Global Mind Change
The Consciousness Paradigm
KS Community Group
Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS)
The three most recent presidents of IONS have stated the organization's vision in successively broader terms. The late Willis Harman foresaw that IONS could facilitate the next great paradigm shift, which he termed Global Mind Change. His successor, Wink Franklin, expected a "Global Wisdom Society" to evolve from the mind change, and the current president, James O'Dea, has set the goal of bringing the vision of IONS to a wider constituency.
We agree with these renditions of IONS' goals, but we caution that they won't be achieved in our generation. That's because the second two parts of it cannot be achieved until the "paradigm" part of the paradigm shift is developed and well knownand that task has just begun. Further, we note that the only truly global mind changes in history are scientific revolutions.
In the past, paradigm shifts have occurred with great religious movements, but none of these has been global. For instance, for millennia, Eastern and Western religions have differed radically in their views of consciousness and the creation. It wasn't until the scientific method gained a foothold with the Copernican revolution in the 16th and 17th centuries that the cultures of East and West could come to a common understanding of the cosmos. However, the Copernican revolution wasn't quick. It began with Copernicus' heliocentric theory and ended 140 years later with Newton's theory of universal gravitation.
Today, the scientific method is accepted in East and West alike. This means that propositions concerning the natural universe are evaluated by observation, not by their conformance to cultural idealsm, philosophical principles, or authoritarian doctrines.
Of course, modern science still hasn't explained consciousness. In fact, neither consciousness nor life itself is even possible under the prevailing scientific paradigms. These anomalies are joined by telepathy, precognition, psychokinesis, remote healing, memories of past lives, and a host of other phenomena commonly referred to as "paranormal" (i.e., deviations from the normal, or expected). And that, in a nutshell, is why we expect another scientific revolution and paradigm shift.
As Harman did, we expect the paradigm shift to evolve from a scientific theory that provides us with a way to understand and work with these two fundamental principles:
- THE PRIMACY OF SPIRIT: Opposing the materialistic premise, this is the principle that spirit is fundamental to the material world; and
- THE INDIVISIBILITY OF WHOLES: Opposing the method of reductionism, this is the principle that wholes must be studied as wholes, not as collections of parts.
We submit that such a theory already exists, but before discussing it, we'll look at the main social, psychological, and economic challenges that IONS must overcome to achieve its vision.
The ramifications of the primacy of spirit and the indivisibility of wholes run broad and deep. By overthrowing materialism and reductionism, the dominant mythologies of science, they will change the way scientists and nonscientists alike see themselves in relation to one another, the earth, and the cosmos. Because this scientific revolution is, in fact, a socio-politico-economic revolution, we expect massive opposition to it by reactionaries from inside and outside of science. This expectation is based on abundant historical precedents.
In his groundbreaking book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the historian of science, Thomas Kuhn, coined the term paradigm shift to identify the outcome of scientific revolutions. Because this term is often misused, it's important to understand what Kuhn meant by itoriginally and after he revised it.In the first edition of his book, Kuhn used the term paradigm to encompass two very different kinds of things:
- theoretical achievements, such as Copernicus' heliocentric theory and Newton's theory of mechanics; and
- cultural transformations, including the new assumptions, values, beliefs, methods, and language entailed by the theories.
Thus a paradigm shift , in Kuhn's original usage, consists of a fundamental change in theory that is followed by major cultural changes. We'll use this meaning in our discussion, even though Kuhn backed away from it to a degree.
Kuhn had carefully defined paradigm shift, but not everyone grasped his meaning. He was criticized by academic nit-pickers for construing the term paradigm more broadly than its conventional meaning (pattern, exemplar, model). In the 1969 postscript to his book, he acknowledged that his inclusive usage led to misunderstandings that fueled these criticisms. He tried to minimize the misunderstandings by limiting the meaning of paradigm to theories and disciplinary matrix to mean the cultural features that grow from the theories. This is helpful reductionistically, because distinguishing theories from culture is important for understanding, not only the structure, but the psychodymamics of scientific revolutions. Yet, the term paradigm shift remains valid and useful precisely because it isn't reductionistic. That is, it doesn't reduce the Kuhn's holistic concept of theory-driven cultural changes to topics that academic specialists can address as if they were unrelated.
The Copernican revolution is often portrayed as a triumph of science over religion, but it wasn't. It was the origin of a new religionScientism.The word religion means a social institution whose members are bound (L. religare) by allegiance to a particular system of faith and practice. Though religion and science differ radically in their methods, the social institutions that sustain them are fundamentally the same in purpose, structure, and evolution:
- Both are motivated by the wish to understand ourselves and our relationships with the natural world.
- Both begin with unorthodox ideas from heretical prophets (theorists).
- Both evolve from a few articles of faith (posits) into fully developed mythologies (theories).
- Both are complete when the major cultures accept the new mythologies as orthodox and the once-heretical prophets as sacred figures.
- Both vigorously defend these mythologies by attacking any new heresies.
Theories and myths, whether religious or scientific, are pure products of imagination. They are not facts because they can't be observed or proven true. Yet, when they become foundations of cultures, they are accepted to be true as articles of faith. For instance, the theory, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," is accepted as a fact by the faithful of many religious sects. Similarly, the theory known as the "second law of thermodynamics" is accepted as a fact by believers in virtually all the sects of Scientism. Such articles of faith must remain sacrosanct for the social institutions to remain stable. That's why dogmatismclaiming certain knowledge, not a particular set of beliefs, is essential to all religions.
Scientism generally tolerates new experimental observations, but it systematically stifles new scientific theories. That's because observed facts can be ignored, but theories can be powerful movers of people and cultures. New theories can lead to revolutions, and revolutions require giving up, not only cherished cultural beliefs, but the foundations of careers.
For example, Freud's psychoanalytic theory and Darwin's evolution theory have strongly impacted people's views of themselves as individuals and as a species, even though relatively few persons understand the theoriesand even fewer understand what a theory is. Scientists and nonscientists alike consider psychic determinism and natural selection to be "facts" that replaced the "myths" of free will and creation derived from theological theory. On the other hand, theorists know that none of these concepts is a fact; psychic determinism, natural selection, free will, and creation are all myths.
Scientists who bristle at the notion that faith and mythology govern their thinking need to ask themselves why they accept the basic precepts of their work as sacrosanct. Is there any empirical justification for considering reductionism and materialism as inviolable? We assert they are not, because reductionistic materialism has brought us to a dead enda fragmented view of a holistic cosmos that doesn't even allow life and consciousness, much less explain them. This blindness was deliberately inflicted on science at the beginning of Scientism.
The Birth of Scientism
Scientism originated as a truce in a clash of two culturesemerging science and the established Church. Copernicus and Newton provided the ideas necessary to move cultures from a theological to a scientific world-view. By explaining the apparent motion of celestial bodies, the heliocentric theory and the theory of universal gravitation replaced the long-standing Ptolemaic theory advocated by the Church.
Scientists and nonscientists alike gained two major insights from this paradigm shift, one theoretical and the other cultural: The earth isn't at the center of the universe, and the Church isn't the ultimate authority on Nature. This accentuates the irony that it was the scientific communitynot a theological religionthat was to outlaw the scientific exploration of consciousness.
Of course, Newton's theory wasn't the first challenge to the authority of the Church. In 1517, more than a century before Newton, Martin Luther launched a major upheaval in Western thought by challenging the Roman Church's authority in both secular and theological matters. This and other insurgencies eventually culminated in the bloody Thirty Years War. Two decades later, King Henry VIII, opposing both Luther and the Pope, declared himself head of the Church of England.
Several scientists and natural philosophers joined the rebellions. In Italy, Giordano Bruno stridently advocated Copernicus' theory and many other heresies. In Austria, Johannes Kepler advanced the heliocentric theory by discovering that the orbits of planets are elliptical, not circular as Copernicus had posited. And in Rome, Galileo defied his would-be protector, Pope Urban VIII, by publishing his satirical Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.
Lack of support from powerful social institutions made these revolutionary theorists easy targets for the Church's retribution. In 1600, the Inquisition burned Bruno alive. By the time Kepler died in 1630, the Catholic Counter-Reformation had deprived him of his home, his health, and his livelihood. And in 1642, Galileo died while under house arrest.
The English civil wars began the same year Galileo died, bringing the focus of revolutionary fervor to England. Wishing to avoid the persecutions suffered by scientists in Europe, the Royal Society preemptively moved to protect its members. In 1667, twenty years before Newton published his Principia, it proposed a way its members would avoid conflicts with the Church of England.
On behalf of the Royal Society, Thomas Sprat wrote a letter to King Charles II in which he laid out clear boundaries for the scientists' territory. Asserting that "the objects of men's thoughts" consisted of "God, or Men, or Nature," he assured the king that scientists would not meddle at all in matters of God, and would limit their studies of humans to "their bodies" and "the products of their hands." This proffered covenant thereby declared that God and soul were spiritual matters and that spirit would remain off-limits to scientific study.
Dividing the turf between spirit and matter prepared the ground for the seed of the "clockwork universe," which was harvested after Newton published his laws of motion and universal gravity. Because clocks don't have souls, the clockwork model, which supposed that Newton's laws constantly determine the motion of every particle in the universeincluding those in human bodiesperfectly matched the Royal Society's disavowal of interest in spirit.
By its fiat, the Royal Society became the de facto church of Scientism, the religion of materialism. Scientism was so agreeable to scientists throughout the western world, it soon spread beyond the boundaries of the Royal Society. Today, the reductionist, materialist clockwork model still governs thinking in the prevailing scientific subcultures as the religious cornerstone of Scientism.
Through its social structures, Scientism vigilantly tries to suffocate any kind of scientific revolution. Like theological religions, it demarcates its jurisdiction by promulgating the fundamental beliefs (dogma) and rules of conduct (canon) for its followers. To assure its ongoing purity, it tightly controls the selection, training, indoctrination, enculturation, and confirmation of young scientists. In return for their allegiance to Scientism's authority, conformity to its rules, and faith in its parochial world-view, scientists are nurtured and protected by the institution.
With Scientism's declaration that the scientific study of spirit is taboo, the questions, "What is life?", "What is consciousness?", and "What is the nature of the self?" are off-limits to study in orthodox science. Neuralism, a Scientistic cult, sidesteps these questions by holding that mental activity is identical to brain activity and that the brain causes consciousness. The faith of Neuralists in these axioms not only propels studying the brain to understand the mind, but justifies dismissing all observed data that contradict them.
Scientism's spirit taboo presents serious challenges to anyone who wishes to understand life, consciousness, and the selfespecially one who earns his or her living in academic science. If a young scientist today wants to study consciousness, he or she is advised to abandon that wish and convert to Neuralism instead. Heretical scientists no longer lose their lives, but those who challenge the authority of Scientism still risk their livelihoods. They suffer from difficulty obtaining funding, shunning by the community, and denial of access to publishing in the professional literature. That's why true "academic freedom" is freedom from the academy. It's also why the consciousness paradigm shift will make its greatest progress without the help of the established academic institutions.
Scientism epitomizes the cultural features of scientific specialties (disciplinary matrices). Members of each scientific discipline share lore, beliefs, premises, traditions, rituals, prophets, icons, customs, jargon, taboos, and sacred symbols that distinguishes them from other disciplines. In other words, the world-view of a disciplinary matrix characterizes the ethnicity of each scientific subculture. Because it's important to remain aware of the cultural characteristics of ethnic science, we can identify these subcultures as "cults," "tribes," or "sects," depending on the context.
Just as all Christian sects avow certain overarching beliefs, all Scientistic sects profess a common faith in the premise of materialism and the method of reductionismbeliefs so catholic that we can characterize them as the "Scientist's Creed." Under the umbrella of this common faith, each scientific tribe exhibits its own sectarian ethnicity. These tribes misunderstand one another, and are often hostile. Thus physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and sociology continually compete for influence, prestige, funding, and position in the scientific hierarchy.
Because of these sectarian differences, a paradigm shift within one tribe is usually ignored or dismissed by other tribes. However, we don't expect that the consciousness paradigm shift will be limited to one or two disciplines. It will be transdisciplinary, because it will change the way all but the most ignorant scientists see themselves and the world.
This transformation is opposed by the majority of contemporary scientists, because they won't risk their careers by abandoning their mythologies. Consider, for instance, the self-referenced myth of objectivity, a keystone of academic narcissism. If scientists were to realize that their own world-views are subjective, molded largely by their cultures, and that elements of their own consciousness filter and distort everything they perceive and conceptualize, they would not likely make grandiose claims to certain knowledge, as many of them do today.
Ethnic scientists dogmatically deny the reality of anomalies, claiming that phenomena such as telepathy, precognition, and psychokinesis are not real because they violate the well-established "laws of science." To behave in this way, scientists must believe, not only that they know all the laws of science, but that there are no more laws to discover.
The great physicist, Lord Kelvin, exemplified this mind-set. In 1899, toward the end of his life, he famously claimed, "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." Kelvin also confidently asserted that "X-rays will prove to be a hoax" and "radio has no future."
Despite Kelvin's brilliant explorations of unknown territories in his early contributions to science, his attitude became rigidly reactionary as the horizon of his world-view constricted. Like John Calvin, who authored Shunning the Unlawful Rites of the Ungodly and Preserving the Purity of the Christian Religion, Kelvin advocated shunning scientists who discover anomalies to preserve the purity of science. Today, imputing revolutionary scientists as hoaxers is still the ethnic scientists' last, desperate defense against change.
To correspond to the term Luddism, which means opposition to technological revolutions, we use the term Kelvinism to identify the mind-set of scientistseven brilliant oneswho oppose scientific revolutions. Thus Kelvinism corresponds to the puritanical tunnel vision of what Kuhn termed "normal science:"Normal science, the activity in which most scientists inevitably spend almost all their time, is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like. Much of the success of the enterprise derives from the community's willingness to defend that assumption, if necessary at considerable cost. Normal science, for example, often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments.
The Kelvinists of normal science might applaud the historic paradigm shifts that have produced their own belief systems, but they dogmatically oppose new revolutions. Their opposition arises from cultural, emotional, and economic factors, not scientific observation or reasoning. They're emotionally comfortable in believing that they already know everything about Nature, and they don't want to experience the emotional discomfort of disillusion with their cherished beliefs. And they're economically comfortable in knowing that funding for their careers is assured by their orthodoxy.
The cult of Neuralism epitomizes Kelvinism. If Neuralists were to accept the reality of precognition, for instance, they would have to abandon their faith in the primacy of the brain because brain activity must follow, not cause, the awareness of events that haven't yet occurred. Similarly, observations of telepathy, psychokinesis, remote viewing, and first-person memories of past lives repudiate the notion that the brain equals consciousness. Because acceptance of the primacy of spirit in the scientific community would threaten their careers, Neuralists cling to their ignorance, shunning the scientific literature on precognition and other parapsychological topics.
In contrast, revolutionary scientists, especially theorists, realize that prevailing paradigms aren't adequate if they don't explain observed anomalies. Of course, Kelvinists shun these renegade theorists as subversives who, if unchecked, would corrupt the purity of science.
It's important to note that the overwhelming majority of scientists are experimentalists, not theorists. In fact, scientists are paid to do experiments, not to theorize. Though general theorists are endured in physics, they are not welcomed in orthodox biology and psychology. Instead, experimentalists pose as theorists by creating ad hoc theories that apply to their narrow research, but not to any other topics. This exclusion of theorists is regrettable because they and experimentalists each play critical roles in paradigm shifts.These roles are clear in Kuhn's model of paradigm shifts unfolding in four stages:
- The pre-paradigmatic stage: Experimentalists perform scientific work in fragments, without any direction provided by a social structure or scientific theory.
- The emergence of normal science: Experimentalists cluster around a particular idea that theorists produced in the pre-paradigmatic stage. "Normal" experimentalists believe that the theory explains everything important, and work proceeds from that assumption.
- The emergence of anomaly and crisis: Observed data that don't correspond to the "normal" theory become increasingly irritating. Maverick theorists try to develop ways of understanding the anomalies, as in the pre-paradigmatic stage, but the vast majority of experimentalists simply ignore the anomalies.
- The birth and assimilation of a new paradigm: A particular theory is adopted within a scientific discipline because it is very general and rich in possibilities to guide future research for experimentalists.Thus, experimentalists discover the anomalies that make paradigm shifts necessary, and theorists contribute the general theories that make them possible. Experimentalists then test these theories to determine their validity.
Today, the consciousness revolution is in Kuhn's third stage. Over the last century, convincing empirical evidence of many anomalous ("paranormal") phenomena has been developed by revolutionary experimentalists, and these anomalies are ignored or ridiculed by mainstream scientists.
A few organizations have been formed to develop data concerning anomalous phenomena, including the Society for Scientific Exploration (SSE) and the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine (ISSSEEM). Regrettably, however, these organizations exhibit many of the ethnic characteristics of normal science. They encourage experimentation and the development of ad hoc theories that seem to explain fragmented experimental findings, but neither SSE nor ISSSEEM fosters developing a general theory that would "normalize" all of the paranormal findings. This is an portentous failure, because the next paradigm shift requires a general theory, not fragmentary ad hoc theories or mere collections of observed facts.
In our view, because IONS is largely independent of the social institutions of Scientism, it is postured to nurture the development and dissemination of a general theory of consciousness. We submit that this should be a principal objective of IONS.
Moreover, paradigm shifts are not solely the product of the scientific community. Without the belief, commitment, energy, and financial support of the general community, no mythology, theological or scientific, could survive. IONS is postured to foster such community involvement in the revolution, toobut this will occur only after it nurtures a general theory.
Even with the support of IONS, we can't expect the consciousness paradigm shift to occur soon. It's far more complex and its implications are far more pervasive than the Copernican revolution, and that revolution required a century and a half. Unfettered scientific work within the established academic institutions would speed the revolution, but we can't expect this to occur because the dogmas and canons of Scientism stifle unorthodox thinking. Fortunately, the spirit of exploration creates freedom outside the academy, not only for individual scientists, but for thinkers in organizations such as IONS, where understanding spirit is welcomed and promoted.
In addition to cultural restraints, individual scientists possess strong psychological obstacles that slow the paradigm shift. Obviously, the leaders of the cults of Scientism oppose the revolution because they stand to lose their prestige, power, and wealth. Far more broadly, emotional reactions of individual scientists also contribute, notably their fear of the discomfort that always accompanies disillusion with their cherished ethnic beliefs. Though this psychological factor usually operates covertly, it is exhibited overtly as foolish intellectual rigidity and resistance to any change. Noting such stultification in the context of quantum mechanics, Max Planck wrote:An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning. (The Philosophy of Physics, 1936)
In short, we expect the consciousness paradigm shift to be delayed by both cultural and psychological factors.
On the other hand, there's reason to think the revolution might occur sooner than expected under the models of Kuhn and Planck. Young scientists-to-bePlanck's "growing generation"might enter their professional studies with preexisting cultural beliefs that propel them to think about a theory of consciousness.
Consider, for instance, the principles we expect to be embodied in the consciousness paradigm: the primacy of spirit and the indivisibility of wholes. With respect to the first, the idea of spirit animating the material world has long been a belief in many cultures. This was true for Nobel laureate, Sir John Eccles, who attributed his theory of mind-brain interactionism to his religious belief in the soul (How the Self Controls its Brain, 1994). It's noteworthy that, even though Eccles contributed our understanding of the basic electrophysiology of neurons, he eschewed Neuralism to the end of his long, continuously productive life. Unlike Lord Kelvin, he never withdrew the boundaries of his world-view.
With respect to the second principle, the indivisibility of wholes, the idea that organisms can be adequately studied only as wholes, not as parts, is intuitively obvious to nearly everyone outside of Scientism, especially when it's expressed as the Possum Principle: "Two half possums do not equal one whole possum."
The revolution can also be hastened by the internet, the impact of which has already surpassed the influence of Gutenberg's printing press. Print journals have historically defended the values, beliefs, and methods of ethnic science through their "peer-reviewed" enforcement of ethnic orthodoxy. Instead of depending on printed media for disseminating information, today's thinkers directly present heresies to readers worldwide and receive unfiltered feedback. Several of the internet communities formed this way, including those of IONS, address the topic of consciousness.
Obviously, any theory that can fuel the consciousness revolution must differ radically from contemporary scientific world-views. Some of us think that the key to a theory of consciousness is to explore a topic never before addressed by sciencethe origin, maintenance, and evolution of organization per se. This is the topic of "The Theory of Enformed Systems: A Paradigm of Organization and Holistic Systems," by Don Watson, Gary Schwartz, and Linda Russek. The theory of enformed systems (TES) provides the conceptual framework for the principles of the indivisibility of wholes and the primacy of spirit. By doing so, it explains a host of anomalous phenomena, beginning with life itself, and extending to all aspects of consciousness, including telepathy, psychokinesis, and precognition.
Don Watson and Berney Williams also wrote an "Introduction to the Theory of Enformed Systems," that exposes the fallacy of reductionism by introducing the "Possum Principle" cited above.
Under TES, wholes such as possums are the sum of their parts PLUS a four-dimensional "map" that specifies the relationships among these parts in space and time. TES is the theory of this "map," or SELFacronymed from Singular, Enformed, Living Fieldswhich corresponds to what we usually think of as a "self." The SELF is pre-physical ("spiritual") because it pre-exists and is fundamental to physical systems. Three fundamental behaviors of the SELF, self-conforming, state-conforming, and cohering in space-time, are all that are required to explain life itself (including afterlife), the evolution of species, and all the elements of consciousness, including memory, perception, self-awareness, curiosity, telepathy, psychokinesis, precognition, remote viewing, the homing behavior of pigeons and other animals, and a host of other anomalies.
We submit that the simplicity and explanatory power of TES make it a likely foundation for the global mind change envisioned by Willis Harman and the global wisdom society of Wink Franklin's vision. Of course, its simplicity and parsimony don't make TES easy to understand for those who try to learn it by comparing it with what they already know. Since it is a truly revolutionary theory, learning it requires an open mind that expects to discover something entirely new.
In sum, the consciousness paradigm will eventually emerge when the vast majority of scientists accepts a new mythology, which we think will be characterized by the primacy of spirit and the indivisibility of wholes. The beliefs inherent in the consciousness paradigm will enable us to better understand our spiritual selves and life itself. This reformation will resemble a religious revolution insofar as "global mind change" entails faith in unprovable, unobservable, and ineffable premises. Unlike theological religions, however, science consists of testing theories, not on accepting revealed "truths." Moreover, since products of the scientific method are never certain, science is never complete, and scientists can never legitimately claim absolute knowledge. Instead of giving us the "last word," then, the consciousness revolution will be one more step toward humanity's understanding of itself in relation to the cosmos.
DEW (v. 9/05/03)