Rapid communication networks, such a prominent feature of the information age, are an indication that dynamic processes are taking place in human consciousness. First and foremost among these is the rapid increase of intellectual capacity. The mercurial mental nature – swift and dexterous – is springing into more dynamic life, and in this vast continent of the mind there is an urgency to establish guiding principles and codes of conduct for the volatile lower mind can be devious and manipulative, and all too willing to impinge on the psychological freedom of others. While the principle of freedom in the physical sense is now largely accepted as a basic human right, the more subtle matter of psychological freedom is only now entering the public domain for examination. The phone hacking scandal in the field of investigative journalism in the UK is a current example of a pernicious transgression of personal freedom, especially when information obtained is twisted and distorted to appeal to the public’s lower appetite for sensationalism and titillation.
More serious still though is the question of the media’s truthful reporting on national and international affairs as this influences public understanding and its subsequent viewpoint. Through truthful and responsible journalism, the media has a miraculous power to expand and deepen our sense of relationship with the world and one another. It brings us into contact with the lives of people in distant lands, of different creeds and cultures, highlighting the rich diversity of the human species at the same time as consolidating a sense of relatedness through the revelation and confirmation that the same emotions and sensitivities run through all. We are dependent on unfiltered, unbiased reporting to help cultivate this essential sense of global relationship. Equally though, any manipulation of the truth by the media divides, fragments and debases on a similarly large scale, posing an insidious threat to the psychological freedom of the people it is meant to serve.
The former journalist and publisher Dan Hind, author of “The Threat to Reason” and more recently “The Return of the Public” writes insightfully and persuasively on this subject. He contends that public opinion is not currently the product of an open process of inquiry and debate. “To an extent we can only guess at”, he says, “it is the achievement of private actors. It is high time we made public opinion a public matter." Due to the phone hacking debacle that has attracted much public attention around the world, Hind says that, "for the first time in a generation we have an opportunity to discuss how the media currently operate and what we need from them….The power to commission investigation and the power to publicise what is discovered are currently in the hands of a tiny number of professional editors and owners. These powers can no longer be monopolised by individuals who are unrepresentative, unaccountable to the public, and vulnerable to all manner of private pressure and inducement...Who, after all, would tell us that the media were failing in their self-appointed task to keep us informed? The media?”(1) Hind goes on to elaborate on an idea for putting the media more under the control of the public and explores how the public can create the means by which truth can be gained and shared without the interference of state or commercial institutions.
To a degree the problem we are facing with media empires arises naturally from the explosion of communication networks that now criss-cross the globe. The powerful personalities of the era have moved into dominant positions, taking advantage of the technology of speed to reach out and influence far more people than was possible in previous times. The pioneers of our time are no longer conquerors of new physical terrain but conquerors of the ethers; and while this is a good thing where unadulterated truth is broadcast, humanity has to be alert to the dangers of psychological imprisonment by the subtle conditioning agents of powerful, but self-interested parties. The right use of the communication networks is of paramount importance, and the Media has a huge responsibility to be a servant and messenger of truth. The dilemma of how much investigative freedom should be granted to the press and media to expose corruption and malpractice is a major issue, as is the need for an independent judiciary to monitor its actions so that transgressions of privacy, human rights and general decency are not contravened.
Freedom of thought is vital to transform humanity into one, creatively vibrant organism, fit to take on the role of planetary stewardship, for the communication networks are like the neural pathways of a global brain with the potential to overcome time and space and to integrate human thinking and behaviour in the way a beehive or a colony of ants works as one organism with singular purpose towards a shared goal. Rapid communication networks present us with a golden opportunity to help emancipate humanity into a timeless yet dynamic state of awareness, but first we have to overcome our obsession with speed for speed’s sake. As the cultural theorist, Paul Virilio, somewhat controversially put it, “…the more speed increases, the faster freedom decreases”. Virilio argues that the acceleration of technological society, its controls and restraints, is depriving us of the time to think and be ourselves.Elsewhere he writes, “The hazard of this fixation on speed is that it has structured the world to function in a constant state of crisis, an unending cold war of environmental and economic exploitation… The result is a war waged in time instead of in distance. The physical world ceases to be the battle field and instead the battle becomes one of ideologies and economics and speed…We live in a world no longer based on geographic expanse but on a temporal distance constantly being decreased by our transportation, transmission and tele-action capacities…the new space is speed-space; it is no longer time-space.”(2)
Expanding on this comment, sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman remarks, “one may say that speed is a sort of ethereal substance that saturates the world and into which more and more of our action…is transferred… The new speed renders the action momentary and thus virtually unpreventable, but also potentially un-punishable… One of the most consequential effects of that new situation is [that]…all boundaries have become tenuous, frail and porous… Geographical discontinuity matters no more, as speed-space, that envelops the totality of the globe's surface, brings each place into nearly the same speed-distance from each other and makes all places mutually contiguous.”(3)
Here then, we see a great challenge looming before humanity – the unavoidable confrontation between the personality and its need for speed and boundaries in space, and the soul, living in a state of dynamic omnipresence. The transmutation of speed-space into dynamic omnipresence is the tantalising goal ahead of humanity where all boundaries are destined to crumble – be they physical or psychological. And the process is now underway as, through the explosion in electronic communication, information, truthful and untruthful is relentlessly circulating the globe at the speed of light; the nature and quality of the information generating crises of moral discrimination in the public consciousness. Humanity’s sense of discrimination and ethical orientation is being honed and tested as never before, pointing to a future where the speeding circulation of isolated pockets of self-serving information is transmuted into an interconnected world of wise and loving sharing.
The principles that humanity is searching for to guide conduct in the realm of the mind are to be found in the very symbol associated with the Media and Communications – Mercury, the winged messenger of the Gods. Mercury is also a symbol of the intuition, and it is from the subjective realm of intuitive love and wisdom that unerring guidance for right communication comes. The intuition is pure truth and its speed of transmission is virtually instantaneous. While humanity en masse is transmuting its current polarization from the instinctive, feeling nature into the intellect, so are the leading intellectuals moving towards the intuitional nature. The tide of evolution moves inexorably forwards and the intuition will one day flower throughout the human kingdom rendering it sensitive to direct telepathic impression from the spiritual kingdom. Then, in the words of Alice Bailey, we will see “the production of a subjective synthesis in humanity and of a telepathic interplay which will eventually annihilate time. It will make available to every man all past achievements and knowledge; it will reveal to man the true significance of his mind and brain and make him the master of that equipment and will make him therefore omnipresent and eventually open the door to omniscience.” (4)
4.A Treatise on White Magic. A.A.Bailey, p. 403