In among a series of essays about climate change, economic meltdown, the role of the artist in society and the flaws of monogomous relationships, Daniel Pinchbeck also turns his attention to alien contact, crop circles and breaking through into his unconsciousness with the use of psychedelic drugs.
He is a new age philosopher whose name has become synonymous with the year 2012 and Mayan predictions that humanity is at the end of a 5,000 year time cycle which heralds the the dawn of a new era - and in some extreme scenartios the end of human civilization.
Pinchbeck often tries to put a distance between himself and some of the more outlandish themes in the sense that he will rehearse the theories that crop circles in the Wiltshire countryside are the manifestation of a higher consciousness or alien attempts to communicate with humanity, before stepping back and offering a more mundane possibility.
He is at ease writing about 'energies' associated with certain places but will throw in a self-conscious note of caution as if to say to his sneering detractors that he knows it might sound ridiculous but lets just air the argument before we shoot it down.
"While writing my books, I discovered that I was able to keep an open (if skeptical) mind, while exploring subjects that make most people flinch, whether shamanism, psychedelics, or crop circles." (P58)
This placing of a distance between himself and some the subjects he tackles in his essays enhances Pinchbeck's credibility as a commentator when compared to some of the more adamant 'new age' philosophers, and indeed their maintream detractors, who would have us believe that their theories are incontrovertible.
Despite this Pinchbeck is not shy of making the odd sweeping statement. In his essay on 'The Sexual Revolution, Take Two' he writes:
"Wars and other mass psychoses such as facism can be linked to sexually repressive or abusive practises in childrearing. The unnatural desire for power over others and control of other people's reproductive functions by fundamentalists and leaders of the radical right could be the result of psychological complexes caused by distortions of sex energy in early childhood, leaving permanent wounds." (P37)
Psychology, environmental meltdown, humanity's loss of contact with the very nature that allowed it to evolve, geopolitics, alien contact, shamanism, traditional psychedelics and the role of the artist in society (or lack of a role) provide some of the themes.
There is no single narrative as in his earlier, much-better, 2012 The Year of the Mayan Prophecy, which had just as many diverse ideas but seemed much more focused. That is probably because Notes From the Edge Times is a collection of essays and articles writen for a variety of publications over a two-year period.
Nevertheless Pinchbeck is never dull and this serves as a good introduction to his ideas.
He is not from the school of thought that 2012 will be a year of global catastropy in which climate change or some other man-made disaster will herald the end of society. He is more optomisitic and sees it as the beginning of a new period of evolution in which humanity will reconnect with the planet which enabled it to evolve.
He predicts a new global consciousness in which tribal values will be reinstated and people will be more open to the insights from within. Maybe it is all a bit hippy and idealistic, but then a world based on hippy values would surely be much better than the one we are presently inhabiting.