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Audio 11: From Caterpillar to Butterfly

The Greatest Story Ever Told: Audio series with Barbara Marx Hubbard & Marc Gafni

Dr. Marc Gafni:

I am here with Barbara Marx Hubbard. This is Marc Gafni and we are in podcast 11 of The Greatest Story Ever Told. The universe story. And we are in process of re-storying reality. And by story we don’t mean a made-up story. We don’t mean just a once-upon-a-time story. We mean a story which is the most accurate scientifically, the most rigorous, and also the most potent, the most poignant, the most powerful story, which is the best reflection we have today of the nature of reality after integrating, after bringing together the best streams of wisdom and knowing from all the great sciences, the physical sciences, the hard sciences, the social sciences, the interior sciences.

All of it brought together the best of the traditional pre-modern world, the best of the modern world, the best of the post-modern world, all of that woven together into a new narrative, which is the grandest, most beautiful, most accurate, again, most accurate, most rigorous expression of wisdom that we know in the world today. And because, as we said earlier, we all live in inescapable frameworks. Our story affects everything. We all live in a framework. We all live in a story, and in that story we have a role and we’re playing our role in that story. Often the story is invisible to us. So in order to evolve our consciousness, in order to up-level our lives we make the story visible.

What’s the story we’re living in? Well, when I up-level the story I up-level my life. When I up-level the story I up-level my consciousness. And so we are together telling a new universe story. Yes! Week 11 and we’re resetting. We’re starting from the beginning. Let’s start from the beginning. We’re going to enter through a new door.

The door we’re going to enter at this moment is the door that we’re going to call existential risk. Big word. Existential just means existence. It’s existential risk. What are the risks to our existence? Now, that’s actually a big deal. When I was talking about this the other day, Barbara and I were talking with a friend of ours, Sean, Sean said, “Well, from time immemorial people have always been talking about doomsday, and the end of days, and Armageddon, all the big stories. What’s different today? Why should we … All those doomsdays have come and gone, all the Armageddons haven’t realized, all the ends of days haven’t ended.

Why should we be concerned? What’s important about worrying about these risks that threaten us? Well, the answer is that we’re in this situation today. We have a level of existential risk, that is to say, risks to our very existence that actually never existed before in human history because we have a level of power that never existed before in human history. And so part of the story is knowing what danger lurks at the door, but not in a way that shuts us down. We don’t want to shut ourselves down. We don’t want to put our head in the sand. We want to be awake and alive, and players in the story. We’re personally implicated in this evolutionary story.

And in order to know where we are at this moment in time we need to know what dangers, what lions lurk at the door? And the lions that lurk at the door are a new level of existential risk that never existed in the history of humanity before. There’s a book called, “The Infinite Resource,” by a gentleman named Ramez Naam. It’s a great book. And he lays out there, as many other writers have, the levels in eight or nine major arenas of existential risk. And you can imagine the arenas. We’re fishing the seas in a way where we’re going to be out of fish, and the implications of being out of fish, I’m going to say this really simply, are devastating for huge dimension of the population.

We’re talking about worrying about what’s happening with the environment on about seven or eight different major levels. That’s a very, very big deal. How do we deal with that? How do we engage that? A level of risk that has never existed before. And let’s ignore the question of how the risk was created. Was it created through human beings? Was it created through a normal cycle of the planet? The fact is the risk exists. Risks that exist from AI, artificial intelligence gone wild, are significant and real. Risks that exist from the possibility of a rogue nuclear threat. It’s not the two superpowers where talks between the superpowers and good phone communication could actually avert nuclear disaster.

We live in a moment in which a rogue terrorist or a terrorist group and having access to loose nuclear weapons could unleash a disaster the likes of which the world has never known. That’s just a few, and I haven’t even begun to talk about the availability of fresh water. We haven’t even begun to talk about it, and the list goes on and on. These are real. There is a level of existential risk that never existed before in the history of our world. Attila the Hun, on a bad day or a bad couple of decades couldn’t destroy the world. He could be a great scourge, he could cause enormous suffering, but the world couldn’t be destroyed because of him because he didn’t have that power.

For the first time we have a level of power that we’ve never had in history, and that power is distributed not only in a centralized way, that power is available in a decentralized way. So the decentralized access to power, meaning the fringes, the unstable fringes, sometimes the lunatic fringes, are having availability or accessibility via the black web to all sorts of forms of power. That is a stunning threat to humanity today. That’s a very, very big deal. We need to be aware of that. At the same time, there’s a second dynamic at play, which is, although in many ways starvation is going down, there is less starvation, there is more resources, there is more food, but there’s actually more suffering because there is more people.

We’ve gone up billions, and billions, and billions of people, exponential growth in population, and because a couple of billion of those are below the poverty line, so even if on a kind of graph scale you’ve gotten more abundance, nonetheless because you’ve got that much more people you’ve got that much more suffering on the planet. Now, that’s not just an objective demographic shift. That means more pain, that means more tears, it means more devastation. So we actually live at a moment in history where there’s actually exponentially more pain and exponentially more risk than was ever, ever, ever true before. Now, that’s the situation as we know it. That’s the situation as we know it. What do we do? How do we respond to it? How do we engage it?

Here is a wild paradox, Barbara, and it’s completely wild. When you look at Ramez Naam’s book, after laying out … And he lays out the sets of existential risks. He doesn’t talk about the increase in suffering because of an increase in population. He talks about the huge existential risks. He then says something like … and Peter Diamandis talks in this language, and there’s a whole school of what I would call techno-optimists. They all talk in this language, and they basically say, “Hey, we’re optimistic. This is awesome. This is great. It’s okay. Don’t worry.” “Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Why shouldn’t we worry?” “Well, don’t worry because …” “Because what?” “Well, because innovation! We’re gonna innovate. We’re gonna innovate. We’re going to create new possibility.”

And they begin to talk very beautifully about innovation, or what I might call … Barbara and I have called this before in our conversations, it’s very, very erotic, “technological sex.” Technological sex means man. Technologies begin to merge together to create new possibilities. And I’ll just give you a simple example, like the emergence of … The ability to use your cellphone to take credit card purchases. That simple ability that merges together three different sets of technologies has created an entire liberation of business and entrepreneurship in many of the underdeveloped countries around the world, and lifted a whole swath of the population out of poverty because all of a sudden you could create business through your cellphone.

It’s a very big deal, and the impact has been substantial and real, and affected suffering directly and positively. So technological sex innovation actually creates possibilities, and let’s make this real. So for example … Barbara, do you remember those books in the late ’60s, like “The Population Bomb,” or “The Limits of Growth,” all those books that are predicting that if the trajectory, the vectors of population increase keep going at the rates they are, by the time we get to the year 2000, certainly 2010, etc., we’re going to have a worldwide explosion of starvation the likes of which the world has never seen. Well, the population kept increasing along with the predictive vectors, and the doomsday didn’t happen. Why not? Innovation.

We learned how to produce food per square … Measured dimension and parcel of land exponentially higher than we’ve ever been able to do it before, and then we learned how to store food, we learned how to ship food, and so innovation changed the trajectory. That’s a really big deal. But what Barbara and I want to say is that actually, with total respect to our friend Ramez Naam, and to Peter Diamandis, and to all of the techno-optimists, innovation, the way they’re describing it, is not going to actually get us home. Because what they’re describing is what we’re going to call innovation in the exteriors. Exterior innovation.

Technological sex that produces new technological potential and possibility, which is unbelievably important, wildly fabulously gorgeous and great in terms of bringing new possibility to human dignity. What Barbara and I want to say, though, because we know it’s true in history, validated a thousand times over, is that you actually have to do innovation. You need innovation not only in the exteriors, you need innovation in the interiors. We need interior innovation. What are interiors? Interiors are values. Interiors are meaning. Interiors are the stories we’re telling. Interiors are the narrative, it’s the framework. Interiors is how we understand love, how we understand duty, how we understand honor, how we understand obligation.

We need innovation in the stories of interiors. We need a new story equal to our power, Barbara, as you love to say. We need, in my language, to actually evolve the source code. We need to participate in the evolution of love, which is the evolution of consciousness and culture. We need to evolve a new story, a new universe story. We need to realize that the universe is a love story and understand the implications of that. So that’s the new story we’re talking about, and maybe … Barbara, what’s coming to mind now, before we reenter this new story from the new doorway that we’re going to start talking about, and friends, the new door we’re going to start talking about is, what’s the next chapter? What’s the next chapter in the universe: a love story?

And the next chapter is … Drum roll … a planetary awakening in love through unique self-symphony. A planetary awakening in love through unique self-symphony. But in order to get there we need to actually get to a place where the old story deconstructs and the new story begins to be born. And that reminds me of a story, Barbara, one of the stories that you love to tell. I know our friend Elizabeth Sahtouris tells it, it’s that great story … What’s the story about the imaginal cells? Could I convince you to tell us that story? Any chance?

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

The imaginal cells. Yes, well, this is a great story, in the caterpillar to the butterfly. So an imaginal cell enters into the body of this bloated caterpillar. You could relate that to our culture. It’s actually, they call it an imaginal disc. And the amazing thing about these imaginal discs is they’re coded with the butterfly they’re about to build, but they’ve never seen a butterfly and they don’t know it. The other thing is that the culture of the caterpillar is about to destroy the imaginal cells because they look like they’re genetically different, and they are. So here is a really interesting thing, is that in the body of the caterpillar comes a new culture coded in people that are slightly different coded than the caterpillar.

So what happens is at first the caterpillar tries to kill them, and in our culture we can see some of our great imaginal cells have been killed, whether it be Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, and many of them, John F. Kennedy … Many of our great pioneer imaginal cells building a new culture were destroyed by the old culture. It didn’t stop the proliferation of the imaginal cells. So what’s happening now, I believe, Marc, is we’re coming to the point where the bloated body of the caterpillar actually ultimately cannot survive the way it’s going. Meanwhile, what’s really interesting is that the imaginal cells, coded with the part of the butterfly they are to build, is what we are calling new humans, or new cells in the body of the caterpillar.

So what’s happening is, in a most mysterious way, that imaginal cells or humans are being called currently by their inner impulse to create. To create a living social organism, which could be called a social butterfly, which we will be discussing in depth as we go through our new story. So what is the nature of the social butterfly that we humans, who might be called imaginal cells in the body of the social humanity, are attempting to build? And I’ll just say briefly, I believe it is a body in which each individual component of that body is able to give its greater gift to the awakening of a new culture, a new society, a new humanity.

So I feel that in the story we’re telling of the universe story we’ve hit a chapter, we’re all in the story. We could tell about the imaginal cells, you can talk about the quarks and the electrons, the protons, and the single cells and multi-cells. But what about us? Where do we sit in the story that you’ve been telling, Marc? I believe we are the elements, each one of us uniquely inspired by the impulse of evolution, as us. It’s what you’d call evolutionary unique selves, and Marc and I are among the many evolutionary unique selves, and I hope our listeners are, who are coded with the part of the emerging culture when they’re to build.

Let’s just conclude this part to say, what the timing is nobody knows for sure, but it’s certainly not 50 years. And I’m very glad because I’m 87 and I would hate to say I’m going to miss the whole thing, but I don’t think I will because I think it’s going to happen really fast. I think what’s going to happen, Marc, it’s through what we’re calling the planetary awakening through a unique self-symphony, then enough of the people turn on to their inner expression of creativity and uniqueness will be able to share that collectively, such that the social butterfly that we now are could actually go out of the body of the caterpillar as it is dying, and become the body of the new culture that is emerging.

And there is a time, Marc, in the story of the caterpillar and the butterfly, is that the butterfly when it first comes out it doesn’t know what it’s doing and it needs to hang out to dry. I love that thought. It’s that the new butterfly has never seen itself. We’ve never seen ourselves as a new culture. We could be, you might say, in this podcast, hanging ourselves out to dry.

Dr. Marc Gafni:


Barbara Marx Hubbard:

Which is to say, the part we flap our wings and try to fly around the world with this, don’t we need some safe space to hang out to dry before we can be eaten up or attempt to fly to the unknown world? So that’s the story of the caterpillar to butterfly for right, right now.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

Okay. Barbara, that was awesome. What a wild moment we’re in, and we are friends going to, in Podcast 12, begin the story that Barbara alluded to, the story of a planetary awakening in love through a unique self-symphony. And it’s the next great story, and it’s not a fantasy story, it’s not a vampire story, it’s not a soap opera. It is the next stage in the great unfolding of the evolutionary trajectory. Evolution’s arrow is moving there, and that’s where we’re going. And just like the story of democracy changed everything and all of us have benefited from that story wherever we’re living in the world, and that story has influenced us. Whether we’re living under a democracy now or not, but the emergence of democracy has radically changed our understanding of human rights, and human dignity, and goodness, and truth, and beauty.

Wow! We’re about to go to a sea shift, a planetary phase shift. Wehen actually … You get to a phase like this probably once in a thousand years, and we will be talking about why we think this is such a phase shift in the course of coming podcasts. But we’re in a stage in which economies are changing, culture is changing, technology is changing. Everything is changing. There’s actually six or seven major forms, major structures of reality that are all changing now and we’re going to produce an entirely new vision of humanity, and that vision in potential is an evolutionary vision, it’s not a regressive vision.

If we don’t tend it, if we don’t actually articulate this new story, if we don’t create a strange attractor which calls us forward alive, we’re going to regress, because whenever there is a phase shift, whenever the fixities are loosened, whenever there’s … The old structures die away, and you need a new vision, a new possibility, a greater possibility, a new emergence to take us forward, if you don’t have a new emergence, if you don’t have a new great story which actually reflects reality and is a genuine memory of the future to call us forward, then we go backwards. We go backwards into fundamentalism, we go backwards into regression, we go backwards into dominator hierarchies, we go backwards into racism, we go backwards into totalitarianism, so we need this new story.

We need this new story about planetary awakening in love through a unique self-symphony, and maybe we’ll just finish that caterpillar. Barbara, it eats I think, what? Up to 300 times its own weight in a day. It’s devastating everything in its process, it keeps eating till he’s so bloated.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

It’s so interesting, Marc, because the caterpillar actually cannot survive unless it gives birth to the butterfly, and I’d like to make a really interesting, amazing point here. It’s that it could be that everything that isn’t so-called working in our culture, including the use of high technologies that may be destructive, all of it is attempting to give birth to the butterfly. And when this birthing process of the butterfly is revealed, which we will be doing in this podcast, so many of the things that have not been working we’ll see how to work, because we do have huge skills in our culture. We have so much genius in our culture, but if they don’t have the story of the butterfly and they’re still trying to compete with each other in the caterpillar, or win over each other, or save the caterpillar as the caterpillar, we have locked up our genius.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

That is so exact. Yeah, please.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

What I expect to happen as this story, Marc, that we are telling, it gets to be known by the larger culture, that the genius that is now locked up in the wrong patterns, even if well intentioned, are going to be liberated, and I’d like to evoke the existing genius to be liberated in the body of the butterfly. For those of us who are early imaginal cells, before it was time to be revealed, and there’s a lot to do here about timing. What I learned from watching many of these little caterpillars give birth to these butterflies, here is what I learned. If it doesn’t happen on time the butterfly dies.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

Timing is everything. Right?

Barbara Marx Hubbard:


Dr. Marc Gafni:

Timing is everything. So let’s just imagine as we move towards the end of this podcast, this one is a little longer than most are because we’re in this story. So we’ve got this caterpillar, and this caterpillar eats up to 300 times its own weight in a day. It’s consumption, consumption, consumption. It devastates plants in the process, it devastates its environment. It keeps eating till it’s so bloated that it hangs itself up and goes to sleep. And then, as you know, Beloved B, its skin hardens into a chrysalis. Wow! And then, as its skin hardens into a chrysalis, and this podcast, this podcast is a chrysalis.

Within the chrysalis, within this podcast, within the chrysalis, within the body of the dormant caterpillar, there is this new creature, this butterfly that you described so beautifully that starts to form. And we know, Barbara, that this confused biologists for such a long time. How could it be that there is a different genome plan that exists within the caterpillar to form a different creature? You’ve go to have [crosstalk 00:27:42].

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

Marc, I’d love to say something right in here. It’s that every person listening-

Dr. Marc Gafni:

Please. Totally.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

… who might be what we’re calling a new human, is coded with the part of the butterfly they are to build. We call this vocation. We call this life purpose. We call it-

Dr. Marc Gafni:

And to get that it’s coded in you. Right? In other words that-

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

That’s what I’m saying.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

Right. Exactly. Right, love? In other words, you think that your life is this. You think that you’re a caterpillar, but actually coded in you is a whole new genome which you haven’t discovered yet, and when you actually discover that genome, that’s when metamorphosis, that’s when transformation takes place. Wow! Right? Oh, my God.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

Right. So let’s assume, Marc, that everybody listening to the podcast is coded with the part of the social butterfly that they are to build, and let’s imagine that by us telling the story together, and tuning into the people listening and then tuning into their part in the story, that I would like to be sure that everybody listening is asking the story of themselves. It’s what part of the social butterfly are you yearning to build? And what this means is, where is your heart’s desire to create? What is this impulse in you that is moving you beyond where you now live? That impulse in the evolutionary human, or the new human, or whatever we want to call ourselves.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

The evolutionary unique self.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

The evolutionary unique self in humans is being turned on high, so if our listeners, Marc, should be feeling inside themselves a turning on of their impulse, I’d like to affirm it and to say that it’s coded already with the parts of the emerging world you are to build, and that podcast we will-

Dr. Marc Gafni:

Meaning you’re not crazy.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

Meaning you’re not only you’re not crazy. It’s you’re totally needed.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

This is your true insanity. This is your truest calling. Like you think you’re sitting in Idaho, or Peking, or wherever it happens to be, you’re in the middle of Singapore or you’re some place in Calcutta, that wherever you happen to be listening, or you know you’re listening in Iowa, there are people in Iowa, you’re in Massachusetts, or you’re some place in Malaysia or Indonesia, wherever you’re listening in the world and you think, “You know, this is not what my life should be. Is this all there is? This is the whole story?” And people tell you just, “No, no. Just get real. This is what life is.”

And you know that’s not true. You actually feel this calling. You feel this emergent vocation. You feel this new possibility. You feel this new genome in you that it’s actually this wonderful emergence, and that’s actually what happens. Cells with the butterfly genome are held in these disc-like aggregates of stem cells, and that’s what biologists call imaginal cells. So within this social butterfly, within reality, when you … A person who feels that calling … When you’re a person who’s not willing to say, “This is all there is.” When you’re a person who says, “I’ve got to play a larger game,” that’s not crazy. That’s your deepest sanity emerging, and we need all of those imaginal cells to come together, and that’s what going to begin this new story. But we’re going to talk about that new story next week. Next week we’ll talk about it.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

I want to say one word to everybody right here just at the ending. Here is the phrase that has meant a lot to me, Marc, in my life, which is, “You are needed to give your greater gift.” Because some time when you wake up to this inner impulse inside yourself, you are dislodging your life. You are maybe hurting the people that have loved you. You have to know you’re needed, and one of the things that made it possible for me to become an evolutionary woman is the amazing intuition that I might be needed by evolution. Well, Barbara Hubbard is needed by evolution. If people would hear that they’d say, “You’re crazy. What do you think you could possibly be doing on behalf of evolution? It seemed ridiculous.”

So I just want to say to people who are imaginal cells in the body of the caterpillar right now, that if you feel an impulse to give your greater gifts, to be the full potential that you are, you are needed. And if the butterfly comes out of the body of the caterpillar without you, it won’t be able to fly. That’s it.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

And that is. That is it. That is, and we’re going to tell the story, this new story of planetary awakening and love through unique self-symphony next week, but remember that we’re now in Podcast 11. Go back to podcasts 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. What did we say? We said that the strange attractor, this is the greatest evolutionary sign to understanding. The strange attractor of evolution is unique self and evolutionary unique self. Evolution moves towards uniqueness. Your unique set of allurements, your unique gifts are what draw evolution forward, and the four noble truths, and with this we end, are reality, reality intended you, reality desires you, reality needs your service. Reality can’t do without you, and reality adores you.

Reality is madly in love with you, and that’s not a metaphor. That is emergent from systems theory, chaos theory, complexity theory, and the interior sciences. That is the best sense of reality we have today, and not to know that would be totally crazy. So Lady B, Beloved Barbara, Marc, we’re signing off here. This is a long one. We apologize a little bit insincerely because we think it was worth it, and have the most fabulous week, and we will see you next week, Podcast 12.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

Bye, every-

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