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Bio & Lectures
David Anderson over his career was an international risk manager and senior executive at several of America’s premier multinational institutions. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Hawaii (Harvard Asia Pacific) Advanced Management Program.
During his career he became increasingly aware of the underlying cultural, institutional and religious causes of past and present civilizational dysfunction. He brings together a wide range of interests in his writings, namely; theology, history, evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, geopolitics, and economics.
His new book explores the relationship between Homo sapiens, Planet earth and the cosmos. It challenges the implicit ecological legitimacy of many of the thought areas of our political, social, religious and economic institutions. It makes recommendations as to how these institutions can be restructured in order to meet oncoming demands. It spells out in detail what is likely to occur if this does not take place.
We have reached a critical moment in human history. There is the possibility of a Sixth Extinction.
The Axial Age presuppositions that have been powering our thought process these last eight thousand years are the cause.
We are now finding that their formation has been heavily influenced by the dark neurotic psychotic and self-destructive side of our human brain. Past and recent history provide ample evidence of this. Today dysfunction societally within and between nations makes it obvious to the observer.
On the horizon is an ominous sign. It is the result of the ecological dysfunctionality of our economic system. In recent years it has become evident that the system is destroying our planet and is a threat to many forms of life on it, including our own.
This presemtation will explore these presuppositions. It will approach them by way of a discussion of the three periods from which we biologically emerged. Here they are:
The period before our Axial Age
Our Axial Age
The period to come after our Axial Age
First a definition of the term “Axial Age.” Karl Jaspers, a German philosopher writing in the middle of the twentieth century gave us that expression.
It began in Egypt along the Lower Nile (Alexandria to today’s Aswan in the South) and with the prophets of Israel in the Levant and with the philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle in Greece. It also began in Asia with the age the Hindu and the Upanishad and the Buddha and Confucius and Lao-tzu, the philosopher whose ideas became Daoism, as well as with many others.
How critical today is it to have an examination of this change in human thought? It is very critical. It was more than just another biological evolutionary change. It was a philosophical/religious change that altered the thought process that had existed for over one million years.
Recognition of a transcendental power intensified and moved from the horizontal god or gods (Nature) here on the planet to the verticle god or gods in the heavens. We were no longer "at one" with the Nature around us.
It was a change that now in the twenty-first century could be spelling our end. Many of our most prominent scientists are warning us that if we continue to think the way we think and live the way we live, there is a high probability we will soon be facing extinction.
These dire warnings go back to 2012 when the World Bank warned of the possibility of a Methane Hydrate Feedback Loop occurring in the Arctic that would bring on another Permian Triassic kind of planetary extinction event. Scientists are now warning us of other possibilities.
Humanity refuses to acknowledge this. Yes, a few enlightened individuals here and there, but they with only limited influence. The general population lives in a cloud of optimism bias. Over past generations it has been our strength. But now it has become our enemy. Because of this bias, few are able to grasp the fact that we humans have only limited control over Nature. For all our technological powers, we cannot escape the reality that we are subject to planetary forces beyond our control.
One reality we refuse to face is that we must reduce our population size. Earth’s supplies of habitable land, fresh water, arable soil and mineral resources at the present level are not able to satisfy our needs.
Another reality we refuse to face is that ocean acidification is threatening much of the marine food web. Rising carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution have caused the oceans to become 30 percent more acidic. The estimate is 150 percent more by 2100.
Another reality we refuse to face is that Capital markets have grown to a size where they are energizing ecologically destructive forces of a magnitude never before seen in human history. Negative externalities need to be measured and priced in up front so as to discourage, temper, or at the extreme eliminate trade.
Another reality we refuse to face is that religious extremism on a global scale is releasing deadly psychotic neurotic behavior with wide destructive social ramifications.
And we could go on with many others.
Where when do we begin? Far reaching changes must take place by the end of this century. They need to be of a magnitude like those that came with the beginning of our Axial Age. All of human society has to change the way it thinks. The changes need to be political, social, religious, philosophical and economic.
And if there are no changes, what then? The suffering of future generations will be extreme. First, those billions of humans who are living on the edge of survival will perish. We are already seeing this die off in many parts of the world. Then, the pain will move onto the rest of society.
Planet Earth is saying to Homo sapiens, using its unforgiving evolutionary language of rejection; you must change the way you think and the way you live and you must do it now.
Is there a way for us to break out of this downward spiral? There is. First we must examine many of those existing Axial Age patterns of thought believed today to be "inherent truths" that have become our enemy. The task will be daunting. It will require us to reinvent much of what we have believed to be sacred. We will have to change the way we think about everything; our lifestyles, our economics, our political systems, our social systems, our religions, ourselves.
Today’s patchwork of repairs and technological fixes will not suffice. A totally new societal design is called for; one leading to an entirely new societal structure, a structure designed whereby human activity can act in concert with nature itself. It will require a total metamorphosis of the twenty-first century human mind.
This new design cannot be implemented without first examining the core of our Axial Age weakness. As stated at the beginning of this lecture; the former horizontal transcendental relationship that had successfully guided our biological evolutionary development was abandoned. We moved away from an understanding of what we biologically and ecologically are. We abandoned our understanding of our relationship to Planet Earth and Planet Earth’s relationship to us.
We alienated ourselves from the Biosphere of this planet without recognizing that like any other organism within its Biosphere that alienates itself from the Biosphere, the end result is rejection.
So, here is the core question: Can there emerge a higher level of human consciousness with voices saying that we are not separate from the cosmic realm but are a part of a rhythm that is in a sense “the mind” of the cosmic realm, voices redefining the cosmic and planetary purpose of the human species by way of this new form of thought?
Let me end with a quote from Albert Einstein:
“The problems in the world today are so enormous they cannot be solved with the level of thinking that created them."
Solving the Riddle: Why do we think the way we do? Why are we what we are?
I was very young then. The soon to be Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia—Faisal bin Abdelaziz Al Saud who later became King and then in 1975 was murdered by his nephew—stepped out of a black Lincoln limousine in the drive of our home in Alpine, New Jersey. He was surrounded by body guards. Today, so many years later I can still picture every detail. I can still feel the awe of his presence.
Was that the moment I made my decision, one that years later became the genesis of my obsession to solve the riddle? It may have been. If my father, a poor Swedish immigrant's son could become the most powerful American banker for all of the Middle East at the House of Morgan, so important that even this princely man from Saudi Arabia would visit us at our home and drink coffee and eat my mother’s pastries, why couldn’t I too be like him?
So, later I set out to follow that same dream. Over the years it took me to every corner of the world.
It was a dream that ended in an answer to these questions.
Why do we think the way we do? Why are we what we are? Where will it lead us?