Daniel Pinchbeck, Interview Magazine

It’s an exciting time to be a doomsayer. The environment is ravaged, the world economy has collapsed, and every passing day seems to spin us toward a great, dark inevitable. Of course, we’ve seen this movie before (many times, in fact)—and here we are, still around to act it out again. But it does explain the recent resurgence of some of the doomsaying classics, including a grim forecast that dates back to theancient Mayan civilizations of Mesoamerica:the 2012 prediction.

The Mayans viewed time and history in terms of cycles, and according to their most expansive measuring stick, the Long Count calendar, the current cycle ends on December 21, 2012, with what is believed to be a particular alignment of the Earth, the sun, and the center of the Milky Way. (Many astronomers dispute this.) The Mayans didn’t elaborate except to say that the date would represent the end of one cycle and the beginning of another, which has resulted in theories about the date as a sort of fulcrum in the process of human evolution to others foreseeing all-out extinction.

It’s difficult to find a commentary on the 2012 phenomenon that doesn’t have some connection to Daniel Pinchbeck. The author of two books and numerous articles on the subject, Pinchbeck is an oft-quoted authority on all things 21st-century-radical, from free love and urban homesteading to the use of psychedelics (of which he is an outspoken advocate). But Pinchbeck’s relationship with the counterculture is more than just spiritual: His father, Peter Pinchbeck, was an abstract expressionist painter; and his mother, Joyce Johnson, authored a memoir about the women of the Beat Generation titled Minor Characters.

Growing up in New York City, Pinchbeck wanted to become a poet or a novelist. After dropping out of university at Wesleyan in Connecticut, he moved back to Manhattan, where he began working as a writer and founded the literary journal Open City with Thomas Beller and Robert Bingham. For a while, everything was going according to plan. But it all began to unravel one day in late 1999 when Bingham was found dead of a heroin overdose. Something began to change in Pinchbeck. He quit Open City and began a long—and, he says, very hermetic—process of retreating from the life he once sought so desperately to live.

On a trip to Africa prior to Bingham’s death, Pinchbeck had taken iboga—a root bark with hallucinatory properties. After that, his interest in psychedelics deepened beyond the LSD and mushrooms he had taken recreationally in college. He began to travel the world, experimenting with trip-inducing substances like ayahuasca (what the Beats called yagé), and immersing himself in the ancient tribal cultures that surrounded them—an experience he chronicled in his first book, Breaking Open the Head—which led to his interest in 2012.

The popular view of the 2012 prediction—that the end of the world is nigh—has spawned a cult cottage industry and even a big-budget feature film directed by Roland Emmerich, 2012, which is due out later this year. (The film’s tagline: “How would the governments of our planet prepare six billion people for the end of the world? They wouldn’t.”) But it is another interpretation—that the date represents aninitiation of sorts for humanity which is directly linked to our mistreatment of the environment and the current economic implosion—that interests Pinchbeck, even if it does include some of the fire and brimstone.

Pinchbeck recently co-edited an anthology titled Toward 2012: Perspectives on the Next Age, with Ken Jordan, composed of essays culled from their website, Reality Sandwich. He also authored another book on the subject,2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, and is involved in an upcoming documentary on 2012 directed by João Amorim.

On a recent Monday, in the café of a Jivamukti yoga studio, the 42-year-old Pinchbeck calmly explained why life—at least as we know it—is about to end.

STEPHEN MOOALLEM: You come from a family that has strong roots in the postwar counterculture. How did you feel about that growing up?

DANIEL PINCHBECK: I grew up in a very artistic, cultured home, but without any kind of spirituality. My parents were secular materialists, so I saw art as having this alternate value. I always wanted to be a poet or a novelist, so I definitely associated with countercultural ideas. Allen Ginsberg was somebody I knew a bit when I was young—I really had a lot of respect for him.

MOOALLEM: So you were living in New York and you were getting published; you started a literary journal . . .

PINCHBECK: When it came time to make a living, I worked in magazines, but ultimately I hit this kind of spiritual crisis . . . It was in the late ’90s. I was like 31 or 32, and I wasn’t doing terribly, in financial terms. I had written a piece for Esquireabout the decline of sperm counts due to things like estrogen-mimicking hormones in chemicals. After doing that story, I really wanted to write more about those kinds of subjects, but I found it almost impossible to get those kinds of messages out into the mainstream media. So I just began to feel that the things that were most important to talk about were blocked off. I even began to feel that contemporary literature and art were these amazing distraction mechanisms, that they didn’t really deal with any kind of spiritual dimension of the human existence or even the dangers we were facing as a species. Then I had a really good friend die of a heroin overdose . . . I got really depressed and felt increasingly alienated and just went on this inner search. I began to ask myself what would constitute proof that there wasn’t any other dimension to being, and that led me to remember my psychedelic experiences in college.

MOOALLEM: What was it like for you, having worked in the Manhattan media world and then sort of going off in this other direction?

PINCHBECK: In many respects it was brutally difficult. For a while, I felt very lonely. But then I began to find new playmates and friends who shared my interests. It was some kind of initiatory death-and-rebirth process in terms of my New York life and my priorities. I had gone to West Africa where I went through this tribal initiation, taking iboga . . . After that, there was no looking back because the experience was so incredibly fascinating, the insights and the visions and the shaman . . . This whole subject area had a magnetic attraction.

MOOALLEM: So how did you come around to this 2012 stuff? For the uninitiated—no pun intended—can you briefly explain what is supposed to happen?

PINCHBECK: The interest in 2012 has to do with the Classic Mayan civilizations that developed in the Yucatán. Before they mysteriously vanished, it seems they spent hundreds of years trying to establish a knowledge system around time and astronomical cycles, and they arrived at this December 21, 2012 date as the end of their Long Count calendar, which is a 5,125-year cycle. Now, different people have different ideas about what this date means. Some people believe it represents a kind of changeover, like an odometer clicking back to zero. But there’s also thought that the Mayans saw it as the end of a world cycle. What’s thought to be happening astronomically is an alignment on the winter solstice where the sun rises in the dark rift at the center of the Milky Way. Again, there are different ideas that people have about this—that maybe, on a galactic level, we’ll cross the plane of the equator and there will be forces that switch polarity, so maybe we’ll move from biological and physical life to a more psychic phase of evolution. There’s a Russian scientist, Alexey Dmitriev, who has been looking at changes in the solar system . . . The entire galaxy might be transitioning into a higher energy state—I mean, NASA talks about the heliosphere, the energy changing. The earth’s electromagnetic field is changing. So there seems to be a lot of physical evidence that might correlate to some kind of profound shift in the earthly planetary reality . . .

MOOALLEM: So what do you believe is going to happen on December 21, 2012?

PINCHBECK: I don’t pretend to know what’s going to happen. I mean, at the moment, our civilization is very unsustainable. We’re quickly reaching the end of our resources. There’s a species-extinction crisis. Climate change is accelerating. By many accounts, we’ve hit peak oil. We’ve had this huge financial meltdown. So I guess one way I’ve seen it is as a window of opportunity for us to change the direction of planetary civilization . . . If we don’t do that, then we may end up in a situation that’s kind of like The Road Warrior[1981] . . . without the fun.

MOOALLEM: So do you envision a Noah’s Ark–type situation, where a select few make it through to the other side?

PINCHBECK: Well, again, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but my hope is that everybody comes through this experience safe and happy. It seems almost like an initiation process for the human species. If you look at shamanic initiation, it’s a kind of death-and-rebirth process where people can, in visionary states, go through the experiences of those things and then reintegrate when they’ve gotten over their fears because they recognize that there are other dimensions to being, that the soul goes further along even when the body is not here. So I think that the more people go through their own personal initiations, the less collective destruction may be unleashed on the planet.

MOOALLEM: And this is where the idea of taking psychedelics comes in . . .

PINCHBECK: Yeah, pretty much. Obviously, psychedelics were viewed as a big catalyst in the 1960s, but then they were not only suppressed legally but also repressed culturally, including through ridicule and dismissal. But I think that the psychedelic experience has a lot of value in the transformation process. If you take ayahuasca or mushrooms, it’s almost like you get this plant’s-eye view of reality. You see parts of our social system that we think are natural but are actually very artificial and could potentially be re-created in totally different ways.

MOOALLEM: But one of the lessons of the ’60s was that while psychedelics can open doors, it depends which doors they open, because what’s behind them all is not necessarily good . . .

PINCHBECK: Well, people explored psychedelics in the ’60s, but they had no really good map or model for how to use them, and so many people experienced things like ego loss and anxiety. But a lot has been learned since then.

I think that doing psychedelics shamanically is very different from just doing them randomly—it has an intention and a ceremony around it where you’re bringing people together to heal and to look for visionary knowledge.

MOOALLEM: In Toward 2012, you propose that in the current state of the world, “we might be looking at situations in which unappeased demons and aggrieved ancestor spirits are overtaking people, entering their psyches in states of detachment and disconnection,” and that we might need to employ “shamanic techniques such as soul retrieval and banishment” to deal with them. Are you saying that what’s going on right now with the environment or the economy might be a case of unattended-to spirits exacting a kind of revenge on humanity?

PINCHBECK: Well, shamanism is a kind of universal spiritual practice with indigenous cultures around the world, and one important element of it is taking care of spirits. You could use the words energies or archetypes, but I feel comfortable using the word spirits. A lot of indigenous cultures are deeply involved in working with ancestor spirits, elemental spirits, and demons. Many of these cultures feel that, if you don’t deal properly with ancestor spirits, then they come back and infest the living in the form of things like depression, addictive patterns, and neuroses. We in the modern West completely deny the existence of these spirits or other types of entities. And because we’ve denied them, we may have opened the gates for them to manipulate us in a lot of ways. A lot of our behavior, which is so unconscious, may in a way be due to energies or entities that we haven’t somehow put to rest properly. 

MOOALLEM: I think one of the things about this 2012 moment that’s difficult for people to reconcile is that it’s so, well, soon.

PINCHBECK: First of all, I’m not a fundamentalist about the date. I think it might have more to do with us entering a period where we arrive at a different social paradigm or understanding of the nature of psychic reality. However, having said that, I have had a number of bizarre, almost synchronistic, experiences around that 2012 date, which indicates to me that it might be something more legitimate, like maybe we’ll be transitioning from a biological phase in evolution to a psychic phase of evolution, and maybe that date is like the hinge point where that suddenly takes off. There’s a lot of different material out there where people talk about mass congenial or spiritual awakenings happening as we approach that time—none of which I take seriously on its own, but, together, it’s almost like data that’s coming through the collective unconscious . . . I totally think we have a future on the planet. I just think that we have to get away from Western thinking, which is very much founded on dualisms.

MOOALLEM: So if there is a future, what does it look like? Is what we’re talking about here a sort of retreat from modernity? Does the future look like the past?

PINCHBECK: Now that question might involve taking seriously the ideas of someone like Buckminster Fuller, who was a design scientist. He created the geodesic dome and all of these other great patents, but he basically had this idea that you could look at all of society’s problems as design flaws, and that you could eliminate those flaws by redesigning society. Or it could involve looking at someone like Bernard Lietaer, the Belgian currency specialist who was one of the architects of the Euro. He suggested that you could have a global trading currency that would actually have a negative interest or a demurrage charge, so that the longer you held on to it, the more value it would lose. Then, instead of wanting to hoard it, you would want to share it and get it back into circulation, which might lead to more community-based values. And then the evolution of technology has had a profound effect on what it means to be a person. The fact that we’re all so constantly connected is a new thing, but it’s also an old thing, because tribes were like that, so now we’ve kind of created a new techno-tribalism on a global scale. And then I’m also interested in UFOs, extraterrestrials, and crop circles. If those things have legitimacy, then it means that there are levels of technology far beyond what we have now. You know, if UFOs are coming across the galaxy to get here, then they’re not burning coal to do it . . .

MOOALLEM: There’s this Roland Emmerich film, 2012, coming out. Were you involved with that?

PINCHBECK: Not really. But I’ve seen the preview.

MOOALLEM: How do you feel about those sorts of Armageddon-like interpretations?

PINCHBECK: I think they’re totally natural, and it reveals where most people are in their thinking. In a way, it’s almost easier to hallucinate Armageddon or apocalypse because then it’s like, “Oh, everybody is going to die anyway, so I don’t have to change anything.” Whereas if you can say goodbye to your old self and come out with a new self, then you can change everything. Maybe. I don’t know . . . Maybe I’m wrong.

MOOALLEM: I mean, this is a well-traveled road we’re standing on—one that people like Albert Hofmann and Timothy Leary and Terence Mc-Kenna all went down.

PINCHBECK: Well, individuals who are really inspirational are always what changes history. Gandhi had a bunch of good ideas, and he led a non‑violent revolution that transformed India. And so maybe what’s really radical now is not being ironic and not being distracted and not assuming that everything is a bunch of bullshit . . . So, you know, I have no idea whether it’s possible to be part of a process of global transformation, but I am amazed at how much I’ve been able to accomplish, and how much fun it’s getting to be.

MOOALLEM: Fun? What’s the most fun part for you?

PINCHBECK: I think it’s fun to change people’s ideas. It’s a process where at first there’s all this resistance and dismissiveness. But then, over time, I see people change and often their ideas tend to align more with mine. And then the parties get better . . . [laughs] But it’s always fun to be vindicated. You know, I suggested in 2006 [in 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl] that we might experience an economic meltdown in 2008 . . .

MOOALLEM: Was that about mystical vision? Or correctly reading the credit markets?

PINCHBECK: It was a combination. I was inspired by some interpretations of the Mayan calendar and I was also studying a lot about peak oil and the financial system and the case against the global economy. We have a totally unsustainable system built on massive amounts of debt . . .

MOOALLEM: So what are you doing on December 21, 2012? Do you have any special plans?

PINCHBECK: I have no idea. I mean, I would love to be maybe having tea with extraterrestrials. Friendly ones.

Stephen Mooallem is Interview’s executive editor.

We Need a Spiritual Revolution, Fifth Estate Interview, Oct 2007


This conversation between writers Anu Bonobo & Daniel Pinchbeck-author of 2012: The Return of Quetzacoatl (2006) and Breaking Open the Head (2002) (and co-founder of RealitySandwich.com)-transpired over email in February 2007. Pinchbecks latest book 2012 is just out in paperback; a critical assessment of Pinchbeck’s work by Cookie Orlando follows this interview.

Anu: What would you say to a person who knew Daniel before you broke open your head and heard from Quetzacoatl-especially if s/he suggested you’d “gone New Age” on us, trading the fanciful fantasy for the rigorous intellectualism of your past?

Daniel: I don’t have the slightest doubt that I am far more “rigorous” in my thinking (or what you term “intellectualism”) than I was in my earlier incarnation as a New York journalist and lit mag editor. In fact, what I suspect that I have accomplished in the last years, above all, was a critically important task of thinking-a philosophical mission. In the introduction to Breaking Open the Head, I quote the French philosopher Lyotard: “Being prepared to think what thought is not prepared to think is what deserves the name of thinking.” That is exactly what I have done.

My best and oldest friends know that I have always been a skeptic and rationalist, with no interest in “New Age” fuzziness. Psychedelics were the best path for me, because they had an objective and empirical correlate – you experience an immediate transformation of consciousness due to the activity of a chemical agent. It would have been much more difficult for me, personally, to trust the slower and subtler modulations of interior states caused by meditation.

Anu: But in a sense, don’t you think the whole idea of 2012, of a major shift, of unprecedented and epochal social and spiritual transformation is in fact what the “New Age” was supposed to be about all along? Or do you share the idea that New Age can only be seen as pejorative, as in fuzzy thinking peddled along with trinkets by thoughtless hucksters?

Daniel: Yes, the New Age has pointed toward a new age. However, the thinking behind it has tended to be fuzzy and narcissistic. I think my work brings a harder edge, a crystallization, to ideas formerly considered New Age. Quetzalcoatl as a symbol represents the meeting of bird and snake-Heaven and Earth, spirit and matter, and the integration of mystical, intuitive wisdom with rational, empirical knowledge systems. That is the difficult feat that must be completed to bring a new form of consciousness into being. The whole “spiritual abundance” mentality of The Secret, Chopra, etc. has created an unappealing culture based on “spiritual materialism”-we should be thinking sufficiency, not abundance.

Anu: If we want, to borrow some words from your book, breakthrough instead of breakdown, don’t we hold out some hope that we’ll get out of the prison cell and, as your book and a Joni Mitchell lyric implies, back to the garden?

Daniel: I don’t think it is about going “back to the garden” but forward to a new state of being that will be the garden but at a higher octave of realization. I see the psychic evolution as crucially important, pointing toward a more psychic state of being-we may do global psychic works to put the climate system back together, like the Hopi raindance on a mega-scale.

Anu: Do you “believe” in 2012? Or is your work more in the realm of a speculative mythology of the future?

Daniel: I don’t “believe” in 2012-or in anything really. I consider “belief” to be the enemy of knowledge – or, as Carl Jung said, “I believe only what I know.” As I write in the introduction to 2012, my work offers a thought experiment and hypothesis. My hypothesis proposes that indigenous knowledge systems have a validity that has been entirely missed by our modern rational-empirical mode of cognition, which we have come to consider the only valid form of knowing. European culture forfeited the intuitive and mystical forms of knowing and being in the race to construct material and technological civilization.

We went out of our way to exterminate the witches and to destroy any vestiges of shamanic authority because these posed a threat to our value system and paradigm. For the same reason, psychedelics-the visionary sacraments of indigenous cultures around the world-were demonized, and subjected to various forms of repression, both legal and cultural, including ridicule. As I note in Breaking Open the Head, repression does not just repress something – it represses the memory of why that repression was necessary in the first place.

From the research on my first book, I learned through direct experiential investigation that the shamanic knowledge system had legitimacy and validity, that there were other dimensions and realms of consciousness which had a bearing upon this one. I experienced numerous occult episodes, extraordinary synchronicities, telepathic confirmations, and I also recorded many stories from other people that confirmed these types of events.

Once I had recognized that the shamanic reality had validity, I was forced to accept that our civilization had enormous gaps in its knowledge system, and that we would need to understand what we had lost. I was forced, logically and rationally, to take indigenous knowledge systems seriously. Therefore, I had to pay careful attention to the prophecies that many tribal cultures, such as the Hopi, are holding about this current time.

The Classical Maya represented the full flowering of Mesoamerican civilization. From the Toltecs to the Mayans, more than a thousand years was spent in constructing a model of time and space that took into account accurate astronomical measurements, and recognized harmonic and synchronistic cycles in our development. I offer the hypothesis that the Maya were “wizard scientists” who used non-ordinary states, psychic energy concentrated in ritual, and astronomy to construct a thorough cosmology, that included a careful prediction of when a shift in “World Ages” would take place.

We don’t know what they knew about this shift in “World Ages”-they calculated it, but didn’t predict what was to come, as far as we know. My work on 2012 supports the thesis that they were positing a planetary transformation, a massive shift in human consciousness, and the movement into a new realization of being on the Earth. I have backed up this thesis by exploring the work of many Western and European thinkers, including Jean Gebser, Rudolf Steiner, Carl Jung, Walter Benjamin, Heidegger, and F David Peat.

Anu: Are people preparing for 2012 like they did for Y2K?

Daniel: I hope not. I never had the slightest interest in Y2K. It felt like an obvious scam. However, it did at least indicate how overdependent we are on artificial technology with no relation to the biosphere.

If we were intelligent and possessed of foresight, we would be preparing for an imminent transition that could, in its immediate effects, be quite traumatic, perhaps cataclysmic. We would be storing food and fuel, creating strong local communities, investing in off-the-grid energy systems, developing barter systems and local currencies to take us off the economic grid, and growing our own food using permaculture and organic methods.

Just some facts and figures: Within 30 years, 25% of all mammalian species will be extinct. Within 40 years, there will be no tropical forests left on the Earth and ocean fisheries will entirely collapse. The human sperm count has been declining one percent a year for the last 50 years due to hormone-disrupting chemicals such as plastics and pesticides. Climate change continues to spike-spring flowers bloomed in December in Central Park.

Unless there is a massive ecological U-turn and a parallel transformation of human consciousness and human practices within the next few years, it is quite possible that we will not continue on this planet. At the moment, humanity is like a person in a locked room who has a limited amount of oxygen left-all of our psychic energy should be going to make a few air holes!

The progressive, Left, ecological, and liberal intelligentsia are going to have find a way to collaborate, to overcome the individuation crisis that keeps us in our separate boxes. We need to find a way to use the media to spread a new planetary paradigm, and I also personally believe that we need a spiritual revolution in this country-a return to the Transcendentalist impulse of Emerson. Despite its increasing financial collapse, the US still controls the planetary media, the mass-cultural dream machine, so a complete turn-around in the message we are beaming across the planet could change everything very quickly.

Anu: By invoking Y2k, I wasn’t necessarily just thinking about a consumer frenzy geared towards stockpiling and hoarding. In your conclusion to 2012, though, you do suggest specific kinds of grassroots infrastructure that might sprout up before the shit hits the fan-such as “localized organic food production, alternative energy, conflict-resolution projects, complementary currencies, and so on.”

I mean, some people went rural and joined intentional communities just before 2000. And some stayed. So if people begin to behave more cooperatively and live more sustainable lives in the years between now and then, perhaps energized by their own visions concerning 2012, wouldn’t that be a form of preparation worth promoting?

Daniel: Yes. There is that grassroots level and then the system and support structures also need to be transformed. I have proposed that sophisticated social networks designed for knowledge sharing and resource sharing and precise use of limited resources could be important for this, in a transition.

Anu: What do you think about the Millennial impulse and apocalyptic worrying in general-about the second coming of Christ and the Left Behind series, peak oil, global warming, The Revolution?

Daniel: My hypothesis is that this time is the Apocalypse-but that term has the literal meaning of “uncovering, revealing.” It is a time when all is revealed, uncovered, so that all can be known. In “2012”, I explore the Jungian perspective on the Apocalypse-Jung’s follower Edinger calls it the momentous event of “the coming of the Self” into conscious realization.

In a strange and unfortunate sense, the Fundamentalists recognize this time for what it is-but they have an atavistic relationship to the “God Image,” and to the archetypal process of the “Second Coming.” Christ didn’t “save our souls” through the Crucifixion-he provided a model of action for us to internalize and to follow, if we would care to save our own souls. Each of us has to do the very difficult work of incarnating the Self on our own. This is the last thing that the Ego wants-it will have us do almost anything to avoid this work or stop it from happening. However, you discover it is a much better situation when the Ego finally gives up to allow for the archetypal process to take place. The Fundamentalists are still relating to the God-image as a jealous tyrant, and not incarnating the God-image, comprising light and dark, within their own being. Bush and Cheney, etc., do not want to integrate their shadow material, so they project it further and further. Our whole culture is based on denial of the shadow and projection of it.

Peak Oil, Global Warming-they are unavoidable byproducts of the end game of the Capitalist ego trip.

As for The Revolution, I feel that any violent struggle will end in tragedy and defeat. I think that a mass subliminal shift in awareness is already taking place, and we might have a situation that is much more like the fall of the Berlin Wall, which was predicted by nobody. The humans under the thumb of that system had evolved beyond it, and nothing could stop that shift in consciousness. When we embody a positive understanding of the transformational process and offer that out to others, we help people overcome their own fear and resistance.

Anu: How would you frame the relationship between political struggle and psychedelic mysticism?

Daniel: I think the new element that will prove successful in the next few years is the integration of political and ecological activism with the spiritual vision that has been nurtured in many ways and by many people since the end of the 1960s. The exponential growth of interest in yoga and meditation is critically important, but only if those yogis and meditators can now reintegrate the knowledge they have gained into the politics of our present time, bringing a new resonance and frequency of consciousness into the age-old struggle for justice and peace.

Anu: In a recent column you suggested the following: “If some elements of the 1960s are returning, they are doing so without the oppositional anger of the past. The open hand, offering friendship and reconciliation, has replaced the raisedfist symbol of old-style activism.” Do you really think this is true, especially among the poor of the global south? It seems like radicals in places like Mexico, Venezuela, and Argentina have actually chosen to mix the “old-style” as you call it with many visionary elements exemplified by the Zapatistas among others. What’s your take on the need to mix this metaphor based on the context and what’s being contested?

Daniel: When I expressed that, I was really thinking of the US, where violent protests immediately feed the prison-industrial system with bigger budgets for newer and more horrific weapons, and also engender new anti-constitutional laws. For the most part, we are still in a slightly different situation than those protesters in the global south, whose rebellion is often based on literal survivalist needs. There is a point beyond which you cannot push people any further-but as long as you have enough cheap calories to go around, as in the US up to now, it is very difficult to reach that point.

I feel we are at a tremendous moment, where a huge change in consciousness could spread like wildfire throughout many levels of US society, and expressions of extremist violence could backfire on activists, as they have in the past. I would like to see progressives learn new lessons of collaboration, and also turn their attention to utilizing the media and Internet social networks in a far more sophisticated and targeted manner. By the way, I have heard that the Zapatistas plot their actions according to the traditional Mayan Calendar.

Anu: Some people are frightened by the prospect of a major shift, and others are empowered by it. Some suggest we’ll see fascism, and others envision an unfathomable outbreak of freedom. Are you betting on freedom?

Daniel: We may get both for a while. I am reading Chris Hedges’ American Fascists. He believes the Dominionist Right is planning a takeover when another major crisis or series of crises hits. A phase of authoritarian madness may happen or not, but ultimately I do see freedom as the most compelling and plausible outcome.

Anu: Your book and people it cites suggest that the species has outgrown the nation state, invoking concepts like “spiritual anarchy,” synarchy, non-hierarchical organization generally, and other overlapping visionary and Utopian alternatives. This is what I’ve been looking for, planning for, and consciously trying to instigate for most of my adult life. But based on both the overwhelming hegemony of capitalism and its elites and the frustrating discord within our own communities of dissent, on most days I’m not too optimistic. Why do you invoke these alternatives at the end of your book and how do you view them?

Daniel: A new realization of consciousness would naturally create new forms of social organization. The language we have is an inheritance that is probably inadequate. There is no doubt that Capitalism is unsustainable even in the short term now-so either we devour the planet and reach species burn-out, or we move into a sustainable model that will naturally incorporate elements of tribal culture-as indigenous people have created models of sustainability, and also nonhierarchic social organizations, social design based on fractals, communal decision-making structures that work, systems of subsistence agriculture that don’t poison the land, effective ceremonies for visionary and psychic purposes, etc. I see a global retribalization as the way to go, if we don’t want to go.

We are at a tremendous moment where a huge change in consciousness could spread like wildfire throughout many levels of US society.