The Magical Passage to Planetization

This article was first published by State of Nature on August 5, 2013.


Although New Age mumbo-jumbo maintains a special appeal for those seeking spiritual solace, especially for those worn down by the grueling monotony of working-life under capitalism, such nonsense has always boasted its most ardent supporters within the relatively well-to-do. In fact one could almost imagine that there is a direct correlation between financial wealth and an unhealthy addiction to philosophical garbage. Much to the chagrin of Conservative Christians this mental defect seems especially pronounced within elite policy wonks concerned with “world peace” and global governance (i.e. among World Federalists at the United Nations). Here one particularly prominent group that formerly advocated New Age doctrines within the upper echelons of polite society is the little-known Planetary Citizens. Formed in 1974 by Donald Keys, this organization identified itself as a catalyst for global peace, ostensibly through democratic elite planning, albeit mixed with an unhealthy dose of magical thinking.

Donald Keys had already made quite a political name for himself when he formed Planetary Citizens in the early 1970s,[1] as not only had he just finished serving as the executive director of the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) and been a speech writer for Secretary-General U Thant, but between 1969 and 1982 he had acted as the World Association of World Federalists’ representative to the United Nations. SANE’s founding co-chair had been Norman Cousins (who at the time was the honorary president of the United World Federalists), and not coincidentally Cousins went on to join Keys as the honorary chairman of Planetary Citizens. Thus paradoxically, like something akin to the magical transformation that affected comic-book superhero Spiderman (who mysteriously obtained supernatural powers from a radioactive spider) Keys and Cousins came to believe that through their limited “exposure” to radioactivity – through their anti-nuclear activism – that they too could utilize magical powers to save the world.[2]

So you might well ask: “what type of magic did Keys and Cousins hope to bring into the service of world peace?” Well as it turns out it was mostly delusions of a spiritual nature. And although there was no web-shooting or climbing walls, gigantic leaps of faith were in aplenty – supernatural leaps of faith that took Keys and his cohorts back into the not-so-ancient make-believe realms of Theosophy. For instance, one especially significant early board member of Planetary Citizens was the spiritual visionary and all round New Age guru, David Spangler, who had recently served as the co-director of the Scottish-based Findhorn Foundation, and had just formed the Lorian Association for Incarnational Spirituality (in the United States).

Of the fourteen board members of Planetary Citizens (as of October 1975) at least three of them were practitioners of Robert Assagioli’s Jungian-inspired Psychosynthesis: an unique form of mystical therapy that provides a direct link between Theosophy and the human potential movement. A connection arises because the creator of Psychosynthesis, Robert Assagioli, had been the Italian representative of Alice Bailey’s Arcane School, and had gone on to found the Meditation Group for the New Age, which has its headquarters at Meditation Mount in Ojai, California.[3]

Furthermore, another Planetary Citizens board member of note is George Christie, who in 1962, along with Keys and several others, helped cofound the International Center for Integrative Studies, an organization that “works to co-create a common consciousness as a seedbed for new visions of positive futures for humanity and the planet…” The past president and now board member of this Center, Laraine Mai, likewise served on the board of Planetary Citizens, and has since gone on to work for the New York Open Center (a “holistic consciousness” learning center), and currently serves on the board of the UN Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns in New York.

Despite what initial appearances may suggest, that Planetary Citizens was just a marginal home for deluded wackos, this is far from the case, and influential members of the global bourgeois lined up to endorse their goals. A few recognizable “early endorsers” who I have written about in previous articles include Maurice Strong, Aurelio Peccei, Peter Ustinov, Konrad Lorenz, Gunnar Myrdal, the Dalai Lama, and the former Ford Foundation president, Paul Hoffman. One should also observe that Planetary Citizens’ 53 person-strong advisory council was home to a veritable smörgåsbord of New Age hucksters and World Federalists. In the latter category we have secular types like Isaac Asimov (an early member of the American Movement for World Government), and Martin Ennals (the founder of Amnesty International); and in the nonsense category we have Peter Caddy (of Findhorn fame), spiritual guide Sri Chinmoy (who underwent his spiritual training at Sri Aurobindo’s Ashram in Pondicherry, now the home for the New Age Auroville Foundation), Edgar Mitchell (founder of the Institute of Noetic Sciences), William Irwin Thompson (founder of the Lindisfarne Association), and Ervin Laszlo (founder of the Club of Budapest). In 1981 Donald Keys would continue his work with Ervin Laszlo by coauthoring an UN report titled ‘Disarmament, the Human Factor’, but it is to Keys’ subsequent book, Earth at Omega: Passage to Planetization, that we now turn our attention.

In many ways this book could be seen as Planetary Citizens’ manifesto for change, or as the books back page blurb puts it “a tool for transition.” Within Earth at Omega’s pages magical thinking is seamlessly merged with demands for global governance. For instance, we are introduced to the wonders of Kirilian photography as a metaphorical means of describing how a new world order will be organized:[4] a fitting choice of New Age claptrap in which to frame Keys’ ideas. In Keys’ mystic future:

Neither capitalism, communism, socialism, democratic socialism, nor other partial ideologies as we have experienced them can possibly be adequate to a new global-level organism. The new world has its own needs, its own new requirements, which can be met only out of responses to that which the new world intrinsically is. Imposing something from the past cannot, will not meet these needs. The planetary design must and will be the collective emergence of something utterly new. It will be discovered – not theorized. It will be implemented not rationalized, as an intuitive recognition of an emerging necessity. (p.12)

Luckily for his eager devotees, some of the worthwhile values that need to be “translated to the global level” have, according to Keys, already been identified in the Club of Rome’s 1976 report, RIO – Reshaping the International Order. Likewise, he adds that scholars based at the Institute for World Order have already recommended the need to promote the necessary “values for global community”, as laid out by the chair of Planetary Citizens advisory council, Saul Mendlovitz, in his book On the Creation of a Just World Order (Free Press, 1975). In addition, work towards allowing the development of an “organismic humanity” is similarly growing in strength owing to the “scholarly and prophetic” activities of those applying General Systems Theory to everything and anything; theories “pioneered” by Ervin Laszlo in his book A Strategy for the Future: A Systems Approach to World Order (George Braziller, 1974). As Keys puts it: “New mythic awarenesses such as these anchor themselves in human consciousness through experiences which bring them home in demonstrable ways.”[5]

Of course the United Nations will, in Keys’ mind, play a key role in bringing about the necessary transition to planetatization, and he highlights three “unsung heroes” who “are unconsciously representing the energies of human unification.” The first is Dag Hammarskjold… although the “intensity of his inner life became apparent only after the publication of his spiritual diary, Markings, following his death in a plane crash in the Congo.” The “cosmic north wind” that was Hammarskjold, left his own mark at the UN by redesigning the Meditation Room – transforming it into an austere place of universal worship. The next spiritual guru cited by Keys is U Thant, who “writes as did Dag Hammarskjold that he was greatly influenced by the writings of Albert Schweitzer and his ethic of ‘reverence for life,’ and by the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.” (Chardin apparently “foresaw an organismic union of humankind based on the sharing of one consciousness.”) The final figure “who represents the subjective side of life in the UN” is Sri Chinmoy, who had “led twice-weekly meditations there for more than ten years…” An individual who “comes from the lineage of the saints and sages of the Hindu East, in the line of and in the tradition of Ramakrishna and Aurobindo.”[6]

Sri Chinmoy apparently holds a special place in Keys life as at the start of Earth at Omega he dedicates his book to his “mentors”: Max Heindel (who was the founder of the Rosicrucian Fellowship), Djwhal Khul (who was one of Madame Blavatsky’s invisible spiritual masters, and was the source of inspiration for much of Alice Bailey’s work with the Arcane School), Geshe Wangyal (a Buddhist guru closely associated with the Dalai Lama), Morya (another of Madame Blavatsky’s invisible friends), Erling (an individual who through her spiritual union with Archangel Mikael in later years formed the Angelic Temple of Illumined Faith and Protection), and last but not least, the celebrity-obsessed cult guru himself, Sri Chinmoy.[7]

Thankfully for Keys, cutting edge studies undertaken at SRI International (formerly the Stanford Research Institute) examining the specifics of human consciousness promoted by his New Age spiritual gurus (invisible or otherwise) will, according to him, soon allow such previously unquantifiable factors to be incorporated into Ervin Lazlo’s systems theories for global management. Here we are informed of Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff’s “stunning research” into “remote viewing” (formerly known as clairvoyance); of how astral projection has been revamped with a new scientifically validated title, “out-of-body experiences,” of which Robert Monroe is cited as being its “best-known practitioner”; while psychokinesis, “the capacity to move objects without touching them, retains it old name, and continues to fascinate.” “The existence of psi phenomena is not in question, only their mechanisms.” Keys continues: “These fledgling steps are regarded with some amusement, of course, by Asian practitioners of these arts, long versed in practicing the psi abilities mentioned above, and many more.”[8]

Keys is in joyous rapture about the rapid spread of intentional communities documented in Marilyn Ferguson’s The Aquarian Conspiracy (J.P. Tarcher, 1980), and by the countercultures adoption of what Mark Satin referred to as “a transmaterial world view.” Keys writes: “Planetary Citizens has found a strong response to its interne program from graduates of spiritual intentional communities, such as the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. These internes seek training for involvement in societal change without sacrificing their more profound values and their inner growth orientation.” On a further triumphant note he suggests that the “political impact of the new consciousness” will “ultimately spell the end of the materialistic, inadequate and dead-end interpretations which characterize latter-day marxism and neo-marxism.” An irrational intuitive future is apparently in good hands, with ruling class members of Planetary Citizens working in collaboration with intentional spiritual communities like “The Farm,” whom Planetary Citizens came to the aid of by helping them distribute their surplus soybeans “directly to the needy of the world.” This international soybean-aid-program (PLENTY International) was apparently “so successful that it has won the backing of both the World Bank and the Canadian aid organization.” How nice. On a more “political” note, Keys draws attention to the transformative work of Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr., Governor of California, whose politics are “neither ‘right’ nor ‘left,’” and whose “administration is animated by a non-material, humane world view…”[9]

Here one might point out that former Apollo astronaut Russell Schweickart, who served as California Governor Jerry Brown’s assistant for science and technology, happened to reside on Planetary Citizens advisory council before going on to become a fellow of the Lindisfarne Association, and then a member of the New Age corporate offshoot project the Global Business Network (which had been set up in 1987). Notably, three of the five cofounders of the Global Business Network included New Age phenomena Stewart Brand (who has recently been rewarded for his longstanding spiritual commitment by the Joseph Campbell Foundation, who honored him with their Erdman-Campbell Award), and two former SRI International senior staffers, Peter Schwartz and Jay Ogilvy, who together with Findhorn-booster Paul Hawken wrote Seven Tomorrows: Toward a Voluntary History (Bantam, 1981). Presently a scholar at the Esalen Center, it is worth mentioning that in 1979 Ogilvy served alongside Donald Keys on the initial governing council of Mark Satin’s New World Alliance, which, much like Planetary Citizens, consisted of a mish-mash of theosophists, futurists, and a general assortment of do-gooders committed to “global peace” (whatever that means).[10]

Finally, I have no doubt that in order to smash capitalism, and to erect a new socialist world in its place, the working classes of the world will need to unite and work in global solidarity to oust the ruling class. But to undertake this monumental task there is no need for the working class to incorporate the metaphysics of bourgeoisie mystics into their organizing repertoires. Call me old-fashioned, but I have a hunch (although Keys might call it intuition) that rationality will win over in the end; and that at the end of the day, the oh-so-learned proponents of irrationalism – be it through their vehement belief on the magical dictates of the free-market, or in spirit voices from above – will succumb to the rational dictates of a united working class that demands a fair and equitable material world for all. Solidarity forever; irrational mumbo jumbo be vanquished!


[1] On the founding of Planetary Citizens, Donald Keys writes: “In 1970, an opportunity arose to create a new vehicle to activate these [humane and global] values. Norman Cousins and I had been conducting a roundtable of meetings among United Nations ambassadors, with Norman as host. These dinner evenings created an arena of ‘neutral turf’ where the diplomats could express themselves more freely and share some of their more human concerns, aspirations and hopes for the United Nations. On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, the ambassadors decided to hold at the UN a ‘Conference on Human Survival’ which would direct itself to questions and issues which they knew would be bypassed in the more routine congratulatory statements of governments in the General Assembly. The conference was arranged with the then Secretary-General, U Thant, as host, with Lester Pearson of Canada as chairman, and with financial help from the Kettering Foundation. The Quaker UN Program helped to organized the conference logistics. Robert Muller, then Director of the Office of the UN Secretary-General, and myself, provided background papers.
“More than twenty of the world’s most revered and thoughtful citizens attended this ‘Conference on Human Survival.’ During the proceedings, U Thant made a plea for a ‘second allegiance, to humanity as a whole, as represented in the world organization.’ U Thant rightly realized that all the efforts of governments and people for world peace and justice would come to naught unless there was a profound addition to our ‘pyramid of loyalties.’ That was it! This was the key. A new effort had to be made, along new lines, stressing a philosophical and attitudinal shift which alone could save Spaceship Earth from either a swift nuclear cataclysm or a slow ecological demise. Normal had penned the now famous ‘Human Manifesto.’ To this I tagged on a ‘Pledge of Planetary Citizenship.’ With U Thant and Normal Cousins as honorary chairmen, and with some funds left over from the Conference on Human Survival, we began Planetary Citizens.” Donald Keys, Earth at Omega: Passage to Planetization (Branden Books [in association with the Findhorn Foundation], 1982), pp.95-6.
For a critique of the peacekeeping credentials of Lester Pearson, see Yves Engler, Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt (RED Publishing, 2012). For a study of Planetary Citizens’ history, see Paul Adler, ‘Planetary Citizens: US NGO’s and the Struggles Over Globalization, 1972-1989’, Ph.D. Thesis In Progress, Georgetown University (Thesis adviser: Michael Kazin).

[2] For an examination of the crossover between New Age ideas – particularly the evolutionary mysticism’s that have flowed through Esalen – and comic book superheroes, see Jeffrey Kripal, Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal (University of Chicago Press, 2011).

[3] Bruce Campbell, Ancient Wisdom Revived: A History of the Theosophical Movement (University of California Press, 1980), p.155. Notable examples of Psychosynthesis practitioners serving on Planetary Citizens board of directors included Betsie Carter-Haar, Mark Horowitz, and Fred Rosenzveig. Another person who was an early board member of Planetary Citizens was Martha Crampton, who during the 1970s was also the director of the Canadian Institute of Psychosynthesis. Crampton remains committed to New Age spirituality, and more recently has taught at the Omega Institute and the New York Open Center. At the latter Center she taught a course in Integrative Therapy, and one of her students was Ida Urso, who went on to serve as the director of World Goodwill (which was founded by Alice Bailey) and as the founder and president of the Aquarian Age Community. Another of Crampton’s students who has gone on to become extremely influential in both New Age and corporate management circles is Jack Canfield, the bestselling author and founder of the Californian-based Foundation for Self Esteem. Canfield counts Crampton as being one of the three biggest influences on his own work; the other two being, W. Clement Stone (who was the coauthor with Napoleon Hill of The Power of Positive Mental Attitude) and Gestalt therapist Robert Resnick. Canfield served on the advisory board of Renaissance Weekend (a very exclusive elite retreat founded by PR-guru Philip Lader), and on the welcoming committee of Barbara Marx Hubbard’s latest mystical consciousness-raising outfit, Birth2012.

[4] Keys, Earth at Omega, p.4.

[5] Keys, Earth at Omega, p.13, p.14, p.71.

[6] Keys, Earth at Omega, p.58, p.59, p.63, p.66, p.69, p.66, pp.66-7.

[7] For a critical review of Sri Chinmoy’s cultish ambitions, see Jayanti Tamm, Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult (Crown/Harmony, 2009). The former wife of Grammy-winning musician Carlos Santana writes of their collective experience of being amongst Sri Chinmoy’s most treasured disciples, noting that: “There was a gaping hole between what his books taught about enlightenment and the psychological and physical requirements of energy, money, loyalty, and selfless allegiance.” Deborah Santana, Space Between the Stars: My Journey to an Open Heart (Ballatine, 2005), pp.256-7. For a further recollection of a related cult set up by one of Sri Chinmoy’s former disciples, Frederick Lenz (“Rama”), see Mark Laxer’s Take Me for a Ride: Coming of Age in a Destructive Cult (Outer Rim Press, 1993).

[8] Keys, Earth at Omega, p.74. One collaborative project mentioned in the closing pages of Keys’ book that Planetary Citizens helped launch is ‘The Planetary Initiative for the World We Choose’. Keys writes: “The original inviters of the Planetary Initiative were the leaders of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, the Club of Rome, Global Education Associates, the United Nations Association of New South Wales, and of course, Planetary Citizens.” (p.103)
Although here is not the place to go into an analysis of this Initiative, it is fitting that Victor James Zammit (a former board member of the United Nations Association of New South Wales’ Human Rights Commission) now dedicates his life to proving the existence of magic, and is the author of A Lawyer Presents the Case For The Afterlife: Irrefutable Objective Evidence (Ganmell Pty, 2002). Zammit currently resides on the advisory board of the Association for Evaluation and Communication of Evidence for Survival, serving alongside leading members of the mumbo-jumbo community such as Rhine Center advisors (Vernon Neppe and Julie Beische), and Jane Katra, who has coauthored two books with aforementioned former SRI International “remote viewing” fanatic Russell Targ.
One should recall that at the very time that the Planetary Initiative was being supported by the United Nations Association of New South Wales, democracy as such barely existed in Australia. For example New South Wales’ neighbouring State, Queensland, was at the time being managed by the right-wing hippy-hating premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen (who held a firm dictatorial grip on Queensland from 1968 to 1987). For documentation of the rampant corruption that ran throughout the New South Wales political machinery during the 1970s, see Michael Barker, ‘The CIA, Drugs, and an Australian Killer Cop‘, Swans Commentary, October 5, 2009.

[9] Keys, Earth at Omega, p.84, p.88, p.89, p.91.

[10] Findhorn fellows and founders of the Center for Visionary Leadership, Gordon Davidson and his wife Corinne McLaughlin, served on the founding governing council of the New World Alliance: they are also the coauthors of Spiritual Politics: Changing the World from the Inside Out (Ballatine, 1994). Their book includes a foreword penned by the Dalai Lama, while Gordon and Corrinne dedicate the book to Djwhal Khul (who was one of Madame Blavatsky’s invisible spiritual masters, and was the source of inspiration for much of Alice Bailey’s work with the Arcane School) and Maitreya (who following the Buddhist tradition is considered to be the future Buddha, but following Theosophical clap trap is their future World Teacher).

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