Crisis and Grounds for Optimism

October 17, 2023
Claudia Welss, IONS Board Chair and Interim CEO

I start by acknowledging the current world situation— the war between Israel and Hamas, conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the continuing war in Ukraine, and everyone everywhere, all life facing existential threats. We extend our heartfelt care and concern as we reaffirm that the mission of IONS is intended to elevate humanity and our planet beyond the levels of consciousness that are creating these conditions for self-destruction. And it is all “Self.”

“Polycrisis,” first coined in 1990 and now a ubiquitous buzzword according to Time Magazine, “describes the simultaneous and overlapping crises facing the world today: a health crisis, a mounting climate crisis, war .. inflation shock, democratic dysfunction, and much more.”  Not explicit on this list is the crisis of consciousness that IONS was founded to address. The concept of polycrisis is also meant to indicate that the variety of different shocks of the type that we’re now dealing with is extremely unusual, but we know that just because it’s unusual doesn’t mean we couldn’t — doesn’t mean that we didn’t —see it coming. 

Longtime IONS past President Willis Harman saw it coming. Working with him 30 years ago on consciousness-based strategies to change the trajectory of the modern world, I learned a lot — but perhaps nothing more urgent and challenging than his belief that the darker things look, the more optimism we need to apply.

“Because of the interconnectedness of all minds, affirming a positive image of the future may be about the most sophisticated action any one of us can take.”  Willis Harman

During the May 2023 CEO Update I gave to IONS Circle Members, I was asked, “In such a dismal, violent, divisive time, what grounds are there for optimism?” I shared grounds for my optimism include an understanding from evolutionary biology that crisis is an evolutionary driver. By signaling that incremental change will no longer suffice to transcend limitation, crisis demands that we evolve or face the consequences. Humanity has been receiving these signals for a long time, and our current time of polycrisis signals that we can turn a deaf ear no longer. This is a clarion call for humanity to evolve in real time. It’s breakthrough or breakdown.

For 50 years, IONS has been preparing humanity to break through our crises through a transformation of consciousness. A response to “noetic science” has been building, visible in the number of people and organizations seriously considering the necessity of a “post-materialist” paradigm that will transcend the scientific belief in fundamental separation. From individual web searches to the most prestigious scientific journals, interest in — and commitment to — consciousness-based solutions as the only real way forward is growing. And that is further grounds for optimism.

“The next transformation may fairly complete itself within the timespan of a single generation.”  Willis Harman

There’s an acceleration of a collective realization that, as powerful as it is, the materialist paradigm is incomplete. While it can explain, control and predict much of the physical aspects of our outer world — giving us immense and dangerous powers of creation and destruction — it can’t tell us what consciousness is, or why or how it matters.  It can’t tell us how to use our powers to increase our humanity.  It can’t reconcile our inner and outer worlds.  The causal nature of consciousness must be accounted for in our scientific models of reality.  

 “We are living through one of the most fundamental shifts in history — a change in the actual belief structure of Western society.  No economic, political, or military power can compare with the power of a change of mind.  By deliberately changing their images of reality, people are changing the world.”  Willis Harman

In last month’s blog, I posted an introduction to a reprint of Willis’ 30+ year-old article, “Where is Our Positive Image of the Future?”  To create such a “global mind change” requires a more holistic image of ourselves and of reality.  Through rigorous science, direct experience and an ongoing commitment to our legacy of optimism for the future, IONS is helping people change the world by changing their images of reality, and of themselves.

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