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On Prophecy and Time

A Trialogue: Part Three

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, David Spangler, and William Irwin Thompson

Yes, David, I agree that a Gaian Humanity is a necessity, and I see this as co-evolving with a new physical biosphere—even earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can be expressive of that. Mayan Clouds

In this, however, I think, I am more catastrophic than you are (or were?) and see this as similar to the anaerobic/cyanobacteria oxygen shift that Jim Lovelock talked about in his first book on Gaia. But, of course, that shift was not overnight, so these transitions that occur in a thousand years a frame become rendered by the human imagination into events at 24 frames a second. But these imaginative renderings, of course, are simply movies and metaphors, and not historical events.

I think our lack of a symbiotic consciousness—working in concert with other “Worlds Interpenetrating and Apart”—has caused this current crisis of the climate and biosphere, with its increasing extinctions. Extinction is, of course, part of evolution, so I part company here with our other Lindisfarne Fellow David Abram, who sees the current increase of extinctions as a human mortal sin. I feel he is romanticizing evolution. It is the biosphere that evolves, and not simply species.

I do get the feeling that the Elementals are seeking a dieback in our human numbers because of our thoughtless destructiveness. I remember hearing years ago that native American shamans and kahunas more in tune with the spirit of nature would be willing to invoke natural catastrophes as a form of cultural revenge for Western Civilization’s desecration of nature. You can also see this archetype of revenge in the Edgar Cayce prophecies—as I discussed them forty years ago in At the Edge of History—that they are the White Protestant and rural biblical vision of the destruction of the cities and the most technologically advanced parts of the planet. The meek shall inherit the Earth, and Kentucky and Idaho will look upon Los Angeles and New York as “cities of the plain.

But I think these apocalyptic visions are not so much prophecies as they are what in quantum physics would be called visions of “quantum potential states.” Since our consciousness is also an interactive part of the system, our thought-forms can influence outcomes and become self-fulfilling prophecies. 

I see this process in a movie image. Imagine that the artist, cult guru, or self-promoting prophet is Leonardo DiCaprio on the prow of the Titanic, leaning forward with arm extended exclaiming: “I am the King of the World!” 

What you would see ahead in the future, however, would not be waves rising on a level sea, but an adaptive landscape of whirlpools as “basins of attraction” with all their different “event horizons” bumping up against one another. In a civilization, the captain of the ship and the time-intoxicated prophet are not the same person, so the prophet like Edgar Cayce cannot steer the ship of our civilization toward one basin of attraction over another. In his state of visionary excitement, the prophet can make predictions and give dates to iron out a complex system into a linear temporal one. So Edgar Cayce predicted that Atlantis would rise in 1968, that New York would be destroyed by earthquakes in the nineteen-nineties, and that the Eastern seaboard would be inundated around 2000. This kind of error is a “category-mistake” and is endemic to fundamentalisms of any kind—Christian, Islamic, or Marxist. I remember a Jehovah Witness at the windswept corner of Bloor and Avenue Road in Toronto passing out The Watchtower magazine with its cover proclaiming the end of the world for 1984. Recently another Jehovah Witness knocked on my door to warn me that the end of the world was coming in 2012 and that they were going to hold a rally for it here in Portland this year and would I like to come.

Fundamentalism is a disease of consciousness, like aphasia, in which metaphoric language is taken literally. Aphasic people are often incapable of abstract and generalized thinking and can only describe things specifically and literally. The fundamentalist condition is like someone so literal-minded that he tries to bottle the blue of the sky. But every time he corks his bottle and looks at it, he sees his bottle is clear. In despair or anger, he buys a blue bottle and tries to convince others in his state of cognitive dissonance that he has now captured the blue of the sky in his bottle.

A myth like the Apocalypse is a horizon and not a location, so if you run toward it, it moves away. In the same way, the blue of the sky is not a thing, but a relationship between two energy streams, solar and earthly atmospheric.

So all these basins of attraction in front of us, when, in the terms of the title of your new book, we “face the future” as Leonardo DiCaprio does on the prow of the Titanic, are quantum potential states. How we interact with God, angels, jinn, and elemental natural forces will determine which quantum potential state is activated. So even God, in his gift of free will and freedom to us, does not know how it will turn out. But as we approach one basin of attraction over another, when we encounter the event horizon, then the quantum potential state collapses into a classical system of physical causality. At this point we get the linear events of human time. The cultural transformations of macro-time become infolded into discrete fractal events. The tsunami or earthquake strikes, and we sense that an age has come to an end and something new has just begun. On the positive side of things—to be less catastrophic—it is like falling in love with someone at first sight: an entire future romance and life takes on the configuration of a single face.

Although I recognized my future wife Beatrice at first sight at the magical “power point” of Cluny Hill in Findhorn some thirty-four years ago, even at a distance of one hundred yards or more, I have to admit that “the Magic of Findhorn” has not been enough and that Findhorn animism has not served to right the cultural imbalance generated by industrial pollution. So I feel that a more catastrophic transition seems more likely now, a bumpier ride than might have been the case had we transformed ourselves decades ago. Perhaps all old men think this way and it is our way of saying, “I warned you!” or “We did it better in my day!” 

To look on the positive side of catastrophes, sometimes great archangels gather souls into a subtle body when there is a great collective death and create a new world/womb in bardo for their relearning and rebirth. I have explored these visions more in my poetry than my prose, as I did in Hyperborean Passages



Yes, Bill, I think you are more catastrophic than I am, though my sense of the future is that a dieback is coming, but not, I think, in the immediate future, perhaps not even this century (though about that I cannot really say as it’s very hard to configure these intuitions into time, as you rightly point out).

I am aware that there are “factions” in the subtle worlds, with some factions promoting the expansion of human population (though not indefinitely) and other factions seeking a dieback (a few even desirous of our extinction as a failed experiment). Those that seek expansion are those who believe that the sheer mass of human consciousness in incarnation will trigger a “revelation” event, a consciousness shift. However, as I understand it, this shift is not a sudden movement into enlightenment on the part of everyone—that is pure fantasy. But it is an energetic phase shift that allows, even requires, a new Gaian human to appear, much like a certain threshold of heat and pressure produces a diamond from carbon—but not all carbon suddenly turns into diamond, yes?

As for apocalyptic prophecies, I feel that if we want to face the future creatively, then, as I say in the new book, the apocalyptic imagination is like giving yourself a lobotomy. This is my main objection to something like the current 2012 prophecies, which even the native Mayans don’t recognize and even see as one more example of white society appropriating Indian culture. While they make for a fun disaster movie with Woody Harrelson dancing on the lip of an erupting supervolcano that wipes out all of Yellowstone Park, on a larger scale such prophecies and expectations are a distraction from any creative engagement with the challenges that do face us. They diminish us and once again encourage us to give in to waiting for some outside force to save us. It ain’t gonna happen, folks. Besides, almost all apocalyptic scenarios, including at times the seemingly benign ones that only predict a “consciousness shift,” are a thin covering over a darker and uglier face of hostility, hatred, anger, fear, and revenge. Apocalypse is simply a revenge scenario writ large, the dream of people who feel powerless to stick it to a world that has marginalized them.

My non-physical mentor, John, always said there would be “rolling disasters,” each of which would send a shock through the global system but no one of them would push it over the edge. Katrina and New Orleans is a good example of this. He was adamant that there was no great planetary apocalypse descending upon us, and that is still the information that I get in conversations with non-physical colleagues. But a lot of body blows that destabilize the global system and make changes possible, yes, I think we will see that.

The real joker in the deck, though, is human energy and intention. Here there are two major forces at work. There are the large waves set into motion by mass consciousness and habit—which can be very destructive but potentially can be very constructive as well. The problem with these waves of energy is that they possess so much inertia. It’s why, as you say, the influence of a Findhorn doesn’t have a more dramatic effect (not that it’s the only reason, of course). It is frustrating to see on the one hand the increasing documentation and physical evidence of climate change and its dire potentials, and a blind resistance on the part of people, particularly in the United States, to anything that will make them change their world view and lifestyle. But this isn’t an American fault; it’s a human one at the moment. We get into ruts and we stay in them even when they lead us off cliffs.

The other force is the small ripples set off by individuals which, because of the nonlinear dynamical characteristics of the planetary system, can have profound, emergent, transformative effects that can be unexpected. The individual is not helpless. Under the right circumstances, any of us could be the butterfly whose fluttering wings set hurricanes into motion thousands of miles away.

My perception is that there are a lot of individuals all around the world who have come into incarnation precisely for this moment in history in order to be transformative butterflies to create both stabilization on the one hand and transformation on the other. This is why Pir Zia’s work with Seven Pillars is so vital as it holds the promise of stimulating, inspiring and energizing such individuals. However, the very nature of this dynamic is that it cannot be organized into a movement; as soon as that happens, it becomes subject to the larger, mass waves I spoke of and vulnerable to being swamped by older habits. So a different kind of organization is needed, one essentially structured by love and the resonances of the winged heart that can transcend differences and space, and does not need an administrative structure or membership rituals to do its work. It lives in the individual, and it’s the flutter of those wings in the unique phase space of that individual that can work the transformative magic.

These two forces are constantly affecting each other as the influence of an individual shifts and shapes a collective wave for a time, but the inertia of the wave can swamp or dampen out the individual effort. Very challenging. It’s why none of the inner beings I work with attempt to proclaim prophecies. The overall “ecology of time,” about which I write in my new book, is so filled with variables and volatility.

So I see a catastrophic outcome as only one of many possibilities, though perhaps the one with the most energy in its “attractive basin” at the moment. I absolutely agree that not God, and not the World Soul or any of the great planetary or cosmic beings know exactly how things will work out. This is both scary and very wonderful, for it opens up possibilities.

In my own case, I can feel almost every day the resistance of aspects of the world to change, to the invocation of the Gaian Human, and also to what I’m trying to do and bring through in my own work and life, even while I feel support and encouragement as well. I don’t say this trying to claim any particular significance to myself or my work; I don’t think that way, as you know. I can’t claim like the Dalai Lama to be just a simple monk, but I can sure claim with much justification to being just a simple person! 

It’s just an energetic fact that I live with that in many ways the inertia of the collective waves works against the particular task I’ve been given and that many of us have been given. This is one reason we need each other for mutual support and encouragement when the going is rough and the wave seems to swamp us.

However, to paraphrase Pir Zia’s new concept of Chivalry that is part of the Seven Pillars House of Wisdom, the fact that there’s opposition or resistance to what we do, some of it deliberate (and not all coming from the human realm by any means) but most of it reflecting just pure inertia and habit, doesn’t mean that I or any of us don’t press ahead on doing whatever we can to bring the Gaian Human into being and to develop new patterns of incarnation. Heaven only knows, Bill, you have been courageously (and chivalrously) doing this as long as I’ve known you. So did Pir Vilayat, and now, so is his son, Pir Zia.

For me, this means that I need to work with an attitude of success, though not with blind optimism or a denial of the dark possibilities that surround us. Along with my inner colleagues, I have no doubt that the Gaian transformation of humanity will occur not just for a few but for the greatest possible number. I could not do my work otherwise, for it is this attitude of success that gives the energy to proceed. 

There are, as I said, many factions at work, and most of them in the subtle worlds really do have human and planetary well-being at their heart. Then again, some of them have planetary but not human well-being as a focus; and some aren’t working for anyone’s well-being, and unfortunately some of the latter have taken root within humanity. I trust that out of this fluidity and current maelstrom of possibilities, we will in partnership with the Great Ones as a kind of collective or planetary equivalent of your Entelechy sort it out and bring all of planetary life to a good place. 

Blessings, my friend,



Dear David,

Well, I can see that we are not really that far apart, for I certainly agree with John’s description of “rolling catastrophes” as the operative model. Extinction is a thought-form in the ether, as are others, but they are all multiple basins of attraction in the adaptive landscape. Since our consciousness of the system is now part of the system and affects it, everything is unpredictable by its very nature as a complex dynamical system. 

The Dreamtime is an “Everpresent Origin.” Cultural transformations are rendered by the human imagination into events, but they are rarely that. Remember how George Trevelyan and Peter Caddy at Findhorn were constantly saying that the flying saucers were going to land on Pine Ridge very soon—“Surely, I come quickly,” as St. John said of the Second Coming. Neither Edgar Cayce, nor George, nor Peter ever lived to see the events they kept predicting. So Findhorn started out as a flying saucer contactee cult and evolved into something else—thanks to you! And even I played my small part by introducing the ideas of “the planetary village” and ecology to Findhorn and by bringing many of the Lindisfarne Fellows there.

You were brought up on religious traditions of manifestation and positive thinking with Myrtle and others. I was brought up on literary modes of exegesis with their tragic narratives of rise and fall. So, yes, I am a little “darker” than you are; you are vanilla and I am chocolate! And so we can ask Pir Zia to be the strawberry of the pink Sufi heart and have the last word.



Dear William and David,

At the start of his Stoic handbook, Epictetus makes a distinction between the things that are in our power and the things that are not. I find this discrimination useful when it comes to pondering apocalyptic themes. Some apocalyptic scenarios are utterly beyond our control, like asteroid impacts, solar storms or volcanic eruptions. There is no point losing sleep over such things since there is nothing we can do about them.

But then there are the scenarios in which we are implicated, like climate change and the specter of nuclear Armageddon. Epictetus wrote, “Jupiter has not made you dispenser of the winds,” and that was true at the time. But today our consciousness, mediated by technology, melts glaciers and sends hurricanes hurtling across the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Mayan calendar has been generating a lot of buzz lately. What deserves more attention, I think, is the emerging picture of the collapse of the Mayan civilization. According to Jared Diamond, that collapse was the result of overpopulation, deforestation, drought, war, and political inertia. In other words, Mayan history mirrors our contemporary reality with eerie precision. Of course the stakes are incomparably higher today since the whole human species (seven billion people) is on the line. And not only humans: E.O. Wilson estimates that if current trends continue, half of Earth’s animal and plant species will be rendered extinct by the end of this century.

I recognize that the line between what is in our power and what is not can be a blurry one. As you know, over the last several years James Lovelock has become increasingly pessimistic about the chances of averting calamity. His latest book—bearing the ominous subtitle, “A Final Warning”—makes the case that, whatever we may do, a catastrophic climatic jump is now inevitable. 

I always come back to the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Even if you know the world will end tomorrow, plant a tree.” Whatever may happen around us, the choice to live in symbiosis with the visible and invisible beings that compose Earth’s living systems is an act of love and a state of grace. If we become Gaian Humans in our bodies, hearts and souls, whether we flourish or perish we will have been true to our promise.

Thank you, dear and respected colleagues, for sharing your deep insights with me and with the Seven Pillars community. I look forward to further chapters in this conversation.

With every best wish,


On Prophecy and Time: Part One

On Prophecy and Time: Part Two

William Irwin Thompson is a poet and cultural philosopher who has made significant contributions to cultural history, social criticism, the philosophy of science, and the study of myth. Early in his career he left academia to found Lindisfarne, an association of creative individuals in the arts, sciences, and contemplative practices devoted to the study and realization of a new planetary consciousness, or noosphere. Thompson lived in Switzerland for 17 years and describes his most recent work, Canticum Turicum, as “a long poem on Western Civilization, that begins with folktales and traces of Charlemagne in Zurich and ends with the completion of Western Civilization as expressed in Finnegans Wake and the traces of James Joyce in Zurich.” With mathematician Ralph Abraham he has designed a new type of cultural history curriculum based on their theories about the evolution of consciousness. Thompson now lives in Portland, Maine.

Read more about William Irwin Thompson

David Spangler is an internationally known spiritual teacher and writer, and was instrumental in helping establish the Findhorn Foundation community in northern Scotland in the late 1960’s early 1970’s. Since then David has traveled widely within the United States and Canada giving classes, workshops and lectures. His themes have included the emergence of a holistic culture, the nature of personal sacredness, our participation in a coevolving, co-creative universe, partnering, and working with spiritual realms, our responsibility to the earth and to each other, the spiritual nature and power of our individuality, and our calling to be of service at this crucial time of world history. Many of these themes come together in his primary work, which is the development of a spiritual perspective and practice called Incarnational Spirituality.

Read more about David Spangler

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, is a scholar and teacher of Sufism in the lineage of his grandfather, Hazrat Inayat Khan. He received his B.A. (Hons) in Persian Literature from the London School of Oriental and African Studies, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion from Duke University. Pir Zia is founder of Seven Pillars House of Wisdom, and also of Sulūk Academy, a school of contemplative study with branches in the U.S. and Europe. His most recent books are Saracen Chivalry: Counsels on Valor, Generosity and the Mystical Quest and Caravan of Souls: An Introduction to the Sufi Path of Hazrat Inayat Khan, both published by Sulūk Press, an imprint of Omega Publications.

Read more about Pir Zia Inayat-Khan

Comments (8)
  • There were warnings and dire prophecies after the death of Jesus and again around the time of the first millennium. I wonder, after reading your interesting exchange of views, what might be the factor or factors that could really bring us through this time of transition with a change of consciousness.

    — Anne Baring on December 18, 2010

  • Dear Anne Baring,

    Well you yourself have explored previous transformations of consciousness in your book, THE MYTH OF THE GODDESS, as I also did in 1981 with my THE TIME FALLING BODIES TAKE TO LIGHT. The cultural retrieval of the Celtic Triple Goddess in our recognition of symbiosis in the planetary biofilm of bacterial life that supports human culture is one step. This has been beautifully articulated by my colleague and Lindisfarne Fellow, Dr. Lynn Margulis at the University of Massachusetts. The next step is creating a new archetypally feminine “wet biology” to replace towers of aluminum and glass, as has been worked out by another Colleague in the Fellowship, Dr. John Todd at the University of Vermont. His “Living Machines” present a new ecospheric consciousness. Another step has been suggested by the economist Hazel Henderson with her proposal for taxing financial transactions to make the Goldman Sachs of the world less abstract and more embedded in sustaining the world economy. Now they are off-shore pirates. And, of course, the first step is a transformation of consciousness through contemplative practice that underlies the shift from consumption to contemplation, as is being put forth in the work of our Lindisfarne Fellow, Pir Zia. As you can see with the work of all of those I have mentioned—who are all Lindisfarne Fellows—the cultural shift is one of fellowship and not followership.

    I wish you Godspeed in your good work.

    William Irwin Thompson

    — William Irwin Thompson on December 19, 2010

  • Dear William, Thank you for taking the trouble to list the people who are contributing to this change of consciousness in specific ways. An organisation called The Scientific and Medical Network recently held a conference in London to launch a book “A New Renaissance, Transforming Science, Spirit and Society” that I think would interest you and Pir Zia. In it are chapters by 25 contributors including Larry Dossey, Rupert Sheldrake, Ervin Laszlo, Richard Tarnas, Peter Russell etc. The problem seems to be that there are plenty of us who know what needs to be done and even how to do it, but nothing seems to get through the iron curtain that closes off the political/financial, corporate sector of our world. many thanks, Anne

    — Anne Baring on December 22, 2010

  • Dear Anne,

    I know the people you have mentioned and have myself lectured with them at various conferences and institutes. The economic sector is now sealed off, as the Church was from the Renaissance and Reformation, but after the “catastrophe bifurcation,” the sapiental circle may evolve into the the third house of tricameral legislatures—as I argue in my book, SELF AND SOCIETY; Studies in the Evolution of Consciousness. Renaissances are often followed by Inquisitions, and Reformations by the Thirty Years War. Revolutions tend to eat their young and end in civil wars, so an Apollonian long wave of cultural transformation may be better than an ecstatic high of political dismemberment.

    — William Irwin Thompson on December 23, 2010

  • I have been sent this video today and think it cuts through all the thoughts and ponderings we have about this extraordinary time we are living through. I pass it on to you as a Christmas greeting. I will sign off for good now. Anne http:/

    — Anne Baring on December 23, 2010

  • Thank you all involved in this most inspiring conversation. Knowing that Sufism influenced the European Renaissance was a great beginning for me. Once again I feel we are going through such a major change in the world and I feel that Sufism is one of the positive forces in the world today that is influencing that change.

    Living in the eastern beach suburbs Sydney, at the edge of what William has elsewhere called a Pacific Aeropspace Cultural Ecology, I feel privileged to have another perspective on the world. According to Ervin Lazslo, some 35% of OECD countries are now cultural creatives. Paul Hawken, in his book ‘Blessed Unrest’, argues that there are some 1 to 2 million NGOs in the world today. People come to Bondi from all over the world to marvel at the magnificence of the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps they are learning to read the sacred manuscript of nature?

    For me this is the hope! That 2007 could be the International Year of Rumi; that for the first time in world history we see members of most nations meeting to discuss the issue of the environment. This has been happening since the 1972 UN Environment conference in Stockholm that led to the Club of Rome and the book ‘Limits to Growth’. The recent Cancun conference has become front page news of this week’s UK Guardian. In Sydney we’ve now had 3 Wake Up Sydney events and the City Council has developed green policies, as my own local council has. 

    For me this all a sign of the awakening of an integral consciousness, which by its nature needs to be both a grass roots movement and a result of political process. In my research I frame this as an ‘ecology of culture’. As a social ecologist I can see that my fellow social ecologists - and groups in which I’m involved like the Pachamama Alliance, the Dances of Universal Peace, the Peace Ministry Campaign, the Koru International Network, the various Inayati Sufi groups - all reflect a new vision of a sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling life on planet earth in the 21st century.

    — Ben-Zion Weiss on December 23, 2010

  • Wise guys

    thank you for the insights

    — Lisa on December 29, 2010

  • What a delight to read this ‘Trialog’ Pir Zia Inayat-Khan is a soul of deep compassion. His face is clear and readable. Few people reveal themselves so clearly in their gaze. I am certain his mother was deeply spiritual and a visionary and his father a wise and gentle man.

    — Richard Williams on January 26, 2012

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16 December 2010

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