Against the New Age (Margaret Wheatley)

In this video clip, Margaret (Meg) J. Wheatley, author of Who Do We Choose to Be? (2017) is interviewed by Terry Patten on the State of Emergence podcast. (Be sure check out Patten’s other interviews here.)

In this clip, Wheatley criticizes the New Age belief that humans are reaching a “critical mass” or a “tipping point” in the evolution of human consciousness toward an awakening/enlightenment/transcendence/realization which will save us from civilizational collapse. She sees this belief as anthropocentric, ego-centric, and elitist, as well as seductive and dangerous in a time when we are facing inevitable collapse and we need to be fighting to defend each other and the planet. Patten calls her message “unflinching” and a “sobering and grounded antidote” to the delusional idealism and wishful thinking of New Age thought.

Here, Wheatley is responding to Patten’s suggestion that widening access to knowledge and wisdom could create a “critical mass” which might enable us to avoid collapse. She responds that “we are not the height of evolution.” Half of the world’s 7 billion human population is forced to focus on material survival, while most of the privileged are pursuing excess material gain and distraction, and the latter are largely depressed, anxious, and addicted. “I do not for a moment believe that we are at an evolutionary cusp,”Wheatley says. She notes that there have been cultures in the past which were much more awake than we are, and they collapsed too. “I want us to look truthfully at history and not get seduced by some super special role we think we’re playing,” she says. “To say that the universe is working through us I find the height of arrogance.”

I’m going to be writing more about the ego-centrism and escapism of New Age belief in a future post. In the meantime, enjoy the clip below and go to the source to watch the full interview. Also check out this article summarizing Meg’s critique of the myth of civilizational progress.

Thank you to Michael Dowd for drawing my attention to Meg’s interview. You can watch full interview here.

Published by John Halstead

John Halstead is the author of *Another End of the World is Possible*, in which he explores what it would really mean for our relationship with the natural world if we were to admit that we are doomed. John is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is a co-founder of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which worked to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the Statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post, PrayWithYourFeet.org, and Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of HumanisticPaganism.com. John also facilitates climate grief support groups climate grief support groups affiliated with the Good Grief Network.

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