© Jonathan Zap
Edited by Austin Iredale
(This article was published in Australian Magazine New Dawn on December 1st, 2008, and is reproduced here with their permission. In this version I have corrected a couple of factual errors in my recounting of the novel Childhood’s End This article is merely an introduction, if you prefer to go directly to my most thorough online treatment of the subject: White Crows Rising—- The Singularity Archetype and the Event Horizon of Human Evolution. My upcoming book will cover many new discoveries about the Singularity Archetype.)
Through a Glass Darkly
When we talk about the future we attempt to look, through a glass darkly, at a landscape that is unknown and unformed. Prophecy is a notoriously tricky and unreliable enterprise. Many people who have sought to look through that dark glass have seen images that were distorted reflections of themselves—of their hopes, fears and expectations. If there is a universal theme in the visions of prophets it is the prediction that extremely dramatic events will occur within their own lifetimes. The authors of the book of Revelations, for example, described events that they believed were going to happen in their time, the First Century AD, a fact rarely mentioned by born-again doomsayers. It is quite possible for someone to have a genuine revelation and then be completely mistaken about the time frame, or fall into the trap of being literal and concrete about the typically metaphorical vision they have seen.
How can we contemplate the future development of our own species in a planetary situation that boils over with an infinite array of variables? And how can we possibly transcend the inherent subjectivity of being fully vested members of the species for whom we are trying to predict?
The Prime Mover
One approach to the inherent unreliability of prophecy is to ignore as many subjective factors as possible, crunch a lot of numbers and analyze trends in a quasi-mathematical style. But the prime factor driving almost every trend being analyzed is the collective psyche. Warfare, environmental destruction, economic fluctuations and technological developments are mostly psychological products. Rather than trying to analyze trends, we need to look into the source of trends, the prime mover of the human experience, the collective psyche.
The collective psyche is an aggregation of individual psyches and, therefore, the individual psyche may recapitulate the collective psyche just as a small part of a fractal or a hologram recapitulates the whole. If we wanted a source of prophetic information about an individual psyche, if we wanted to look deeper than symptoms and behavioral fluctuations, and wanted to delve beneath the surface and into the source code of the individual matrix of personality, where would we look? The source of information I would choose would be dreams, the deepest and most unfiltered artifacts of the individual psyche. And, as Jung demonstrated, what the dream is for the individual, the myth is for the collective. A myth, therefore, is a kind of collective dream.
The work of Jung and his followers demonstrates convincingly the existence of a collective unconscious. From this collective layer of the unconscious emerge the great, primordial images Jung referred to as the “archetypes.” Across cultures and periods we find endless variations of these archetypes. The archetypes may appear as dreams or visions, especially in the fertile psyches of artists, poets, mystics, writers, shamans and prophets. Through such individuals the archetypes become myths and diffuse throughout a culture.
The dreams of an individual in crisis will tend to be dynamic, highly charged, and revealing of the deepest essence of the inner process. Similarly, the mythology of a culture in crisis will be intense and revealing of forces shaping collective destiny beneath the world of surfaces and appearances. Furthermore, the realms of dream and mythology will typically parallel or overlap. For example, Jung, working as an analyst during the era of the Weimar Republic, found that Wotan (in Germanic mythology, a god associated with war and mayhem) was occurring frequently in the dreams of his educated, highly civilized German patients. Jung was very disturbed by this phenomenon, which he called “Wotanism.” Based on the emergence of this archetype, Jung was able to correctly predict the future shape of irrational forces brewing in the German psyche. Through interpreting dreams, Jung was able to forecast with some accuracy the emergence of the virulent psychic contagion that took the form of Nazism and Hitler.
An Encounter with Jung
As a child my psyche was magnetized by emergent archetypal visions from the collective psyche that would appear in my own imagination, and also in many artifacts of popular culture such as science-fiction novels and films. By the time I was nineteen, and a senior in college, I set out to understand these numinous visions and was quickly led to a very personal encounter with Jung.
A few years ago I described that encounter as follows:
“My first encounter with Jung was intense and had the uncanny stamp of what Jung called ‘ synchronicity ’ all over it. I was nineteen years old and attempting to investigate certain anomalies. I had had experiences of a parapsychological nature, and found myself fascinated by disturbing fantasies and strange visions, which lit up in my imagination with recurrent intensity, but also appeared, inexplicably, outside of my psyche in sci-fi books and movies. This appearance of artifacts of the inside world materializing outwardly, another example of synchronicity, was especially strange as some of the material pre-dated my incarnation. Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, for example, had been written two years before I was born. Even more disturbing was the British 1960 sci-fi movie, Village of the Damned, which was based on the novel, The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, written five years before I was born. How could fantasies and visions that I thought weirdly peculiar to my imagination turn up in stories that were older than I was?
Still image from the movie, Village of the Damned
Unlikely help offered itself to me during the course of my studies. I was in my last year of college and the Chairman of the Philosophy Department, though I was an English major, had become my benefactor and opened doors for me in a highly conservative academic environment, allowing me to pursue interdisciplinary research projects into obscure, shadowy areas. But it was actually my mom who suggested that I read what a Carl Jung had to say about the ‘archetypes and the collective unconscious.’
And so I came to stand before the many elegant black volumes of the Princeton Bollingen edition of Jung’s collected works. But what could this Swiss psychiatrist, the son of a minister, who reached manhood in the nineteenth century, say of any use to a nineteen year old Jewish kid from the Bronx who found himself obsessed with sci-fi fantasies like The Midwich Cuckoos, in which a UFO-related incident somehow resulted in large-eyed, androgynous children with psychic powers and a group mind? I scanned the index volume for a minute or so and came across a late work, Flying Saucers, A Modern Myth of things Seen in the Sky . That was a bit of a shock, as UFOs were a major part of the fantasies and my esoteric research. I went right to volume ten, Civilization in Transition, where flying saucers were considered. This subject seemed to haunt Jung near the end of his life, and he couldn’t let go of it. At the end of the book there was an afterward, followed by an epilogue, followed by a supplement.
As I glanced through the supplement my jaw dropped open in amazement. Jung had devoted this supplement to analyzing mythological layers of meaning in John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos! It seemed as if this dead Swiss guy had stepped out of the bookcase and had holographically manifested himself to look over my shoulder at the same sci-fi story that obsessed me. Even more amazing, I saw that we had some parallel ideas about what it might mean.”
From the moment of that first encounter, Jung, like a wizard bearing a torch, became my guide as I followed numinous visions of evolutionary metamorphosis down the rabbit hole and discovered what I now call “the Singularity Archetype.”1 Essentially, the Singularity Archetype is a primordial image of an evolutionary event horizon.
1 To read the paper that resulted a few months later from this encounter, Archetypes of a New Evolution ( 1978)
Down the Rabbit Hole
Before we descend, however briefly, through the rabbit hole to encounter the Singularity Archetype, I would like to suggest an invaluable piece of equipment to bring along. Besides all the critical faculties that you bring to bear on this or any other article you read, an encounter with an archetype also requires a deeply intuitive truth sense. As you approach an archetype you will feel a resonance within, a sense of uncanny familiarity and recognition. The Hero with a Thousand Faces is the memorable title of Joseph Campbell’s classic book on the hero archetype. Campbell was being numerically modest because every archetype has billions or trillions of faces. These myriad faces are the individual permutations or manifestations of the archetype, like facets allowing you to look into the prismatic depths of a jewel that can dazzle and overwhelm.
During our brief journey we will have time to look through only three faces/facets of the Singularity Archetype. Hopefully these three vantages will allow the reader to triangulate the essence of an ever-shifting vision. At most, a fundamentalist looks through a single facet of an archetype and concretizes a single face he has been conditioned to see there. The Jungian approach, however, is to realize that each facet involves its own prismatic distortions of the archetype, like a series of cubistic paintings of a single subject. Unlike the fundamentalist, the Jungian doesn’t attach to the idiosyncratic reflections of particular versions, but attempts to see the essence that unites the myriad manifestations of the archetype.
Our first manifestation of the Singularity Archetype comes in the form of a dream reported to me by an intelligent young man a few years ago. The dreamer finds himself standing in the clearing of a forest. The sky is turning very dark. Underground tremors occur and escalate to where the earth seems to be shaking itself to pieces. There is fire and lightening and it seems to be the end of the world. Then everything calms down. The sky clears and then a large white eagle comes spiraling down from above. In its talons it holds a golden egg with a glowing aura. Carefully, it deposits this egg in a nest at the top of a great tree.
Von Franz describes two dreams reported to her by someone she describes as “…a simple woman who was brought up in Protestant surroundings…” In both dreams a supernatural event of great significance is being viewed. But in one dream the dreamer is viewing the event from below, standing on the earth, in the other dream she views the same event from above.
(The dreamer’s painting, from Man and His Symbols by C.G. Jung.)
In the earthbound dream, the dreamer is standing with a guide looking down at Jerusalem. The wing of Satan descends and darkens the city. The uncanny wing of the devil occurring in the Middle East immediately brings to mind Antichrist and Armageddon.
But in her other dream, the dreamer is witnessing the same event from the heavens. From this vantage the dark wing of Satan appears as the white, wafting cloak of God. A white spiral appears as a symbol of evolution. Von Franz describes,
...the spectator is high up, somewhere in heaven, and sees in front of her a terrific split between the rocks. The movement in the cloak of God is an attempt to reach Christ, the figure on the right, but it does not quite succeed. In the second painting, the same thing is seen from below—from a human angle. Looking at it from a higher angle, what is moving and spreading is a part of God; above that rises the spiral as a symbol of possible further development. But seen from the basis of our human reality, this same thing in the air is the dark, uncanny wing of the devil.
In the dreamer’s life these two pictures became real in a way that does not concern us here, but it is obvious that they may also contain a collective meaning that reaches beyond the personal. They may prophesy the descent of a divine darkness upon the Christian hemisphere, a darkness that points, however, toward the possibility of further evolution. Since the axis of the spiral does not move upward but into the background of the picture, the further evolution will lead neither to greater spiritual height nor down into the realm of matter, but to another dimension…
Now we shall switch facets and view the third manifestation of the Singularity Archetype through a very different psyche and medium. The very different psyche belongs to Arthur C. Clarke, who was originally an astrophysicist and later became famous as a science-fiction writer. Perhaps Clarke is best known for the novel and Stanley Kubrik film, 2001. 2001 is one of the most brilliant versions of this archetype, but we are going to consider an earlier example of Clarke’s work, the classic science-fiction novel, Childhood’s End . A science-fiction novel is a consciously created fantasy, and a very different medium than a dream, but it is also an especially fertile and open imaginal realm where the collective unconscious can communicate with modern persons and a new mythology, however unrecognized, can collectively express itself.
Childhood’s End begins with the appearance of UFOs in the heavens all over the earth. Beings from within these craft break through all communications and announce that they are ” the Overlords ” and have come to establish peace on earth. This sounds like ominous news, but the Overlords do establish peace on earth and, excepting military aggression, do not curtail any human freedoms. Another curious aspect of the Overlords is that they announce that they will not reveal their physical form to us for two generations—fifty years. People speculate that they must be hideous and look like giant insects or slime mold or some other grotesque and horrifying form.
The fifty years pass peacefully for the human species, and the Overlords come to be accepted and everyone eagerly awaits the day when the Overlords will descend to earth and reveal themselves. When the long anticipated day arrives the great spacecraft descend. With some ceremony, the Overlords emerge and to the uneasy surprise of the human species they look exactly like gigantic devils with horns, tails and great ebony wings.
This decidedly mythological element is fascinatingly incongruous with the setting of technological materialism stereotypical of the science-fiction genre. What is the meaning of a specter from the Christian and pagan past reemerging in the world of the future? Clarke gradually reveals that the Overlords’ alarming physiognomy is simply the result of their physical adaptation to the environmental conditions of their planet. The Overlords are actually perfectly benevolent and are far more rational and intelligent than humans.
The Overlords are servants of the “Overmind,” a cosmic intelligence permeating the universe that is Clarke’s naturalistic God concept. The Overmind employs the Overlords as midwives. When the Overmind senses that an intelligent species is about to make the evolutionary jump into higher consciousness it sends the Overlords to their planet to supervise the process. This evolutionary process is apparently volatile and unstable, and if not properly supervised could result in disastrous consequences whose effects would reach far beyond the particular world on which the process occurs. The fact that the Overlords have the appearance of a deep ancestral archetype of evil is described by Clarke as, “…a race memory of a future event.” The human race has a premonitory fear of the Overlords because it senses that their arrival signifies the end of the genome, the obsolescence of the species in its old form. From the earthbound perspective of the conservative old form, this evolutionary birth is apocalyptic and evil.
The Overlords, though infinitely superior to humans in every perceivable attribute, are themselves barren and unable to manifest the evolutionary birth process that it is their perpetual task to oversee. On earth, in addition to keeping human beings from destroying each other, the Overlords have a secret task, to search for an extraordinary individual who will be the first human being to exhibit these evolutionary changes. This individual is referred to as “Subject Zero” and the concept seems close to a naturalistic version of searching for the Messiah.
As part of this search, an Overlord named Rasheverak pays a visit to an American man who has one of the largest privately owned collections of books on parapsychology and the occult. Rasheverak is interested in this library because he is looking for any examples of extraordinary functioning that might indicate the emergence of Subject Zero. Like any intelligent, skeptical reader of such material, Rasheverak finds that it is often difficult to sift the truth from the abundant nonsense.
During Rasheverak’s visit, the library owner invites several guests who he wants to impress with his connection to an Overlord, a kind of extraterrestrial celebrity.
Rasheverak, who has the forbearance of a visiting anthropologist, maintains an observer’s stance as he witnesses the guests conducting a séance with a Ouija board. When they ask the Ouija board the traditional question, “Who are you?” its response is highly suggestive of the collective unconscious: “IAMALL.” The Ouija participants next ask, “What are the coordinates of the Overlord’s sun?” This information had always been denied the human species and Rasheverak takes sudden interest when the Ouija planchette spells out the correct coordinates. Rasheverak is forced to conclude that one of these thoroughly mediocre-seeming individuals must be Subject Zero.
Rasheverak investigates and discovers that one member of the Ouija séance, a young woman, is pregnant. Subject Zero turns out to be her unborn child. By a certain age Subject Zero begins to exhibit numerous parapsychological abilities. His special status is short lived, however, because all the children born after him also begin to exhibit similar powers. The children quickly evolve and become more powerful, and their psyches merge to form a collective consciousness. The children materialize themselves on one continent and join hands forming a giant moving configuration the Overlords call “The Long Dance.” Older, pre-Subject Zero human beings are not destroyed, but having given birth to their successors they become literally sterile and are utterly demoralized by their irrelevance and inevitable extinction.
When the children manifest their ultimate evolution and are able to merge energetically with the Overmind, they appear to the last human being left alive as an aurora borealis, a spiral of light in the sky also described as a glittering network of lights.
Childhood’s End uncannily parallels the three dreams we have considered. In the young man’s dream, darkness and earthquake transform into a spiraling white eagle bearing a golden egg. Similarly, the dark wing of Satan descends in the dream of a simple Christian woman, only to be later revealed as the cloak of God. And all three manifestations envision spirals of light in the sky as related to an interdimensional, evolutionary portal of the species. A central, emergent theme is that what seems apocalyptic from the earthbound, ego point of view is revealed from a cosmic point of view to be a transcendent evolutionary metamorphosis.
We’ll conclude with a brief, highly compressed survey of some of the other themes, related aspects and implications of the Singularity Archetype.
Looking Toward the Event Horizon
Many manifestations of the Singularity Archetype involve the revelation of other dominant species. The other species may be enhanced, mutant versions of the human species with paranormal abilities, extraterrestrial species, artificially intelligent machines and/or interdimensional/time-traveling species. UFOs, reports of “visitors” and abductions are also deeply involved in many of these manifestations. The themes of genetic hybridization with alien species, genetic engineering, spontaneous mutation and cyber-enhanced humans surround the archetype. There may also be revelations of other species that have interpenetrated the destiny of the human species from its origins, and some of these may prove to be parasitic manipulators while others are benefactors and guardians.
As we move toward the event horizon, the physics of the dreamtime more potently interpenetrates the physics of the waking life. Synchronicity becomes more the rule than the exception, and the way we have become accustomed to experiencing space and time is drastically altered. Matter is respiritualized and transforms more readily to accord with psychic intentions. The new species are changelings and reality transformers freed from many of the mortal and corporeal limitations that bound the older species.
The relationship between individuality, ego, and collectivity is fundamentally transformed, and we see many variations of “Homo gestalt”—new versions of the species where group telepathies enhance the synergy and symbiosis of individuals. More visual and telepathic modalities of communication are involved in this fundamental shift. Members of the new species are typically androgynous and many aspects of gender stereotyping become archaic
To catalyze such fundamental metamorphosis may require planet-wide shocks that punctuate the equilibrium of the species and threaten the entire human genome. The shocks may need to be of apocalyptic intensity to overcome the inherent conservatism of species homeostasis and to potentiate a will toward metamorphosis. As we move toward the event horizon there is an exponential intensification of novelty as new and unexpected forms are created, latent capacities become manifest, and emergent aspects are revealed. The human ego as defender of the old equilibrium may approach many of these transformations with fear, loathing and violence. Patriarchal power structures, including religious fundamentalism and the military-industrial complex, may perceive the metamorphosis as a zero-sum game competition of species, with genocide or extinction as the binary options.
Because the eschaton of the species and the individual event horizon of death have great parallel resonance, those who are driven by the fear and denial of death will greet the metamorphosis with the same maladaptive strategies that have characterized their approach to life in general. Xenophobic violence, will to power, and territoriality may be exacerbated. As novelty intensifies, we should expect to see the outer edges of both dark and light intensify.
Because of the parallelism between individual death and eschaton of the species, the typically human confusion of inner and outer will cause many prophesiers to anticipate various end dates conveniently scheduled to occur within their lifetimes. This tendency to displace fear of individual death onto a relatively close end date only intensifies the binding to linear time and represents a last effort of the ego to control a transcendent metamorphosis.
The Singularity Archetype is essentially a low resolution map of an evolutionary event horizon. From my point of view the future contains formed and unformed elements, and the lack of specificities and exact timelines (though many will attempt to attach these) allow greater room for free will and novel outcomes. Each of us is hurtling toward an event horizon, and whether the nearest event horizon is personal death or species-wide eschaton, it is crucial to view both as emergences rather than as emergencies. A threshold of absolute metamorphosis is guaranteed in either case, and therefore the way one lives one’s life requires ultimate values that retain meaning when seen against the backdrop of eternity.
For more detail:
My first exploration of the topic, written in 1978 as a philosophy honors paper.
White Crows Rising—- The Singularity Archetype and the Event Horizon of Human Evolution <<<My most thorough online treatment
I’m working on a book on the Singularity Archetype which contains a number of new discoveries unfortunately not covered in anything I have posted on line.
My two DVDs with John Major Jenkins— Dialogues on Prophecy and the End of Time and Looking Toward the Event Horizon are four hours of discussion of the same material. They are now available for free as streaming video, just click on the links. Unfortunately some of the audio and video are a couple of seconds out of phase, we’ll get that fixed eventually.
A follow up is Avatar and the Singularity Archetype,