Again, I heard a sound go off in my head, like a concussion. I was launched into divine gnosis. I understood that we would achieve divine status. I had the repeat impression that we were undoubtedly going to conquer death. I felt very divine and all the anxiety about my life drained from my body. I told everyone sitting around us about my revelations. They just thought I had lost my marbles. I said, "No, really! We will overcome death in the next century. Nothing can stop it.... We are all baby gods waiting for our divine nature. That is the reason for our existence." I then explained a bit about the 8 circuits of consciousness, and how I was receiving information from the 7th and 8th circuits. I was having trans-time and quantum/atomic experiences, a realization of the Adam Kadmon, the archetypal man. The gnosis lasted several hours and it faded away. It was a much more enjoyable experience than my previous trip to the singularity.
"I believe that psychedelics allow us to see multi-dimensionally."
These two experiences were so profound that they have changed my perceptions forever. Since that time, I have become an avid futurist and transhumanist.
NF: In our interview with Max More, he said: "I have seen attempts, past and present, to infuse religious elements into transhumanism.
If that means introducing claims that are, in principal, impossible to refute by logic and experience, then I continue to maintain that they conflict with the foundations of transhumanism. Any worldview that results from that mixture is a memetic monster."
JB: I both agree and disagree with Max More. I believe most religions contain some reflection of the coming of transhumanism in their utopian aspects. The dogma and control of today's world religions mixed with transhumanism could be a mimetic monster.
Transhumanism will have a strange impact on our perceptions and awareness; consequently, I can imagine post-singularity technologies married to a current religious ideology becoming a very destructive viral meme. If we are stuck with the guilt-based control built into many of today's religions, a merging could breed a meme of control,
hysteria and tyranny. However, one cannot plummet the imperium of the imagination without bringing back some token of magick and divine thinking. Through the form of the transhumanist human, we will be capable of manifesting materially whatever we are
Experiencing mentally. So it's very difficult for me to separate a superhuman from a godlike human. From a human perspective, they both appear to involve the impossible.