Rod Pennington didn’t set out to write an international bestseller. The Fourth Awakening novel was initially a marketing “tool” to identify spiritually advanced research participants for Jeffery A. Martin’s neuroscience research into non-symbolic consciousness. The first novel was so successful, however, it spawned a sequel (The Gathering Darkness) and The Fourth Awakening Chronicles, whose third installment was released recently.
How did a spiritual/metaphysical novel written to entice research participants end up No. 1 four years running in Amazon Kindle’s New Age/Mysticism category? It’s all Pennington’s fault. The veteran writer of multiple books and screenplays knew about Martin’s research into persistent non-dual awareness (also called enlightenment, persistent mystical state, transcendental consciousness). Martin, an interdisciplinary research professor who’s worked at Harvard, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and the Center for International Studies in California, just to name a few, was having difficulty locating subjects with deep meditation and consciousness-altering skills for his latest research project.
According to Martin, Pennington came up with the approach: “One of the ideas that Rod had was ‘Hey, let’s write a book to do this. Maybe we create a fiction book, [because] fiction is something that’s read very broadly across the population. And if we weave enough stuff into that fiction book that resonates with people, these people will probably come out and contact us.’” Not long after The Fourth Awakening’s initial publication in 2009, Martin had his research subjects and Pennington had an international bestseller on his hands.
What is the Fourth Awakening?
The premise of The Fourth Awakening is that humanity has experienced three critical awakenings and is on the verge of another. Awakenings occur when something so profoundly changes the world that all of the old rules no longer apply. A powerful new order arrives, completely unexpected and without warning, and things are never the same again.
The First Awakening occurred approximately 200,000 years ago when Homo Sapiens emerged in East Africa, but it took another 150,000 years for things to begin to get interesting.
The Second Awakening saw Homo Sapiens become self aware. We developed spoken language, art in the form of cave paintings and crude figurines, and most importantly, a grasp of the spiritual nature of the world and ourselves. Fourteen thousand years ago, the recognizably modern forms of farming, metallurgy, ship building, and astrology all emerged at around the same time worldwide.
The Third Awakening began around 3,000 years ago with the rise of all modern religions as well as science. Between 800 – 400 BC, there was a religious explosion. The key events in the Old Testament occurred, from which emerged Judeo/Christian beliefs. At the same time, Taoism was followed by Confucianism in China, Shintoism in Japan, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, and later Islam. For the past 500 or so years the political power of religion has waned while the power of science has flourished. Knowledge hit a tipping point about 150 years ago. Universities began to switch from religious institutions to being based on the German research model. During the Third Awakening, the written word became increasingly commonplace.
The Fourth Awakening brings a new mode of being with it, one that goes beyond symbols and thought. According to Pennington and Martin, the number of individuals who can reach a state of non-symbolic thought (aka enlightenment) has reached critical mass. Their book likens this state to the Internet–a giant field of energy, full of information, open to anyone who has the right connection. For more, see the authors’ website.
How has Martin’s research shaped the series?
Working worldwide with over a thousand individuals skilled at achieving non-symbolic states of consciousness, Martin has identified a number of Enlightened Archetypes. The Fourth Awakening Chronicles is a series of short novellas based on the characters and concepts explored in The Fourth Awakening and its sequel. Each novella features a person who has arrived at the Fourth Awakening. These Enlightened Archetypes include a world-class poker player who suddenly abandons the game, and a successful top executive who must leave his family to pursue enlightenment (as the Buddha did).
But where have these extraordinary people gone? In the Chronicles, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Penelope Drayton Spence has been hired by two of the world’s richest men to interview enlightened people who may have arrived at the Fourth Awakening. The problem is, as fast she can locate a potential candidate, they have a nasty habit of mysteriously vanishing. While each Chronicle is a stand-alone episode that can be read independently, it is a part of a much larger and continuing story.
If you would like to learn more about or participate in Jeffery A. Martin’s research into non-symbolic consciousness, visit NonSymbolic.org.