Witness THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JOHN G. BENNETT ~ 1974 Edition preface

"The first edition of this book brought my life’s search to the year 1961. So much has happened in the past twelve years that I needed this chance to make a fresh appraisal and I am grateful to Omen Press for giving me the opportunity. The last four chapters of the present edition are new and they bring the story of my search up to the present year. During this time, my concern has become more and more directed to the world situation and the future of mankind. In the last volume of The Dramatic Universe, published in 1965, I gave my reasons for believing that we are in the early stages of the Parousia, the Second Coming of Christ which heralds the end of the present world. I am often asked if this is intended to be taken literally, and if so, whether I still hold the same conviction. The answer to both questions is that I am no less convinced than I was ten years ago, and indeed discern growing evidence that the great event is in progress. We have to separate fact from fantasy, figurative representation of real signs from interpretations made a thousand or two thousand years before the time of change arrived. The facts are plain: the old world is disintegrating and before the end of this century will have disappeared. An immense destructive power is at work and it can be combated only upon the invisible planes of understanding and love. There is also unmistakably a creative counter-action that does not originate in the human mind. The influences that enter our ordinary human experience from these planes of spirituality never cease to flow: they find a home wherever they are willingly admitted and responded to. At the present time, the counter-action is growing more powerful and millions of men and women, especially those born after the last great war, are aware of it. All who are touched - even half-consciously - by the realization that a Great Work is in progress, feel drawn to take part in it. This creates the movements of enquiry and search which characterize our time.

We witness the accelerated changes that are occurring in our science and technology. Knowledge doubles every ten years. New discoveries such as jet propulsion, atomic energy, and satellite communication have changed our lives completely in the short space of one generation since the last war. We see the threat to our civilization from the population explosion and the failure of food supplies. We see governments and great corporations growing on the one hand more and more powerless to control the course of events and on the other more and more determined to concentrate power in the hands of small despotic groups.

From year to year, the probability increases that the social structure of the world will break down before the end of the present century. I believe we must reckon with a period of panic during which it will become evident to all that existing institutions are helpless to prevent catastrophe. Only the immense inertia and built-in resistance to change will keep things going for another thirty or forty years. After that an entirely new social system will have to take over. It will be neither capitalist nor communist, neither national nor international but consist of largely self-supporting experimental settlements learning to help one another to survive. The big cities will slowly be depopulated and fall into decay. National governments will be replaced by agencies, whose main function will be to maintain the distribution of vital supplies. Life will simplify.

For three thousand years and more, the world has lived by expansion and complexification. This trend has reached saturation. We must now turn again towards concentration and simplification. This does not mean throwing away the discoveries of science and technology that have real value, but it does mean abandoning all the results that threaten destruction. We shall have to give up the use of the automobile for private transport, the mass production of mechanical and electronic devices that are not necessary for life, the expenditure of vast resources on ‘education’ and ‘defense’. I have put these last words in quotation marks for they stand for two of the great frauds of our time. ‘Education’ does not educate and ‘defense’ does not defend. An enormous simplification of life, and with it a great increase in human happiness and prospect of survival, will come when mankind begins to base life upon the principle of satisfying needs rather than that of gratifying the lust for more and more and more.

If these changes are to come without major disruption it will be necessary for the true situation of the world to be revealed. We are kept in ignorance of the reality, not so much by deliberate suppression as by the inability to see and think upon a large enough scale. We observe recurrent crises followed by encouraging signs of progress and prosperity.

The overall trend towards disintegration which must be seen over a period of at least a century is disguised by the ebb and flow of political and economic activity. The need is for more people who can see how things are going and work for the future of the human race. The real situation is that man unaided is powerless to prevent catastrophe. The sole hope is in cooperation with the Higher Powers that are acting in their own way and their own time. This is the Great Work in which all are called to take part who are able to do so. For this they must be trained to perceive, to understand and to withstand the strains of the world process. The training must be directed to man himself and all his powers bodily, mental and spiritual. We need people who can make the conscious, stable decision to dedicate themselves to serve the future.

In 1970, I became aware that I must do what I could to show that this training is possible. Fifty years of search had convinced me that Gurdjieff’s method brought up to date and completed from other sources was the best available technique for giving just the training that the world needs. In October 1971, the International Academy for Continuous Education started its first course and now the second has been completed. The results show that the method works for those who can commit themselves to an all-out effort. I have described the enterprise in the last chapter.

All over the world people are aware of the need to prepare for the new age. Thousands of experimental communities, urban and rural, are searching for a new way of life. This search has in the 1970s replaced the political activism of the 1960s. Another feature of this decade is the proliferation of spiritual mass movements that offer some form of instant salvation. These trends sometimes combine in the form of spiritual communities that live with apocalyptic fervour awaiting the end of the world. There are also many realistic ‘this worldly’ settlements that aim only at survival.

These activities carry a significant foretaste of the new society, but they are not complete and most of them will fail before the end of the decade. By 1985 new factors will have entered the life of people throughout the world. Among these will be the actual taste of privation among those who have never been deprived and the hoarding of resources by those who control them. We can already see these attitudes forming and hardening, but they do not directly and obviously touch the lives of all the people of the world. When this happens a great change will come. People will look seriously for a different way of living and the new age will begin.

But if it is to begin aright, and if much suffering is to be avoided, the ‘different way of living’ must be there for all to see. That is why settlements or groups on the lines I have indicated must be created without delay. These cannot be done by human enterprise alone, nor can it come about by blind, unreasoning faith in Providence. It will require cooperation between man and the spiritual forces that are higher and more intelligent than himself. In a very real sense, these spiritual forces are the manifestation of Christ in the world. But it must be understood that spiritual forces are never coercive, overriding human will. Man will be saved in so far as he allows himself to be saved and cooperates in his salvation.

This is why I have called the coming age, the Synergic Epoch. Arrogance must give place to humility, selfishness to service and belief in expansion for its own sake must be replaced by the acceptance of the quality that simplicity alone can give. It is ideas and attitudes that change the world. We need a completely new attitude towards our mother the earth and all that lives on her generous bosom. Today we use our powers to despoil and destroy; we must be shown how to use them to cherish and preserve. Our future depends upon those who see and can help others to see. The older generations, with few exceptions, are blind. Hope lies with the young; but they must put short-term selfish aims aside and work for the future."

Created By
The JG Bennett Foundation


©The Estate of J.G. Bennett and The JG Bennett Foundation "Witness: The Autobiography of John G. Bennett Created with images by ambroochizafer - "saint meditation yoga" • James Cridland - "Crowd" • Ashiq vir - "MBK Bangkok" • Tony Fischer Photography - ""Get Together" in the Village" • Piush Dahal - "04-City-Farm-Chicago-IL" • woodleywonderworks - "Earthrise / Apollo 8"

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