Monday, August 30, 2010

New Paradigm Series, Part 1

This is going to be harder than I thought. I tried offline today to get my first post on this topic written, but I ended up bogging down. So instead perhaps what I need to do is write around this issue for awhile and see what eeks out. I won't stop trying to write about it directly, but until that works for me I've got ways I can still explore this indirectly.

One night this summer I had a dream in which I was being shown that the bow and arrow were invented when someone recognized that if bird and snake were conjoined they could be sent together into the future to retrieve bounty for the tribe. It was obvious to me in the dream that the head and shaft of the arrow represented the snake and the feathered fletching represented the bird. The feathers brought flight to the snake and the snake provided the biting ability lacking in the bird. Together they became a powerful object capable of providing sustenance to the tribes.

What a neat way to invent something! So different from how we invent things in the Mental phase--where the natural world has no meaning and invention is a purely rational exercise. In the Mythic phase everything in the natural world had meaning and significance, and we could take on the attributes of those natural objects and beings ourselves, or place them in the objects we created. Our inventions weren't just lifeless mechanistic objects, they were living embodiments of various aspects of the natural world.

With all the converging catastrophes we're facing today, one thing that's clear to me is how grossly inadequate our current way of problem-solving is. We can't solve our problems from within the current Mental paradigm--we will only be using the same inadequate and now dysfunctional set of skills that got us into this mess in the first place. But if we can move along to the next paradigm, we will have a much broader repertoire of problem-solving skills at our disposal. We will have access again to magical and mythical solutions, as well as mental solutions--but actually I believe it will be a mingling of all three approaches and something greater than the sum of the parts. Solutions will arise out of the earth and flow through us. What wants to manifest will manifest. We'll be led to meaningful actions through instinct, synchronicities, mythical symbolism, and the mental 2+2ing we're so good at currently--all rolled into one fluid, fused experience.

Nearly impossible to describe! That's why I'm bogging down in writing my personal account. All of these ways of being are beginning to co-exist and co-express themselves in me. Instinct, magic, myth, and reason all informing one another within me and sending me down a most fascinating path. It sounds crazy, I know!

Here's a Mental exercise for you. Yes, I realize a Mental exercise is kind of at cross-purposes with what I'm trying to get at, but...

Let's take the end of the carbon era--this crisis of what to do to fuel our human endeavors down the road. Imagine you are an Archaic human plunked down here--what would be your solution to the problem, how would you advise the powers that be (ignoring for our purposes the fact that you haven't acquired speech yet)? Now imagine you are a Magical human--how would you solve our energy problems? And what if you were a Mythical human? Now how about if you were Archaic, Magical, Mythical, and Mental all rolled into one?


  1. Darwin avoided the use of the word 'evolution' because it had come to imply some kind of 'upward progress', which he rejected.

    It still has that connotation today (its etymological denotation is simply 'unrolling') and I believe that this idea of 'progress' of humanity over time is delusional, and, especially in the ideologies of people like Gebser and Wilber, dangerous. It plays into our longing for salvation, redemption, an easy way out, and into the entrenched Christian idea that hard work and perseverance can achieve almost anything.

    But an objective study of history reveals that humans, like all species, evolve to adapt to changing conditions, but do not progress. That is what A Short History of Progress (Wright) and Straw Dogs (Gray) taught me, or, rather, reminded me -- since it was this distinction that made the late Stephen Jay Gould so unpopular in the eyes of religious and spiritual groups, including fellow scientists who were/are technophiles and believers in the religion of progress.

    We have not, are not, and cannot, in my view, progress. It is not in our or in any other creature's nature. We have, are and will continue to evolve, but that evolution is around, not up. If we work and study hard, there may well be a new paradigm in our future, but it will not be 'integration'. It will, I think, be acceptance.

  2. Well, language gets in the way here. I don't think moving towards integration can be called "progress", nor is it a linear process. Like you, I see evolution as merely adaptation to a changing environment--and a lateral process. But after we undergo countless discrete changes in response to our changing environment we become so qualitatively different that you could say we've entered a new phase or become a new human. That doesn't mean we've moved up a notch on the progress ladder. Just that we and our environment both have changed substantially. The forests receded and the savannah expanded; we came down from the trees and freed our hands and became toolmakers. Our brains grew, the wiring changed. It's not progress, just something different.

    But with that said, I do tend to agree with Gebser and Wilber that the next phase will be integration. I've read Wilber extensively and agree that he does characterize it as progress. Gebser I've not read as closely, so I'm not sure but I didn't really get that impression. I see integration as a lateral phenomenon. We're not adding anything. We're simply engaging more of what is already there. In this current phase we rely more on the frontal lobes and neocortex when interacting with the world--an integral phase will simply have us *consciously* learning to also tap into those earlier brain structures which underly the cortex. We will be more fully expressing what's already there--and I believe it will be a synergistic phenomenon. Archaic, magical, mythical and mental haven't *consciously* met yet in us. We can't perceive what might be possible when that happens. I'm unwilling to say *this is all there is*, especially when I'm beginning to live something different.

    BTW, I had a pleasant surprise at the post office today. Thank you! I've been so excited that it's here that I can't settle down to actually read it (and somehow in my exuberance I managed to spill coffee on it). :)