Nearly every culture I know prophesies that in the late 1990's we entered a period of remarkable transition. At monasteries in the Himalayas, ceremonial sites in Indonesia, and indigenous reservations in North America, from the depths of the Amazon to the peaks of the Andes, and into the ancient Mayan cities of Central America, I have heard that ours is a special moment in human history, and that each of us was born at this time because we have a mission to accomplish.
The titles and the words of the prophecies differ slightly. They tell variously of a New Age, the Third Millennium, the Age of Aquarius, the Beginning of the Fifth Sun, or the end of old calendars and the commencement of new ones. Despite the varying terminologies, however, they have a great deal in common, and “The Prophecy of the Condor and Eagle” is typical. It states that back in the mists of history, human societies divided and took different paths: that of the condor (representing the heart, intuitive and mystical) and that of the eagle (representing the brain, rational and material). In the 1490's, the prophesy said, the two paths would converge and the eagle would drive the condor to the verge of extinction. Then, five hundred years later, in the 1990's a new epoch would begin, one in which the condor and the eagle will have the opportunity to reunite and fly together in the same sky, along the same path. If the condor and eagle accept this opportunity, they will create a most remarkable offspring, unlike any seen before.
“The Prophecy of the Condor and Eagle” can be taken at many levels — the standard interpretation is that it foretells the sharing of indigenous knowledge with the technologies of science, the balancing of yin and yang, and the bridging of northern and southern cultures. However, most powerful is the message it offers about consciousness; it says that we have entered a time when we can benefit from the many diverse ways of seeing ourselves and the world, and that we can use these as a springboard to higher levels of awareness. As human beings we can truly wake up and evolve into a more conscious species.
I do not believe there is intelligent direction of the universe or that we were “born at this time because we have a mission to accomplish.” But there are patterns in the evolution of culture that intuitive people can recognize. When similar prophetic visions occur independently in many cultures, they should be taken seriously. However, specific interpretations of these visions should always be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Here is my take on this prophecy. Western Culture, since the middle ages, has been increasingly dominated by intellect at the expense of other dimensions of the human psyche. This one sided development of reason created modern science and technology through which Western culture has dominated the planet. Reason is a very powerful but also very limited tool. Inevitably it seeks over simplistic models in domains that are too complex for a rational model.
In large part, my thinking follows Carl Jung's Psychological Types. Jung saw the human psyche organized around two pairs of opposing functions: thinking versus feeling and intuition versus sensation. The first pair represents rational functions. Thinking organizes material from an objective standpoint as an engineer might. Feeling organizes material from the standpoint of what is important to ones well being as a mother protecting her children might. Since these represent different rational ways of organizing the same material it is difficult to develop both of these functions.
The irrational opposites are similarly difficult to develop together. They are both pattern recognition processes. Sensation looks for patterns in what is present here and now. Intuition looks for the patterns that explain what lead to the current state of affairs and how the situation may evolve over time. Sensation types cannot see the forest for the trees. Intuitive types are well aware of the forest as they crash into the tree in front of them.
At this stage in history the natural next step is the development of intuition. Developing feeling, the opposite function to dominant thinking, is too difficult. Intuition and not sensation has the potential to offset the over simplistic views that is a fundamental weakness of intellect.
Of course both intuition and intellect have been essential to the development of science and technology. However intellect has remained in the driving role. Academia is focused on developing intellect, Intuition is seen as an almost magical force that just happens without systematic development. Ancient systems of developing intuition like astrology, tarot, and the I Ching remain steeped in superstition and no modern replacements have evolved.
Intellect's dominance cannot be overthrown externally. Instead it bears the seeds of its own waning influence. This is starting to happen at many levels. As intellect solves more of the problems that it is capable of dealing with, it expands the scope and importance of problems that are beyond it. For example the enormous improvements of productivity that technology has created are beginning to be a problem. Instead of leading to better lives for everyone, they are concentrating wealth into ever fewer hands, while earning a decent living is becoming more difficult for the vast majority. Simplistic laissez-faire capitalism exacerbates the problem. A far more subtle and complex understanding is required. This can only be done through open minded experimentation using both intellect and intuition to design and interpret the experiments.
Intellect seeks the solution, the correct answer the true path. The ultimate achievement of intellect is mathematics. This is a pure product of reason unsullied by the ambiguity and complexity of the real world. Yet it is in precisely this purest of intellectual products that the limitations of reason become most apparent. It has been proven with mathematical certainty that there can be no single path approach to discovering all mathematical truth. This can only be accomplished with a divergent process that, over time, follows an ever increasing number of paths. This result is known as Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem.
I see this prophecy as foretelling the rise of intuition and the beginning of a reconnection with ancient wisdom that does not fit into a narrow intellectual framework. But this must not and cannot be an abandonment or a renunciation of the achievements of intellect. It must be a union of the two that creates something different than and beyond what exists today.
I have spent a good part of my life thinking about these issues. One result is the book: What is and what will be.