"The medium is the massage."
Whether you like
it or not, the Internet
is going to have a major impact on your life. It is a mistake
to think you can avoid becoming entangled in its World
Wide Web. Like the telephone, the automobile, and
other revolutionary technologies that came before it, the
Internet is already responsible for dramatic changes in the
way many of us live. However, the changes being brought about
by the Internet are orders of magnitude more significant,
and are taking place much faster, than anything we have ever
Casual observers of the Internet
phenomenon sometimes make the mistake of thinking it is nothing
more than a new place to buy and sell merchandise, but it
is much more than that. The Internet, or the Net as it is
commonly called, is in fact the physical manifestation of
the continuing evolution of human consciousness during an
age of unprecedented growth in human/machine symbiosis. 
We already take for granted
that much of our daily activity is governed by machines. We
no longer even notice that many common activities, like selecting
a seat on an airplane or buying groceries, are now controlled
by computers and other electromechanical devices. Large numbers
of machines already serve as the primary interfaces between
us and our fellow human beings, and the telephone is not the
only device to which I refer. Recently I witnessed the age-old
ritual of someone greeting a long unseen friend, but I saw
a machine transform this experience into something quite modern.
It was in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport while waiting to board
a plane that I noticed a woman and her young daughter awaiting
the arrival of a friend. They were carrying helium-filled
balloons, flowers, and a video camera. The camera was of the
type whose viewfinder consisted of a miniature television-like
screen that could be seen when holding it several inches in
front of one's face.
As this young woman's friend
came into view, there were the normal shouts of joy along
with an exchange of hugs, but one thing was very different.
The woman with the camera never stopped recording the scene.
Her entire visual experience was confined to the images in
the viewfinder and had little connection to the larger physical
reality of her friend's arrival. Even as the woman and her
friend embraced, she pointed the camera at her friend's daughter,
all the while keeping her eyes on the camera's viewfinder.
The greater part of this woman's visual impression of the
experience was confined primarily to her camera's video screen.
Therefore, when she replays the tape she will experience the
audio and visual portions of this event in much the same way
she did at the time. The sound and images from the video tape
will faithfully reproduce her original experience. Had someone
else been holding the video camera, a replay of the tape would
provide the woman with a completely different point of view.
Although her original experience was not totally controlled
by a machine, her recall of that scene will be largely shaped
by the machine she held in her hand at the time.
dependence on machines has increased so gradually that few
people give any thought to how much we are already at their
mercy. Perhaps you can remember the first time you encountered
a machine that scanned bar codes on products in your local
grocery store, but you may not have paid attention to the
fact that these scanners now seem to be everywhere. High volume
retail businesses simply cannot function without them. If
all computer-based price scanners were taken out of operation
for just one week, the economic effect on businesses would
be catastrophic. It is time to face the fact that we are already
extremely dependent upon our machines. Machines like price
scanners and personal video cameras are among the millions
of devices that can now exchange information with each other
through this technology we call the Internet. As you will
see, the Internet is much more than somewhere to go to exchange
buy things, or surf
the Web. The Internet has become the central nervous
system of our planet's social and economic life and is the
physical manifestation of a place called cyberspace.
One of the most basic human
urges is to form bonds with others of our species. In prehistoric
times it was the family fire that served as the technology
for bringing us together. By the end of the 20th century we
had developed an entire galaxy of technologies to help us
remain connected to our friends and families. Yet no technology
before the Internet has had the power to literally transform
the entire range of human experience. There is much more going
on here than meets the average eye, and if you intend to be
an active participant in the affairs of this new century you
will be well served to pay very close attention to the evolution
of this important communications medium.
Readers of this book need not
have a deep understanding of Internet technology. In fact,
a person who has not yet had an opportunity to use the Internet
can still understand the concepts presented in this book,
particularly if he or she first reads the "A Brief Explanation
of How the Internet Works," which is included as an "Addendum."
Readers with a technical background may also find the "Addendum"
useful, particularly the subsection titled "Who is in
topics that are touched on in the body of this work include:
Electronic mailing lists.
Types of networks.
The difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web.
Positive and negative connotations of the words "hack"
How the Internet is regulated.
While one will not walk away
from the "Addendum" with enough detailed information
to become a certified network engineer, its purpose is to
provide a basic understand of the workings of the Internet.
In other words, you will know all you need to know about how
it works in order to be able to navigate your way through
I wish to make it clear that
this book is not an attempt to impose my own sense of spirituality
onto the Internet. In fact, the circumstances surrounding
the writing of this book are exactly the opposite, for it
was the inherent spirituality of the Net that drew me into
this story. As I once heard Ralph Abraham 
say, "The Web is a spawning ground for spiritual wisdom
. . . what if that is what it is there for?"
Originally, I intended to write
a short essay about the spirit of camaraderie that was present
in the Internet community before the World Wide Web was introduced.
Before long, however, my notes took on a life of their own
and it became obvious that there was much more to this story
than I had originally planned to write. In essence, this book
is about the ways in which unfettered access to virtually
unlimited amounts of information is changing our world. The
Information Age is now underway, and one of the major changes
it promises is to free us from our previous reliance on those
in power giving us access to accurate and uncensored information.
Access to uncensored information is not a sure thing just
because we now have the Internet. Those in power will not
give up their control of information without a struggle, and
that is one of the reasons the spirit of the Internet is calling
out to you. As you will soon see, the cause of free speech
on the Internet can use your help.
As the subtitle suggests, many
of the ideas in this book are speculative, some people will
say highly speculative. For example, the concept of an ephemeral
sphere of mind encapsulating the Earth, as originally theorized
by Teilhard de Chardin 
in 1938, is not a mainstay in most established schools of
thought. This is the subject of the chapter titled "The
Internet and the Noosphere." Other ideas, such as the
ones you will encounter in the opening chapter concerning
Virtual Reality and Inhabited Virtual Worlds, may sound speculative
but are actually descriptions of activities that are now common
in cyberspace. In the chapter titled "The Internet as
a Chaotic Attractor" you will see how difficult it is
to separate speculation and fact when one views our universe
from the perspective of both new and ancient learning.
The main thread of this book
concerns what is meant by the evolution of global consciousness.
It would be convenient here to provide the reader with clear
and concise definitions of "evolution" and "global
consciousness." As you will see, that is not an easy
task. Until these concepts are more fully developed later
in this book, when I use the word "evolution," I
intend the more general usage-namely, to grow or develop.
There are instances, however, when "evolution" is
used in the context of biological evolution. At such times
this usage will be clearly indicated.
My meaning when I use the phrase
"global consciousness" is not easy to explain in
a few words. In the closing chapter, under the section titled
"The Awakening of the Noosphere," the full meaning
of this phrase will become clear. Until then, what is meant
by "global consciousness" is that it is a state
in which one is as closely attuned to issues that affect all
life on this planet as one is to one's own personal affairs.
I would now like you to consider
the phrase "the spirit of the Internet." The word
"spirit" has many connotations. It can mean an animating
or vital principle that gives life to physical entities. Spirit
can also imply a special frame of mind, a soul, a ghost, or
a collective attitude such as school spirit. It is the purpose
of this book to explore all aspects of the meaning of the
word "spirit" as applied to the Net. My belief is
that something of overwhelming spiritual importance is going
on here. Something truly spiritual, or "of spirit,"
has already captivated many of the most thoughtful members
of the Internet community, and this spirit is now reaching
out to you. So come with me on a journey through cyberspace
where we will meet this exciting new spirit that has already
captured so many minds.