Archive for February, 2012

Now that I’ve started trying to look at the system of visions as an interactive whole, rather than dealing with each vision in isolation, I keep finding new ways in which the development of the latest visions is driven by interactions among the older ones.

Most recently, I’ve been struck by the degree to which the association between chaos and holism emerged in precise resonance with the rise and fall of the reason-and-scientific-materialism partnership. The new association came into being at the same time as the partnership in the 1860’s, was closely associated with it during its peak in the 1870’s, and became increasingly independent after the partnership faltered in the 1880’s.

The key to this resonance, I believe, is that both the partnership and the new association combined an inner experience-based vision with a scientifically-based vision. As a result, they were addressing the same philosophical problems and responding to the same emotional needs — and were thus bound to be either collaborators or rivals.

Up to now, I’ve been emphasizing the intellectual basis of these associations between visions and how they grow out of our desire to construct a coherent picture of existence. But on the emotional level, something even more powerful and dynamic is going on — which might be described as the need for a sense of belonging.

When we have that sense on a personal level, it appears to us that everything in the world is in harmony and that we are in harmony with it. But if ever we lose it, we are beset by feelings of alienation, meaninglessness, or just plain wrongness.

Much the same is true in terms of the visions. As long as our various areas of experience can be reconciled within a context of higher knowledge, the culture as a whole remains in balance. But once they fall out of attunement, the entire society is overwhelmed by a pervasive sense of alienation.

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So — it’s time to tackle holism.

I’m finding, however, that I can’t simply jump into the middle of the story. I need to start with holism’s predecessor, scientific materialism, in order to trace out where holism came from and the special problems it was designed to solve.

In the previous entry, I discussed the associations that each socially-based vision forms with the scientifically-based vision that comes before it and the inner experience-based vision that comes after. These relationships appear simple and obvious to us, because they derive from the built-in affinities that human societies share with the natural world and with the human mind.

Reconciling scientific and inner experience visions is far more difficult, however, because the physical universe and the realm of dreams, hallucinations, and mystical intimations are as far apart on the spectrum of human experience as it is possible to get. Not only do we run into philosophical contradictions if we try to take both of them at face value, but even the seemingly elementary question of how mind and matter interact remains a profound mystery.

And yet, despite these impediments, our abiding conviction that all our experiences must derive from a common source compels us to keep devising formulas that will allow us to regard these two aspects of existence as facets of a single reality.

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