The Cosmic Plenum: Play of Paradigms
The world's a stage and we the players playing the play. That's long an old idea. It's also a kind of paradigm, a worldview in a sense. Paradigms seem to shift and change in order to help us solve the puzzles of life. We have our personal paradigms, our religious paradigms, our socio-economic paradigms. But, historically, these paradigms are oft derived from the scientific cosmology in currency.
Hence we had the medieval thought of the Western Church built upon Aristotle's re-discovered cosmology via the monumental works of Thomas Aquinas. Today we have our economic controls and checks and balance, which were derived from the Industrial Revolution that in turn based much of its development upon the worldview of 18th century Newtonian physics.
Even our spirituality, our concepts of god in recent times have been colored not only by Newton's "Clockwork Universe"-- a world of inanimate bits and pieces determined by the laws of inertia--but by Darwin's evolutionary theories based on impersonal natural selection. Our subjective reality was under fire! Until recently our ideas of life and mind have been held hostage by a totally materialistic worldview.
But, now, we are living in exciting times! We have found ourselves in the midst of changing paradigms. Of course some of us don't know it yet. We are only beginning to realize how paradigms "play" upon us!
One of the great landmarks about understanding how we come about to and hold worldviews was Thomas Kuhn's book about scientific paradigmatic shifts--THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS published back in 1976. Kuhn, along with his predecessor Karl Popper, realized that our cosmology--our worldview--was beginning to shift with the advent of the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Physics.
As some commentators put it, "Every now and then a paradigm shift occurs in which these [old] spectacles get smashed and scientists put on new ones that turn everything upside down, sideways, and a different color." [John P. Briggs and F. David Peat, LOOKING GLASS UNIVERSE: THE EMERGING SCIENCE OF WHOLENESS, Simon Schuster, 1984, p. 24.]
Alternative thinking began emerging in the forepart of this century. The great mathematician and philosopher of science, Alfred North Whitehead, introduced the idea that *reality is a process.* "According to Whitehead the universe is made up of moments that become and then perish." It's a world where series of moments are linked together--but "beneath the apparent stability of these entities there are events, happenings, occasions. In short there is process." [John F. Haught, THE COSMIC ADVENTURE: SCIENCE, RELIGION THE QUEST FOR PUROPOSE, Paulist Press, 1984, p. 33.] [See also Whitehead's books: SCIENCE AND THE MODERN WORLD and PROCESS AND REALITY/]
As for Quantum Physics, our old materialistic ideas about solidity, are sensual concreteness as real, have been challenged by a physical world revealed in terms of "wave patterns, vibrations, energy events, electronic happenings." Beyond even this, Heisenberg's Uncertainity Principle " showed that the actual properties of objects could no longer be separated from the act of measurement and thus from the measurer himself." [Haught, p. 33] and [Briggs Peat, p. 51.]
Therefore, throughout the 20th century, we have slowly begun to move into a major new paradigm--a worldview-- of living in a holistic, observer-participant universe.
During the latter part of this century we have begun to see this new paradigm sift down from the scientific realms into other levels of life. An obvious example is the advent of holistic medicine, which in turn is eroding our old dichotomy about body and mind.
This new paradigm is still playing with us, however. A paradigm based on the discoveries of physics, based on deep ecology, it is playing into our philosophies, religions, and spiritualities. We are beginning to realize that our's is a universe of relationships, of systems within systems infinitum. There's no separation!
It will be fascinating to see where this paradigmatic play will take us.
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