The New York Critic: Book Reviews

The Revelation
by Barbara Marx Hubbard
published by The Foundation for Conscious Evolution
363 pages

Barbara Marx Hubbard has long been the darling of the New Age. She has apparently been seized by a sense of mission for some time. The new age events that she's developed have included "synergistic convergence", which seems to be a process that co-opts divergent attitudes. Her "Theater for the Future", was a well-traveled multi-media attraction heavy on special effects.

Ten years ago, she met with applause from the New Age community when she announced her nomination for the vice-presidential position on the Democratic ticket.

Now, Hubbard relates the insight she's gained from her "Christ Experience" in her book, The Revelation. It employs a powerful marketing technique: associating its product with ideas that the market has already accepted. Hubbard sets out to sell her new age notions by identifying them with nothing less than the Bible.

She purports to record the words of the Higher Voice (or Voices) (p 84), as it (or they) spoke to her. It takes the form of a verse-by-verse interpretation of The Book of Revelations of St. John the Divine, the last book of the Bible. The bulk of the book exhibits three types of print, representing scripture, the Inner Voice's interpretive revelation, and Hubbard's commentary.

While the Bible is generally taken to be divinely inspired, Hubbard goes further than this. She claims that The Revelation is written by God:

"I began to record in my journal the words that [the Christ voice] directed at me personally." (italics mine) (p70)

"In it the Christ voice takes over..." (p 81)

The "I" of the Inner Voice identifies itself as Christ (p.286). Sometimes it's the voice of Jesus (p 291), but sometimes it speaks of Jesus in the third person (p290). At one point, it is the voice of the Creator (p192), but the word "Me", referring to it in the objective case, is never capitalized. This isn't confused theology. It's merely confused writing.

The core of its message is that we live in a moment of "cosmic choice", just before the "Quantum Instant triggers the Quantum Transformation" through a "quantum jump", when "the world will be thrown into crisis" (p105). Those who will it, will "self-evolve" from "Homo sapiens" to "Homo universalis". It will be "the end of the world as we know it" (p21O), and it will take place during the next thirty years (p299).

The Revelation purports to be "the first statement for the generation that has inherited godlike powers" (note the tense) (p15).

If you find this vague and abstruse, albeit high-sounding, you've grasped the essence of the book. For ninety percent of the text, trying to identify a distinct, ongoing development is like trying to identify the melody in new age music: it's not there. It's all style, decorative embellishment.

Now and then, specific elements of this new reality after the Quantum Transformation, or "Planetary Birth", can be found; they seem to have sneaked in surreptitiously. We'll be omniscient (p153); we'll be androgynous (p154) We'll have suprasexual intercourse (p99); we'll enjoy all the powers in the sci-fi/fantasy catalogue: self-healing, telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience, levitation, materialization and dematerialization (p154).

Time will disappear (p151). Nonetheless, we'll live for millenia (p55), and there will be events: we'll be taken up in UFO's (p 263). We're encouraged to build an ark to colonize space (p233).

Apocalyptics generally give us a rationalization for their ethnocentric claims, such as prophesy. Hubbard offers little evidence for her case besides technology: it has given us "the capacity to transcend the creature/human condition" (p213). She lauds the mass media because it links us into "a single, vast body" (p30). Who would have thought that our spiritual identity springs from electronics?

The Revelation's prose has all the trappings of religious literature; it even uses the word "Behold" In the art world, this is called kitsch: it reminds us of material that we've already learned to value.

The book has no structure; it's homogenous. Virtually any point in the main section is like any other, whatever Biblical passage is being examined. Thus, there are no demands on us to follow the piece. It's not necessary to process intellectually any passage longer than a sound bite.

The tone is effusive, utterly hyperbolic - literally messianic. At times, Hubbard writes one-sentence paragraphs that have a sexual urgency. When these sentences are shorter than a printed line, the passage is indistinguishable from free verse, and the effect is ascetic.

Hubbard invents a new vocabulary for her tautological fantasy, specializing in reflexive hyphenates: "self-correcting", "self-liberating", "self-developing". My favorite is "self-repeating", which means "repeating".

One of her favorite terms is "co-creation" (in fact, The Revelation is a part of larger book, The Book of Co-creation). It means "conscious co-operation with the process, direction, and purpose of evolution - the implicate order of the cosmos: God" (p42). The book is largely embellishment on this idea.

Terms and ideas are repeated endlessly; the effect is overwhelming. It's impossible not to understand, exactly, prose like this, because there's so little content. But it's verbose, and we're flattered that we're reading something deep.

The book has apparently not been edited. (It's not surprising. Who would dare?) Terms are used inconsistently: the "Planetary Birth Experience" sometimes refers to an event specific to Hubbard as an individual (p47), sometimes to a global, cosmic event happening to the human race (p44). She apparently sees no difference between the two: she uses interchangeably the phrases "my Planetary Birth Experience" and "the Planetary Birth Experience" (italics mine) (p75, both).

Hubbard sometimes misuses tense. We even see the confusion of terms and the confusion of tenses pressed together:

"I have not been really sick enough to spend even one day in bed since the Planetary Birth Experience (I capitalize it because I believe it is real event that may take place in our lifetime.)" (p44)

Disregarding Hubbard's conceit that she is God's secretary, the critic is is charged with the duty to consider the book as the interpretive work it pretends to be. Now, interpretation implies a degree of subjectivity. But everyone agrees that a good interpretation should be, at the very least, a manifestation of the text it explicates.

As interpretation, however, The Revelation is beneath criticism. Hubbard is merely using The Book of Revelations as a tool for expressing her own ideas. Consider the following passage, one of the most well-known in the Bible:

"I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last."

Now consider Hubbard's "interpretation" (remember, she purports that Christ is addressing her and us):

"You are the Alpha and Omega. You are the beginning and end. You are the first and the last. You are me." (p.293)

Apparently, St. John was wrong. Hubbard is correcting him.

This drastic revisionism follows from Hubbard's attitude toward the Bible. In an interview published in The Futurist, she called the Bible "coded evolution that could not have been fully understood until our generation." She goes on to say "The Bible and other sacred scriptures (along with the very best in science fiction) are vital maps to guide us."

Actually, the author is seeking not to co-operate with God, but to supplant Him. At the root of her writing is her all-consuming sense of herself. The first section of the book, in fact, roughly a quarter of its pages, is the story of her spiritual journey.

She finds her inspiration while living at - where else? Santa Barbara. And she keeps noting that people call her by her name, as if to stress that they're talking to her, not to someone else.

Even Christ addresses her, repeatedly, by her name. Moreover, He seems desperate to talk to her:

"Barbara, stop struggling. I must find one of my children who is not struggling" (boldface in the original). (p52)

In a bold Biblical reversal, it is He who has been waiting for her:

"You are... one of those women who are now emerging everywhere for whom I have been waiting..." (p70)

Not only is she special as an individual, she's special in her gender:

"Women now take leadership in a new partnership with men..." (p78)

And she's special in her nationality: the U.S.A is the only country specifically named in the book, by way of explicating the New Jerusalem (p249) and The New Order of the Future (p302).

This unspoken premise, that we - she, you and I - are God, underlies every line of the text. Sometimes it's surfaces explicitly:

"Yours is the power. Yours is the glory." (boldface in the original) (p226)

"You are apprentice godlings..." (p155)

And this:

Hallowed be our name,
Our Kingdom is come,
Our will is done,
On Earth as it is in Heaven. (boldface in the original) (p226)

It's significant that she writes throughout in the first person - there's no perceptible difference between the "I" of the inner voice and the "I" of Ms. Hubbard.

Although she equates us with God, and refers to us as "natural Christs", she sees us as a step beyond merely Jesus: we will do "as Jesus did, and even more." (p123)

And here, note the tense:

"...the universe is filled with Christlike beings who have gone much, much further than Jesus was able to demonstrate to you..." (p149)

Not only do we excel Jesus, we supplant the Creator: co-creative consciousness is "the ability to create by thought" (p251).

But she's not referring to everyone. The Quantum Transformation involves a selection process; only those will it - who select themselves - will be transformed:

"Intention is the key." (p68)

"Only those who are willing to work upon their own limits - self-correcting, self-liberating and self-developing - will evolve." (p108)

There is beneath all of this, disguised as religion, a threat:

"The last remnant of the characteristic of self-centeredness must be removed before the next stage of evolution can dawn.... We dare leave no self-centeredness on earth after the selection process." (p231)

"...the non-transcenders will descend, devolve, and die to this particular planetary experience." (p115)

No matter that she eschews hubris. Disclaimer doesn't expunge position, especially in this book, which is fraught with contradictions. Hubbard's egomania cannot be denied. Note how - and with what suspicious vehemence - she refers to the people she rejects:

"...once the vision is complete... there are no self-centered monsters..." (p24O)

And she claims that the speaker is Christ! Did Christ call people "monsters''?

Although Hubbard never tells us what we're supposed to do to select ourselves, we'd better do it quickly. And here, there's another ultimatum:

"If the transformation begins too late, the disorder will be so great as to engulf even the self-elect in the catastrophe." (p122)

We traditionally associate religion with a moral code: love, goodness, and all that old-fashioned stuff. Morality is beneath Hubbard:

"It is not enough to tell people to be good and to love each other... human love is the path toward suprahuman life..." (p95)

At one point, she seems to reject morality out of hand:

"We reject fear, anger, hostility, guilt" (italics mine) (p123)

When we reject guilt, we're rejecting virtue. Religion has never been more cold, more mean-spirited.

Indeed, Hubbard doesn't seem to think of her ideas as being religion at all. In The Futurist interview, she said "...we are moving beyond all religious dogmas to become godlike ourselves."

If this all sounds familiar, it should - there's nothing new about it. Nietsche wrote it all a hundred years ago. Hubbard echoes him again and again in The Revelation. The difference is largely a matter of terms. Nietsche wrote of the "Ubermensch", the "Superman" Politically correct, Hubbard calls her homo universalis "supra-human", and even "super-beings".

Her emphasis on the will and self-selection suggests Nietsche's "will to power"; her attitude toward morality even echoes his famous title, "Beyond Good and Evil". Both repudiate guilt, and tell us we are the link between lower and higher states (Hubbard, p174).

Nietsche saw us supplanting God because - as he wrote bluntly - God is dead. Hubbard is more subtle. She displaces God while purporting to cooperate with Him.

Hubbard never tells us who the self-elect might be. However, she does hint at who they are not. She offers a litany of scapegoats, presumably those self-centered who will die:

"The modern arts that depict depravity, the violent films, the killing for entertainment on television, the tawdry flaunting of the loving body .... The modern moralists... The modern pessimists... The modern brokers of power... are assassins of the witnesses to hope." (p168)

The Revelation's vision of government after the Quantum Transformation reads like a glorification of fascism:

"Democracy will not be perfected by more and more democracy. It will give way to a new system - synocracy, government of, by and for people who are attuning to the same design, the same pattern, the same universal law of transformation through synergistic union of freely cooperating parts." (p217)

And what about the people who are not attuning to the same design?

"The terrible burdens of creature/human government coercion, defense, conflict and lack of understanding among factions - will not exist, for only those who understand and love will be there." (p281)

Well, "Heil Hitler" to you too, Barbara.

Nietsche was the inspiration for Nazism, and Barbara Marx Hubbard can have no better effect. Note her Hitlerite attitude toward modern art.

Sometimes her choice of words is chilling: she writes of "the wave upon wave of violent selection... the holocaust earth" (p255).

Of course, intellectually and poetically, Hubbard is to Nietsche as Hyperion to a satyr. But her mediocrity makes her all the more dangerous. The Revelation is eminently accessible. Its hyperbolic drivel recalls the prose the Germans used to use for propaganda. Its detractors called it nazideutsche.

The danger in all of this is that it's so seductive. Its ethnocentricity, its insistence that we are special, appeals to personal loneliness and anxiety, to social alienation. It engages self-love without addressing it.

Fascism might be more recognizable from a German intellectual. But here, it's crept in insidiously, through bourgeois Jewish-American housewife.

The unchristian religious right has shown us that religiosity doesn't necessarily indicate virtue. But Hubbard makes fascism look utterly liturgical. There's even a Planetary Birth Communion. It comes a few pages before the form that reads:

I enclose my check, payable to the Foundation for Conscious Evolution, for $__________. (p321)

With her self-indulgent, deliberate stupidity, Hubbard is playing into the hands of Fascists, if unwittingly. All over Europe, neo-nazis are being elected to public office. They'll be jumping in their jackboots when they read The Revelation.

Steve Capra

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