This introductory chapter explains how I came to write these essays. Climate scientists are unanimous about the very uncertain prospects for the Earth and for us this century, given our continued reliance on finite fossil fuels and our reluctance to change to alternative and carbon-free fuel sources. What is extraordinary is our resistance to acknowledging the scientific facts and prognosticatIons the scientists claim. My argument throughout rests on the importance of a psychological and ethical exploration to account for our ignoring, or denial, of climate change and to emphasise the need to rethink human nature as it evolves in this twenty-first century. The idea of “the timeless axis” suggests the possibility of a re-newed consciousness beyond the modern categories of time, space and linear causality.

I wrote this essay in 2015 as an attempt to clarify my thoughts about extending the aims of the Climate Psychology Alliance - and psychological thinking about the climate crisis - to include the wisdom of the perennial traditions.  The thinking and analytical practices of our modern scientific culture have, arguably, led to the climate emergency.  If there is a new consciousness emerging, then it must embrace a new vision of us - the human phenomenon - not an idealised one, but based on a global psychological and philosophical understanding that integrates both the scientific material knowledge of the modern West with the immaterial, meta-physical wisdom of the East.

Towards the end of this essay I use a sentence from the Buddhist psychoanalyst, Mark Epstein’s book, Going on Being, as an epigraph:  “You don’t have to change to awaken, you only have to awaken to change”.  This suggests the importance and power of awakening, not only for consciousness itself but also for the actual changes that will inevitably accompany it.  The most effective activism springs from, and is an expression of, the practice of contemplation and meditation.  Mindfulness - in everything we do - can change our lives and the world about us.

The French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, wrote: “All I can do is tell the truth.  No, that isn’t so - I have missed it.  There is no truth that, in passing through awareness, does not lie.  But one runs after it all the same.”  Now, in this postmodern world, we no longer believe in truth and we have stopped running after it.  Absolute truth can never be “known”.  It will always evade us.  But relative truth is another matter. The three books in this review all consider relative truth even more important to “run after” in this time of climate and political crisis.

Identity is a major issue today. More and more people are asking the simple question “Who am I?” and realising there is no simple answer.  Similarly in respect of our social and ecological identity -the collective human phenomenon - and our place on the Earth and in the Universe.  For instance, are we separate from nature or an integral part of it?  The timeless, paradoxical question of the Zen tradition, “What was the nature of your original face before you were born?”, begins, in this post-modern and climate-crisis age, to make more sense.  It is time we inquired into our essential individual and species identity rather than simply remain unconscious of who we are.

Buddhism and Shakespeare - along with all the poets - held that life itself is a dream - of happiness and pleasure or a nightmare of pain and suffering.  One day very soon we will have to face the new reality - the unthinkable prospect of human-caused climate change and a sixth mass extinction - and find a new way through, or perish.  There is a middle way between pleasure and pain, happiness and suffering, dream and reality, but we have to go beyond modern Western culture to find it.  A new Axial Age promises a new balance - a nondual perspective on all our scientific, philosophical and political dualisms - which depends on the integration of everything, such as physics and meta-physics, or economics and ethics, but particularly the analytic sciences of the modern time-centred West with the universal Idealism of the timeless East.

In her 2017 book,“No Is Not Enough”, Naomi Klein described the “lessons from Standing Rock” in North Dakota when the “water protectors” gathered outside the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to try to stop the Dakota Access pipeline ....... December 5th, 2016 was the Sioux’s “last stand” 1 against the most violent state repression. Many had arrived to stand with them, including a convoy of more than two thousand military veterans. What Klein found there when she joined them was a network of camps comprising ten thousand people. It had developed into a community, that was much more than just a resistance to the pipeline. In the words of Bull Allard, the official historian of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, it had become a school, not just here to protect the Earth and water but “to help humanity answer its most pressing question: how to live with the Earth again, not against it.”