in the Air!
رقص در آسمان
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In my opinion, we are at the threshold of new civilizations that will be essentially different from the existing industrial societies. The fundamental difference being: A shift in the central human activity, from work and production-related activities, to more creative and spiritual activities.
Here I would like to briefly touch on more tangible aspects of this epochal change currently lumped under "Futurism", "New Thought", etc with a host of connotations. The issues range from human values and interpersonal relations of individuals to the economics of new technologies and the spiritual dimensions of life.
Social issues such as worldwide war and peace are no longer viewed a la Clauswitz as "continuation of politics by other means." From a new perspective peace is as much related to the programming of the unconscious part of human mind over millennia as it is related to the economical and political realities of our time.
In other words, lasting peace cannot be accomplished by more political treaties and protocols. As Willis Harman has put it in his Higher Creativity, the "flight or fight" programming of the human unconscious "inner mind" must be superseded.
Moreover, progress and justice are not just evaluated on a one-dimensional sliding scale of economic efficiency anymore. A host of other factors ranging from environmental and biological imperatives to aesthetic and spiritual values also affect and define our concepts of progress and justice.
In short, the new perspective encompasses all aspects of society and is not confined to just politics, religion, science or psychology. I shall define new outlook as a singular conceptual category to mean the disenchantment with the philosophical paradigms of the industrial society in different realms of life and the search to go beyond them.
In this search one often finds people going "below" the industrial paradigms and thinking of all non-industrial paradigms as advancement, whereas many of the revived pre-industrial, pre-scientific modes of thought put us in a worse situation than our current industrial societies.
One needs to be careful that in negating the existing industrial society not to fall prey to pre-industrial medievalism or barbarism, which certainly could not be called an achievement. Moreover, revolutions or alternative lifestyles are not necessarily progressive.
In fact, the simultaneity of revolution and progress, a simultaneity which had become a major ideological heritage of industrial society ever since the American and French revolutions, is no longer true. Maybe the world will have another Immanuel Kant to theorize this reversal.
The social programs of the best and worst of new thought groups exist only in thought and on the paper at the present just as the programs of socialists were only on paper before they ascend to power But once a movement succeeds, its program becomes a social reality and no longer remains an interesting intellectual chat in a cafeteria.
The above is why in my opinion the new perspective needs more critical examinations. For example, issues such as the practices of many spiritual groups need to be critically evaluated. They promote a strong role for their teachers (gurus), that oftentimes, even surpasses the role of the priests in the Middle Ages.
A similar phenomena can be observed among psychotherapy groups, such as EST and FORUM in California and elsewhere (See Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman's SNAPPING for an authoritative analysis of these groups). This semi-priesthood phenomena in psychology groups can be seen in respect to the authority bestowed to the psychologists. Whether we would be better off to have psychotherapists acting as priests is an open question!
Let me emphasize that authoritative views are usually backed with research and objective studies, whereas authoritarian views are backed by the functional position bestowed to individuals by their function in the cult's organizational structure which justifies such privileges.
But the issue of gurus and semi-priests is not all that the new thought has to deal with. New areas of research into topics that were simply dropped in modern science as superstition have resurfaced. New studies of ESP, yoga, karma, meditation, psychometry, dreams, aura, crystals as well as the value of mysticism, meditation and the power of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) are the host of other problematic issues.
It is true that attention to the spiritual side of life in contrast to most philosophical paradigms of the industrial society (liberalism, socialism, humanism, etc.) is a great achievement for new thought. But the revival of numerology, tarot, alchemy, out-of-body experiences, astrology, channeling, etc., is problematic.
Of course, I do not think that this revival is just a simple repetition of hermetic classics. The present practitioners are like the Renaissance intellectuals who put on the Greek cloaks to offer their own inventions underneath.
I think, philosophically the futuristic thinking as a whole is developing a central theme which is challenging the main philosophical "super paradigm" of the more advanced human civilizations.
In all the advanced civilizations the process of tool-making to change the world was accompanied by a philosophical notion of predictability and control. This is how humans "tamed" nature and control became the main purpose when facing nature.
It was not enough to look at nature and to listen to its sounds, feel is warmth and chill, taste and smell its delicacies. Humans needed to search its causes (finally in four senses this term, causality, was formulated by Aristotle).
Control as a purpose expanded our eyesight from the immediate to subsequent far causes. In fact, humans can see as far as distant stars with their ordinary eyesight and this is not their immediate biological need.
We developed our senses far beyond what our biological development would bring and then language, writing, and technologies which reached a great peak in the industrial civilization. But what are the drawbacks?
Through controlling nature, we lost our respect for it and in many ways began exploiting it, we now can witness various forms of pollution as "part" of nature. Along with nature, we started to control each other and in the domain of family, tribe, city, nation, and even world-wide, control became the issue at stake in the forms of economic force, political power, or otherwise. Even within the smallest social units, the control of women by men was evident.
The historical challenges to any kind of control were the substitution of one form of control for another. Thus, the control itself was not challenged and different social classes such as workers, or different races such as blacks or different genres such as female sex were competing for mastery and control.
This is why the activists of these movements would find themselves practicing the same traits as the ones they challenged whenever they succeeded. Then testimonies of "disillusionment" would follow accompanied by regrets over the sacrifices!
It seems like the strife for control of nature and the control by different social groups reached its peak in the industrial society and it gained international dimensions in this society within its short span of existence. Maybe this is why we are beginning to see the futility of strife for control and are beginning to search beyond this "super-paradigm" of all human civilizations.
I differentiate my viewpoint from the anarchist position in this manner that my proposal of going beyond control is relative to the growth of each individual. In other words, proper management is definitely preferred to chaos, when one is going up the steps of development and evolution.
My negation of the control paradigm is what I view as my ideal for humanity as a whole. I describe the alternative paradigm as an autonomous synchronicity or a mutual whirl. How can we be whirling together with nature, with each other, different families, races, nations without giving up our identity?
How can we be dancing en masse without any partner controlling any of the others? I think if we can answer these questions in theory and practice, we will probably take a giant step in the history of humankind. This is why I entitled this article "Dancing in the Air!"
I would like to scrutinize my dance metaphor. I asked how can we be dancing without either partner controlling the other. But isn't it true that this is exactly what the best dancers do? They resonate together.
In other words, the expert dancers have their own centers, yet they relate. Because they have their own center, they do not follow their partner but they resonate with her/him. This is how they can whirl around each other without either side controlling or being threatened by control by the other. You cannot expect a novice to achieve this state of dance in a few lessons, but if two advanced dancers try to approach each other by a control paradigm, they are doomed to fail.
Perhaps the most advanced human societies have reached such a stage, in which any form of control is not only unpleasant but is not feasible anymore and backfires.
Especially for the more advanced strata of these societies who are involved in contemplative and creative undertakings rather than action-oriented jobs, control-oriented paradigms are doomed to fail in organizing any kind of relations at work, at home, or at play.
In the post-industrial societies where the creative side of human undertakings is gaining precedence over tool-like work, where contemplation is finding more value than quick action, even the most Lockean/democratic form of control of the governed, i.e. even control by one's own "consent", can hardly work.
It is noteworthy that in fields such as pure science and art any form of control, even the most democratic kinds, have mostly been counter-productive in the past too. Only in economic and political institutions, different forms of control have shown various degrees of efficiency from time to time in the Modern Times.
Democracy being the best form of control in those realms may be superseded by non-control socio-political mechanism which can result from the changes at the more basic level of human nature.
If the more active or practical side of human life has been in prominence ever since tool-making and if the more "passive" or contemplative side of life is gaining prominence, it is not hard to imagine the whole basis of our social institutions which were based on the former to transform in accordance with the "needs" of the latter.
In sum, practical knowledge to be superseded by reflective wisdom, and the spiritual side of life rather than the mechanical side, to take the major portion of living hours.
The above paradigm shift is the reason that I think the differentiation of changing ourselves and changing the world (the emphasis being on the latter) which made sense in the industrial civilization should now be superseded. I think using the new paradigm in our relationships with our children, spouse, or friends is as important as finding alternative organizational plans at work and in politics.
In fact, at the present this paradigm, in contrast to the industrial paradigm, is being more defined at the micro/individual level than at the grand/social scale. I think the reason is that this view is challenging the whole history of humanity as a whole and not just one particular civilization in contrast to, e.g., the industrial civilization that was challenging only another civilization, i.e., the mediaeval society.
Now if neither nature controls humankind nor the human race controls nature, how can human life be possible. Does that mean that we will be overwhelmed by nature and live like animals? Not at all. In fact, the animals are not controlled by nature but are overwhelmed by it. They are hardly distinguished from nature for the term control even to make sense.
Humans, thanks to language, knowledge, and technologies have achieved an irreversible "separateness" from nature that will preclude any kind of submergence. Maybe our efforts to control nature, and also the attempts of different social classes, races & sexes to control their origins were necessary steps to achieve a separateness.
The reduction and final elimination of work means the final freedom of humankind from the "dictums" of nature for its survival and humans can begin to have a total symbiotic relationship with nature without the fear of being conquered. The same can be true for human relationships.
In other words, for an individual who does not have to work the essential portion of his/her life for survival, it is possible to "dance freely in the air." Envisioning how we all can whirl together with nature and each other is the first step to find ways to reach this symbiosis in different realms of life.
This is not the same as anarchism, where control is replaced with 'anti-control'. The difference is that here a certain level of maturity, at social and individual level, ensures the stepping beyond the paradigm of control; and self-management, rather than dropping management in favor of anarchy and bewilderment This is something like what Zen practitioners have striven for centuries.
This will help change the whole programming of our human nature of the last hundred millennia which has been centered on control. This is a giant and difficult step for humankind but once knowing that replacing one form of control for another has been fruitless at least in the last quarter century, then we may start accepting this difficult path as our only alternative for survival on this planet.
If the philosophy of control is superseded, how do we know if we do not practically fall under the control of nature or under the control of the mischief-makers. I think the achievements of the advanced civilizations in technologies and also in the recognition of basic human rights are irreversible unless a catastrophe like a nuclear war or a world-wide reversal occurs.
But I think such catastrophes are more probable to happen if we do not wake up soon enough to change this paradigm of control, a one-time necessary, yet outmoded characteristic of the human race. Even starting to visualize the new paradigm in the different realms of life will show the futility of a paradise in which one is controlled yet "well-treated!" This way we may begin to see nature and each other differently, different from what we used to see when we had utility in mind!!
Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,
* The above article was first published in the Spring 1988 issue of Mundus Novus.
**The article was first posted on SCI (soc.culture.iranian) Usenet newsgroup on Jan 18, 1995.
For a Secular Democratic & Futurist Republican Party in Iran