A 2017 Nautilus Book Award winner, The Story of Our Time inspires hope as it traces love’s unifying power throughout history to its presence in our midst today. This timely and timeless book offers a deeply thoughtful narrative of conscious evolution drawn from the continuous wisdom of the world’s religions. Framed and supported by seven universal principles at the mystic heart of the world’s spiritual traditions, The Story of Our Time shines a light upon the spirit of our time, identifies a growing network of spiritual activists, and invites us to enter this narrative of our day more fully.
- Human consciousness has leapt forward from a localized perspective to an awareness of regional, national, and now international matters. As we approach a consciousness of global integration and interconnectedness, our greatest challenge may be accepting this new, emerging reality, and developing a new story that frames it all: Beneath the illusion of separation, humanity is one family.
- There are hidden forces guiding this process in which we are necessary participants. What is needed now is a change in our thinking, a transformation of consciousness, which would make sense of the past, the present, and a future that are interconnected and on the same evolutionary trajectory.
- The story of our interconnectedness is the emerging vision of our time. There are principles and values shared by all of humanity, that are timeless and universal, that are linked in an interwoven whole, and that are renewed across time. This evolving worldview recognizes “a divine Reality” which is purposeful, which increases in complexity, and which is itself progressive in nature.
We are witnesses to the dying of an old world, and the birth of a new one. A profound transformation is underway; a global community with a consciousness of oneness is emerging. Don’t be distracted by seeming setbacks; hope is our inspiration, and unity our ultimate destination. How we get there depends upon the stories we live by and the action we take.
Good news! For all the divisive shadows rising across the landscape of the global community these days, there is an answering and much more potent luminosity. Human consciousness is unfolding toward its essential unity – not only with other humans but also with all Life. This lucid book both celebrates that evolutionary trajectory and guides our full and empowered participation.
- Mirabai Starr, author of Caravan of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss & Transformation, and God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity & Islam
What makes this book a classic is its profound stretch across the philosophical, metaphysical, scientific, and spiritual panorama of existence, all wrapped in the universal language of connectivity that unites all sentient beings: Love. It is a must-read by the widest of global audiences.
- Michael Bernard Beckwith, author of Life Visioning
This beautiful book helps us find a whole new category of understanding evolution. It is not a materialistic process seen only from the outside; it is the interior journey of humanity’s consciousness, love and creativity, a remarkable work that I recommend wholeheartedly.
- Barbara Marx Hubbard, author of Conscious Evolution: Awakening the Power of Our Social Potential
As Muhammad said, “To every age its own book.” Atkinson’s The Story of Our Time aptly summarizes today’s story of emergent conscious unity across our species. Organizing the scientific, spiritual, and myriad other elements of this story into seven binding principles only further enhances the value of this book.
- Kurt Johnson, organizer of The Interspiritual Network, and author of The Coming Interspiritual Age
With clarity and insight, Atkinson describes this pivotal moment in our collective evolution. Here are the guidelines for the shift in consciousness humanity needs to make if we are to survive and transform, if we are to make the transition from “the love of power to the power of love.” Here is real hope grounded in the deep understanding of life’s essential unity and our innate capacity for love.
- Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Sufi teacher and author of Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth
In The Story of Our Time, Robert Atkinson bravely, audaciously, and compellingly identifies factors that can move the consciousness of humanity toward the unity that underlies the divisions of ordinary perception – and, as he astutely illustrates, there is no greater task before us. This is an important contribution to the evolutionary dialogue that is our best hope of transcending the problems that our constricted awareness has created.
- Philip Goldberg, author of American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West
Robert Atkinson’s The Story of Our Time is a thoughtful, balanced, and gracious contribution from the Baha’i perspective, introducing a stream of unitive evolutionary wisdom that has been ahead of the curve for a long time and deserves to be more widely known.
- Cynthia Bourgeault, author of The Wisdom Way of Knowing; The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three; and, The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice
In our western cultures we have developed an obsession with ego, self, individuality, and personhood, and have neglected the collective, unitary aspects that bind all of life into an integral whole. This has led to an unbalanced focus on exploitation, selfishness, and greed, which now threaten our very existence. Individuality is wonderful and necessary, but only in relationship to unity and wholeness. Our future as a species depends on our recognition of this inescapable fact. Although our situation is urgent and time is not on our side, doom and gloom are inappropriate. Rather, hope and love and optimism can see us through, as Robert Atkinson shows in his magnificent The Story Of Our Time. Consider Atkinson’s book as a survival manual, and spread it as widely as possible.
- Larry Dossey, MD, author of One Mind: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters
We humans are meaning makers, and our primary vehicle for meaning making is story telling. What we need most desperately today is a new story reflecting the interdependence of all reality. Robert Atkinson’s The Story of Our Time is a powerful call for creating that new story. I urge you to heed it.
- Rami Shapiro, author of Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent
Congratulations on presenting us with a beautifully choreographed prayer with words that gracefully guides us on a path toward resolution of the confounding forces escalating in these times. These are the themes I strive to express through traditional Indigenous music and dance…. well done!
- Kevin Locke, Lakota Hoop Dancer, Northern Plains flute player, storyteller, educator, and National Heritage Fellow
As I read through Atkinson’s original and timely book, I am saying, ‘yes, yes, yes!” Spiritually profound and mentally challenging, The Story of Our Time offers a clear solution to the angry divisiveness of today’s world. Atkinson proposes that all of humanity is connected at the core level, with love as the inherent force. He notes that a global transformation is currently under way, creating a shift in consciousness which will point the way to world peace. This is a significant book that every thinking person needs to read!
- Elizabeth Stookey, Interfaith Chaplain and Creator of One Light, Many Candles Multifaith Program
I recommend this book to anyone wondering about the future of humanity. In it, Bob Atkinson proposes the possibility that instead of moving toward extinction as many feel, we are evolving toward peace, justice, and compassion, and that we can speed along this transformation, the more conscious we become of what we are doing.
- Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, PhD, author of Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story
The Story of Our Time is, I believe, in tune with what is going on in our world; it will be comforting for people to have this framework in the face of the “catastrophes” we are living, in order to better understand them. This book is very relevant to the interfaith/interspiritual community, and it is critical for our energy and sanity that we sacred activists of today know that our work is supported by the rich and inspiring history of the interfaith leaders of yesterday that Atkinson describes with such passion.
- Jacob Watson, founder of the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine, and author of Essence: The Emotional Path to Spirit, and Enso Morning: Daily Meditation Gifts
The Story of Our Time is a most timely tome. Atkinson has taken the pulse of the most important issues of our era and integrates the micro and the macro: from individual consciousness to the oneness of humanity. With eloquence and power he demonstrates the importance of both love and justice, two fundamental ethical and spiritual principles, in the development of human consciousness. He has a fresh take on religion that can satisfy and inform both scientists and the spiritually-minded that have rejected religion. He then leads us down a rational path toward understanding the spiritual forces that are transforming both our planet and our individual minds. He explicates the mighty convergence that heralds the coming of age of humanity: our inherent oneness. This volume is a must-read for anyone concerned with the future of humankind.
- Rhett Diessner, Professor of Psychology at Lewis-Clark State College, and author of Psyche and Eros
Either workshop topic can be presented in a range of formats, from half-day, full day, or a weekend. Typically, the topic and length is mutually agreed upon, as is a per person fee based on the workshop length, a minimum and maximum number of participants, and a percentage split of the fees.
From Duality to Oneness: A Contemplative Journey Through the Evolution of Consciousness
Consciousness is a potentiality that expands as we seek to understand reality. Coming from a realm of oneness but born into a realm of dualities, we instinctively seek the experience of union. This quest for truth, to live a spiritual life, and to achieve a sense of wholeness in our lives, facilitates both personal and collective fulfillment, moving us toward the oneness that is intended to bring us together as one human family.
Drawing from the mystic heart of the world’s spiritual traditions, and starting with the nondual understanding that one universal law governs all of creation, we will take a big-picture approach to explore the nature of consciousness, the nature of transformation, and the nature of reality.
Through contemplative meditation, reflective thinking, meaningful conversation, and guided exercises, we process how seven unifying principles are guiding a profound process of global transformation, leading us toward an awareness of the inherent interconnectedness of all things.
Focusing on how the many and the One can become united in our lives, including how our multiple identities can be merged into a unified whole, we will experience a shift in consciousness from a prevailing perspective of duality to an inclusive perspective of oneness by deeply considering the most challenging issues of our time:
- How consciousness changes and expands with experience
- Why love is the underlying force of evolution
- How justice maintains the inherent balance of life
- How opposition is a catalyst to transformation
- Why reality is a continuum that leads to wholeness
- When evolutionary leaps of consciousness can be deciphered
- Why building a culture of oneness is the global movement of our time
Personal Mythmaking & the Story of Our Time: Finding Your Center, Living in Oneness
In his autobiography – what he called his personal myth – Carl Jung asked himself a question he couldn’t answer: “In what myth [i.e., sacred story] do we live today?” He understood that a vital relationship existed between knowing our own personal myth and the collective myth, or sacred story, of our time. Living our lives consciously allows us to access universal motifs, archetypes, and timeless patterns that illumine not only who we are but also why we are connected to all others.
Utilizing reflective thinking, meaningful conversation, and guided exercises, we will delve into the deeper story of our lives, identifying its timeless elements, which in turn will connect us to a greater story of our time. We will first apply the tools of personal mythmaking to tell our own universal story, and then we will search for the signs, markers, and principles that are guiding the unfolding story of our time – and leading us toward wholeness.
The first part will look into remembrance as a spiritual practice, preparing us to enter the sacred realm of our lives and tell the story we all have in common, of how we have overcome formidable obstacles in our lives to move closer to reaching our potential. We follow the blueprint of the mythological journey of hero/ine, filling in its archetypal details from our own life experience:
- Departure ~ The Signal for a New Life
- Initiation ~ Struggles to Tempt and Temper us
- Return ~ Finding the Balance and Living Consciously
The second part builds upon and expands our personal myth, guides us further along the journey to oneness, and shows us how we bring together the deeper versions of who we are with a consciousness that embraces the wholeness beyond all dualities. Here, with the emphasis on how we maintain a consciousness of oneness, we explore the unifying principles that are guiding the story of our time, by examining the most challenging questions of our time:
- Is love the underlying force of evolution?
- Is unity the purpose of justice?
- Are reason and faith ultimately in harmony?
- Is world peace not only a promise but also inevitable?
- Does religion evolve?
- How do we build a culture of oneness?
The Story of Our Time: From Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness
We live in a time of rapid change and recurring crises. Yet, there is still great hope. All around us spiritual forces and social movements are guiding a process of profound transformation, shifting us away from multiple communities with a consciousness of duality toward an awareness of the inherent connectedness of all things. In turn, a global community with a consciousness of oneness is emerging.
This talk explores seven unifying principles, supported by the mystical traditions of the world’s religions that guide an evolutionary process leading us toward a collective rebirth. A whole new perspective will be gained on:
- Humanity’s common spiritual heritage
- Why consciousness is a purposeful inner potentiality
- How love is the underlying force of evolution
- What the evolutionary purpose of justice is
- Why opposition is the catalyst for transformation
- Why world peace is not only a promise but also inevitable
The Quest for Consciousness: How Our Inherent Urge to Understand Reality Fulfills Our Potential
A unified, holistic consciousness is a potentially we are born with. However, born into a world of dualities, we confront opposing forces, causing us to develop multiple identities, multiple priorities, and multiple paths to pursue in our undertakings. Eventually, our lives become a conscious quest to merge all these parts into a unified whole.
This inspiring and empowering talk clarifies the process of how and why consciousness changes with experience, and guides us into a deeper appreciation of:
- What the qualities and capacities of consciousness are
- What the purpose of the classic archetypal call to adventure is
- How the search for truth expands our consciousness
- Why this quest is needed for both personal and collective fulfillment
The Evolution of Altruism: Love as the Spiritual Activism of Our Time
We are made for transcending the illusion of separation; we are also hardwired to connect, cooperate, and be empathic. This has enabled an evolutionary trajectory in which circles of compassion have expanded as society became more complex. Love is the supreme force directing this progression.
This hopeful talk explains how the true overriding rule of evolution is ‘reciprocal altruism.’ But because there are always exceptions to this general pattern, it is all the more important to understand altruistic love as the underlying force of evolution. This creates a deeper appreciation of:
- How the force of attraction has altered the course of civilizations
- How the love ethic is timeless, universal, and evolving
- How love can still flourish in a wounded world
- What a spiritual civilization, built upon love, might look like
The Evolution of Justice: Equitable and Just Relationships as the Cause of Unity
Justice, the embodiment of divine order on earth, is a force for maintaining the inherent balance of life. As societies evolved and became more complex, the means to build more equitable social contracts has also evolved; we now have an urgent need for a global system of justice.
This insightful and enlightening talk illustrates how culture, as the medium for social growth, has been the driving force in shaping the needed systems of justice across time, and how justice is the cornerstone of an ever-advancing civilization. It offers a new perspective on:
- Why true justice requires balancing material and spiritual resources
- How the Golden Rule is a universal expression of justice
- The real difference between punitive and unitive systems of justice
- Why a system of global justice is a prerequisite to peace
The Dark Night of the Collective Soul: The Role and Purpose of Transformation in Society
Change is happening at a perilous pace. The world is being reformed and transformed before our very eyes. Each new change, each step taken, makes the entire progression seem more and more at risk. Yet, this has a parallel in the ritual process and the developmental process. We are in the adolescent phase of our collective development, struggling to overcome childhood tendencies while moving toward a more mature outlook and actions. We, collectively, are experiencing a symbolic death leading to a rebirth, or a necessary muddle leading to a deeper resolution. This practical and timely talk sheds light on the processes unfolding around us at this time, and helps us recognize:
- How opposition and adversity are catalysts to transformation
- How we, individually and collectively, are built to overcome difficulty
- How to identify a pattern of transformation when it is happening
- What to expect in this time of crisis
- How we are all the needed midwives to bring about this global rebirth
The Global Movement of Our Time: Building a Culture of Oneness
The dualities of this world have caused separation and found expression as bias, prejudice, racism and much more. Moving beyond these dualities that cause injustices and toward the oneness that embraces all is the most challenging issue of our time. Toward this end, there is a movement encircling the globe, engaging the hearts of people everywhere, and renewing our hopes and dreams. After many millennia of living in difficulty and discord, humanity is now rediscovering a deep-seated desire to live in this world as one. This inspiring talk provides a new perspective on:
- Why we are in an Interspiritual Age of deep interconnectedness
- How universal principles are being put into action
- How a global network of activists are working toward a common goal
- What a culture of oneness really means
- What kind of action is most needed today
The Illusion of Race: How Love Eliminates All Forms of Prejudice
A look at how spiritual truth and scientific discoveries confirm the oneness of humanity.
A look at how the evolution of religion, with its periodic release of spiritual energies, renews civilization with each new spiritual epoch.
The Inherent Harmony of Reason and Faith
A look at how a hidden wholeness removes the seeming boundaries between science and religion.
Humanity’s Common Spiritual Heritage
A look at what the spiritual principles and Values are at the mystic heart of the world’s religions.
Table of Contents
Prologue: We’re Living in a Spiritual Springtime……………………………………………………i
Introduction: Spiritual Principles Guiding Our Evolutionary Leap…………………………..v
Part One: The Nature of Consciousness
I. Consciousness is a potentiality set in motion by an organic process………………………3
The independent investigation of reality unleashes our potential.
1. Our Inherent Urge to Understand Reality………………………………………………..5
The question of consciousness
Consciousness changes with experience
The search for truth expands our consciousness
II. Love is the underlying force of evolution …………………………………………………………19
Love is a unifying force meant to carry evolution to its highest level possible.
2. Attraction Alters the Course of Civilizations…………………………………………….21
Altruistic love changes everything
The love ethic
The force of attraction writ large
Love eliminates all forms of prejudice
III. Justice maintains the inherent balance of life………………………………………………….37
Equitable and just relationships evolve with the increase of social complexity.
3. Culture and the Evolution of Justice………………………………………………………39
Culture as a medium for growth
Cultural evolution in historical perspective
The pattern of collective evolution
Justice as the cornerstone of an ever-advancing civilization
Part Two: The Nature of Transformation
IV. Unity is the result of the conscious confrontation of opposing forces……………………..57
Transformation is necessary for growth and evolution.
4. Opposition as the Catalyst for Transformation…………………………………………59
The polarity principle
The necessity of adversity
The dark night of the collective soul
A world giving birth
Part Three: The Nature of Reality
V. Reality is one, and global harmony is inevitable……………………………………………………75
Since conscious evolution is purposeful, world peace is a promise waiting to be fulfilled.
5. Spiritual Forces Guiding Us Toward Unity………………………………………………….77
Reality as a continuum
Uniting the One and the many
A global transformation of consciousness is under way
Beyond political peace, world unity is the goal
VI. Revelation is continuous and progressive…………………………………………………………..93
The release of spiritual energies inspires the evolution of civilization.
6. The Mystery of Divinity………………………………………………………………………….95
A holistic view of the Creator
The missing chapter in the story of religion
Humanity’s coming of age
VII. Consciousness evolves toward wholeness and unity……………………………………………113
Science and religion are two knowledge systems that are part of the same whole.
7. The Inherent Harmony of Reason and Faith………………………………………………115
Did Darwin discover divinity?
A hidden wholeness removes the boundaries
Welcoming the interfaith, interspiritual age
A bridge across the ages and traditions
Epilogue: The Global Movement of Our Time: Building a Culture of Oneness…………………133
Appendix I: A Timeline of Humanity’s Conscious Evolution……………………………………….141
Appendix II: A Meditation for Living in Oneness………………………………………………………153
If you don’t see the question you have here, send it to me through the contact form, and I’ll provide an answer.
What is the significance of the title and subtitle of The Story of Our Time: from Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness?
First, it captures how far our evolving consciousness has brought us, over many millennia. It offers a hopeful, big-picture perspective, so we won’t get too caught up in the conflicts of the moment, while alluding to a larger process leading us to a purposeful outcome. Second, it answers the widespread call for a new story that makes sense of the tremendous transition that is happening right now in the world. Third, it provides the much-needed resolution to the problems we face collectively.
You were born the day the US dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and went to college during the Vietnam War era. How has your historic lens influenced your worldview?
The moment of my birth definitely influenced me, but I was unaware of how much until I started my own process of self-reflection and discovery of what was true for me during college. By that time, what had been part of my unconscious finally became clear: that my life has been – and still is – a subtle quest to find an elusive inner and outer peace.
What do you mean by “We’re living in a spiritual springtime”?
In nature, everything happens in cycles and patterns, and these are repeated over time. The same is true in religion, because both are governed by one natural law. Creation is an indivisible oneness. Solar cycles, lunar cycles, seasonal cycles, and spiritual cycles all have their times of growth, decline, and renewal. Spiritual epochs, however, take centuries before they reach their peak growth, or period of maturity. Right now, a century and three-quarters into the most recent spiritual epoch, the Baha’i era, we are still in the springtime phase of its growth period.
How does your master’s degree in American Folk Culture and doctorate in cross- cultural human development inform your spiritual perspective?
I see this as the other way around; my spiritual perspective is deeper, more of who I really am, and has informed how I approach everything in my life. My spiritual perspective has always found more meaning in the similarities of myth and religion than in their differences, so this has carried over into my other studies. I’ve always been more interested in universals and in looking at the whole to better understand its parts. I see the human life cycle as including the journey of the soul, and cultural variations in development as contributing to a larger unity in diversity of the human family.
Why are indigenous cultures so important to the spiritual evolution of our day?
Since earliest times, indigenous cultures have held spiritual beliefs of an overarching interconnectedness that were not separate from any of their daily actions and behaviors. Over the millennia, as cultures spread out and interacted, a consciousness of duality became pervasive. Now, as the world’s peoples are all attempting to regain a sense of harmony and unity, indigenous cultures hold the missing link to knowing how to live with a consciousness of oneness.
How do the world’s religions reflect the unity of all creation?
If we can see creation as a unified whole, then everything in it is interconnected, and the world’s religions have to reflect this unity, as well. Religion is one tree with many branches, just as the entire tree of life. Religion is the story of one Creator guiding humanity, step by step, chapter by chapter, to its own unity and wholeness, in order to reflect, and be in harmony with, the unity of creation.
How do the seven principles you lay out in the book help us better understand the nature of the evolution of consciousness?
There is a direction and a purpose to the evolution of consciousness, and the seven principles the book is built upon lay out the progressive nature of this evolutionary process, which is toward unity and oneness.
If we are experiencing an inevitable evolution toward global harmony, why does it matter how we think, act, and believe?
Global harmony – and world peace – is a promise found at the heart of the world’s religions. Humanity has had the spiritual principles – and tools – in every era to bring this promise into being. It has also had the free will to act in whatever way it chooses. The promise has never been fulfilled on its own, and never will. At every moment in time, or in every spiritual epoch, it has always been up to humanity as a whole to achieve this promise through its own means. It is now more critical than ever that we use our free will to choose to apply the spiritual principles and tools we have at hand to fulfill this promise. What’s inevitable is the outcome, not when – or how – it will happen. The consequences of inaction now are far greater – and much farther-reaching into the future – than ever before.
Are science and spirituality compatible fields of study? Why are they often seen as at odds with one another? What about faith and reason?
Science and spirituality (or religion) are two knowledge systems seeking to understand and explain different aspects of the same whole, the same ultimate Reality. As such, true religion and sound science cannot be in opposition to one another. The revelation of spiritual truth is continuous and progressive, as are the discoveries of science. Though reason, the scientific approach, and faith, the basis of a spiritual approach, are seen as opposites or contradictory, they are in fact two halves of a whole, complementary paths to the same reality. Both are needed, as are two wings to fly.
What are some ways we can identify what you call “the global movement of our time”?
This seems to be getting clearer as time moves on. The distinction between opposing forces is becoming sharper and sharper. One current example is U.S. politics, characterized by the forces of divisiveness and duality. In response to this is the recent Women’s March, a spontaneous global event taking place in nearly 40 countries – solidarity on seven continents – that represents the forces of unity and oneness. It’s becoming clearer that all the causes of the past couple of centuries, all human rights issues, are converging as the global movement of our time – building a culture of oneness – that’s really what it’s all about now.