Energy is that mysterious factor that sets all created forms in patterns of motion. In Einstein’s famous E= m c squared its direct connection with matter is shown – we can say that matter is ‘frozen’ energy, energy which has been interwoven into a relatively static condition. The various states of matter reveal an increasing tendency to respond to and embody energy – from the motionless solid, through mobile liquids and gases, to the complex patterns of motion found in plasma. According to mainstream science, physical energy cannot be created or destroyed, which is what supposedly prevents the existence of perpetual motion machines. But it remains an open question whether this perspective, which remains largely fixed on the physical levels of existence, is inherently blind to the true source and origin of energy and motion.
According to the ageless wisdom tradition, the entire manifested universe – the cosmos, the solar system, human beings, the various kingdoms of nature – is not only made of frozen physical energy, or matter, but also manifests through an underlying subtle energy body or field, sometimes called etheric, which is the true vehicle of consciousness. It unites all apparently separate forms, and is the basis of all relationships, and it may also be the true point of origin of all physical energy. While mainstream science might remain sceptical, there is a momentum within certain scientific circles suggesting the reality of some such form of subtle, universal energy field. This is especially noticeable in the networks of scientists working on ideas of an electrical universe, exploring morphic resonances and quantum coherence. Wisdom teachings down the ages affirm that we live within an ocean of energies, and that we ourselves are a finely tuned system of interacting vital forces. This etheric body is therefore nothing but streams of etheric energy, woven into a relatively fixed form. Its function is to receive and transmit energy impulses of varying qualities, and to be swept into activity by these impulses. It provides the necessary basis for the various types and levels of telepathic interplay, and for all forms of subjective work and relationship between both individuals and groups. The etheric body also provides the link between mental and emotional impulses and the world of outer physical form. Through the network of the etheric body, energies are constantly circulating, conditioning and determining the outer expression, the activities and qualities of every form of life. This is true for the individual human being, for groups, for humanity as a whole, for the planet and beyond. (The service activity of Triangles, which is closely related to World Goodwill, works directly with this recognition of an underlying etheric network, seeking to qualify it with the energy of goodwill.)
Recognising that physical energy is embedded within, and the result of, subtler energies helps to explain the possibility of technologies that can tap directly into these subtler etheric energies, and step them down into physical energy. Various groups are experimenting with devices which may be able to do this, and it remains to be seen if their efforts will bear fruit in the near future. If they do, our whole civilisation and way of life is likely to be transformed out of all recognition, for access to energy is required for virtually every activity humans engage in. Indeed, without continuous access to sources of energy, our modern civilisation would grind very quickly and catastrophically to a halt – as depicted in the grim scenarios of post-apocalyptic fiction.
Until now, humanity has found increasingly ingenious ways to use various natural resources to power its technologies. However, our thirst for energy is now proving a major challenge to our common future. In a recent Q&A session, Bill Gates noted, “I hope some people your age take on the need to innovate in energy. Most breakthrough things are done by young people and we need to surprise people with new ideas. The value of cheaper energy is hard to overstate.” Most of the world’s people do not currently have reliable, safe and affordable access to energy. It is only natural that they should hope and expect that this will change: but if every human being consumed energy at the rate it is now consumed in the fully industrialised nations, our environmental problems would be completely overwhelming. As it is, there are some who think we may already have passed dangerous thresholds, points of no return, which will change our planet irrevocably for the worse. So how are the legitimate aspirations of the energy-poor to be met, if even our current energy policies and technologies are too dangerous to continue? Answering this question will be a defining challenge of the twenty-first century, and it is one with which the UN is deeply engaged. This theme is explored further in Energy for All. And while access to ‘free’ energy from etheric sources might mitigate the problem in some ways, it might make it worse in others. What would individuals, groups and nations do, if energy suddenly became essentially free? Thinking through some of the many consequences is the subject of Unleashing the Genie: Free Energy?
Writing in the 1940s in the book, Problems of Humanity, Alice Bailey suggested that the world was on the verge of a new economic age. Following the release of the energy of the atom, nuclear power provided a new potential for electricity to be universally available to all, regardless of income. The suggestion was that coal and oil would no longer be needed for heating, lighting and transportation, and that old economic attitudes and standards of living would ultimately pass away, as the new energy source enabled people of goodwill to build an economy of sharing.
At the same time the book warned that large financial interests bound up in what we now think of as the fossil fuel industries would obstruct efforts to provide alternative sources of energy: they “will fight to the last ditch to prevent new sources of wealth from benefitting others.”
Looking back at this vision of future possibilities in the light of current realities three things are clear. Firstly the fossil fuel industries have, for over 60 years been hugely successful in maintaining their position as the primary power source fueling modern industrial civilization. They have become some of the most dominant multi-national corporations of our time. Secondly, nuclear power has been developed and has become a significant source of electricity in a number of countries. But it is not the potential low-cost energy source envisioned in Problems of Humanity, and for a variety of reasons, nuclear energy based on fission is no longer considered to be a desirable source of future power needs by large sections of the world population: while technologies based on nuclear fusion, although theoretically possible, remain still a challenge or dream to be realised. Reasons for declining support of nuclear power include the excessive costs of building and decommissioning the power plants, the dangers of radiation illustrated by the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters, and concern over security threats should rogue states, or non-state groups like IS/Daesh, get access to radioactive materials, allowing them to develop crude nuclear weapons. Germany and Switzerland are phasing out nuclear power, and four other countries have legislation on the books prohibiting the building of any new nuclear power stations. Although a relatively small number of environmentalists do favour nuclear energy as a green and sustainable source of future electricity needs, this remains highly contentious.
The third and most important development, not envisioned in Problems of Humanity, has been the environmental destruction caused by the increasing reliance on fossil fuel sources of energy. The pollution of the environment, including the atmosphere, as a result of electricity generation, transportation systems and other technologies fuelled by fossil fuels is one of the major stories of our time, seriously damaging the bonds of relationship between human, animal, plant and mineral kingdoms.
As a result of overwhelming scientific evidence and significant pressure from people of goodwill around the world, the Climate Change conference in Paris in December last year saw governments, in the words of The Guardian, finally signalling “an end to the fossil fuel era, committing for the first time to a universal agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change.”
Thus, we are now, almost 70 years after the publication of Problems of Humanity, finally on the verge of a new energy era, with the possibility that it will be accompanied by a new economic age. The signs of this are now everywhere to be seen. There is an unstoppable momentum amongst governments, civil society, scientific establishments, and elements of the business and corporate world to ensure that renewable, non-polluting, sources of energy are available to all people, everywhere in the world. This is perhaps best illustrated by developments at the United Nations – notably Goal Seven of the new Sustainable Development Goals: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. It is also evident in the Energy for All focus that has been vigorously pursued by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon – the decade 2014 – 2024 is being observed as United Nations Decade of Sustainable Energy for All.
Within goodwill networks in civil society, local government, business and the professions, as well as branches of the United Nations and in some governments, this momentum for a new energy era has been even more strongly linked with the laying down of a vision for a new economics centered in principles of sharing, participatory democracy and freedom.
Energy for All at the UN
Throughout her writing, Alice Bailey urged her readers to work towards a world centered on principles of the oneness of life, the rights of the individual and freedom. As these principles increasingly guided thought and action amongst people of goodwill in every part of the world the suggestion was made that a process of psychological, spiritual and social change would be initiated, leading ultimately to right relations in every sphere of life. And this process of deep transformation seems to be exactly what is happening.
In many ways the world has become one whole interacting, interdependent environment. This is clearly recognized in terms of the natural world but it is also becoming recognized as a fundamental political, economic and social reality – the trend towards globalization (with positive and negative impacts on the quality of human relationships) is one of the most common themes amongst commentators and thinkers of all political persuasions. Local issues have global implications and vice versa in today’s world.
The UN has emerged as the primary space where national governments can engage in multi-lateral negotiations seeking to coordinate, manage and synchronize their activities. This enables them to bring international relationships into line with the purposes of fostering human rights, ending extreme poverty and reducing inequality – for all people everywhere. These inter-government negotiations at the UN are usually informed and subject to a wide variety of pressures by citizens groups, experts, scientists and academics, businesses, large corporations and professional associations – often with competing purposes and visions. Through all the dynamic interactions at the UN, a momentum towards an economy and social infrastructure designed to achieve ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ has built up.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Millennium Development Goals that preceded them, define essential elements on the path towards right relations. Goal Seven reflects the recognition that the absence and unreliability of electricity must be changed if poverty is to be eradicated and the goals are to be met. According to the UN: “Sustainable development is not possible without sustainable energy. Nearly one person in five on the planet still lacks access to electricity. Twice that number, almost three billion people, rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. This is a major barrier to eradicating poverty and building shared prosperity.”1
The UN’s Energy for All Initiative focuses on the achievement of three objectives by 2030:
- Universal energy access for the over 1 billion people who currently lack access to electricity
- Double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
- Double the global rate of improvements in energy efficiency.
Governments, businesses and civil society are being encouraged and inspired to contribute to the achievement of these objectives, and the UN does this by facilitating networking, partnerships, conferences, research, publications and information sharing between different sectors. Best practices and model projects are quickly publicized around the world. A quick glance at the website www.se4all.org reveals the incredible diversity of initiatives brought together through this UN focus.
Public and Private Initiatives
Individual governments are making their own significant investments in attaining Sustainable Energy for All objectives. US AID’s Power Africa initiative has attracted commitments of $43 billion from over 120 public and private sector partnerships from around the world to add 60 million new electricity connections throughout the continent and 30,000 megawatts of new and cleaner power generation. The UK’s DFID Energy Africa Campaign concentrates on solar energy and small-scale off-grid systems: “Together with African governments, investors, businesses, NGOs, think tanks and other donors, DFID will work to increase investment in off-grid energy firms, overcome regulatory barriers, foster innovation, and accelerate delivery of solar energy systems to households across Africa.”2 In a 2014 Report the French Development Agency, AFD, noted that since 2007 it had invested 6.8 billion Euros in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects around the world and that during the period 2013-14 the French Global Environment facility (FGEF) would be subsidizing innovative energy projects in Africa with co-financing worth 5 million Euros.
Many nations are investing in research and development for electricity generated by renewable resources such as wind, sun and tide. The whole question of reliable storage of electricity is especially important in this area, because incorporating this power into the grid is complicated by the potentially large variability in output that these sources produce. So it becomes important to find ways to store this energy and release it in predictable amounts when it is needed. The Paris Climate Change conference saw the launch of Mission Innovation, a coalition of 20 governments each of which committed to double its investment during the next five years in research and development of clean energy technologies. This public support for a revolution in renewable and sustainable energy sources is linked with the Breakthrough Energy Coalition of 28 leading global entrepreneurs, investors, philanthropists and businesses (including Bill Gates, Ratan Tata, Jack Ma of the Alibaba Group in China, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg) who have made a commitment to invest ‘patient capital’ to develop technologies that draw on the research coming out of the Mission Innovation labs. This is more than business as usual – the Breakthrough Coalition’s goal is to invest in ways that stimulate a diversity of innovative approaches, only some of which will ever be expected to become operational and profitable.
New Economics Initiatives
While some of the public and private initiatives listed above are directed towards the development of major electrical grid infrastructures and new corporate means of delivering sustainably produced electricity, part of the Energy for All focus is concentrated on a massive expansion of small-scale, locally managed networks and grids delivering clean, renewable energy to fuel households, local services and businesses – and a new generation of cars, trucks, planes and buses. In this approach the impetus to provide energy for all is combined with a focus on enhancing democracy and freedom, particularly in economically disadvantaged communities. Micro solar, wind or hydro power stations are being developed by small, locally-based companies as well as cooperatives, community-owned plants, home-based systems and local or national government-owned facilities. The business magnate, engineer and inventor Elon Musk is spending five billion dollars to build a vast factory for rechargeable batteries in Nevada. These batteries will be used both for home storage, and also in the electric cars manufactured by one of his companies, Tesla.
Writing in The Guardian Anna Leidreiter notes that renewable energies have the potential to contribute to a more equal distribution of wealth. “The fossil fuel-based energy system is characterised by complex, centralised infrastructures where the fuel is transported to the power plant, and energy production and distribution is controlled by very few entities. The supply chain is vertical, and the benefits are shared only among a few stakeholders. Most renewable energies offer opportunities for more decentralised energy production and consumption. They have a horizontal supply chain and require innovation in infrastructure and energy markets. New stakeholders – including citizens, farmers and small businesses – are entering the system. They claim ownership rights and have direct impacts on the implementation.”3 Frankfurt in Germany is leading the way as it implements a plan to produce 100% of its energy consumption from local and regional renewable sources. In a district of 130,000 households and over 1 million people, Kasese, Uganda, international NGO’s are supporting a local plan to provide a mix of locally generated and maintained renewable energies to all by 2020. Only 7% of the population had access to the electricity grid and the vast majority used firewood and charcoal for cooking and kerosene for lighting. In 4 years since the project began in 2012, 50 clean energy businesses have started.
The New Internationalist reports: “Renewable energy co-operatives have hundreds of thousands of members and are building and installing their own solar, wind and small-scale hydro projects from Indonesia to Costa Rica. They own three-quarters of Denmark’s wind turbines, and are growing rapidly in Spain, Britain and elsewhere; in Germany, more than half of renewable electricity generation is owned by citizens, co-operatives and community groups.”4
From governments to large corporations (including existing fossil fuel companies) to small businesses and citizen groups there is today a massive investment of creativity, will, political and economic resources in meeting the vision of a future world powered by sustainable energy available to all people everywhere. The intensity of this investment and the depth of understanding of exactly what can be done to achieve this vision in the next 15 years suggests that we are on the verge of a new energy era. An examination of new research into subtle energy fields, drawing on the wisdom of the perennial philosophies of east and west, suggests that there may still be much more to unfold before 2030. We know that all is energy, and with this in mind we might usefully expect the unexpected as the world sets its course on the path towards Energy for All.
Following on these positive developments in sustainable energy projects, we turn now to the question posed in the introduction to this newsletter as to what would individuals, groups and nations do, if energy suddenly became essentially free? Most people would probably experience two reactions. The first is incredulity at the idea; the second is a growing amazement at the implications for the individual, for the whole of humanity and for all life on earth. Incredulity arises because the concept of ‘free’ energy seems to contravene the laws of thermodynamics. There is also the fact that history is awash with the ideas and designs for perpetual motion machines proposed by deluded eccentrics and amateur engineers. Nevertheless the esoteric thread in many spiritual traditions proposes the existence of a realm of subtle energies beyond the physical, sometimes called the etheric. This suggests that the theory of free energy is sound and that, in time, devices powered in this way will be invented, developed and available to all.
So what would some of the implications of virtually free energy be? Let’s look at these from four perspectives, a general overview, the planetary, the geo-political, and finally the personal.
Despite the undoubted achievements in moving to alternative energy sources, in the modern world, everyone is acutely aware of two things about energy: firstly how very dependent, and increasingly dependent, humanity now is on it; and secondly, that under present conditions, in which by far the largest source of energy is fossil fuel, energy prices will inevitably rise. This will be caused by depletion of reserves, by the increased costs of extraction, and by the increasing demand for it by a growing world population – and this despite the current huge investment into renewables all over the world. For the wealthy, which in global terms means most people living in the developed world, this will mean that an ever greater portion of disposable income will need to be spent on energy – on space heating, cooking, lighting and travel. For low income people mostly in the developing world, this will mean that energy – butane and kerosene for cooking, electricity for lighting, petrol and diesel for travel – will become increasingly unaffordable. For example, in Sri Lanka in 2011 when there was a peak oil price of around $120 per barrel, some people could not afford to buy bottled gas for their cooking and had to revert to the use of some form of biomass. (Smoke from biomass combustion is very harmful and kills more people in the world per year than malaria.)
But these are just the direct costs. It needs to be remembered that every stage of any manufacturing and distribution process requires significant energy inputs, and therefore costs, which have to be reflected in the price of the end product – for example, not only fuel for tractors in agriculture but the energy costs of making the tractor in the first place. But if these costs were effectively reduced to minimal by virtually free energy, we can begin to see what an enormous impact any future advances in harnessing the subtle energy field would have. It is no understatement to say that it would generate an extraordinary revolution in our life expectations and how we live it. It is not too fanciful to assert that it would transform society on the same scale as primitive humanity’s discovery of fire, whose ramifications are profoundly explored in the Promethean myth. Here fire was stolen from Zeus and given to humanity in an act of redemptive disobedience. In our present time, the discovery of new energy would not be so much a mythological theft, as a mark that humanity is beginning to incarnate the energy and values of the soul to an extent never before achieved. It brings to mind the prediction of the French priest, Teilhard de Chardin, that: “Some day, after we have mastered the wind, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” Could it be that attempts to harness etheric energies will not produce the long-hoped for results until we have, as a species, begun to master this fiery energy of love? And the other side of that thought is that when viable technologies drawing on the etheric do emerge, this would strongly suggest that the energy of love is taking a hold in human affairs.
The three categories of a planetary, a geo-political, and a personal perspective are inextricably interwoven with feed-back loops and cause and effect links that make it almost impossible to separate them out. Yet it is helpful to try and understand the implications from these different perspectives.
A Planetary Perspective.
As humanity struggles to balance economic growth with its inevitable increase in demands on the environment, the crescendoing cries of a biosphere near to breaking point have for decades been awakening within humanity the political will to restrain its exploitation of the environment, and to develop a culture of responsibility and stewardship. This has given rise to the well-publicised NGOs active in this field, and also to an on-going cycle of global conferences that seek the agreement of all the world’s nations to work towards, for example, the goal of curbing CO2 emissions so that levels are brought back down to what is currently thought to be the relatively safe level of 350 parts per million (ppm) – they currently stand at just over 400 ppm. Despite this alignment of the soul and mind, it is clear that humanity’s rampant desire nature, powerfully motivating outer physical activity, presents an almost insuperable obstacle to its achievement. Not only that; the entire global trade and financial system at present thrives on manipulated desire, leading to increased consumption. Anyone who takes their own spiritual growth in hand becomes very familiar in their own life with the principles and effects of this problem. We can draw encouragement from the fact that the common experience is that eventually the higher values prevail and the person emerges stronger, more decentralised and an active force for good in their environment.
However, it may take decades of soul culture and education in right relationships fostered in a global environment of goodwill, tolerance and relative peace for this personal recognition to translate into a world-wide achievement. Therefore we should regard any new energy discoveries as giving us a breathing space to direct humanity’s feet onto a better path. For the most immediately significant effect of a free energy system would be that it would lead with rapidity to the drastic reduction of fossil fuel use. This should also lead to a reduction in pollution; although we might note that, if desire for material goods remains unabated, then the new sources of energy could be used to further increase the extraction of minerals, processes which are themselves polluting. If this temptation can be avoided, there will be a wonderful opportunity to restructure international relationships and the global economy into a more benevolent mode. After all, as Herman Daly has pithily pointed out, the economy is a “wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the reverse”.
A Geo-Political Perspective
Looking through the lens of politics, we can predict that the destabilising effect of free energy would have far reaching consequences all over the world, stimulating conflicts and antagonisms as nations attempt to adjust to the new reality. Much thought and planning would be necessary to help a divided humanity navigate through this difficult scenario. From one perspective, all would make gains. But what is certain is that the present oil or energy importing countries would no longer be in the power of the established energy giants and would therefore have the opportunity to frame national and international policies without fear of curtailment of energy supplies. Let us hope that these new policies would be based on the bedrock of universal education, human rights, economic justice, and social progress. The geo-political trade and financial upheaval would also give the opportunity for a movement aimed at restructuring world finance – a crucially necessary objective if humanity is to move forward into a more mature mode of living where quality of relationship takes precedence over material possessions. But money interests are extraordinarily powerful, and would no doubt resist this change with every means at their disposal.
The outcome for a humanity emancipated from the chains of dependence on fossil fuels could be wonderful. Would the fear that is currently leading to a ‘Fortress Europe’ and ‘Fortress America’ mentality, for example, gradually evaporate? Could we see power groupings or blocs emerging that embody a more de-centralised psychology which sees the world as a whole, and that will desire to raise human ethical and living standards and promote a culture of helpfulness and service? This is the challenge for humanity at this time.
The Personal Perspective
According to statistics, the wealthiest 10% of the population of the UK tend to spend around 3% of their income on energy, while the poorest 10% spend about 10%. No doubt similar figures could be produced for other countries, with the likelihood that in less industrialised nations the poor will be even more disadvantaged. As already pointed out, these are only direct costs. When we take all the hidden costs into account, then these percentages will be much higher. So if supplies of energy became almost free, there would be a marked reduction in household expenditure. Another important effect is that current developments that are gradually democratising access to energy would be significantly enhanced, particularly if everyone had personal control over their energy generation and usage. Depending on how future technology developed, we can imagine a model of household generators, or perhaps a co-operatively owned generating system for a block of houses in a street.
However we view the future of energy in human affairs, there can be no doubt that massive transformations are underway. What makes this such a unique time is that equally significant transformations are underway in human values and response to the vision of oneness. The Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations are a clear sign of this. It is within this context that we might usefully ponder the possibility of breakthroughs in the sources of supply – from renewables through to the etheric body of the planet. In some form, at present unknown, energy will surely be available free to all people everywhere.