When We Achieve Critical Mass, Everything Changes

Willis Harmon headed up a study program at Stanford Research Institute during the 1970s and 1980s called “Energy Futures, Human Values and Life Styles.” In this research project, his team searched through opinion polls and other research data for a time period that showed the greatest amount of tangible social transformative change (spiritual growth).

The three-and-one-half years between 1964 and 1967 stood out dramatically in his study. It was a time of tremendous spiritual growth and transformation. During this time, more than 51 million people in America alone changed their core values and became what Harmon’s team defined as “inner-directed” people. 

The “inner-directeds” in the study went from having outer circumstances guide their choices to making choices based on their own principles, values and beliefs. There was never a time in history when so many people were waking up.

This marked a radical change in how a large segment of society conducted its affairs. If the news media was focusing on its job, instead of bandying sensationalism to up their ratings, so many people waking up would have been the banner headline in every media. This topic would have been given months of in-depth coverage. This is the real news.

Becoming directed toward inner values instead of reacting to circumstances based on the values laid down by previous generations is one of the first signs of spiritual awakening. Instead of letting the priest, rabbi, minister, doctor, teacher or politician tell us how to live, we began to question authority, and more importantly, to trust our gut. 

The awakening that first mushroomed during the 1960s has continued to grow. Now every day in every town and city in the world, more people are waking up. You can see the signs everywhere you look—but only if you look for them. Most people are myopically focusing on the immediate problems around them, like how miserably politics has degraded, instead of looking at how far we have transformed ourselves as a people over the last fifty years. 

I remember very clearly in 1951 how few people were awake. Personally, I only knew one at that time. By the nineteen nineties I knew about 200 people who were striving to be awake. That was very impressive. 

Now, I personally know somewhere around 800 people who strive to be awake. There has never been, in all of history, this many people awake at any one time. I believe that all through history, there has never been more than about one tenth of one percent of the population that was awake. 

It’s a wonder that we evolved at all. In those times, values from outside ourselves seemed more important than our inner values. Imagination and intuition were considered like bastard step-children. And most of the people that were awake were ground up in the gears of a society that mostly wanted to maintain the status quo and resented anyone who threatened their worldview.

Now, we are in a profound time of awakening. As we approach a critical mass of people waking up, we are observing an implicate order that appears as chaos. The goodness in people whose heart guides their actions is becoming so much better. At the same time, the actions of people whose brain dominates their reality are becoming so divisive that their actions have become much worse. 

When I was growing up, my father explained to me that when a process, plan or goal gets to about 95% of completion, everything gets crazy, chaotic. And if you quit then, pulling out right at the end of the completion cycle causes you to disintegrate so badly that you will probably never try to achieve great things again. Then, out of your own fears, you become a dream stealer, trying to convince others of the folly of their dreams.

In this time of global awakening, just before society transforms to a higher reality, the discord between the competing heart and brain realities of our population is now at that critical level of chaos. If you watch the news, the political situation has reached that level of insanity and chaos that is predictable just before we reach a critical mass of people waking up.

The issue is: Where are you going to focus your precious attention? Are you going to focus your attention on all the problems of the world, like politics that are becoming more divisive by the day? In that case, you are part of (the creation of) the problem. Or, are you going to focus on what makes your heart feel most alive and on the contributions of other heart-centered people’s endeavors? In the latter, you are part of the solution.

The laws of human dynamics and the laws of thermal dynamics operate by very similar principles. If you want to blow up a stick of dynamite, have a thermonuclear detonation, or awaken enough people to ignite a social movement you must get a critical mass to participate.

“Critical mass” is technically 9.1816 percent of the mass—or people. You can see this transformative process in all kinds of organizations. To transform any group to a higher level of organization and effectiveness, you only need to get a little more than nine percent of the members behind the plan. Looking back years after a transformative change happened, the 70 percent who thought it was a good idea but seriously dragged their heels at the time will honestly say, “I was for it all along.”

There will always be 10 percent of any population that will vehemently oppose any new plan. In physics, they percent represent inertia. Inertia means that an object at rest wants to stay at rest, while an object in motion wants to stay in motion. In social movements, inertia can be observed as people who want things to fundamentally stay the same.

A good example is the Episcopal Church. Sometime in the 1980s, the church decided that women should have full rights, same as the men, which included ordination. When they achieved a critical mass of people pushing for the ordination of women, it hit the tipping point. At that point the 70 percent, who were dragging their feet but thought it was a good idea, were swept along in the tide. Women were ordained.

Then the Episcopal Church decided to accept openly gay parishioners. You can bet that 10 percent opposed that change too. When a critical mass of parishioners arrived at the belief that gay parishioners deserve a place in their church—just like anyone else—it happened.

In society, every day there are many examples of movements achieving critical mass, and everything changing as a result. You can observe this in every field of endeavor. When an organization or something you are involved in is striving to evolve, you might want to ask yourself, “Do I want to be part of the critical mass of people who are striving to make it better, the mediocre middle, or the inertia that resists the transformation?”

Right now, at least here where I live, it feels like about 5 percent of the population is striving to be awake. There seems to be another 10 percent that are trying to remain awake, but are lulled back asleep by the siren song of the world of time. There are so many distractions. Even though 10 percent are only conscious for short amounts of time, the combined 15 percent are the movers and shakers of the spiritual revolution. There is a steadily-building momentum.

Civilization is waking up from its long slumber. We are rapidly approaching a moment of quantum awakening that has been foretold by all the indigenous tribes and all the religions of the world. We are firmly in that transitional time.

Who Are Your Heroes?
As we wake up we need heroes in all the fields of endeavor we focus on. I remember in school studying about heroic people like Copernicus and Einstein, and later pioneering women like Amelia Earhart and civil rights leaders as diverse as Jackie Robinson, Mohammed Ali, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

When I was in school, most of the heroes I studied about seemed totally outside of me. When the teachers were talking about them, I remember thinking, so what? I did not realize at the time how important it is to have role models we admire. It is so clear to me now that we all need heroes in all our fields of endeavors, role models we can emulate during times when our struggles seem so overwhelming.

When you find yourself struggling so hard, wondering if you will fail, think: “how would my hero handle this?” Then step up. Take steps your hero would appreciate. I have a lot of heroes. I hope you do too. Who your heroes are says a lot about who you are. 

The unconscious River of Time—past/future orientation—is so seductive that we all fall asleep dozens of times daily. If we don’t have habits that keep waking us up, we hardly notice that we are just drifting along in the current. The River of Time is so seductive.

I firmly believe each of us has dreams that grab us by the throat and say, “This needs to happen!” Usually we agree that it needs to happen, but we think someone else should do it. As long as we remain extras in our own movie, our dreams never get off the ground. 

What are the dreams inside of you that keep trying to come forward? Dreams that keep reoccurring in your thoughts? Are there lofty ideals and principles that inspire you, that keep reoccurring in your thoughts? 

Remember, you create your own kingdom, your own unique world. You are the captain of your ship, the organizer of your journeys. Don’t hold back because of difficulties. You need difficulties to feel alive. In fact, humans crave difficulty. This is your life. Dare to dream. Then do it!

Excerpted from Body Intelligence, A New Paradigm by John L. Mayfield, D.C.