Mysticism is largely about shifting identity. There are techniques–strategies and tactics–that encourage opportunities to identify at levels alternative to what occurs within one person’s body or one’s imagination. When the opportunities appear, an individual can choose to identify with something different from himself or herself.

People are engaging in such opportunities across society. Mysticism could not be further from their minds.

There was a time in our species’ past, perhaps not so very long ago, maybe as few as 3,000 generations ago, when our experience was not characterized by individuality. One of the several profound differences between then and now was that then we had a far less concise idea of the passing of time. This was true socially and biologically. Socially things just did not change much. There were no fads or fashions. Progress as a concept is barely 250 years old, let alone tens of thousands.

Biologically our brains were not sorting in a narrative, sequential path. When narrative reality emerged and spoken language acquired the ability to parse out past from present and present from future, we acquired individuality at the same evolutionary moment. With our ability to disassociate in time we were also able to imagine disassociation in space or being a different person. Empathy, envy and the other theory of mind emotions are evident in our great ape cousins. Yet, with the emergence of language and time, a depth was added to our ability to identify with the other that has a lot to do with our relationship with the future, our survival as a species and an exploration of what it means to have identity.

We started out with little language, no sense of time, no identity. We grew to become adept at speech, with a powerful sense of time, with identity. Nevertheless, without making the choice to at least on occasion not have identity, or shift identity to experience consciousness on an expanded scale, our powerful sense of time is hobbled by difficulties viewing the future as a commons, a group holding, a possession of something-larger-than-the-self.

Consider time as a territory with the future as the commons. To survive, it is necessary that we pay close attention to where our resources are stored. Paradoxically, they are stored in the future. That is where our descendants live.

This alternative path toward understanding time suggests an emerging new, third way of experiencing self. The commons is sacred space. The future is our commons. To know this we need an expanded sense of self, a shift in identity.

Whereas we started with little or no sense of self before language, with language and culture we’ve acquired a clear sense of self, of time and of that which is within our personal control. The third place, the synthesis of the first two in a sense, involves an expanded sense of self, which is very different from the no sense of self, yet they are related. We’re going from no time, to time, to yes time. We’re evolving to a place where the future can feel familiar as we intuit our connection with people and an earth that does not yet exist.

This is more than an exercise of imagination.

The opportunity we are creating to make that transition has an enormous amount to do with the new online and cell phone communications technologies. We are shifting identity. We are tying together narcissism and mass cooperation, two distinctly different identity levels, expanding our personal boundaries to include the information received from countless others.

Our defined self is being redefined to include self and others.

The next step is to cross the boundary of time.

When tens of millions of people buy SUVs because they see friends buying SUVs and they see SUV commercials telling them to do so, they are responding to one-to-many communications media commands within a consumer economy that congregates profits in the hands of those that control the communications. We are encouraged to be selfish and not think of the future. Exercising a sense of time only insofar as it offers immediate or delayed results to be experienced by the self gets us only part way to where we have to go.

New communications technologies are expanding our sense of self. Along with that our sense of time is changing. The future is ceasing to be a place that we steal from to satisfy a limited self. The future is becoming our vastest commons, offering literally infinite resources to integrate into our expanded sense of self.

While doing so we are redefining mysticism. Spirituality is acquiring another name. Spirituality now has nothing to do with mythology. Shifting identity is the name of what is now a social game.


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