"For the first time in recorded human history, the fate of our entire species rests upon the choices of a single generation."
Gregg Braden, Excerpt from Living in the Mind of God
We are a mysterious species of extremes and contradictions. It has been said that we are capable of dreaming the most beautiful dreams, while harboring the darkest nightmares. At the same time, within each of us is the power to bring our visions to life. Perhaps at no other time in history have we shared our world with so many of our kind, while feeling so separate and alone. Perhaps at no time in our past have we viewed our future with such promise, yet so much uncertainty.
In the last 100 years we have coaxed from creation the timeless secrets of matter, conception, life and death. Our newfound understandings afford us abilities believed to be unknown at any time in our past. With natures forces at our command, we find ourselves capable of redesigning our genetic code, customizing our weather patterns, and creating new forms of life powers historically left to God and nature.
We may find that the greatest irony of our time is that with such miraculous technologies, families are still destroyed and children orphaned from preventable disease, malnutrition, and viral epidemics that sweep through their homelands. With the most sophisticated understandings of peace, now available to the largest populations ever recorded, we still find ourselves witness to the horrors of war, induced famine and senseless acts of hate. It is within this context of these extremes that we search for unity in our world and deeper meaning in our lives.
In January of 1999, the WorldWatch Institute stated "The bright promise of a new century is clouded by unprecedented threats to the stability of the natural world." This, and similar reports, suggest that beyond the dangers posed by natural disasters and disease, it is humankind itself that appears to be the greatest threat to our future. Today, our use of science and technology has given us the power to preserve, or destroy, all that we cherish as a species. We may discover that it is precisely the presence of such power that now compels us to find a single principle of unity undeniable proof that as a global family we are greater than any differences that have ever separated us. Our survival may now depend upon our ability to do so.
In our world of diversity, it is often easier to focus on the differences that divide us rather than the principles that unite us. Ours is the story of a species defined by religion, the color of our skin, the wealth of our societies, and the advancement of our technology. During the approximately 250,000 years that scientists estimate humankind has been in this world, we have managed to seek out our differences, and transform them into the invisible boundaries of class and society that fuel our sense of separateness.
Based upon those boundaries, countless members of our global family have suffered in ways that seem unthinkable, even unimaginable, in the minds of rational and loving people. Together, we share the darkness of a history punctuated by persecutions, inquisitions, enslavement and attempts to eliminate entire races from the face of the earth. The development of hi-tech weapons in the last century made it possible to destroy enormous numbers of lives in a single day. History shows, however, that something even more disturbing is responsible for creating what historian Eric Hobsbawm has called "the most murderous century in recorded history."
In his assessment of the toll taken by what he calls "politically motivated carnage," Zbiginew Brzezinski, former national security advisor under the Carter administration, estimated that by 1993 the violence of the 20th Century based in our differences had cost between 167 and 175 million lives roughly the equivalent of the populations of Great Britain, France and Italy combined!
Along with the battles to settle disputes over borders and resources, the last century also saw a rise in horrors of a different kind the seemingly relentless efforts to "cleanse" societies based upon characteristics that set them apart from others around them. In 1948 the United Nations General Assembly chose the term genocide to describe this kind of violence, and defined it as " a denial of the right of existence of entire human groups (Article II of the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide)."
While it is not easy to acknowledge such statistics, they tell the sobering story of our willingness to use the power of technology to destroy the things that we dislike, disagree with, or simply do not understand. Unfortunately, in the first years of the 21st Century many of the conditions, and much of the thinking that justifies such violence, appears to remain.
Diplomatic solutions to conflict are always the most desirable. On an international scale, when such attempts have failed, the tendency has been to resort to a military solution, overwhelming the source of violence with yet a greater force of power. It is precisely this principle that has been used in locations ranging from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Sierra Leone and East Timor. Although the intent of such missions is to provide peace and stability, the peace can be an imposed peace only, one where conflict is discouraged by a show of force. History has shown that in the long term, an imposed peace is temporary, at best.
Clearly, the number and duration of todays peacekeeping missions is teaching us a powerful lesson. Bringing to mind the image of poking a finger into one part of a water-filled balloon, and seeing it bulge in another place of the same balloon, the repression of violence stemming from hurt and anger in one part of the world does not make the conflict go away. While troops and sanctions can discourage violence in a particular location, the underlying tension at the root of that violence remains.
From this perspective, military solutions may be viewed as a "band aid" of sorts, a quick, near-term response to a much deeper crisis. At times such responses may make sense by saving lives. It was only with the intervention of peacekeeping forces during the Kosovo crisis in 1999, for example, that the extermination of entire villages and communities was prevented. The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people, however, has escalated even with a military presence in place.
This, and similar examples, illustrate the fact that true peace is more than simply the absence of conflict. Lasting peace happens in the hearts and minds of people before it ever happens between governments and nations. While peacekeeping efforts throughout the world are key, and may provide a stepping stone toward ending the cycles of violence, in the end they can do little more than buy precious time. The question becomes one of whether or not, within that time, we have the wisdom to truly resolve the issues that divide us. In our search for long-term solutions of peace, we must find another way.
Before his death in 1996, astronomer and visionary Carl Sagan described our time in history as one of "technological adolescence" a time when we have the ability to tap the forces of nature, while still developing the wisdom to survive such power. In many respects the violence and competition for resources that we see in our world today may be viewed as symptoms, signs that we have arrived at our technological adolescence.
In order to survive our time in history, we must mature into the responsibilities that accompany such power. Key in that process is our ability to refrain from using our newfound power to impose solutions to the differences that have divided us. Not unlike the universal experience of young people transitioning into adulthood, we must find a way to balance our access to the forces of nature with the values of life while honoring our diversity. Just as young people must adjust quickly to their newfound powers and responsibilities to survive, our future hinges upon our ability to survive our learning curve.
Reflecting upon the magnitude of the crises we now face as a global family, futurist Barbara Marx-Hubbard clarifies the urgency of our lesson in very simple terms, describing our situation as one in which " if we dont learn [that we are all connected, we are all related, that its all one living body], we wont breathe!"
The same science that has unlocked creations innermost secrets must solve what may be the greatest mystery of all: We must discover the principle of unity that will allow us to survive our differences. Does such a universal principle exist? Could a record of the most sacred trust of humankind have survived time and civilization, awaiting discovery since the dawn of our creation?
For over four thousand years, scholars have asked precisely such questions. Seeking clues within the scrolls, chiseled walls and fragmented texts of antiquity, they have scrutinized the records of our ancestors. From the libraries of remote monasteries to crumbling manuscripts, painstakingly transcribed letter by letter, the discoveries thus far, while interesting, have failed to live up to the expectations of such records. What has been found, however, are clues to our mystery, suggesting that the written records of our past are incomplete and reveal only a portion of something much greater in scope.
From mysterious passages of the Sefer Yetzirah, the Kabballahs ancient Book of Creation, to the original inscription above the entrance to Apollos Temple at Delphi, there are references to a universal key, a time capsule of knowledge, that has been with us all along. Within that capsule is held the long-forgotten key to our origins, as well as our survival. Through that knowledge, we are given the means to bridge any differences that have ever divided us. The theme of such passages is deceptively simple. With an eloquence that is typical of time-honored traditions, we are invited to "know thyself" and "seek within" for the answers to our deepest mysteries.
Scholars have traditionally viewed these passages as simple metaphors for the wisdom traditions. Is it possible, however, that our invitation to "look within" is something more? Could such passages be taken literally and read as directions actual instructions describing where we may find the clues from our past that insure our future?
A new interpretation of the ancient invitations suggests that the secret to our mysteries may be found within what our most cherished traditions refer to as the crowning achievement of Gods creation. Rather than sifting through the remains of weathered temples and crumbling manuscripts, the answers to our deepest mysteries lie hidden within life itself, our biology! Faced with the unique challenges of our time, the formula for peace in our world and perhaps our very survival may live within each of us, perfectly replicated within each member of our global family.
A literal message has been found within the molecule of life the DNA in each cell of our bodies. Through a remarkable discovery linking Biblical alphabets to our genetic code, the "language of life" may now be read as the ancient letters of a timeless message. A decade-long project to translate that message now reveals a forgotten language that describes the nature of our origin, and our relationship to one another. Regardless of race, religion, heritage or lifestyle, the message in each person is the same.
Through this message, preserved from the first day of our existence, we are given an unprecedented reason to look beyond the issues that have separated us in the past. With nearly one third of the worlds nations now engaged in armed conflict, such proof of a common bond offers an undeniable principle of unity, and a place to begin when our differences seem insurmountable.
The secret to revealing such a code is that we must first recognize the universal ties that unite us with our world, and perhaps most importantly, with one another. In doing so, we may find that our past has been the catalyst, patiently leading us to the most ancient source of knowledge in existence, the library within each of us that has held our secrets from the first day of our existence.
Gregg Braden is a New York Times bestselling author and has been a featured guest for international conferences and media specials exploring the role of spirituality in technology. He will present a multimedia workshop, Living in the Mind of God, in Seattle on June 6-7. For more information on Gregg Bradens work, visit <www.greggbraden.net>.