Shift is a change from one way of thinking to another. It's a sort of metamorphosis,
a transformation, or even a revolution. One of the most apparent paradigm
changes was that of the pre and post industrial era. Apparently we are
about to experience great and profound change having to do with
sustainability and climate change. Paradigm change does not just happen, but
rather it is driven by agents of change, such as: when hunter-gatherers
the development of the wheel and of Architecture,
the use of currency, and the printing press, which enabled the Scientific
We have reached an extraordinary point
in the history of science, for some physicists believe they are now on
the verge of having a single
theory that will unite all of their science under one mathematical
umbrella. In particular this theory would unify the two great bastions
of twentieth century physics - the general
theory of relativity and quantum theory. Since general relativity describes
the large scale, or cosmological, structure of the universe, and quantum
theory describes the microscopic, or subatomic, structures, the unification
of these theories would explain both the very big and the very small. This
theory is often referred to as a "theory of everything," or TOE.
In particular this theory would unify
our understanding of all the fundamental physical forces in our universe....
That goal has partly been realized... but is proving to be extremely difficult.
Nonetheless, most TOE
physicists are confident this goal will be realized in the next few
decades. Now the entire physical universe would be encompassed by a set
of equations - or perhaps just one equation. But the question would still
remain, what would that equation mean?
Physicists are "used to looking at the
world in a very mechanist
way". We may not be the stars in any great cosmic drama, Steven
Weinberg says, but "faced with an unloving and impersonal universe"
we can nonetheless create for ourselves " a little island of warmth and
love and science and art." It is a deeply humane statement from a man often
associated with a cold, impersonal vision. What is most surprising, perhaps,
is that here an avowedly atheistic scientist expresses a view not dissimilar
to that of some religious believers.
"...for all science's great achievements it is not necessarily
the field which can show us the point of either our own lives or of the
universe as a whole. That task is outside science" - Father Coyne.
Scientific paradigms were ushered in by Copernicus,
Newton, Darwin, and Einstein,
each progressively diminished our identity and at the same time increased
it. We no longer perceive ourselves as being the center of the physical
universe, and in fact there apparently is no center.
The philosophical content of the media,
literature or conventional higher education no longer pictures us as the
chosen protagonists in a divine drama. For thousand of years, the central
theme of that drama had been the nobility of the struggle of that protagonist.
This most ancient perception seems to have been subverted by the complexity
of contemporary times.
"... we are the gods
that our ancestors told stories about. We fly from one part of the globe
to another in a matter of hours; we instantly communicate over thousands
of miles; we can commit mayhem in moments, move mountains in minutes, and
every night we sit in front of our magic picture box and find out what
all the other gods are up to.... We are magnified through space and time,
our senses enlarged, our whims accelerated.... We are at a time in human
history and planetary development when we are becoming aware of the stupendous
unconscious knowledge and skillful orchestration that is going on in ourselves
as well as in the outer cosmos all the time. We are at a crossing point
in human history..."
A paradigm gives way to another. Something
is taken away and something new comes into being, both are vital parts
of the human landscape, determining how we are identified--deeply affecting
how we perceive who we are, and our sense of entitlement.
"Everything around us (including
our own bodies, which appear so substantial) is ultimately nothing but
ephemeral networks of particle-waves whirling around at tremendous speeds,
colliding, rebounding, disintegrating in almost total emptiness. What we
call matter is mostly emptiness, proportionately as void as intergalactic
space, void of anything except occasional dust spots and scattered electric
charges. Any single one of the roughly 1027 atoms in the average
human body has almost all its mass concentrated in a nucleus so small that
if all the nuclei of all the atoms that make up the whole of humankind
were packed together, their aggregate would be the size of a grain of rice."
THE SEARCH FOR THE BELOVED by Jean
Science presumes to give absolute knowledge
of the nature of the physical universe. Pragmatists
wants us to believe they are dealing from a complete deck of cards. But
Einstein himself admitted that what he did best was being good at guessing.
He implied that what he chose to pay attention to was an aesthetic choice.
Even still, as much as 80% of the mass of the universe is apparently unaccounted
for, in spite of such elegant theories of the universe. Mankind has not
only became aware of the complexity of the physical world but also of the
limitations of the scientific method.
Apparently the most direct way to find
new physics of a grand
unification is to go to ever-higher energy and explore completely uncharted
territory. There seems to be an intrinsically interwoven relationship between
Modern Science and Mysticism, because both involve some of the deep and
fundamental questions of our very existence. Man has two components: his
essence and his social/cultural context. No matter the surroundings, the
nature of his thoughts are always the same, and his substance remains unchanged.
Capra, in The
Tao of Physics, sought an integration of the mathematical world view
of modern physics and the mystical visions of Buddha and Krishna. Even
himself dismisses the attempts to 'prove' mysticism via physics, it is
clear his mystical view of the world finds no contradiction in his view
of physics. Indeed, many of the physicists who developed quantum
mechanics and TOE had their own highly developed views on metaphysics.
For example, the Nobel Prize winning Physicist John
Wheeler coined the term "The Participatory
Universe." This is the point where Physics meets Metaphysics, with
the realization of startling parallels between the two.
The religions of the east saw the Universe
as a Whole. Modern Physics now talks of the "Systems
world view," and other theories which are hauntingly similar to the
expressions of the vision of reality experienced by the ancient Sages,
describing the truth an indivisible whole. Indeed, an understanding of
the human situation apparently comes not from a single spiritual or intellectual
paradigm, but from a unification of the fruits of all human endeavors.
"The world is now too dangerous for anything less than Utopia."
But the way we treat each other and
even ourselves is too little changed from the darker, anthropomorphic,
superstitious behavior of the Neolithic or Neanderthal. And we have in
our hands the keys to complete destruction of our species and our world
as we know it. What will we have now for metaphor. What totemic instrument
will we use when we come up against the ineffable, the limits of human
"...the earth has grown
through us a brain and nervous system, but now these systems need to grow
a larger psyche to contain them and to learn how to use them. Thus the
task of our time, evolutionary governance, is one of matching the increasing
complexity of external reality with a corresponding increase in the depth
and breadth of our psychic reality." -ibid. p.22.
travel represents a very recent paradigm shift. But the fact is that
"we" do not go to the moon, most of us, except in our imaginations, or
perhaps even to the exotic realms we see on TV. Indeed, much of the population
of the world is largely without even the basics of life to a very real
and painful extent. We soar in our dreams and sometimes come down hard
"True illumination, like all real
and vital experience, consists rather in breathing of a certain atmosphere,
the living at certain levels of consciousness, than in the acquirement
of specific information." -
Underhill, from Mysticism, 1974, New American Library] -ibid.p.23.
Jack Gariss had a pioneering radio program
"Bio-Cosmology," broadcast on KPFK FM for 17 years. He regularly reported
on the frontiers of macrophysics, microphysics and metaphysics. And
for the last few years of his life he sought to bring them together, in
a way that is paraphrased here:
This, a legendary time
of giants. It is up to us. I think that the research …has put to rest the
idea that aggression arose because of an aggressive gene that exists within
us, that we are the Naked
Apes who killed, as in some currently prevailing theories. Perhaps
the biggest test of our intelligence and compassion; the most crucial watershed
of human development since the inception of agriculture, even more important
than the founding of cities, is the present issue of war and peace. Yes
this is a tremendous burden and responsibility, but if we fail this may
well become another dead planet like Mars and Venus, rather unimportant
planets circling around a rather unimportant star, in an unimportant part
of the galaxy. If we can find a solution, through understanding, co-operation,
compassion, a new form of morality which takes into account the sacredness
of every life form, then this will be a period remembered very far into
The Late Joseph
Campbell spent a long, scholarly lifetime acquiring one of the greatest
overviews of the cultures of humanity in all of literature. He said that
the next paradigm would be one arising out of the experience not of one
culture, but of all. He referred to the photo of the earth, taken on the
first manned expedition to the moon, as a suitable icon of this new paradigm
that would engage the consciousness of our entire species.
course, this evokes futuristic
notions of interactions with extra-terrestrial species. But
the next paradigm may be concerned with issues that are quite
terrestrial. The unknown is very likely far greater than our present
knowledge. It is interesting to imagine future decades and
is an analytical, reasoned-out prediction of the future. Perhaps
we will learn to live harmoniously with nature and as we come to
understand more about the ultimate nature of reality, we may find that we are the eyes of the universe looking at itself.