The Wisdom Page 


Comments by Copthorne Macdonald about Thomas Lombardo's books:


The Evolution of Future Consciousness
by Thomas Lombardo, Ph.D.
Author House (2006), 435 pages
ISBN: 1-4259-4446-9

Contemporary Futurist Thought
by Thomas Lombardo, Ph.D.
Author House (2006), 427 pages
ISBN: 1-4259-4577-5

Rarely does an author cover an area of knowledge so comprehensively that there is little more to say about it. But that is what Thomas Lombardo has done with his two books about humanity's relationship to the future. The first book focuses on the psychology of the phenomenon he calls future consciousness and the history of its development in many cultures, from ancient times through the 19th century. The second book focuses on the various expressions of future consciousness in the 20th and early 21st centuries.

The Evolution of Future Consciousness

The beginning of this foundational book is devoted to giving the reader a sense of what Lombardo means by future consciousness. His short definition is that future consciousness is "the total integrative set of psychological abilities, processes, and experiences humans use in understanding and dealing with the future." Among these are

  •  the perceptual awareness of time;
  •  emotional feelings about the future and ingrained attitudes coming out of them such as hope, fear, despair, goals, purposes, motivations, etc.;
  •  thoughts about the future; and
  •  higher cognitive skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, planning, decision making, ethical thinking, and (ideally) wisdom.

The remainder of the book is devoted to outlining the evolution and complexification of future consciousness. Lombardo begins by discussing its origins in prehistoric times. He then discusses the effect on future consciousness of the many mythic, religious, and philosophical developments that occurred in East and West from about 3000 BCE to roughly 1000 AD. He concludes with a discussion of modernism, the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, the theory of secular progress, and important 19th-century theories such as those of Marx and Darwin.

Contemporary Futurist Thought

In this second book Lombardo builds upon the foundation he laid in the first. Here, he reviews in detail several 20th and 21st-century movements, or centers of interest and activity, that focus on the future. The first is science fiction, which he refers to as "the mythology of the future." The literary genre that began in the late 19th century with Jules Verne and H.G. Wells blossomed in the 20th. Lombardo refers to the 1930s and 1940s as the "golden age" of science fiction writing, characterized by the works of writers such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Olaf Stapledon. Lombardo notes that the impact of science fiction on popular culture increased greatly in the 1980s when science fiction themes were presented in blockbuster movies like 2001 and popular TV programs like Star Wars. He feels that "science fiction is the most influential contemporary form of future thinking in popular culture."

Lombardo then moves to "future studies" which he calls "the other main contemporary thread of futurist thinking." He describes it as "an empirical and scientifically based approach to understanding the future." It has academic roots in a variety of university-associated institutes, programs, and courses. And it has professional roots in a multiplicity of think tanks and consulting firms. Lombardo notes that while science fiction and future studies address the same list of global issues and challenges, the science fiction emphasis tends to be more on technological possibilities and mental and spiritual evolution whereas the futurist focus seem "more earthbound," with greater concern about "economic, political and organizational issues" and "a variety of human welfare concerns and priorities."

In the book's third chapter Lombardo discusses the cultural transition that began in the 20th century from modern to postmodern, industrial to postindustrial, materials-dominated to information-dominated. He describes the various tensions involved in this: those who would like to go back to simpler times, modernists who want to maintain the status quo, and Cultural Creatives who call for a change "in direction and values toward a more sustainable society."

I found particularly valuable the book's final chapter headed "Theories and Paradigms of the Future." Here, Lombardo presents, in detail, a wide range of contemporary views. Some of these are deterministic; they argue for a predetermined future of one kind or another. Others argue for a future determined by human values and conscious decisions. Lombardo notes that, "A common position held by many members of The World Future Society is that the future is a set of possibilities rather than one definite trajectory. Because the future is possibilities, humans have a choice in what future will be realized. Most futurists in fact talk as if they believe that the decisions made today will influence what our future will be like. We are not passive victims of supernatural destiny or natural laws."

Lombardo closes the book with these words: "I think that the cultivation of wisdom is an essential ingredient to creating a positive future. Wisdom integrates intellect, emotion, and action. Wisdom is grounded in an expansive awareness of the whole that acknowledges and values other people and their points of view, and involves the recognition of human fallibility and the need for courage, faith, and tempered optimism in the face of the uncertainty of the future. Wisdom is the highest expression of human development and future consciousness. If our minds are evolving and we are moving toward a New Enlightenment, then I would suggest that the essence of the New Enlightenment will be the individual and collective development of wisdom."

Find additional information about these books, including price and ordering information, at:
The Author House web site, and