Sunday, December 04, 2005

The future demands a new worldview

Thinker, scientist and humanist Ervin Laszlo considers the cosmos as one living system of which we are an integral part. In a recent article - only available by subscription from WIE magazine he discusses the changing state of the world. It is a very short interview. I post about half of it here:

WIE: These are problems of a magnitude and complexity that humanity has never faced before. It's intriguing that as a scientist, you're not looking toward technological solutions but, instead, toward a fundamental change in our thinking. What is this new thinking, and how can it help us?

LASZLO: It's about a new worldview with new values adapted to living, surviving, and developing on this planet. The rise of spirituality and the rise of meditation techniques and involvement with inner growth are all part of this phenomenon. And it's already occurring, but it has to be accelerated.

Now, you can get to this new worldview by rational or intellectual means. You can get to it intuitively, through art, spirituality, or religion. And you can get there through science. If you look at developments in science, you'll find that science is increasingly recognizing that everything is connected very strongly with everything else. Everything that exists is an open system. Nothing is entirely closed or independent—everything is very sensitively connected.

The implications are enormous wherever you look. So, for example, we are not just a block of cells, like a building is a block of bricks. Most fundamentally, our living tissue is not made out of hard-core elements—atoms and molecules—it is made of waves. Thus, we are living systems that are continuously receiving and transmitting information. This information transmission is faster than any conceivable biochemical mechanism, because what happens in one part of the organism simultaneously happens to the other part. It's constantly interactive on multiple dimensions. It's a remarkable thing—going way beyond any technical, biological, mechanistic, and materialistic concept of the organism.

As so much of the spiritual literature says: we are not limited to five slits in the tower—meaning that we don't just see the world through the five sense organs. To me, it's very obvious that consciousness is not a byproduct of the brain, produced by a complex set of neurons. It's something that's pervading the whole universe. It's there in the whole body, in all living systems, probably all the way down to the quantum level. We are living in a universe that itself is conscious. And so, we can open the roof to the sky. In creativity you open up—you have a possibility to open the roof to the sky. Then you're no longer alone. I had these moments as a young musician in concert—a sensation of being part of a larger universe. You have united with something larger than yourself.

I believe that these things will give us a new paradigm of a universe that is connected. We are far more interconnected to one another and to all elements than we ever thought. A friend who I admired very much, Jonas Salk, said that a new paradigm in science and in society is like a response of the immune system, because it enables you to think in ways that are more adapted to coping with new problems. So, if this paradigm would begin to penetrate into society, we would have more solidarity, more humanity, and a better relationship to nature and to each other, because we would recognize what William James said in The Varieties of Religious Experience—that we are separate on the surface but connected in the deep. Or what Buddhists know—that we are connected to the cosmos. It's also what I think Jesus meant when he said, “You have to love each other, as I love you, because you are all part of the same.” All of the great prophets have said this. But we've lost this interconnectedness in our fascination with technology, the economy, and power itself. Recognizing the subtle element connecting all of nature and its effect on our mind, our consciousness, could go a long way toward making us more human—and by the way, help us to survive the crisis that we are now facing.

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