Embassy of the Future
Navigating a prophetic time and building a new civilization
Happy New Year and welcome to Embassy of the Future! This year instead of seeing off the old year I was in bed by 9pm . I’m awake to see the dawn of 2022 and thought I would launch this newsletter exactly at 8.09am GMT. Dawns have been on my mind a lot recently, and I was blessed to have seen the dawn at the Winter Solstice in Stonehenge last week.
I am British-born investor turned futurist with a profound interest in imagining futures as well as philosophy and spirituality. In all likelihood I’m a poet at heart. Although I was raised in Hampshire and London, I have spent my working life predominantly living in Japan, China, Korea and the USA. By nature I’m a big picture holistic thinker with a healthy dose of ADHD. By nurture my experiences living across different cultures, training as a macro investor and zen practice enable me to make sense and see things often long before the general consensus. You can read more about me here.
I’ve decided to start writing a column again each Friday as a place to express my insights and scenarios for the future, as well as inspiration for navigating these tumultuous times. I’ve not committed to a regular writing slot since writing the International column at Dow Theory Letters, which touched on broad trends across tech, culture and economics but ultimately focused on making investment recommendations. Now I feel compelled to write about the transition our civilization is making. Absolutely, I will likely make forecasts and actionable recommendations for people to take in these tumultuous times, but I have been called to a higher purpose and that is to provide vision, hope and inspiration as we cross the valley of death to a new technologically-advanced ecological civilization.
And yes dear reader, I will also probably express my challenges of being human at this poignant moment of history in the 21st Century; sometimes struggling by knowing too much and sometimes knowing too little.
“A chaos point is the crucial tipping point in the evolution of a system in which trends that have brought the system to its present state break down and it can no longer return to its prior states and modes of behaviour: it is launched irreversibly on a new trajectory that leads either to breakdown or to breakthrough to a new structure and a new mode of operation.”
Is also important that we don’t lose hope and that all of us, find and use the gifts we were given at this important moment of human and planetary history. So I suspect that my newsletter will also contain inspirational quotes, zen proverbs and poetry. Many years ago I realized that the future was a commons that we all co-create together and it should not be another commons that would be colonized or enclosed by only the technologists and large corporations. To create a world that I’d like my 7 year old daughter Gaya to experience, I think that the poets, sages and philosophers all need to have equal voice as the technologists, engineers, economists and lawyers.
Since the beginning of my career on Wall Street and in the Asian financial markets, I had a foreboding sense that our economic and social system was living on borrowed time; that a collapse would happen in our lifetime. Now we are in the midst of that unraveling.
It was intellectually stimulating - and financially rewarding - to have forecast many world events and the ups and downs of financial markets over the years: the Asian financial crisis, the dotcom era, the emergence of China and the commodity boom of the noughties. I had expected the Great Financial Crisis of 2008/9 to have been significantly worse than it actually was. So I knew that a more significant unraveling was poised to take place as the root problems were still very present: not merely the dysfunctional economic/financial system but a sickness at the heart of our modern culture with the rampant destruction that this was all causing to our home, planet Earth. Through a combination of empirical data, cycle analysis and sense making skills I had learnt in the macro investment industry, as well as through meditation and intuitive techniques, I discerned that our modern civilization would begin to see big cracks in 2015 and by 2020 we would enter a particularly tumultuous period, lasting at least 5 years. Probably longer.
In about 2010 I started to explore my own spirituality more seriously as I faced an existential crisis. The seeds had already planted by a mother who was a healer and fascinated by the esoteric, a childhood writing poetry and having lived and breathed Zen in Japan for 8 years. To my surprise and fascination, as I got deeper on my own path and began meeting spiritual leaders in North America, shaman from the Amazon, Zen Masters from the East and even the Dalai Lama’s seers in Dharamsala, I began to discover that my own analysis and intuition towards the future was completely in sync with ancient prophecies! And even if one discounts prophecy, it was a fact that many of these sages could see the reality of our modern society more clearly than many of my friends who were investors and economists. The one that got the most attention of course was the Maya prophecy of the end of an epoch and the beginning of another in 2012 (a researcher friend of mine Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina calculated that it was actually May 2013) as part of a 26,000 year cycle. In fact they also forecast a transition period of 13 years until the beginning of the new era in 2026. So remarkably this was in line with my own analysis!
But before you discount this as all spiritual woo-woo, I must point out that there is a body of knowledge in the West on long economic cycles and macro history from Nicolas Kondratieff to Peter Turchin. The Fourth Turning which was written by the historians Strauss and Howe also foresaw a “winter” break down period at this time. Al Gore, who sat on many future-focused committees in the White House, distributed this book - a “prophecy” according to its subtitle - to all members of Congress if I’m not mistaken.
Explorer as I am, I wanted to visit the pyramids of the Maya civilization and so this year I spent about 8 months in Mexico and Guatemala. In June I trekked 5 days across the rainforest in Northern Guatemala to the lost city of El Mirador. This is what I journaled as I watched sunrise there one day:
Dawn. La Danta, the Lost City of El Mirador, Guatemala
“It’s around sunrise at the Maya civilization’s tallest pyramid and the largest pyramid in the world, bigger than Giza. We are completely towering above the jungle which stretches out in all directions. To the north into territory of Mexico, I can make out a distant pyramid. And East lies Belize. West would probably take me back to Palenque, where another sacred pyramid stands and where I recently led a weeklong jungle quest. And south deeper into Guatemala. I adore the twilight hours, that mystical time between times and as we cross the threshold into a new day. Earlier, various creatures including howler monkeys - making terrifying sounds - woke me up at 2am. At one point it felt like marauding jaguars or werewolves were closing in on us. Whilst my mind knew they were monkeys, my body was afraid! Nonetheless, I had a sufficient amount of sleep. So here I am at the culmination of my Maya adventure, the jewel in the crown of an ancient civilization. Up here I feel a sense of openness and possibility, not full of knowledge about the Maya. Perhaps I have learnt some facts about these people but they are still a great mystery. Some elders believe that their high priest just disappeared on day into another realm, taking all their arcane knowledge and leaving us with these outwards vestiges of a considerably advanced civilization. Their knowledge of astronomy might have been more advanced than ours up until the last century. Some might argue that they knew things we have yet to discover. It was prophesized that the high priests would return in the 13th baktum between 2013-2026 to help humanity transit to a new epoch. Perhaps these are the indigenous leaders who are standing up around the world to fight for the survival of our planet today.
All I do know is that these prophecies of the end of an epoch seem to be playing out. And now Western macro historians, economists and writers all now seem to be seeing the same patterns. The world as we know it has been breaking down since 2013. And this accelerated in 2020. The future might be scary for some. But up here, with the advantage of vision, it doesn’t seem so terrifying. I can hear some monkeys roaring in the distant (as the howler monkeys here are prone to do), the wind whistling through the trees, the early birds lightly twittering and the kiss of the sun slowly becoming warmer. How much of our future is already written is hard to say. These cycles in nature have continued for millennia. And yet up here the world seems full of infinite possibilities.
The world’s Earth’s beauty - and for me the existence of an immense intelligence - is unmistakable. An evolutionary force - or spirit - is nudging or perhaps pulling us forwards like a strange attractor. But sometimes that requires destruction as well as expansion. And for the human race this might mean falling on its knees in bewilderment and surrender for a time. Perhaps that time is close at hand? Most certainly previous advanced civilizations like the Maya would have warned us to apply foresight into our future. The West-led industrial civilization- and especially the Anglo-American Empire - appears destined to fail. Maybe a concert of more enlightened nations along with the UN can take over and sense prevail. Better still a new global civilization will emerge, which is more ecological, and partnership-based instead of dominator-based. In the history of humankind, thousands of empires and civilizations have come and gone. Not everything is lost. Just like the dead trees, leaves, flowers, reptiles and even monkeys are subsumed into the creation of new jungle, so it is true of civilization. International aviation, advanced transportation, medical diagnostics, telecoms, quantum computing, AI and the scientific method don’t need to be lost. But perhaps corruption, obsessive consumerism and materialism, the plutocracy, ecological destruction and a culture which promotes separation will be. Then we will not have to mourn that death of a civilization but the dawn of a new civilization. And an evolutionary step for the planet.”
In these weekly newsletters I hope I will open your mind to possible, probably and preferable futures with commentary about economics, finance, culture, technology, geopolitics and spirituality. Most importantly I aim to inspire you (and I) into action to fulfill our destiny - the yearning of our souls - at this poignant moment of history.
I will endeavor to offer free content as well as paid content. I consciously decided to launch a substack column instead of getting paid at a media outlet as I wanted to maintain my editorial autonomy. I would be eternally grateful for your support.
Benjamin J Butler
Benjamin is an international futurist and recognized as an expert on the future by organizations including UN, World Economic Forum and Horasis. He has sat on the boards or as an advisor to a number of organisations in the capacity of futurist including Horasis, American Renewable Energy Institute, World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council, and the Athena School of Management.
He has been grappling with the future for 25 years first on Wall Street and in the hedge fund industry and then as a futurist and advisor to leaders. His mission now is to “bring soul back into the future” and build an ecological civilization.
Benjamin has been profoundly influenced by Zen from his 8 years living in Japan and many of the world’s religions.
Previously he wrote blogs which were read by leading investors and Chief Investment Officers around the world and joined Wall St legend Richard Russell to write the International column at Dow Theory Letters.
He is currently writing a book about our collective future which he describes as a love letter to his 7 year old daughter Gaya.
For more about Benjamin, see his website is at www.benjaminjbutler.com.
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