FROM CAPITALISM TO HUMANISM
by A. Gaudwin
After the work of Copernicus and others had demonstrated that the earth was not the center of the universe but only a part of a much larger system, the world began to change its vision of reality. The process took hundreds of years. Today, because humanity has become a dominant influence on earth, we are faced with another such change: from nature being a convenience for people, to people being a part of nature. The scope is similar. The practical significance is of far greater consequence than the Copernican revolution but we have only a generation to complete the change.
Mike Nickerson, Change the World I Want to Stay On
Our attempts to understand nature have always been directed towards four main areas of knowledge: energy, matter, life, and consciousness. Evolution itself has followed the same avenues. Our own evolution is repeatedly going through a similar process: first we recognize, at different degrees of definition, that there is energy present in matter, then this matter is organized into objects for our benefit, and finally this process has the effect of expanding our consciousness. Presently, we are going through one of these phases that will eventually raise our consciousness to a level never attained before. Our present understanding of life processes, and the uses, excessive in many instances, that we make of matter are setting the stage for such a necessary step toward a higher level of consciousness.
Since evolution is a dynamic process, it is absolutely necessary to know where we come from to understand where we are at the present and where we are going in the future. It is a matter of momentum. Today, in all areas of science, a great deal of energy is being expended in the service of discovering where we stand in nature’s quartet: energy, matter, life, and consciousness. Unfortunately, since these efforts are made by specialists practicing their “art” in solo, they are mainly being employed to maximize the efficiency of our species’ partitions, instead of being applied in concert with Nature in a symphony of life.
Ultimately, play in tunes with nature we will, or suffer dire consequences. The odds are not on our side. Ninety nine percent of all species that have ever lived are now extinct. It is serious. Our next move will be decisive. We have reached the point of no return. All our energies will have to be used in conjoint efforts towards the common goal of survival. Many other species have been confronted with the same predicament, but none, as far as we know, has ever known beforehand that they could do something about it. We do.
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In this essay, I will attempt to clarify the fundamental fallacies that our collective unconscious have committed throughout our historical evolution, and which have come to blur the perception that we have of our stance in the symphony of life.
“To set the tone,” let us look, at how Francis Crick (Discoverer of DNA) is looking at the soul and consciousness from the point of view of science in “The Astonishing Hypothesis” (1994). Although we must agree with Crick’s learned description of neurophysiology’s state of research on these subjects, we should not agree with his philosophical standpoint nor his conclusions.
Our disagreement should not be with his beliefs in the urgent need to step up research on consciousness, but with his beliefs in the way this research should be conducted. From the start, indeed, he wholeheartedly dismisses philosophy and strongly calls for an escalation of scientific experiments, because, according to him, the record of science in the search for truth is a lot more convincing than that of philosophy.
I must say that the record of one is not better than that of the other. All the assertions about truth are matters of timing and points of view. Indeed, as is the case with our past beliefs, many of today’s “scientific” beliefs will eventually be looked at with contempt by future generations of people, who will be in the process of uncovering today’s hidden philosophical jewels and posthumously paying respect to the philosophers among us who are presently treasuring these jewels.
This is the price that true philosophers have to pay to perceive Reality’s leading edge.
That today’s scientists can be so sure of their philosophical stance and convinced of their own endurance, follows from the fact that the last relevant philosophical breakthroughs supporting their beliefs were opportunistically made at the beginning of this century — a long time ago in scientific terms— by giants like Einstein, Mach, Plank, De Broglie, Heisenberg, Bohr, etc.
Of course, it is also true that other important breakthroughs outside of science have also been made by professional philosophers during the same period, but these breakthroughs were always made in accordance with the scientific points of view that were in style at the time.
That these scientific standpoints could not, and still cannot be drastically criticized, as they should have been and still should be, is due to the fact that those outside of the specialized sciences lack the knowledge to differentiate between the “profundity” and the “obscurity” of these standpoints.
Consequently, all the latest breakthroughs in science have been made from academic disciplinary point of views that have the effect of restricting scientists, and all of us with them, to setting a course on the particular path of realism, which we are now condemned to follow for economic reasons, given the many existing social activities that are following the presently well established trends that modern scientists have convincingly set for us.
We are, indeed, condemned by science to keep to the beaten track of a limited representation of nature. But there still remain a possibility for us to realign our minds on other aspects of reality. I believe, along with Mike Nickerson, who wants to “change the world,” that our efforts in cognition have to be drastically redirected, in much the same manner as they were when Copernicus reorganized the heavens at the dawn of the scientific era.
This overdue revolution and the discovery of the new meanings that our present established knowledge will have in our every day lives, will be as important and distressful for science as were Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus and Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius for religion at the time.
Some are calling for a new Einstein in social science who will create a theory to solve our present existential problems. I am calling for a change of point of view in the mental realm that will be accepted by everybody, — whether they be lay persons, natural or social scientists, or philosophers — and which will have the potential to transform our concept of reality, before it is too late.
The alarm has already gone off. We must awaken to this new “reality” that is emerging in our mist, and unite our minds in a spirit of cooperation across all realms of social activities: politics, business, judiciary, academia, religion, art, and domestic affairs. It should not matter that from within each of these realms the present situation of the world seems overly complex. The solutions to our present predicament, if there are solutions to be found, will not come from within any single realm of activity, but from a point of view encompassing all of them. The infrastructures needed to achieve together this integration are already being set up in a World Wide Web of information.
This essay is an attempt to lay down stepping-stones amidst the stream of uncertainties that is the consequence of the aimless pathway of information on which humanity has been dragged by normal-science since the beginning of the twentieth century, and which is presently beeing flooded by a super “Grid” of information.
I intend to show that it is this stream of uncertainties that we have to bridge, in order to enjoy the openness of the other bank where we will all be more at ease in our respective fields, to work at finding viable solutions to the problems created by our chaotic entry in the Third Millennium
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“Our time is a time for crossing barriers, for erasing old categories—for probing around. When two seemingly disparate elements are imaginatively poised, put in opposition in new and unique ways, startling discoveries often result.” (Emphasis mine)
Marshall McLuhan, The Medium Is the Message
The reason we are driving ourselves into an evolutionary morass is that we have indeed let the ultimate medium, ourselves, become the message. We have thus created an “environment of knowledge,” in which we have evolved as contented prisoners of a four-dimensional reality that we perceive from our limited point of view.
“. . . who will have the responsibility for lifting us out of the social and ecological morass into which we are inexorably driving ourselves[?]”
It has become our common responsibility to liberate ourselves from this intellectual and emotional confinement. Once we set ourselves free, we will have the opportunity to explore new dimensions of reality, while still using at the outset the mental tools that were perfected with the meager resources that we had at our disposal, during the relatively short period of our sapiens incarceration in philosophical caves. But, before we make any significant move as a species, a new sense of direction will have to be given to humanity as a whole.
Who will accomplish this task? Scientists? I doubt it. They are too respectful of the established rules. Philosophers? Please! They are still prisoners of Plato’s cave. Politicians? Good grief! These days, the term elected leaders has become oxymoron. Financiers? My Lord! I implore you, don’t let it ever happen. Businessmen? Well, maybe, if they are shown in time how to use their entrepreneurship, not solely for their own benefit, but for our survival.
To attempt such a move, though, is not the business of any of these people. If we are entering “the outer edges of reality,” we need concepts that are at the outer edges of science, philosophy, politics and religion. We need ideas that haven’t been tried yet. So, by definition, none of the members of the previously mentioned establishments can go there, before these concepts have been established.
It is not that these institutions have to be relinquished. Not at all. In these outer edges of reality—once we learn how to transform Western economy into a peace economy—all of our present social institutions, especially science and military, the most capable of all, will become objective entities that we will use for the betterment of humanity as a whole, as our ancestors learned to use sticks and stones for their own survival, when they first grew out of their instinctive state of mind and evolved into the self-centered gender Homo that we have become.
The time has come for us to go forward in evolution and consciously become Homo novus.
For this, we will need a new paradigm— again, made of trials and errors. This time though, it will be somewhat easier, since we will have a collective memory of the mistakes that we made as Homo sapiens. But, even then, this new paradigm will still be “incommensurable” (it will have nothing to do) with the one we are presently using to make sense of our sapiens perspectives.
We have become used to thinking we know what we are talking about. The truth is, we simply don’t know. At the “End of History,” we are newborns: we have all the potential, but we still have to raise ourselves in a new environment, as mature Homo novus.
However, we should not worry. From now on, everything will be okay. I believe that the worst of this rebirth process is behind us. As a pregnant species, indeed, we have suffered all the pain that we can endure, and spilt all the blood that we can afford.
We need to set ourselves free from our own womb and take our first breath in this dimension that is opening up in front of us. Our first moment of rebirth will not exhibit itself as a burst of tears, as it does when we transit alone out of the whomb, as individuals, but conversely, as a burst of laughter, once we have finally entered collectively the “supramental”* stage of our development as a new species.
*The onus is on us to understand the supramental reality that is opening itself up at the outer edges of our individual mental confinement, and which will become our next theater of operations. (The term “supramental” was coined by Sri Aurobindo; and Satprem used it in La genèse du surhomme / Essais d’évolution experimental. Buchet/Chastel, 1974. )
If the biosphere is a living organism, as I believe it is, then it is obvious that human individuals are behaving like cancerous cells. This is the problem: The biosphere is suffering from a brain tumor, a cancer only interested in its own growth.
If this is the case, then the only rational thing to do at the moment is to find ways for humanity to go into remission. The present essay is an attempt to show the world that such a remission is possible; and that, if it happens, it will be exquisite in ways that cannot be foreseen.
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“… populations and organisms are quite different kinds of systems with different kinds of structure. To speak of them as ‘sharing a common attribute’ [cancer, in our case] is to obscure what should be kept clear.”
~ T. A. Goudge
Goudge is basing this assertion on the differentiation that he previously made between the concepts of organism and population, in the section ‘Populations as the units of evolution’ in his book, The Ascent of Life:
“[Many] considerations are relevant to the contention that both individual organisms and populations have a ‘structure’. If this term is understood in a general sense to refer to the fact that in both cases we can distinguish a set of parts having a certain spatial arrangement and certain modes of functional correlation with each other, then the contention is no doubt defensible. But such a general approach fails to take account of the important respects in which the two cases differ. Thus, for example, the parts (cells, tissues, organs, etc.) which enter into the structure of a multicellular plant or animal are so intimately co-ordinated that as a rule they are in direct organic continuity with one another. But the structure of a population is not usually characterized by the organic continuity of its parts (the individuals that compose it). Furthermore, the functioning of the parts of a plant or animal structure is directed toward maintaining a state of relative equilibrium within the organism as a whole or between the organism and its environment [homeostasis, my annotation]. The behaviour of individuals in a population, however, is not ordinarily directed towards preserving its equilibrium.”
~ T. A. Goudge
But, during the next decade, at the same university, the University of Toronto, Marshall McLuhan was visualizing the effects of the oncoming World Wide Web on the world population in these terms:
“Electric circuitry involves men with one another. Information pours upon us, instantaneously and continuously. As soon as information is acquired, it is very rapidly replaced by still newer information. Our electrically-configured world has forced us to move from habit of data classification to the mode of pattern recognition. We can no longer build serially, block-by-block, step-by-step, because instant communication insures that all factors of the environment and of experience coexist in a state of active interplay.” [Also a good description of homeostasis, my annotation.]
We can see that these two thinkers of the University of Toronto, Goudge and McLuhan, did not agree. The first was telling us that there is no direct “organic continuity” in populations of individuals, and the second that human populations “coexist in a state of active interplay.”
Both support my hypothesis, though, that Homo sapiens is evolving into a new species, Homo novus. Goudge was talking about human populations prior to the advent of the Internet, McLuhan, about the effects that these nascent channels of communications would have on the behavior of human populations. They both were talking about the possibility of the human population being a superorganism. The first did not believe that we were, simply because, at the time he wrote, we were not yet one. And the second, without mentioning that we are effectively one, was describing the emerging Web of communications between humans (WWW), using the same terms that he would have used to describe a living organism, in which “all factors of [their] environment and of [their] experience coexist in a state of active interplay.” (M. McLuhan)
If we belong to a living organism, we must prepare our youth to act as individuals belonging to ONE, by directing their behaviour “toward maintaining a state of relative equilibrium within [society] as a whole [and] between [society] and its environment” (T. A. Goudge). We must stop preparing our youth to be part of a viral economy, obsessed by its own growth, at the expense of everything it can invade, just as our financial and political leaders are presently doing with their selfish and environmentally pointless investment schemes and their lingering and transparent war peddling. (NTE, This was written circa 2000)
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“The aim of science is to understand and explain the evolution of natural phenomena by studying the relations which exist between them.”
~ Pierre Lecomte du Noüy
At this point I do not expect anybody to understand, from my perspective, the relationship that exists between the stock market and military activities. Many people “know” about these relationships, but they don’t “understand” them, they ‘know’ them from inside the system, from the point of view of progress, NOT EVOLUTION, from where they must be understood.
It is not easy to explain. No terms are readily available to explain what I mean. All the terms that I can use have obsolescent progressive connotations. I am not interested in progress —especially when I realize where it is leading us. Evolution is the antithesis of progress. I have to forge every sentence in the teeth (William James) of progressive conformists, our leaders, from the left as much as from the right who are making a living leading humanity towards the edge of the deadly cliff.
Since evolution is a dynamic process, “it is absolutely necessary to know where we come from [as animals], if we want to understand where we are at present, and where we are heading in the future.”
While the other animals are aware of and adapt to the immediate environment in which they live, they are not aware of the global environment in which they evolve. Everything they perceive (preys, offsprings, burrows, etc.) exists as an extension of themselves (they don’t “objectify” them—my hypothesis), and the global environment in which they evolve is “invisible” to them : e.g., fish are not aware of the sea in which they swim nor lions of the savannah in which they hunt.
The same is true for us: the “four dimensional reality” of physicists in which we exist is also an extension of ourselves. During our own evolution as Homo, we have always been aware of the rational environment of knowledge in which we were progressing, but we never had any clues about the global environment in which we were —and still are— evolving. We progress within existing rational paradigms, but evolve into new ones, allowing us to eventually expose other levels of reality.
To show this, let us look at some paradigm shifts that happened during our evolution.
It all started when we understood that we could use sticks and stones to manage our ways through life as a group. The great apes were also using tools—probably the same they are using now; the difference between them and us resided in the fact that we have abstracted the meaning that these “tools” had for us as individuals living in society, while apes never did. Tools, thus, became objective entities that we could use mentally to collectively plan ahead.
It is at this point that we started our journey into the mental dimension of reality, into the “abstract domain” (Genesis [sic] and Monod). From then on, we gained the capacity to “objectify” the whole reality and gradually use it for our own purposes. At first, it was in caves around fires, then around chiefs and elders. By then, we knew a lot about nature, but we were not yet aware of it as a whole objective entity. We were still like fish in the water, not yet able to objectify such an encompassing entity. There was still a lot of mysticism surrounding the global environment in which we were living. It was only much later, from 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, around the time of the agricultural revolution that we probably became aware of the earth per se. Paradoxically, it was only after we needed to observe the heavens to make out the times of planting and harvesting that we must have gained the mental capacity to objectify the earth. Even then, it was not the earth as we know it now. It was perceived to be flat and supported by turtles swimming in the sea surrounding us. Yet we were probably not consciously differentiating between the heavens and the earth. It was only later that we came to understand that there was a heaven above, and that it was of “another nature” than the earth on which we live. By then, the earth became round, for some of us at least, but still fixed at the center of the universe. It was only 500 years agothat we finally understood that the earth was spinning on its axis once a day and revolving around the sun once a year. And it is only later, did we finally begin to understand that our galaxy itself was just an speck in the immensity of the universe.
It probably did not happen this way. Our mental development must have been intermittent, with much starting and stopping. The fact is, though, that our understanding of nature was not given to us from the start, but by every step forward that we made in knowledge via paradigm shifts that transformed us as a species and gave us new opportunities as individuals. It is such a momentous step forward that I believe we as a species are presently making.
To understand what is happening at the moment, let us look at one of these step in our understanding of nature that we made as a species: the Copernican revolution, when we “shifted” from the “geocentric” paradigm (the earth fixed at the center of the universe) to the “heliocentric” paradigm (the earth revolving around the sun). Before Copernicus, we were all raised with the belief that the earth was fixed at the centre of the universe. This belief was not formulated as such, but it was simply obvious that the earth itself does not move and that the sun travels daily from east to west.
To explain these phenomena, and the others that we were observing in the heavens from this point of view, we had to invent many concepts:
* The world was divided into two different realms of reality: the heavens above, ruled by a perfect order, and the earth below, the sphere of imperfection;
* The notion of perfect circular motion was used to explain the diurnal motion of the sun and the annual motion of the fixed stars;
* To explain the fact that the stars and the planets were not falling on earth, which was the natural thing to do for all objects heavier than air and fire, we invented the notion of crystalline spheres, to which the “fixed’ stars, the “wandering” planets, the sun and the moon were attached;
* Epicycles (small circles centred on the circumference of larger circles) were used to explain the apparent retrograde motion of the “wanderers” (the planets);
* Other ad hoc concepts, which we do not need to understand anymore, such as deferent, equant and prime mover, were also used.
By the time the Copernican system was perfected at the end of the 17th century, all these concepts had become obsolete; we did not need to know them anymore to explain the phenomena that we were observing in heaven. It did not come easy. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in Rome, in 1600, for having anticipated the modern conception of the universe, i.e., the sun is a star, seen closely, and Venus, Mars, and Jupiter are planets like the earth, seen from afar, and to have “exposed the philosophical implications of the Copernican theory.” (Funk & Wagnalls) The church and the secular establishments did not accept that, since they were grounding their power on the belief that they were at the centre of it-all. But, after they all died, the truth, as usual, triumphed.
We have reached the same point today. We need to let go of some concepts that have guided our social behaviour up until now. The thinking-shift that needs to be accomplished at this point, though, does not have anything to do with the revolution of the heavenly bodies nor with our knowledge of nature or with our understanding of the elementary particles of matter, but with the knowledge of our own evolving nature.
We look at our nature as if it is “fixed” in time: ” It is human nature”; “Human nature does not change”; “We cannot change our nature.” No? If we define species in relation to the environment in which they live, are we the same now as we were when we thought that the earth was flat? or at the centre of the universe?
What would happen if one day soon we discovered that there is a reality beyond space and time — a “fifth dimension” (the one that physicists our perceiving in their equations)— that we will be able to collectively apprehend and use to our benefit? As we did when we first entered the spatio-temporal reality in which we live presently, and understood that we could use “sticks and stones,” at first to “break bones,” and to soon after to go around the world in 90 minutes. (C.f., 2001, A Space Odyssey, where it all started for me. Remember the foetus at the end? This image has hunted all my adult live.) Would it not be the beginning of a new era, as it was when we first transcended our biological nature and unconsciously started our rational progression into human nature?
This new era has already been recognized by some of us. Satprem, following Sri Aurobindo, has already mentioned in La Genese du surhomme that humanity is evolving into a “super species,” and that our descendants will be as different from us as we are from the great apes from which we descended. We are presently entering the supramental realm of reality in which, I am sure, we will regain consciousness of the aspects of the environment that were lost in the process of our becoming conscious individual human beings, but which are still perceived by the other animals. (cf. Rupert Sheldrake’s work).
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It is at this point that I have once encountered the empty eyes of my supervisor, who told me that: “This is Mystical!” In the sense that “this is not scientific,” to get rid of me. And he did!
This remark sent me back 10,000 years, to when we still believed that the earth was supported by turtles. It is not mysticism any more than it is normal science! Mysticism is the antithesis of normal science: mystics firmly believe in what they do not see but can spiritually experience, while scientists systematically doubt everything they see, even if they can experience it rationally. Both camps are in possession of a complementary aspect of the truth.
As with quantum mechanics’ complementary, each of these aspects of knowledge (Science and religion) entails the other. Neither mystics nor scientists, on their own, can come close to what truly is. The next level of truth will be found in a synthesis of these two types of cognition, spiritual and rational. We will come back to this aspect later. For now, before looking at some evidence that supports my hypothesis that we are on the verge of becoming a species aware of being collectively “implicated” in a “supramental” reality, let us look at how this synthetic point of view of mine allows me to look at Quantum Reality from the original perspective that space as no substance and the process of reality (“time”) is A QUANTUM PROCESS.