Wisdom and the Future
The Center for Future Consciousness &
The Wisdom Page

In This Issue
Editorial: Wisdom, Enlightenment, Myth, and Science Fiction
Wisdom Highlight: Lee Beaumont
Online Course on the Virtues: Good Faith
Poems and a Manifesto on Wisdom and the Future
New Essay: Wisdom and Future Consciousness
Archive Pages for CFC and TWP
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Tom Lombardo's Books on the Future, Wisdom, and Future Consciousness 

Wisdom, Consciousness, and the Future


This Month's Highlights
August, 2014


Included in this month's issue of Wisdom and the Future:   

  • Editorial: Wisdom, Enlightenment, Myth, and Science Fiction - Tom Lombardo 
  • Wisdom Highlight: Lee Beaumont, Searcher and Teacher of Wisdom
  • Virtue of the Month: Good Faith - Lee Beaumont 
  • Poems and a Manifesto on Wisdom and the Future - Alan Nordstrom
  • New Essay: Wisdom and Future Consciousness - Debashis Chowdhury  
  • Archive Pages for Center for Future Consciousness and The Wisdom Page 


Wisdom, Enlightenment, Myth,
and Science Fiction
Tom Lombardo   





My futurist colleague and friend, Rick Smyre, President of Communities of the Future, recently presented a challenge to me. How does science fiction connect with Rick's ideas on the Second Enlightenment and Integral Culture? What is the philosophical and practical significance of science fiction, in creating a new more open and constructive mindset in the world, in facilitating a more positive and wise future?

As Rick expressed it, "...how [could you] connect science fiction with our Second Enlightenment philosophic ideas so that young adults would have a new literary genre that could help them prepare for a different kind of future at a fundamental level of thinking...and yet be fun?"

The following short essay captures the essence of my answer to Rick.


*  *  *  *  * 

As Rick Smyre, and other futurist writers concur, there is a host of contemporary challenges facing humanity. We live in an era of rapid and pervasive change. We need a new way of thinking to successfully meet these challenges and "flourish" in such a world.

So what does science fiction offer that is of relevance and value to this perspective and initiative?   


Psychologically, what most powerfully informs, motivates, and moves people, are experiences that stimulate the total array of psychological processes, inclusive of thought, imagination, emotion, the senses, desire, behavior, and social reality -- that is, holistic experiences. As I describe in my theory of holistic future consciousness, people approach the future (mentally and behaviorally) with all these psychological dimensions coming into play. What I propose is that science fiction stimulates holistic future consciousness, impacting all the above psychological dimensions.


Second, also bringing into play human psychology, we are cognitively predisposed to create and tell stories about ourselves; following from the research of Damasio, among others, it is through self-narrative that we give our lives meaning, purpose, and coherence. We literally create our sense of identity through self-narrative. Our societies  and cultures create a sense of identity through narrative. Narratives (including myths) have been an integral and primordial dimension of the human mind, at least since the beginnings of recorded history (and probably earlier, within the ancient oral traditions). It seems that the narrative is more fundamental than the abstract theoretic within the human mind. Hence, since science fiction is narrative (about the future), it taps into and resonates with our preferred mode of human cognition and thinking. To get people's minds "into the future" we should immerse them in stories, both good and bad, about the future.



Let me elaborate on the expression "...stories, both good and bad..." When we look out toward the future, we are confronted with negative and positive possibilities (though sometimes it is difficult to tell which are which). Both types of narratives move people. In science fiction there are both utopian and dystopian stories, both narratives of transcendence and cataclysmic visions of tomorrow. The latter, of course, can be seen as "warnings." Even if a science fiction story is not unequivocally negative, it invariably presents challenges and difficulties that drive the narrative; you need some kind of trouble or problem to create drama.

Looking toward the future, it is important to be aware of both negative and positive possibilities, of imagining the consequences, good and bad, of our present ways of doing things. The future will be drama, tragedy, comedy, and conquest. Science fiction, having been born in modern times, will continue to reflect that duality, for the double-edged sword of fear and hope toward the future (the dual heritage of the First Enlightenment and Gothic Romanticism) is a critical dimension in imagining the future.

As both narrative, with characters, plots, and concrete imagery, and as a stimulus for provoking holistic future consciousness, science fiction provides a medium for how the future feels. It is not enough to think it out; the question is always, how would the envisioned future(s) feel?

William Gibson said, "The future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed." My parents grew up and lived their lives in the context of the Great Depression, WWII, and the 1950s philosophy of middle-class American values. But I grew up (and perhaps I was an anomaly of the times), being quickly immersed in science fiction cinema -- the early classics of the 1950s and 1960s. In contemporary times, the youth of the world has grown up in an era significantly dominated by the visions of science fiction cinema (beginning with Star Wars, most of the biggest money making movies of all time are science fiction movies of the last few decades) and the various commercialized and multi-media techno-visions of the near future. If we want to tune into the mindset and mode of experience of the youth, then science fiction (as multi-media, techno-framed immersive experiences) does just that. Many of the younger generation feel that we are living in a science fiction reality already (for better or worse).

Though horror and fantasy are both popular genres in literature and cinema among the younger generations, horror and fantasy are escapist modes of experience. The genre that, to various degrees of success (depending on the quality and intelligence of the production), is both realistic and future oriented is science fiction. Though science fiction clearly stretches and engages the imagination, equally it can be highly realistic. (The general scenarios envisioned in science fiction could happen.)

Moreover, science fiction is pluralistic. Each of us has visions of the future, both hopeful and fearful (preferable and nightmarish), and has theories regarding the nature of reality, the nature of contemporary times, and what we think is the good toward which we should strive. But grounded in what I think is a fundamental truth about the future -- that it is possibilities -- science fiction provides a diverse set of images, stories, scenarios, and arguments pertaining to the future. To be thoughtful about the future and expand the flexibility of our consciousness, it is important to be familiar with a diverse set of futurist visions (even if we don't agree with many of them). Due to the diverse mindsets and philosophies of its various authors, science fiction opens the imagination to the breadth of possibilities of the future.

In Rick's question above, he uses the word "fun," and piggy-backing on this idea, an ongoing "dialectic" within the history of science fiction has been the dual concerns of  entertaining and educating. When science fiction is done well, it does both. You could argue that if you don't entertain you are not going to successfully educate. Hence, whether it is "fun," or simply excitement, thrills, and spills, science fiction brings the entertainment dimension into futurist education.

In Rick's paper on the Second Enlightenment, he compares and contrasts First and Second Enlightenment principles, noting that First Enlightenment principles were developed as a new way to think about and guide the future evolution of human society. First Enlightenment philosophy involved both a rejection of certain ideas and practices of the past, as well as the articulation of a set of new ideas that presumably would drive progress in the years ahead.

In my writings and teaching on science fiction, a main area of focus is the ongoing and evolving interaction between culture, as it developed through ancient and modern times, and how these developments influenced the growth of science fiction. I discuss the importance of the Scientific Revolution and the First Enlightenment in the transformation of the Western mind and the emergence of modern science fiction in Verne and Wells. I also include the significant revolutions in thinking in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century (Evolution, Entropy, Relativity, Quantum Physics, Modern art and music) that affected the development of both futurist thinking and science fiction. Examining the evolution of science fiction within a cultural context  provides a history of thinking about the future -- from ancient times to contemporary times -- thus setting new ways of thinking in a historical and philosophical context. We watch how the idea of the future (and writing about it) grew.

The best science fiction is not simply technological extrapolation, but rather about the future of everything (for example, Hyperion, Last and First Men, and River of Gods) . There are two different meanings to "the future of everything." On one hand, a futurist science fiction novel can integrate into its imagined scenario all dimensions of human reality, from the scientific-technological to the environmental-ecological to the psychological-social-cultural-political-economic-moral and even spiritual-religious. The scenarios of good science fiction are complex, multi-faceted, and rich. You could argue that the most comprehensive and detailed visions of the future are produced in science fiction. Hence, if one challenge of today is to appreciate and understand the complexity of the human condition, then science fiction is a very good place to see how this complexity will develop into the future.

But second, "the future of everything" refers to the cosmic dimension of science fiction. Frequently, science fiction stories address the universe as a whole, delve into questions of God, the purpose and meaning of the cosmos, and humanity's place within it (Stapledon's Star Maker). In this sense, science fiction is mythic, as were the myths of old, keeping in mind that the "cosmic myths" produced in science fiction are pluralistic and diverse. Science fiction generates big picture thinking. This cosmic dimension of science fiction stimulates thinking on issues such as enlightenment, wisdom, and transcendence.

Science fiction is the mythology of the future. I use the word "mythology" not in any disparaging or critical sense, as if to imply unrealistic, antiquated, or untrue. I mean it in a very positive sense. In the past, myths, based upon the ideas of the time, provided meaning, understanding, guidance, and inspiration for people; myths as stories informed and motivated human consciousness. With changes in thinking about the nature of reality, our myths haved naturally changed as well. To quote the science fiction writer and philosopher, Olaf Stapledon (from Last and First Men), when he described the nature of science fiction, "The activity we are undertaking is not science, but art...Yet our aim is not merely to create aesthetically admirable fiction. We must achieve neither mere history, nor mere fiction, but myth. A true myth is one which, within the universe of a certain culture... expresses richly, and often perhaps tragically, the highest aspirations possible within a culture." If we wish to resonate with people's minds and their hearts, we need "myths of the future" that will guide us, inspire us, and inform us; this is science fiction.


A critical challenge that humanity faces is summed up in a quote from the psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, "It is easier for us to imagine ourselves living among better appliances than among better human beings." The message of the Second Enlightenment (as was the message of the First Enlightenment) is that we need to transform ourselves -- to transform our minds. We can articulate basic principles of thinking, attitude, and behavior that would serve as a framework and guidance system for this desired transformation, but can we imagine (concretely and in a realistic action mode) what transformed (evolved? better?) humans would be like?

We know from psychological research that people learn through role models. What does a wise or enlightened person of the future look like? Can we envision an individual or a group that has expanded consciousness? If technology is an integral dimension of human reality, then how would a "wise cyborg" think, feel, and behave? Science fiction faces these kinds of imaginative challenges: Can we envision in science fiction settings "better human beings"? There have been many efforts within science fiction to do just this, but it is very difficult, and yet equally very important. As examples, I would consider Card's Ender's Game and especially the sequel Speaker for the Dead, Butler's Parable of the Talents, Kress' Beggars in Spain, and Stephenson's The Diamond Age, as embodying "journeys of wisdom building." At the very least, the medium of science fiction provides the appropriate context in which to think out this central concern.


In parting, I invite you to engage in a futurist visioning or scenario-building exercise with me:
  • Envision concretely a person who lives within, and indeed revels in, a consciousness of acknowledged existential uncertainty.
  • Envision someone who flourishes within ongoing change.
  • Envision a person who balances individual needs with communal and holistic concerns -- someone who sees their unique role in the context of interdependency.
  • Envision a wise and enlightened person who uses advanced technologies to realize deep, as opposed to shallow, purposes.
  • Envision a future mind--a cosmic mind--that truly sees and lives through "the eyes of eternity" 

*  *  *  *  *
Science Fiction 
Grand Rapids Retreat

After presenting my "Science Fiction: The Mythology of the Future" as a one day course at the World Future Society conference this last month, Jeanne and I will be doing an expanded three-day weekend retreat (with more multimedia, more discussion, and a variety of hands-on writing activities) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, September 19th to the 21st.  See the Program and Register.

Wisdom Highlight
Lee Beaumont, Searcher and
Teacher of Wisdom  


Leland Beaumont, an Advisory Board member of The Wisdom Page, is a dedicated researcher and teacher, and amazingly prolific and productive writer on wisdom and a host of related philosophical, social, and psychological topics. He has contributed numerous book reviews, essays, and entire online courses to the educational resources of The Wisdom Page, including his "Virtue of the Month" column. This month we are going to highlight his ongoing work, which continues to grow and evolve.

As Lee describes on his Best Thinking Home Page, as a retired Electrical Engineer he began his published study of wisdom-related topics by creating an online course and general information resource on Emotional Competency. Understanding the emotional dimension of the human mind and human behavior is critical to understanding the psychologically holistic nature of wisdom; wisdom is more than intellect.

In this early effort, a key feature of Lee's work emerged: When he studies and explores an area of inquiry, he creates educational material to organize his own understanding of the subject matter but also to share it with others at the same thing. He outlines a topic and creates activities and assignments to reinforce the learning and internalization of the ideas. He simultaneously is both searcher and teacher, student and scholar, in this process.

In his next big project, in developing his website The Wise Path: Progress toward Wisdom, Lee created a comprehensive and holistic theory of wisdom, including emotional, cognitive, and behavioral dimensions. As he states on the Home Page of this site, "Increasing maturity along three paths: thinking, feeling, and action moves us toward wisdom." Lee includes in this stimulating, rich, and highly informative website a wealth of online and print references pertinent to wisdom and many activities to measure and/or develop wisdom related capacities.

Lee also developed around the same time The Golden Alliance: Living by the Golden Rule website, linked into his Emotional Competency site. As Lee states, "The golden rule is powerful and can benefit from having its own advocacy group. The Golden Alliance challenges us to pledge to uphold the golden rule in our everyday activities." Advocate, teach, and practice.

Now we come to an astounding and ever-evolving work of both scholarship and educational value: Lee's Applied Wisdom Curriculum. As Lee states, inspired by the work of Nicholas Maxwell, he created an entire online Wikiversity program of courses dealing with wisdom. Consisting of twelve distinct courses (and growing all the time), each course outlines a content of study, provides numerous references for further reading, and identifies various activities and assignments to reinforce learning and personal development. Among the courses in this curriculum are: Wisdom, Virtues, and What Matters.

In his ongoing research into wisdom, as Lee states, "Because informed citizens are the foundation of a strong democracy, [he] also developed the Political Wisdom Wiki."

As he has been developing these websites, Lee became a member and active contributor to The Wisdom Page (as an Advisory Board member), the Global Circle, and Nicholas Maxwell's Friends of Wisdom.

Lee also "curates" the website Rethinking Money. Quoting Lee,"...recently, perhaps through work with the Global Circle, I realize that: 1) people follow the money, and 2) our economic systems suffer from fundamental faults that cause essential misalignments between the promise of economic prosperity and greater well-being... universities cannot become wisdom focused until they overcome being wealth driven. My current work is to better understand these economic faults and to promote solutions." See also WaveofAction.Org.

An avid reader of contemporary literature and writings, a host (fifteen in all) of Lee's book reviews can be found on The Wisdom Page: Reviews of Wisdom Books.

Most recently Lee has been actively engaged in a online dialogue within the Friends of Wisdom regarding the nature of reality and the good, and the connection of these "apparently different" concepts to wisdom. In his most recent contribution Unification, Lee's articulates (with interesting graphics) a philosophical and practical synthesis of wisdom, the real, and the good.

Summing up, as Lee describes himself in one of his recent emails to The Friends of Wisdom, "I am a husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, and citizen. I strive to live by what I have preached, every day, in every interaction and with every decision. Perhaps this can only be fairly judged by others."

Of course, one can't be a credible teacher of wisdom without aspiring to "walk the talk." Thank you, Lee, for your great efforts in articulating the nature of wisdom, creating courses for others to learn from, and striving to live the message that you are offering to others.
Virtue of the Month
Good Faith
Lee Beaumont 


"To be persuasive we must be believable;
to be believable we must be credible;
to be credible we must be truthful."
Edward R. Morrow
This month's virtue is good faith--the virtue of truthfulness. You may prefer to call it sincerity, truthfulness, or honesty; what is important is the deep respect for the truth each word conveys. Truth is correspondence with reality. Good faith requires our acts and our words to agree with our inner life. Good faith requires first that you be honest with yourself.

Promote both truth and grace. There are times when balancing compassion and gentleness with truth it becomes prudent to say less. Truth departs from good faith whenever literal truths are used to send a false message.

Good faith is at its best when it is combined with justice, prudence, courage, generosity, humility, simplicity, and love.

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom." Thomas Jefferson

"Sincerity is the way to heaven."


*  *  *  *

The course includes Instructions for contacting the instructor. In addition, the Wikiversity platform encourages your participation in improving the course.  Comments on each page are welcome on the accompanying  "Talk" page, accessed via the "Discuss" tab.

We want to hear from you.

If you are interested in participating in a forum of active students to discuss assignments and share your thoughts, please let us know and we will work to provide a space for that. Also, we would like to be able to provide conscientious students a completion certificate at the end of the course, but we have not yet decided how best to assess completion. What are your ideas?

We certainly hope you continue to enjoy this tour of the virtues.

Leland Beaumont

Poems and a Manifesto
on Wisdom and the Future
Alan Nordstrom

Alan Nordstrom is an Advisory Board member of The Wisdom Page and a frequent contributor of both poems and essays. The following are a new set of philosophical musings by Alan.


The foremost concern of the World Future Society should be that this world have a future--a viable, vibrant future unspoiled by the careless depredations of narrow-minded human beings.

The foremost enterprise of the World Future Society should be the development and promotion of ecosophy, a world wisdom culture working to sustain Earth's viability as a thriving global ecosystem, while advancing the wisest inquiries and enterprises of human invention.
Ecosophy might be called "the art of flourishing," the cultivation of our species' highest potentials, that sapience for which we are providently named.

*  *  *  *  *


"Now is this wise?" is the question we must raise
whenever we've an issue to decide
of some import, not just a passing craze,
but one where weighty outcomes will abide--
for our imperative is to think straight
and estimate the likely consequence
of each proposed decision we debate,
selecting then whichever makes most sense--
not just for now but in the future, too,
for wisdom always takes the longest view.


for Nicholas Maxwell

Attaining wisdom is a noble aim
Though often just an intellectual game;
Whereas, far better than a brainy sport
Are efforts of a consequential sort,
Pursuing not abstruse enlightenment,
But working with a practical intent
To turn the world from foolish practices,
Impediments to our collective bliss.

For instance, global warming is a threat
That science and philosophy have yet
By abstract cogitation to resolve;
Instead, a resolution will involve
Both shrewd deliberation and a plan
Of action to protect the fate of man.


   What could be wiser than to save our Earth?
   No motivation is of higher worth
   Than to direct our vast intelligence
   At man-made problems that have grown immense,
   For higher education's highest goal
   Is cultivating that which makes us whole:
   The wisdom to decide what serves us best
   And then to act on what we have professed
   Bringing about a sane and thriving world
   In which our best potentials are unfurled.
   While contemplation will begin this course,
   Wise actions are the necessary force
   By which our cogitations are applied:
   Reflection and engagement are allied.


for Copthorne Macdonald

The quest for knowledge, one might well surmise,
Is highest education's highest aim,
And yet one higher--that of growing wise--
Makes an imperative and vital claim.

Though learning all the truth of what may be--
The what, the where, the when, the how, the why--
Is a foundational necessity,
It's value that must finally apply,

Which is the realm that wisdom comprehends:
The judgment of what's laudable and apt,
Discerning what serves best the highest ends
By which our errant species may adapt.

     Acquire first the knowledges we need,
     Yet realize: it's wisdom will succeed.


A Global Wisdom Culture will entail
a full critique of all the ways we fail
by principles and practices both sane
and prudent, calculated to sustain
a thriving biosphere and elevate
the consciousness of all, setting us straight
about the wisest ways we should behave,
devised to liberate and not enslave.

But as things are, our race remains enthralled
to values that must now be overhauled,
foremost of which in our new consciousness
is our determination to own less
and simplify our lives so all may share
sufficiently, for nothing else is fair.

New Essay:
Wisdom and Future Consciousness
Debashis Chowdhury

Debashis Chowdhury is an Advisory Board member of the Center for Future Consciousness and past contributor to The Wisdom Page. In this new essay he discusses the stages of self-evolution, highlighting the nature and importance of the development of wisdom, future consciousness, and social consciousness. His essay begins...

"Wisdom and Future Consciousness might seem like strange bed-fellows. Yet, there is a deep connection between the two, almost a causative order, which we will examine in this article. The epic backdrop for this discussion is a human race that is poised at the brink of self-evolution, with the ability to guide not only our own cosmic destiny, but also the future of the planetary ecosystem we find ourselves in. Like all great opportunities, it cuts both ways! Hence, it is essential for us to understand the deep relationship between wisdom and future consciousness, and how they together form the bridge leading to self-evolution...."

Read the entire article.

Archive Pages for Center for Future Consciousness and Wisdom Page

From the fall of 2012 to the spring of 2014, I published two newsletters: the revitalized and redesigned
Wisdom Page Updates and Futurodyssey (the monthly publication of the
Center for Future Consciousness).  Readers
can view  issues of both
newsletters; each  newsletter has an Archive Page. View the Wisdom Page Updates Archive Page; view the Futurodyssey Archive Page.

Beginning this month, June, 2014, the newsletters are being combined into one electronic journal that serves both The Wisdom Page and The Center for Future Consciousness. The Archive Page for this one publication can be accessed at Wisdom and the Future Archive Page.

The reader can subscribe to Wisdom and the Future either on The Wisdom Page or the Center for Future Consciousness Page. See
The Wisdom Page Contact Page or the Home Page of the Center for Future Consciousness.

That's it for this month: An editorial on "Wisdom, Enlightenment, Myth, and Science Fiction;" a "Wisdom Highlight" on Lee Beaumont; "Good Faith" as the virtue of the month; poems and a manifesto on wisdom and the future by Alan Nordstrom; and a new essay by Debashis Chowdhury.

Tom Lombardo