The Great Turning


The Great Turning is a name for the essential adventure of our time:
the shift from the industrial growth society
to a life-sustaining civilization.
Joanna Macy


Mixed Media by Michele Laporte

The name of this section, The Great Turning, is borrowed from Joanna Macy because I think it conveys the essential meaning of this time of paradigm change in our civilization, at least from a Dharmagaian perspective.  A paradigm change is a change in consciousness, a change in how we see the world, what we perceive to be reality, and how we orient ourselves to reality.  In the Great Turning, we turn from belief in the industrial growth society, or the global economy, to a direct relationship with the fact, the reality, that human life is interdependent with the web of life on Planet Earth, and that we have a responsibility for the health of the larger living system in which we are embedded.

Spiral Galaxy M74 (Hubble)

The Great Turning has been described in many ways by various Dharmagaians: a revolution or transformation or evolution in consciousness from mechanics to organics, from being takers to being leavers, from stealing from the future to leaving as much as possible for the future, from separation from nature to reciprocity with nature, from alienation from nature to belonging within nature, from dualism to holism, from the culture of death to a culture of life, from fear of death to faith in the processes of rebirth, from the love of power to the power of love, from delusion to awakening.  In short, we turn from a small, anthropocentric, culturally conditioned worldview to an expansive, integrated, ecocentric, evolutionary worldview that enables us to feel our place in the universe again. 

However, the new paradigm is not something we can buy off the shelf, any more than the old paradigm came ready made.  Paradigm change takes time—in the past it took generations.  It is something we co-create as we go along, as we make the inner shift, grow beyond the confines of the old, and work with others in a new direction.   

It is as though we in industrial society are on a great ocean liner that is headed towards a reef upon which it will founder.  It takes time and foresight to turn an ocean liner.  For decades now, those who foresaw the reef have been trying to get the captain, crew and passengers to agree to turn the wheel.  However, all but a handful have been drunk.  So now it’s time for the lifeboats.  Those who see what’s coming need to turn from the illusory safety of their cabins on the ocean liner, gather their most precious possessions, and get into lifeboats with others who are willing to take the risks.

As I’ve said on the Gaia page, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for”— there are no parental authority figures who are ‘in charge’ and will ‘fix’ this mess that humanity has created for itself.  None of the so-called ‘leaders’ are looking at the big picture and taking responsibility for addressing it.  It’s up to those of us who are awake, and have accepted the necessity for change, to find our own way—preferably with others who also recognize the necessity to co-create a different way of life.

Mayan Group Hamba K'an at Stonehenge


Safety is no longer to be found in the herd.  The herd is on an unsustainable path that is heading for catastrophe and extinction. It’s time to leave the herd of industrial society and find a tribe that is engaged in the Great Turning—a Dharmagaian tribe that loves the Earth, seeks the truth, and cares about future generations.  The Great Turning requires our willingness to evolve through undergoing a psycho-spiritual transformation.  Often this occurs involuntarily, though the more willing we are, the easier it is.  Conversely, the more we resist this imperative of our time, the more painful it will be. 

Once a person begins the process of conscious paradigm change, there is no going back.  Bit by bit, the scales fall from one’s eyes and the socially conditioned fears and constrictions loosen and dissolve as one’s heart for the world expands.  The essential willingness is to allow ourselves to feel that which is happening in the world and ourselves, for it is through our feelings—many of which are repressed in industrial society—that we rediscover our interdependence with the life of Gaia and our own role in the Great Turning.

There is much more about the Great Turning in the Gaia section, on the Animal Allies, Indigenous Wisdom, Deep Ecology, Paradigm Change, New Cosmology, and Ecopsychology pages and their links pages.  These elaborate on the evolutionary factors that are driving the current paradigm change and the signs that it is happening, as well as the direction it is taking.

This Great Turning section provides resources and inspiration for digesting hard truths and informed opinion about challenges to civilization and the continuation of human life on this planet, and for moving beyond the urgencies toward sane responses. 

At a time of major paradigm change and planetary crisis such as ours, human affairs tend to become polarized.  Almost any perspective can become hotly controversial and embattled.  Our time, the early 21st century, is likely to become even more embattled and confusing due to the convergence of oil and other resource depletions, economic disruptions, climate change and political insanity. 

The Dharmagaian perspective is that humans will not be able to make the Great Turning and learn to live within the jurisdiction of the Earth unless and until we face the hard truths of our time and prepare ourselves for a more ecologically sustainable way of life.  That preparation is partly psycho-spiritual, partly social, and partly pragmatic.  The Great Turning involves a process of maturation, of growing up and taking responsibility for ourselves.

The Positive Disintegration section introduces the hard truths of the challenges to civilization and human survival, which are elaborated in the pages on Peak OilPopulation, Food Crisis, Economic Meltdown, The Dark Side, and the Cassandra Club.

An important part of our psycho-spiritual preparation is to achieve, within ourselves, acceptance of the reality of our predicaments.  We do this by consciously taming our reactive minds, working with our feelings, and expanding our circle of compassion beyond our conditioned prejudices, which is the reason that we return to the dharma, other psychological and spiritual perspectives, and group processes in Psycho-Spiritual Evolution, The Animistic Soul Re-Emerges, and Dharmagaian Practices for Sustainable Spirituality pages.

Our social and practical preparation has to do with learning to work with others in new ways in order to build Sustainable Communities that can weather the storms of this century and beyond. We need others of like mind, with similar values and understandings, in order to maintain our moral compass and practical focus, and to learn from as we share the pragmatic responsibilities of building a sustainable way of life.  But we also need to learn to work with others who are not necessarily of like mind.  The Sustainable Communities page will hopefully reveal some of the many possibilities that there are.  There is much learning and much work to be done!


Humanity has arrived at a pivotal moment in the Earth’s evolutionary process. The early decades of the twenty-first century offer us the opportunity and imperative for what deep ecologist Joanna Macy calls the Great Turning — the transformation from a life-destroying human presence (the Industrial-Growth Society) to a way of life worthy of our unique human potential — and the planet’s natural unfolding. We humans are the only Earth creatures we know of with the ability to imagine never-before-seen futures and make them real. In this precarious moment in history, we are being called to create a global network of just, ecocentric, and sustainable societies — the human element in a true Earth community. It is every person’s obligation and privilege to contribute to this metamorphosis.  — Animas Valley Institute


Created by AccuSoft Corp.
Creation 2005 © Gerald McDermott


© 2009 Suzanne Duarte