Yazaki, K. Tacy, D. & Zieglar, W. Re-Humanising the Future

Path to Liang Zhi, Katsuhiko Yazaki 124 pages, free, (Kyoto, Future Generations Alliance Foundation, 1994). Edge of the Sacred. Transformation in Australia, David Tacey, xv + 224, A$19.95 (Melbourne, Harper Collins, 1995). Ways of Enspiriting. Transformative practices for the twenty-first century, Warren Ziegler, ix + 277 pages US$14.95 (Denver, FIA International, 1995)

Within the futures field there is a familiar division of interest and focus between those who see the future in external, instrumental terms and those who see it primarily in terms of human development. Of course, in the end the two perspectives are best unified into a richer overall view. Still, the dynamic of technical change shows no signs of slowing, so it is heartening to see that a broadly humanistic perspective remains vibrant and strong. Although the three examples considered here are very different (indeed, they come from three different continents) they each help to further ground and elaborate a view that a liveable future can be derived from enlightened human action.

Katsuhiko Yazaki is a successful Japanese business entrepreneur whose life was changed by a ‘breakthrough insight’ during Zen meditation. The result was that he passed responsibility for the business over to a relative and created the Future Generations Alliance Foundation which exists to promote the future generations cause. To this end, the foundation hosts meetings (such as the Kyoto Forum) and publishes a series of books, of which this is one. Most of the books are anthologies of work by international scholars. But The Path to Liang Zhi tells the story of Yazaki’s own awakening and the development of his philosophy. Topics covered include: realising life as ‘connection’; how to conquer egoism; getting beyond economics, science and nationalism; turning lack of a resource into a resource; and the search for an eternal philosophy.

The book is short (barely 120 pages), but it is beautifully produced and crystal clear. It is a fascinating example of how a personal transformation can lead to a whole new world of options for an individual – and then for those touched by him or her. Here, then, is part of the solution to looming global dilemmas: individuals are, or can be, very powerful on the symbolic and social levels if they are willing to move beyond the ego to pursue wisdom and deep insight.

These themes are also present in David Tacey’s impressive, readable, book Edge of the Sacred. While it is written from an Australian perspective, it is universal in outlook. Few works lay bare the dilemmas of contemporary Australian society with the clarity achieved here. While politicians, economists, educators, business people and many others pursue purely rationalistic solutions, Tacey takes us to the mythopoeic level as revealed by Jungian psychology and the insights of various artists and writers. However, in Tacey’s hands, this exploration is not merely ‘literary’. He has provided the clearest diagnosis I have yet seen of the spiritual vacuum underlying Australian culture and experience. By extension, this applies to the whole Western world. However, what makes this book so outstanding is that he has also seen where the deepest solutions may lie.

At the outset, he takes the view that ‘despite the fact that Australia appears to be one of the most secular and godless societies in the modern world, there is good reason to suppose that an authentic rediscovery of the sacred is already in preparation here.’ He suggests that an ‘unconscious compulsion toward sacrifice’ exists in the Australian psyche, and explores this notion through the works of Joan Lindsay, D.H. Lawrence and Patrick White. Here the landscape is a key player: ‘no matter how we attempt to package or construct it, the land will always break out of whatever fancy dress we foist upon it’.’ The only way out is not to ignore the landscape by huddling into cities upon its fringes, but to ‘enter more into the psychic field of nature; to ‘shamanise’ ourselves in the image of nature’. Here the taboo subjects of Aboriginal degradation and spirituality emerge and are treated with great economy and skill. As one who grew up in Alice Springs, Tacey’s account goes beyond intellectual theorising and bears the stamp of lived experience.

The process of ‘re-sacralising’ our experience emerges as ‘a social and political necessity’. According to Tacey, ‘the ecological crisis is at bottom a psychological and spiritual crisis. These deeper roots to the problem will have to be explored if there is to be any lasting change.’ Hence, this is an outstanding book that goes right to the core of some of our major contemporary concerns such as: meaninglessness, violence and chronic avoidance. In Tacey’s words, ‘society becomes a demonic parody of sacred reality when society no longer recognises the divine sources from which its own life springs.’ Those who read and reflect on the implications of this book will not be disappointed. There are few richer and more rewarding starting points to be found anywhere.

Whereas Tacey sketches in some aspects of shared mythopoeic territory, Warren Ziegler provides a kind of step-by-step practical guide to the recovery of a personal or group vision. Ziegler is well known in the futures field for the workshops on ‘imaging the future’ which he and Elise Boulding developed over many years. As a result of this work, he steadily accumulated a wealth of understanding and knowledge about group dynamics and personal change strategies. In particular, there was a shift from fairly superficial ‘techniques’ to an understanding of deeper transformative options for coming to grips with the dilemmas of self and the world.

The book is a compendium of such ‘transformative practices’. Topics covered include: deep listening, deep questioning, deep learning and deep imaging. These are followed by what Ziegler calls the meta-disciplines; that is, intentioning, discerning, dialogue and the centrality of deep learning. The contents of these chapters are very difficult to summarise because they are essentially experiential and need to taken as such. The life of the work is not so much in the text as in the many ways the text can be applied. Ziegler not only speaks of ‘the sociability of spirit’; the book exudes it. Anyone who is interested in tools for exploring the path of inner awakening will find this book a treasure trove of insight and applied understanding. It can be used as a handbook for a personal journey. However, its best use is as a guide to the practice of enspiriting, which is essentially a group activity. I imagine, therefore, that it will be invaluable to all those groups who are already working in this direction, or would like to do so. It is an impressive and deeply facilitative achievement.

It has seemed to me for some time that lasting solutions to the global predicament are not remote or esoteric; they are all within reach. But what has been widely overlooked is that many are prefigured most clearly and explicitly somewhere within the broad futures literature. In their own distinctive way, each of these fascinating and productive books helps to substantiate that view. The view ahead is often characterised (wrongly in my view) as if it were exclusively a consequence of technical innovations. But books like these clearly suggest a number of humanly-compelling paths that, properly understood, locate the control of change primarily in the hands, hearts and minds of people and groups. In so doing they suggest pathways beyond Dystopia and the collapse of the industrial outlook to a re-humanised world.

Published in Futures Vol. 28, No. 2, 1996, pp. 199-200.