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Peter Russell

need to change it, or control it in some way. That is the cancerous programming that is running humanity, driving us crazy, and causing us to destroy our environment. So, ultimately, I see very close parallels, not only between the performance of cancer and the behavior of human beings on this planet, but also in the deeper root causes of what’s behind them both.

David: Do you think that the human species will survive the next hundred years, or do you think we’re in danger of extinction?

Peter: I really don’t know. It’s a wide open question. We may create so much disruption on the planet that it will be impossible for a higher life form such as human beings to exist. If we destroy the ozone layer, which is still a possibility, we destroy life on land. That’s the bottom line. Life has only existed on land for the last ten percent of Earth’s history, and it only existed on land because the ozone layer had formed, protecting the land from the ultraviolet light of the sun. Before that life had to be in the sea, because water filters out the ultraviolet light. If we destroy the ozone layer, it’s not just that we’re going to have to wear Factor 70 sun cream the whole time and wide rim hats. We may protect ourselves, but we’ll lose all of our food. The crops, the trees, the bees, and the rest of life will die. If we destroy the ozone layer, the surface of the planet, the whole land of the Earth will become desert–probably for hundreds of millions of years. That is still a possibility, although, thankfully, it looks like we got a handle on that. It’s probably the one environmental issue that we have handled. We’ve cut back enough on CFC’s (Chlorofluorocarbons) that it looks like the ozone layer may hold. But who knows? That scenario could still happen. We could destroy life on land, in which case we won’t be here.

What’s also clear is that it looks like we’ve messed up the world’s weather system. The evidence for this is now coming in month by month. The biggest concern at the moment is shifts in ocean current, and what’s that going to do to weather systems on a huge level–what that’s going to mean for agriculture, and the conflicts between people that it’s going to produce. Who knows how that’s going to play out?

My suspicion is that humanity will continue. But I don’t think Western civilization will continue–and to be quite honest, why should it? If you gave every species on Earth one vote, how many species would actually vote for the continuation of humanity? Maybe a few cockroaches and brown rats, and other species that are dependent on us. But if you look at what Western civilization does to the environment, I don’t think it has any justification to demand it continue to exist. When most people talk about saving the world, if you question them deeply, what they’re really saying is, they want to save this particular culture so that they can continue to exist. 

David: Assuming that humanity can get its act together in time, and we do survive, how do you envision the future evolution of the human species?

Peter: I think it’s something that’s already happening now, and that the future evolution of our species is in terms of our consciousness and our values. If you look back through history, there have been these lights of consciousness–we call them saints, yogis, the enlightened ones–who stepped out of this egocentric, materialistic “take what I can for myself” mode of consciousness. There have been people who have moved through that into a whole other way, a way that is full of compassion, understanding, and love, that is not self-centered, that is not concerned with taking from the environment, or with individual gain or profit. I think that is the direction in which we are headed.

At the moment, I think we are halfway through our inner evolution. We have woken up to our individuality, to our individual consciousness. Yet, because we haven’t woken up to what really lies behind that, we got in this pattern of trying to defend our little egocentric mode of consciousness, not realizing that it’s just a passing phase. The sooner we move through this stage the better. We’ll be disturbing the environment less, and able to cope better with whatever problems may be coming. 

I feel that that’s the inevitable direction of the evolution of consciousness. Everything moves towards that end. Everything evolves towards greater freedom. That’s true in the material plane, and consciousness has to move in the same direction. We have to move out of this very trapped mode of consciousness, into the sort of freedom and liberation which the great saints, yogis, and mystics have discovered. I think that is our true destiny, our true heritage.

David: What do you think happens to consciousness after death?

Peter: I have no idea. I’ve studied the near-death experience a bit, and it fascinates me. It would seem that one way of understanding it is that the individual consciousness is dissolving back into the infinite consciousness. The consciousness that I experience has this individual limitation because it is functioning in the world through my body, through my nervous system, through my eyes and ears. That’s where our sense of being a unique individual comes from.

When we begin to die, and let go of our attachment to the body, consciousness lets go of that identity which it gained from its worldly functioning, and reconnects with a greater infinite identity. Those who’ve had near-death experiences, often report there seems to be this dissolving of the senses, and a moving into light. Everything becomes light. There’s this sense of deep peace and infinite love. Then they come a threshold, beyond which there is no return. But we don’t know what happens beyond there because the people who come back haven’t gone beyond it. 

When I think of my consciousness, when I think of “me-ness”, it seems to be something that is created during this life through this interaction with the world, but doesn’t exist as an independent thing. I think that a lot of what our concerns about death comes from wanting to know what is going to happen to this “me” consciousness. Is “me” going to survive? I believe that this thing we call “me” is not going to survive. It’s a temporary working model that consciousness uses, but in the end it’s going to dissolve. A lot of our fear of death is that we fear this loss of “me-ness”, this lose of a sense of a separate unique identity. It’s interesting that people who’ve been through the near-death experiences, and experienced this dissolving of the ego, and realized that everything is okay when that happens, generally lose their fear of death. They feel incredible liberation in life.

David: What is your concept of God, and what type of relationship do you see between consciousness and what you would define as God?

Peter: For me the two are almost synonymous. But first, I should explain what I mean by consciousness. When I’m using the word consciousness I mean it in the sense of that fundamental essence of ourselves. The one thing we can not deny is we are experiencing beings, and in that sense we are conscious. We can be conscious of anything. I may be conscious of my thoughts, my dreams, the outside world, my fears, whatever. It’s all happening in consciousness. Consciousness is the space in which the phenomena of the mind take shape. 

If you look to the mystics, people who have really traveled deep into the mind, and explored the inner most essence of the mind, they claim to arrive at a state of pure consciousness—consciousness before it takes on a particular form, whether that form is a thought, an experience, a perception. They report that pure consciousness has divine qualities. There is an incredible sense of ease, peace, and release. There’s a sense of deep love, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. As I said earlier, it also has qualities of light. And it’s timeless, eternal. Now these are all qualities which we traditionally ascribe to God. God is love. God is light. God is eternal. The peace of God that passes all understanding. The forgiveness of God. So there’s very close parallels there between the experience of pure consciousness and the qualities ascribed to God.

What I think has happened over time is that some people have had an experience of pure consciousness. It’s the natural state of consciousness. Once we let go of all our doing and inner egocentric machinations, we discover this pure consciousness. Those who’ve have had this experience, have found it so transforming they have wanted to talk about it, share it with others. If you live in a culture that believes in some higher deity or God that has these qualities of infinite love, compassion, peace, then it’s very easy to imagine that you have had a direct contact with God. 

My feeling is that these qualities are intrinsic to consciousness. The divine isn’t something that’s out there; it is our own essential nature. It is the essential nature of everything in the cosmos. When we experience it, there is this incredible, almost overwhelming sense of freedom. Monotheistic cultures have identified this as the divine, and called it God. But for me, God isn’t a supreme being out there, looking over us, judging us, keeping an eye on us, intervening in the world if we petition him, she, or it correctly. God is our own essence, our own true nature. When you see the divine in this way, so much of spirituality makes new sense. 

It also answers the question of

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