Most of us have been raised to believe in one version of reality. We were taught that we are a part of species that arose from a lengthy process of evolution and happened to develop an ability to be conscious and self-aware. As part of that story, we were told that we live in an expansive and mostly void universe that follows mechanical laws of motion and relationship. We applied these assumptions, as well as the rational and objective way of learning such information, generously into all institutional fields of practice to include the social sciences, medicine, and economics.
The era generally characterized above reigned for several hundred years and has been penned, modernity. The modern era was also characterized by the values of competition, individualism, and achievement. And although our society still operates largely as a modern one, modern science and its values have been successfully proven limiting for many decades. This has left the West in an insecure postmodern haze, within which many beliefs and antisystems of belief co-exist.
But because new trends are showing greater alignment in the diverse fields of psychology, philosophy, and science, we can begin to have more confidence that a new worldview, one with new assumptions and corresponding values, is developing. What does this mean for the common person who may or may not be interested in philosophy? It means that the societal institutions, through which all of us operate, will significantly change. Our economy, our fields of medicine, our schools, and even our politics will be transmuting. At a time when humanity seems to be digging itself into a deeper whole, I show, through an overview of progressive interdisciplinary trends, why dramatic change for the better is in store as the century unfolds.
Scientific study still reigns supreme today as the litmus test for truth. So as those within this community make significant adjustments about the nature of reality, common Western perception is sure to follow suit.
With powerful technology, scientists are able to observe, study, and compute data gathered at an unimaginable scale—both small and large. With some surprising discoveries over the past decades, theoretical science flourishes with adapting assumptions and debate.
No discipline is as instrumental in the discussion as quantum mechanics and physics. As a result, contemporary science suggests that the quantum world—and therefore possibly the subtle nature of the entire universe—might be multidimensional (many beyond the four that include the traditionally understood restrictions of space/time), nonlocal (objects can impact distant objects instantly), and nonlinear (or acausal). These assumptions are diametrically opposed to those of Newtonian science described in arPart I of this series.
Traditionally the most material of disciplines, new science is now advancing such considerations as the existence of parallel universes (that alternative and possible futures are all real) and interconnected fields of energy within a universal web. Importantly, scientific observations consistently show that consciousness inter-relates with matter in ways that transcend the the limits of rigid space and constant time.
In other words, both the most reduced and the most absolute act in accord with conscious energy—possibly one of the most universal and fundamental components of existence. Many argue that these kinds of discoveries validate mystical interpretations of reality, which suggest that consciousness may be supreme and precede, not result from, the formation or evolution of material existence. This is a 180 degree flip from the philosophy of materialism that has dominated scientific theory the past few hundred years.
Meanwhile, in the field of psychology, similar events are occurring. Traditional schools of psychology (e.g., Developmental, Behavioral, Neuro, and Cognitive), limited by the modern story, have assumed personality, functioning, and identity to be determined simply by genetics, environment, integration of early-life stages, and the result of material evolution of matter, life, and species. We were taught that the height of human growth is reached at individuated ego formation. Following such ideology, treatment is best achieved by reinforcing “rational” behavior or by isolating and manipulating brain chemistry. Again, these are practices heavily influenced by the modern material worldview, as was discussed in Part I of the series.
Alternative psychologists (e.g., humanistic, archetypal, transpersonal, Jungian, and integral) tend to believe that we are influenced by many more factors, and have considerable levels of potential. By expanding methodological approaches, some of these theorists conclude that human actualization is best expressed when we are beyond the developmental stage of ego manifestation. As “trans-egoic” stages are integrated, some theorists argue, the human develops higher values and levels of functioning. This is theoretically possible if higher, deeper, or more sophisticated levels of the human Self and of the cosmos interconnect at more universal and subtle energetic vibrations, as is assumed by some alternative paradigms.
The idea of human empowerment is shifting as well. More people are claiming an ability to “create” and take responsibility over their life situations. They believe this is best achieved by accessing the inherent power of elevated intentions and thoughts, as well as by deeply tuning into the present moment. All of these so-called deep or elevated qualities of experience seem to allow the individual to transcend ego and the limitations of three-dimensional time and space. Many of these “new” and increasingly popular teachings suggest that when we operate primarily from ego, our mundane life experiences are more prone to be bogged down by fear, negativity, and illusions of separation. Operating from greater depth and inclusion (ego and higher levels of Self), one can experience greater achievements of peace, awareness, and empowerment.
In addition, popular and psychologically minded scientific studies show that our intentions and emotions impact matter and other forms of life outside of ourselves. Meditating groups of individuals, for instance, can significantly reduce city crime, as was suggested by controlled studies. Similarly, the research of Masuru Emoto shows that individuals focusing on elevated emotions, such as love and joy, easily shift water to make it visibly more beautiful at a molecular level.
Philosophy and the New Worldview Debate
Because scientific discoveries are successfully calling into question long-accepted notions of truth, the field of philosophy is actively in debate. Progressive philosophers are scurrying to show how their paradigms help the truth seeker find a new intellectual and/or experiential home.
Postmodernism, arguably the epicenter of the West’s recent philosophical state, tends to be a loose composite, or anti-system, of ideas. Some postmodern thinkers, however, are very hesitant to adopt any laws of truth. The are often convinced that such action will lead to dogma, abuse, and the eventual “proof” that such claims are inaccurate.
Some postmodernists are influenced by scientific studies and personal observations that seem to suggest to them that all experience is subjective and relative. Similarly, deconstructionists, post-structuralists, existentialists, phenomenologists, and pluralists, whether or not they belong under a postmodern umbrella, point out the fallacies of objectified or rational truth and the limitations of reductionism.
I cannot do these philosophies justice in this article, but it may suffice to say here that such perspectives attempt to address the complexities of so-called truth and knowledge validation, as well as culture and the many other influences impacting human perception. Such philosophers valiantly attempt to keep their followers aware of challenges, dichotomies, impure motivations, and problematic assumptions.
While such values and exploration is noble, such philosophies tend to leave the truth seeker dissatisfied, if not confused. While it remains to be seen, the postmodern philosophical climate may be serving to clear away the old during a period of transition. Some believe a fresh and cohesive worldview awaits in the wings. Certain thinkers would agree with this and would lobby for their perspective to serve as a new master paradigm. Various views, such as intelligent design and neodarwinsim, tend to differ about the ultimate nature of reality, and can be placed along a spectrum with faith at one end, and material evolution at the other.
Perennialists, meanwhile, might argue that satisfactory paradigms have existed for thousands of years. Some perennialists believe that universally true insights have been discovered and rediscovered repeatedly—across and within Eastern, Western, and indigenous cultures. The various systems of religious or secular knowledge, these thinkers say, may appear very divergent when expressed at superficial levels. For example, popular interpretations of Christianity look very dissimilar to Hinduism, which looks very divergent from Newtonian science. Perennialists, at the same time, believe that convergences emerge when the deepest, purest, or most mystical components of these philosophies—as opposed to the widely accepted aspects—are examined and compared.
The shared and timeless views tend to include notions of an ultimate reality that is nondual, conscious, benevolent, transcendent, interconnected, all inclusive, timeless, and immaterial. Perennialists argue that such insights have earned validation by being resistant to the binds of time, culture, and conditioning. These thinkers tend to claim that access to such truth is achieved via altered states of consciousness, through deep individual development, revelatory wisdom, and quantum discovery.
As depicted earlier, we see then that the social and hard sciences are converging, away from materialism and reductionism, and toward views of interconnectedness, where the larger and inner, not the smaller and outer, are the most fundamental. All of these beliefs, some perennialists claim, are properly explained by the more mystical versions of Western and Eastern paradigms—such as Advaita Vedanta (Hindu) and the writings of Lao-Tzu that led to Taosim, as well as mystical Christianity that has informed the organized beliefs of Rosicrucianism, Hermeticism, and Theosophy, for examples. Because these Western ideas, which existed outside of tradition and modernity, dealt with mystical, internal, or abstract concepts, and were subscribed to by a small segment of the population (sometimes secretly), they were labeled esoteric.
In addition to subscribing to the above notions, integralists and other neoperennialists argue that as humanity evolves, it goes through increasingly sophisticated perceptions of reality that mirror its collective developmental stages of consciousness. For example, integralists would argue that pre-renaissance and pre-rational beliefs (popular ones) tended to by mythic representations of truth because such beliefs appropriately arose from their simpler levels of evolutionary sophistication. Humans in the past, according to this perspective, were more prone to project irrational meaning to outside and personified beings that would be responsible for material happenings. Hence, whole cultures would believe that certain Gods punished us with rain. As we became more rational, we elevated matter as the most relevant domain of existence. We rationally solved puzzles by discovering the complex causes and cycles that lead to cloud condensation and precipitation.
These integralists suggest that many perspectives alive today are valid, but tend to represent only partial aspects of truth or emanate from limited levels of consciousness, including rational views. Integralists assign differing views, and their corresponding value spheres, to varying levels of development. In other words, different levels exist as a spectrum of evolution as part of an interconnected web of nondual existence.
These theorists argue that our postmodern climate reflects an advance beyond purely materialistic, or ego-based rationality, but suggest that even deeper views reflect more expanded awareness of such existence. By recognizing this, integralists claim that their view adequately explains the evolution of culture, worldviews, faith, wisdom, and science while showing a means of understanding differences and the future tide of human progress. They also suggest that our earthly experience has enveloped out of a fragmented, but universal, and ultimately, nondual reality, and that the movement of evolution moved toward reintegration. Transegoic stages of development, integralists claim, lead one toward a greater ability to connect with the inner experience and recognition that we are all, ultimately, connected energetically and consciously.
Reflections of Elevating Consciousness and Motivations
Again, alternative views did not resonate with enough of the population to be able to stand as a popular worldview in the past, and were relegated to esotericism. While sophisticated philosophy will remain allocated to intellectual speculation for some time, the themes that happen to be common across alternative and progressive disciplines are gaining significantly expanded acceptance. Not coincidentally perhaps, this is occurring at a time when human consciousness might be making an evolutionary advance. If this is the case–that we are becoming a species able to identify beyond tribal, racial, national, or regional loyalties and into a truly global identity–then progressive, or deeper views, of existence should only strengthen as more individuals advance beyond ego perception. This should also rapidly advance as technology continues to make information more accessible to a more sophisticated and global culture, in a way that transcends cultural conditioning and its tendency to be rigid and limiting.
It may be, however, that greater forces are at play, which might be speeding this process of evolution and new worldview development. Contemporary esoteric information, outside of academia, indicates that our very experience of reality is dramatically, but subtly, shifting. A number of variables (e.g., the rate at which planetary energy vibrates might be accelerating significantly) may be coalescing in a way that is opening the restrictions of the space-time continuum. Those that subscribe to such ideas argue that this phenomenon aids human access and integration of higher, or deeper, states of existence and consciousness. See my article if you would like to know more. Arguably, these changes have been repeatedly predicted across time and culture.
More importantly, if humanity is truly advancing in its consciousness, then it will also increasingly adopt the higher values and motivations that are tied to trans-egoic levels. These higher values include the desire and ability to be cooperative, service-minded, and compassionate. These sharply contrast the values of the heightened egoic stage that has dominated civilization and empires of recent time—competition, separation, and individualism. Look, therefore, to the relatively rapid increase in societal trends that involve trans-egoic motivations and values.
History shows that we reorient institutions and practices that mirror our assumptions about existence and do so in a way that reflects our shifting values. This was the case during modernity when we became more competitive, confident, and material, and after a period marked most dominantly by dogmatic tradition. If the trend continues, we might look forward to economic, medical, financial, and political adaptations that mirror new views of interconnectedness and our improved ability to cooperate. For example, we might one day see with regularity, as opposed to with rarity, the implementation of technologies that are earth friendly, business models that benefit the populous and not just special interests, political arrangements that look at shared interests, and medical and psychological practices that address the whole being in relationship with an interconnected environment.
These, some would argue, are natural manifestations of an evolved society of beings that experientially, and intellectually, recognize they are energetically connected to one another, their environment, and the greater cosmos. When operating under such assumptions, humanity recognizes the inherent flaws of narcissistic behavior that tends to harm the greater collective.
We may still be far from a climate able to accept a new worldview. Questions will continue to permeate debates within new paradigm studies. Theoretical differences remain regarding evolution, human development, spirituality, cycles of nature, cosmological order, Absolute Truth, and so on. The task at hand is to allow for uncensored truth to permeate disciplines, and to seek integration and compassion between the old and new.
Unfortunately, history shows that new or revised paradigms are threatening to those who hold to old, rigid, and weather-worn beliefs. This is particularly true for those whose security and economic power is perceived to rest on such views. We can witness this truism today as arch conservatives continue to keep alternative ideas out of traditional media and education in attempts to protect the established system. But history shows that humanity tends to formulate consensus as new information spreads across a populous; evolving in it experience and challenges. To the degree that such resistance is overcome, the institutions through which Westerners operate, should transform in more healthy and constructive ways.