The Spirit of Cyberspace
Anyone who hasn’t been hibernating for the past
decade knows that our civilization is going through changes of unprecedented proportions.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the communications revolution. Nearly a hundred
million humans are now “on-line,” with the number growing ten percent per month.
PC-based communications will soon become as ubiquitous as phones, fax, TV, and ground
mail, and probably even more significant as a universal change agent.
The information age is upon us, and nothing will ever be the same. The fantastic
dream of instant universal access to each other and all human knowledge is fast becoming
a reality. Nicholas Negroponte, author of Being Digital, calls this communications
revolution “a 10.5 on the Richter scale of social change.” The “Global Village” predicted
by 60’s media philosopher Marshal McLuhan is here.
While the world is shrinking, our collective consciousness is expanding; as the great
new knowledge repository of Cyberspace grows, becoming the electronic nervous system
through which mankind is destined to know itself on a whole new level. The Internet
is a pulsating earth-encompassing net of countless millions of energetically- linked,
computerized “intelligence nodes,” each directly and instantaneously accessible to
all the others. This omni-distributed array allows the human minds positioned at
those terminals to become potentially cognizant of the collective knowledge and ideas
of everyone else.
The conception of a multi-dimensional illuminated living web is as old as the Vedic
mytho- poetic image of Indra’s “Net of Jewels,” and as new as holography, the remarkable
laser-based imaging technology which utilized the interpenetration of light rays
to project three dimensional visions in thin air. Another ancient metaphor for the
Great Matrix of Cyberspace is the Universal sensorium known in esoteric traditions
as the Akashic Records. In this metaphysical realm - unlike in material, “atom-based”
repositories - once information is impressed into memory, it “lives” virtually, forever
something like the Mind of God. In a complex interactive feedback process between
creator and creation, the knowledge-base of the digital realm is continuously being
downloaded into human consciousness. How will this affect our precarious collective
What shall we do with this information-age equivalent of atomic power? Accumulate
so much trivia and babble that we go into psychic meltdown? Or create a Web of Wisdom
that enlightens us and, not coincidentally, saves the world? The visionary French
philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, posited a “Noosphere,” an emerging global
super-consciousness known and experienced by all.
We may soon see the moment in history when at least most people most of the time
realize their underlying Unity with everyone else and the world, and begin to behave
accordingly. To quote an editorial in Scientific American: “Computer networking offers
the soundest basis for world peace that has yet been presented. International computer
networks will knit together the peoples of the world in bonds of mutual respect;
it possibilities are vast, indeed.”
More than a few credible contemporary observers feel that the advent of the electronic
intellisphere heralds a spiritual quantum leap in human evolution. Richard Thieme,
a writer and lecturer specializing in the impact of technology on culture, says:
“Our transition from a print culture to a digital one is as profound a shift in human
consciousness as that created by the move from oral culture to written, or written
to printed. Our interaction with computers has given birth to new forms of religious
The Net is an imagined territory with a real spirituality in it.” Peter Russell,
author of The Global Brain Awakens says: “The potential marriage of science and mysticism,
the growth of highly efficient methods for disseminating spiritual wisdom, the burgeoning
interest in development, and the possibility of direct transference of higher states
of consciousness are all combining to make it possible, for the first time in human
history, for the wisdom of the perennial philosophy to take a firm and lasting hold.”
The Word Wide Web (WWW) is like the multi-media Citizens Band of Cyberspace, the
quintessential omni-dimensional, people-to-people contact medium and knowledge base.
Suddenly, artists, electronic publishers, home-office merchants, social critics,
professionals and amateurs alike are opening home pages, their own digital open front
doors to the cyberhood. The implications are historic. Ralph Abraham, author of The
Web Empowerment Book, says: “The advent of the Web is a spiritual transformation
in progress, a supernaturally guided miracle...it’s the only sphere where we have
totally unrestricted, unbridled creativity run amuck!...the WWW is one of the most
important developments in centuries, if not millennia...it may enable a major social
transformation, and the creation of a sane future for mankind, in harmony with our
For now, Cyberspace is like the huge elephant, and we - at the dawn of the information
age - are the proverbial blind men attempting to discern its nature. Hackers are
fascinated with the technology of internetting. Research scientists focus on the
data it accesses. Educators want to realize the promise of interactive learning and
remote teaching. Business professionals network and communicate for profit.
Kids are mesmerized by the multi-media games. And of course, pornographers, swindlers
and sociopaths have their own view of the limitless possibilities waiting on the
digital frontier. My particular fascination is with the metaphysical side of Cyberspace.
I am convinced that the info-hiway is potentially the best means we may ever have
for conveying spirituality and wisdom to Everyman: more accessible than holy books,
more reliable than gurus and churches, deeper and more interactive than television.
Three years ago I embarked on my own electronic vision-quest, full of questions and
hopes: Who else out there is feeling inspired by the possibilities of enlightened
twenty-first century communications? How can the new world knowledge base become
a true source of wisdom and guidance? Does the parallel digital universe hold at
least the potential to liberate individuals and enlighten mankind?
Is God on-line? In search of answers and the valuable tools of personal transformation,
I visited spiritual home pages, religious electronic bulletin boards, New Age forums,
mystical Gopher sites, goddess-loving Usenet newsgroups, and digitized sacred text
libraries throughout the world. I found a proliferation of Buddhist networks, religious
and esoteric special interest groups, and inspiring electronic newsletters.
There are numerous subsets of the Internet devoted to yoga, meditation, metaphysics,
Christian and Hindu traditions, Jewish mysticism, “Good News,” channeling, philosophy,
astrology, feminist theology, Wicca, transpersonal and parapsychology, community
building “freethought,” “ageless wisdom” inspiration, shamanism, and much more. I’m
pleased to report that here is Spirit in Cyberspace, and increasing numbers of cyber-pilgrims
are accessing it.
But how can we recognize authentic spirituality in the vast full/emptiness of Cyberspace?
Is there not even more room for pseudo-truth and self-deception out there in the
etheric foam of the digital sea? Of course one person’s spirituality may be another’s
blasphemy. The Internet approach to the quest is so democratic and so personal; all
religions, sects, texts, and teachers await your consideration. You’re no longer
limited to someone else’s idea of what you should know or believe. If the price of
this on-line eclecticism is the potential for more dilettantism, delusion and confusion,
still Cyberspace greatly accelerates the learning process.
Besides, can we have too much religious freedom? In Cyberspace as in life, we should
know the genuine article by its effects: What good is it? Quite simply, something
(or someone) is spiritual if his/her/its influence actually reduces human suffering
and increases freedom: not only freedom from fear, ignorance, shame, guilt, hunger,
and pain, but freedom for growth. It’s not enough for a teacher (or teaching) to
sound good. If it’s authentic, by definition it benefits people and the planet. If
it’s enlightening, the soul stirs and the spirit soars from the contact, as if lifted
by angels. For the first time in history we now have the option of deliberately manifesting
this dynamic fabric of mutually-interactive intelligence force.