Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows I have a knack for prediction. I am a trend spotter and occasionally even a trend starter – a sort of unintentional social influencer, before the days of Facebook and Instagram. For example:
- Paranormal Investigation as leisure activities
- Burlesque as mainstream entertainment – and wellbeing classes
- Fetish wear as pop fashion
- The personal coaching boom
- Arts and craft renaissance
I generally spot things 5-10 years before they become established. How did I spot these? Because they all have the following traits in common:
- Personal development, mental health and well-being (there is an increasing need and awareness of need)
- Previously exclusive, unfashionable or taboo (it can’t emerge as a trend if it is already trendy!)
- Communities and personal journeys (they grow in trend because people share their stories and involvement).
So what is the next BIG trend?
Religion – but not as we currently know it. All three criteria are met – (dogma free) religion or spirituality are proven boosts to wellbeing. If you want to be a social rebel, go to church – being an internet atheist is so 2010. Religion is inherently community focussed on shared values and offers limitless personal development.
Religion is essentially organised spirituality where there are defined parameters of shared belief, typically with certain officially recognised texts and practices. Out of which unfortunately, dogma has often emerged and ‘shared’ and ‘accepted’ morphed into dictated and exclusive. Here is where ‘traditional’ religions have often failed and lost their flock. But God is about to get a digital rebrand.
Just as Industry and Education have a 4.0, I believe there is a Religion (or Spirituality) 4.0 on the current horizon.
But firstly… what is this ‘4.0’ stuff all about?
4.0 is an emerging parlance that comes from the term ‘industry 4.0 which refers to the perceived series of industrial revolutions.
Industry 1.0 was when we went from hand tooling to using machines powered from water and steam. 2.0 was the next phase that saw growing use of mechanisation, electricity, the beginning of electronic communication and railways. 3.0 was the ‘digital revolution’ of the 20th century where the rapid advancement of computer systems and communications technology became 4.0 is the current streamlining of automation. Note, the pace at which these changes have occurred is astonishing. Like a snow ball becoming an avalanche.
Key features of industry 4.0 tend to demonstrate the following:
- optimal interconnectedness of technologies (device to device) and, people and technology,
- the flow and transparency of information and data exchange,
- technical support for the human element,
- decentralised decision making where the systems themselves can make decisions tot maintain the optimum of 1, and 3.
For example, the interconnectedness of things is easily shown in the ‘internet of things’ in a factory where robots not only do the heavy lifting but also monitor and measure stock levels, productivity and wellbeing of the human workforce. The flow of the data will lead to an automated decision to order supplies to support the staff.
There is also now ‘education 4.0’ that sits alongside it and is academically integrated to not only utilise tech for learning but also to cope content-wise with the pace of technological change. So it’s not only ‘how’ they teach but ‘what’ they teach. Similarly in education the application of technology leads a rapidly changing learning environment and the pace of technological change ensure a rolling landscape for innovation.
So where 4.0 kinda means that there is an underpinning by technological and digital interconnectedness, I perceive the necessary emergence of Religion 4.0. for two reasons:
1 – because the way we as a social species rely on interconnectedness is evolving – with social media as the most obvious aspect of cohesion and community.
2 – because the human experience tends toward personal development
So… What is Religion 4.0?
It will be both ancient and brand new. It is mysticism and wisdom, no longer hermetically sealed for the few. (There is a big mystical pun in here for the well read!). It is good for your wellbeing and offers interconnectedness like never before.
It will be religion that is not based on literalism or even standardise liturgy. Instead it will be interpreted poetically, metaphorically and so on using apocryphal texts such as Dead Sea scrolls, gnostic gospels and other hitherto ‘forbidden’ or discredited materials. As the world evolves with technology, our interconnectedness with all things – people, information, ideas, our planet and ourselves – is more inclusive than ever with the once arcane or hidden ‘mysteries’ of old increasingly available and accessible across devices, platforms and bio-feedback. Psycho-spiritual feedback and data sharing will form the basis of personal development and social sharing.
The way in which we interact with scriptures and rituals such as prayer or meditation has changed from holy book to handy app and from sermon to podcast. Essentially, Religion 4.0 is spirituality on the go and at the very individual level and the pace of it is also snowballing humanity toward enormous cultural, psychological and spiritual change. Because it is in many senses ‘virtual’, it can also echo the intangible nature of god figures, mythologies and historical lines of saints and inspiration figures.
The Gap is closing
The hidden or mystical side is no longer for the few ‘initiated’ or privileged devotees. It is open to all. The modern approach for social inclusion (over privilege, gender, age, class and race) also make the inner mysteries accessible like never before. For example, no longer will a persons perceived gender exclude them from a 4.0 priest(ess)hood.
There is always a simultaneous trend for the status quo and for rebellion against it. The trend for over simplistic Atheism is no longer the rebellion it was ten or even twenty years ago with people tending to choose personal development over aggressive debate. With the rise in interest of philosophy and how to think, rather than what to think, those people drawn to such big questions are rewriting the gospels to include, not exclude.
Science is also starting to converge toward the mystical – from neuroscience to cosmology (as above, so below*) and quantum mechanics, it’s all getting rather metaphysical with the quest for understanding human consciousness growing steadily in the laboratories of medicine, technology, psychology and disciplines that deal with quantum physics. The materialist paradigm is shifting to explore the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ and non-duality. Science is becoming ever more spiritually relevant and exciting with amazing new disciplines like ‘neurotheology’ at the forefront of modern thinking and human consciousness is no longer assumed to be just ‘noise in the machine’.
Religion is good for your health
Research is showing that during religious or spiritual activities like prayer and meditation certain areas are turned on and others shut down with changes in the balance of neurotransmitters. For example, during prayer, serotonin, dopamine and gabba all increase and the stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine (adrenaline) decrease. The temporal lobes and limbic structures are shown to be involved in religious experience with the basal ganglia involved in states of euphoria. In those persons who have strong senses of religious faith, their brains look different to scientists from those who do not have such faith. This is throwing out many questions on the direction of cause and effect, e.g. is a person religious because their brain was predisposed to it? or has the brain developed because they of their faith?
*The Hermetic principle of correspondence “as above so below” relates to the microcosm and macrocosm of reality, just as both science and philosophy examine the same questions from neutron to nebula. Furthermore, ‘science’ was originally known as ‘natural phuisophy’ until a Victorian rebrand. The inner and outer mysterious, from Pythagoras to Eckhart Tolle and from heiroglyphs to emojis, it’s all the same age old wisdom re-emerging under the shifting paradigms of cultural lenses.
The social gaps and the method-of-enquiry gaps are closing and we no longer have to pick a proverbial side.
The Devil in Disguise
Where there is need their is greed. The disingenuous monetisation and branding of wisdom and the emergence of so many online ‘gurus’ is a concerning aspect that runs parallel to the trend. See my blog on the problem of the personal coaching industry.