When I was a college freshman in Oregon, a bearded fellow in a long black coat would sometimes harangue the crowds in the quad at lunch time. He’d bring a box to stand on and a Bible to wave. He called himself John Believer.
This was the late 60’s and though he tried for hell and brimstone, I think he’d done too much acid to pull it off. Out of his sometimes interesting theological mishmash, one of his ideas stuck with me and resonated with teachings I would hear later from two spiritual masters.
John Believer said the spiritual center of earth was right there in Oregon, (that’s why he’d moved north from Berkeley), but we should expect trouble. The spiritual center is always on the move, he explained, and it was about to head back to the orient. During it’s long Pacific crossing, humanity would experience an age of darkness.
In May, 1940, the Hindu master, Paramahansa Yogananda, gave one of several lectures predicting a coming time of travail for humanity. The transcript of the May talk is available as a pamphlet, World Crisis, published by Self-Realization Fellowship. Seventy-seven years ago, Yogananda said:
“A great crisis is going to come, a crisis such as never before has hit this country…There is a world revolution going on. It will change the financial system. In the karmic firmament of America, I see one beautiful sign; that no mater what the world goes through, she will be better off than most other countries. But America will experience widespread misery, suffering, and changes just the same. You are used to the better things of life, and when you are obliged to live simply, you won’t like it. It’s not easy to be poor after being rich. You have no idea how this change is going to affect you through the years. Never before in the history of this land has there been so deep a contrast in living standards as will visit this country – the contrast between riches and poverty.” (emphasis added)
Yogananda predicted that though the darkness would last several centuries and even threaten the future of life on the planet, it would likely pass and usher in a time of spiritual growth for humanity.
The Dalai Lama, has spoken of a parallel prophecy of conflict leading to a third world war in the 23d century, followed by a time of darkness which will end with the coming of Buddha Maitreya. This prophecy is not specific about the causes, but both predictions remind me of a period of ancient history I studied the same year I encountered John Believer.
The Mycenaean Empire, which conquered Troy, collapsed around 1200 BCE, ending the Bronze age, and plunging the eastern Mediterranean world into a dark age that lasted hundreds of years. Even the art of writing was lost, so we have no written accounts of the causes. Historians have suggested that the Mycenaeans weakened themselves with costly wars and feuding between the ruling families (see the movie Troy, 2004, for a lively depiction of this). The 2016 PBS Documentary, The Greeks, featuring recent scholarship, attributes this Bronze Age Collapse to extreme wealth inequality, which choked the economy of the Mediterranean world.
America’s founding fathers were versed in the classics and the fall of ancient empires. Not so the oligarchs of today, who like their Roman counterparts centuries ago, fail to understand that the suffering of the middle and lower classes is a red flag, a canary in the coal mine. But I have not written this post to argue that extreme income inequality is caustic to a culture. People either believe that already or they don’t and won’t.
This post is about John Believer.
Buried beneath this month’s onslaught of headlines, many may have missed a story, released on December 13, that might be the most important coal mine canary of all:
“Google announced today it will open a lab in Beijing dedicated to researching artificial intelligence (AI). The news comes as China’s government and tech companies race ahead to dominate the field, putting Google in a position where it has no choice but to set up locally in order to remain at the cutting edge.”
A cutting edge lead in AI means a cutting edge lead in economic, medical, military, financial, manufacturing, electronic, and every other 21st century industry, including ones not yet developed. Along with their lead in clean energy, an effort the US has abdicated, there is no longer any doubt that this will be “the Chinese Century.” We are helping make China great again.
In the next life, John Believer will likely speak Mandarin – he was right in saying the spiritual center is moving east! Unfortunately, in the old stories, prophecies never help anyone. Both individuals and cultures, in their attempts to avoid negative outcomes, only act in ways that serve to draw them closer…