A fundamental shift in humanity’s consciousness— our way of both perceiving and acting in the world has been developing over the past few decades and will continue to develop through much of the twenty-first century. The shift accompanies a profound rite of passage that the earth and its people are going through now as well as in the future. What is going to change? The prevailing societal trends of unlimited economic growth and material consumption will not continue, as they are not sustainable. On a global level, humanity will outgrow its adolescence, learning to become better stewards of the earth and its resources. Nations and cultures will increasingly come to honor each other as part of a global family, regardless of differences in race, religion, or nationality. Cooperation among nations will, out of necessity, begin to supersede conflict. Such values and inclinations are prevalent now among perhaps 10 to 20 percent of the population. They may not achieve a broad base, however, until the challenges humanity faces reach a critical mass. Increasing problems posed by climate change, ecological disruption, diminishing resources (especially oil and water), population growth, and poverty are rapidly reaching a point where dramatic worldwide changes in priorities will be required to forestall global chaos.

The change in worldview coming about at this time can be described from multiple perspectives, both conceptual and practical. These new perspectives are taking the place of the old scientific-materialist worldview that has dominated Western society for more than four hundred years. Some of the dominant themes of the new worldview include:

A CONSCIOUS UNIVERSE:
The universe as a whole is a conscious, coherent, and creative process, not a purely mechanistic object. Every whole system, from atoms to galaxies, has an interiority—a subjective aspect that exhibits attributes of consciousness such as self-organization and intentionality.

MULTIDIMENSIONAL REALITY:
Reality—the sum of all that is—exceeds the bounds of the physical universe and contains multiple “subtle” or transcendent dimensions. The more subtle dimensions form the matrix of the physical universe that we see.

INTERCONNECTION OF ALL MINDS:
Though we appear to exist in separate bodies, our minds, at the deepest level, are joined in a collective consciousness. At the level of our deepest soul, we are all one.

COMPLEMENTARITY OF SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY:
Both science and spirituality lead to an understanding of the Cosmos: science of its outer, objective aspect, and spirituality—along with humanities and the arts—of its inner, subjective/symbolic aspect. Radical empiricism: Intuitive and visionary forms of knowing are as valid as sensory-based forms of knowing, even if less subject to interpersonal and cross-cultural consensus.

CONSCIOUSNESS HAS A CAUSAL INFLUENCE:
Consciousness has inherent properties—such as a capacity for self-organization, intentionality, and meaning—that cannot be explained in terms of the material laws and processes of the natural sciences. Yet it has a causal influence on physical processes.

NATURAL ETHICS:
Ought reduces to is. Ethical behavior—what we ought to do—follows acting out of authenticity to one’s innermost nature rather than culturally relative standards. It’s clear that this new image of the Cosmos differs radically from the materialist one most of us grew up with. It is as radical a change from what has gone before as the Renaissance worldview was relative to the medieval one. Such an image exceeds the bounds of present-day science, although it’s not inconceivable that science itself could eventually evolve to embrace it.

The emerging shift in worldview is accompanied by a corresponding shift in values—what we deem to be important. These new values share a common feature: a movement away from a materialistic to a humanitarian-spiritual orientation toward life. Greater self-awareness, spiritual growth, and a sense of responsibility to the environment are seen as equally important as—if not more important than—economic success and consumption. Among these new values are:

REVERENCE FOR NATURE AND THE EARTH:
We are vitally dependent on the earth, the matrix of all life. Living in a cooperative, sustainable relationship with the earth is more important than exploiting it for material gain.

A SENSE OF INCLUSIVENESS TOWARD ALL HUMANITY:
We look beyond self-interest to recognize that all human beings are part of the same family, regardless of racial, ethnic, national, or religious differences. All human beings have equal rights to health, livelihood, safety, and prosperity.

COMPASSION:
An awareness of the suffering of other human beings subjected to poverty, disease, and inhumane living conditions, regardless of who they are or where they live. A desire to help.

INTEGRATION OF THE FEMININE:
A movement away from traditionally “masculine” values of hierarchy, autonomy, top-down control, and exploitation toward “feminine” values of inclusiveness, cooperation, interrelationship, nurturance, and love.

VALUING INTUITION:
Trusting one’s deeper intuitions or hunches as good guides for making decisions (along with reason).

VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY:
Cultivating a simpler life, both for the sake of inner peace and to leave a lighter footprint on the earth.

RESPECT FOR BEING PRESENT:
Living mindfully, or “in-the-now,” is given value equal to left-brained analysis and the demand to predict and control the future.

THE PRIMACY OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE:
Unconditional love and forgiveness are the highest values in our relations with others. If we are all one, then to harm another person is to harm ourselves. The operative question in all situations of interpersonal conflict reduces to “What is the most loving thing to do?”

Shifts in our values ultimately lead to shifts in the way we act. Already, many of us are beginning to change the way we behave toward ourselves, each other, our communities, and the larger environment and humanity of which we are a part. Not surprisingly, often what is healing for ourselves is also healing for the planet.

Adapted from GLOBAL SHIFT: HOW A NEW WORLDVIEW IS TRANSFORMING HUMANITY (New Harbinger Publications).

Author's Bio: 

Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D., has specialized in the treatment of anxiety disorders and related problems for two decades ans is the bestselling author of The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Beyond Anxiety and Phobia, and Coping with Anxiety. Dr. Bourne is a member of The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS).

Foreword writer Matthew Gilbert is director of communications at IONS and editor-in-chief of its quarterly publication, Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness.