Saturday, May 21, 2011


Contrary to Harold Camping’s prediction, the world didn’t end today.  That, of course, didn’t stop the media from covering this alleged story ad nauseam, nor did it stop the internet from spreading it like a particularly virulent disease (to be fair, a good percentage of the net-chatter was mockery, but we often mock that which we fear).  

We’re all, it seems, obsessed with Doomsday.  Just turn on your TV and watch Nostradamus predict the end of the world on the History Channel while the Weather Channel does its best to terrify us by predicting disasters that “could happen tomorrow.”

The news broadcasts—from NBC to CNN, NPR to Fox—are all about throwing mountains of coal into our collective furnace of fear.  Disaster looms around every corner, from the recalled headache pills in our medicine chests to the terrorists swarming our shores to annihilate us.  Some of these fears are rooted in reality, of course, but our mass media loves to put it all under a magnifying glass till these events are hideously distorted:  the better to scare you into raising their ratings.  Abandon hope, all ye who watch this channel.    

Our pop culture has become fear culture:  the action movie blockbuster has, more and more, become a gruesome parade of endless wreckage and loss of life, often on a global, if not a galactic, scale.  End of the world scenarios play out with such regularity in films and video games and, yes, comic books (my hands are far from clean:  I’ve destroyed my share of universes over the years) and it’s no wonder that, when some operatic preacher begins predicting that we’re all going down in a ball of fire (well, some of us:  the lucky few will be lifted up to Heaven by a God who apparently enjoys playing favorites), everyone stops and takes notice.  

But what if Camping was right?  What if the world did end today and some of us just didn’t notice?  (A moment while you scratch your head and wonder if my last brain cells have parachuted out on a suicide mission.)

I’ve written before about the idea—explored, in differing fashions, by both mystics and scientists—that the universe is just dreamstuff:  an infinite ocean of primal energy that’s only given form by our perceptions.  In other words, it’s all an illusion, tailored to, created by, the individual consciousness:  every one projecting our  dream-universes into the Void.  From my perspective, I’m manifesting the entire Creation, including you; from your perspective, you’re manifesting it all, including me.  (Which means, essentially, that right now you’re reading your own words, not mine.)  And with each choice we make, each mental step we take, each thought we send vibrating out into that ocean of energy, we birth new universes, an infinite stream of shimmering bubbles blown through the wand of our minds.  (Of course, in the end, it's all God dreaming through us and as us, but that's another essay for another time.)

So imagine Camping and his followers, all profoundly invested in this idea of Judgment Day and the Rapture, focusing their collective will and imagination (just like our old friend Green Lantern) on that ocean of energy and manifesting it.  Today, this very morning, they all found themselves raised up by the hand of God, soaring off into the Heaven they’ve always longed for.  Because that’s the dream they chose to manifest.

For those of us who didn’t buy into this dream, well—we’re still here, and we’ve dreamed up a Harold Camping who’s a failed prophet.  (I don't think this invalidates the faith of Camping and his followers—but it is further proof that God is far bigger than any one belief system.)  But where do we go from here?  Perhaps Camping has done us a valuable service.  Perhaps this mass focus on the End Times is a reminder for all of us to step back and ask a fundamental question:  What kind of world are we dreaming into being?  A world of suffering, where war never ends, where famine and disease and natural disasters dog us till it all really does “happen tomorrow”?  Or will we dream something better:  a world, a time, when peace and abundance, cooperation and compassion, flower across the planet?

The Golden Age, it’s been called.

Yes, doomsday scenarios have been around for as long as the human race has existed—they echo through all religions and spiritual paths—but they’re usually connected to paradise scenarios:  humanity reborn, either on Earth or in Heaven, into a new and glorious order.  From suffering comes redemption, from the ashes the Phoenix rises.  My problem is I've never had much faith in a God whose method of redeeming us is through annihilating us.  Why destroy the planet just to raise it up again?  Why inflict all that suffering?   

Back in the mid-eighties I wrote a Doctor Strange graphic novel—co-plotted and illustrated by my old friend Dan Green—called Into Shamballa that explored that question.  In it, Doctor Strange is ordered, by a group of spiritual sages called the Lords of Shamballa, to weave a spell that will obliterate three-fourths of mankind and usher in a new Golden Age.  “A cataclysm beyond imagining,” they tell Strange, “will leave the world a ravaged wasteland, burying the Old Humanity and birthing the New.”  Doc is resistant but, at first, simply assumes that these Cosmic Sages know more than he does; so he travels the globe assembling the multi-part spell.  In the end, though, he can’t do it; he refuses to do it—until he has an inner realization (prompted, he believes, by the inner voice of his guru, the Ancient One) that transforms his perspective completely.  The spell is completed and, to the astonishment of the Shamballese Lords, the world remains intact.  No Apocalypse, just another morning on Planet Earth.  “I saw,” Strange tells the bewildered Lords, “that your ultimate cataclysm will take place, not without...but within.  The purge you foretold will occur in every heart.  The fires you foresaw will burn in every soul.  The Golden Age you predicted will come to each man in his own time.

An interpretation that made far more sense to me.  But something still didn’t sit right:  Why, I eventually came to wonder, is this inner purge even necessary?  Why does every soul have to burn in fire, even if it’s only an internal one?  I saw how attached I’d been to the old model, the old belief that we’ve got to pay the price if we want to get the glory; but the universe (via the inner voice my own master, Meher Baba, who, strangely, was known as the Ancient One long before Dr. Strange creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko coined the name) finally dragged me, kicking and screaming, toward a more positive view; a perspective that said we can unfold through joy as easily as we can grow through suffering.  More easily.  (I don't claim to have mastered this path—not by a long shot—but just walking it has been transformative.)

Ten or so years ago I read a book by Gregg Braden, The Isaiah Effect, that explored a similar idea.  What if, Braden wrote—and I’m totally paraphrasing here (and, I hope, not distorting his point)—the ancient prophecies weren’t talking about a sequence of events (destruction, then rebirth; End of Days, then New Beginning)?  What if they were talking about a choice?  An opportunity to step over Harold Camping’s Apocalypse and walk straight through the gates of the Golden Age?  Braden talked about the power of our collective consciousness to initiate global transformation—a valid and valuable goal—but I think it goes even further than that.  If this world is literally a dream (and I believe, to the core of my being that it is), then isn’t it up to each of us to become lucid dreamers and choose the most beautiful dream we can?  To manifest the Golden Age—not in some distant future, not in some faraway Heaven, but here and now?

In concert with God (in whatever form you see Him, Her or It), we make a choice, every hour, every minute, every instant, about which cosmos we want to dream into being.  And each choice spins out a chain of events, a new world, a virgin universe.

Which means that today actually is Judgment Day.  

So what’s it going to be:  the Apocalypse or the Golden Age?  Heaven-on-Earth or endless Hell?  Which newscast are you going to anchor, what story are you going to tell, what movie are you going to direct?  Judgement Day is in your hands.  You can take everything I've written literally or metaphorically, but, either way, it's up to you to make your choice, create your cosmos, dream your dream.  I’ll go off and dream mine and, with a little luck and grace, perhaps our dreams will intertwine and manifest an even larger dream, a greater dream than we can individually imagine.  

As Into Shamballa's narrator observed at the end of Doctor Strange's adventure:  “Remember:  the Golden Age is now.  Remember:  We are all, each and every one of us, the Lords of Shamballa.”

©copyright 2011 J.M. DeMatteis


  1. JM,

    This is beautifully said. I choose joy!

    Reverend Diane Epstein

  2. I'm with you on that one, Reverend Diane!

  3. I'm with the Rev and JMD.....

  4. Very thoughtfull commentary JMD. And yes I too have mocked that which I fear. "Doomsday? Again? That is so 999AD!" etc. But I guess deep down it is a fear of a more personal Judgement day to come when we pass on into the beyond. Haven't read Into Shamballa for a good many years now - opportune time reacquaint myself with a fine novel in front of warm fire on a cold Australian night!

    Rob Thomas

  5. Well, that's at least three of us for the Golden Age, Dennis. And damn fine company, too!

  6. Great post, JMD. Theology is one of those things that sometimes gets lost in translation, but it's a fascinating, articulate piece.

    I differ somewhat. I believe we're very distinct beings, separate from God, which is how I interpret The Fall. It's a Fall from God's mind, if you will, into Being, with all the privileges and burdens that brings. In Christian theology, the union between God and Man is sometimes viewed in terms of a marriage, and I like that analogy. I wake to God the same way I wake to my wife every morning.

    (One reason I'm so enamored with BROOKLYN DREAMS is because it reads, among other things, as a romance with God. It truly is one of the most exciting texts I've ever read.)

    From my perspective, I think Camping woke to the same reality as we did, and had to come to terms with that. I'd agree it's a nice opportunity for him to think about what kind of world he wants to bring about, as well as for us all. There's a a biblical paradox that says, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that works in you." I couldn't say where one begins and the other ends...

    To my mind, there's just no way to separate suffering from what it means to be human. It's like, I don't know, Peter Parker without the tragedy of Uncle Ben's death. It'd be something entirely different and unrecognizable.

    That said, there's a real danger in the idea that allowing others to suffer is just letting nature take its course (ie slavery, war, poverty) or that one should seek out suffering.

    And that's one thing (maybe the best thing) about your work: you seek creative ways to blast the idea that we have to live in the same insane fashion forever.

    Campbell's vision says not only that mass suffering is OK, but that God is way cool with it, and he's got some kind of VIP program going for people who want to get out and watch it all go down from a distance. That's misguided to say the least!

    I do believe joy is a choice. There's an old allegory about a mystic who had a vision of heaven and hell. He saw heaven first, which was a banquet lined with as much fine food and drink as he could imagine. But he was surprised to discover hell was exactly the same, only the people there were starving!

    It was only when the diners came to eat he discovered the difference. The silverware was too awkward for the diners to feed themselves with. In heaven, the diners fed each hell, they were concerned only with themselves. (You know, the VIP tickets to everyone else's damnation.)

    Apologies for the longwinded response, JMD. I'm not even sure where we differ, only that we don't where it matters. So thanks as always for working to Dream a better world into existence, and I will try to do the same!

  7. And thank you, David, for a response that wasn't long-winded in the least. It was, as always, thoughtful and heartfelt and deeply appreciated.

    I don't really think we differ all that much. When you start putting words to these concepts they often create vast differences that aren't really there.

    I absolutely believe in the Divine Romance, the marriage, as you said, between God and man. But I think, in the end, it's revealed as a beautiful game: We wake up one day to discover that the God we've been romancing was our Self (our deepest truest Self) all along. And that we were characters in a story of our own creation.

  8. Yeah, words enlighten and fail us...often simultanously...but it's all about Soul in the end.

    And my Soul is always deeply grateful for these exchanges, which are as fun as they are enlightening.

    Life is good!

  9. It boils down to the choice of seeing life literally or literately. I've been doing too much of the former lately-- time to switch it up to the latter.

  10. Well said, Jeff. Have fun throwing the switch!

  11. Golden age, eh? Then everybody better be sure to watch out when Namor floods New York. What? I can't make a border-line obscure comic reference on a comic writer's web page? Oh whatever.

    However you pose some interesting theological questions, and to answer one, the reason soul's have to burn, is because or natural sense of self loathing, and possibly a sort of arrogance of guilt, for in our heart of hearts many believe that their sins are so great no God could ever possibly forgive them. Mostly it's self-loathing though.

    Now, if I may pose a few theological points myself. What do you mean no?Looks like some one named Demattteis thinks he might be the dreamer. Well I'm doing it anyway.

    First off, do you ever suppose God gets lonely? Seriously think about it, if God is responsible for our natural desires, and especially if it is as some men claim coming from his image, then our relationships with God would almost assuredly breed loneliness. No body ever talks to God. Confused? Well not everything is about you sir, but still, I'll elaborate. I'm sure you're wondering about prayer, well no one ever really uses that to talk to God. All they ever really do is beg him for stuff, or thank or flatter, or blame. Nio one ever asks if he Saw the Simpson's Halloween special, or who he prefers Bradbury or Asimov (neither, he's all about the PKD). I'd imagine this grows tiresome.

    Next, Why is mankind so apt to distance himself from his creator. Many people sight modern times, or mechanization as the source, or possibly the greed spawned by our genetic fear of not having enough. Now, surely these all contribute, but are they he be all end all. Or, perhaps there is a larger source to be found in America's religion. you see, as much as we all like to say America has no single religion demanded upon it's citizens, it does. That religion is not Christianity, or Judaism, or even freedom, it is romance. Now I'm not necessarily it disconnects us from God, though it may seem that way, no I'm just playing devil's advocate. However, one could see how the desire to seek out a perfect mate and keep them could ditance one's self from THE DIVE. The more energy we put into this person, and if you live with them it increases 100 fold at least, the less God is in your mind. What's more modern society seems to promote the idea that is the only true way to salvation, and what's more the only true goal, and if this is true the personal search for God becomes diminished and even a novelty. ANd despite mankind having a high capability for love, his attention only is held in so many ways. For that matter, why even seek out God if all he is supposed to offer is allegedly given to us if we can get this here and now, in the form of a person? The relationship therefore becomes the dominant force in a person's life. Is this what I believe truly? perhaps. The idea of Romance being a national religion is not new, Mr. DIck even mentioned it off hand in "We Can build you." but for right now do not think of this as my ideas, but rather as me posting them for the sake of conversation.

    wishing nothing, but goodwill and hipness from here to the stars,

  12. Golden age... a bagel, yeah sure, which ever is easier, I could go for either. Your choice

    wishing nothing, but goodwill and hipness from here to the stars,

  13. Great stuff, Jack. Thanks for posting.

    What you say about romance is very true, I think. Others have written about the idea that, in the West, romantic love replaced the Divine Romance; and how important it is to reconnect to the Divine and begin that love story anew.

    As for people not talking to God, I don't that's that's true. (Or should I say it's only true for some.) The idea of companionship with God, with the Master (whether incarnate or not), is at the root of many spiritual paths; taking God as our dearest friend, someone to share everything in our lives with, not just our problems and pleas.

    As for God getting lonely...well, one explanation of the Creation I've heard addresses that idea. It says that God is love, infinite love, and love, by its nature, must express itself -- and so that infinite love we call God divided itself, created the Creation, illusory individuality, separation, order for all of us to have the pleasure of reuniting with the God we truly are in the end: love returning to love, becoming love again. So you could say that this entire dream of Creation came into being because God was infinitely lonely.

    This is why I love Creation Point: the folks who visit here are as comfortable talking about the Big Questions as they are dissecting the latest issue of Spider-Man. Keeps life interesting, doesn't it?

    Thanks, Jack!

  14. For some people, Jack, a good bagel IS the Golden Age!

  15. Now you know why I was up for either.Oh or a nice burger with onions and mushrooms mixed into the meat, and a nice glass of Faygo Cherry cola to wash it down. Who needs heaven with stuff like a bagel, burger, or a nice long walk. And booze.

    wishing nothing, but goodwill and hipness from here to the stars,

  16. Hey, Rob Thomas: Your comment got stuck in cyber-limbo; sorry it took me so long to post it.

    Thanks so much for posting and I hope you get a chance to re-visit INTO SHAMBALLA. That warm fire sounds very inviting.