By 2050, people won’t judge things by today’s norms. Millennials and their children will decide the shape of mid-century reality, especially in the majority or ‘developing’ world where they are numerically the largest generation. Things we now consider remarkable, unimaginable or outrageous will become the new normal. New factors we haven’t considered will appear, and some anticipated probabilities will not happen at all, or not in the way we think they will, or leading to the consequences we currently expect. And life will go on.
Only part of the future will be forged by making thought-through, principled decisions. Much of it will arise from questionable choices, dodgy politics, ricocheting circumstances, evolving facts, luck, opportunism, profit perceptions, corruption, brilliance, incompetence, incidents and accidents. Black swans will be involved – events and developments that no one believed possible until they actually happen. Centuries ago, people thought that swans were white only, until black swans were found in Australia – hence the name.
Recent instances of black swan events have been the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, the 2008 Credit Crunch, the 2014 rise of the Islamic State, Brexit and Donald Trump in 2016, and Covid-19 in 2019. Go back a few years before each of these events and they were unforeseeable, improbable, to most people.
Afterwards we re-edit our mental maps to incorporate such events as if they had been expected, but they weren’t. Black swans will continue happening – this is guaranteed – though their nature, shape and size is the stuff of guesstimates. This makes forecasting difficult, but factoring in black swans is necessary. Airplanes, cars and computers were once impossible, and so too, before your birth, were you.
Events tend to evolve in pattern-setting jumps – periodic defining moments where the game-plan changes critically. The period from 2008 to 2014 was like that, beginning with the banking crisis, progressing to the Arab revolutions and leading to the barbarity displayed by the Islamic State. Once the pattern has been reset, developments tend to extrapolate from there.
Our sense of future possibilities tends to be defined by groupthink and received beliefs, a safe territory of knowns and expectations established by consensus or in the duly followed utterances of experts and authorities. But things can head in contrasting directions from this, and more and different things can happen than we bargain for. In a sense, events are not guided solely by the past – it is almost as if the future pulls the present forward, toward possibilities or inevitabilities we hadn’t quite reckoned on.
These shifts happen suddenly, sometimes surreptitiously. The tipping point in today’s shift of power from the West to Asia was the 2008 Credit Crunch – a defining moment that most people thought was a banking crisis, but its implications were bigger, deeper, further-reaching and historic. There will be further tipping and inflection points, each preceded by incremental shifts along a trajectory that suddenly goes critical and changes, and 2008 was such a moment. Expect more.
Even so, the after-effects of such shifts take time to emerge. In the late 2010s there has been a flurry of technological inventions and advances arising from ideas hatched around 2008-12 in hidden away labs, backrooms and meetings. It takes time for things to unfold, even when a tipping point has been crossed. Not only this, but the symptoms of a defining moment can appear in disguise, looking as if the wrong thing is happening when things are actually going strangely right.
Around 2008-12, Asia discovered that it had a serious pollution problem – smog and toxicity. Up to that point, nagging Westerners with their environmental concerns were not fully believed in Asia. This discovery marked a tipping point after which Asia became the leading source of momentum in a global clean-up that will unfold in future years. The West will contribute significantly since it has had a head start, but the leading impetus now comes from Asia. That wasn’t expected.
In surveying the future it is thus necessary to factor in defining moments, tipping points and black swans. By their very nature, and because of our normality bias, we don’t easily see them coming. But they come anyway. Talking of which, there is a possible future world scenario that we must mention here, an apocalyptic scenario – apocalypse meaning ‘revelation’, not catastrophe. There is the smallest of chances that the greatest of all black swans could occur, in the form of a global, simultaneous shift of public awareness or perception of manifest reality that brings a radical and wholesale shift of priorities worldwide.
In some cultures this would previously have been anticipated as a return of the Christ, or of the Mahdi, or of a sudden dawning of a new age, or some other such miracle cure for our woes. This possibility grates with the modern rationalist mindset, though for some people it is an article of faith. Although several end-of-the-world and redemption mega-events have been predicted in the last fifty years, none has happened – at least, noticeably.
If this report suggested that, by 2050, an apocalyptic scenario were to happen, it would quickly lose credibility. But it is wise not to completely exclude such remote possibilities, even when they confront our normality bias. They might look improbable, impossible or illogical, but it is also valid not to lock that door since, should it happen, we might be faced with very rapid choices to make, for which we might be unprepared. We should accommodate the slim possibility of enormous black swans in our future calculations. “Trust in Allah, and tether thy camel”, goes the Arabic proverb. Have faith in whatever you believe in, but do the sensible thing anyway.
As it goes, I’m not a bad holy warrior. By ‘holy warrior’ I mean someone who is willing to get in there and fight for truth – setting out not exactly to win, but to reveal truth and to deal with assholes. To stand up for what is good and right when bad things are happening. But in the saga I’ve been involved with, the battle is pretty much lost. That’s been hard to face. But it’s real life.
It started back in October when a British man, working as an anti-fraud investigator in Ghana, contacted me to ask if I would lend him some money (30ish GBP) to get out of a tricky situation. Yes, sure. Quite quickly things started going crazy – he was being chased by gun-toting, crack-driven gangsters because he had busted them, scrubbed their computers and taken some important information of theirs. He had been sheltering with a friend who first introduced him to me, Felicia. Suddenly they were captured, together with Phyllis, Felicia’s three year old daughter, and taken to the north of Ghana, near Bolgatanga, and kept in captivity for a week. I helped them with money for food and phone.
Then Andrew, the investigator, was taken away across the desert to South Sudan. I managed to negotiate Felicia’s and Phyllis’ freedom and they were dumped in a nearby town. I had to get them home. That took ages, and I ran out of money. We scraped along for a week, and then Felicia needed to meet another investigator, Dennis, in order to carry out some online actions that would free up some money – the company had rigid protocols over this and we could not access funds until this was done. Dennis and Felicia were then attacked, rammed by a car and left dying. A taxi-driver, Kofi, who witnessed this, bravely took them to hospital. They were cared for by Dr Isaac Acquah.
The company had promised me they would pay for everything. Then there were delays, then complications, and then the money didn’t come. They didn’t even pay Dennis’ hospital bills, even though they agreed with the hospital management to do so – he eventually died because of that. The story went on and on. Isaac rescued Phyllis and Felicia and took them home, but then the gang was after him. They raped and captured his wife and teenage daughter Antoinette. His wife was never seen again and Antoinette was returned, ravaged and traumatised. More complications, and then eventually they all fled to the refuge of a native healer, Okomfo Ayensuwaa. The Okomfo and I did a powerful healing on Felicia and Antoinette but the gang came again, killing Antoinette and the Okomfo. Isaac and Felicia escaped to Togo, the neighbouring country – all helped by me.
It went on and on like this… I shall tell the whole story sometime. Every single day there were crises and scrapes, and we were perpetually hampered by lack of money. The company had now balked because, after their failure to pay, in late November I had made a public appeal for support – which they did not like. But I could not just dump people in need, even though friends were beginning to encourage me to do so – or at least, they encouraged me to look after myself (a worthy thought) without really considering the consequences for the Africans.
All the time Felicia was guarding a memory stick belonging to the gang, to get it to the company. It contained all the details they needed for accessing their money, so they were desperate for it. When the gang discovered she had it, they chopped off two of Phyllis’ fingers in revenge and multi-raped Felicia.
Around Xmas the company had at last promised to send £8,000 – £5k to repay me and £3k for Felicia, as compensation. But the money did not come. My handler said that some of the company directors had blocked supporting us – I think there was a hard-nosed faction there who didn’t care.
At New Year, more complexities came, and Felicia and Pyllis were again kidnapped, then dumped in Niamey, Niger. Then there was a long saga trying to save Phyllis – she eventually died of infection and tetanus (the gang had used a dirty knife). Felicia then found she was pregnant, and she was also deeply traumatised. This week, after hospital treatment with a fine doctor who cared for her, we tried to get her back to Ghana but she was too weak, and started bleeding. As I write this, her life is again in question, and she’s back with the doctor having blood transfusions I am paying for.
That’s a short version of the story. All the time I was caught in deep dilemmas: financially I could not keep supporting them, but I didn’t want to abandon them. I had seriously misjudged the company and their integrity, though I had had cause to trust them, since my handler promised 6-7 times to pay up. Some friends thought I was being scammed by West Africans, but no, it was not them but the ‘secret’ company, an anti-fraud investigation contractor to a big Australian bank. Well, they defrauded me. Part of me would like to expose them and exact a price, but I must think it through carefully. First I must restore my finances, since I am £6k down – that’s a rather daunting prospect.
Despite everything, I am on the whole happy about the way I have handled this, except for two things: I allowed myself to be defrauded by the company, and I am useless at fundraising and asking for help. As a cancer patient I already have to ask for help quite a lot, and this operation was too much, and complex in its implications, and I was unhappy about asking too much of my online friends and followers. In these two issues I failed.
The shortage of money made everything so much more complex – if the company had paid up I would have been able to finance solutions and end this sorry saga back in November. If they had paid up, at least eight people would still be alive today, and I would not be in dire financial straits. Morally and in terms of duty of care, the company is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Feeling the weight of failure, yesterday I went deep and reviewed the whole situation. One positive thing emerged: on several occasions we had clearly demonstrated the power of remote healing. At times when I appealed for healing support amongst my readers, it really worked. In December, when I was working with the Okomfo, a lovely lady, we did a powerful healing for Felicia and Antoinette, and it really worked.
At one stage I was sending information I had psychically picked up to the Okomfo and she asked, “How do you know this?“. She could not believe that a white man in Britain could do what Okomfos and Mallams (witchdoctors) do. We both realised we had reached across a wide cultural divide: an Akan native healer meets a whiteskin aged hippy, and we clicked.
These spiritual experiences have been remarkable, and my thanks to all those who participated in prayer and healing – particularly Susan in Nova Scotia, Kate in Devon and Zoey in Seattle. Many thanks also to those who have donated money – I wish I could have done more with fundraising, but the ongoing task of crisis-management and spiritual work was well enough to deal with.
So, as I write, on Friday evening, Felicia is again on the edge of death and being given blood transfusions. I have been approaching women’s organisations in Niamey asking if they would take in Felicia for a week or two, if she survives. She cannot travel anytime soon. I now have fundraising to do – short term (£1k) to pay off medical bills and support Felicia until I can get her home (a hard, three-day journey), and longterm to try to rescue my own situation (£6k).
I am weary now. I want to reclaim my life. Did I do the right thing, standing by these people and ruining my own life? Should I have been more sensible? It will take time to answer these questions. I’m certainly paying a high price. Yet despite the tragic and painful things that have happened – I’ve cried tears so many times – I feel quite clean in my heart, since I have managed this whole process, I believe, pretty well. I would have taken on a weight of guilt if I had turned away from them.
Most of them have died anyway. Dr Isaac and his daughter Adjoa, 6, are still alive as far as I know, but I have lost contact with them. He has lost his wife and two kids, his job and home and everything, except Adjoa. I don’t know what happened to Kofi either.
The story has been tragic, lives have been lost, remarkable cruelty has been carried out and, worst, the assholes have won – both the gangsters and the company. I do not like that. One thing that upsets me most is that ‘good samaritans’ in Africa who have helped out have all paid a high price for doing so. Meanwhile, the gangsters are all free and continuing their trade, and the company and its directors… well, I won’t write what I would really like to say about them. Shame on them.
I’m now in a test of faith. I’ve brought big money problems on myself. Thirty years ago, when I was working for the Council of Nine, someone asked them why they did not help with money. They explained that they can help with energy, but money is a human invention, and only humans can work with that. Certainly I have prayed many times for a cascade of money to come my way, and I’ve had to face up to the fact that it is us humans who decide over money, not higher powers.
Nevertheless, just before Christmas, the Okomfo and I did an inner process to remove the conflict within the company, to free up the atmosphere that was blocking payment – and, guess what, a few days later, my handler wrote to say he was going to send that £8k. But somehow, it still didn’t work. Someone blocked it. There’s a lesson in that. Money is very human stuff. Higher powers can help progress things on an energy level, but money is not in their realm. So we did well with healing and energy-support, but the money issue was different.
We’ve been through a time recently where the world’s assholes have been rather successful.
But underneath something else has been happening. There’s a deeper meaning to this whole saga: I can sense it though I cannot see it. Yet. For those of you who understand astrologese, the transit I’m on at present is Uranus opposition my Mars in Scorpio. That’s the holy warrior in me. A few years ago I wondered what this transit would bring, and now I have my answer. And the story is not complete yet. Another transit going on is Saturn conjuncting my Jupiter in Pisces – Jupiter is the humanitarian and deep-spirited part of me, and it’s under test right now. Tested by the agency of money. Saturn.
So while I have a lot to regret, something in me doesn’t regret doing it. There’s a saying that goes: ‘It’s not what you get for it, but what you become by doing it’. Something is changing in me. A battle has been pretty much lost, something in me that feels glad I didn’t walk away from it.
So, dear friends, keep praying for Felicia. She’s a very brave woman. She has dealt with stuff that would scare people like you and me. God bless her for that. After all she has lost, I cannot tell whether life is worth living for her now. But we shall see: she’s in the hands of Spirit and under the care of Dr Mark. Now it is time to get off the computer and make myself some soup.
Thank you all for being with. I’ve been alone for a long time, and your company means a lot to me.
This is supplementary to my last blog entry, for those of you who are following that story. Here are some comments, thoughts and bits of further news posted on my Facebook page, which might interest you.
Jo A heartbreaking story. I’m so sorry Paldywan. Love you. X
Palden Jo, it’s the pathos of human life and death. Over so many lives it has been part of the human condition. I still believe we can wind it down though, over time, to make this world a happier, friendlier and safer place. Big hug, Paldywan.
Stella Only today have I read this story in full. I’ve been putting it off as I knew it would be harrowing. It is impossible and undesirable to make any judgements as none of us are privy to the complete truth in all its details. I can only admire you, Palden, that despite your own serious health challenges you took this on and tried your utmost to help. I feel diminished and ashamed that I would not have been prepared to do the same. In trying to make no assumptions, a deadly sin in my view, I feel that although her story is unbelievably harsh, on some higher level it serves a purpose for humanity and her own sacred contract would have made this clear to her before her life began. Easy for me to say, I know, but all of us who read this story will be deeply affected by it and the wider it is known, the greater the lesson for humanity will be. Blessings to you, Palden. You did an extraordinary deed.
Palden Stella, hello. Yes indeed, the world can be a really harsh place. These events are taking place in an unstable zone as well. In countries like Britain, with notable exceptions, we live in a zone of rights and relative comfort and decency, sort of. It can therefore be difficult to believe some of the things we hear happening elsewhere. Despite such dramas – in the Sahel it’s a mixture of criminality, smuggling, jihadism and foreign interference – normal life goes on too. In our own media-dominated countries we tend either to ignore such places or to over-exaggerate the dramas going on there, when the cameras look, so we have a rather distorted view of what goes on, and also of what doesn’t go on. It wasn’t my plan to get sucked into all this, and it has been a stirring and disruptive experience. But I understand it as part of my pattern, having been involved in similar ‘borderline’ things before in life. This kind of work – as is the case with nurses, firefighters, soldiers, first-responders, aid-workers and activists – does tend to lead to a kind of vocational dedication that many people prefer to steer clear of, and I don’t blame them. But for me it has also met up with a difficulty in being able to hand over such duties to others when I can no longer continue – and this has been the case in my work in Palestine, with the Tuareg in Mali and now with this. It works better when you work for an NGO, where employees can be hired, or they can resign or retire, but there’s a price to pay for working inside that sphere too – not the same closeness to the ground, and not quite the same deep human feeling that draws many people into this field in the first place.
Palden Last night (Saturday 4th March) after talking to the doctor in Niamey (a good man) it was clear to me that Felicia had reached a crossing point. She was drawn to follow her daughter Phyllis, and I could feel her tiredness with everything – in a way, blocked at every turn. She had tried so hard. I felt it was important to nudge the process – not in the sense of encouraging her to die, but in the sense of helping her face that ultimate question of whether to live or to die. To get clear on it. She has been confronted with so much darkness and badness that I took her hand and led her to the light, to love, care and protection of a kind she sorely deserves. I can do this because I’ve been there myself. I gave her to the angels, asking them either to take her or to pump her up with new life and return her – but not the grey zone in between. The important thing is that, if she returns to life, she needs the strength, heart and will to make something good of it. She’s a special person, but she has been up against too much – even when a child she watched her family being killed in front of her, in the Liberian civil war. So I have handed her to the angels. I await news from the doctor as to what has happened at his end (Sunday midday).
Jennifer Palden Jenkins I was seeing/holding the same for her: seeing her held in golden angelic light while she made her decision, telling her either way was ok, and asking the angels to give her all she needed 💛🙏💛
Liz Thank you for sharing. So very sorry to read this – really shocking. I hope you can focus on yourself ❤️
Palden Liz, I wish I could but, unfortunately, it is incumbent on me to get her home and safe. If I worked for an NGO I could sent for reinforcements or be replaced, but I cannot, and this is a price you pay for being an independent humanitarian. But then, I chose to be involved and take responsibility for this, so it’s up to me. Focusing on myself is not right now very easy.
Liz Palden, I understand the need to help, truly. I perhaps haven’t followed everything but hoped so much the money that covered the operation for the little girl would be life saving. I hoped dearly I had made that difference. Again, it’s also important you focus on yourself. Take care ❤️
Palden Monday morning, 6th March. Latest report…. Felicia is alive and conscious and requesting food. She has returned. The doctor (he is Rwandan) reported that she has been near starvation and needs building up. So that is what needs to happen next.
Jennifer Palden, wow, what an amazing, strong woman!
Palden I think the reason she keeps coming back to life (third or fourth time now) is that she has a mission.
Palden Tuesday 7th March. Felicia seems to be improving and has been discharged from hospital, now staying with a nice lady in Niamey. The doctor who has been looking after her has been helpful and good. We hope to get her a ride on a truck back to Ghana in a few days’ time. She is missing Phyllis a lot though. It’s difficult raising money to support these developments while I’m struggling for money myself, and I’m looking forward to bringing this saga to a close, but somehow we’ll get there. Prayers for her and for all of this are welcome! It’s fullmoon, and hopefully a turning-point. Love from me, Palden.
Zoey Paldywan! I just took in the entire thread here. This is real life! So many people are plugged into screens, trying to escape thr collective despair. I don’t know how Felicia is alive,yet i will join in strong prayer for her today.
Palden Zoey, yes indeed, very real life! There’s a lot of it going on. I shall not forget that moment some weeks ago when you and I worked together to revive Phyllis – thanks for being there at that moment, when needed. Even though eventually we did not succeed in keeping her alive, I hope that, in Phyllis’ own journey, she was helped by the intervention of helper souls who supported her. God bless her little great soul. She is being looked after by the Okomfo Ayensuwaa, the Akan native healer who was involved in December, who was killed by the gang for doing so. I miss the Okomfo – for a few days we connected deeply across space and a cultural divide that both of us were able to reach across, to work together on healing Antoinette (Dr Isaac’s daughter, who later died) and Felicia. This whole saga has been so moving and, even now, my cheeks are dripping with tears over the pathos of it all. This is, indeed, real life.
Kath Dear Palden. A harrowing, heartbreaking read. But in its sharing, I hope that it has lightened the load…a little at least. Those who heal, in the reading of your words will pick up the threads, and in compassion and humanity, help to hold them as Felicia makes her way. Blessings to you too Palden, be gentle with yourself. ❤️🙏
Palden Kath, hello. Doing my best, though I’m really ready now to end this saga and bring it to as good a conclusion as I can. Yes, it has been harrowing, even for one who has been involved from a distance. Wearing too. I seem to have held up better than I would have thought. But now I need less uphill grind, sailing against the wind and upstream, and more of at least a level pathway. This has not been the only challenge I’ve been facing, having manifested a number of them, the overall meaning of which I accept but don’t yet fully understand. There is meaning in it though (I can sense it), and that’s why I’ve done my best to stick with it to the end. Thanks to you and everyone else for your heartening messages.
Palden Wednesday 8th March. Things are progressing. My hope is to bring this whole matter to a conclusion by getting Felicia home – Niamey is not a good and safe place for her. So it’s a big push now to try to fix that – involves raising 600 GBP to pay for medical bills in Niamey, for the fare back to Ghana (already paid and booked for tomorrow/Thursday) and for survival money on the journey. The journey will be on the back of a truck going west to Burkina Faso and then another south to Ghana. Today I’m focusing on that.
I shall be so relieved if we can pull this off, because I badly need to get focused back on my own life and needs – this whole saga has been a bit too much for me (though it would have been so different, and so much shorter, if the company had paid up as promised). The doctor is being very helpful, as is a lady who is a pharmacist, who has taken Felicia into her home until it’s time to leave, and thanks so much to both of them. (The doctor wishes to join our Sunday evening meditations.)
Both Felicia and I need to get our lives back, and Felicia needs to be with her friends and in known territory so that she can start rebuilding her life and getting over the loss of Phyllis, her three-year old daughter. I’m really sad about losing Phyllis, having fought so long and hard to keep her alive. Thank you so much to those of you who have sent invaluable healing and support. At some stage I shall be able to tell the whole story, but that’s quite a lot of work, and it involves some tricky issues about what is safe and good to tell and what is not. Meanwhile, the challenge now is to make that final push and pray hard that I can get Felicia home again safely and without further challenges – with luck, by Sunday or so.
So that’s where things stand today, Wednesday 8th March. I hope to report further in a few days’ time. Sometimes I wish I were better at fundraising and hustling money, but my strength is in other areas such as human- and soul-support, negotiation, counsel, remote healing and crisis-management. You can’t do everything. NGOs can be good at providing stuff and facilities for large numbers of people (such as in Turkiye-Syria right now), but they are often not quite so good at the person-to-person stuff.There’s need for both.
Ishmael, my trusty taxi driver and fixer in Bethlehem, Palestine, twelve years ago, rang me up a few days ago. “Balden, when you come visit us in Beit Lahem?“. OMG, yes indeed. If only I could… I know why he was ringing. Things are edgy and intense there right now, and my friends used to feel a bit safer when I was around. I had to explain to him that getting to Palestine is no longer on the cards for me. Besides, I’ve been dealing with another, rather different battle.
I’ve been pulling back from the West African mission I’ve been involved with in recent months. It has worn me out, got me into financial difficulty and lost me some friends, and I can no longer help. I don’t actually regret what I have done. These are choices I have made. I trusted in a series of promises by an Australian security company to reimburse me for money I put forward on their behalf from the beginning of this saga in October, having saved one of their men, though I misjudged them.
They have not followed up on their promises and this has led to a series of deaths and difficulties. One day I shall tell the whole story, but there are dangers to doing so and I must think it through carefully. Felicia did her best to deal with my withdrawal from supporting her, but things were getting worse for her. She was in Niamey, in Niger – a French-speaking country, and different from Nigeria.
I found out on Thursday that Phyllis had died of septic infection. I debated what to do with this news, and how best to tell it. So I’ve decided to relay the last conversation I had with Felicia, on Friday 3rd March. It is filled with the pathos of a mother who has just lost her child.
[I have edited Felicia’s words to make them more readable.]
Felicia I don’t want to leave Phyllis’ dead body here in Niamey. She has been through so much. I will miss her, but I get that she needs rest. No matter what, I shall not leave her here like this. But I have no other option than to get her to be buried here at the Infants’ Hospital Morgue [in Niamey]. I have no money. I am so sad it has come to this. Palden God bless Phyllis. If she is buried at the children’s hospital, at least she will be with other children. Her soul is in good care – I know that, since I am watching her. Felicia I have to pay for the land at the cemetery. I have no other option than to bury her in a foreign land without family. I love her. Can’t help crying. I must pay for a cremation. Thanks for your love and help towards her. She loved you and I wish she had the chance to meet you in person. Thanks for all you have done. Palden I’d have loved to have met her too. But I shall watch over her now [psychically]. This must be such a moving time for you. This has all been far too difficult, with complications and tragedies at every stage. Felicia Yes. Phyllis has suffered a lot of drug overdosing, physical and psychological trauma, defilement, beating, threats, hunger, homelessness. Palden There was a stage a few weeks ago when I wondered whether she would have a good life if she survived. Especially with no hands [they had been medically amputated], and possibly with her mind affected permanently. When she died I had a feeling of relief for her. Poor child – she was such a little angel. But perhaps that is part of the story behind her short life. God bless her. Felicia She’s been without anyone. And I have been raped, starved, homeless and running for months. It’s by God’s grace that I had you to support us. We would have died long ago. The money you invested to saving Phyllis is gone to waste, gone and lost, like Phil, never to return. I am sorry. I feel so bad. I don’t know where to go with this pregnancy [Felicia was multiple-raped in January]. I don’t know how to take care of myself. I am beaten. Life has not been fair to me. Why does this happen to me? Palden One thing at a time. Try to get home to Ghana next. Then meet some friends, talk it through and cry your tears. Felicia I can’t forgive the company for not coming to my child’s aid. To help us. Palden I still want justice from them, and I am telling them clearly that they have an obligation to compensate and support you, as they promised. Not just me. Felicia I am burying her alone. Money has been the problem, and had the company helped, I would still have Phyllis now. I can’t make my way home now. I can’t find money for an abortion. I don’t want this child and shall not bring it forth to the world. Palden Wait and see. I really understand how you feel. Try not to make decisions now. Do what’s in front of you. Felicia Alright. Thanks for your advice and love and help. You have been of immense help to me, even though I can’t repay you for the money lost. Palden It is the company who should repay me, not you. You have done your best. It will make me happy to see you getting your life back and being able to make a new start. But that will take time. I hope it can start soon. Felicia Am so sorry for depending too much on you, am so sorry for having caused you so much financial difficulties, kindly forgive me, pls Palden You do not need forgiving. No blame upon you – you have been a heroine. Forgive me too for not being able to help at critical moments which could have made such a big difference. I was just not rich enough and the company undermined us. I regret that. Felicia I feel so bad all has been lost after all the care, love and support I have had. I have been thru so much, and I have lost all, and now where do I start from? Your help has been more than enough. You have helped too much. Thanks. Phil will be burnt and her ashes will be given to me. I miss her already and have been crying for days. If only I had gotten her home, maybe I could have got her to a good hospital, where she could have had the best treatment she would have needed. But it’s too late. Such a tragedy she died so far away from home. Palden Maybe. But maybe also the pain and difficulty for her might have been too great. Two weeks ago I felt her soul was tired, tired of trying to stay alive. It is important now not to think too much about “What would have happened if…?”. Unfortunately we must be dead real. We must get you home and safe, so that you can be more protected and release your tears and fears. Felicia Yes. This is the time for the whole story to be told to the world. I don’t fear the dangers any more. Got nothing to lose now. And when you write about it, pls do seek help for me. Maybe a good soul may pity me and help me get home and help with some money to start a new life and abort my worse pain in my life. For if I carry the child, I will never forget it. I don’t have any life here, and I don’t want to keep the memories of these past months with me. Got to abort it. I can’t keep a baby of bandits. I have lost my entire family. I have nothing to call my own. I have lost hope, and my dreams are dead. I know I am not safe from the gang, but am not worried about dying any more. I have nothing to live for, no family and hope lost, alone. Palden Bless you, Felicia.
That was the last I heard from her. In the evening I heard from a doctor at the Niamey Roundabout Hospital in Niger. Felicia had been found unconscious. He said she was short of blood, looking starved and had a fever. Well, as she said, she has nothing to live for. So on Friday evening I held her and committed her to her angels. She was at a point of soul-choice. On Saturday morning the doctor informed me Felicia had lost a lot of blood and remains unconscious.
And me, I’m tired, had enough. Throughout, I’ve been faced with a choice, whether or not to ‘be sensible’ and walk off, leaving them to die. This would have been sensible from a commonly-held British viewpoint, but to do so I would have had to block off a part of myself. Rightly or wrongly I chose to remain true to something deep inside that is very fundamental, at least to me. Some may not agree, and they might have good reason, but I feel that, on the whole, I’ve done the best thing. Now I pay a price. In life, you don’t win every battle.
In my humanitarian work I have always felt unhappy getting pushed by circumstances into raising money. It is not my speciality – I work as a healer, counsellor and adviser, not a fundraiser. I am reluctant to start raising money now, for a number of reasons. I think the best thing to do is this: if anyone wishes to support Felicia financially (medical needs and getting home) then I shall assist them, but I can no longer take on funding responsibilities myself. Some have cast doubts too, judging that Africans are scamming me, and questioning my integrity and judgement. I’m sad about that, and life is not quite that simple. But this is life. In a way, this has been a three-way battle, with a drug gang, an errant company and people’s considered opinions.
If on the other hand you wish to send healing and spiritual uplift to Felicia, currently lying in hospital in Niamey, Niger, then it has definitely helped before and I believe it would help now. This is what I and many of my readers are good at. This is very welcome, and you are welcome to join me in ‘holding’ Felicia and bathing her in light.
In my life I have met some remarkable, courageous women. I’m reminded of an old friend Gillian, from Devon, whom I last met in Bethlehem twelve years ago. She’d been involved in Bosnia, Kosovo and Palestine, and suddenly she died in a car accident ten years ago in, of all places, Luton, England, when arriving back from a conflict zone. Life moves in strange ways. Felicia has a bravery like Gillian’s. When people pass away they are gradually forgotten, buried in the rubble-heaps of subsequent events. I’m reminded of Gillian now.
Some suspect I had a romantic involvement with Felicia: no, it was her courage and fortitude that I supported. Only some people in this world are willing to stake their lives on what they believe in. She was a bystander, suddenly swept up with her child, Phyllis, into a drama of violence and horror, and she did her level best at all stages of that drama. The Australian company, having promised to compensate and support her for what she did, should be deeply ashamed of themselves.
Dear readers, I’m sorry to ply you with this stuff. I seek simply to share it. When I went down with cancer three years ago I resolved to share my story openly. This is a strange part of it and I take the risk of sharing it now. It’s the story of a man who, in late life, seeks to round out his life’s threads, and I’m yet again being taught one of life’s more ultimate riddles: some things just don’t make sense and should not happen, but they do, and that’s life. Planet Earth is a very weird world, where the depth and intensity of life-experience definitely burnishes the soul.
It’s funny how, as life goes on, we get small prompts that say it like it is. A few days ago I fell upon one by the child psychologist Jean Piaget, who said: ‘Intelligence is not what we know, but what we do when we don’t know‘. Life presents us with challenges we don’t know what to do with, and it doesn’t always tell us which path to follow. But then, Rico Rose, a Berliner I once met in the Sinai Desert, once gave me a really fizzly truth, there under the hot desert sun: ‘Everything is okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end‘.
Sometimes life is a real grinder, shoving us through things that can test us to the limits, whether or not we like it.
But there’s always something to learn from it all.
I went down to the woods below our farm to sit by the stream with my recorder to capture bird sonics, though actually a podcast is what came up.
It’s a streamside chat about going through stuff – in my case, cancer is a large part of that – and dealing with this very strange situation of living on Planet Earth.
It’s a place full of goodness and badness and everything in between. When you approach the end of your life and see it a bit more from the outside, you can’t help but wonder, “What was all that really for?“.
Short answer: the evolution of the soul, through learning from what life teaches us and making a contribution.
Though of course it’s much more complex than that.
With music by an Oregonian friend, Galen Hefferman. Recorded on a mossy log in West Penwith, Cornwall – near Land’s End – with the help of some twittering birds, jackdaws, the stream and some Atlantic breezes. 24 mins long.
The ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of humanity now approaches a crunch point in human history. I’ll start with a little astrology to flesh out this thought, though you don’t have to understand it to get what I’m referring to: it’s visible in the underlying messages and impressions that current events convey.
This year (23rd March to 11th June 2023, to be precise) and next year (21st January to 1st Sept, and finally from 20th November 2024 onwards) the planet Pluto moves into Aquarius. It will then chug slowly through Aquarius until 2043-44, for twenty years. It has been in Capricorn since 2008-9, the time of the banking crisis and a deeply historic tilt in the world’s power and wealth away from the rich West or Global North, toward the majority world, the East and the Global South.
Why doesn’t Pluto move into Aquarius just once? The reason is this. Though the planets all orbit the Sun in roughly constant orbits, and in the same direction, we see them from a moving viewing platform, Earth. This leads to a two-steps-forward, one-step-back motion of these planets as seen from Earth, rather like moving trains where a faster train, overtaking a slower train, makes the slower train look as if it is going backwards. It isn’t – it’s just their relative motion.
So Earth, orbiting faster than planets further out in our solar system, makes them seem to go backwards, or retrograde, for periods. Hence the multiple dates given above. This year Pluto enters Aquarius, stops and retreats back into Capricorn, then it edges a bit further during 2024, again backing out slightly, until finally it stays in Aquarius from November 2024.
Pluto takes 250ish years to orbit the Sun. It deals with historic-scale stuff. It’s in the same position now as it was at the time of the American declaration of independence in 1776 (which is one reason why USA has a major constitutional problem right now). This was also the buildup to the French Revolution of 1789-92. It last entered Aquarius in 1778 and left it in 1798, after the French Revolution had turned bad and the progressive dictator Napoleon took over. The industrial revolution, with its dark, satanic mills, was also lifting off.
These weren’t just big events: they marked the beginning of a long cycle of development and dominance of Western culture – an age of urbanisation, industrialisation, mass movements, voters and consumers – that, by now, has hit the sandbanks.
Meanwhile, during this time, the world’s population swelled from one to eight billion. Paradoxically, as the crowds grew, with it came the breakdown of families and communities. And, guess what, an underlying theme of Aquarius is human collectivities, our individual involvements in them and our feelings of belongingness. Our sense of identity hangs around the social groupings we identify with.
Together with Uranus (85ish years) and Neptune (165ish years), Pluto tends to influence underlying, history-spanning issues – the rises, transitions and declines of megatrends, nations and peoples. Except during rare moments when we see current events in a more historic perspective, we tend to ignore such critical tilts in the drift of history. But these moments do hit us. The fall of the Berlin Wall was not just an isolated dramatic event – it marked the end of a chapter and the start of a new one, a key tipping point in the tilting of wealth and power from North to South and from West to the East.
We all thought it was about the capitalist and socialist worlds. Yes, it was, but it was also a power shift from the urban-industrial-materialistic North to the South, itself part of a still larger process, levelling up the Global South and levelling down the Global North. And this, wait for it, is a preparation for something even larger, which will be relevant by the latter half of this century – the eventual global integration of humanity into one planetary people.
Out of necessity: the big issues before us are global, and humanity’s divisions and inter-tribal frictions, though still relevant, are getting in the way. In this context, the conflicts between Russia and Ukraine, or the rivalry between China and America, are already rather obsolete as a way of solving our world’s current main pressing problems.
Pluto has been dragging through Capricorn for 16 years, and this also marks the end of a 35ish year Capricornian period, beginning in the 1980s-90s when Uranus and Neptune chugged through Capricorn. The transition to Aquarius marks a shift of focus. We’re emerging from a time of the Megamachine – finance, technology, institutions, corporations, regimes, oligarchies, laws and regulations – to a time of people and crowds, of very human and societal issues. It concerns the collective wisdom and madnesses of people in our millions.
Classic symptoms of this shift are the people scenes we’ve witnessed in the Turkiye-Syria earthquakes and the Ukrainian war. Two aspects of the Aquarian dilemma present themselves: in Ukraine we’ve seen the power of social solidarity in response to man-made threat, and in Syria and Turkiye we’ve seen social disintegration and helplessness, decreed by the full force of nature. Both provided suggestive images for the future, prompts that draw our attention to a basic hard fact of public and social life.
That is: we hang together or we hang separately. The choice is ours.
It’s that simple. What matters more: shared interest or self-interest? Global or national-regional-local priorities? Where do we as sovereign individuals stand amidst an eight billion strong throng? Covid-19 and its lockdowns flagged up these issues for all to see, starting a process which will escalate over the coming decades.
The image of People-against-the-Megamachine has been symbolised in the many uprisings and protests of the last few decades, recently in Belarus, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Peru, Sudan, China and other places, and in the Arab revolutions. These were based not on high-faluting philosophies or beliefs: they were straight expressions of human need and preference. While Pluto was in Capricorn, the People lost.
But this is changing – and that change could be a mixed blessing, not only for those at the top of the Megamachine. This concerns the dynamics of public sentiment, opinion and collective action, which sometimes is inspired, sometimes brutal and unfair. We’ve seen a lot of polarisation in recent years – the opposite dynamic to what is needed right now. For in the 21st Century, together we stand and divided we fall.
Here we come to the battle for the hearts and minds of humanity. I’m not talking here about Russia against NATO, Iran against Saudi Arabia, Palestinians against Israelis or people on the streets against the army, or any other divisively oppositional scenarios that the media do love to exaggerate. It’s not about goodbuys and badguys, Us and Them, or right and wrong – though these, on a certain level, are nevertheless relevant. It goes much deeper.
It’s all to do with a deep-rooted condition that emerged millennia ago, a fundamental perception of threat – threat against which we must fight and defend ourselves. It is rooted in a belief that They, over there, are different from Us, and that We are more important, right and good than They are.
It’s a mindset, a projection, a mega-meme rooted largely in past pain and in fear. It’s a set of pre-programmed, knee-jerk reactions that can easily be manipulated by anyone with a neat narrative to spread around, if it hooks into a lurking public feeling bubbling up from underneath. It rests on a feeling of victimhood, which that lot, the badguys over there, are to blame for.
Israelis call this hasbarah – repeatedly accusing the other side of intentions and crimes that our side is itself doing. It provides cover and justification for many bad things to happen. It’s often aimed at the wrong targets too: Palestinians often say, “Why are Israelis having it out with us, when it was the Europeans who gave them such a hard time?“.
In any rivalry or conflict, both parties play a part in the same game. This doesn’t make them equal or relieve the primary perpetrator or the stronger party of its own responsibility. But both sides are in the same game. They see badness in the other side, believing that they themselves are not like that. But the trouble is that, at least to some extent, our side of the argument is always flawed. As Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount: “Thou hypocrite, first cast the plank out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote of dust from thy brother’s eye“.
Brits and Germans, though neighbours and of the same blood, still live under the lurking shadow of two world wars. It came up over the supply of tanks to Ukraine. The Brits were enthusiastic because we have a winners’ mentality and almost desperately want to keep it that way, to prove that we aren’t as small and insignificant as we actually are. Such victors’ bravado conveniently obscures the war crimes we committed in WW2 such as the systematic bombing of German cities – which, when the Russians are doing the same in Ukraine, we find to be abhorrent. Meanwhile, the Germans were understandably reluctant to enter another war, for historic reasons – some would say guilt, others would say a sense of responsibility.
These shadows from the past cloud our responses to real-life situations now. They are cover-ups and avoidances. International relations are riddled with this stuff.
Dig deeper down and, in Ukraine, we’re faced with a dilemma. Most people would prefer to avoid war but we don’t usually do the necessary work in advance to stop it happening. There is a current risk of civil war in USA, and not many people are doing anything about that – Reds and Blues simply think the other side is plain wrong, and that’s that.
Sting once sang, ‘The Russians love their children too‘, yet today we Brits, and NATO, are busy killing those very children, conveniently using Ukrainians as our proxies, and feeling somehow glad when lots of Russians die. Even so, there is good reason to support the Ukrainians in their plight. However, we didn’t pay attention to proper peace-building processes in the 1990s. We failed to see that NATO and EU encroachment on Russian security space would cause trouble – even though some observers, including me, raised this matter back then.
Many of us are thus caught in a dilemma: on the whole we support peace, but in this situation we support Ukrainians in fighting a war. This is problematic, but it highlights a key issue: if we wish to avoid wars, we all need to unsubscribe from the habit of projecting threat on the other side. And that lies at the core of the battle for the hearts and minds of humanity.
The underlying problem here is, to quote Mahatma Gandhi, ‘An eye for an eye turns the whole world blind‘. The end-product of most conflicts is not resolution of the issues at hand, but damage, devastation and consequences cascading from it – such as food shortages and economic disruption, in the case of the current war. Often I quote Bertrand Russell here: ‘War is not about who is right, it’s about who is left‘.
Cities can be rebuilt and battlefields can become farmland again, but the damage to people is worse and deeper. Dead people can’t be brought back, and the living bear the scars of trauma, shock, hardship, atrocity and the sheer ugliness and pain of conflict. It lasts generations, even after the memory fades.
I’m not naively suggesting that everyone ought to just declare peace and go home – it just doesn’t work like that. Conflicts have their reasons, they can be complex, and both sides have a point. Conflicts end when both sides accept that there is no gain in carrying on. Half of all conflicts end simply because of weariness.
The main issue here is mindsets: are we against other people and their leaders, or are we all in the same boat? This same issue concerns the world’s ecological and climatic crisis. We won’t succeed with the 21st Century by continuing our ongoing war against nature, animals, enemies, competitors – and ourselves.
We’re stuck in a vortex of competitiveness, attack and defence. In our personal lives, the same mentality is cloaked in neatly ‘civilised’ ways like dressing up, pursuing careers, buying houses, insuring ourselves against risk or even, in my case, ‘fighting cancer’. It’s a mentality of us-against-the-world.
Yet it is destroying the world, making humanity even more unhappy and threatened. It’s a self-destructive momentum where, the rarer and more exhausted anything becomes, the higher its price and profitability – our economic system leads inexorably toward extinction. As natural environments are cleared and communities die off, young generations grow up without knowing they had even existed.
The emergent paradigm of the 21st Century is different. By necessity it’s one of cooperation, arising from the bottom-line observation that we are all in the same boat whether or not we like it, and we sink or swim together. This is a pragmatic, sensible, economic solution, no longer idealistic. This is being presented to us in the current drift of events. There is mighty resistance to this paradigm shift, taking the form of social and political polarisation, exceptionalism, populism and fear of being overcome by change.
In many countries we fear being flooded by migrants, whom we believe will change our societies and take away our privileges and comforts. Well, we did it to native Americans, Africans and Aboriginals, so, as Aussies would say, fair dinkum.
Such resistance can take softer forms in which we favour change as long as it doesn’t affect us. Or we make a big fuss over anything we might lose – the plenteous food and consumables, or the perceived right to assert our personal freedoms whatever the cost to others. We forget that only some of us have such privileges, while the rest pay the full price.
There’s more to this Aquarian question. It concerns social control and the capacity of masses of people to control ourselves. In the digital era new forms of social control have crept up on us while we have studiously avoided getting our heads round it.
The trouble here is that railing against people at the top is only half of the issue, and it’s rather an avoidance and escape. Collectively we permit them to do what they do by failing to stop it. The real issue here is social solidarity, vigilance and the behavioural changes we need to make if we really do believe in freedom and social-economic justice.
This issue arose in the Arab revolutions and in many uprisings since then. People come out onto the streets to protest over issues they face but, if or when the regime falls, people are often not organised to handle what follows. Or repression from above or intervention from outside squash, corrupt or divide the movement for change.
So this goes deep. Inevitably, the need for self-preservation can override the urge to sacrifice ourselves for the general good. Revolutionaries still need to pay their bills if they want a home or to support their family, unless they retreat to the jungle or escape the country, thereby marginalising themselves.
Meeting up with disillusioned young revolutionaries from Egypt and Syria twelve years ago, I found myself telling them my story. The uprising I was a part of, like theirs, didn’t succeed, and it led to a decade of pain and self-examination for its participants. Since then, to the extent I could, and with others, I’ve tried contributing toward a deeper, psycho-spiritual and behavioural change.
Standing on the top of a mountain at age 22, I made a commitment to give my life to helping the world tip into irreversible positive change. I had realised that a mass change of perception and consciousness is the key. Well, the world hasn’t tipped – yet. Now, near the end of my life, I’ve had to let go of that ‘in my lifetime’ bit, though I still believe we’ll get there. But I must still own up to a bottom-line truth: this is a belief, not a foregone conclusion, whatever I might hope for.
Yet in my life I’ve had multiple demonstrations that the new paradigm works – recently readers of this blog have shown that their remote healing efforts do indeed work. Or, larger-scale, I’ve been involved with circles of people where we have worked on a world issue, such as forest fires or the Bosnia war and, shortly afterwards, a fundamental change to such situations actually occurred. While we cannot definitely prove ‘we did that’, it nevertheless is the case that we did the consciousness work and the fires were doused and the war came to an end. Though it doesn’t happen every time.
It all boils down to a simple rule: together we stand and divided we fall. When people work together, acting with one mind, miracles can arise. A miracle is an event that no one thought possible until it happened. It’s one-mindedness that is crucial here.
Here’s the punchline. The pressure of crises, together with the Aquarian themes mentioned above, point to a likely existential crunchpoint, a time when our very existence on Earth comes into question – not just theoretically, but, like, now, this week. Even presidents and billionaires will share in such a fate. There is a possibility that such a sitation could catalyse a deep realisation, an emotionally-powered thought that, above all, and whatever it takes, we must survive and we must get through. Or we’ve all had it. Even if some people survive, it will not be a happy outcome for them.
That, ladies and gentlemen, represents a potential for a breakthrough and a miracle that no one thought possible: a global one-mindedness in which everyone everywhere – or at least, enough people – have one shared thought, and they think and feel it powerfully.
Which leads us to the bottom line. Whatever our disagreements, it is not a case of who is right and who is wrong, who will win and who will lose. For in the end we all lose. Or we all win. That’s the formula.
In the last year I’ve had some crunches and battles in my own life – with cancer, with my ex-partner’s departure and with a few other issues, and in West Africa I’ve been caught between two parties battling each other and killing people in the process. A big lesson I’ve been re-learning is that true victory lies in everybody winning together. It’s a neat notion that’s not difficult to subscribe to, but carrying it out in real-life terms is another matter, and it’s taking all I’ve got to do that.
Because we do hang together, or we hang separately. That’s the way things are. So the battle for humanity’s minds and hearts goes really deep. It’s a button-presser, confronting all of us. It involves making friends with and profoundly understanding even the people that we don’t like or agree with. That’s how we’ll get through the 21st Century.
In my own life and in yours too, this is the issue. Events are shepherding us painfully in that direction. I can’t say I’ve succeeded with this in my own life but I still have thunder in my heart, running up that road, running up that hill. It’s quite a struggle, but then, that’s one reason we’re all here, isn’t it?
With love, Paldywan Kenobi.
If, like me, you have sufficient madness to be into astrology, try this chapter about the outer planets in history, from my 1987 book Living in Time. If you’re seriously mad, try my Historical Ephemeris, an astrological resource about the way planetary motions influence the tides of history.
I’ll be doing the meditation this evening as usual at 7-7.30pm GMT and, if it feels right, you’re welcome to do the same.
Some of you might want to do your normal practice, whatever that is. Some might just wish to be still for a while, to get some space inside. Some might be called to focus on the earthquake and the people affected by it. Do whatever is right for you. This is a half-hour open space.
It’s about making a choiceless choice to pursue a pathless path through a gateless gate. That’s a Zen saying.
The main thing that connects us is that we’re doing it at the same time, with an underlyingly shared intent of positive wishes for humanity and Earth.
If you want the full lowdown on it, read this – the first page is the short, need-to-know one, and the rest give additional thoughts.
If you live in another timezone, than adjust the time to your location. If in doubt, just google ‘time now in GMT’ and work it out.
There’s something interesting about doing it at the same time each week. Often we might do meditation at varying times when we feel right for it. But doing it at a fixed time means that we do it regardless of our current state and situation.
It becomes a kind of reality-check. What is the is-ness and the beingness of you at 7pm GMT each Sunday?
Some weeks it might even be a bit of a struggle, other weeks it can be inspiring and other weeks it can be just a tick-over thing, nothing special. And that’s the beauty of it.
At present, as you might have noticed, I’ve been rather in the thick of it and, believe me, it stirs me up. I’m being tested and beaten into shape. But the great thing with a meditation at a fixed time is that if I do it regardless of anything, whatever’s happening or wherever I am, it kinda highlights the way in which my inner life and my outer life are both connected and also somewhat independent and unconnected.
Some of the most amazing meditations I’ve had over the years have been in busy or dodgy circumstances – in one, there was distant gunfire going on, but somehow the gunfire prompted me to focus on the heart of the matter. Or there might be loud music next door, or I might be meditating in a busy car park, or I might simply be in a rather stirred-up state. The nature of the meditation, as it unfolds, is often not what was anticipated shortly before.
So in the meditation today I personally shall be offering up all that has happened to me recently, with a wish that it is all for the best, leading to good outcomes. Otherwise I’ll be leaving it open. Perhaps I need a bit of a rest too.
No big deal. If you don’t have time-space this week, that’s okay – just join whenever it works to do so. We’ll be there anyway, whether or not it’s announced online. If you’re happy joining every week, of all the habits we can develop during our lives on Earth, it’s not a bad one, is it?
If you find yourself inwardly involved with the earthquake zone in the Middle East – an ancient, historic area at the centre of Eurasia where so much history has happened – then it is possible to do some innerwork to assist from wherever you are. It is possible to transform concern into activity, wherever you are.
I suggest that, as a group, we keep to our Sunday evening meditation slot – it’s important not to rush at things, and we don’t have a system worked out yet for activities like this. Unless something else arises between now and Sunday to change this, we can focus together on the region then.
As individuals, if you wish to do some work with this crisis over the coming days, please do. Use it as a way of self-training – there will be plenty more crises like these in coming years.
Note how they often come in twos (currently Chile and Syria/Turkiye), but just wait, because they’ll come in threes and fours before long. All that’s needed is a loaded situation and a whacky fullmoon line-up, and here they come.
If you’re not in a position to focus much on it, practice holding it in the back of your mind as you live your life, and give it focus as and when you can, when you have a quiet moment. I sometimes use a small rosary or mala as a way of keeping partial focus while living my life.
As you know, I prefer not to prescribe methods and strategies since a diversity of approaches is important. But if you need some ideas and a basic structure, here are two recordings made last year, when we visited Pakistan at one of my Magic Circles to help with mop-up and after-care there. One is a talk and meditation, and the other is the meditation only (20ish mins long).
1. Since this is a really big crisis we can really only tinker round the edges but, remember, there will be many people worldwide adding their thoughts and prayers. So find the gaps;
2. Look around for people who are forgotten, unnoticed and undiscovered, going through it on their own;
3. one approach is to help the helpers – the first-responders, doctors, social leaders, activists and ‘community mothers’;
4. you can work with the living and/or the dead. With the living, help them find solutions to their needs, solace to their hearts, warmth, food and contact with relatives and neighbours. With the dead and dying, help them deal with their situation and get over properly to the other side and to a ‘reception squad’ who can receive and care for them as souls;
5. use your imagination and inner instincts. Experiment, follow your feelings and do whatever you’re best at doing;
6. this is an energy-exchange. What are these people and this situation bringing to us, giving us and teaching us? No country, including our own, is exempt from disaster.
7. healing energy comes *through* us, not from us, so bring in any deeper influences that you customarily work with, however you see things, and act as a vehicle for such influences – a bit like a healing drone;
8. it’s better to do small things well than big things badly, and make sure you complete and wrap up everything you start.
Unless you’re that way inclined, you don’t have to ‘do meditation’. Just hold it in your heart-mind, stay calm and bring calm, keep with it, note your thoughts and experiences and, if at a loss to know what to do, imagine yourself actually there, doing what you would do if you were there. If that just involves making tea for people or holding their hands, do it. This matter of consistent and well-paced energy-holding is important. Keep it simple.
The tensions released in an earthquake are not just geological. Human tensions affect things too. This is an area where the world’s first settlements and towns arose, many armies have marched across it and, in recent times, much oil has been pumped out of it. Consider.
Disasters are one of the mechanisms by which world change comes about. It’s tragic, but they shake us out of our customary busy indifference, exposing the human underneath. So one thought or prayer to make is for these tragedies to lead ultimately to real improvements and breakthroughs. May those deaths and hardships become more meaningful in the way they catalyse progress and redemption.
The Indonesia earthquake-tsunami of 2004 led to enormous strides in large-scale disaster-response, and to all sorts of changes big and small. Also it became really clear that the key first responses to disasters come within local communities, often through churches, mosques, temples and brave individuals who, in that moment, suddenly find they have a calling. Big organisations often take a week or two to get activated and deal with logistics and supplies, but it’s the people on the ground and in local communities, in that first week, who make a critical difference.
Resilience is all about the capacity of any society to handle whatever is thrown at it. At moments like this, the togetherness of a society makes an enormous difference. As Pluto enters Aquarius this and next year, until 2043-44, the togetherness of humanity is the central question. Here we have it. This is a soulquake, a prompt from Gaia.
Despite everything, here I stand, weak, strong, wobbly and firm
One of the best books I ever wrote, ten years ago now, I couldn’t publish. It concerned a plot I helped uncover, involving American financiers funding settlement building in the West Bank, a well-known international meditation organisation making a big error and rogue elements in the Israeli and Palestinian intelligence services. I had to get out of the country pretty quick after dishing up that lot!
The story was quite sensational, though I didn’t publish it because it could endanger people’s lives, many issues would be twisted and misinterpreted in the West, American lawyers would have had a field day, some people would seek revenge, and my friends back home would ask me why I bother risking my life for a few darned Palestinians. Well, it has happened again, except it’s Africans this time. If I told you the story that’s happening now, you’d have difficulty believing it’s for real.
That’s one reason I’ve been rather quiet. It has been difficult knowing what to say. Telling the story can endanger lives, sabotage others, and much of it would, again, be misinterpreted. The number of seriously incorrect diagnoses of the situation that I have received recently has been disturbing, particularly because of their implied racist undertones. Many friends believe I’ve been scammed by West Africans, but the problem comes from a whiteskin company in the rich world, not from Africans. We have been stuck between Western corporate negligence and a crime gang’s violence. Meanwhile, people were getting murdered by the gang, whose market for cocaine, crack, people-smuggling and prostitution is in Britain and Europe. If we want to change the world, we need to end this turning away.
In the last few months I have gained an adopted granddaughter, Phyllis, whose life I have now saved several times. Looks like we might lose her now. She is on the edge of dying, due to a drug overdose and having had two fingers on her left hand cut off by the crime gang. Her mother, Felicia, was gang-raped. The bastards. Felicia is Liberian in origin: when she was young, civil war broke out around her and she was forced to watch her parents and three sisters being shot. When Phyllis’ fingers were being cut off Felicia cried out to me, online, “Why, dear God, is this happening to me AGAIN?”. Phyllis is all she has left.
So while I have a cracker of a story, I cannot tell it. I feel bottled up, but it is safest for those involved that I do not say more. Some good book sales would have been really useful though. This nightmare has cost me a lot and, until the company honours its multiple promises to pay me, I’m seriously in debt. They promised to compensate Felicia for all she has been through, and Felicia is now destitute. This has set me back a lot, affecting my plans for the coming year. But my conscience is as clear as it can be in such a gruesome situation, and I am glad I have not obeyed the advice of many friends to look after my own interests and, in effect, abandon these people to let them die. If I lose friends over this, then so be it.
Last year was a testy year. It wasn’t just the hair-raising story I’ve been involved with. It started a year ago. I was unwell and down, in a mess. My partner suddenly left me – she had her reasons – and I lost another adopted grandchild in the process. Gaining and losing grandchildren is a theme for me at present. Looking back, I was unconsciously picking up forewarnings for nine months beforehand, feeling insecure but unable to figure out why. Something needed to change between us, but I wasn’t ready for total, enforced relationship destruction. I got the blame, though whatever crime I truly committed, in the final analysis, has been far outclassed by the response. I miss her still, and her family. Giving myself a year to get over it, I’ve partially succeeded and also I haven’t. I believed we would go through to the end of my life. But no, I had a big lesson to learn there.
So, I wish her good fortune and many blessings for all that we had together. She is free, and I sincerely hope she finds rebirth and flowering in her new life. She deserves it – she saved my life in my worst cancer days. I am so grateful for our time together. Now a free man with mixed feelings, I’m not managing very well alone. But that’s my problem. It has its plus side though: I’ve used the pain of loss to fire up my creativity, rebirth myself and give the rest of my life, if I can, to starting something new. Or it’s starting me. It concerns a world-healing project. There’s a feeling of rightness to it, like a little seed currently hiding under the snow, awaiting its moment.
In the last year my cancer process has changed. Medically I am more or less stable, and the focus has turned to relationships and the psycho-emotional side of living with cancer. Cancer strips a layer off you and the shields come down. Issues get amplified. A last-chance-saloon feeling takes over. You suddenly find friends and loved ones committing micro-aggressions they didn’t know they were doing. Life becomes raw and unprotected. You get hurt. It has changed my capacity to relate and slowed my capacity to process things through, emotionally. While I’m kinda managing, being on my own means that, if I deteriorate, I have little or no fallback. Sometimes I just need someone to hold me. Sometimes I just want someone around.
One or two friends have suggested that I move upcountry to England, to be closer to people. But I’m electrosensitive and I can’t hobnob in parties and groups or walk down the street without getting zapped and needing to retreat back home – it can take 48 hours to get over it. In effect, to be with friends and loved ones I have to permit them to harm me with radiation. So I could be just as isolated there as I am here. Folks up in England are all very wired-up, busy keeping timetables and treading mills, and that is the central cause of the care crisis we have today – we don’t have time and space to be human, and people in situations like mine demand too much of it. Meanwhile, Cornwall feeds my soul, and the movements of my soul and its expressions seem to be valued nowadays, by you lot. So this seems to be the right place for me. I’m happy doing forays into England, or even elsewhere, but I’d need a lot of persuading to move because I would lose my taproot.
I haven’t been doing well on the family front either. That’s a complex story – another I won’t tell. What with my disability and their busy family lives, it’s difficult for us to meet up, and online relationships don’t really work for me. Mercifully though, all of my offspring get on really well, though they have three different mothers and live in two Brexit-sundered countries. They’re a lovely bunch, and their husbands and children too. In many people’s judgement I’ve been a useless father, and I guess I’m supposed to feel bad about it. Or perhaps I have had Mandela’s dilemma: a conflict between ‘my people’ and ‘my family’, which I have not been able to integrate – and neither did he. However, as an Aspie and weirdo in late life, I’m tired of apologising for being who I am, and I’m not as wrong as I’m often judged to be. It’s time for a change.
My health is kinda okay, though my back is slowly deteriorating, as if gravitation were increasing. My cancer, Multiple Myeloma, affects blood and bones – will-to-live (blood) and capacity to be active in the world (bones). That’s a wee bit fundamental. Even so, my haematologist is surprised I’ve lasted so long on my current cancer drug, Daratumamab. But, to me, it makes sense that I would do well with it. Dara isn’t a form of ‘chemo’ designed to kill cancer cells. It works by flagging up cancer cells as they emerge so that my immune system can deal with them itself – that’s a brilliant approach, and it’s just right for me. So I’m doing well with Dara. My immune system is in pretty good nick too.
Here’s an observation. I think there are two kinds of immunity: one is to do with the nutrients we take in on a daily basis, which can provide fight-back if our immune system is under pressure or feeling low. Whenever I get the slightest sign of an infection, such as a sneeze, I take a gram of Vit C straight away – and it works. But there’s a deeper immunity level I’d call resilience. If you’ve done immunity-boosting things for a decade or more – good vits, good oils, good everything, though not too fanatical about it – then you’re in a different league. If you’re dabbling with veganism or health-awareness, take note: it truly works if you stay with it for decades, allowing your body-psyche to go through deeper structural changes. Combine this with inner growth, and your cells and genes become transformed. I can verify this from experience.
Longterm resilience has been a life-saver for me, now I have cancer. At root, it lies in attitude. When I’m having a hard time, I look for the gift that’s available. Sometimes I’m forced to lie in bed, watching the buzzards wheeling around over the fields. Sometimes I’m being given a gift of pain to teach me how to move through it and out the other side. Recently I’ve been given a loneliness that has allowed me to spend a lot of time reflecting on life, writing and recording things from my eyrie out here in West Penwith, the Far Beyond.
Immunity is intimately connected with psychic protection too, and right now I’m working on that. Whenever we feel down and got at by life, we have both a protection and an immunity issue. If you want to work positively with cancer or any other adversity, work positively with your protection. This isn’t about throwing up barriers around you – it’s about working on the fears, shame and guilt that grind away underneath, undermining the integrity of your being and giving an opening that outside interference can hook into, draining your power. Sometimes it’s like having fleas, getting nibbled at by lots of small things, and sometimes it’s like a big thump in the stomach. Protection is about the light within us and the degree to which we withhold ourselves behind our shame, guilt and fear.
When I first went into cancer treatment, I hadn’t had pharmaceutical drugs for many years. Suddenly I was getting pumped with chemicals. I called on my inner doctors. “Let it be. We’ll fix it, and follow your instincts on what else will help“. I don’t get it in words like that, but that’s what the message was. I decided to trust, deeply. I started on things like CBD, carefully selected supplements, received healing from many wonderful people, and worked on generating an attitude of yielding and acceptance. On the whole it worked. I’ve balked at a few of the drugs given me, but not many, and in some cases I’ve dosed myself more sensitively to my own actual needs. But I’ve had fewer side-effects than many other people seem to get. That’s resilience: it’s all about strengthening our capacity to handle whatever life throws at us.
At some point, when I can restore my finances, I’ll start doing some events. A monthly online ‘magic circle’ is shaping up, and I’ll be doing some live Magic Circles or talks sometime, though I don’t have it in me to organise them myself. The capacity to handle life’s details and intricacies is one thing that chemo and cancer have taken away – though I’ve gained a widened and deepened understanding of life instead. The only booking I have at present is the Legends Conference in Glastonbury on 8th-10th April, and I shall announce other events when they get fixed.
When I die I shall have no money or property to leave, but I do hope to leave a legacy. We shall see if it works in real life, if I can keep going long enough. When I was young I was heading for a career in diplomacy or government, but then around age 21 I went through an awakening and changed course. I began treading a spiritual-political alternative path. In starting the camps movement in the 1980s I attempted working with the heart and soul of Britain, to transform it from within – with limited success (it was the Thatcher period, after all). In the Hundredth Monkey Project in the 1990s, we attempted direct spiritual work with world events, with some success. With the Flying Squad that followed, we developed the techniques, ethics and practices of such work, forging a synergistic unity and a group bonding that compensated for our lower numbers. This built up a body of experience. There’s further to go, and the world has a need for it.
When cancer came along in 2019, I thought that was it with the world-healing work but, no, reviving last spring from the enormous emotional hit I had a year ago, I got the message, “Ah, there’s one more thing, before you can come home…“. I realised that no one else really had the experience and capacity to take the world-healing work one stage further. In a way it was incumbent on me to do it. I now have a plan, and it’s now a matter of finding out whether and how it will work in real life. It has already started with the Sunday evening meditations, and we’ll let things develop from there.
It involves a group process for which I can prepare the ground, plant seeds and help them germinate, but that’s all. I don’t have much time left, and the events of the last year have shown me how beat up and worn out I am. You see, what decides things for me is not medical prognoses but how long I can keep going, in heart and soul, pushing the limits and remotivating myself to face another day. My current aloneness has tested me profoundly and, while I’m holding up, it has been a big systems check on what I can and cannot do. Overloaded with issues, I’ve been trying hard not to fuck up but only just managing. But then, this is my life, I’ve created it this way, that’s my karmic pattern, and it is as it is. Mashallah – thus has it been ordained. This next chapter is my last dance, and I’m going to give it what I can.
But first, there’s business. I want the company to right some wrongs, financially, and I want to get Felicia and Isaac and their remaining children safe and stabilised in a new life. True heroes, they have paid a high price for being good people. Even as a tottering old man, I choose to stand by them, whatever anyone says. Then there’s that gang, who have deprived at least seven people of their lives. This included an Akan native healer, Okomfo Ayensuwaa, with whom I had close miracle-working dealings for a week or so just before Christmas. Killed for protecting Felicia and Isaac and their families, she has decided to work with us on the world healing project, from the other side. She is with us now, in our meditations. A strong, big and good-hearted lady she was, and the river spirits she worked with miss her.
I have shed so many tears over these unjust tragedies, and several times I have been faced with a painful moral choice I would not wish upon any of my readers: the choice between playing safe, prioritising my own interests and security, and standing by my principles in order to keep some good people alive and to stand up for what is good and right. I’ve made that choice, I’m paying that price and, despite everything, I am glad to have done so. The bravery of these people has been a big lesson for me, and my standing by them has been a big lesson for them. Whitemen have a way of walking off. The fates have now separated Felicia and Isaac, and they struggle on alone. I’m still with them, supporting them even though I can’t send money.
Please pray for them, for their safety, healing and relief from their trauma and misfortune – they, and Phyllis, and Isaac’s one remaining child, Adjoa, aged about 6-7, truly need it. They are struggling, materially, emotionally and spiritually. Please be with them in spirit.
One of my missions in life has been to do with righting some of the wrongs committed by the British empire. One grandfather was in Allenby’s invasion of Iraq and Palestine in WW1 and the other was in the Battle of the Somme. My father fought in Egypt in WW2. Northern Ireland started me off on this path, fifty years ago, and I seem to be at it still. Interestingly, it was the Akan, the Ashanti, who, together with the Maoris of New Zealand, were the only peoples who successfully stood up against the empire – at least until the amoral Brits tricked both of them into losing. The empire had its merits and demerits and, while we should forget neither, we do need to own up to the demerits we forced on so many millions of people. For the world cannot progress while unredeemed shadows such as these hang over us all. Every country has its shadow to face.
This has been a difficult time. I’m still here though! As I write, Felicia is watching her only child Phyllis die slowly, in a coma, in hospital, unable to afford treatment. They’re stranded with nothing in a foreign country. That’s the score today. That’s life, as it presents itself. This has been a difficult and risky blog to write – I hope to goodness that I’ve done it right. Meanwhile, I’ll be there as usual at the meditation on Sunday evenings. Bless you all for being my friends, especially the ones closer to me. We all need each other.
Helen, my peerless homoeopath, gave me Pearl last year (beauty out of pain) and Gold this year (lighting up darkness) – spot on. She’s brilliant. If you happen to need an inspired homoeopath who can do it remotely from Cornwall, try her.
I’m re-working a 2003 book of mine, Healing the Hurts of Nations – the human side of globalisation, as a short, thinking-points archive version (not ready yet), and here’s a chapter from it that might interest you, about the historic growth of globalisation.
Our time is the first in which it has been possible to take a literally universal view of human history, because this is the first time in which the whole human race around the globe has come within sight of coalescing into a single society. In the past, a number of empires, and a smaller number of missionary religions, have aimed at universality. None of them, so far, has ever attained to universality in the literal sense. – Arnold Toynbee, historian, 1967.
Healing the Hurts of Nations contains a few unusual underlying assumptions. One of them is that globalisation is historically inevitable. A bit like growing up. I am not suggesting that the once imperialistic and now corporate-style globalisation process we see today is the only way it could have happened – perhaps it took place this way because humanity rejected earlier-presented options. Nevertheless, globalisation was a pre-programmed potentiality from the early days of human history.
Saying that globalisation is inevitable does not mean that inevitably it should happen as it did, when it did, carried out by the people who did it and with the outcomes that resulted. But it suggests that there is an urge or secret aspiration deep in the human psyche, seeking to form a planetary civilisation, and that humans would therefore try, mostly unconsciously, to put into place the conditions to achieve it.
Humanity customarily walks into the future facing backwards, yet this does not exclude the possibility that, deep down, it secretly knows something more than it sees. Several attempts at globalisation are visible in history. Let’s look at a few.
Alexander the Great
Alexander, one of history’s finest megalomaniacs, did not invade all of Eurasia, but he made a good try. Had his conquests lasted, they could have been a platform for further extension at a later date, by the inheritors of his bequest to history. Starting from Greece in 334 BCE, he and his troops swept through Anatolia, Egypt and the Middle East, through Persia and Afghanistan to Turkestan and what is now Pakistan in eight years, by 325 BCE.
They established a capital at Babylon, Eurasia’s key meeting-place. He took on god-like status, gobbled up several major civilisations and then died prematurely in 323, aged 32. He had set in motion one of history’s biggest intentional genetic engineering experiments too – mating his men with women across his conquered territories.
His big idea was to seed Greek culture and, in his view, to upgrade humanity with Greek modernist internationalism. A flash in the pan, the social and political effects of his audacious feats all the same survived centuries after his time. Had he lived a longer life and run his affairs well, history today might look very different.
The Silk Roads
Three centuries later, in the time of the great classical empires, the world tentatively approached the possibility of unifying Eurasia. The Roman, Persian, Kushan and Han Chinese empires, between them, controlled most of the main axis of Eurasia, from Spain to Manchuria. The backbone of this civilisational axis was the Silk Road from China, through Turkestan to the Mediterranean, along which there was continual travel and trade, despite the distance. Few travelled the Silk Road in its entirety – instead, goods and ideas changed hands at caravanserais and trading cities, and trade between Rome and China reached significant levels for the time.
Chinese silks first reached the West in 500 BCE through Persian intermediaries. Chaotic forces put an end to this period of Eurasian stability: warrior nomads rampaging across Central Asia, together with the separate yet roughly synchronous collapses of imperial Rome and Han China, caused trans-Eurasian trade and interchange to collapse for some time.
The precedent of connecting civilisations and setting intercultural exchange in motion was now there, setting patterns for the future. It is suggested, with some plausibility, that Jesus, in his ‘lost years’, travelled as far east as Tibet and as far west as Britain. This sounds fantastic, yet significant international travel was not uncommon at the time. People had gained a taste for items and influences from faraway places. Imperial administrative structures also approached a scale which could, with a few more developmental steps, begin to manage global control – if subsequent human history had but followed this thread. Though this was perhaps premature.
The Muslim Ascendancy
Then came the rapid Muslim expansion initiated by Muhammad the Prophet in 630 when he and his followers took Mecca, an ancient Arabic cult-centre. He died in 632, but his successors channelled the dynamism of their faith by invading the whole Middle East. By 670 the Islamic empire stretched from Tunisia to Afghanistan, spreading to Spain, Turkestan and northwest India by 720. They had a go at Europe too, but it was too muddy, cold and backward to bother with, and the Franks beat them back.
The Muslim empire’s success arose not only from the energy of the new Islamic dispensation, but also from the acquiescence of conquered peoples, many of whom thought the new dominators better than their predecessors. Muslims did not forcibly convert their subjects, and the relative doctrinal, social and legal clarity and coherence of Islam was attractive to many, whether or not they converted.
Political unity in the empire later broke down, but cultural unity continued, with a second zenith in the 1600s in the form of the Ottoman, Persian Safavid and Indian Mughal empires. Had Westerners not intervened, it is conceivable that a third wave might have occurred during the 20th Century. Despite the fact that globalisation is currently Western-driven, it is likely that the Muslim world will have a big influence in shaping the culture of the 21st Century world. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda might even play a part in this: though their actions are questionable in a short-term context, the longterm effect of their impact on globalisation and its moral tone could be influential. Whether Muhammad the Prophet would approve of their actions is another question, but the fact that the centre of al Qaeda’s initiative has been Saudi Arabia, Muhammad’s home, is not insignificant.
The Crusades, Richard and Salah-ad-Din
A further chance to build a proto-global fusion came during the Crusades of the 1090s-1290s – Europe’s first bout of overseas expansionism. The Crusaders made their mark with extreme courage and bravado, yet they blundered repeatedly. When they seized Jerusalem in 1099, they allegedly murdered virtually all Muslims and Jews as well as eastern Christians. The Crusaders were a strange mixture of religious visionaries and holy warriors, glory-and-booty seekers, power-maniacs, noble adventurers, outlaws and vagabonds.
Their unprincipled actions incited a pan-Arabic reaction, especially under Nureddin, Seljuk ruler of Syria 1146-74, and his successor Salah-ad-Din or Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, 1175-93. They took strong objection to Crusader atrocities and arrogance. This was a religious matter of righting wrongs rather than a purely territorial issue, since it was the stated duty of all Muslims to protect their fellows from oppression by the launching of jihad or holy war.
Nureddin and Saladin were not implacably opposed to the presence of foreigners in the Holy Land, as long as they behaved themselves. Saladin mooted the idea of sharing Palestine with the Europeans on a principle of mutual respect for each others’ people, faiths and holy places. This accorded with the highest of Muslim ideals. But he would not allow the Crusaders sole control, since they did not behave themselves and were over-ambitious. His diplomacy could have laid a basis for substantial cultural interchange between Europe and the Muslim world which, conceivably, could have created a vast world bloc with enormous potential.
The English king Richard Coeur de Lion was hesitantly partial to his proposition, tempted by Saladin’s chivalrous political challenge. Some Crusaders were relatively pacific and liberal, many of them born and living in Palestine, with Muslim friends and concubines and adopting some Middle Eastern ways. Muslim civilisation was, after all, culturally superior. But Richard was persuaded and outmanoeuvred by the belligerent lobby amongst Crusaders, mostly fresher to the Holy Land. They were backed by an unholy alliance of Papal, lordly and financial interests back in Europe, who preferred cultural separatism, booty and sole control of Palestine.
The mediating efforts of 1192 by Saladin’s brother were sabotaged. The possibility collapsed. This led to the eventual failure of the Crusades: after the collapse, Saladin knew the Crusaders must be ejected. It blew an historic opportunity to bring together two extensive cultures which, together, were potentially in a position to bring about a new international order. It was not to be.
European magnates became ever more bigoted and dogmatic during the Middle Ages: cultural cleansing and the imposition of control and uniformity were major trends underlying the period. Lordly church henchmen even sent Crusades against heretical and pagan Europeans in southwest France, Bosnia and Latvia. Islamic civilisation, which had matured by the 1100s, was multicultural, to the extent that its top level was taken over by Turkic peoples, the Seljuks, and later the Ottomans, without enormous disruption. It had little to gain from cooperation with Europeans, but the Christians nevertheless had their merits – a spunky and enterprising lot.
This failed meeting of cultures was but one entry in a catalogue of missed historic opportunities. In Israel and Lebanon to this day, much suffering might have been avoided, had this cultural hand-shaking taken place. It might have affected the many persecutions of Jews in Europe, the breaking up of the Middle East by the West in the 20th Century and the nature of European imperialism from the 1500s onwards.
Another window of opportunity arose under the Mongols in the 1200s. Invincible blitzkrieg warriors, they felled the Chin and Song dynasties of China and the great Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad. They brought down the feared Assassin (Hashishiyun) Order of Syria, a Shi’a terrorist sect led by the legendary Old Man of the Mountain, whom even Saladin could not beat. But to do so they had to use massive force – this story slightly resembles America’s match with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
The Mongols had an interesting style: they were herders by nature, setting themselves over their conquered lands and employing local administrations and institutions to run their empire. At first they did not take over the palaces and great cities, camping instead outside their walls. Genghiz Khan (c1167-1227) saw it as his and the Mongols’ divine destiny to rule the world, on behalf of the gods, who wanted it unified. This man had a global vision: any opposition was opposition to the will of the gods, worthy of instant death.
The Mongol empire, at its peak between the 1220s and the 1290s, stretched from China to the Middle East and Ukraine, embracing many ancient culture-areas. Rapid communications systems were developed and intercultural exchange was encouraged, knitting diverse cultures into an internationalist order controlled from Karakoram in Mongolia. They invited Buddhists, Taoists, Christians, Manichaeans, Muslims and pagans to their courts, bringing all under their umbrella. Many impressive potentials were there, but the essentially nomadic Mongols, who were not by nature civilisation-builders, only coordinators, gradually subsided in power.
Two of their biggest weaknesses related to democracy and delegation of power: whenever a Great Khan died, the hordes returned to Mongolia to elect a new one, meaning that their conquests lost momentum; additionally, regional power was delegated to khans who eventually pulled away from the centre, adopted the ways of China, Turkestan or Persia and loosened the ties of the empire. Yet the Mongols had brought a flourish of world integration. No empire was ever so extensive or all-embracing. But then, few empires created piles of skulls to the extent they did.
The Meeting of Civilisations
A further rumbling of global hegemony arose during the 1400s. Three powers were unwittingly positioning themselves for world domination, and not entirely consciously: imperial China, the Islamic bloc and the upstart Europeans, then in the early stages of their cheeky exploratory adventures led by the Portuguese. The smallest of these powers was the Europeans, a smelly, drunken, flea-ridden and voracious lot whose raucous bravado and booming cannons shocked the Muslims and sank their navy in a trice.
Civilised Islamic principles were the Muslims’ undoing when they met the Europeans – the Muslims were too gentlemanly. The Chinese had invented gunpowder, but they considered it immoral to use it in war, so they too had a problem with battle ethics – their philosophy was that it was ignoble to kill a warrior without looking them in the eyes. The Portuguese cared not a hoot about that.
The Chinese sent out embassies all over Asia during the reign of the Ming emperor Yung Lo in the early 1400s. His Chinese Muslim admiral Cheng Ho, from Yunnan in south China, led an enormous flotilla of ships to Indonesia, Australia, India, Arabia and east Africa (some say even the American west coast), furthering the grandiose interests of the Middle Kingdom. They sought ambassadorially to extend the hegemony of the Chinese emperor worldwide and render all other lands tributary – to the Chinese, the emperor was both a monarch and the embodiment on Earth of the gods.
This rare outburst of Chinese internationalism was courteous and diplomatic: Ming mandarins presumably dreamt of lording it over the world. Their big failing was that, since commerce was distasteful to the Chinese ruling class, their costly expeditions led to no significant profit. By 1433, there was a change of emperor and all embassies were called back. When Cheng Ho, who had sailed as far as Zanzibar, came home, he took giraffes and lions back with him for the imperial zoo. The succeeding emperor decided, for internal political reasons, to revert to traditional isolationism. This knocked the Chinese out of the game, by their own doing.
The Portuguese and the Muslims (the Ottomans, Safavid Persians and Indian Moghuls) met up at sea outside the Persian Gulf in 1509. The combined Islamic fleets, masters of the Indian Ocean, were quickly sunk and scattered by Portuguese cannons, giving the Europeans sudden dominance of the Indian Ocean and its trade. Muslim traders had for long plied the waves from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf down the African coast, and past India to China and the Spice Islands (Indonesia).
The result of the European victory was that, of the three powers eligible to dominate the world at that time, the Europeans had suddenly gained the ascendancy. For the next four centuries, they were the prevalent world force, followed in the 20th Century by their successors, the Americans. The whiteskins, by force, trade and missionary activity, united the world – at least in terms of materialistic integration. By 2000 it was woven into a multi-channel telecommunications web which has turned the world into a buzzing network with a rapidly-diminishing need for a central dominating power. The conclusion of this story is yet to come.
Exploration is not a European invention. Hanno the Carthaginian circumnavigated Africa around 2,500 years ago. Pytheas, a Greek, reached Britain, Iceland and the Baltic Sea around 2,300 years ago. Nearchos of Crete sailed to India, followed by Alexander the Great overland. Eudoxus of Rome visited India and East Africa around 120 BCE. Roman traders reached south China around 100 CE by boat. The monk Fa-hsien travelled from China to Afghanistan and India around 400 CE.
Much later, the Vikings sailed from Scandinavia to Baghdad and Byzantium down the rivers of Russia, over the North Sea to Britain and Ireland and across the Atlantic to Iceland and Canada between 800 and 1000. They had followed Irish monks over the Atlantic: the Irish settled Iceland around 795, themselves preceded by St Brendan, who was reputed to have reached Newfoundland in a leather and wood curragh around 550. The Polynesians canoed from the central Pacific to South America, Hawaii and New Zealand, sometimes in significant numbers. Two notable later explorers were the well-known Venetian Marco Polo, who travelled from Italy to Mongolia, China, SE Asia and India between 1271 and 1295, and the Moroccan ibn Battuta, who travelled 75,000 miles around Africa, Russia, India and China – perhaps history’s greatest traveller-chronicler.
When the Europeans started exploring the world, the globalisation process we know today truly began. One crucial person in this was Henry the Navigator, a Portuguese prince who set up a school in Algarve in 1419, teaching navigation, astronomy and cartography to selected sailors. Not long after, his sailors reached Madeira and the Azores, then travelling as far as Sierra Leone in West Africa. This set in motion a trend which led to Columbus’ voyages to the Caribbean from 1492 onwards – though he never landed on the American mainland.
By 1500, English fishermen from Bristol had reached Newfoundland, followed by an official expedition under John Cabot, and meanwhile the Portuguese Cabral reached Brazil and Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa to India. Magellan achieved the first world circumnavigation in 1519-22 – a tremendous and courageous feat and precedent, equivalent to sending a man to the Moon. Later, the pirate and naval terrorist, Francis Drake, who later achieved great honours, claimed California for the British and circumnavigated the world again in 1577-80. Also, Russian pioneers were pushing across the vastness of Siberia.
By the 1600s this period of exploration had immensely profited the Spaniards and Portuguese in South America. Overseas adventures became serious business – Spanish gold and silver from the Americas, followed by the slave trade, was instrumental in financing European economic growth. European hegemony was built on the sweat, blood and tears of many long-forgotten conquered and enslaved non-Europeans.
Trading posts, ports, depots, trade routes, plantations and towns were established worldwide; embassies were sent to exotic monarchs in India and the Far East; the slave trade was started, eventually transporting over ten million Africans to the Americas; lands and markets in Africa and Asia were penetrated; substantial European colonies and towns grew in South America, later in North America and South Africa, and later still in Australia and New Zealand; and hub port cities such as Bombay, Singapore, Jakarta and Shanghai in due course became major world cities.
In the 1700s the initial driving urge for exploration and commerce was supplemented by scientific exploration. An enormous collection and classification of species took place, together with documentation, charting and pushing out the edges of the known world. European maritime powers fought each other for control of India, the East Indies and the China trade. This was driven by the profit-seeking voyages of merchant adventurers and trading companies, and only later did governments take direct control.
The first multinational corporations were the Dutch, French and English East India Companies: the English company, chartered in 1600, came to rule much of India from the 1750s-1850s, with the British government taking control only in 1858, after the Indian Mutiny. The Dutch did similar in Indonesia.
Shanghai, Mumbai and Dubai
Thus began European world domination, reaching its zenith by 1900. It laid the foundations for American corporate domination of the world in the 20th Century. The American period, accompanied by European decolonialisation of the 1940s-70s, laid the foundations of the global village. Then, from the 1960s onward, the momentum changed again: the initiative began slipping from America, Europe and USSR as the Japanese began to out-manufacture the West, exceeding it in quality of production from the 1980s onwards and itself becoming an inventor. In the 1990s the Asian tiger economies (Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand), together with China and parts of Latin America, were growing too. They were not only cheap production sheds, but asserted a growing cultural influence.
As from 1990, Euro-American dominance began relatively to decline, though it still determines the nature of the game, while all the time losing influence. Guangdong province in south China is now the world’s biggest industrial park, and some of the world’s hottest computer programmers work in Bangalore, India. Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Indonesia, despite uncertainties and growth-pangs, are new economic powers.
At a cost. In the colonial period, the blessings were mixed-to-catastrophic for recipient peoples. Cultures were destroyed or undermined. In some parts enormous populations were shamelessly decimated – especially in the Americas and Africa. Modernisation was thrust on disparate lands as fast as railways and telegraph wires could be laid down. Ethnic groups were played against one another, colonial puppet states were founded, resources were plundered, internal affairs interfered with, blood spilt and things were simply changed, totally, from what they had been before.
Some recipient peoples benefited by being released from the hold of ossifying traditional systems, but the balance of benefit is to this day debatable. This could have been done otherwise. Ultimately, things will go full-cycle when the cultures of the world, having absorbed Western and global ways, reach a new self-defined balance and individuality from that standpoint. Cultural variation is not dead – it is reconstituting.
The pain and consequences of Western imperialism sit with us now, expressed in various manifest forms of anti-Western feeling lurking under the surface and popping up in different contexts around the world. Around 1990 the moral pressure and tempo came from the ‘Confucian sphere’, around 2000 from the Muslim world. Africa, Central Asia and Latin America are yet to come. Antarctica speaks by jettisoning massive ice-shelves, threatening coastal areas worldwide with sea-level rise.
The former subjects of Euro-American domination have adopted the ways of the dominators, giving it their own twist, and the drive toward ‘development’ now covers the world and is no longer Western-driven. TV, cars and computers are everywhere, together with ubiquitous burger bars and all that goes with them. While Europeans and Americans clean up their cities, the smog of developing world cities grows ever thicker and more toxic. But the values driving this Western-led development are incrementally changing, and the West itself is experiencing bounce-back. There are sub-plots going on too, such as relations between China and Latin America, Indians in Africa and the Caribbean and Filipinos in Arabia. When the Dalai Lama visits the Pope, something quivers worldwide. There is much more going on than what the West thinks.
The 21st Century brings us a planetary civilisation. The means by which we got here is receding into the past. Many new problems face us – some a result of imperialism and some new. In the new global situation there lies an enormous historic opportunity, and today’s world is our starting place. We are now in a century of reassessment: everything is up for review. The true reason for which those intrepid world travellers risked life and limb is now approaching its fulfilment. We must not confuse how we got here with what happens next. This concerns global civilisation.
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