Global Cooperation

News Item: Complexity and Collapse by Niall Feguson

Guest Blog Post – Dennis Bumstead

From time-to-time, Global Cooperation will publish articles by other authors. These articles will have as their common element, an insightful commentary on the state of the world related to that described by Adi Da in his book Not-Two IS Peace
This post is particularly interesting in relation to the “systems” chapter, “Reality-Humanity”, p 213 in Not-Two Is Peace, and more generally in relation to the often asked, often doubting question ‘can radical, large-scale change ( for good or ill) actually happen?’.
Dennis is the General Manager of the Global Cooperation Project – read more at

Complexity and Collapse

Empires on the Edge of Chaos

March/April 2010
Niall Ferguson
NIALL FERGUSON is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His most recent book is The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.

There is no better illustration of the life cycle of a great power than The Course of Empire, a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole that hang in the New-York Historical Society. Cole was a founder of the Hudson River School and one of the pioneers of nineteenth-century American landscape painting; in The Course of Empire, he beautifully captured a theory of imperial rise and fall to which most people remain in thrall to this day.

Each of the five imagined scenes depicts the mouth of a great river beneath a rocky outcrop. In the first, The Savage State, a lush wilderness is populated by a handful of hunter-gatherers eking out a primitive existence at the break of a stormy dawn. The second picture, The Arcadian or Pastoral State, is of an agrarian idyll: the inhabitants have cleared the trees, planted fields, and built an elegant Greek temple. The third and largest of the paintings is The Consummation of Empire. Now, the landscape is covered by a magnificent marble entrepôt, and the contented farmer-philosophers of the previous tableau have been replaced by a throng of opulently clad merchants, proconsuls, and citizen-consumers. It is midday in the life cycle. Then comes Destruction. The city is ablaze, its citizens fleeing an invading horde that rapes and pillages beneath a brooding evening sky. Finally, the moon rises over the fifth painting, Desolation. There is not a living soul to be seen, only a few decaying columns and colonnades overgrown by briars and ivy.

Collection of the New-York Historical Society
The Savage State, from Thomas Cole’s The Course of Empire (1833-36)

Conceived in the mid-1830s, Cole’s great pentaptych has a clear message: all empires, no matter how magnificent, are condemned to decline and fall. The implicit suggestion was that the young American republic of Cole’s age would be better served by sticking to its bucolic first principles and resisting the imperial temptations of commerce, conquest, and colonization.

[The balance of the article is available on the Foreign Affairs site at


The Movie ‘Avatar’ Shows Us ‘Prior Unity’
January 20, 2010, 7:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Ever since I went to see Avatar I have been depressed. Watching

the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na’vi made me want to be

one of them. I can’t stop thinking about all the things that happened

in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it …”

‘Audiences Experience ‘Avatar’’ Blues’, CNN, January 11, 2010

We’re hearing a lot of that these days – people deeply moved, in one way or another, simultaneously, all over the world, by the movie Avatar.  Why?  It is easy to understand why in the context of Adi Da’s writings about ‘Prior Unity’.  James Cameron has described, in engaging and beautiful detail, an environment where Prior Unity is visible, palpable, and enjoyed by the whole planet: self-aware beings, animals, plants, and even the space itself.  This picture has great appeal. Again – why?

It’s because Prior Unity is the state of this world and of your life (and everything!) – right now. You (unconsciously) feel a tacit awareness and familiarity with the concept of everything being somehow interconnected. So when that is popped in front of you in iMAX 3D, you ‘recognize’ it. Not because it’s somebody else’s alluring fantasy vision, but because it is your own, unconscious awareness of reality.

That principle – of ‘recognition’ – is how the precarious state of the world is going to change for the better, says Adi Da.  Things are not going to change because of all the usual heros, speeches, institutions, etc. that we are putting our hopes in. No. Things are going to change because we recognize this prior unity and its attractiveness, relative to what we now experience, and what it will lead to in terms of arresting the disastrous global collapse now underway. Things are going to change because everybody ‘gets’ it and demands the change.

In Not-Two Is Peace Adi Da writes:

“Human beings must accept, with humility, that their rightful position (and that of everyone) in the naturally indivisible world-family of Earthkind (including humankind) is not the ego-place of prior dis-unity (and thus separateness, domination, and control), but the “heart-place” of prior unity (and, thus, of ego-transcending cooperation and tolerance) …”

For more, please go to where you can download the full text of the book Not-Two Is Peace