“Exponential growth, everywhere: the terminal cancer of this civilization.”
Sept 19, 2016
Thoughts from ~burning woman~
In my introduction on ~burning woman~ blog I wrote: “I think that every problem is an invitation to all of us to work out the solution, and I believe that no problem exists that does not contain a solution within itself. All we are asked to do is unravel it. Life is like a Rubik’s Cube. There is a solution, it’s just a willingness to work at it until it emerges.”
Taking it from “now” here’s a bit of reality check: (from this blog)
Source: Researchers Say Society Is Doomed. Can We Save Ourselves in Time?undergroundreporter.org – Christina Sarich – September 7, 2016
Clues unearthed by archaeologists suggest that our society is doomed for collapse. Researchers from University College London and the University of Maryland recently studied 2,378 archaeological sites from Neolithic Europe to discover some tell-tale signs indicating when an ecosystem was shifting into instability. After looking at the data, it seems that every single civilization gave clues to its own impending demise — including our own.
Signs that a society is about to collapse, or undergo a massive reorganization, included fragility in systems that had undergone ‘slowing down’ or ‘flickering’ from impacts such as disease, warfare, resource degradation, or crop failure.
The researchers describe ‘flickering’ as a change in a society’s response to these perturbations resulting in the society becoming caught in a socio-ecological trap that reinforces the same bad behaviour that caused the issues to begin with, and prevents adaptation with new action.
Every time a society ‘flickers’ it loses recovery time, and you could consider it as moving closer to destruction. The team found that these flickering signs signified an eventual demise of the society, all showing up well before the actual collapse.
Undeniably our current world is severely handicapped by serious and intensifying problems. I don’t think I need to name them, we all know what we’re facing, as a global society, and as individuals. It is my nature to seek solutions to problems and the more obvious those are, the more I find myself focusing, perhaps even fixating, upon them. “Find a solution… Think!” And it’s what my mind does.
It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. What I’ve been learning lately is that “invention” need not be a strictly forward motion: in looking for solutions it can move backward. And this is where I’m at: how far back must man, as a species, go to solve his current life-threatening problems? To explain that backward move, it is necessary to delve into the main cause of man’s current crisis.
The common thought is that solutions are found in new, forward-looking discoveries. For every action (which comes from a previous reaction) there is a new reaction. Thus the clumsy reciprocal “chug… chug… chug…” movement of civilization moves itself forward and each time, like the old coal fired steam trains, the machine picks up speed. A new “disease” (caused by a previous reciprocal movement) gets a new drug treatment which causes more problems to be met with more drugs. That has been the way, and it’s the accepted way. Except that it doesn’t work, and never did, because there never was any track built past the tunnel. But that’s all beside the point as long as we chose, as a collective, to exist in total denial of history and observation and believe that any “new and improved whatever” would solve any current crisis, or make any current burden easier to bear. Thus we blindly entered the age of science as god; the age of technocracy: of technology, of robotics, of machines, of medical interventions and heaping drug prescriptions, of faster communication and travel, of ever-expanding cities to house an exponentially growing population. We entered the age of top-down, system driven, totalitarian collectivization and we were taught in public school, in college, by the media and the corporate world that its called progress. Therefore we progressed into a progressively worsening societal condition, right up to the end of the track which in today’s parlance we call “the unsustainable society.”
In 1972, yes, that far back, the Club of Rome and others commissioned computer simulations dealing with unrestrained growth versus availability of space and resources.
From Wikipedia, (excerpt): “The Limits to Growth” is a 1972 book about the computer simulation of exponential economic and population growth with finite resource supplies. The original version presented a model based on five variables: world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production and resources depletion. These variables are considered to grow exponentially, while the ability of technology to increase resources availability is only linear.
And a footnote to the article: With few exceptions, economics as a discipline has been dominated by a perception of living in an unlimited world, where resource and pollution problems in one area were solved by moving resources or people to other parts. The very hint of any global limitation as suggested in the report The Limits to Growth was met with disbelief and rejection by businesses and most economists. However, this conclusion was mostly based on false premises. – Meyer & Nørgård (2010).
It’s important to understand what “exponential growth” versus “linear growth” mean. You’ve all seen graphs showing exponential growth: that smooth line at the bottom that begins to rise ever so slowly, then higher and higher as each segment doubles itself until the line shoots right off the top of the chart. Linear on the other hand shows a steady growth rate, predictable, logical, sustainable. Man’s civilization today is of the exponential kind, and we’re very close to the top of the chart. So close that the system sustaining the growth is failing – AT EVERY POINT and not just on some. We’ve not only reached the limits to growth, we have surpassed them and now we can’t stop our train from shooting off the end of the tunnel of progress we created from our lusts and greed and passion for cheap and easy and entertaining.
Now for a very, very brief history lesson beginning with a question: which of mankind’s many civilizations not only succeeded, but continued on and remains “operative” and growing to this day? And the answer is… none. Not a single one. Each civilization that rose from nothing, or from the wrack and ruin of another has in its turn collapsed utterly.
A reminder from none other than the famous poet, Percy Shelley:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
What better comparison could one make of this current prideful and shallow civilization than to the boastful one of the great king “Ozymandias?” Oh yes, it is said that science with the faithful and uncanny help of technology can, and will, solve all of man’s current problems. Stupid to worry, to be concerned, about such things as climate change which “Right” thinking people know to be a hoax; about over population (why, the earth can sustain twice our current numbers!); availability of food and sustainability of edible crops (what about GMO’s and fish farms, etc.?) and simple living space (ah, hmm, well, we can live closer together, build higher highrises and we can go live on the moon, or on Mars with a bit of technological fixing!) and wars (a one-world government will fix that, along with a one-world economy!)
Wonderfully childish reasoning that is desperately held onto by billions of desperate individuals: desperate for things to continue as they are; desperate to ignore, hide, mock, the reality that is threatening to destroy not only most of mankind, but much of his living environment and those “others” nature symbiotically “intended” for space to be shared with. Simply put, quality has given way to quantity – it’s always what happens when values are determined by numbers – and numbers only work when fed more quantities of numbers. Exponential growth, everywhere: the terminal cancer of this civilization.
Somewhere way back in prehistoric times man “happened” on this world. I really don’t know how that came about and I’m not a strong proponent of Darwinist evolutionary theories, while holding the creation concept equally at arms length, but man “was” here. From what I gather this “man” creature was living a natural life on a natural world. And as we observe of other animals, all was, relatively speaking, well with that.
Then something amazing and terrible happened: man came face to face with a choice. There was a fork on the road of life, the left continuing the natural pattern of life, and the right promising a much brighter, exciting, morally and technically uplifting future. Man was offered the fruit of civilization. Some saw it as a marvelous opportunity for advancement and took that path. Most did not, but it would be “civilized” man that would rise to conquer and subdue the earth and all that dwell therein. Man became “Ozymandias” the king of kings, ruler of all creation. Then one civilization after another rose suddenly, then fell slowly until hardly anything remained, and then another took its place, or surfaced somewhere else on the planet and “great” works were accomplished; marvels were created and built, then that too collapsed utterly, leaving only remnants in stone or bits and pieces of clay to mark the passage of civilized man. And on and on it went, until history began to be recorded on clay tablets and parchments, then in books and now in digital information. This is but another of those suddenly risen only to fail, civilization. And no, this civilization isn’t too big to fail – quite the contrary: it is too big to sustain itself and must fail.
This is about a solution to our current dilemma. Believing as I do that nothing can fix this toppling purposeless global civilization build on nothing but exploitation, oppression and bloodshed, my solution is eloquent by its simplicity: man must (not should) return to that prehistoric fork in the road and turn back to the left hand path, putting a clear sign on the right hand one that says: “This is the path to hell. It is forbidden for man to enter therein for this path can only be sustained by oppression and bloodshed, that is, by death.”
Yes: man must give up his pride filled attempts at creating new civilizations and return to his proper, natural, non-exploitative roots. The collapse of this civilization, since it is global in scope, is likely man’s last chance at redeeming himself; at rediscovering humility in compassion, in sharing, in becoming truly a human being to live in peace and harmony with all others on this little world. No amount of “civilizing” can do that for man, only a return to nature.
When I started blogging six years ago no one would believe that the world is controlled by a few families that control a few companies that control the world. We all know now, thank you Snowden and Assange, that this is a fact. The same with the nonsense about marijuana. Now watch out for the chemtrails conspiracy theory to be proven true. We cannot allow anyone, any media, any government to tell us how to think anymore. The game is rigged and we must understand this and see through the propaganda.
With permission of
by Tim Bryant
Anyone who has spent the time going deep down the “rabbit hole” and researching in the realm of alternative information/conspiracy theory knows that a large majority of the world’s population hasn’t a clue as to what’s really going on in the world.
However, all alternative researchers can relate to this because at one point they too were admittedly naïve and asleep to it all.
In fact, almost all humans are born into some form of limited perception. There is a reason that the term “awakened” is often used by people in reference to their personal transformation from an in-the-box indoctrinated consumer to an open-minded free-thinker.
If people claim they are becoming awakened, then consequently, that must mean they were asleep before, unaware to a whole layer of reality that was happening simultaneously.
With this in mind, it would seem that many people today are actually in a subtle trance prior to going through this awakening process, mesmerized and programmed by the main stream of information that dominates the cultures of the world; ultimately hijacking and infecting the collective consciousness.
They can’t see or imagine any other possibility than the illusionary reality propagated by those in control of the power source. However, that is all beginning to change. Unlike any other time in known history, humans are beginning to awaken from the trance they’re under and seeing reality for what it truly is.
It’s not exactly an easy process either, as truth doesn’t mold itself around our preconceived expectations and desires. It just is; and at the moment, it’s not exactly very pretty. However, as any addict will tell you, the first step to change is seeing reality for what it actually is and accepting it.
My Personal Journey
I had always been a curious kid with parents that didn’t have overly hardened ideological beliefs. Though I went to a catholic school and was heavily involved in sports, my surroundings allowed my mind the freedom to wonder.
It was just a little bigger than before and I knew where some of the edges were, but I still longed for something more to explain the many things that didn’t seem to make any sense.
That was until 2009, when I read the best-selling book, The Mystery Method: How to Get Beautiful Women Into Bed, which become the first major blow to my established ideological box.
Now I am well aware that there are many things in this book which I wouldn’t necessarily 100% agree with now, or would at least expand upon with more context, however, what’s important is that the book introduced me to the deeper layers of relationships, dating, and human psychology that I had never even considered before.
It was like a whole realm of hidden information that I had never been exposed to. Growing up I had never really been taught about relationships, attraction, or how to talk to women; so as a result, I would often get “friend-zoned” by girls I liked, never really understanding why.
It would make me upset and confused because I simply didn’t have the tools or knowledge that was needed to be successful.
Only after reading this book did I begin to not only understand the external dynamics of interacting with other people/the opposite sex, but I began to understand my own flaws that needed to be addressed.
While my beliefs in that subject have changed over time, the book was a necessary catalyst in getting me to look at the problem from previously un-thought-of angles, which ultimately was the first step needed towards the long journey of personal transformation in that aspect of my life.
This however, would only plant the seeds for the beginning of my real spiritual and intellectual awakening which started a few years later in 2013 at the age of 23. It all came about after watching the Zeitgeist Documentary, a documentary trilogy that not only triggered my awakening, but has awakened many other lost souls.
Although, again, as I have progressed my understanding of these topics, I have come to see problems with aspects of these films now as well. Nonetheless, the films were still a great launching point, which completely blew my mind and shattered my whole concept of reality.
It was literally an epiphany moment, as if I had just been shaken awake and displaced from the trance I was under. If the mind had a cherry, I had definitely just popped it.
I was literally pacing around the house with no idea of what to do, as I didn’t know who to talk to, why people were not talking about this information, and was still wondering if any of it was actually true.
At certain points in the beginning of my awakening, I definitely questioned whether I was going crazy because this was material that no one else understood, let along took serious. I felt very alone and disconnected.
However, this initial awakening was only the beginning, as Pandora’s box had now been opened and I could not hold myself back from exploring all that was previously hidden from me. I spent hours a day at it; researching everything I could get my hands on.
It was like I had just discovered a completely new layer to reality that was extremely dense, yet seemed to piece together so many things that were previously unexplainable.
I would compare it in many ways to being an explorer hundreds of years ago, where the discovery of new lands were completely opening up, not only the physical map of the world, but whole new realms of information and culture.
While I was learning a lot, it was not easy, as everything I thought I knew was now in question. Only later did I learn that this was all part of the process of growth.
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” – Cynthia Occelli
The reality is that growth is a very destructive process, as many of the truths we once thought to be concrete were now breaking down and engulfed by many contradictions.
This can be incredibly taxing on the mind, as the hero’s, leaders, and facts that we once put faith in, are often not what we thought they were. Seeing reality for what it truly is, can be an incredible dose of truth that can be a hard pill to swallow; one in which many simply do not wish to partake.
Many would rather stick their head in the sand in order to preserve their current paradigm rather than accept this wave of new information and build something new from it. However, looking back it all, I couldn’t be happier I chose this path.
Getting Over The Hump
Despite all the personal challenges that await, getting people to dip into conspiracy theory and go down their first rabbit hole is the key to starting the process of change.
Once someone comes to grips with the fact that there might be a lot of truth in one particular conspiracy theory, it then opens the floodgates of the mind to explore others.
Any awakened person will tell you that once you start researching deeper into things, it’s pretty hard to stop and turn back. It’s the first one which is the hardest to overcome because it is the catalyst that shatters the old paradigm.
This is tough to come to terms with and can take time to filter through the mind. However, once you recover from the blow, you can start to pick up the pieces and build a new, more accurate picture of reality.
In many ways, opening the mind and diving into the realm of conspiracy is like a rite of passage into higher realms of consciousness. Everyone must go through this uncomfortable process of awakening in order to grow in consciousness.
I likened this to when a women “pops her cherry” because once she does this, she is no longer considered a young, naïve, innocent girl, but instead is on her way to becoming a raw and mature woman. There is no turning back from this moment, as you have now been exposed.
This might be harsh or unpleasant for some people to think about, but it is a reality we cannot run or hide from.
In essence, right now, we are the early adopters of this information and the tough road we walked to get here is all part of the process of becoming an awakened and aware human being. It is we who will now help facilitate the awakening of others and take this truth movement to the next level of change.
I really do believe that being able to entertain thoughts without attaching to them, such as data points labeled conspiracy, is a rite of passage into becoming a truly enlightened person.
Aristotle is quoted as saying:
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
It might feel a destructive process at first, but once the initial fear and discomfort dissipate, the mind, body and soul begin to grow stronger.
This takes time as no respected researcher went from A to Z in the first day. Some ideas that sounds crazy at first might not seem so crazy, as more knowledge is attained; just like one theory that sounded plausible at first might not be so appealing in more time. It’s a lifetime process that is never truly completed.
The first step, is getting people to jump into the cold shower and go down their initial rabbit hole with an open mind. I promise, you will come out alive and most likely humbled and hungry for more.
Knowledge is power, so embrace it and run with it! Who knows how far we can go and where it will lead. The hope is that above all the death and destruction, is the brightest of lights.
A light of pure truth in which all filters are removed so one can see reality for what it is. This s something to strive for.
“Systems thinking has a certain simplicity and elegance to it — basically, a shift from seeing the world as a machine to understanding it as a network…
With permission from
“Systems thinking has a certain simplicity and elegance to it — basically, a shift from seeing the world as a machine to understanding it as a network… To deal with nonlinear systems requires a change of perspective from objects to relationships, from measuring to mapping, and this is why visual thinking becomes important.” ~Fritjof Capra
I recently had the opportunity to interview Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics, The Turning Point & most recently The Systems View of Life (with Pier Luigi Luisi). Last December, Dr. Capra published a new essay on the relationship between Science & Spirituality, where he describes the central focus and theme of his work being “the fundamental change of world view, or change of paradigms, that is now [occurring in the] sciences and in society; the unfolding of a new vision of reality, and the social implications of this cultural transformation.”
In the following interview we discussed a wide range of topics, including the current U.S. election, systems thinking, spirituality, health care, ecology, mysticism, 1960’s culture, and a new course he’ll be teaching online, beginning this April. ~Christopher Chase, March 3, 2016
Thank you for giving your time for this interview. I’d be curious to know what your thoughts are on the current election in the United States. Have you been following the U.S. election and do you have an opinion about the candidates?
My feeling has been for a long time that nothing in American politics will change until the pervasive corruption that is built into the system is addressed. I had very high hopes in President Obama, and he has done many good things, but he fell short of our expectations because he was unable to free himself from the ubiquitous, institutionalized corruption. For example, his health, economic, and climate policies were significantly restricted by the bribes (“campaign contributions”) he received from the health insurance, Wall-street, and fossil-fuel corporations, respectively.
Now, Bernie Sanders is the only politician who addresses this issue publicly and persistently, and I believe that this is the reason why he has such a strong resonance, especially among young people. I don’t care which label people use to characterize him. What matters is that he alone is the candidate for “the 99%.” Robert Reich put it well: “Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate for the political system we have, but Bernie Sanders is most qualified for the system we need.”
I guess the big question is whether Americans are ready for more transformational change? You live in California now, but were born in Austria and lived for many years in other European nations. Are there some specific social, economic or environmental policies you have observed outside the States that you feel Americans would benefit from implementing or revisiting?
Healthcare would be the obvious example. It is well known that universal healthcare is offered today as a basic right by most European countries, and that those countries save money and keep people healthier. When I grew up in Austria, I never had to pay for a doctor or a hospital.
Now, this does not mean that private insurance does not exist in those countries. Most people who are well off have supplementary private health insurance. As so-called “private patients” they get preferential treatment (special appointments instead of having to wait at the doctor’s office, more luxurious hospital rooms, etc.), but the medical care is the same, and it is free, i.e. paid collectively by the tax payers. This is an ethical issue, and it is a scandal that the United States, with all its wealth, doers not offer universal health care to its citizens as a basic human right.
Yes, I very much agree, and hope that changes soon. By the way, as a scientist you began with an interest in physics but then moved towards systems theories, which span and connect all the sciences. How did your focus change?
My work in physics was more than an “interest,” as I spent 20 years doing research in theoretical high-energy physics (roughly 1965-85). My move toward the life sciences had to do with my parallel work as a science writer. When I realized the broader implications of the “new physics” for society at large, I soon saw that the problems I had become interested in — health, management, economics, social justice, ecology, and so on — all had to do with life, with individual living organisms, social systems, and ecosystems.
I then spent the next thirty years developing a conceptual framework that integrates four dimensions of life: the biological, the cognitive, the social, and the ecological dimension. This framework is a grand synthesis of a new systemic conception of life that is now emerging in science.
I published my synthesis, as it evolved over the years, in several books, the last one being “The Systems View of Life,” coauthored with Pier Luigi Luisi (professor of biochemistry at the University of Rome) and published by Cambridge University Press. I also taught my synthesis in various courses and seminars, and I am going to teach the full-fledged version for the first time in an online course (“Capra Course”) consisting of 12 lectures and an ongoing discussion forum.
That sounds exciting. When will your course be taught?
The first Capra Course will be launched in April this year and will go on for 12 weeks. Up to now about 120 people have enrolled and we expect the course to be full by the end of March. I am imposing a limit of 200 participants in order to guarantee high-quality discussions. For more information and to see a five-minute trailer, please visit the course website (here).
Many systems theories seem rather complicated, and yet systems thinking has a cohesion and simplicity to it. I believe that its basically a form of visual thinking, using our imagination to accurately represent systems and relationships in the world around us. Do you think so also?
You are right, systems thinking has a certain simplicity and elegance to it, even though it requires a radical shift of perspective — basically, a shift from seeing the world as a machine to understanding it as a network. Now, a network is inherently nonlinear, and this nonlinearity is THE key characteristic of complex systems. To deal with nonlinear systems requires a change of perspective from objects to relationships, from measuring to mapping, and this is why visual thinking becomes important.
Taoist philosophy seems to be a form of systems thinking, and many indigenous tribal worldviews seem to be as well. Wisdom and compassion seem to flow naturally with such views. Do you agree?
I agree, and this is what attracted me to Taoism in the 1970s when I wrote “The Tao of Physics.” Now, you would think that seeing the world in terms of relationships would imply compassionate behavior toward other living beings. Indeed, this is true in the philosophical school of deep ecology, which is related to spirituality. But those values — in other words, ethics — do not necessarily follow from the systems view of life.
Many people are able to think in terms of relationships at a more superficial level. This is why I always emphasize values and ethics explicitly. In fact, in our textbook, Luisi and I wrote a whole chapter on science and spirituality, and I also dedicate a special lecture to this theme in the Capra Course.
The Dalai Lama has made similar observations. It always amazes me when people profess to be practicing their religion but support warfare, the killing of fellow human beings. For thousands of years this has happened over and over. Why do you think this paradox exists, that spiritual teachings of love are so often bypassed or ignored?
To understand this conundrum, it is really important to clearly distinguish between spirituality and religion. Spirituality is a way of being grounded in a certain experience of reality that is independent of cultural and historical contexts. Religion is the organized attempt to understand spiritual experience, to interpret it with words and concepts, and to use this interpretation as the source of moral guidelines for the religious community. In this endeavor religious leaders and their institutions, unfortunately, have often become excessively interested in power, even to the extent of losing the religion’s spiritual core.
Yes, that’s a very important distinction to make. You’ve written a lot about how the new vision of science provides us with an understanding of the Universe that is much more congruent with spiritual teachings and mystical experiences, as compared with earlier mechanistic views. The story of how our Universe came into being and evolved is amazing. Knowing that the entire Cosmos emerged in a flash, for a moment smaller than a tea cup, how can that be described as anything short of miraculous?
Spiritual experience — the direct, non-intellectual experience of reality in moments of heightened aliveness — is known as a mystical experience because it is an encounter with mystery. Spiritual teachers throughout the ages have insisted that the experience of a profound sense of connectedness, of belonging to the cosmos as a whole, which is the central characteristic of mystical experience, is ineffable — that is, incapable of being adequately expressed in words or concepts — and they often describe it as being accompanied by a deep sense of awe and wonder together with a feeling of great humility.
The fundamental interconnectedness of all phenomena is a dominant theme also in modern science, and many of our great scientists have expressed their sense of awe and wonder when faced with the mystery that lies beyond the limits of their theories. Albert Einstein, for one, repeatedly expressed these feelings, as in the following celebrated passage, which I quote in the course:
“The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science…the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavor to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny.”
Einstein talked of the fabric of space/time, and yet many mystics have said there is no time, there is only an endlessly shape-shifting NOW. Joseph Campbell and Alan Watts often talked about this, Watts explaining that what we call time is simply our measurement of the cyclic movements of an ever changing Universe. Which view do you more agree with?
I was greatly influenced by Alan Watts. Especially while writing “The Tao of Physics,” his writings were a great inspiration. Regarding time, the most beautiful statement I know is one by the mathematician Hermann Minkowski, the creator of the space-time structure on which Einstein built his special theory of relativity. Here is how Minkowsi presented it to his colleagues in Germany in 1908:
“The views of space and time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.”
Physicist David Bohm said, “the difficulty is this fragmentation. All thought is broken up into bits. Like this nation, this country, this industry, this profession and so on… And they can’t meet. That comes about because thought has developed traditionally in a way such that it claims not to be effecting anything but just telling you the way things are. Therefore, people cannot see that they are creating a problem and then apparently trying to solve it… Wholeness is a kind of attitude or approach to the whole of life. If we can have a coherent approach to reality then reality will respond coherently to us.” I would expect you agree?
I do agree with David Bohm, whom I knew quite well. In my earlier books I wrote a lot about the origins of this fragmentation in the Cartesian split between mind and matter. In my textbook and in the course I show how systems science has now overcome this separation and is leading us to a unified view of mind, matter, and life.
Recently, I was listening to a really nice cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” The lyrics describe how “we are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon.” It seems like a unified vision of humans as a part of the Universe rose into Western awareness back in the 1960’s. Why do you think it is taking so long for this holistic and ecological view to stabilize and for human cultures to become more aligned with the wisdom of Nature?
I love Joni Mitchell, one of the icons of the Sixties. But the line about carbon was added later. The original lyrics go: “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” I have often wondered why, after the hippies of the Sixties, the feminist and ecology movements of the Seventies, and the Green parties of the Eighties, we did not continue on that trajectory.
I have come to believe that the information technology revolution, in addition to connecting people worldwide like never before, brought with it a new materialism and a new capitalism that took 10-20 years to unfold before the counter movements set in.
In my view, our values today are about where they were around 1989, but today we have a powerful global civil society, a global network of NGOs that promote systemic thinking and the values of human dignity and ecological sustainability.
What are your thoughts about the role of the Internet at this moment in history? Do you get your news from mainstream sources or alternative online media outlets?
I use the Internet daily in my work and for informing myself about politics, cultural issues, sport, entertainment, and so on. I do read newspapers (e.g. The Guardian, UK; Le Monde Diplomatique, The New York Review of Books), but I get most of my information from the Internet via Common Dreams, Democracy Now, The Daily Optimist, and several other news websites. However, I am not active in social media.
Could you share your thoughts on spiritual practices and why they are important? I’ve been meditating for about 30 years and feel that it helps to quiet the linguistic conceptual mind. Our awareness is then more open to sensory information, less attached to beliefs. There is a deeper feeling of connectedness. I have friends who are athletes or practice arts that say something similar can happen when they move their bodies or are playing music. Einstein was a violinist and said that he often thought in music. Have you maintained a spiritual practice or practiced an art, and what role do you feel these play in transforming your consciousness?
The main thesis of my first book, “The Tao of Physics,” is that the approaches of physicists and mystics, even though they seem at first quite different, share some important characteristics. To begin with, their method is thoroughly empirical. Physicists derive their knowledge from experiments; mystics from meditative insights. Both are observations, and in both fields these observations are acknowledged as the only source of knowledge.
A further important similarity is the fact that their observations take place in realms that are inaccessible to the ordinary senses. In modern physics, these are the realms of the atomic and subatomic world; in mysticism, they are non-ordinary states of consciousness in which the everyday sensory world is transcended. In both cases, access to these non-ordinary levels of experience is possible only after long years of training within a rigorous discipline.
Now, it is possible to have spiritual, or mystical, experiences spontaneously — in a powerful experience of art, in sports, in sexual experiences, and in other highly charged emotional states. My experience of the cosmic dance of subatomic particles, which I described in the opening pages of “The Tao of Physics,” was such a spontaneous experience. For most of us, however, these spontaneous experiences are few and far between. To increase their frequency generally requires rigorous training in a spiritual discipline.
Like you, I have had many such experiences in meditation. For over forty years, on and off, I have practiced Tai Ji, the Taoist “meditation in motion.“ For the first ten years, in the 1970s, this was a rigorous discipline for me. I would begin each day with a set of stretching exercises, followed by a couple of Tai Ji sets (in the style known as Guang Ping Yang) and an hour of Chinese calligraphy practice.
These forms of meditation all embody the same Taoist principles. Moreover, during those years my Tai Ji master was also my doctor, keeping me healthy and in balance with Chinese herbs and acupuncture. So, the ancient Chinese wisdom was really a central guiding principle for me during that decade.
Wonderful. It sounds like your spiritual practice has had a powerful influence on the unified view of life you’ve developed and have been sharing with the world through your writing and teaching. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview.
The first edition of Capra Course, Fritjof Capra’s new on-line course based on The Systems View of Life will launch in April 2016. For more information please go to http://www.capracourse.net
This film series explores many aspects of our society. To rethink what is possible in our world, we need to consider what kind of world we want to live in. Although we refer to it as civilization, it is anything but civilized.
Visions of global unity & fellowship have long inspired humanity, yet the social arrangements up to the present have largely failed to produce a peaceful and productive world.
While we appear to be technically advanced, our values and behaviors are not. The possibility of an optimistic future is in stark contrast to our current social, economic, and environmental dilemmas.
The Choice Is Ours includes interviews with notable scientists, media professionals, authors, and other thinkers exploring the difficulties we face.
It explores the determinants of behavior to dispel the myth of “human nature”, while demonstrating how environment shapes behavior. The science of behavior is an important – yet largely missing – ingredient in our culture.
Part II questions the values, behaviors, and consequences of our social structures, and illustrates how our global monetary system is obsolete and increasingly insufficient to meet the needs of most people.
Critical consideration of the banking, media, and criminal justice systems reveals these institutions for what they really are: tools of social control managed by the established political and economic elite.
If we stay the present course, the familiar cycles of crime, economic booms & busts, war, and further environmental destruction are inevitable.
Part III explains the methods and potential of science. It proposes solutions that we can apply at present to eliminate the use of non-renewable sources of energy.
It depicts the vision of The Venus Project to build an entirely new world from the ground up: a “redesign of the culture”, where all enjoy a high standard of living, free of servitude and debt, while also protecting the environment.
Part IV explains how it is not just architecture and a social structure that is in desperate need of change, but our values which have been handed down from centuries ago.
They too need to be updated to our technological age, which has the potential to eliminate our scarcity-driven societies of today. Our problems are mostly of our own making, but we can still turn things around before the point of no return.
It’s not too late for an optimistic outlook on the fantastic possibilities that lie before us.
“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels…” ~Albert Einstein, N.Y. Times, 1946
Over the course of the last hundred years, Western scientists have given us a deeper view of the Universe, of Life & Nature as a creative and unified self-organizing process. Unfortunately, most modern societies are still operating with outdated ideas and assumptions, that do not reflect this new paradigm.
Albert Einstein understood this, as have many others. In order to survive as a species, it is essential that we shift paradigms, developing ways of thinking (and behaving) that are more aligned with how human life and Nature’s systems actually work.
Every “thing” that exists in our Universe is a dynamic complex system, interdependently connected to other systems, constantly moving and changing, less a static “thing” than an evolving and transforming creative process.
We see galaxies and hurricanes spinning, continents moving, societies changing, children growing, rivers flowing, artists creating, friendships forming, flowers unfolding. This is how Nature evolves, grows and changes, with everything connected interdependently, constantly transforming… atoms and molecules drifting together, then moving apart, re-organizing as if the whole Universe were alive.
As Einstein put it, “I like to experience the universe as one harmonious whole. Every cell has life. Matter, too, has life; it is energy solidified.”
Similar views of Nature’s Paradigm have arisen in other cultures and ages. Almost two thousand years ago, the Roman philosopher Cicero, spoke of the Universe as a unified field of interdependent relationships, writing “Omnia vivunt, omnia inter se conexa” that “Everything is alive, everything is interconnected.”
The emperor Marcus Aurelius shared a similar perception, of the whole Universe as a single living being:
“Never forget that the universe is a single living organism possessed of one substance and one soul, holding all things suspended in a single consciousness and creating all things with a single purpose that they might work together spinning and weaving and knotting whatever comes to pass.”
In ancient China, the philosopher Lao Tsu spoke of the Universe as being a unified flowing process, guided by what he called the Tao, or the “Way” of Nature. The goal of Taoist philosophy is to align with this way, to learn how to balance opposing forces, to think (and move) in harmony with the rest of the Universe.
In the 1800’s, American Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman shared a similar view with their words and poetry. Like the artist Vincent Van Gogh, they saw the Universe and Nature as a flowing unity, an ever-changing cosmic whole.
“Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole. Each particle is a microcosm, and faithfully renders the likeness of the world.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
In the 20th century, Albert Einstein (and other scientists) tried to communicate this understanding to us, that the beautiful evolving structures in our lives (and the greater Universe) form a coherent unity, that all the parts (including ourselves) that we believe to be separate are in truth interconnected:
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.” ~Albert Einstein
Unfortunately, our connection to (and appreciation for) the greater whole that supports us (and has brought us into being) is not given much attention in the mundane affairs, militaristic concerns and materialistic power games of high technology civilizations.
Most modern humans are so absorbed in politics, wars, careers, technological innovations, addictive pleasures and quests for economic dominance (or security) that they rarely reflect upon (or feel gratitude for) our interdependence with Nature and the rest of the Universe. It just does not seem to be a top value or priority.
At work our experiences are compartmentalized by units of time and deadlines, focusing people’s attention on mundane tasks that need to get done. At home we are overwhelmed with finances, chores, domestic worries, interpersonal struggles and endless daily problems that need solving. Rarely do we feel we “have time” to look out the window and experience a sense of connection to the wider Cosmos.
In schools the focus is on testing and the collection of data, to prepare young people for college and careers. We teach our children the names of the parts of their physical bodies and structures in Nature, but don’t put much emphasis on having them experience the
Universe as a whole or understand their relationship to all that exists.
They are taught that ecology, physics, biology, astronomy, economics, sociology, psychology, politics, history, religion, art, literature, poetry and chemistry are
completely separate fields (and should be kept that way). Everything is divided up into pieces, all knowledge to be memorized, categorized and compartmentalized.
Rarely are children taught how these pieces fit together. There is little or no discussion of how modern Science’s emerging view of the Universe as a unified whole relates to the art of Van Gogh, the philosophy of Lao Tsu, the religion of the Romans, the spiritual ideas of Albert Einstein or the poetry of Walt Whitman.
Few get a sense of the big picture of Science, how their biological growth is an expression of universal creativity, guided by the DNA of ancestors, nurtured by their mothers’ bodies, with cellular systems running on solar energy passed along by glucose molecules from the leaves of plants that captured photons from our nearest star, the sun.
Materialistic societies are so focused on economic survival that most people don’t pay attention to the interconnections and synergistic processes that support our lives. This is especially true in hierarchal “civilized” cultures with languages that developed (over the centuries) in order to keep economies running, not to help us feel a sense of unity and connection with Nature or the Universe.
“People normally cut reality into compartments, and so are unable to see the interdependence of all phenomena. To see one in all and all in one is to break through the great barrier which narrows one’s perception of reality.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Our minds are trained to divide the world up into dualistic categories such as right/wrong, good/evil, winner/loser, developed/primitive, winners/losers and us/them, unaware that these are conceptual projections of our belief systems, not actual characteristics of the world.
The rigid categories of our language systems influence how we think (and feel) about everything around us. We see ourselves as separate from fellow human beings, and the Universe to which we belong.
Perhaps because the dominant warrior civilizations have been so successful at wars and conquests, we have come to see problems as something we must battle rather than understand more holistically, or as symptoms of our predatory and compartmentalized ways of thinking.
As the agricultural revolution led to a surge in human populations, it must have been especially difficult for European & Middle Eastern nations, where a hostile invasion by one’s neighbors could happen at any time. One of the sad truths of history has been that tribes and cultures that learned to peacefully coexist ran the risk of being conquered, enslaved or exterminated by violent neighbors.
As a result, members of successful warrior civilizations have tended to ignore important natural processes and interdependent connections that exist but don’t fit with their survival priorities, essentials of life that don’t respond well to power games and manipulation.
“The difficulty is this fragmentation.. All thought is broken up into bits… Therefore, people cannot see that they are creating a problem and then apparently trying to solve it… Wholeness is a kind of attitude or approach to the whole of life. If we can have a coherent approach to reality then reality will respond coherently to us.” ~David Bohm
It’s like Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall, once predatory civilizations came to view the Universe as distinct objects and little pieces, their members no longer experienced a sense of connection to the whole. Technologically “advanced” cultures became successful at constructing machines and dominating others, losing touch with the natural rhythms, ecological interdependence and organic oneness of the world.
It’s a tragic paradox. Highly intelligent, yet ignorant of connections, we have created a host of seemingly insolvable problems for ourselves and others. Because unless one truly understands the nature and root causes of problems, one cannot solve them. We can create machines, build incredible technologies, and yet are like idiots when it comes to solving problems that involve complex natural systems and living beings.
“This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ~Albert Einstein
The field of medicine, for example, while excelling at surgery (which requires a deep understanding of how the body’s systems are organically structured) puts great emphasis on using drugs to suppress the symptoms of “illnesses.”
What is ignored is that our bodies have a natural wisdom and intelligence, they “know” how to grow, heal and care for themselves, to maintain balance, grow and regenerate.
Our bodies are masterpieces of biology, that have evolved over millions of years with the capability to maintain and self-regulate their health. When these natural abilities are ignored– for example when nutrition, exercise and diet are not given proper attention or people ingest toxic substances– then problems like obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease arise.
When it comes to education, human children have a natural curiosity and love of learning, they have magnificent self-organizing brains that seek to understand the world’s patterns and develop complex skills.
In the early years this natural learning process is supported by parents and families, but not as much by society’s mechanistically structured institutions of schooling.
As a result many young people are turned off by formal schooling, believing themselves to be stupid or failures. But there is nothing wrong (or stupid) about a human child. We are all miraculous works of nature, the result of millions of years of evolutionary development and fine tuning.
“You are something that the Whole Universe is doing, in the same way that a wave is something that the Whole Ocean is doing…” ~Alan Watts
It’s those in positions of authority attempting to program children like machines, that destroy their natural love of learning. Children will learn quickly, enjoyably and easily when their natural curiosity, creativity and interests are encouraged and respected.
When young people fail to learn (or are discouraged by schooling) its adults forcing inappropriate methods and mechanistic systems (out of touch with reality) that have failed, not the children.
The kinds of problems we see in health care and education exist in other “civilized” institutions as well. In each case, its often a lack of compassion and “ignorance” about the interdependent nature of reality (and how natural systems work) that creates many of our “modern” problems.
Wars happen when human beings hold on to past grievances, identify with tribal loyalties, wish to protect (or acquire) territory or seek revenge. To kill fellow human beings requires a closing of the heart and a compartmentalization of thinking, seeing the world as a battle between “us” and “them.”
The sacredness of life is temporarilly forgotten, the core teachings of our spiritual traditions (and the truth that humans are part of one interconnected family) ignored.
Environmental pollution and destruction occur when the health and harmony of Nature is not respected (or prioritized). Again, its a matter of thinking we are somehow separate from the rest of the planet that surrounds us. When human beings don’t support the natural balance of ecosystems, it’s usually because we fail to keep in mind that the harm we do to the natural world we also do to all future generations, and ourselves.
Economic problems are also linked to civilization’s compartmentalized and selfish ways of thinking. It’s an extension of the way emperors and kings have thought for over two thousand years.
Wealth inequalities arise when a few people seek to dominate others, to accumulate (and then hoard) resources for themselves, without caring about their sisters and brothers in surrounding communities who require an equitable share of that wealth to live happy and healthy lives.
In a sense, human communities and nations are like physical bodies. In a body every cell requires a fair share of the energy in order to thrive. When a group of cells take more than their share, without concern for the rest of the body, the health of the body is damaged and becomes unstable.
In any complex unified system, natural balance and harmony is a priority, and chaos will arise until it is restored. Human history over the last few thousand years is in large part the story of this imbalance.
Most social problems arise from these inequities and the compartmentalized thinking that perpetuates our ignorance.
Drug abuse, crime, violent revolutions, terrorism and other such “disturbances” down through history flow from the extreme wealth and power imbalance of complex hierarchical civilizations. They are directly related to the poverty, oppression and unhappiness associated with those on the bottom end of wealth inequality and oppression.
“Creating a society that goes against human nature is what creates the suffering… We live in a completely unnatural society, that actually tramples on what it means to be a human being. That’s the essence of suffering, and there are so many ways in which our society does that.” ~Dr Gabor Mate
When people are healthy, happy and leading meaningful lives such behaviors are less likely to arise, and can be calmed quickly. This does not require a forced political solution (such as Communism) as much as a change of mindset, and greater compassion. If more people in positions of power and dominance began to think differently and care more, the problems associated with poverty could be solved, quickly.
Humans organize the world based on our beliefs and perceptions. If we see a world at war, a world of winners and losers, of competition (and battle over resources ) we respond that way, defensively and aggressively.
If we view the world as a place where everyone is a member of our extended family, where everything in the Universe is interconnected ecologically and holistically, we will respond more compassionately and generously.
The challenge for humanity now is to transform and transcend our fractured views of the world, to shift paradigms, to return to a more wise and holistic understanding of ourselves and our place in the Universe.
A change in thinking and behavior will result naturally from a change of heart. As Einstein put it, “Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
“As a species, we are on the cusp of an evolutionary choice. Standing at the dawn of this perfect storm, we find ourselves at the beginning of a process of civilizational transition. As the old paradigm dies, a new paradigm is born. And many people around the world are already making the evolutionary choice to step away from the old, and embrace the new.”~Nafeez Ahmed
Once enough of us open our minds and collaborate together, there’s a good chance we’ll find many of our problems can be solved quite easily. By aligning our species with the wisdom of Nature (and our own hearts), the health of our planet and communities could be restored.
We just need to recognize our interdependence with the rest of the Universe, be more generous and grateful, care about one another, re-evaluate our priorities and change the way we think.
“Learn how to see, realize that everything connects to everything else.” ~Leonardo Da Vinci
“The greatest revolution of our time is in the way we see the world. The mechanistic paradigm underlying the Industrial Growth Society gives way to the realization that we belong to a living, self-organizing cosmos.” ~Joanna Macy
“You are not IN the universe, you ARE the universe, an intrinsic part of it. Ultimately you are not a person, but a focal point where the universe is becoming conscious of itself. What an amazing miracle.” ~Eckhart Tolle
* How Wisdom Grows – Educating Hearts & Minds * Wholeness: a Coherent Approach to Reality – David Bohm * Systems Thinking – Rediscovering Nature’s Paradigm * Love vs. Power: A Tale of Two Mindsets * Toward a More Creative & Holistic Model of Education * Perpetual Curse of the Warrior Mindset * The Universe is One Harmonious Whole * It’s a Pink Floyd World – Welcome (Back) to the Machine * How We Participate in the Creative Life of the Universe * How Einstein Saw the World * Every Child is an Artist by Nature * Glimpses of a Creative Universe * Poetry Surrounds Us – Vincent Van Gogh * Shifting Paradigms: Aligning with the Wisdom of Nature * How Wisdom Awakens Us From Our Dreams * Alan Watts – Everything is Interconnected & Inseparable *