The Fourth Awakening, by Rod Pennington and Jeffery A. Martin, builds upon the idea that humanity has experienced three critical awakenings and is on the verge of another. The following is condensed from the authors’ website.
Awakenings occur when something so profoundly changes the world that all of the old rules no longer apply. A powerful new order arrives, completely unexpected and without warning, and things are never the same again.
The First Awakening occurred approximately 200,000 years ago when Homo Sapiens emerged in East Africa, but it took another 150,000 years for things to begin to get interesting.
The Second Awakening saw the emergence of spoken language, early shamans, and great myths being told around the campfire. For the first time, early humans became self aware and while still considering themselves a part of nature they understood they were now different. We became aware of our own mortality. We started to fear death and began to seek a deeper understanding of the cycle of life and how it applied to us. We started to develop increasingly complex rituals of burying our dead to prepare them for the afterlife we hoped existed. We began a desperate search for immortality in any form.
In the middle of the Second Awakening we saw rudimental art in the form of cave drawings and crude figurines…and with it the first indications that humanity is deeply interconnected. [Prehistoric art] was produced at roughly the same time and is very similar, yet it was produced by people in different corners of the world who didn’t know the others existed.
During the Second Awakening, humanity began to perceive the future and past in new ways that enabled planning. Fourteen thousand years ago, this allowed us to begin to plant crops and keep livestock which in turn allowed for larger fixed population centers. As the food supply grew and became more predictable there was a population explosion and a series of cultural revolutions.
In addition to farming…metallurgy, ship building, and astrology all emerged at around the same time worldwide in roughly similar form. During the last part of the Second Awakening the changes in mankind were stunning. In a clear example of universal consciousness, many completely independent cultures around the world went through their own Bronze and Iron Age at approximately the same time.
The Third Awakening began around 3,000 years ago. It saw the rise of all modern religions, as well as science. Between 800 BC and 400 BC, there was a religious explosion. The key events in the Old Testament occurred, from which emerged Judeo/Christian beliefs. At the same time Taoism was being followed by Confucianism in China. The same was happening with Shintoism in Japan, and Hinduism and Buddhism in India, and later Islam.
For the past 500 or so years the political power of religion has waned while the power of science has flourished. For many scientists knowledge hit a tipping point about 150 years ago. Universities began to switch from religious institutions to being based on the German research model. While skeptical of religion, before that time all of the great minds were looking to science to prove there was a God, not to disprove it. During the Third Awakening, the written word became increasingly commonplace. As it did the quest for immortality was no longer bound to culture or religion.
The Fourth Awakening brings a new mode of being with it, one that goes beyond symbols and beyond thought.
According to Pennington and Martin, the number of individuals who can reach a state of non-symbolic thought (aka enlightenment) has reached critical mass. Their book likens this state to the Internet–a giant field of energy, full of information, open to anyone who has the right connection.