The Aquarian Conspiracy, by Marilyn Ferguson

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: The Aquarian Conspiracy, by Marilyn Ferguson

Postby admin » Sat Apr 27, 2019 3:57 am

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER 6: Liberating Knowledge: News from the Frontiers of Science

Any truth creates a scandal.

— MARGUERITE YOURCENAR, The Memoirs of Hadrian

Our discoveries about the startling nature of reality are a major force for change, undermining commonsense ideas and old institutional philosophies. “The 1980s will be a revolutionary time," said physicist Fritjof Capra, “because the whole structure of our society does not correspond with the world-view of emerging scientific thought."

The agenda of the coming decade is to act on this new scientific knowledge — discoveries that revise the very data base on which we have built our assumptions, our institutions, our lives. It promises far more than the old reductionist view. It reveals a rich, creative, dynamic, interconnected reality. Nature, we are learning, is not a force over which we must triumph but the medium of our transformation.

The mysteries we will explore in this chapter are not remote from us, like black holes in outer space, but ourselves. Our brains and bodies. The genetic code. The nature of change. The widening and shrinking of conscious experience. The power of imagination and intention. The plastic nature of intelligence and perception.

We live what we know. If we believe the universe and ourselves to be mechanical, we will live mechanically. On the other hand, if we know that we are part of an open universe, and that our minds are a matrix of reality, we will live more creatively and powerfully.

If we imagine that we are isolated beings, so many inner tubes afloat on an ocean of indifference, we will lead different lives than if we know a universe of unbroken wholeness. Believing in a world of fixity, we will fight change; knowing a world of fluidity, we will cooperate with change.

As Abraham Maslow said, a fear of knowing is very deeply a fear of doing, because of the responsibility inherent in new knowledge. These new discoveries reveal aspects of nature too rich for analysis, yet we can understand them. On some level — call it heart, right brain, gut, collective unconscious — we recognize the rightness, even the simplicity of the principles involved. They fit with deeply buried knowledge within us.

Science is only confirming paradoxes and intuitions humankind has come across many times but stubbornly disregarded. It is telling us that our social institutions and our very ways of existence violate nature. We fragment and freeze that which should be moving and dynamic. We construct unnatural hierarchies of power. We compete when we might cooperate.

If we read the handwriting on the wall of science, we see the critical need to change — to live with nature, not against it.

Discoveries from many realms of science — brain research, physics, molecular biology, research on learning and consciousness, anthropology, psychophysiology — have come together in revolutionary ways, yet the emergent picture is by no means well known. Word from the scientific frontier usually leaks back only through highly specialized channels, sometimes garbled. But it concerns us all; it is news to be broken, not a diary to be classified.

Before we look at the discoveries, we'll consider briefly the reasons we have heard the news only in bits, if at all. Certainly no one censors it. Part of the communication problem, as we shall see, is the strangeness of what is being found; part results from the extreme specialization of the researchers and their own lack of an overview. Very few people are synthesizing the information being gathered in far-flung places. It is as if military scouts were continually returning from reconnaissance missions with observations and there were no generals to put it all together.

Once upon a time, everybody "did" science. Long before science was a career, people tried to understand nature for their own amusement and excitement. They collected specimens, experimented, built microscopes and telescopes. Although some of these hobby scientists became famous, it hardly occurs to us that they were untrained in the formal sense; they wrote no dissertations for graduate schools.

And we were all scientists, too — curious children, testing substances on our tongues, discovering gravity, peering under rocks, seeing patterns in the stars, wondering what makes the night scary and the sky blue.

Partly because the educational system has taught science only in a reductionist, left-brain style and partly because of the society's demands for practical applications of technology, the romance of science fades quickly for most youngsters. Those who love nature but dislike dissecting small animals soon learn to avoid high-school biology. Students who enroll in psychology courses, hoping to learn something about how people think and feel, find themselves learning more about rats and statistics than they ever wanted to know.

In higher education, science narrows further. The humanities-oriented sheep and the science- oriented goats are herded into their respective pens; at many universities, the science and humanities centers are blocks apart. Most students sidestep any science beyond the minimum required hours; the science majors are funnelled into their specialties, subspecialties, and microspecialties. By graduate school, they can scarcely communicate with each other.

Most of us end up feeling that science is something special, separate, outside our ken, like Greek or archeology. A minority pursue it narrowly, and we have C. P. Snow's Two Cultures, Science and Art, each a little superior, a little envious, and tragically incomplete.

Each scientific discipline is an island, as well. Specialization has kept most scientists from trespassing into "fields" other than their own, both from fear of looking foolish and from the difficulty of communication. Synthesis is left to the hardy few, the irrepressibly creative researchers whose breakthroughs make work for the whole industry.

At a recent annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (founded to foster interdisciplinary exchange), anthropologists reportedly met in one Philadelphia hotel to hear reports about the probable causes for the extinction of tribes. At the same hour, hundreds of biologists convened in a nearby hotel to discuss the reason for the extinction of species. The two groups — in their separate hotels — came up with the same answer: over-specialization.

Specialization has spawned another problem: technical and mathematical languages — a Tower of Babel.

In brain science alone, half a million papers are published annually. Neuroscience has become such an esoteric discipline, so narrowly subspecialized, that the researchers have extraordinary difficulty in communicating even among themselves. Only a handful of researchers are trying to make sense of the whole.

The second reason for the communications gap is the utter strangeness of the new worldview. We are required to make paradigm shift after paradigm shift, to drastically alter our old beliefs and to see from a new perspective.

It has been said that science replaces common sense with knowledge. Indeed, our most advanced intellectual adventures carry us into wonderlands beyond the boundaries of logical, linear understanding. There is a much-quoted observation of the great biologist, J. B. S. Haldane, that reality is not only stranger than we conceive but stranger than we can conceive.

There is no bottom line in nature. There is no deepest place where it all makes tidy sense. This can be frightening. It can make us feel as if we are regressing to childhood, when nature seemed immense, mysterious, potent. Later we learned to sort facts from fancy, and mystery was reduced to “explanations." “Facts" about lightning or magnetism or radio waves, for example, led us to think that nature was understood or about to be understood. This mistaken view, held by most scientists in the late-nineteenth century, carried over into popular misunderstanding of the powers of science.

Now, when our most advanced science begins to sound mythic and symbolic — when it relinquishes hope of achieving ultimate certainty — we are disbelieving. It is as if we are being asked to re-create the awe and credulity of early childhood, before we knew what a rainbow “really" was.

As we shall see, the new science goes beyond cool, clinical observations to a realm of shimmering paradox, where our very reason seems endangered. Yet, just as we can take advantage of great technological developments of our civilization, like the transistor, our lives can be liberated by the new worldview of radical science, whether we understand the technicalities or not.

Many of the vital insights of modem science are expressed in mathematics, a "language" most of us neither speak nor understand. Ordinary language is inadequate to deal with the nonordinary. Words and sentences have given us a false sense of understanding, blinding us to the complexity and dynamics of nature.

Life is not constructed like a sentence, subject acting on object. In reality many events affect each other simultaneously. Take, for example, the impossibility of sorting out who-did-what-first or who-caused-what-behavior in a family. We construct all of our explanations on a linear model that exists only as an ideal.

Semanticists like Alfred Korzybski and Benjamin Whorf warned that Indo-European languages trap us in a fragmented model of life. They disregard relationship. By their subject-predicate structure, they mold our thought, forcing us to think of everything in terms of simple cause and effect. For this reason it is hard for us to talk about — or even think about — quantum physics, a fourth dimension, or any other notion without clearcut beginnings and endings, up and down, then and now.

Events in nature have simultaneous multiple causes. Some languages, notably Hopi and Chinese, are structured differently and can express nonlinear ideas with less strain. They can, in effect, "speak physics." Like the ancient Greeks, whose philosophy strongly influenced the left-brained West, we say, "The light flashed." But the light and the flash were one. A Hopi would more accurately say, "Reh-pi!" — "Flash!"

Korzybski warned that we will not grasp the nature of reality until we realize the limitation of words. Language frames our thought, thereby setting up barriers. The map is not the territory. A rose is not a rose is a rose; the apple of August 1 is not the apple of September 10 or the wizened fruit of October 2. Change and complexity always outrun our powers of description.

Ironically, even most scientists do not relate scientific knowledge to everyday life. Peer pressure discourages them from searching for wider meaning or significance "outside their field." They keep what they know compartmentalized and irrelevant, like a religion practiced only on holy days. Only a few have the intellectual rigor and personal courage to try to integrate their science into their lives. Capra remarked that most physicists go home from the laboratory and live their lives as if Newton, not Einstein, were right — as if the world were fragmented and mechanical. "They don't seem to realize the philosophical, cultural, and spiritual implications of their theories."

Our quantifying instruments — electron microscopes, computers, telescopes, random-number generators, EEGs, statistics, test tubes, integral calculus, cyclotrons — have finally given us passage to a realm beyond numbers. What we find is not nonsense but a kind of meta-sense — not illogical, but transcending logic as we once defined it.

Creating a new theory, Einstein once said, is not like erecting a skyscraper in the place of an old barn. "It is rather like climbing a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering unexpected connections between our starting point and its rich environment. But the point from which we started out still exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller and forms a tiny part of our broad view. ..."


Like the Flatlanders, we have been at least one dimension short. This dimension, however strange it may seem at first, in a very real sense is the genesis of our world— our real home.

This chapter will take us through several scientific doorways into that other dimension. Technical terms have been kept to a minimum so that the "story line" can better be followed. Those who want to pursue the data will find technical references at the back of the book.

The left brain is a useful companion on a voyage of discovery — up to a point. Its measuring genius has brought us to our present respect for, and intellectual belief in, the larger dimension. But in many ways it is like Virgil in Dante's Divine Comedy. Virgil could escort the poet through Hell and Purgatory, where everything was reasonable, where, for example, the punishment fit the crime.

But when Dante came to the perimeters of Paradise, Virgil had to stay behind. He could confront the mystery but he could not penetrate it. Beatrice, the poet's muse, accompanied him into the place of transcendence.

Nonlinear understanding is more like "tuning in" than traveling from point to point. The scientific discoveries discussed in this chapter take us into a country whose cartography is felt rather than traced.

When the left brain confronts the nonlinear dimension, it keeps circling around, breaking wholes into parts, retracing its data, and asking inappropriate questions, like a reporter at a funeral. Where, when, how, why? We have to inhibit its questions for the moment, suspend its judgment, or we cannot "get" the other dimension, any more than you can see both perspectives of the optical-illusion staircase at the same time — or be swept away by a symphony while analyzing the composition.

A world without space and time is not completely foreign to our experience. It is a little like our dreams, where past and future seem to run together, where locations shift mysteriously.

Recall the model of the paradigm shift introduced by Thomas Kuhn: Every important new idea in science sounds strange at first. As the physicist Niels Bohr put it, great innovations inevitably appear muddled, confusing, and incomplete, only half-understood even by their discoverers, and a mystery to everyone else. There is no hope, Bohr said, for any speculation that does not look absurd at first glance. Bohr once remarked of an idea advanced by his famous colleague Werner Heisenberg, "It isn't crazy enough to be true." (As it turned out, it wasn't. [1])

If we stubbornly refuse to look at that which seems magical or incredible, we are in distinguished company. The French Academy announced at one point that it would not accept any further reports of meteorites, since it was clearly impossible for rocks to fall out of the sky. Shortly thereafter a rain of meteorites came close to breaking the windows of the Academy.

If scientists are slow to accept new information, the public is usually even slower. Erwin Schrodinger, the great physicist, once said that it takes at least fifty years before a major scientific discovery penetrates the public consciousness — half a century before people realize what truly surprising beliefs are held by leading scientists. The human species can no longer afford the luxury of such long double-takes or the leisurely changes of heart of entrenched scientists. The cost is too great: in our ecology, our relationships, our health, our conflict, our threatened collective future. We are duty-bound to search, question, open our minds.

A major task of the Aquarian Conspiracy is to foster paradigm shifts by pointing out the flaws in the old paradigm and showing how the new context explains more — makes more sense. As we will see, the most powerful transformative ideas from modern science connect like parts of a puzzle. They support each other; together they form the scaffolding for a wider worldview.

Each of these major ideas is a whole in itself, a system for understanding a spectrum of phenomena in our lives and in society. Each also has uncanny parallels to ancient poetic and mystical descriptions of nature. Science is only now verifying what humankind has known intuitively since the dawn of history.

In The Morning of the Magicians Pauwels and Bergier speculated that an open conspiracy exists among scientists who have discovered these metaphysical realities. Many of the Aquarian Conspirators are scientists, a fraternity of paradigm breakers who cross into each other's territory for new insights. Many more have an intense lay interest in the frontiers of research. They draw their models for social change from scientific insights about how nature really, radically works. Other conspirators have become interested in science because they want to understand the physical basis for experiences they have had through the psychotechnologies. [2]

By supporting programs where scientists from many disciplines can discuss the implications of their work for society and for personal change, the Aquarian Conspiracy plays an important educational role. For example, a fairly typical program staged in New York in late 1978 featured two physicists, Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner and Fritjof Capra; psychologist Jean Houston, a researcher in altered states of consciousness; brain scientist Karl Pribram; and Swami Rama, a yogi who became famous in the early 1970s when the Menninger Foundation and other laboratories verified his remarkable ability to control physiological processes (including virtually stopping his heart). Their topic: "New Dimensions of Consciousness."

The brochure for the conference, also typical, characterized the convergence of science and intuition:

Today we are on the brink of a new synthesis. In the past four centuries western science has experienced a continuous shattering and reforming of its basic concepts. Now the scientific community has begun to recognize striking correlations between their findings and those expressed abstrusely by ancient mystics. This is a convocation of visionary men and women pioneering this new synthesis.

Similar programs have been presented all around the country — at universities and science museums, in the inner chambers of establishment science — with titles like On the Ultimate Nature of Reality, The Physics of Consciousness, Consciousness and Cosmos, Consciousness and Cultural Change.


Until the 1960s there were relatively few scientists studying the brain and even fewer researching the interaction between the brain and conscious experience. Since then brain and consciousness research has become a thriving industry. The more we know in this field, the more radical our questions become. "There will be no end to this enterprise," said John Eccles, a Nobel-laureate neuroscientist, "not for centuries."

Beginning in the sixties biofeedback research demonstrated that human subjects can control delicate, complex, internal processes long believed to be involuntary. In the laboratory, people were trained to speed up and slow down their heart rate, alter the electrical activity on the surface of the skin, shift from rapid beta-rhythm brainwaves to slower alpha-rhythm. Human subjects learned to "fire" (cause a bioelectrical action in) a single motor nerve cell. A pioneer researcher in biofeedback, Barbara Brown, has remarked that this deep biological awareness reflects the mind's ability to alter every physiological system, every cell in the body.

Although biofeedback subjects knew how these shifts felt, they were helpless to explain how they were achieved. On one level biofeedback seems like a straightforward phenomenon; monitoring bodily information by machine readout, tone cues, or lights one can identify the sensations associated with fluctuations in feedback. But there is a mysterious gap between intention and physiological action. How can one's will select a single cell out of billions and cause it to discharge? Or release a specific chemical? Or limit the flow of gastric juices? Or alter the rhythmic behavior of populations of brain cells? Or dilate capillaries to increase hand temperature?

Awareness is wider and deeper than anyone had guessed; intention, more powerful. Clearly, human beings have not begun to exploit their potential for change.

Biofeedback phenomena sent researchers scurrying back to the handful of scientific reports on yogis reported to have such control — without feedback. Until the phenomenon was verified in biofeedback laboratories, it had been widely assumed that the yogis had somehow tricked the few investigators willing to look at their feats.

Emerging at the same time were laboratory studies of meditation and other altered states of consciousness. Distinctive physiological changes in EEG, respiration, and electrical activity on the skin surface were found in meditators. The higher-amplitude, more rhythmic, slower brainwave patterns confirmed the claims of the psychotechnologies that practitioners achieve greater internal harmony.

During that same period, split-brain research (discussed in Chapter 3) demonstrated that human beings are indeed "of two minds" and that such centers of consciousness can function independently from each other in a single skull. The importance of this research, which opened a related field studying brain-hemisphere specialization, cannot be overstated. It helped us understand the distinctive nature of "holistic" processes; the mysterious knowing that had been insisted upon, disputed, and doubted over the centuries. The phenomenon of "intuition" was now vaguely situated on the neuroanatomical map.

The quantifying brain confirmed the reality of its qualitatively different "minor" hemisphere — an equal, if repressed, partner. Its powers were evident in the amazing performances of biofeedback subjects, the altered physiological processes measured in mediators, the strange double awareness in split-brain patients. More subtle techniques soon revealed the presence of the "other mind" in general perception. Researchers demonstrated that our attention is exquisitely selective, biased by belief and emotion; we can process information in parallel channels at the same time; we have extraordinary capacities for memory (if not always easy access to our data banks).

In the mid-seventies a series of breakthroughs opened an exciting new research field that is radicalizing what we know about how the brain works. Best known is the discovery of the class of brain substances known as endorphins or enkephalins, sometimes referred to as "the brain's own morphine" because they were first identified by their action at the brain sites where morphine has its effect. Like morphine, the endorphins are also analgesic.

The endorphins and the other brain substances of the class known as peptides added a new principle to brain function. The known chemical transmitters in the brain had been tracked; they work in a linear way, from cell to cell. But the new substances are more simultaneous in their action; they seem to modulate the activity of brain cells much as one tunes a radio and adjusts for volume. Some of them "broadcast” messages as well, which led Roger Guillemin, a Nobel-laureate researcher in the field, to suggest the existence of a "new" nervous system comprised of these substances.

Because the peptides are general and powerful in their action, their effects on the body and behavior are often dramatic. The endorphins, for example, have been shown to affect sexuality, appetite, social bonding, pain perception, alertness, learning, reward, seizures, and psychosis. Experiments have implicated the endorphins in the mysterious placebo effect, in which an inactive substance like a sugar pill produces relief because the patient expects it. Patients experiencing placebo relief from postoperative dental discomfort reported a recurrence of pain after they were given a chemical that interferes with the endorphins. Faith, inspired by the placebo, apparently releases endorphins. How it happens is as big a mystery as how intention works in biofeedback.

The endorphins may also be the system that enables us to push from our minds whatever we do not want to feel or think about — the chemistry of denial. Also, they are clearly involved in states of mental well-being. Infant animals distressed by separation from their mothers show a drop in endorphin levels. There is evidence that eating releases endorphins in the digestive system, which may explain the comfort some people obtain from food.

There are many different substances in the endorphin family and they produce different effects. Chemically, endorphins are molecules broken down from a very large molecule — itself recently found to be stored within an enormous molecule. The brain seems to take these chemicals out of "cold storage" as needed.

Mental states such as loneliness, compulsion, anguish, attachment, pain, and faith are not just "all in the head" but in the brain as well. Brain, mind, and body are a continuum.

Our thoughts — intention, fear, images, suggestion, expectation — alter the brain's chemistry. And it works both ways; thoughts can be altered by changing the brain's chemistry with drugs, nutrients, oxygen.

The brain is hopelessly complex. Biologist Lyall Watson spoke of the Catch-22 of brain research: "If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn't!"


Ironically, scientific insights into the brain's holistic talents — its right-hemisphere capacity to comprehend wholes — raise serious questions about the scientific method itself. Science has always tried to understand nature by breaking things into their parts. Now it is overwhelmingly clear that wholes cannot be understood by analysis. This is one of those logical boomerangs, like the mathematical proof that no mathematical system can be truly coherent in itself.

The Greek prefix syn ("together with"), as in synthesis, synergy, syntropy, becomes increasingly meaningful. When things come together something new happens. In relationship there is novelty, creativity, richer complexity. Whether we are talking about chemical reactions or human societies, molecules or international treaties, there are qualities that cannot be predicted by looking at the components.

Half a century ago in Holism and Evolution Jan Smuts tried to synthesize Darwin's evolutionary theory, Einstein's physics, and his own insights to account for the evolution of mind as well as matter.

Wholeness, Smuts said, is a fundamental characteristic of the universe — the product of nature's drive to synthesize. "Holism is self-creative, and its final structures are more holistic than its initial structures." These wholes — in effect, these unions — are dynamic, evolutionary, creative. They thrust toward ever-higher orders of complexity and integration. "Evolution," Smuts said, "has an ever deepening, inward spiritual character."

As we'll see shortly, modem science has verified the quality of whole-making, the characteristic of nature to put things together in an ever-more synergistic, meaningful pattern.

General Systems Theory, a related modern concept, says that each variable in any system interacts with the other variables so thoroughly that cause and effect cannot be separated. A single variable can be both cause and effect. Reality will not be still. And it cannot be taken apart! You cannot understand a cell, a rat, a brain structure, a family, or a culture if you isolate it from its context. Relationship is everything.

Ludwig von Bertalanffy said that General Systems Theory aims to understand the principles of wholeness and self- organization at all levels:

Its applications range from the biophysics of cellular processes to the dynamics of populations, from the problems of physics to those of psychiatry and those of political and cultural units ....

General Systems Theory is symptomatic of a change in our worldview. No longer do we see the world in a blind play of atoms, but rather a great organization.

This theory says that history, while interesting and instructive, may not predict the future at all. Who can say what the dance of variables will produce tomorrow. . . next month . . . next year? Surprise is inherent in nature.


In Arthur Clarke's Childhood's End, the mysterious extraterrestrial Overlords, who have controlled Earth for a hundred years, explain that they are only interim protectors of humankind. Despite their greater intellectual powers, the Overlords are in an evolutionary cul-de-sac, whereas humanity has the capability of infinite evolution.

Above us is the Overmind, using us as the potter uses his wheel. And your race is the clay that is being shaped on that wheel.

We believe — it is only a theory — that the Overmind is trying to grow, to extend its powers and its awareness of the universe. By now, it must be the sum of many races, and long ago it left the tyranny of matter behind — It sent us here to do its bidding, to prepare you for the transformation that is now at hand ....

As to the nature of the change, we can tell you very little ... it spreads explosively, like the formation of crystals round the first nucleus in a saturated solution.

What Clarke described in literary metaphor, many serious scientists have expressed in academic terms. They suspect that we may be playing upon our own evolution, as on a musical instrument.

Darwin's theory of evolution by chance mutation and survival of the fittest has proven hopelessly inadequate to account for a great many observations in biology. Just as inadequacies in Newton's physics led Einstein to formulate a shocking new theory, so a larger paradigm is emerging to broaden our understanding of evolution.

Darwin insisted that evolution happened very gradually. Steven Jay Gould, a Harvard biologist and geologist, notes that on the eve of the publication of The Origin of Species, T. H. Huxley wrote Darwin, promising to battle on his behalf but warning that he had burdened his argument unnecessarily by this insistence. Darwin's portrayal of glacially slow evolution reflected in part his admiration of Charles Lyell, who promoted the idea of gradualism in geology. Evolution was a stately and orderly process in Darwin's view, Gould noted, ''working at a speed so slow that no person could hope to observe it in his lifetime."

And just as Lyell rejected the evidence for cataclysm in geology, Darwin ignored problems in his own evidence. True, there seemed to be great gaps, missing rungs in the ladder of evolution, but he believed these were just imperfections in the geological record. Change only seemed abrupt.

But to this day fossil evidence has not turned up the necessary missing links. Gould called the extreme rarity in the fossil record of transitional forms of life "the trade secret of paleontology." Younger scientists, confronted by the continuing absence of such missing links, are increasingly skeptical of the old theory. "The old explanation that the fossil record was inadequate is in itself an inadequate explanation," said Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History.

Gould and Eldredge independently proposed a resolution of this problem, a theory that is consistent with the geological record. Soviet paleontologists have proposed a similar theory. Punctuationalism or punctuated equilibrium suggests that the equilibrium of life is "punctuated" from time to time by severe stress. If a small segment of the ancestral population is isolated at the periphery of its accustomed range, it may give way to a new species. Also, the population is stressed intensely because it is living at the edge of its tolerance. “Favorable variations spread quickly," Gould said. “Small peripheral isolates are the laboratory of evolutionary change."

Most species do not change direction during their tenure on earth. "They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear," Gould said. A new species arises suddenly in the geological evidence. It does not evolve gradually by the steady change of its ancestors, but all at once and fully formed.

The old paradigm saw evolution as a steady climb up a ladder, whereas Gould and others liken it to a branching out of various limbs of a tree. For instance, anthropologists have discovered in recent years that at one time there were at least three coexisting hominids — creatures that had evolved beyond the ape. Earlier it was believed that these different specimens formed a sequence. Now it is known that one "descendant" was living at the same time as its presumed ancestors. Several different lineages split from the parent stock, the lower primates. Some survived and continued to evolve, while others disappeared. The large-brained Homo appeared quite suddenly.

The new paradigm attributes evolution to periodic leaps by small groups. [3] This changing view is significant for at least two reasons: (1) It requires a mechanism for biological change more powerful than chance mutation, and (2) it opens us up to the possibility of rapid evolution in our own time, when the equilibrium of the species is punctuated by stress. Stress in modern society is experienced at the frontiers of our psychological rather than our geographical limits. Pioneering becomes an increasingly psychospiritual venture since our physical frontiers are all but exhausted, short of space exploration.

Given what we are learning about the nature of profound change, transformation of the human species seems less and less improbable.

Gould pointed out that Europeans in the nineteenth century favored the idea of gradualism, both in geology and evolution; it fit more comfortably with the dominant philosophy, which abhorred revolutions, even in nature. Our philosophies limit what we let ourselves see, he said. [4] We need pluralistic philosophies that free us to see the evidence from many points of view.

If gradualism is more a product of Western thought than a fact of nature, then we should consider alternative philosophies of change to enlarge our realm of constraining prejudices. In the Soviet Union, for example, scientists are trained with a very different philosophy of change. . . . They speak of the "transformation of quantity into quality." This may sound like mumbo jumbo, but it suggests that change occurs in large leaps following a slow accumulation of stresses that a system resists until it reaches the breaking point. Heat water and it eventually reaches a boiling point. Oppress the workers more and more and they suddenly break their chains.

Evolution may be speeded up by certain genetic mechanisms, according to new findings. Genes and segments of DNA have been shown to jump off and onto chromosomes in bacteria and certain other life forms, suggesting that the chromosomes may be modified continuously. Researchers have conjectured that such genetic rewriting may be expected in all forms of life.

Certain segments of the DNA don't appear to contribute to the gene's usual product at all. The discovery of these intervening sequences, which appear as nonsense in the context of the genetic code, was called "horrifying" by one of the researchers, Walter Gilbert of Harvard. As the British journal New Scientist observed, "Our very concept of a gene is now in doubt." DNA might not be the consistent archive biologists had supposed, but rather a flux — "a dynamic system in which clusters of genes expand and contract, roving elements hop in and out." [5]

Biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, discoverer of Vitamin C and a Nobel laureate, proposed that a drive toward greater order may be a fundamental principle of nature. He calls this characteristic syntropy — the opposite of entropy. Living matter has an inherent drive to perfect itself, he believes. Perhaps the cell periphery in a living organism actually feeds information back to the DNA at its core, changing the instructions. “After all," he said, “it was not known until a few years ago how the DNA issues its instructions to the cell in the first place. Some equally elegant process may alter those instructions."

He rejected the idea that random mutations account for the sophistication in living matter. Biological reactions are chain reactions, and the molecules fit together more precisely than the cogwheels of a Swiss watch. How, then, could they have developed by accident?

For if any one of the very specific “cogwheels" in these chains is changed, then the whole system must simply become inoperative. Saying that it can be improved by random mutation of one link sounds to me like saying that you could improve a Swiss watch by dropping it and thus bending one of its wheels or axles. To get a better watch, you must change all the wheels simultaneously to make a good fit again.

Biologists have observed that there are many all-or-nothing "evolved" characteristics, such as the structure of birds for flight, that could not have occurred by random mutation and survival of the fittest. Half a wing would not have given any survival advantage. And wings would not have been of any use if the bone structure had not changed at the same time.

Evolution involves true transformation, re-forming of the basic structure, and not mere adding on.

Even in lower forms of life there are evolutionary achievements so stunning they humble our largest theories. In African Genesis Robert Ardrey recounted an incident in Kenya when Louis Leakey pointed out to him what appeared to be a coral-colored flower made up of many small blossoms, like a hyacinth. On close inspection, each oblong "blossom" turned out to be the wing of an insect. These, said Leakey, were flattid bugs.

Startled, Ardrey remarked that this was certainly a striking instance of protective imitation in nature. Leakey listened, looking amused, then explained that the coral flower "imitated" by the flattid bug does not exist in nature. Furthermore, each batch of eggs laid by the female includes at least one flattid bug with green wings, not coral, and several with wings of in-between shades.

I looked closely. At the tip of the insect flower was a single green bud. Behind it were half a dozen partially matured blossoms showing only strains of coral. Behind these on the twig crouched the full strength of flattid bug society, all with wings of purest coral to complete the colony's creation and deceive the eyes of the hungriest of birds.

There are moments when one's only response to evolutionary achievement can be a prickling sensation in the scalp. But still my speechlessness had not reached its most vacant, brain-numbed moment. Leakey shook the stick. The startled colony rose from its twig and filled the air with fluttering flattid bugs Then they returned to their twig. They alighted in no particular order and for an instant, the twig was alive with the little creatures climbing over each other's shoulders in what seemed to be random movement. But the movement was not random.

Shortly the twig was still and one beheld again the flower.

How had the flattid bugs evolved so? How do they know their respective places, crawling over one another to get into position, like schoolchildren taking their places for a Christmas pageant?

Colin Wilson suggested that there is not only communal consciousness among the bugs but that their very existence is due to a telepathic genetic connection. The flattid-bug community is, in a sense, a single individual, a single mind, whose genes were influenced by its collective need.

Is it possible that we too are expressing a collective need, preparing for an evolutionary leap? Physicist John Platt has proposed that humankind is now experiencing an evolutionary shockfront and "may emerge very quickly into coordinated forms such as it has never known before . . . implicit in the biological material all along, as surely as the butterfly is implicit in the caterpillar."


When the puzzles and paradoxes cry out for resolution, a new paradigm is due. Fortunately, a deep and powerful new explanation for rapid evolution — biological, cultural, personal — is emerging.

The theory of dissipative structures won the 1977 Nobel prize in chemistry for a Belgian physical chemist, Ilya Prigogine. This theory may prove as important a breakthrough to science in general as the theories of Einstein were to physics. It bridges the critical gap between biology and physics — the missing link between living systems and the apparently lifeless universe in which they arose.

It explains "irreversible processes" in nature — the movement toward higher and higher orders of life. Prigogine, whose early interest was in history and the humanities, felt that science essentially ignored time. In Newton's universe time was considered only in regard to motion, the trajectory of a moving object. Yet, as Prigogine keeps saying, there are many aspects of time: decay, history, evolution, the creation of new forms, new ideas. Where in the old universe was there room for becoming?

Prigogine's theory resolves the fundamental riddle of how living things have been running uphill in a universe that is supposed to be running down.

And the theory is immediately relevant to everyday life — to people. It offers a scientific model of transformation at every level. It explains the critical role of stress in transformation — and the impetus toward transformation inherent in nature!

As we shall see, the principles revealed by the theory of dissipative structures are valuable in helping us understand profound change in psychology, learning, health, sociology, even politics and economics. The theory has been used by the United States Department of Transportation to predict traffic flow patterns. Scientists in many disciplines are employing it within their own specialties. The applications are infinite.

The essence of the theory is not difficult to understand once we get past some semantic confusion. In describing nature, physical scientists often use ordinary words in their most literal sense — words for which we also have abstract meanings and strongly loaded emotional values. To understand Prigogine's theory we need to withhold traditional value judgment about words like "complexity," "dissipation," "coherence," "instability," and "equilibrium."

First, let's look again for a moment at the way in which nature is saturated with order and alive with pattern: flowers and insect colonies, cellular interactions, pulsar and quasar stars, the DNA code, biological clocks, the symmetrical exchanges of energy in the collision of subatomic particles, memory patterns in human minds.

Next, remember that at a deep level of nature, nothing is fixed. These patterns are in constant motion. Even a rock is a dance of electrons.

Some forms in nature are open systems, involved in a continuous exchange of energy with the environment. A seed, an ovum, and a living creature are all open systems. There are also human-made open systems. Prigogine gives the example of a town: It takes in energy from the surrounding area (power, raw materials), transforms it in factories, and returns energy to the environment. In closed systems, on the other hand — examples would be a rock, a cup of cold coffee, a log — there is no internal transformation of energy.

Prigogine's term for open systems is dissipative structures. That is, their form or structure is maintained by a continuous dissipation (consumption) of energy. Much as water moves through a whirlpool and creates it at the same time, energy moves through and simultaneously forms the dissipative structure. All living things and some nonliving systems (for instance, certain chemical reactions) are dissipative structures. A dissipative structure might well be described as a flowing wholeness. It is highly organized but always in process.

Now think about the meaning of the word complex: braided together. A complex structure is connected at many points and in many ways. The more complex a dissipative structure, the more energy is needed to maintain all those connections. Therefore it is more vulnerable to internal fluctuations. It is said to be "far from equilibrium." (In the physical sciences, equilibrium does not mean healthy balance. It refers to ultimate random dispersal of energy. This equilibrium is a kind of death.)

Because these connections can only be sustained by a flow of energy, the system is always in flux. Notice the paradox; the more coherent or intricately connected the structure, the more unstable it is. Increased coherence means increased instability! This very instability is the key to transformation. The dissipation of energy, as Prigogine demonstrated by his elegant mathematics, creates the potential for sudden reordering.

The continuous movement of energy through the system results in fluctuations; if they are minor, the system damps them and they do not alter its structural integrity. But if the fluctuations reach a critical size, they "perturb" the system. They increase the number of novel interactions within it. They shake it up. The elements of the old pattern come into contact with each other in new ways and make new connections. The parts reorganize into a new whole. The system escapes into a higher order.

The more complex or coherent a structure, the greater the next level of complexity. Each transformation makes the next one likelier. Each new level is even more integrated and connected than the one before, requiring a greater flow of energy for maintenance, and is therefore still less stable. To put it another way, flexibility begets flexibility. As Prigogine said, at higher levels of complexity, “the nature of the laws of nature changes." Life "eats" entropy. It has the potential to create new forms by allowing a shake-up of old forms.

The elements of a dissipative structure cooperate to bring about this transformation of the whole. In such a shift, even molecules do not just interact with their immediate neighbors, Prigogine noted, "but also exhibit coherent behavior suited to the [needs of] the parent organism." At other levels, insects cooperate within their colonies, human beings within social forms.

One recently reported example of a new dissipative structure occurred when bacteria were placed experimentally in water, a medium in which this strain was unaccustomed to live. They began to interact in a highly organized way that enabled some of their number to survive.

The Zhabotinskii reaction, a dissipative structure in chemistry, caused something of a sensation among chemists in the 1960s. In this dramatic example of nature creating patterns in both space and time, beautiful scroll-like forms unfold in a solution in a laboratory dish while the colors of the solution oscillate, changing from red to blue at regular intervals. Similarly, when certain oils are heated, a complex pattern of hexagons appears on the surface. The higher the heat, the more complex the pattern. These shifts are sudden and nonlinear. Multiple factors act on each other at once. [6]

At first the idea of creating new order by perturbation seems outrageous, like shaking up a box of random words and pouring out a sentence. Yet our traditional wisdom contains parallel ideas. We know that stress often forces sudden new solutions; that crisis often alerts us to opportunity; that the creative process requires chaos before form emerges; that individuals are often strengthened by suffering and conflict; and that societies need a healthy airing of dissent.

Human society offers an example of spontaneous self-organization. In a fairly dense society, as individuals become acquainted with others, each soon has more points of contact throughout the system via friends and friends of friends. The greater the instability and mobility of the society, the more interactions occur. This means greater potential for new connections, new organizations, diversification. Much as certain cells or organs in a body specialize during the course of evolution, people with common interests find one another and refine their specialty by mutual stimulation and exchange of ideas.

The theory of dissipative structures offers a scientific model for the transformation of society by a dissident minority like the Aquarian Conspiracy. Prigogine has pointed out that the theory “violates the law of large numbers."' And yet, historians have long noted that a creative minority can reorder a society. “The historical analogy is so obvious," Prigogine said. “Fluctuations, the behavior of a small group of people, can completely change the behavior of the group as a whole."

Critical perturbations — “a dialectic between mass and minority" — can drive the society to “a new average." Societies have a limited power of integration, he said. Any time a perturbation is greater than the society's ability to "damp" or repress it, the social organization will (a) be destroyed, or (b) give way to a new order.

Cultures are the most coherent and strangest of dissipative structures, Prigogine remarked. A critical number of advocates of change can create “a preferential direction" like the inner ordering of a crystal or magnet that organizes the whole.

Because of their size and density, modern societies are subject to large internal fluctuations. These can trigger shifts to a higher, richer order. In Prigogine's terms, they can become more pluralistic and diversified.

We are transformed through interaction with the environment. Science can now express as beautifully as the humanities the great and final paradox; our need to connect with the world (relationship) and to define our unique position in it (autonomy).

Prigogine acknowledged a strong resemblance between this “science of becoming" and the vision of Eastern philosophies, poets, mystics, and scientist-philosophers like Henri Bergson and Alfred North Whitehead. "A deep collective vision," he called it. He believes that the breakdown between the Two Cultures is not as Snow thought, that those in the humanities are not reading enough science and vice-versa.

"One of the basic aspects of the humanities is time — the way things change. The laws of change. As long as we had only these naive views of time in physics and chemistry, science had little to say to art." Now we move from a world of quantities in science to a world of qualities — a world in which we can recognize ourselves, "a human physics." This worldview goes beyond duality and traditional options into a rich, pluralistic cultural outlook, a recognition that higher-order life is not bound by "laws" but is capable of boundless innovation and alternate realities.

And this point of view has been expressed by many poets and writers, Tagore, Pasternak The fact that we can quote the truth of the scientists and the truth of the poets is in a sense already proof that we can in some sense bridge the problem between the Two Cultures and have come to the possibility of a new dialogue.

We are approaching a new unity — a non-totalitarian science, in which we don't try to reduce one level to another.
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Re: The Aquarian Conspiracy, by Marilyn Ferguson

Postby admin » Sat Apr 27, 2019 3:57 am

Part 2 of 2


Long before Prigogine's theory was experimentally confirmed, its significance stunned an Israeli researcher, Aharon Katchalsky. Katchalsky, also a physical chemist, had been studying dynamic patterns of brain function for many years. He was trying to understand how the brain integrates, what its rhythms and oscillations mean.

The brain seemed a perfect example of a dissipative structure. It is the ultimate in complexity. It is characterized by form and flow, interaction with the environment, abrupt shifts, sensitivity to being perturbed. It demands the lion's share of the body's energy — with only 2 percent of the body weight, it consumes 20 percent of the available oxygen. The ups and downs of its energy influx are characteristic of the unstable dissipative structure.

In 1972 Katchalsky organized a spring work session of top brain scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology to introduce Prigogine's recently advanced theory to neuroscience. Katchalsky also presented his own cumulative evidence of dynamic organizing properties in nature and how they are affected by sudden, sharp fluctuations.

The theory of dissipative structures might well tie dynamic brain patterns to transitions in the mind. Gestalt psychology, he commented, had long taken note of sudden transitions, jumps in perception. "The restructuring of an individual personality may take a sudden form, as in flashes of understanding, learning a new skill, falling in love, or the conversion experience of St. Paul."

At the same session, Vernon Rowland of Case Western Reserve University predicted that this approach to the brain would penetrate the old mystery: the difference that makes a whole more than the sum of its parts. Cooperation seemed to be a key; the more complex a system, the greater its potential for self-transcendence.

Although the theory was new to most participants, they quickly agreed that further study and synthesis should be undertaken. A whole new field seemed likely to emerge. Perhaps the idea of dissipative structures would be the key to further progress in brain research, which seemed urgently in need of something other than the current linear approach. It was decided that Katchalsky would chair future sessions, guide the work, and synthesize the results.

Two weeks later Katchalsky was slain by terrorists' bullets in the Lod Airport at Tel Aviv.

He had been hot on the trail of a truly promising connection. Consider the theory of dissipative structures as it may apply to the human brain and consciousness. It helps explain the transformative power of psychotechnologies — why they can break conditioning that is firmly resistant to change in ordinary states of consciousness.

Brainwaves reflect fluctuations of energy. Groups of neurons are experiencing enough electrical activity to show up on the EEG graph. In normal consciousness, small and rapid brainwaves (beta rhythm) dominate the EEG pattern in most people. We are more attentive to the external world than to inner experience in the beta state. Meditation, reverie, relaxation, and other assorted psychotechnologies tend to increase the slower, larger brainwaves known as alpha and theta. Inward attention, in other words, generates a larger fluctuation in the brain. In altered states of consciousness, fluctuations may reach a critical level, large enough to provoke the shift into a higher level of organization.

Memories, including deeply entrenched patterns of behavior and thought, are dissipative structures. They are patterns or forms stored in the brain. Remember that small fluctuations in a dissipative structure are suppressed by the existing form; they have no lasting effect. But larger fluctuations of energy cannot be contained in the old structure. They set off ripples throughout the system, creating sudden new connections. Thus, old patterns are likeliest to change when maximally perturbed or shaken — activated in states of consciousness in which there is significant energy flow.

Prigogine's theory helps to account for the dramatic effects sometimes seen in meditation, hypnosis, or guided imagery: the sudden relief of a lifelong phobia or ailment. An individual reliving a traumatic incident in a state of highly-focused inward attention perturbs the pattern of that specific old memory. This triggers a reorganization — a new dissipative structure.

The old pattern is broken.

The "felt shift" in Eugene Gendlin's focusing process, characterized by a sudden phase shift in the EEG's alpha harmonics, is probably the appearance of a new knowing — a new dissipative structure. Similar phase shifts in meditative states have been associated with subjective reports of insight.

A stuck thought pattern, an old paradigm, a compulsive behavior, a knee-jerk response ... all of these are dissipative structures, capable of sudden enlargement. The new structure is like a larger paradigm. And the perturbation that provokes the new order in a dissipative structure is analogous to the crisis that helps force the shift to a new paradigm.

Again and again, the mandates of nature, repeated at all levels:

Molecules and stars, brainwaves and concepts, individuals and societies — all have the potential for transformation.

Transformation, like a vehicle on a downward incline, gathers momentum as it goes.

All wholes transcend their parts by virtue of internal coherence, cooperation, openness to input.

The higher on the evolutionary scale, the more freedom to reorganize. An ant lives out a destiny; a human being shapes one.

Evolution is a continuous breaking and forming to make new, richer wholes. Even our genetic material is in flux.

If we try to live as closed systems, we are doomed to regress.

If we enlarge our awareness, admit new information, and take advantage of the brain's brilliant capacity to integrate and reconcile, we can leap forward.


To fully realize the extent to which nature's complexity transcends ordinary logic, one need only visit the never-never land of quantum physics or the parapsychology laboratories. In both theoretical physics and parapsychology, the Greek letter psi designates the unknown.

Jeremy Bernstein, a professor of physics at the Stevens Institute of Technology, said that he sometimes has the fantasy that it is 1905 and he is a professor of physics at the University of Berne.

The phone rings and a person I have never heard of identifies himself as a patent examiner in the Swiss National Patent Office. He says that he has heard that I give lectures on electromagnetic theory and that he has developed some ideas which might interest me. "What sort of ideas?" I ask a bit superciliously.

He begins discussing some crazy- sounding notions about space and time. Rulers contract when they are set in motion; a clock on the equator goes at a slower rate than the identical clock when it is placed at the North Pole; the mass of an electron increases with its velocity; whether or not two events are simultaneous depends on the frame of reference of the observer, and so on. How would I have reacted?

Well, a great many of Albert Einstein's contemporaries would have hung up the phone. After all, in 1905 he didn't even have an academic job!

But a careful reading of his papers would have shown that they connected to what was known, Bernstein said. "A really novel genuine theory may appear at first sight to be quite crazy, but if it is any good it has this aspect of connectivity." It is not suspended in mid-air, and that distinguishes it from the purely crackpot.

Modern physics, letting itself out further and further into the unknown on that slender thread of connection, has revealed a reality that is very fluid, like the surrealistic melted clocks of Salvador Dali. Matter has only "a tendency to exist." There are no things, only connections. Only relationships. If matter collides, its energy is redistributed among other particles in a kaleidoscope of life and death, like Shiva's dance in Hindu mythology.

In place of a real and solid world, theoretical physics offers us a flickering web of events, relationships, potentialities. Particles make sudden transitions, "quantum leaps," behaving at times like units, yet mysteriously wavelike on other occasions. One current theory sees the universe as a "scattering matrix" in which there are no particles at all but only relationships between events.

At its primary level the universe seems to be paradoxically whole and undifferentiated, a seamlessness that somehow generates the intricate tapestry of our experience, a reality we cannot possibly visualize.

But mathematics can go where common sense cannot. Just as Prigogine formulated the mathematics to prove a strange, self- organizing, transcendent force in nature, so another mathematical proof threatens the underpinnings of post-Einsteinian physics, which was already beyond imagining for most of us.

This proof — Bell's theorem — was proposed in 1964 by J. S. Bell, a physicist working in Switzerland, and first confirmed experimentally in 1972. Physicist Henry Stapp, in a 1975 federal report, called it "the most profound discovery of science."

Bell's theorem was foreshadowed in 1935 when Einstein and two associates proposed an experiment they believed would demonstrate the fallacy of quantum logic, which Einstein found too uncertain for comfort. If the theory of quantum mechanics was correct, they said, then a change in the spin of one particle in a two-particle system would affect its twin simultaneously, even if the two had been widely separated in the meantime.

On the surface, the idea appeared absurd. How could two separated particles be thus connected? This challenge, later known as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen effect, did not refute quantum theory, as was intended. Instead it called attention to the bizarre nature of the subatomic world.

Which leads us to Bell's amazing theorem. Experiments show that if paired particles (which are identical twins in their polarity) fly apart and the polarity of one is changed by an experimenter, the other changes instantaneously. They remain mysteriously connected.

Bernard d'Espagnet, a physicist at the University of Paris, wrote in 1979, "The violation of Einstein's assumptions seems to imply that in some sense all these objects constitute an indivisible whole." This effect is probably not caused by a transfer of information, physicist Nick Herbert said, at least not in the usual sense. Rather it is "a simple consequence of the oneness of apparently separate objects ... a quantum loophole through which physics admits not merely the possibility but the necessity of the mystic's unitary vision: 'We are all one.'"

Thoughtful physicists are struck by the curious parallels between their findings and ancient mystical descriptions of reality. These similarities were pointed out in The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra and The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav. Capra compared the organic, unified, and spiritual vision of reality in Eastern philosophy to the emerging paradigm of physics. Zukav's book takes its title from the Chinese expression for physics, wu li, which he translates as "patterns of organic energy."

"Bell's theorem not only suggests that the world is quite different than it seems," Zukav said, "it demands it. There is no question about it. Something very exciting is happening. Physicists have 'proved' rationally that our rational ideas about the world in which we live are profoundly deficient."

He notes the view of Geoffrey Chew, chairman of the physics department at the University of California at Berkeley: "Our current struggle [with advanced physics] may thus be only a foretaste of a completely new form of human intellectual endeavor, one that will not only lie outside physics but will not even be described as 'scientific.'"

In one sense, Zukav said, we may be approaching "the end of science." Even as we continue to seek understanding, we are learning to accept the limits of our reductionist methods. Only direct experience can give a sense of this nonlocal universe, this realm of connectedness. Enlarged awareness — as in meditation — may carry us past limits of our logic to more complete knowledge. The end of conventional science may mean "the coming of Western civilization, in its own time and in its own way, into the higher dimensions of human experience."

Many great physicists over the years have become deeply absorbed in the role of the mind in constructing reality. Schrodinger, for instance, remarked that exploring the relationship between brain and mind is the only important task of science. He once quoted the Persian mystic Aziz Nasafi:

The spiritual world is one single spirit who stands like unto a light behind the bodily world and who, when any single creature comes into being, shines through it as through a window. According to the kind and size of the window, less or more light enters the world.

Western thinking is still trying to objectify everything, Schrodinger said. "It is in need of blood transfusion from Eastern thought." A Hindu sutra proclaims, "There is nothing in the moving world but mind itself," a view echoed by physicist John Wheeler: "May the universe in some strange sense be 'brought into being' by the vital act of participation?"

Niels Bohr, to symbolize his theory of complementarity, designed a coat of arms featuring the yin-yang symbol. The Taoist saying, "The real is empty, and the empty is real," is not unlike physicist Paul Dirac's statement, "All matter is created out of some imperceptible substratum . . . nothingness, unimaginable and undetectible. But it is a peculiar form of nothingness out of which all matter is created."

The ultimate psi in physics remains unknowable. Reviewing the big bang theory of the origins of the universe, Robert Jastrow, an astrophysicist who heads NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, pointed out that it is not exactly an explanation of cause. "If a scientist really examines the implications, he would be traumatized. As usual, when the mind is faced with trauma, it reacts by ignoring the implications — in science this is called 'refusing to speculate' — or by trivializing the origin of the world by calling it the Big Bang, as if the universe were merely a firecracker."

Consider the enormousness of the problem: Science has proved that the universe exploded into being at a certain moment. It asks, what cause produced this effect? Who or what put the matter and energy into the universe? Was the universe created out of nothing or was it gathered together out of pre-existing materials? And science cannot answer these questions.

... It is not a matter of another year, another decade of work, another measurement, or another theory. At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation.

Nature has no simple level, Prigogine pointed out. The nearer we try to approach it, the greater the complexity we confront. In this rich, creative universe, the supposed laws of strict causality are almost caricatures of the true nature of change. There is "a more subtle form of reality, one that involves both laws and games, time and eternity Instead of the classical description of the world as an automaton, we return to the ancient Greek paradigm of the world as a work of art.”

He and his associates in Brussels are now working on a concept he believes more important than the theory of dissipative structures — a new kind of uncertainty theory that applies to the everyday level of reality, not just in the realm of the very small and the very large. Predictable processes are altered by the unpredictable. Here, as in modern science in general, the key discoveries come as a surprise. "The impossible becomes possible.”

Generating our world of apparent concreteness is a realm of unbroken wholeness; from that dimension where there is only potential we extract meaning — we sense, perceive, measure.

"Every phenomenon is unexpected," said Eugene Wigner, "and most unlikely until it has been discovered. And some of them remain unreasonable for a long time after they have been discovered."

Psychic phenomena— psi — are probably no less natural than the phenomena of subatomic physics but they are notoriously less predictable. And they are more threatening to many people. After all, we can disregard the eerie world of modern physics if we wish. It is one thing if an astrophysicist like Stephen Hawking of Cambridge University speaks of black holes "where space- time becomes so twisted up that it just comes to an end and all known laws of physics break down." We don't expect to encounter a black hole.

But it is quite another matter to acknowledge the unknown dimension in everyday life: the evidence for remote viewing (seeing at a distance, classically known as clairvoyance), telepathy (transfer of mental events), precognition (awareness of events in the future), psychokinesis (interaction of mind and matter), and synchronicity (meaningful coincidence, a composite of the other phenomena).

Except for synchronicity, these phenomena can be subjected to experimentation. Despite the unnaturalness of the laboratory setting, the importance of mental state, and the notorious elusiveness of psi, there is a mounting body of evidence that the phenomena irrefutably occur and that they can be facilitated by the psychotechnologies.

Human intention has been shown to interact with matter at a distance, affecting the particles in a cloud chamber, crystals, the rate of radioactive decay. An intention to "heal" has been demonstrated to alter enzymes, hemoglobin values, and the hydrogen-oxygen bond in water. The mode of transmission is unknown, just as there is a missing link between intention and biofeedback control and between suggestion and the brain chemistry involved in the placebo effect. Every human intention that results in physical action is, in effect, mind over matter. How consciousness and the physical world interact remains a mystery.

Once primarily the province of psychologists and psychiatrists, parapsychology has attracted a number of physicists in recent years. [7] Even so, theories on the mechanism of psi are sketchy, and most theories try instead to understand what helps or hinders the phenomena.

A recent survey of more than seven hundred parapsychological references reviewed a dizzying variety of approaches. Among the factors studied: effects of time and distance, forced choice, impulsivity, motivation, interpersonal factors, the experimenter effect, alterations of consciousness (dreams, hypnosis, biofeedback, drugs), brain correlates (density of alpha brainwaves, hemispheric specialization, brain injuries), personality profiles of low and high scorers (neuroticism, extraversion, creativity, psychosis), sex differences, age differences, birth order, belief, learning, decline effects, short-circuiting the ego, body language, responses in the autonomic nervous system (changes in blood volume in capillaries, for example), and the effects of strobe lights.

Mind is invisible circuitry, tying us together. “So think as if your every thought were to be etched in fire upon the sky for all and everything to see," says the Book of Mirdad, "for so, in truth, it is." Psi is not a parlor game. The phenomena remind us that we have access to a source of transcendent knowing, a domain not limited by time and space.


In all of these scientific breakthroughs we discover qualitative shifts: transformations rather than gradual change. There are jumps — "missing links." For example:

The sudden shifts of brain activity observed in altered states of consciousness.

The gap between intention and physiological change in biofeedback . . . and between suggestion and analgesia in the placebo effect.

The suddenness of intuition — a jump to a solution with no clear logical steps in between. The right brain's gestalts, sudden wholes.

The "jumping genes" observed by molecular biologists. Mutations — transformations within the genetic code. The sudden appearances of new life forms in the course of evolution.

Quantum jumps in physics.

The transfer of information in psychic phenomena.

The shift of a dissipative structure to a higher order.

In our lives and in our cultural institutions we have been poking at qualities with tools designed to detect quantities. By what yardstick do you measure a shadow, a candle flame? What does an intelligence test measure? Where in the medical armamentarium is the will to live? How big is an intention? How heavy is grief, how deep is love?

We cannot quantify relationships, connectedness, transformation. Nothing in the scientific method can cope with the richness and complexity of qualitative shifts. In a transformative universe, history is instructive, but not necessarily predictive. As individuals, we are foolish if we set limits on our own or other people's potential based on past and present knowledge, including old science.

For those willing to listen, science itself is telling thrilling, open-ended mystery stories about a world rich beyond our imagining. Just as one who makes a clearing in the forest is increasing the periphery of contact with the unknown, we are only becoming wiser about the scope of the territory we have yet to explore.


Some scientific discoveries are premature, molecular geneticist Gunther Stent observed in 1972. These intuitive or accidental discoveries are repressed or ignored until they can be connected to existing data. In effect, they await a context in which they make sense.

Gregor Mendel's discovery of the gene, Michael Polanyi's absorption theory in physics, and Oswald Avery's identification of DNA as the basic hereditary substance were ignored for years, even decades. Stent suggested that the existence of psychic phenomena was a similarly premature discovery, one that would not be appreciated by science, regardless of the data, until a conceptual framework had been established.

Recently a Stanford neuroscientist, Karl Pribram, proposed an all-encompassing paradigm that marries brain research to theoretical physics; it accounts for normal perception and simultaneously takes the "paranormal" and transcendental experiences out of the supernatural by demonstrating that they are part of nature.

The paradoxical sayings of mystics suddenly make sense in the radical reorientation of this "holographic theory." Not that Pribram was the least bit interested in giving credence to visionary insights. He was only trying to make sense of the data generated from his laboratory at Stanford, where brain processes in higher mammals, especially primates, have been rigorously studied.

Early in his career as a brain surgeon, Pribram worked under the famous Karl Lashley, who searched for thirty years for the elusive "engram" — the site and substance of memory. Lashley trained experimental animals, then selectively damaged portions of their brains, assuming that at some point he would scoop out the locus of what they had learned. Removing parts of the brain worsened their performance somewhat, but short of lethal brain damage, it was impossible to eradicate what they had been taught.

At one point Lashley said facetiously that his research proved that learning was not possible. Pribram participated in writing up Lashley's monumental research, and he was steeped in the mystery of the missing engram. How could memory be stored not in any one part of the brain but distributed throughout?

Later, when Pribram went to the Center for Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, [8] he was still deeply troubled by the mystery that had drawn him into brain research: How do we remember? In the mid-sixties, he read a Scientific American article describing the first construction of a hologram, a kind of three-dimensional “picture" produced by lensless photography. Dennis Gabor invented holography in principle in 1947, a discovery that later earned him a Nobel prize, but the construction of a hologram had to await the invention of the laser.

The hologram is one of the truly remarkable inventions of modern physics— eerie, indeed, when seen for the first time. Its ghostlike image can be viewed from various angles, and it appears to be suspended in space. Its principle is well described by biologist Lyall Watson:

If you drop a pebble into a pond, it will produce a series of regular waves that travel outward in concentric circles. Drop two identical pebbles into the pond at different points and you will get two sets of similar waves that move towards each other. Where the waves meet, they will interfere. If the crest of one hits the crest of the other, they will work together and produce a reinforced wave of twice the normal height. If the crest of one coincides with the trough of another, they will cancel each other out and produce an isolated patch of calm water. In fact, all possible combinations of the two occur, and the final result is a complex arrangement of ripples known as an interference pattern.

Light waves behave in exactly the same way. The purest kind of light available to us is that produced by a laser, which sends out a beam in which all the waves are of one frequency, like those made by an ideal pebble in a perfect pond. When two laser beams touch, they produce an interference pattern of light and dark ripples that can be recorded on a photographic plate. And if one of the beams, instead of coming directly from the laser, is reflected first off an object such as a human face, the resulting pattern will be very complex indeed, but it can still be recorded. The record will be a hologram of the face.

Light falls onto the photographic plate from two sources: from the object itself and from a reference beam, the light deflected by a mirror from the object onto the plate. The apparently meaningless swirls on the plate do not resemble the original object, but the image can be reconstituted by a coherent light source like a laser beam. The result is a 3-D likeness projected into space, at a distance from the plate.

If the hologram is broken, any piece of it will reconstruct the entire image.

Pribram saw the hologram as an exciting model for how the brain might store memory. [9] If memory is distributed rather than localized, perhaps it is holographic. Maybe the brain deals in interactions, interpreting bioelectric frequencies throughout the brain.

In 1966 he published his first paper proposing a connection. Over the next several years he and other researchers uncovered what appeared to be the brain's calculative strategies for knowing, for sensing. It appears that in order to see, hear, smell, taste, and so on, the brain performs complex calculations on the frequencies of the data it receives. Hardness or redness or the smell of ammonia are only frequencies when the brain encounters them. These mathematical processes have little commonsense relationship to the real world as we perceive it.

Neuroanatomist Paul Pietsch said, "The abstract principles of the hologram may explain the brain's most elusive properties." The diffuse hologram makes no more common sense than the brain. The whole code exists at every point in the medium. "Stored mind is not a thing. It is abstract relationships .... In the sense of ratios, angles, square roots, mind is a mathematic. No wonder it's hard to fathom."

Pribram suggested that the intricate mathematics might be performed via slow waves known to move along a network of fine fibers on the nerve cells. The brain may decode its stored memory traces the way a projected hologram decodes or deblurs its original image. The extraordinary efficiency of the holographic principle makes it attractive, too. Because the pattern on a holographic plate has no space- time dimension, billions of bits of information can be stored in a tiny space — just as billions of bits are obviously stored in the brain.

But in 1970 or 1971, a distressing and ultimate question began troubling Pribram. If the brain indeed knows by putting together holograms — by mathematically transforming frequencies from “out there" — who in the brain is interpreting the holograms?

This is an old and nagging question. Philosophers since the Greeks have speculated about the "ghost in the machine," the "little man inside the little man" and so on. Where is the I — the entity that uses the brain?

Who does the actual knowing? Or, as Saint Francis of Assisi once put it, " What we are looking for is what is looking.”

Lecturing one night at a symposium in Minnesota, Pribram mused that the answer might lie in the realm of gestalt psychology, a theory that maintains that what we perceive "out there" is the same as — isomorphic with — brain processes.

Suddenly he blurted out, "Maybe the world is a hologram!"

He stopped, a little taken aback by the implications of what he had said. Were the members of the audience holograms — representations of frequencies, interpreted by his brain and by one another's brains? If the nature of reality is itself holographic, and the brain operates holographically, then the world is indeed, as the Eastern religions have said, maya: a magic show. Its concreteness is an illusion.

Soon afterward he spent a week with his son, a physicist, discussing his ideas and searching for possible answers in physics. His son mentioned that David Bohm, a protege of Einstein, had been thinking along similar lines. A few days later, Pribram read copies of Bohm's key papers urging a new order in physics. Pribram was electrified. Bohm was describing a holographic universe.

What appears to be a stable, tangible, visible, audible world, said Bohm, is an illusion. It is dynamic and kaleidoscopic — not really "there." What we normally see is the explicate, or unfolded, order of things, rather like watching a movie. But there is an underlying order that is father to this second-generation reality. He called the other order implicate, or enfolded. The enfolded order harbors our reality, much as the DNA in the nucleus of the cell harbors potential life and directs the nature of its unfolding.

Bohm describes an insoluble ink droplet in glycerine. If the fluid is stirred slowly by a mechanical device so that there is no diffusion, the droplet is eventually drawn into a fine thread that is distributed throughout the whole system in such a way that it is no longer even visible to the eye. If the mechanical device is then reversed, the thread will slowly gather together until it suddenly coalesces again into a visible droplet.

Before this coalescence takes place, the droplet can be said to be “folded into" the viscous fluid, while afterward it is unfolded again.

Next imagine that several droplets have been stirred into the fluid a different number of times and in different positions. If the ink drops are stirred continuously and fast enough, it will appear that a single permanently existing ink drop is continuously moving across the fluid. There is no such object. Other examples: a row of electric lights in a commercial sign that flashes off and on to give the impression of a sweeping arrow, or an animated cartoon, giving the illusion of continuous movement.

Just so, all apparent substance and movement are illusory. They emerge from another, more primary order of the universe. Bohm calls this phenomenon the holomovement.

Ever since Galileo, he says, we have been looking at nature through lenses; our very act of objectifying, as in an electron microscope, alters that which we hope to see. We want to find its edges, to make it sit still for a moment, when its true nature is in another order of reality, another dimension, where there are no things. It is as if we are bringing the “observed" into focus, as you would bring a picture into resolution, but the blur is a more accurate representation. The blur itself is the basic reality.

It occurred to Pribram that the brain may focus reality in a lenslike way, by its mathematical strategies. These mathematical transforms make objects out of frequencies. They make the blurred potential into sound and color and touch and smell and taste.

“Maybe reality isn't what we see with our eyes," Pribram says. "If we didn't have that lens — the mathematics performed by our brain — maybe we would know a world organized in the frequency domain. No space, no time — just events. Can reality be read out of that domain?"

He suggested that transcendental experiences — mystical states — may allow us occasional direct access to that realm. Certainly, subjective reports from such states often sound like descriptions of quantum reality, a coincidence that has led several physicists to speculate similarly. Bypassing our normal, constricting perceptual mode — what Aldous Huxley called the reducing valve — we may be attuned to the source or matrix of reality.

And the brain's neural interference patterns, its mathematical processes, may be identical to the primary state of the universe. That is to say, our mental processes are, in effect, made of the same stuff as the organizing principle. Physicists and astronomers had remarked at times that the real nature of the universe is immaterial but orderly. Einstein professed mystical awe in the face of this harmony. Astronomer James Jeans said that the universe is more like a great thought than a great machine, and astronomer Arthur Eddington said, “The stuff of the universe is mind-stuff." More recently, cyberneticist David Foster described “an intelligent universe" whose apparent concreteness is generated by — in effect — cosmic data from an unknowable, organized source.

In a nutshell, the holographic supertheory says that our brains mathematically construct “hard” reality by interpreting frequencies from a dimension transcending time and space. The brain is a hologram, interpreting a holographic universe.

We are indeed participants in reality, observers who affect what we observe.

In this framework, psychic phenomena are only by-products of the simultaneous-every where matrix. Individual brains are bits of the greater hologram. They have access under certain circumstances to all the information in the total cybernetic system. Synchronicity — the web of coincidence that seems to have some higher purpose or connectedness — also fits in with the holographic model. Such meaningful coincidences derive from the purposeful, patterned, organizing nature of the matrix. Psychokinesis, mind affecting matter, may be a natural result of interaction at the primary level. The holographic model resolves one long-standing riddle of psi: the inability of instrumentation to track the apparent energy transfer in telepathy, healing, clairvoyance. If these events occur in a dimension transcending time and space, there is no need for energy to travel from here to there. As one researcher put it, “There isn't any there.”

For years those interested in phenomena of the human mind had predicted that a breakthrough theory would emerge; that it would draw on mathematics to establish the supernatural as part of nature.

The holographic model is such an integral theory catching all the wildlife of science and spirit. It may well be the paradoxical, borderless paradigm that our science had been crying for.

Its explanatory power enriches and enlarges many disciplines, making sense of old phenomena and raising urgent new questions. Implicit in the theory is the assumption that harmonious, coherent states of consciousness are more nearly attuned to the primary level of reality, a dimension of order and harmony. Such attunement would be hampered by anger, anxiety, and fear and eased by love and empathy. There are implications for learning, environments, families, the arts, religion and philosophy, healing and self-healing. What fragments us? What makes us whole?

Those descriptions of a sense of flow, of cooperating with the universe — in the creative process, in extraordinary athletic performances, and sometimes in everyday life — do they signify our union with the source?

The experiences reported so often on the Aquarian Conspiracy questionnaires, the hours and even months of “grace," when it seemed one was cooperating with the life source itself — were these instances of being in harmony with the primary level of reality? Millions are experimenting with the psychotechnologies. Are they creating a more coherent, resonant society, feeding order into the great social hologram like seed crystals? Perhaps this is the mysterious process of collective evolution.

The holographic model also helps explain the strange power of the image — why events are affected by what we imagine, what we visualize. An image held in a transcendental state may be made real.

Keith Floyd, a psychologist at Virginia Intermont College, said of the holographic possibility, “Contrary to what everyone knows is so, it may not be the brain that produces consciousness — but rather, consciousness that creates the appearance of the brain — matter, space, time, and everything else we are pleased to interpret as the physical universe."

Access to a domain transcending time and space might also account for the ancient intuitions about the nature of reality. Pribram points out that Leibniz, the seventeenth-century philosopher and mathematician, had postulated a universe of monads — units that incorporate the information of the whole. Interestingly, Leibniz discovered the integral calculus that made the invention of holography possible. He maintained that the exquisitely orderly behavior of light — also crucial to holography — indicated an underlying radical, patterned order of reality.

Ancient mystics also correctly described the function of the pineal gland centuries before science could confirm it. "How did ideas like this arise centuries before we had the tools to understand them?" Pribram asked. "Maybe in the holographic state — the frequency domain — four thousand years ago is the same as tomorrow."

Similarly, Bergson had said in 1907 that the ultimate reality is an underlying web of connection and that the brain screens out the larger reality. In 1929, Whitehead described nature as a great expanding nexus of occurrences beyond sense perception. We only imagine that matter and mind are different, when, in fact, they are interlocking.

Bergson maintained that artists, like mystics, have access to the elan vital, the underlying creative impulse. T. S. Eliot's poems are full of holographic images: "The still point of the turning world" that is neither flesh nor fleshless, neither arrest nor movement. "And do not call it fixity, where past and future are gathered. Except for the point, the still point/There would be no dance, and there is only the dance."

The German mystic Meister Eckhart had said that "God becomes and disbecomes." Rumi, the Sufi mystic, said, "Men's minds perceive second causes, but only prophets perceive the action of the First Cause."

Emerson suggested that we see "mediately, not directly," that we are colored and distorted lenses. Perhaps our "subject lenses" have a creative power, he said, and there are no real objects outside ourselves in the universe: the play and playground of all history may be only radiations from ourselves. A booklet published by the Theosophical Society in the 1930s described reality as a living matrix, "every mathematical point of which contains the potentialities of the whole. . . ."

Teilhard believed that human consciousness can return to the point "where the roots of matter disappear from view." Reality has a "within," he said, as well as a "without." In the Don Juan books, Carlos Castaneda describes two dimensions that sound like the holographic primary and secondary dimensions: the powerful nagual, an indescribable void that contains everything, and the tonal, a reflection of that indescribable unknown filled with order.

In The Man Who Gave Thunder to the Earth, Nancy Wood's retelling of the Taos stories:

The Second World is the true center of life, the Old Man said. It is where anything can happen, for all things are possible there. It is a world of perhaps and why not .... One Way is always there and One Hand is always there. . . . The Second World is a world of untying the knot . . . the world of having no name, no address .... It is where there are no answers even though new questions are always asked.

Arthur Koestler described "reality of the third order," which contains phenomena that cannot be apprehended or explained on either a sensory or a conceptual level, "and yet occasionally invade them [these levels] like spiritual meteors piercing the primitive's vaulted sky."

In an ancient sutra of Patanjali, knowledge of "the subtle, the hidden, and the distant" is said to arise by looking with the pravritti — a Sanskrit term meaning "before the wave." This description parallels the idea of an apparently concrete world generated by interference patterns, by waves.

And, this extraordinary ancient description of a holographic reality is found in a Hindu sutra:

In the heaven of Indra there is said to be a network of pearls so arranged that if you look at one you see all the others reflected in it. In the same way, each object in the world is not merely itself but involves every other object, and in fact is in every other object.

The brain he was raised on was a computer, Pribram told a San Diego audience in 1976, but "the brain we know now allows for the experiences reported from spiritual disciplines."

How brain processes can be altered to allow direct experience of the frequency domain is still a conjecture. It may involve a known perceptual phenomenon — the "projection" that permits us to experience the full, three-dimensional stereophonic sound as if the sound emanates from a point midway between two speakers instead of coming from two distinct sources. Research has shown that the kinesthetic senses can be similarly affected; tapping on both hands at a particular frequency eventually causes the person to feel a third hand midway between. Pribram has suggested possible involvement of a deep brain region that has been the site of pathological disturbances, of deja vu, and seems involved in the "consciousness without a content” of mystical experience. Some alternation of frequency and the phase relationships in these structures may be the open sesame for transcendental states.

Mystical experience, Pribram says, is no stranger than many other phenomena in nature, such as the selective derepression of DNA to form first one organ, then another. "If we get ESP or paranormal phenomena — or nuclear phenomena in physics — it simply means that we are reading out of some other dimension at that time. In our ordinary way, we can't understand that."

Pribram acknowledges that the model is not easily assimilated; it too radically overturns our previous belief systems, our commonsense understanding of things and time and space. A new generation will grow up accustomed to holographic thinking; and to ease their way, Pribram suggests that children should learn about paradox in grade school, since the new scientific findings are always fraught with contradiction.

Productive scientists must be as ready to defend spirit as data. "This is science as it was originally conceived: the pursuit of understanding," says Pribram. "The days of the cold-hearted, hard-headed technocrat appear to be numbered."

Pribram engagingly admits at times, "I hope you realize that I don't understand any of this." The admission generally provokes a sigh of relief in even the most scientific audiences.

The wide relevance of Pribram's synthesis of his ideas with those of David Bohm, like Prigogine's model, has stimulated excitement among social scientists, philosophers, and artists. [10] Symposia have been organized for interdisciplinary groups around the country and for government officials in Washington. In a workshop at one invitational conference, Pribram discussed the concepts with five Nobel laureates.

There is surely a message in these rapidly converging scientific revolutions: in physics, psi, the interaction of mind and body, the evolutionary thrust, the brain's two ways of knowing and its potential for transcendent awareness.

The more we learn about the nature of reality, the more plainly we see the unnatural aspects of our environment — and our lives. Out of ignorance, out of arrogance, we have been working against the grain. Because we have not understood the brain's ability to transform pain and disequilibrium, we have dampened it with tranquilizers or distracted it with whatever was at hand. Because we have not understood that wholes are more than the sum of their parts, we have assembled our information into islands, an archipelago of disconnected data. Our great institutions have evolved in virtual isolation from one another.

Not realizing that our species evolved in cooperation, we have opted for competition in work, school, relationships. Not understanding the body's ability to reorganize its internal processes, we have drugged and doctored ourselves into bizarre side effects. Not understanding our societies as great organisms, we have manipulated them into "cures” worse than the ailments.

Sooner or later, if human society is to evolve — indeed, if it is to survive — we must match our lives to our new knowledge. For too long, the Two Cultures — the esthetic, feeling humanities and cool, analytical science — have functioned independently, like the right and left hemispheres of a split-brain patient. We have been the victims of our collective divided consciousness.

Novelist Lawrence Durrell said in Justine, "Somewhere in the heart of experience there is an order and a coherence which we might surprise if we were attentive enough, loving enough, or patient enough. Will there be time?" Perhaps, at last. Science can say yes to Art.



1 Charles Richet, who won the Nobel prize for his discovery of allergic shock,  was criticized when he undertook to study clairvoyance. "I didn't say it was  possible," Richet responded. "I only said it was true."
2 In a sense, the Aquarian Conspirators represent the Two Cultures: typically,  they are involved in both science and the arts. A high percentage of those  surveyed play a musical instrument; engage regularly in arts or crafts; and/or  read fiction, poetry, and science fiction. From science they seek more than  information; they seek meaning — the essential quest of the artist.
3 Science writer George Alexander described the new theory: "Where  gradualism would compare evolution to a slow stately parade in which great  numbers drift in and out, rather like New York's St. Patrick's Day parade,  punctuated equilibrium envisions a series of block parties or street fairs. These  localized events . . . stand basically alone."
4 Art critic and historian Rudolf Amheim pointed out that Europe seized upon the Second Law of Thermodynamics, when it was first formulated, to account for everything that seemed to be going wrong. "The sun was getting smaller, the earth colaer," and the general decline into entropy was also evident in the lower standards of army discipline, social decadence, falling birth rate, more insanity and tuberculosis, poorer vision.
5 The evolution that had been assumed to take thousands of years may well take only a generation, judging from the recent birth of a "siabon," the offspring of a male gibbon and a female siamang, two genetically dissimilar apes. Scientists now speculate that multiple rearrangements of genetic material rather than accumulated mutations may be the primary mechanisms by which species diverge.
6 Nonlinearity is not mysterious. As an example in everyday life, Prigogine rites  heavy freeway traffic. In light traffic you can drive in a linear way, moving  more or less as you choose with minimum slowing or lane changing. But if  traffic thickens, "there is a new regime — competition between events." You  are not only driving but being driven by the system. All the cars are now  affecting each other.
7 Historically, many great scientists have been drawn to psi. Among the first officers of the Society for Psychical Research in Britain were three Nobel laureates: the discoverer of the electron, J.J. Thompson; the discoverer of argon. Lord Rayleigh (J. W. Strutt); and Charles Richet. William James, usually described as the father of American psychology, co-founded the American Society for Psychical Research. Among the Nobel laureates specifically interested in psi were Alexis Carrel, Max Planck, the Curies, Schrodinger, Charles Sherrington, and Einstein (who wrote the foreword for Upton Sinclair's book on telepathy, Mental Radio). Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli, a Nobel physicist, coauthored a theory about synchronicity. Pierre Janet, a great French scientist of the nineteenth century, actively investigated psi. Luther Burbank and Thomas Edison had a strong interest in the field.
Aquarian Conspirators surveyed (see Appendix) reported an extremely high level of belief in psi. Generally they had gone through a chronology of interest: first fascination, fear, or both; then avoidance of the phenomena as a distraction from the transformative process itself; and, finally, acceptance of them as natural, plausible, an extension of human creative powers and evidence of the essential unity of all life.
8 He worked on his landmark book, Languages of the Brain , in an office next door  to Thomas Kuhn, who was writing The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
9 Among those researchers who first suggested a tie between phenomena of  consciousness and the holographic principle were Dennis Gabor, discoverer of  holography; Ula Belas of Bell Telephone Laboratories; Dennis and Terence  McKenna; physicists William Tiller and Evan Harris; biologist Lyall Watson;  and inventors Itzhak Bentov and Eugene Dolgoff.
10 How does the holographic theory fit with the theory of dissipative structures? Pribram says the dissipative structures may represent the means of unfolding from the implicate order, the way it is manifested in time and space.
Meanwhile, Apolinario Nazarea of the University of Texas at Austin expressed “quiet optimism" that theoretical work on dissipative structures may "vindicate in its main outlines the so-called holographic theory . . . though from a different direction."
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Re: The Aquarian Conspiracy, by Marilyn Ferguson

Postby admin » Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:18 am

Part 1 of 3

CHAPTER 7: Right Power

There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. Everybody's crew.


I will act as if what I do makes a difference.


In C. P. Cavafy's poem, "Expecting the Barbarians," the populace and emperor are assembled in the public square, awaiting the invasion of the Barbarians. The legislators have abandoned the senate because the Barbarians will make the law when they come. The orators have prepared no speeches because Barbarians don't appreciate fluency and fine phrases.

But suddenly the crowd becomes solemn and despondent; the streets empty quickly. Word has come from the frontier: The Barbarians are not coming; there are no more Barbarians.

"And now, without the Barbarians," the poet asks, "what is to become of us? After all, they would have been a kind of solution."

An overwhelming, mysterious "they" has been the perennial excuse for apathy. Our fates will be determined by the Barbarians, the establishment, death and taxes, vested interests, red tape, machines. But something is happening to people now — a change of mind — and, as we shall see, it is disrupting the old truisms of government and politics in many ways, both subtle and dramatic. It has altered the flow of personal power: between men and women, parents and children, doctors and patients, teachers and students, employers and employees, "experts" and lay people.

"A new science of politics is indispensable to a new world," Tocqueville said. The Aquarian Conspiracy assumes that the reverse is also true. A new world — a new perspective on reality — is indispensable to a new politics. "A turning of the mind," Huxley called it. The very sense of reality must be transformed, Theodore Roszak said. It has variously been called a new metaphysic, "the politics of consciousness," "New Age politics," "the politics of transformation."

This chapter is about politics in the broadest sense. It is about the emergence of a new kind of leader, a new definition of power, a dynamic power inherent in networks, and the rapidly growing constituency that can make all the difference.

As a culture, we have been ambivalent about power. We use phrases like power-mad, power-crazed, power-hungry, power brokers. Those with power are seen as ruthless, single-minded, lonely.

Yet clearly power — which derives from the Latin potere, "to be able" — is energy. Without power there is no movement. Just as personal transformation empowers the individual by revealing an inner authority, social transformation follows a chain reaction of personal change.

In the spirit of the Eightfold Path of Buddha, with its injunctions about Right Livelihood, Right Speech, and so on, [1] we might also think in terms of Right Power — power used not as a battering ram or to glorify the ego but in service to life. Appropriate power.

Power is a central issue in social and personal transformation. Our sources and uses of power set our boundaries, give form to our relationships, even determine how much we let ourselves liberate and express aspects of the self. More than party registration, more than our purported philosophy or ideology, personal power defines our politics.

"The new person creates the new collectivity," said political scientist Melvin Gurtov, "and the new collectivity creates — is — the new politics." The changing political paradigm concedes that you cannot sort out the individual from the society, nor can you separate "politics" from the people who engage in it.

The person and society are yoked, like mind and body. Arguing which is more important is like debating whether oxygen or hydrogen is the more essential property of water. Yet the debate has raged on for centuries. After tracing the philosophical history of the self-versus-society issue, ranging from Plato to Kant, Hegel, and Marx, Martin Buber pointed out that one can never choose. Self and society are inseparable. Eventually, anyone concerned with the transformation of the individual must engage in social action.

“If we attempt to grow alone,” Gurtov said, “we ensure that the oppressiveness of the system eventually will close in around us. If we grow together, the system itself must change."


The new political paradigm is emerging in a growing consensus described by a Canadian social analyst, Ruben Nelson, as “the literature of crisis and transformation." Although this literature expresses the situation in a variety of metaphors and with varying degrees of desperation, its essence is as follows:

The Crisis: Our institutions — especially our governing structures — are mechanistic, rigid, fragmented. The world isn't working.

The Prescription: We must face our pain and conflict. Until we quit denying our failures and muffling our uneasiness, until we confess our bewilderment and alienation, we can't take the next and necessary steps.

The political system needs to be transformed, not reformed. We need something else, not just something more. Economist Robert Theobald said, “We are engaged, if the transformational thinker is correct, in a process which has no parallel in human history — an attempt to change the whole of a culture through a conscious process." In a report commissioned by the Office of Technology Assessment, an advisory arm of Congress, Theobald said, “It is impossible to change one element in a culture without altering all of them."

More quickly than we can comfortably manage, we are called upon to devise, discover, and refine new alternatives. How much easier it is to calculate the wrong turns we have made than to spy out truer roads!

Our insights into human needs and capacities have changed more rapidly, especially through science, than our social structures. Were we to suddenly confront extraterrestrial beings, we would no doubt be awed, wondering how to communicate with them and what they want of us. In this case, it is the image of a new human being that is alien. Seeing patterns and possibilities we have not seen before, we are restless.


If we had to restructure a society with the old tactics (organization, propaganda, political pressure, reeducation), it would seem a hopelessly large task, like reversing the spin of the planet. Yet personal revolutions can change institutions. Individuals, after all, are the components of these institutions. Government, politics, medicine, and education are not actual things but the ongoing actions of people — making laws, running for office, voting, lobbying, seeking and giving medical treatment, planning curricula, and so on.

Autarchy is government by the self. The idea that social harmony springs ultimately from the character of individuals appears throughout history. According to Confucian writings, wise individuals, wanting good government, looked first within, seeking precise words to express their hitherto-unvoiced yearnings, “the tones given off by the heart." Once they were able to verbalize the intelligence of the heart they disciplined themselves. Order within the self led first to harmony within their own households, then the state, and finally the empire.

The discoveries of transformation inevitably alter our perceptions of power. The discovery of freedom, for instance, means little if we are not empowered to act, to be free for something, not just from something. As fear falls away, we are less afraid of power's Siamese twin, responsibility. There is less certainty about what is right for others. With an awareness of multiple realities, we lose our dogmatic attachment to a single point of view. A new sense of connection with others promotes social concern. A more benign view of the world makes others seem less threatening; enemies disappear. There is a commitment to process rather than programs. It matters a great deal how we accomplish our ends. We can now translate intention into action, vision into actuality, without intrigue or manipulation.

Power flows from an inner center, a mysterious sanctuary more secure than money, name, or achievement. In discovering our autonomy, we become very busy for a while, like a newly solvent musician who had hocked his instruments at pawnshops all over town and can't even recall their addresses. We are astonished to find out how freely, even absent-mindedly, we had surrendered so much that really matters, and, conversely, how often we trespassed on the autonomy of others. The power over one's life is seen as a birthright, not a luxury. And we wonder how we could ever have thought otherwise.


"He had won the victory over himself," says the concluding line of George Orwell's grim novel, 1984. "He loved Big Brother." Just as hostages sometimes become fond of their abductors, we become attached to the factors that imprison us: our habits, customs, the expectations of others, rules, schedules, the state. Why do we give away our power or never claim it at all? Perhaps so that we can avoid decisions and responsibility. We are seduced by pain-avoidance, conflict-avoidance.

In Colin Wilson's science-fiction novel. The Mind Parasites, the protagonist and his associates discover that human consciousness has been victimized, dragged down, and intimidated by a strange parasite that has been feeding on it, sapping its power, for centuries. Those who become aware of the existence of these mind parasites can get rid of them — a dangerous, painful undertaking, but possible. Free of the mind parasites, they are the first truly free human beings, elated and enormously powerful.

Just so, our natural power is sapped by the parasites of the centuries: fear, superstition, a view of reality that reduces life's wonders to creaking machinery. If we starve these parasitic beliefs they will die. But we rationalize our fatigue, our inertia; we deny that we are haunted.

Sometimes an individual's sense of impotence is justified; certainly there are vicious cycles of deprivation and lack of opportunity that make it difficult for some to break free. But most of us are passive because our awareness is constricted. The energy of our "passenger" consciousness is continuously drained off to divert us from all we feel too frightened to handle consciously. So we acquiesce, deny, conform.

"Our choice," said Ruben Nelson in Illusions of Urban Man, published by the Canadian government, "is between the painful but confidence-instilling process of coming to know who and where we are . . . and the immensely appealing but finally empty alternative of continuing to drift, of acting as if we know what we are doing when both the mounting evidence and our most honest fears indicate that we do not. . . .In government, as in other relationships, we have the capacity to deceive ourselves, to shape the realities by which we live, so that our prime focus is on our comfort rather than the truth. . . ."

Government itself is an awesome strategy for avoiding pain and conflict. For a considerable price, it relieves us of responsibilities, performing acts that would be as unsavory for most of us as butchering our own beef. As our agent, the government can bomb and tax. As our agent, it can relieve us of the responsibilities once borne face to face by the community: caring for the young, the war-wounded, the aged, the handicapped. It extends our impersonal benevolence to the world's needy, relieving our collective conscience without uncomfortable first-hand involvement. It takes our power, our responsibility, our consciousness.

Warren Bennis, former president of the University of Cincinnati, told of coming to work one day to find his office crowded with distraught students. Two beautiful trees had been chopped down to widen a campus driveway.

He followed the trail of blame: The man who cut the trees worked for a local contractor who was hired by the landscape architect to carry out the design of the landscape architect; the architect worked for the director of planning, whose boss was the head of the physical plant, supervised by the vice-president for management and finance, responsible to the university building committee, which reports to the executive vice-president. "When I called them all together, they numbered twenty, and they were innocents all. All of us. Bureaucracies are beautiful mechanisms for the evasion of responsibility and guilt."

Bennis categorized such evasions as "the pornography of everyday life." Just as pornography is a mechanical, distant substitute for loving sex, so a bureaucrat's fragmented decision-making is removed from reality. Our leaders "sound like they are talking through a plate-glass window."

The failure of other social institutions has caused us to heap even more responsibility on government, the most unwieldy institution of all. We have relinquished more and more autonomy to the state, forcing government to assume functions once performed by communities, families, churches — people. Many social tasks have reverted to government by default, and the end result has been creeping paralysis — unreality.

Tocqueville regarded the surrender of responsibility in a democracy as a danger. "Extreme centralization of government ultimately enervates society," he said over a century and a half ago. The very benefits of a democracy, its freedoms, can lead to a kind of privatization of interests. Inhabitants of a democracy lead such busy, excited lives, "so full of wishes and work, that hardly any energy remains to each individual for public life."

This dangerous tendency not only leads them to avoid participation in government but also to dread any perturbation of the peace. "The love of public tranquility is frequently the only passion which these nations retain "A democratic government will increase its power simply by the fact of its permanence, Tocqueville predicted. "Time is on its side. Every incident befriends it The older a democratic community is, the more centralized will its government become."

These bureaucracies would create their own gentle tyranny, he warned, one that had never before existed in the world. "The thing itself is new. Since I cannot name it, I must attempt to define it." When a great multitude seek largely after pleasures, they act as if their own children and close friends are the whole of mankind. They become strangers to their fellow citizens. No matter how physically close they may be, they do not see or touch those outside their immediate circles. Each citizen then exists in and for himself and his close kindred alone; he has lost his country.

Above the citizens stands an immense, mild, paternal power that keeps them in perpetual childhood. A hundred years before Orwell, Tocqueville foresaw Big Brother:

[It] is the sole agent of happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and sub-divides their inheritances — what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and the trouble of living?

Thus every day renders the exercise of free agency less useful ... it circumscribes the will within a narrower range.

It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate The will of man is not shattered but softened, bent, and guided.

Such a power does not tyrannize but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people. The nation is nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.

Tocqueville had anticipated the paternal role of government and our other large hierarchical institutions (corporations, churches, hospitals, schools, labor unions). By their very structure, these institutions breed fragmentation, conformity, amorality. They expand their powers while losing sight of their original mandate. Like a great linear half-brain, amputated from feeling, they are unable to see whole. They leech the life and significance from the body politic.

Whether the rationale is capitalism, socialism, or Marxism, the focusing of great central power in a society is unnatural, neither flexible enough nor dynamic enough to respond to the fluctuating needs of people, especially the need for creative participation.

Sometimes, as George Cabot Lodge said, we also engage in a kind of nostalgic wishful thinking. We pretend to live by our lost myths like competition and Manifest Destiny and frontier individualism and Gross National Product. But on another level, we experience cognitive dissonance. We know desperately well that all nations are interdependent, that self-sufficiency is a hollow threat. We know, too, that corporations have evolved into powerful, semi-regulated little states bearing almost no resemblance to the "free enterprise" we say we cherish. Politicians, labor, and management struggle with economic realities on the one hand and deny them barefaced on the other, like the split-brain patients in the laboratory, caught between two worlds.


The pending transformation from a seventeenth-century sociopolitical paradigm to a new framework is an earthquake for our institutions. Lodge said, for their legitimacy dies with the dying ideology.

Thinking about the crisis of our institutions in terms of an impending sociopolitical paradigm shift can be reassuring and even illuminating, for it places our current stress and trouble in the perspective of historic transformation.

A community of people — a society — runs its affairs within an agreed-upon form, a government. Just as the established scientific paradigm provides for "normal science," so the government and prevailing social customs provide for the normal transactions of a society. Politics is the exercise of power within this consensus.

Just as scientists inevitably come across facts that contradict the existing paradigm, so individuals within a society begin to experience anomalies and conflicts: an unequal distribution of power, an abridgement of freedoms, unjust laws or practices. Like a community of established scientists, the society at first ignores or denies these inherent contradictions. As tension arises, it tries to reconcile them within the existing system by elaborate rationales.

If this conflict is too intense or focused to be suppressed, a revolution eventually occurs in the form of a social movement. The old consensus is broken, and freedoms are extended. In American history this is best seen in the expansion of the paradigm of suffrage. First, enfranchisement was extended to propertied white males, then to all white male citizens, then to male citizens of all races, eventually to citizens of both sexes over the age of twenty-one, and then to all citizens over the age of eighteen.

A political paradigm shift might be said to occur when the new values are assimilated by the dominant society. These values then become social dogma to members of a new generation, who marvel that anyone could ever have believed otherwise. Yet in their midst new conflicts and ideas will arise, and they will be denied, ignored, even repressed, and on and on.

The irrational pattern of human behavior repeats itself again and again, individually and collectively. Even when our old forms are failing miserably, even when they cannot handle the problems of the day, they are fiercely defended; those who challenge them are derided.

Generation after generation, humankind fights to preserve the status quo, maintaining "better the devil you know than the devil you don't know," a bit of folk cynicism that assumes the unknown to be dangerous. We use "enemy skills" against change — to borrow Virginia Satir's phrase — failing to see that all growth depends on the capacity to transform. Amidst the flux of the natural world, we cling to the familiar and resist transformation. "Faced with having to change our views or prove that there is no need to do so," John Kenneth Galbraith said, "most of us get busy on the proof."

If we are to break out of this pattern, if we are to be liberated from our personal and collective history, we must learn to identify it — to see the ways of discovery and innovation, to overcome our discomfort with and resistance to the new, and to recognize the rewards of cooperating with change.

Thomas Kuhn was by no means the first to point out this pattern. It was discussed very specifically a century earlier by the English political philosopher, John Stuart Mill. Every age, he said, has held opinions that subsequent generations found not only false but absurd. He warned his nineteenth-century contemporaries that many ideas then prevalent would be rejected by future ages. Therefore they should welcome the questioning of all ideas, even those that seemed most obviously true, like Newton's philosophy! The best safeguard of ideas is “a standing invitation to the whole world to prove them un- founded."

If all of mankind minus one held an opinion, he said, and that one believed otherwise, the others would have no more right to silence him than he would to silence the majority. Mill emphasized that his point was not moral but practical. A society's suppression of new ideas robs the society itself. "We must neglect nothing that could give the truth a chance of reaching us."

He took issue with those who maintained that it did no harm to persecute ideas because — if they were true — nothing could obscure their rightness. Mill pointed out that many important ideas had surfaced several times and their exponents had been persecuted before they were rediscovered in a more tolerant age. Although historically, Europe advanced only when it broke the yoke of old ideas, most people continued to act as if "new truths may have been desirable once, but we have quite enough of them now." These new truths — "heresies" — smoldered among the few. Mill said, rather than blazing into the whole culture. Fear of heresy is more dangerous than heresy, for it deprives a people of "the free and daring speculation which would strengthen and enlarge minds."

Many political philosophers pondered this problem of popular resistance to new and strange ideas. They called it "the tyranny of the majority," the tendency of societies, even the most liberal, to suppress free thinking. This is the paradox of freedom: Anyone who comes to treasure autonomy must grant it to others, and the only means of collective self-determination is majority rule, which may then endanger freedom itself.

Revolutionary thinkers do not believe in single revolutions. They see change as a way of life. Jefferson, Mill, Tocqueville, and many others were concerned about creating an environment hospitable to change within a relatively stable political system. They wanted governments in which healthy unrest would make for continuous renewal, in which freedoms would be continually enlarged and extended. Thoreau, for example, looked for a form of government beyond democracy, one in which individual conscience would be respected by the state as "a higher and different power," the context for all authority.

Society puts its free spirits in prison, he said, when instead it should "cherish its wise minority." But there is a way out: Anyone who discovers a truth becomes a majority of one, a qualitatively different force from the uncommitted majority. In their unwillingness to practice the virtues they preached, Thoreau found the inhabitants of his town "a distinct race from me." Jailed for refusing to pay taxes because he opposed the war against Mexico, Thoreau observed that even behind walls of stone and mortar he was freer than those who had jailed him. "I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. They only can force me who obey a higher law than I."

If all of those who opposed slavery or the war would refuse to pay their taxes, he said in his famous essay on civil disobedience, the state — faced with full jails and diminishing funds — would have to relent. This would create a peaceful revolution.

"Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority . . . but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. . . . Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine."

Gandhi carried the concept of the powerful committed minority into the twentieth century, first gaining recognition of the rights of Indians living in South Africa and then achieving India's independence from British domination. "It is a superstitious and ungodly thing to believe that an act of a majority binds a minority," he said. "It is not numbers that count but quality .... I do not regard the force of numbers as necessary in a just cause."

The revolutionary principle introduced by Gandhi resolves the paradox of freedom. He called it satyagraha, "soul force" or "truth force." Satyagraha was essentially misunderstood in the West, described as "passive resistance," a term Gandhi disavowed because it suggests weakness, or "non-violence," which was just one of its components. As educator Timothy Flinders said, to call satyagraha passive resistance is like calling light nondarkness; it does not describe the positive energy in the principle.

Satyagraha derives its power from two apparently opposite attributes: fierce autonomy and total compassion. It says, in effect: "I will not coerce you. Neither will I be coerced by you. If you behave unjustly, I will not oppose you by violence (body-force) but by the force of truth — the integrity of my beliefs. My integrity is evident in my willingness to suffer, to endanger myself, to go to prison, even to die if necessary. But I will not cooperate with injustice.

"Seeing my intention, sensing my compassion and my openness to your needs, you will respond in ways I could never manage by threat, bargaining, pleading, or body-force. Together we can solve the problem. It is our opponent, not each other.”

Satyagraha is the strategy of those who reject solutions that compromise the freedom or integrity of any participant. Gandhi always said it is the weapon of the strong because it requires heroic restraint and the courage to forgive. He turned the whole idea of power upside down. When he visited the mountain hideout of Indian militants and saw their guns, he said, "You must be very frightened."

Satyagraha, by whatever name, is an attitude that removes politics from the old territory of confrontation, deal-making, seduction, and game-playing, into a new arena of candor, shared humanness, a search for understanding. It transforms conflict at its source, the hearts of the participants. It is an environment of acceptance in which people can change with- out feeling defeated. Those who use it must be vigilant and flexible, looking for truth even in the position of the opponent. [2] Erik Erikson said of Gandhi that he "could help others discard costly defenses and denials. . . . Insight and discipline can disarm, or give a power stronger than all arms."

Satyagraha works silently and apparently slowly, Gandhi said, "but in reality, there is no force in the world so direct or so swift." It is an old idea, as old as the hills, he said, and he and his friends had merely experimented with it. "Those who believe in the simple truths I have laid down can propagate them only by living them." Start where you are, he told his followers. Thoreau had said the same thing: "It matters not how small the beginning may seem."


James MacGregor Burns, political scientist and Pulitzer-prize-winning historian, used Gandhi as an example of "transforming leadership," leadership as a process of continuous change and growth. The true leader, as Burns defined it, is not a mere "power wielder" eager to accomplish personal objectives. The true leader senses and transforms the needs of followers.

Keep in mind that I have a different view of followers than most people do. I don't see followers simply as persons holding a collection of static opinions. I see them as having levels of needs The effective leader mobilizes new, "higher" needs in his followers.

The truly great or creative leaders do something more — they induce new, more activist tendencies in their followers. They arouse in them hopes and aspirations and expectations. . . . Ultimately they arouse demands which are easily politicized and even turned back onto the leaders who arouse them.

In this engagement with their followers, the leaders are also transformed. They may even reverse roles with followers, as teachers learn from students.

By Burns's definition, dictators cannot be true leaders because, by suppressing the feedback from followers, they interrupt the dynamics of the relationship. No longer transformed by the changing needs of the people, dictators cannot foster further growth. Leader-follower relationships include parent and child, coach and athlete, teacher and student, and so on. Many parents, coaches, and teachers are not true leaders but only power wielders. Transforming leadership cannot be a one-way street.

Historically, leaders have sometimes inspired a surprisingly high-minded response from constituents. Burns cites as an example the state conventions in the 1780s that ratified the United States Constitution. Despite a poorly educated populace and poor communications, the conventions focused on such issues as the need for a bill of rights, questions of the distribution of power, representation. "That is a superb example of the capacity of leaders and followers to rise above the belly, to the level of the brain or perhaps even the soul," Burns said.

Many revolutions succeeded despite limited popular support in the beginning, he said, "because the leaders engaged their followers so intensely that attitudes were transformed, consciousness was aroused." True leadership not only helps satisfy our present needs It awakens us to deeper dissatisfactions, hungers. By definition, you can only "raise consciousness" about something that is true. Propaganda, on the other hand, can be a lie. The difference between an authentic leader, making us aware of inarticulate needs and conflicts, and a power wielder is like the difference between a guide and a hard-sell advertiser.

The true leader fosters a paradigm shift in those who are ready. But transforming leaders know that you cannot "teach" or "help" others to higher awareness in the same way you might teach them to prepare tax forms. You can seduce people into direct experiences, you can embody freedom and aliveness as an example, but you cannot convince anyone to change.

Nor do the most effective leaders take credit for changes they help to elicit. As Lao-tse said, leadership is best when the people say, "We did it ourselves."

As soon as power is localized, as soon as attention centers on an individual, the coherence and energy in a movement is diminished. Sensing when to assume leadership and when to pull back is not easy. Like learning to ride a bicycle, it takes some falling over and a constant readjustment of balance. But people can coalesce into self-organizing groups to powerful effect. And they are devising ways to govern themselves without determining a boss or establishing a clear agenda. Such self- organizing groups are the fabric of the Aquarian Conspiracy. Even individuals accustomed to running large institutions can easily fit into such a format.

For example, a meeting at a country retreat in a southern state in early December 1978: The fourteen men and six women who attended included a congressman; the heads of foundations in Washington, New York, and California; a former presidential speechwriter; the dean of an Ivy League college; the retired dean of a medical school; a Canadian policymaker; the owner of a major-league baseball team; the director and the assistant director of a famous think tank; an artist; a publisher; and three federal policymakers. Most did not know each other.

They had been invited by a letter that explained that, despite their diverse backgrounds, they had something in common:  

We tend to share a conviction that this nation, and industrialized society in general, is experiencing profound transformation. We perceive that the next decade could be perilous if we fail to understand the nature and transcendent potential of the transformation.

We agree that at the heart of this transformation is a change in the basic social paradigm, including fundamental beliefs and values underlying the present form of the industrial economy. In our own positions in government, business, education, or professional life, we sense a deep need for the society to find its spiritual moorings, its sense of destiny, of right direction.

We seek the support and comradeship of others of like mind, confident that when minds are joined in common search and purpose, the effect is amplified. We recognize that our country was guided in its initial decades by this kind of joining of minds in common purpose.

It is in keeping with these shared convictions that the meeting be quite unstructured. There will be no chairperson. There is no agenda. There will be no speeches. Simply come prepared to share your deepest hopes and concerns. We have no specific expectations for what may emerge from this meeting.

After dinner the first evening, the attendees were asked to introduce themselves one by one. What had started as a simple formality became the agenda for that night and part of the following morning; the process became the program. Almost like tribal storytellers around a fire, they told their tales of power and of transformation, intensely personal and moving narratives. Defenseless and matter of fact, they talked about their fears and successes, their despair and disillusionment, the ways in which life's blows had often proved blessings, turning them toward a more rewarding path. Strangers who trusted each other immediately, they recounted the ways in which the society's most sought-after prizes had failed them. At some point each had experienced a profound shift in perception, often at a time of personal trauma. Each was overtaken by deeper, more intense needs. Life became a spiritual quest, a joyful, mysterious search for meaning, marked in most cases by an accelerating occurrence of coincidences, events that seemed significant in their timing — synchronicities.

Each had come to feel strangely like an instrument of evolution, following a path that was only lighted step by step; they were feeling their way into this new reality, testing their inner gyroscopes. Clearly these odysseys followed the same form, with the same landmarks here and there. And the participants had concluded, independently, that they must join others to make a world in which such journeys were less lonely. They must conspire.

Over the next three days they talked about cooperating to a particular end or purpose, but again and again drew back from anything like a "master plan." They knew they could effect changes in the society — action was their forte — but they were concerned about imposing a specific vision, afraid that they might be tempted to "play God" despite their best intentions. There was honest conflict, self-inquiry, resolution. Twos and threes joined for long conversations, long walks. Many hours were spent searching the further reaches of that most difficult of power issues, close personal relationships.

Occasionally they all joined hands for ten or fifteen minutes and "listened" in silence. At times, when a silent interval followed urgent debate or confrontation, several were in tears, having experienced a release of tension and often a shaking insight into themselves or into the perspective of someone else.

Here and there, without a master plan, the joining of purpose happened. Linkages were formed: friendships, plans for meetings, joint projects, introductions to mutual friends. Four of the participants met afterward on the East and West Coasts to set up a new international foundation for peace. Soon they were presenting small seminars on the new consciousness for generals at the U.S. Army War College and in the offices of the International Communications Agency. Within the month, several in the group mobilized to intervene successfully on behalf of the academic freedom of the dean when his research was judged too controversial by the president of his university. Those who lived in proximity (Washington, New York City, the Bay Area) pooled their connections and enlarged their net- works. The congressman enlisted the aid of participants in his effort to obtain testimony and funding for research into altered states of consciousness.

“People," Robert Theobald once remarked, “are the organizing principle."
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Re: The Aquarian Conspiracy, by Marilyn Ferguson

Postby admin » Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:18 am

Part 2 of 3


At first glance, social transformation seems a foolhardy, even perilous ambition for any group to undertake. There is a necessary and critical chain of events. First, profound change in individuals who care deeply about social change, who find each other, and who acquaint themselves with the psychology of change, with insights into our universal fear of the unknown. They must then devise ways to foster paradigm shifts in others; they must perturb, awaken, and recruit. This aligned minority, knowing that changes of heart and not rational argument alone sway people, must find ways of relating to others at the most human and immediate level.

If they are not to fall into the old traps (power plays, desperate compromises, self-aggrandizement), they must live by their principles. Knowing that means must be as honorable as ends, they go into political battle stripped of conventional political weapons. They must discover new strategies and new well-springs of power.

And this aligned, principled, sophisticated, committed, and creative minority must also be irrepressible. It must make waves large enough to set off a reordering of the whole system — fluctuations, in the language of the theory of dissipative structures. Difficult? Impossible? Seen another way, the process cannot fail because it is also the goal.

That's why the new collective is the new politics. As soon as we begin to work for a different kind of a world, the world changes for us. The networks of the Aquarian Conspiracy — self-organizing forms that allow both autonomy and human connection — are at once both the tools for social change and the models of a new society. Every collective struggle for social transformation becomes an experiment in social transformation.

The goal recedes; whether or not the whole of society changes, and however long that process may take, individuals are finding joy, unity, and purpose in their mutual efforts. They are engaged in meaningful, and therefore adventurous, work. They know that the cynics must have their grim world, too. As Thoreau said, the minority need not wait to persuade the majority. And the vision, as we shall see, is self-propagating.

The transformative effect of social movements on both participants and society can be seen in the effects of the protest and counterculture of the 1960s. A counterculture is living, breathing theory; speculation about the society's next phase. At its worst, it can seem lawless and strange, an experiment that fails to bridge the old and new. At its best, it is a transforming leadership, deepening the awareness of the dominant culture. The first colonists to dissent from British rule were a counterculture; so were the Transcendentalists.

Like a play within a play, the transformation of the counterculture and the protest movements is instructive; a pendulum change that has become paradigm change. Like generations of activists and reformers before them, the counterculturists tried at first to change the political institutions. It was only as they struggled among themselves and in frustrating confrontation with the establishment that they discovered the real vanguard of revolution: the "front" within.

Jerry Rubin, one of the Chicago Eight, who made headlines as a radical social activist in the sixties, later said, "It's the spiritual movement that's truly revolutionary. Without self-awareness, political activism only perpetuates cycles of anger. ... I couldn't change anybody until I changed myself." Laurel Robertson recalled her years as a student in Berkeley:

I really wanted to help people, to change things for the better. One summer I was involved in a very constructive non-violent education program about the Vietnam war. Everybody who was working on it had selfless motives, but by the end of the summer the whole thing fell apart because we couldn't get along with each other. I had to face the fact that you cannot make the world nonviolent and loving unless you make yourself nonviolent and loving.

In retrospect, the inward turn of this revolution seems almost inevitable. A former protestor, now on the faculty of a state medical school, said, "Despite the violence, the protest of the 1960s basically reflected human concerns — peace, minority rights, relevance in education — rather than traditional political issues."

Philosophically, if not always practically, the movements of the 1960s focused on a new kind of power, personal rather than collective. Dorothy Healy, who was then chairman of the Communist party in Southern California, said years later, "A new generation was marching, moving, and the party was not into it, did not understand it. What was happening did not proceed according to classical Marxism as we understood it. The working class was not in the vanguard, and the basic issues were not economic."

With failures and partial successes behind them, many of the leading activists went in a direction that greatly troubled their supporters in the conventional Left. They became involved in their own transformative process. This turn of events confused the media and many social scientists into thinking the revolution had dissolved. Lou Krupnik said:

We stayed in the streets through tear gas and billy clubs and went inside only when holy people whispered Sanskrit mantras into our eager ears. We went inward for several years, trying to generate alternatives to the madness ....

We're entering a new period. Now we're beginning to synthesize the creative and organizing drives that are part of our heritage.

In "Notes on the Tao of the Body Politic," Michael Rossman remarked, "When I look through the political lens now, I see that all I do is an essential test of holiness, politically speaking." Democracy, as one of the radicals said, is not a political state but a spiritual condition: "We're parts of a whole."

The attempt to find and foster wholeness, to be social healers, has given new life to the old concerns. Ex-militants have successfully run for office around the country and have received major political appointments as well. For example, Sam Brown, organizer of the War Moratorium protest against the Vietnam conflict, successfully reformed banking practices as the state treasurer of Colorado and was later appointed by Carter to head the agency that administers VISTA and the Peace Corps. Brown said, "Social change isn't going to come as quickly as any of us would like it to come. Building a community is a more subtle, delicate, long-term process. ..."

In the 1960s most of the serious social activists disapproved of the easy-going counterculture, with its interest in psychedelics, camaraderie, a spontaneous lifestyle. Writing in 1976 in Focus /Midwest, a radical journal, Harold Baron said:

With a different mind-set we could react differently. We could feel comradeship, sense new possibilities Perhaps hope for the humanized urban future lies not with the technocrats but with the community-builders. If this is true, we must make one last bow in the direction of the counterculturists; at the very least they were asking the right questions. We shall all be asking them again.

Initially the activists of the 1960s, like generations of political reformers before them, tried force and persuasion; they wrote, demonstrated, sermonized, scolded, lobbied, proselytized, argued. But they began to realize the truth of Thoreau's injunction: Live your beliefs, and you can turn the world around.

The emphasis on building community and on action in small groups represents the major shift in radical political thinking. Another former social activist, Noel Mclnnis, said recently, "I'm convinced that society will be changed only by events, not institutions. Meaningful change can only be implemented at the level of the person, the neighborhood, the small group. At a recent reunion of the SDS [Students for a Democratic Society], most who showed up had come to the same conclusion and restyled their activism accordingly."

James MacGregor Burns said that greatness in leadership is most likely to arise from "creative local circumstances." Just as the American people, with so much going against them in the 1770s and 1780s, were challenged by their leaders to rise to greatness in the state constitutional conventions, so may we transcend our present crisis. He predicted that the leaders of the future are likely to emerge from those who were involved in the conflicts of the 1960s — "a leadership corps in exile, people now in their thirties and forties who could burst onto the national scene."

Because the leadership of the future is coming out of organizations close to people. Burns said, social critics who rely only on the central media will miss this revolution in the making. Expressions of ferment are more evident in hundreds of thousands of small publications and in the statements of groups.

Tom Hayden, a co-defendant of Rubin in the Chicago trial, later a California Democratic candidate for the United States Senate, said of himself and his fellow activists, "Our time is coming, but not as quickly and not necessarily in the same way we once wished." They had not abandoned the barricades so much as they had now taken their struggle into specific service: political, ecological, consumerist, spiritual. Hayden wrote in 1979:

As spiraling energy costs aggravate the economic picture, more and more Americans will be competing for less and less in the "land of opportunity." Hope, the force that motivates people to become involved in life — may burn low or even out, especially for the young.

I can think of only one long-term alternative, and I still see it coming. What began in the 1960s — a rising demand for a voice in the decisions controlling our lives — will spread to every sphere. . . .

The political activists of the '60s, having now fully cut their teeth, will be back again and again with the same philosophy but expressed through new roles. If the '60s brought our birth and development, the '80s and '90s will be our years of maximum influence and maturity.

My point is simple: the '60s created what can be called leadership for the future ... a new generation of dedicated and politicized people. In our fathers' time, democracy was threatened from abroad, our own institutions were basically sound, affluence appeared to most to be guaranteed, America was No. 1.

In our time we have received a different world view. Democracy has been threatened by "plumbers" operating from the White House, our institutions are troubled, affluence is hardly guaranteed, and being No. 1 in bombs hasn't made us No. 1 in the quality of life.

The reappearance in years ahead of the '60s activists . . . will be misread by many. Some will not recognize us, and some will believe we have "settled down" too much. We will not be a protesting fringe, because the fringe of yesterday is the mainstream of tomorrow. We will not be protesting but proposing solutions: an energy program emphasizing renewable resources . . . democratic restructuring of large corporations . . . technology to decentralize decision-making and information ....

Those who filled the streets in the '60s may yet fill the halls of government in the '80s, and if we do, I don't believe we will forget our roots. When I was being sentenced by Judge Julius Hoffman at the end of the Chicago trial, he looked bemusedly at me and said, "A smart fellow like you could go far under our system.”

Who knows. Your Honor, perhaps I will ....


Obviously there are many heresies in the emergent paradigm. It denies that our leaders are our betters, that money can solve many problems, that more and better can solve problems, that loyalty outranks inner authority. The new paradigm avoids head-on confrontation, political poles. It reconciles, innovates, decentralizes, and does not claim to have the answers. If we were to summarize the paradigms, we would find the following contrasts:


• Emphasis on programs, issues, platform, manifesto, goals.
• Change is imposed by authority.
• Institutionalizes help, services.
• Impetus toward strong central government.
• Power for others (care taking) or against them. Win/lose orientation.
• Government as monolithic institution.
• Vested interests, manipulation, power brokerage.
• Solely ''masculine,” rational orientation, linear model.
• Aggressive leaders, passive followers.
• Party- or issue-oriented. Either pragmatic or visionary.
• Emphasis on freedom from certain types of interference.
• Government to keep people in line (disciplinary role) or as benevolent parent.
• Left versus Right.
• Humankind as conqueror of nature; exploitive view of resources.
• Emphasis on external, imposed reform.
• Quick-fix or pay-later programs.
• Entrenched agencies, programs, departments.
• Choice between best interest of individual or community.
• Prizes conformity, adjustment.
• Compartmentalizes aspects of human experience.
• Modeled after Newtonian view of the universe. Mechanistic, atomistic.


• Emphasis on a new perspective. Resistance to rigid programs, schedules.
• Change grows out of consensus and/or is inspired by leadership.
• Encourages individual help, voluntarism, as complement to government role. Reinforces self-help, mutual-help networks.
• Favors reversing trend, decentralizing government wherever feasible; horizontal distribution of power. Small focused central government would serve as clearinghouse.
• Power with others. Win/win orientation.
• Government as consensus of individuals, subject to change.
• Respect for the autonomy of others.
• Both rational and intuitive principles, appreciation of nonlinear interaction, dynamic systems model.
• Leaders and followers engaged in dynamic relationship, affecting each other.
• Paradigm-oriented. Politics determined by worldview, perspective of reality.
• Pragmatic and visionary.
• Emphasis on freedom for positive, creative action, self-expression, self-knowledge.
• Government to foster growth, creativity, cooperation, transformation, synergy.
• "Radical Center” — a synthesis of conservative and liberal traditions. Transcendence of old polarities, quarrels.
• Humankind in partnership with nature. Emphasis on conservation, ecological sanity.
• Emphasis on transformation in individuals as essential to successful reform.
• Emphasis on foresight, long-range repercussions, ethics, flexibility.
• Experimentation encouraged. Favors frequent evaluation, flexibility, ad hoc committees, self-terminating programs.
• Refusal to make that choice. Self-interest and community interest reciprocal.
• Pluralist, innovative.
• Attempts to be interdisciplinary, holistic. Searches for interrelationships between branches of government, liaison, cross-fertilization.
• In flux, the counterpart in politics of modern physics.


A revolution means that power changes hands, of course, but it does not necessarily mean open struggle, a coup, victor and vanquished. Power can be dispersed through the social fabric.

While most of our institutions are faltering, a twentieth-century version of the ancient tribe or kinship has appeared: the network, a tool for the next step in human evolution.

Amplified by electronic communications, freed from the old restraints of family and culture, the network is the antidote to alienation. It generates power enough to remake society. It offers the individual emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and economic support. It is an invisible home, a powerful means of altering the course of institutions, especially government.

Anyone who discovers the rapid proliferation of networks and understands their strength can see the impetus for worldwide transformation. The network is the institution of our time: an open system, a dissipative structure so richly coherent that it is in constant flux, poised for reordering, capable of endless transformation.

This organic mode of social organization is more biologically adaptive, more efficient, and more "conscious" than the hierarchical structures of modem civilization. The network is plastic, flexible. In effect, each member is the center of the network.

Networks are cooperative, not competitive. They are true grass roots: self-generating, self-organizing, sometimes even self-destructing. They represent a process, a journey, not a frozen structure.

As Theodore Roszak said, the old revolutionary mass movements offered no more refuge to the person than did capitalist societies. "We need a class smaller than a proletariat .... The new politics will speak for the millions — one by one."

Interestingly, H. G. Wells had predicted in his 1928 blueprint for a new society that the Open Conspiracy would have no "ordinary" adherents — no pawns, no cannon fodder. The form of the conspiracy would not be a centralized organization but, rather, small groups of friends and coalitions of such groups. This is a radical idea. For all its claims of grass-roots support, traditional politics has always been applied from the top down; influential political scientists, economists and miscellaneous power brokers decided the issues and passed the word to blocs of voters.

As the benefits of linkage and cooperation become more visible, networks have coalesced for just about every imaginable purpose. Some focus on personal development, spiritual search, or rehabilitation of members; others address themselves primarily to social issues. (Some are strong special interest groups and apply political pressure in fairly conventional ways; they are the most vulnerable to conversion to conventional hierarchical organizations.)

Whatever their stated purpose, the function of most of these networks is mutual support and enrichment, empowerment of the individual, and cooperation to effect change. Most aim for a more humane, hospitable world.

In its rich opportunities for mutual aid and support, the network is reminiscent of its forebear, the kinship system. Yet the "family" in this case has formed on the basis of deeply held values and shared assumptions, bonds thicker than blood.

The network is a matrix for personal exploration and group action, autonomy and relationship. Paradoxically, a network is both intimate and expansive. Unlike vertical organizations, it can maintain its personal or local quality while ever growing. You don't have to choose between involvement on a community or global scale; you can have both.

Networks are the strategy by which small groups can transform an entire society. Gandhi used coalitions to lead India to independence. He called it "grouping unities" and said it was essential to success. "The circle of unities thus grouped in the right fashion will ever grow in circumference until at last it is coterminous with the whole world." Edward Carpenter's turn-of-the-century prophecy spoke of the linking and overlapping of networks to create "the finished, free society."

Informally, as well as with computers and directories, networks are connecting those with complementary skills, interests, goals. Networks promote the linkage of their members with other people, other networks.

Art historian Jose Arguelles compared such networks to the biological force of syntropy — the tendency of life energy toward ever greater association, communication, cooperation, awareness. The network is like a collective bodymind, he suggested, like the brain's left and right hemispheres, intellect and intuition. "The network is tremendously liberating. The individual is at the center. ..."

Comparing the network to the human nervous system is more than a handy metaphor. In a very real sense, the brain and a network operate similarly. The brain is more coalitional than hierarchical in its structure. Meaning in the brain is generated by dynamic patterns, coalitions of groups of neurons and interaction between groups. Power in the brain is decentralized.

In the most expanded and coherent states of consciousness, as we have seen, energy is the most widely available and ordered. The brain is wholly awake. Just so, the network is an alert, responsive form of social organization. Information moves in a nonlinear fashion, all at once, and in a meaningful way.

As the creative person makes new connections, juxtaposing unlikely elements to invent something new, so the network connects people and interests in surprising ways. These combinations foster invention, creativity. A network formed to assure a more psychologically healthy environment for babies cooperates with a humanistically oriented organization for old people. The old people, otherwise feeling useless and lonely, help love and nurture babies and toddlers in a day-care center.

Synergy, the bonus of energy that results from cooperation in natural systems, is there for us, too. As we begin to discover it in relationship with others in our small group, potential benefits for society become evident. As physicist John Platt put it:

Whenever even two people start giving to each other and working for each other, these qualities and rewards immediately appear — greater mutual benefit, greater ease, and greater individual development at the same time. They appear as soon as a couple begins to work together, or a family, or a neighborhood, or a nation. The great creative teams of American scientists exhibit them. The European Common Market exhibits them.

By mutual giving with those around us, we begin to make a kind of local Utopia where the benefits are so obvious.

Once you have seen the power inherent in human alignment, you cannot think about the future in old terms. The explosion of networks in the past five years has been like a conflagration in a fireworks factory. This spiraling linkage — individuals with each other, groups with groups — is like a great resistance movement, an underground in an occupied country on the eve of liberation.

Power is changing hands, from dying hierarchies to living networks.

Alfred Katz of the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health, who organized an international conference in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, to discuss mutual-aid networks, called them "a dynamic social force in the latter half of the Twentieth Century.” This is our healthy response to the remoteness of modern institutions, Katz said. Networks have “a powerful and refreshing impact on social policy They represent a spontaneous social resistance to massive bureaucratic trends.”

He suggested that one reason networks have been little noticed is that no one has figured out how to spend large amounts of money on something so simple and powerful.

"Mutual-help networks reflect a shift of both action and consciousness in great numbers of people. The consequences should not be underestimated.”

California governor Jerry Brown called self-reliance and mutual help in the private sector the first new idea to emerge in politics in twenty years. The idea of neighbors cooperating to build an open and equal society is "both human and visionary."

Luther Gerlach and Virginia Hine, anthropologists who have studied social-protest networks since the 1960s, have christened the contemporary networks SPINs (Segmented Poly centric Integrated Networks). A SPIN gains its energy from coalitions, from the combining and recombining of talents, tools, strategies, numbers, contacts. It is Gandhi's "grouping of unities.” Like a brain, the SPIN is capable of simultaneous connection at many points. Its segments are the small groups, which hang together loosely on the basis of shared values. Occasionally, by a kind of friendly fission, the SPIN has a spin-off. The multiplicity of groups strengthens the movement.

Whereas a conventional organization chart would show neatly linked boxes, the organization chart of a SPIN would look like "a badly knotted fishnet with a multitude of nodes of varying sizes, each linked to all the others, directly or indirectly." These cells or nodes, in the social-protest movement, are local groups ranging from a handful of members to hundreds. Many form for a single task and are here today, gone tomorrow.

Each segment of a SPIN is self-sufficient. You can't destroy the network by destroying a single leader or some vital organ. The center — the heart — of the network is everywhere. A bureaucracy is as weak as its weakest link. In a network, many persons can take over the function of others. This characteristic is also like the brain's plasticity, with an overlap of functions so that new regions can take over for damaged cells.

Just as a bureaucracy is less than the sum of its parts, a network is many times greater than the sum of its parts. This is a source of power never before tapped in history: multiple self-sufficient social movements linked for a whole array of goals whose accomplishment would transform every aspect of contemporary life. [3]

These networks, Gerlach has suggested, produce valuable local mutations. News of successful experiments travels swiftly across the movement linkages, and they are widely adopted.

When the anthropologists first observed the networks, they thought they were leaderless. In reality, Gerlach said, "There is not a dearth of leadership but an embarrassment of riches." The leadership passes from person to person, depending on the needs of the moment.

Because SPINs are so qualitatively different in organization and impact from bureaucracies, Hine said, most people don't see them — or think they are conspiracies. Often networks take similar action without conferring with each other simply because they share so many assumptions. It might also be said that the shared assumptions are the collusion.

The Aquarian Conspiracy is, in effect, a SPIN of SPINs, a network of many networks aimed at social transformation. The Aquarian Conspiracy is indeed loose, segmented, evolutionary, redundant. Its center is everywhere. Although many social movements and mutual-help groups are represented in its alliances, its life does not hinge on any of them.

It cannot be disengaged because it is a manifestation of the change in people.

What do the networks want? Many different things, of course. Not only are no two networks alike; a single network changes over time because it reflects the fluctuating needs and interests of its members. But the essential intent is the redistribution of power.

The environmentalist groups, for example, want humankind to "live lightly on the earth," stewards of nature rather than exploiters or dominators. Spiritually and psychologically oriented networks are seeking the power that flows from inward integration, reclaiming authority for disenfranchised parts of the self. Educational networks are trying to empower the learner by identifying resources. Health networks want to shift the old power balance between institutionalized medicine and personal responsibility. Other groups rechannel economic power by boycotts, barter, cooperative buying, and business practices.

From the simplest neighborhood or office networks (food co-ops, car pools, shared child care) people tend to move to more ephemeral or abstract sharing, such as expertise or information. Mutual-help and self-help networks are more intimate and therefore a more powerful transformative force. According to the National Self-Help Clearinghouse associated with the City University of New York, around fifteen million Americans now belong to networks in which people help each other deal with such diverse problems as retirement, widowhood, overweight, divorce, child abuse, drug abuse, gambling, emotional disorders, handicaps, political action, environmentalism, the death of a child. Such groups carefully keep from becoming too "professionalized” for fear that a hierarchy of authority may develop and their whole purpose would be defeated. For the mutuality is essential. It is in helping others that one is helped.

The British Broadcasting Corporation created a television series, "Grapevine: The Self-Help Show," to help people find appropriate networks. There are national and state clearing-houses for self-help networks, associations of self-help groups, and recently a self-help fair was held in Boston. Among the groups mentioned in a single issue of Self-Help Reporter were networks for unemployed persons over forty, parents of prematures, women recovering from mastectomies, families and friends of missing persons, and the survivors of suicide victims.

The formation of these groups, said anthropologist Leonard Borman, director of the Self-Help Institute in Evanston, Illinois, "represents in part a desire by people who face similar problems to assume responsibility for their own bodies, minds, and behavior — and to help others do the same."

Self-help networks, one assessment noted, are usually supported internally rather than by appeals to the public; they have no professional leadership, they are inclusive (no strict guidelines for membership), local, innovative, nonideological; and they emphasize greater self-awareness and a fuller, freer emotional life. Such organizations prove the potential of even the most vulnerable members of society, as in the remarkable success of the ex-junkies at Delaney Street in San Francisco helping other addicts rehabilitate themselves.

One network, the Linkage, started by Robert Theobald, is international, computerized, and primarily conducted by correspondence. Its members introduce themselves via statements about their work and interests. These statements are reproduced by Theobald's service, Participation Publishers, and circulated by mail from Wickenburg, Arizona, for a small yearly fee. “Our operating assumption," Theobald said, “is that we are right now in the middle of a stress period caused by the ever more rapid collapse of the industrial era. We are looking for ways to aid in the necessary transformation. Many people would like to make this transformation. . . . We are trying to find ways to help people make the required shift."

Personal statements that went out in a single mailing suggest the variety of backgrounds. Included were a military communications analyst, two political scientists, a nurse, two doctors, a historian, a Presbyterian minister, an educator, a nuclear physicist, an engineer. Their concerns included paradigm shifts, radical social transformation, personal mystical experiences, appropriate technology, decentralization, the bridging of East and West, intentional communities, voluntary simplicity, organization models built on trust and communication, “creative ways we can help each other," "conscious technology," power and freedom in relationships, "making a difference."

One participant spoke of allies he found in his own community: "Having seen ourselves as loners, we're forming a network with new visions for this city." One described the linkage as "a sea-anchor, moderating the effects of other forces."

A clergyman sent a list of publications and organizations in England, in case anyone in the network should visit there and wish to find "like-minded people." Two described their own extensive networks. An educational consultant said, "In our frenetic world, I want to learn how to hear whispers again, with my family and others who are searching." From Nebraska:

We are moving into a new age, requiring an entirely different way of looking at things The modern age is over. But civilization needs new lines of demarcation. Can we etch in new forms fast enough?

Linkage offers a starting point. For the first time in history, can people who have never met become a " we " just because they want to?

A professor of business management wrote, "On my mind is a larger question of using the wealth and resources of business to support the transformation rather than work against it."

In summer 1979 Linkage mail increased dramatically. Members were expressing a growing need to communicate their transformative vision beyond the network. Theobald wrote the members of his sense that "we are moving into the time when further activities could be catalyzed." Significantly, many members were asking for "sub-linkages," names of others in their geographical area with whom they could work on specific projects. This need for action in small groups is characteristic of the Aquarian Conspiracy.

Theobald is what the Open Network News, published in Denver, calls a "weaver," a person who designs open networks, who sees patterns and connections, making the network more effective. Not only are individuals weavers, but so are some publications and even businesses.

Another network that functions primarily through the mails, like Linkage, is the Forum for Correspondence and Contact, founded in 1968 by such luminaries as Viktor Frankl, Arthur Koestler, Roberto Assagioli, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Abraham Maslow, Gunnar Myrdal, E. F. Schumacher, and Paolo Soleri. The Forum's purpose, as expressed in a recent invitation to membership:

We have identified persons associated with some of these vital new clusters of activity (human-centered, future-oriented) and are trying to stimulate various explorations .... They are all central to what is variously described as new ways of humankind, transformation of man and society, holistic growth, etc.

The Association for Humanistic Psychology offers a networking service. Any member may propose a networking project — compiling a directory of those interested in a particular subject, publishing a newsletter for that interest group, creating a workshop.

Some networks, like the Renascence Project in Kansas City and Briarpatch in Northern California, link entrepreneurs. These will be discussed further in Chapter 10. A network in San Jose, California, the Mid-Peninsula Conversion Project, was founded to find alternative production for defense industries, a practical step toward disarmament. People Index in Fairfield, California, calls itself "a human switchboard helping people find others with the same goals We want people to connect more directly with each other. Got a project you can't do alone? Are you a resource for others? What future do you want to be a part of — and help create? Join the network of people for a new world."

And there are countless informal alliances, crisscrossing every institution and organization — for example, groups of sympathetic nurses and doctors in a hospital, faculty members and students in a university. Ready-made networks emerge from existing organizations, sometimes as "special interest groups" given subdivision status in professional associations, but more often just an informal alliance of those whose thinking has shifted into a larger paradigm. Humanistically oriented psychologists in the American Psychological Association, World Future Society members more interested in consciousness than hard technology, and social-transformation advocates within the Association for Humanistic Psychology have formed effective informal internal networks. They often succeed in changing the emphasis in the larger organization's official publication; they bring in more innovative speakers for programs, run for office, and otherwise break the hold of the thinking of the old guard. The collusion is so low-key that no one notices, and there is usually no significant struggle among network members for offices or honors.
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Re: The Aquarian Conspiracy, by Marilyn Ferguson

Postby admin » Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:19 am

Part 3 of 3


Some political scientists have speculated on the formation of a "centrist" party, one that might reflect both humanistic principles and economic freedom. Because political parties are precisely the kind of conventional social structure that is not working well, it seems unlikely that any will emerge from the Aquarian Conspiracy or from any of the social movements now afoot. The energy expended to launch a new party and field candidates against entrenched parties would divert energy from enterprises with a better pay-off.

There are new, more imaginative and rewarding sources of the power needed for social transformation. We have already talked about the power of the person, inherent in the transformative process — the discovery that any of us is “the difference in the world." We have talked about the power of the network, the form of catalyzing and mobilizing people all over the world.

The power of paying attention, of discovering what works, of facing and transforming conflict, gives one the advantage of being wide awake even in the company of those hooked on our social painkillers: distraction, denial, cynicism. The deliberate transformation of stress is a new factor in history.

So is the power of self-knowledge. Until technology freed us from the struggle to survive, few had the time or opportunity to look within to explore the psyche. Self-knowledge leads to a profound change in the individual's definition of power. As the ego diminishes, so does the need to dominate, to win. Not engaging in power games becomes a kind of natural power. There is a liberation of the energy formerly channeled into anxious competition: the power of letting go.

The power of flexibility allows the potential opponent to become part of the solution to the problem, much as the practitioner of aikido flows with the energy of an opponent. This political aikido channels energy into an intended direction, in part by identifying the needs of potential adversaries. It helps these adversaries make the transition, whereas frontal attack hardens their position.

In his 1967 book. Step to Man, John Platt proposed the use of natural strategies for effecting social transformation. Work with the grain, he said. Find the focus of power. Work out the path of least dislocation. Be a catalyst. Too often vocal minorities expend their energies on firm friends or firm opponents rather than on those ripe for persuasion. “The main business of an enlightened minority is not fighting the majority but showing them how."

Any minority that understands the power of the seed crystal, of amplifying an idea, can quickly assume influence beyond its numbers. Work with technology and natural social forms, not against them, Platt urged. Be flexible. A brittle system will allow stresses to build until some part of the structure breaks down suddenly or dangerously.

Matt Taylor, founder of the Renascence Project, compared social reordering to the turning of a ship. In the past, people have tried to put the rudder on the front of the ship when tackling social issues, applying direction and pressure at the wrong places. “You can steer a large organization with subtle input."

The power of communication, growing all the time, enables the rapid transmission of new ideas, a contagion of visions, good questions, experiments, images. Economist Kenneth Boulding once said that a change which might take a generation to accomplish in a nonliterate society can occur in days in a culture with mass communication.

The power of decentralization derives from the flow of new images, ideas, and energy to all parts of the body politic. Concentrations of power are as unnatural and deadly as a blood clot or an ungrounded electrical line.

Aldous Huxley saw decentralization as the alternative to Left and Right. In a letter to a friend at the close of World War II, he wrote:

As H. G. Wells once remarked, the mind of the Universe is able to count above two. The dilemmas of the artist-intellectual and of the political theorist have more than two horns. Between ivory towerism on the one hand and direct political action on the other lies the alternative of spirituality. And between the totalitarian fascism and totalitarian socialism lies the alternative of decentralism and cooperative enterprise — the economic-political system most natural to spirituality.

The majority of intellectuals at the present time recognize only two alternatives in their situation and opt for one or the other ....

With typical insight, Huxley had written earlier to his brother Julian that social transformation — “a direction of the power of the state, self-government, decentralization" — could best be accomplished oy simultaneous attack along all fronts: economic, political, educational, psychological. H. G. Wells also insisted that change must occur in all parts of society at once, not one institution at a time.

This view parallels transformation in natural systems, the sudden change of the dissipative structure. The jump into a new order is sudden, all or nothing. Even at the most simple-minded level, we can see that any aspect of social transformation has a ripple effect. The individual who has learned to take responsibility for his own health is likely to become more interested in political aspects of medicine, environment, the role of learning in health and disease, the beneficial or deadly aspects of relationships and work, and so on. This is the power of a new paradigm, a perspective that politicizes even those who have had no interest in conventional politics.

"A radical consciousness," said Gurtov, "based on shared feelings and needs, is far more likely to hold than radical ideology." You can't defect from an insight; you can't unsee what you have seen.

The power of process recognizes that the very act of reclaiming our autonomy is transformative. Every step we take on the road of freedom and responsibility makes the next step easier. Goals, programs, and timetables are less important than the engagement itself. As Gandhi put it, "The goal ever recedes from us. . . . Salvation lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory."

The power of uncertainty makes it easier to innovate, experiment, risk. As Theobald said, "There is no riskless route into the future; we must choose which set of risks we wish to run." Writing in a network journal, philosopher Jay Ogilvy coined the term "parapolitical" to describe the avocational involvement in politics that comes from commitment to a new vision:

If we wish to break out of the iron cage of a totally administered society, then our imaginations must be free enough to make mistakes. If we want to play, some games we will lose. But the stakes are nothing less than the flickering life of the human spirit; so some of us would risk losing rather than not play at all.

We become less surprised when surprising things happen. After all, in a creative universe, even an apparent disaster may prove to be serendipity. This viewpoint is comfortable with ambiguity. It assumes that most issues are tricky and does not pretend to resolve once and for all that which is in perpetual flux. The politician or citizen willing to acknowledge uncertainty is free to learn, err, adapt, invent, and go back to the drawing board again and again.

The power of the whole gathers in all the power lost by fragmentation and ignorance. It enhances our collective options by drawing on the talents and ideas of those who might not have been noticed or appreciated in the past. A society that rewards the diversity and gifts of all its citizens will reap a richer harvest than a conformist society.

The power of the alternative lies in recognizing that we have more choices than we once thought. By imagining new possibilities, we can say no to the suffocating, unacceptable options we confronted in the past. And just as personal change comes from becoming conscious of our own thought processes, seeing that we can choose how to react in a given situation, awakening to the influences of our conditioning, a society can discover collectively that "it doesn't have to be that way." A culture can become aware of itself, its own conditioning.

Too often it did not even occur to us that we had a choice. In discussing what he calls "alternativism," Erich Fromm said that most people fail because "they do not wake and see when they stand at a fork in the road and have to decide."

As increasing numbers of people come to a sense of autonomy, they respect the choices of others. At the 1977 Women's Year convention, many debates died away as the audience began to chant: "Choice, choice, choice. ..." Even if you don't want a particular lifestyle or philosophy for yourself, they were saying, you can allow others their options.

We are all surrounded by limits of a kind, Tocqueville said, "but within that circle we are powerful and free."

The power of intuition can be extended from the individual to a group. A conference brochure invited, "Come, let us drink at the well of collective intuition." Groups of the Aquarian Conspiracy often listen for inward guidance, like Quakers seeking inner light at a meeting. Rather than charting their activities exclusively by logic, they seek a kind of consensual intuition. They report a sense of finding their direction as a group rather than inventing it. It is as if teams of archeologists were digging not for the past but for the future.

The power of vocation is a kind of collective sense of destiny — not a mapped-out myth but a search for meaning, a tacit understanding that people and leaders believe in something beyond material success, beyond nationalism, beyond quick gratification.

As spiritual and humanistic values are coming to the fore, a few politicians are struggling to articulate this shift.

The power of withdrawal, psychological as well as economic, comes from the recognition that we can take back the power we have given others. Teilhard said, "We have become aware that, in the great game being played, we are the players as well as the cards and the stakes. Nothing can go on if we leave the table. Neither can any power force us to remain."

Ingenious economic boycotts are devised. Large national organizations attempt to influence policy (as in the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment) by threatening not to hold their annual meetings in certain locales. Nutrition-oriented groups boycott the products of manufacturers who aggressively market infant formulas in developing countries where infant mortality is worsened by artificial feeding. Community groups pro- test red-lining — the refusal of lenders to grant mortgages in certain areas — by withdrawing their savings from neighborhood banks and savings and loan companies until they agree to invest a specific dollar amount in the community.

All our high priests — doctors, scientists, bureaucrats, politicians, churchmen, educators — are being defrocked at once. Rushing in where angels fear to tread, we are challenging old laws, proposing new ones, lobbying and boycotting, wise now to the hidden powers of democracy. "We are challenging the legitimacy of entire systems," said Willis Harman. "The citizen grants legitimacy to any institution — or withholds it."


"Women hold up half the sky," says a Chinese proverb. Women represent the greatest single force for political renewal in a civilization thoroughly out of balance. Just as individuals are enriched by developing both the masculine and feminine sides of the self (independence and nurturance, intellect and intuition), so the society is benefiting from a change in the balance of power between the sexes.

The power of women is the powder keg of our time. As women enlarge their influence in policymaking and government, their yin perspective will push out the boundaries of the old yang paradigm. Women are neurologically more flexible than men, and they have had cultural permission to be more intuitive, sensitive, feeling. Their natural milieu has been complexity, change, nurturance, affiliation, a more fluid sense of time.

The shift from militant feminism is evident in recent statements like that of Patricia Mische in a monograph. Women and Power. Instead of asking for a piece of the pie men have had all along, she said, "we should be trying to create quite another pie." Human affairs will not be advanced by the assimilation of more and more women into a literally man-made world. Rather, women and men together can create a new future. Women have been torn between their fear of powerlessness on the one hand and a fear of the capacity for destruction on the other: "We tend to block out both fears — the one because powerlessness is too painful to confront, the other because we associate power with evil drives."

Women are now learning to use their power openly, she said, exercising what Rollo May called “integrative power" rather than the coy or manipulative ways of the past.

Integrative power recognizes that men as well as women have been the victims of history and narrowly defined roles. ... It is a caring form of power — power aligned with love.

Work for social justice, for peace, for overcoming poverty and alienation, for building a more truly humanizing future ... is not even possible without a combination of love and power. Love itself is not possible without power or self-assertion. And power without love is easily reduced to manipulation and exploitation.

We cannot make somebody else's contribution to the ongoing shaping of history. Nor can anyone else make ours. Each of us is here for a purpose, each life has significance and meaning. This meaning — whatever it is — cannot be realized if we abdicate our powers ....

The values that have been labeled feminine — compassion, cooperation, patience — are very badly needed in giving birth to and nurturing a new era in human history.

Lou Harris of the Harris Poll said that women are far ahead of men in pushing for basic human qualities; they are more dedicated to peace and opposed to war, more concerned over child abuse, deeply moved by what he called "the pall of violence. Women are playing for keeps and are a formidable new part of the political scene."

If we redefine leadership, we can think differently about women in leadership roles. James MacGregor Bums called it a "male bias" that sees leadership as mere command or control, whereas it is properly the engagement and mobilization of human aspirations. As we become more aware of the true nature of leadership, he said, "women will be more readily recognized as leaders, and men will change their own leadership styles."

Thinking itself will be transformed, poet Adrienne Rich said. Women can bring to the society the very qualities necessary to alter life, a more deeply sustaining relationship to the universe. "Sexuality, politics, intelligence, power, motherhood, work, community, intimacy, will develop new meanings."

The idea that women might rescue a failing society is not new. As early as 1890 Havelock Ellis saw a coming "invasion" of women into leadership as a source of renewal comparable to that new life a wave of barbarians brings to an effete and degenerate civilization. Masculine approaches to social organization had reached a dead end, he said. Women, with then- greater sensitivity to relationships and social form, might devise ways to transcend conflict and confrontation.

“The rise of women to their fair share of power is certain," Ellis said. "... I find it an unfailing source of hope."

In 1916 psychologist George Stratton of the University of Southern California was describing the inherent superiority of female brains in seeing the whole. Writing on "Feminism and Psychology" in Century Magazine he expressed the hope that women would dispel masculine illusions when they took their rightful place in society. Men, he said, tend to fix on cogs instead of flesh and blood. Beginning with a generous wonder at nature, they end up with fascination for the tool — the scientific instrument. They establish governments to give order to life, then end up coveting the functions of government more than life. "The masculine genius for organization," Stratton said, "needs women's sense of the heart of things, not the trappings."

Recently a woman psychologist suggested that human survival may require that the private virtues of women go public. "Perhaps the women's movement is part of an evolutionary process that will keep us from going the way of the dinosaur and the dodo."

Wherever the Aquarian Conspiracy is at work, perpetrating holistic health or creative science or transpersonal psychology, women are represented in far greater numbers than they are in the establishment. For example, one-third of the founding members of a new holistic medical organization were women, compared to the percentage of women physicians in the United States (8.3 percent). Men in such organizations are not only comfortable with women in leadership roles but openly emu- late such yin qualities as integration, empathy, reconciliation. They see in women a greater sensitivity to time and season, intuition about direction, an ability to wait. "If satyagraha is to be the mode of the future," Gandhi once said, "then the future belongs to women."


The political perspective of the Aquarian Conspiracy is best described as a kind of Radical Center. It is not neutral, not middle-of-the-road, but a view of the whole road. From this vantage point, we can see that the various schools of thought on any one issue — political or otherwise — include valuable contributions along with error and exaggeration.

As it was expressed in an editorial in the British journal. The New Humanity:

We are neither right nor left but uplifted forward. The New Humanity advocates a new kind of politics. . . . Governance must develop a framework, not a rigid structure, and we must find unity within our immense and wonderful diversity.

At this point in human evolution there can be no way out of the global political stalemate unless there is first, and fast, a new humanity with a changed psychology. That new psychology is developing, a new humanity is emerging.

Most historical movements have written their last will and testament along with their manifesto. They have known more surely what they oppose than what they are. By taking a firm position, they trigger an inevitable countermotion, one that will disorient their fragile identity almost at once. Then rapid metamorphosis and self-betrayal: pacifists who become violent, law-and-order advocates who trample law and order, patriots who undo liberties, "people's revolutions" that empower new elites, new movements in the arts that become as rigid as their predecessors, romantic ideals that lead to genocide.

Anthropologist Edward Hall lamented our cultural inability to reconcile or include divergent views within one frame of reference. We are so indoctrinated by our right/ wrong, win / lose, all/nothing habits that we keep putting all our half-truths into two piles: truth versus lies, Marxism versus capitalism, science versus religion, romance versus realism— the list goes on and on. We act as though either Freud or B. F. Skinner had to be right about human behavior, as Hall noted, when in fact "both work and are right when placed in proper perspective."

Partial viewpoints force us into artificial choices, and our lives are caught in the crossfire. Quick, choose! Do you want your politician to be compassionate or fiscally responsible? Should doctors be humane or skillful? Should schools pamper children or spank them?

The rare successful reforms in history — the durable Constitution, for example — synthesize. They blend old and new values. Dynamic tension, in the form of the system of checks and balances, was built into the paradigm of democracy. Whatever its flaws, the framework has proved amazingly resilient.

When nearly two hundred of the most effective Aquarian Conspirators were asked to categorize themselves politically on a questionnaire, many expressed great frustration. Some checked off every box — radical, liberal, centrist, conservative — with apologies. Some drew arrows across the spectrum. Others wrote marginal notes: “Liberal but . . ." “Radical on some issues, conservative on others." “These categories don't apply." “Radical but not in the usual sense." “Choices too linear." “Old categories are useless."

One, a British-born economist, drew a circular spectrum, saying that the United States has a reservoir of flexibility in its political system. “It has not yet polarized into the sterile left-right axis now compounding Britain's problems. The forces in the United States are circular: corporations, trade associations, smaller businesses, cults, environmentalists, etc."

Politicians of the Radical Center are easily misunderstood and unusually vulnerable to attack, regardless of their accomplishments, because they don't take strident positions. Their high tolerance of ambiguity and their willingness to change their minds leave them open to accusations of being arbitrary, inconsistent, uncertain, or even devious.

Traditionally, we have wanted to identify our friends and enemies. Lobbies, political realities, and the media, playing both sides against each other, usually force politicians into taking black-and-white positions. But sooner than we may suppose, Radical Center will be a viable point of view. The rising number of new movements, all demonstrating and pressuring, combined with traditional special-interest lobbies, may finally force politicians to seek a middle way through the mine field. Politicians may finally have no choice but to transcend the either-or dilemma.

Historian Henry Steele Commager urged a restoration of the traditional meanings to the terms “conservative" and “liberal." We can all work to save that which is of value, and we can all be free to innovate and change. “How fortunate if we could accept once again that we are all republicans, we are all democrats . . . we are all conservatives, we are all liberals." Willis Harman emphasized that the concept of a transcendental, ultimately responsible self is central to the entire theory of democratic government. Under those values the nation can become reconciled. “Conservatives will insist that we keep and respect our national precepts. Radicals will insist that we live up to them."

It is hard, often impossible, to implement a new political perspective in an old system crisscrossed with old alliances, debts, and enmities and riddled with interests desperately guarding the status quo. The first politicians groping for the Radical Center, like scientists who make “premature discoveries," may fail or have only a small impact. But they are a beginning.

In the long run, it is the evolving Radical-Center constituency that will engender increasing numbers of candidates and elect some of them to office. This new constituency will support those who seem likely to create and conserve. It will admire them for refusing to make simplistic choices. It will encourage them to foster the kind of growth that charts and figures cannot measure. As in the model of Burns, the followers will help transform the leaders — those leaders who sense the shift to higher needs.

During the 1976 presidential primaries, political commentators observed that both Jimmy Carter and Jerry Brown drew on “protest of the center" constituencies and seemed to sense an unarticulated trend. Brown once remarked, “We're going to go left and right at the same time," and the Los Angeles Times called him "our liberal-moderate-conservative-governor," both pragmatist and visionary. Unfortunately, the apparent paradox in the approaches of both Brown and Carter was more often attacked than supported, and both began to resort more and more often to politics as usual.

In his study of cultural awakenings, William McLoughlin said that Carter is subject to too many countervailing pressures to undertake an effective restructuring; consensus must first be reached at grass roots. "Some elements of [his] world view may indeed be part of the new consensus — his casual style, his recognition that America must restrain its power, his sense of common humanity, his concern for ecology, his recognition that the 'American way of life' is culturally limited and needs to be judged by some transcendent values." But our political leaders have never been the prophets of new light, in McLoughlin's judgment. "They may implement it but they do not originate it."

He foresees that at some future point, no earlier than the 1990s, a consensus will emerge that will thrust into political leadership a president with a platform committed to fundamental restructuring. It will reflect the new belief system, with its greater respect for nature, for others, for craftsmanship, and for success measured in terms of friendship and empathy, not money or status.

The reason an awakening takes a generation or more to work itself out is that it must grow with the young; it must escape the enculturation of the old ways. It is not worthwhile to ask who the prophet of this awakening is or to search for new ideological blueprints in the work of the learned. Revitalization is growing up around us in our children, who are both more innocent and more knowing than their parents and grandparents. It is their world that has yet to be reborn.

A commitment to Radical Center doesn't work as a sometime thing.


Predictably, citizen involvement in the "politics of transformation" is more evident in California than elsewhere, and a number of legislators have participated in consciousness- oriented conferences and networks. In 1976 a coalition of state legislators, members of Congress, and citizens formed a statewide organization. Self Determination. The founders of this "personal/political" network said in their invitation to join:

Self Determination proposes a practical and powerful alternative to cynicism: changing both ourselves and society by transforming the most basic myth by which we live — our assumptions about our nature and potential. . . .

Such a transformation is already happening in America. Many are now living a positive vision of self and society. We want now to give it vital public visibility. We are developing principles of social action and institutional change based upon a faithful vision of who we are and who we can be.

Much of life is self-fulfilling prophecy. The citizen who takes responsibility for his/her own self-awareness and self-determination will become visionary, energetic, and enduring. . . .

The network does not lobby, does not focus on particular issues, but promotes interaction between persons and institutions “to empower." Psychologist Carl Rogers pointed out that Self Determination is significant "whether it succeeds or falters. ... A totally new type of political force is being born. Even in its process, it is person-centered. No one person is in charge, no big name It is not a drive for power."

The new power manifests itself through the emergence of a new kind of person, "a pattern which has not been seen before except perhaps in rare individuals." This is a new phenomenon, Rogers said. "We've had a few Thoreaus, but never hundreds of thousands of people, young and old alike, willing to obey some laws and disobey others on the basis of their own personal moral judgment." These new people refuse to put up with order for order's sake. They take action quietly, without fanfare, "openly but without defiance." They act in small, nonhierarchical groups to humanize institutions from the inside. They ignore meaningless rules, exhibiting what Rogers calls "an Elizabethan quality of adventure — everything is possible These emerging persons are neither power-hungry nor achievement-hungry. When they seek power, it is for other than purely selfish purposes."

These are not frightening trends but exciting ones, he said. "In spite of the darkness of the present, the culture may be on the verge of a great evolutionary-revolutionary leap."

John Vasconcellos, a California state assemblyman from San Jose, was instrumental in the founding of Self Determination. To many, not only in California but elsewhere, Vasconcellos has come to represent a prototype of the new politician. But he would be the first to warn that there is no such creature. "The politics we do is who we are," he has frequently said. Your life makes your political statement, and each is different.

He has been responsible for an impressive body of California legislation aimed at humanizing education and medicine, but he is as quick to point out the failures and disappointments of each legislative session as the successes. There is none of the self-congratulation one expects from politicians. The emergent paradigm of power and politics is evident in Vasconcellos's public statements:

You could change all the political leaders, rules, and institutions tomorrow, but if we don't change ourselves — if we keep carrying all our fears, denials, and self-repression in our minds and bodies — then we would live no differently.

Government is us — and it is as we choose it to be. We elect leaders who are close to where we are in terms of vision. We need to see to it that our institutions, including government, become peopled by those who share our struggle, our vision about this human transformation.

Two hundred years ago the major public issue in America was freedom from political bondage, from being owned as a nation by another nation. A century later the Civil War was fought for freedom from physical bondage. "In the last fifteen years we have witnessed a third type of revolution — the liberation of one's body, mind, feelings. There are literally millions saying, 'I want to be who I am, and I want to be whole.'"

The once-silent majority learned lessons in power from the student uprisings of the 1960s, Vasconcellos believes.

The real political revolutionary act is to enable someone to see something he has not been able to see before.

There is a great movement on. I think it is unstoppable. When you add together all those in this country who are attempting to become more aware and whole, you realize there are millions involved in this new revolution. Yet we have not yet seen a clear enough statement or theory to help us understand the significance of this event — to help it along.

At a conference on holistic health, Vasconcellos urged participants to descend en masse on Sacramento. "We're not giving our power away any more," he said. "We're moving from 'mystique' and expertise." Citing evidence of "consciousness in the Capitol," he quoted new state educational guidelines emphasizing the uniqueness and potential of each child, the importance of self-esteem and self-awareness. The state has funded research on left- and right-brain perceptual modes as they relate to education, pilot projects on humanizing the workplace, the feasibility of hospices (humane centers for the care of the terminally ill). Vasconcellos brought obstetrician Frederick Leboyer, author of Birth Without Violence, to Sacramento to meet legislators and urge the study of more appropriate birth practices in the state. He urged Brown and David Saxon, president of the University of California, to establish a series of conferences on the nine campuses of the university, to address the transformation of thinking about health care, aging, education, death and dying, birth, and other topics.

When Brown expressed an interest in learning more about holistic medicine, Vasconcellos arranged for a group to meet with him to discuss the new medical paradigm; a dozen people talked in Brown's apartment until early morning about the possibilities. Later Brown issued the formal invitations to a state conference on the new concepts in medicine which .Vasconcellos helped organize.

The invitation to the conference, "Health Care: Whose Responsibility?" reflected the need to disperse power from paternal agencies to the community:

New and better forums are needed to work on these vital questions — interdisciplinary forums where leaders of government, directors of foundations, representatives of health professions associations, university researchers, philosophers, educators, providers, bureaucrats, and humanists can reason together, working through agreements and disagreements toward the emergence of new health policies more directly related to today's changing social values and needs.

Vasconcellos was chief author of a 1979 bill establishing the California Commission on Crime Control and Violence Prevention, whose charge is to study and analyze the research relating to the origins of mental health.


In bureaucracies, in every corner of government, human beings conspire for change. An Aquarian Conspirator at the cabinet level of the United States government helped foster departmental change by setting up staff workshops in human development, saying, "If you want to change bureaucracies, you have to first change bureaucrats."

In April 1979 representatives of the United States Departments of Commerce, Energy, and the Interior met with leaders of the Association for Humanistic Psychology to discuss the implications of changing values and the prospects for social change, a meeting praised by the Washington Post as an effort by bureaucrats to enlarge their vision.

A government, after all, is not a "they." In a bureaucracy there are many individuals with creative programs and new paradigms in their peddler's packs, just waiting for a responsive administration or the opportune moment. One veteran bureaucrat at the National Institute of Mental Health said, "There are a lot of us in the woodwork." He was referring to a loose coalition of conspirators in agencies and on Congressional staffs. Within the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, innovators have created informal rap groups to share their strategies for slipping new ideas into a resistant system and to give each other moral support.

Concepts that might otherwise appear "far out" can be given legitimacy by a single federally funded program. The grant-making apparatus of government determines fashion in some research fields. This aura of legitimacy is fostered here and there by conspirator-bureaucrats.

Government represents an incalculably large source of energy: people, money, authority. Political aikido, the power that comes from turning a potential opponent's energy to one's own advantage, can include the use of government funds, even defense grants, for humanistically oriented research and pilot projects. There are several strategies for obtaining such funding. Sometimes an attractive alternative is proposed, a more effective or economical medical treatment. Often the project is nominally orthodox, but a daring question has quietly been incorporated into the research design. Sometimes the project originates with a sympathetic conspirator-bureaucrat who recommends how the proposal should be written and what is likely to be approved. Conspirator-politicians sometimes apply gentle pressure for the agency funding of such programs.

Research projects on meditation, biofeedback, psychic phenomena, and alternative medical approaches have been funded by the Department of Defense. One example of the sophisticated use of government energy and authority is a project started by Jay Matteson, a civilian consultant to the United States Navy.

His undertaking was foreshadowed by an earlier project that had apparently failed. Several years ago Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, then head of United States naval operations, proposed a "human goals" program that met considerable resistance from old-timers in the service. In 1975 a similar program, renamed Leadership and Management Training, was introduced. Admirals and the chief of naval education and training were among the attendees, and they endorsed the idea that all company commanders receive instruction in human-behavior areas. A crackdown on covert maltreatment of recruits was under way at the time.

Under a human-resources management contract let by the navy in San Diego, Jay Matteson helped organize an appropriate course. Matteson knew that he could never get away with teaching meditation to the navy. He knew that he was also unlikely to get approval for teaching the relaxation-response technique adapted by Herbert Benson of Harvard from Transcendental Meditation. After all, who wanted a relaxed military? But he was convinced that the technique would be the most powerful way to engender both the sensitivity to human behavior that the navy wanted in its officers and the awareness of their rights that it wanted to instill in its recruits.

The timing was perfect. Another consultant joined him in teaching the course, and they also brought in a Florida swim coach who had used the technique to train a university team. The meditative technique, cleansed of ideology, was a smash. Feedback from the company commanders was so favorable that the material was incorporated into instructional guides written by Matteson and his colleagues.

The guides have since been adopted for use throughout the armed services. Because of the reported value of meditative techniques in preventing and treating drug abuse, all basic training programs must now include mention of relaxation and meditation as alternatives to drug use. A videotape demonstrating the relaxing technique is available to all instructors.

Matteson said later that the acceptability of meditation was underscored by the increasing percentage of recruits already familiar with the technique.

With the total program, you see changes happening. Every recruit now gets twenty- two hours of human-resource management training, including the coping classes. . . . The group dynamics includes freely expressing feelings. The recruits can tell what they don't like about the Navy.

They're given a course in “rights and responsibilities" where they're taught problem-solving, generalization, and other skills. The Navy is saying, let's take more time, give them skill development so they can be critical thinkers instead of robots. As the skill development progressed, more people at higher levels began to buy into the program.

The recruits are told about the Special Request Chit, a grievance form, and reminded that their superiors must forward such complaints upstairs. The recruit can see that he has power.

Power has been used to empower others.

Economist Stahrl Edmunds, in an article in The Futurist, proposed possible scenarios for the economic future of the United States, suggesting the probable outcomes if we should follow the patterns of various governments — the Romans, the Greeks, the medieval societies, industrial democracies, the sovietization of capitalism (government effort to control the economy through spending and taxation) — and, finally, “an original American play," a more hopeful alternative enlightened by the mistakes of the past.

In the latter scenario, the American president in the 1990s (who had been a member of the youth movement of the 1960s) speaks out for the ratification of new amendments to the Constitution:

Two great merits in these amendments commend themselves — the facility for change and the dispersal of power. As a president who has wielded massive amounts of power, I can say to you that the temptation to retain power is great. But the opportunity to recover authority over your own lives comes rarely in history. Seize it, my friends, seize it as it stands, whatever your reservations, lest the opportunity slip from you forever.

In 1930 the India Congress party challenged the British protectorate by raising a flag of independence. As tension grew throughout the country, everyone looked to Gandhi for a new campaign. As Eknath Easwaran tells it in his stirring memoir, Gandhi the Man:

Finally, after weeks of deliberation, the answer came to Gandhi in a dream. It was breathtakingly simple. The government had imposed a law forbidding Indians to make their own salt, making them dependent on a British monopoly for what is, in a tropical country, a necessity of life. To Gandhi it was the perfect symbol of colonial exploitation. He proposed to march with seventy-eight of his most trusted followers to the little coastal town of Dandi, some two hundred forty miles away, where salt from the sea lay free for the taking on the sand. When he gave the signal, everyone in India was to act as if the salt laws had never been enacted at all.

... It was an epic march, with the attention of news audiences everywhere riveted on every stage of the way. . . . By the time he reached Dandi, twenty-four days later, his nonviolent army had swelled to several thousand.

Throughout the night of their arrival Gandhi and his followers prayed for the strength to resist the violence which might easily sweep away so large a crowd. Then, at the moment of dawn, they went quietly down to the water, and Gandhi, with thousands of eyes watching every gesture, stooped down and picked up a pinch of salt from the sand.

The response was immediate. All along India's coastline huge crowds of men, women, and children swept down to the sea to gather salt in direct disobedience of the British laws. Their contraband salt was auctioned off at premium prices to those in the cities who could break the law only by buying. The whole country knew it had thrown off its chains, and, despite the brutality of the police reprisals, the atmosphere was one of nationwide rejoicing.

No one can grant freedom to anyone else. Gandhi's act, however symbolic and inspiring, only liberated those who had the courage to take action of their own.

Like the salt on India's shores, our power is there for the taking. It is free, inherent in nature. By the simplest gesture we can reclaim it. To the extent that rules and precedents strangle our ability to become all we can be, each of us must commit our own form of civil disobedience.

Plato once said that the human race would have no rest from its evils until philosophers become kings or kings become philosophers. Perhaps there is another option, as increasing numbers of people are assuming leadership of their own lives. They become their own central power. As the Scandinavian proverb says, “In each of us there is a king. Speak to him and he will come forth."

It is the new worldview that gives birth to new politics; new power relationships between individuals, between citizens and individuals. We shift as we discover what is real, what is fair, what is possible. This is the long-awaited "turning of the mind."

"Start here, now, with yourself," John Platt said in Step to Man. "Start here, at this place in the human network. You don't have to be rich or influential or brilliant; even fishermen can turn the world upside down. If they can, you can All of the evolving potentialities of the future are contained in the world at this instant."

Individuals and groups are translating inner discoveries into action. The Nobel Peace Prize for 1977 was awarded to "ordinary men and women" — to the Peace People in Northern Ireland and Amnesty International. "Our world is rushing toward disaster," said Mairead Corrigan of the Peace People, "but it's not too late to prove the power of love. . . ." From California come announcements of new, politically oriented groups: Groundswell, "an association of people primarily from the consciousness/growth movement, who feel it's time to join forces ... to generate social action"; members of a group in Sacramento describe themselves as "bureaucrats and academicians who want to coalesce California's transpersonal political network" for the rewriting of the state constitution; and New Age Caucus urges "decentralized, responsive government."

Lone consumer activists and free-lance reformers around the country, having discovered their power to investigate, publicize, petition, and sue, find themselves on the evening news and in the Sunday newspaper features. Courts and legislatures around the country overturn "paternalistic" rules: Dying people can die, they can have Laetrile; diabetics and dieters can have artificial sweeteners; and you don't have to buckle your seat belt if you don't want to. Making you do things for your own good is not what it once was.

"If there is a new politics," said one Aquarian Conspirator, the co-founder of a preventive-health network and a treatment center for disturbed youngsters, "it thoroughly transcends all the old labels. It is a spiritual-bio-psycho-social perspective with powerful implications."

Politics of spirit, body, mind, society The new political awareness has little to do with parties or ideologies. Its constituents don't come in blocs. Power that is never surrendered by the individual cannot be brokered. Not by revolution or protest but by autonomy, the old slogan becomes a surprising fact: Power to the people. One by one by one.



1 The eight: Right Belief, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right  Livelihood, Right Endeavoring, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration.
2 The alliances of groups protesting nuclear power have adapted Gandhi's ideas to their cause. Those who wish to participate in their demonstrations undergo a weekend training seminar in nonviolent political action, then are assigned to small “affinity groups." These groups, typically comprised of five men and five women, are free to create their own form of protest within the larger demonstration.
Satyagraha requires an openness to the truth in whatever form it may appear. A brochure of the Alliance for Survival notes that “truth and the sense of justice reside in every person. We are not the incarnation of good while Pacific Gas & Electric Company officials are the incarnation of evil. Just as we have injustice in us, so they have justice in them."
All actions must be free of the attempt to humiliate, injure, or subjugate, the leaflet warns. "Such actions only serve to harden and justify the opposition's position against us. That is why the nonviolent take upon themselves suffering and hardships. By so doing we open the heart of our adversary and stir the conscience of the indifferent." The goal must be more than winning the fight against nuclear power. "Our goal must be a thorough cultural revolution. So we must be careful not to sacrifice what we believe to be good in order to stop nuclear power."
The spirit of nonviolence must be reflected in leaflets, interviews, the tone and phrasing of publications, relations with utility officials, the running of meetings, interpersonal relationships. "All signs of defiance and contempt defeat our purpose. The closed-fist salute, obscene or nearly obscene chants, and rhetorical diatribes against the government: are these really anything more than signs of our own frustration and impotence? The strong-hearted have no need for anything more than love."
3 The League of Nations and the United Nations, Hine said, "failed because  they were built upon the very form of social organization they were designed to  supersede — the nation-state." Their creators were unable to break out of the  cultural assumption that all organizations must be bureaucratic. The anthropologists found a parallel between the networks for social change and the  emerging supranational web of corporations. Another anthropologist, Alvin  Wolf, had suggested that this new economic network transcends the nation-states. Ironically, it might do more to eliminate war than all the direct  peacekeeping efforts in history.
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Re: The Aquarian Conspiracy, by Marilyn Ferguson

Postby admin » Sun Apr 28, 2019 4:34 am

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER 8: Healing Ourselves

Complete health and awakening are really the same.


Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found it was ourselves.

— ROBERT FROST [/quote]

The hope for real social transformation need not rest on circumstantial evidence. One major arena, health care, has already begun to experience wrenching change. The impending transformation of medicine is a window to the transformation of all our institutions.

Here we can see what happens when consumers begin to withdraw legitimacy from an authoritarian institution. We see the rise of the autonomous health seeker, the transformation of a profession by its leadership, the impact of the new models from science, the way decentralized networks are effecting wide geographic change.

We can see the power of an aligned minority to speed up a paradigm shift, the power of the media and informal communications to alter our image of health and our expectations, the value of "aikido politics" rather than confrontation or rhetoric, the exploitation of existing sources of power, the potential of the psychotechnologies, and a fresh appreciation for intuition, human bonds, inner listening.

The autonomy so evident in social movements is hitting the old assumptions of medicine hard. The search for self becomes a search for health, for wholeness — the cache of sanity and wisdom that once seemed beyond our conscious reach. If we respond to the message of pain or disease, the demand for adaptation, we can break through to a new level of wellness.

For all its reputed conservatism. Western medicine is undergoing an amazing revitalization. Patients and professionals alike are beginning to see beyond symptoms to the context of illness: stress, society, family, diet, season, emotions. Just as the readiness of a new constituency makes a new politics, the needs of patients can change the practice of medicine. Hospitals, long the bastions of barren efficiency, are scurrying to provide more humane environments for birth and death, more flexible policies. Medical schools, long geared to skim the cool academic cream, are trying to attract more creative, people-oriented students. Bolstered by a blizzard of research on the psychology of illness, practitioners who once split mind and body are trying to put them back together.

No one had realized how vulnerable the old medical model was. Within a few short years, without a shot's being fired, the concept of holistic health has been legitimized by federal and state programs, endorsed by politicians, urged and underwritten by insurance companies, co-opted in terminology (if not always in practice) by many physicians, and adopted by medical students. Consumers demand "holistic health," a whole new assortment of entrepreneurs promise it, and medical groups look for speakers to explain it.

Taking its own pulse, American medicine has voiced the need for reform — for training in values, ethics, human relations. Most physicians, for example, have had little or no training in coping with death — not only in counseling patients and relatives, but in their own feelings of defeat and fear.

Articles on the human context of medicine appear with increasing frequency in the trade press. A former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association described his own use of touch — a pat on the back, a warm handshake. He said that modern practitioners may be better listeners to organs than the good clinicians of early times, but the old-timers were better listeners to people. "I suspect that some atrophy of our diagnostic senses occurred when subjective observation was replaced by objective laboratory data." Another medical publication expressed editorial concern about "the elusive skills" — the need for new doctors to recognize the psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of illness.


We seem to have gone through a period of unleavened medical “science/' and now we are getting the heart back. Physicians themselves are writing and speaking of the lost dimension in healing. A guest editorial in American Medical News decried medicine's crisis of human relations:

Compassions and intuitions are waylaid. . . . Physicians must recognize that medicine is not their private preserve but a profession in which all people have a vital stake. ... It will take great medical statesmanship to correct a major failure — the patient's sense of unrequited love.

An article in a dentistry journal quoted Teilhard: “Love is the internal, affectively apprehending aspect of the affinity which links and draws together the elements of the world. . . . Love, in fact, is the agent of universal synthesis."

In Modem Medicine a physician wrote bitterly about “the Laying Off of Hands." Bartenders, he said, make people feel better, but we physicians usually make them feel worse. Warmth and palliation have been relinquished to other practitioners, many of them outside mainstream medicine. "Physicians are left with their diagnostic requisition slips and their prescription pads to pursue their increasingly automated, slick, scientific, impersonal 'art.'"

A poignant account of a surgeon-essayist described the physician to the Dalai Lama making the rounds of an American hospital. The Tibetan physician did a pulse diagnosis on a patient:

For the next half hour he remains thus, suspended above the patient like some exotic golden bird with folded wings, holding the pulse of the woman beneath his fingers, cradling her hand in his. All the power of the man seems to have been drawn down into this one purpose. . . . And I know that I, who have palpated a hundred thousand pulses, have not truly felt a single one.

The Tibetan, he said, accurately diagnosed a specific type of congenital heart disorder solely on the basis of the pulse.

William Steiger, chairman of the department of medicine of a Virginia hospital, told a group of physicians that their empathy is what Martin Buber called I-Thou and the necessary objective examination and testing is Tit. He quoted Buber's statement that "knowledge is an autopsy upon the corpse of real living." If you count something, Steiger said, it goes away. "The I-it is a monologue, the I-Thou is a dialogue. They're complementary." When a medical problem persists, the doctor usually pursues more Tit, more lab tests, when what is needed at that point is a deeper human understanding, more I-Thou.

"The therapeutic attitude should be, 'What can I do to help?' We should offer warmth and succor before we order the first tests."


Neither tact nor conspiracy could have triggered such rapid change if medicine had not been beset by crisis — in economics, in performance, in credibility.

Like the foil wrap on a disappointing gift, the shiny technology has dealt stunningly with certain acute problems, as in inoculations and sophisticated surgical procedures, but its failures in chronic and degenerative disease, including cancer and heart disease, have driven practitioners and the public to look in new directions.

We have been alienated by costs that soared beyond the means of all but the well-insured or wealthy; by specialization and the cold, quantifying approach that brushes past human concerns, and by the growing despair that comes from spending without regaining health.

Health care (including medical insurance) is now the third largest industry in the United States; medical costs are roughly 9 percent of the Gross National Product. Federal health costs are over fifty billion dollars. Neighboring hospitals duplicate expensive equipment, doctors order unnecessary laboratory tests to protect themselves from malpractice suits ("defensive medicine"). Even a simple office call now represents a major expenditure to the average person. Runaway costs, especially hospital charges, have made it all but impossible to enact any sort of national health plan.

Even those to whom cost is no problem may only buy technological failures. A British study of three hundred and fifty random coronary patients, for example, found that the death rate for those in intensive-care units was higher than for those convalescing at home. A federal spokesman recently referred to the so-called war on cancer as "a medical Vietnam." The billions spent, the onslaught of technology, have yielded little. The mortality rate for most major cancers has not changed significantly in twenty-five years, despite more public education, new drugs, more sophisticated radiation and surgery techniques. It has been estimated that as many as a million hospital admissions per year are related to some form of drug reaction and that illness caused by the side effects of treatment adds perhaps eight billion dollars per year to the total medical bill.

Brilliant new operations are taken up like intellectual fashions. Thousands had coronary bypass operations before the belated studies reported that most candidates benefited as much from drugs as from the dangerous, expensive surgery. The pathos of the technological dream is especially plain in our hundred years' fruitless search for a powerful, nonaddictive painkiller.

One of the most prevalent medical problems of our times is iatrogenic illness. It means — literally — "doctor-caused." Iatrogenic illness results from surgical complications, wrong medication, side effects of drugs or other treatments, and the debilitating effects of hospitalization.

Not long ago, when physicians represented the pinnacle of status and humanitarian service, proud mothers spoke of "my son, the doctor." Pity the poor doctor now: thirty to a hundred times likelier than the general population to be addicted to drugs. Likelier to suffer from coronary disease. Likelier to be a problem drinker, with an estimated 5 to 6 percent of all physicians said by professional-organization surveys to be totally incapacitated by emotional disorders, including alcoholism. More often sued — and suicidal.

A recent Gallup poll disclosed that 44 percent of the public does not believe physicians to be "highly ethical and honest" — a low blow to a group that had long been venerated. "MDs Take It on the Chin," read a medical newspaper headline; the article noted that thirteen of fifteen physicians running for national office in 1976 lost their elections. Physicians commented in their professional publications that malpractice suits seem to reflect disappointment or hostility and that doctors with good patient rapport are unlikely to be sued, no matter what.

A Senate subcommittee on health reported growing consumer disenchantment:

The problem of dehumanization in health care is of increasing concern to health professionals .... Medicine is at the interface between humanity and technology, but the former has been so relatively disregarded in recent decades that medicine is in danger of losing a great deal of its relevance. The Committee sees as a priority national health need that health personnel at every level deliver care in a humanistic way.

Especially in the light of new scientific findings, we see in retrospect some of the tragic wrong turns of twentieth-century medicine — not surprisingly, the same mistakes that plague us in our other social institutions. We have oversold the benefits of technology and external manipulations; we have undersold the importance of human relationships and the complexity of nature.


The new paradigm of health and medicine enlarges the framework of the old, incorporating brilliant technological advances while restoring and validating intuitions about mind and relationships. It explains many heretofore puzzling phenomena. Its coherence and predictive powers are superior to those of the old model. It adds the fire and poetry of inspired science to the prose of workaday science.

"Holistic,” when that adjective is properly applied to health care, refers to a qualitatively different approach, one that respects the interaction of mind, body, and environment. Beyond the allopathic approach of treating the disease and symptoms of disease, it seeks to correct the underlying disharmony causing the problem. A holistic approach may include a variety of diagnostic tools and treatments, some orthodox, some not. A much-simplified comparison of the two views:


• Treatment of symptoms.
• Specialized.
• Emphasis on efficiency.
• Professional should be emotionally neutral.
• Pain and disease are wholly negative.
• Primary intervention with drugs, surgery.
• Body seen as machine in good or bad repair.
• Disease or disability seen as thing, entity.
• Emphasis on eliminating symptoms, disease.
• Patient is dependent.
• Professional is authority.
• Body and mind are separate; psychosomatic illness is mental, may be referred to psychiatrist.
• Mind is secondary factor in organic illness.
• Placebo effect shows the power of suggestion.
• Primary reliance on quantitative information (charts, tests, dates). "Prevention" largely environmental: vitamins, rest, exercise, immunization, not smoking.


• Search for patterns and causes, plus treatment of symptoms.
• Integrated, concerned with the whole patient.
• Emphasis on human values.
• Professional's caring is a component of healing.
• Pain and disease are information about conflict, disharmony.
• Minimal intervention with "appropriate technology," complemented with full armamentarium of non-invasive techniques (psychotherapies, diet, exercise).
• Body seen as dynamic system, context, field of energy within other fields.
• Disease or disability seen as process.
• Emphasis on achieving maximum wellness, "meta-health."
• Patient is (or should be) autonomous.
• Professional is therapeutic partner.
• Bodymind perspective; psychosomatic illness is province of all health-care professionals.
• Mind is primary or coequal factor in all illness.
• Placebo effect shows the mind's role in disease and healing.
• Primary reliance on qualitative information, including patient's subjective reports and professional's intuition; quantitative data an adjunct.
• "Prevention" synonymous with wholeness: work, relationships, goals, body-mind-spirit.

Notice the parallels between the assumptions of the new paradigm and the scientific discoveries discussed in Chapter 6: dynamic systems; the transformation of stress; the bodymind continuum; a new appreciation of qualities, not just quantities.


Edward Carpenter condemned the medical thinkers of his day for their single-minded preoccupation with disease. They should try, rather, to understand health, he said. Health is a governing harmony, just as the moon governs the tides. We can no more manipulate the body into health by external ministrations than we can manage the ebb and flow of the tides by "an organized system of mops." The greatest outside effort cannot do "what the central power does easily and with unerring grace and providence."

Well-being cannot be infused intravenously or ladled in by prescription. It comes from a matrix: the bodymind. It reflects psychological and somatic harmony. As one anatomist put it, "the healer inside us is the wisest, most complex, integrated entity in the universe." In a sense, we know now, there is always a doctor in the house.

"You can't deliver holistic health," one practitioner said. It originates in an attitude: an acceptance of life's uncertainties, a willingness to accept responsibility for habits, a way of perceiving and dealing with stress, more satisfying human relationships, a sense of purpose.  

We honor the invisible matrix of health as we lose our uneasiness about it. As science becomes more spacious in its thinking, wider in its synthesis, old puzzles begin to make sense. Although we don't know how beliefs and expectations affect health, we know clearly that they do. Two hundred years ago the French Academy threw Mesmer out, declaring that hypnosis was a fraud, "nothing but imagination." "If so," said a dissident member, "what a wonderful thing imagination must be!"

After decades of trying to "explain" one mystery by invoking another, medical science is now coming to terms with the unavoidable and critical influence of the patient's expectations. "Placebo effect" now refers to more than the inactive substance (sugar pill, salt-water injection) given to difficult patients. The doctor's reputation, the mood of the hospital staff, the fame of the medical center, the mystique of a particular treatment — any of these can contribute to healing by coloring the patient's expectations. There is also a "nocebo effect," the opposite of placebo. When laboratory subjects were given an inactive sub- stance and told it would give them a headache, two-thirds got a headache.

The placebo activates a capacity that was in the mind all along. As noted earlier, research has shown that placebo pain relief is apparently due to the brain's release of a natural analgesic. Yet most doctors and nurses still treat the placebo as a trick that works on people whose suffering is not "real," a misunderstanding that rests on a naive idea of reality and ignorance of the role of the mind in creating experience.

The belief of the healer can also alter the efficacy of the treatment. In a set of experiments described by Jerome Frank, an authority on the placebo effect, patients were given either a mild painkiller, a placebo, or morphine. When the doctors thought they were administering morphine, the placebo was twice as effective as when they thought they were giving a mild analgesic! In a similar study, psychotic patients were given either a mild tranquilizer, a major tranquilizer, or a placebo. The placebo's effects were far greater when the doctors thought they had given the powerful drug rather than the mild one.

Rick Ingrasci, a physician and co-founder of a Boston-area network, Interface, said that the placebo effect offers dramatic proof that all healing is essentially self-healing:

As the placebo effect so vividly demonstrates to us, changing our expectations or fundamental assumptions can profoundly affect our experience of health and well-being. Healing comes as a direct result of perceiving ourselves as whole . . . when we reestablish our sense of balanced relationship with the universe, through a change of mind — a transformation in attitudes, values, beliefs.

Ingrasci said that his experiences with patients have convinced him that once negative mindsets are released, healing takes place automatically. "It's as if there is a life force or ordering principle ready to reestablish our natural state of wholeness and health if we can just drop the barriers of negative expectations." If we relax, however briefly, these positive expectations can produce positive effects. "To start, we must first learn to get past the psychological barriers — cynicism, mistrust, fear — that prevent us from even trying. . . . The long-term effects may prove truly transformative for ourselves and society."


People promoting holistic health are fond of pointing out that dis-ease is a lack of harmony or ease. Clearly, it is more important to teach people how to change the matrix of their illness — the stress, conflict, or worry that helped bring it about — than to trick them with placebos.

The role of altered awareness in healing may be the single most important discovery in modern medical science. Consider, for example, the extraordinary range of illnesses treated by biofeedback: high blood pressure, seizures, ulcers, impotence, incontinence, ringing in the ears, paralysis after stroke, tension headaches, arthritis, cardiac arrhythmia, hemorrhoids, diabetes, cerebral palsy, grinding of teeth.

Attention itself is the key. Several years ago researchers at the Menninger Foundation reported that patients could abort headaches by raising the temperature of their hands. They conjectured that drawing blood from the head to increase hand temperature might relieve congested blood vessels causing the headache. Temperature biofeedback became a popular and successful method for treating migraine. But then biofeedback clinicians discovered that some patients can stop their migraines by lowering hand temperature — or by lowering it on one occasion and raising it on another.

It is not a simple physical change but rather the state of mind that is the key to health. This state has been called "restful alertness," "passive volition," "deliberate letting." Like the ice breaking free in a spring thaw, cumulative stresses seem to melt under this paradoxical attention, restoring natural flow to the bodymind whirlpool.

Stress cannot be sidestepped. New information, noise, tension, congestion, personal conflict, and competition add up to the stress-related diseases that plague the twentieth century.

Or is stress the culprit? Perhaps what we really have are change-avoidance diseases. Our vulnerability to stress appears to be due more to our interpretation of events than their inherent seriousness. F.D.R.'s famous remark, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," relates to the bodymind as well.

Kenneth Pelletier, a psychologist at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco who has spent most of the past decade teaching people to deal with stress, points out that the body is literal. It can't tell the difference between a “real" threat and a perceived one. Our worries and negative expectations translate into physical illness because the body feels as if we are endangered, even if the threat is imaginary.

We can handle short-term stress naturally because of the body's rest-and-renewal response, its parasympathetic reaction. But long-term stress — the “one damned thing after another" typical of modern existence — takes its toll because there is no opportunity for rebound between stresses. When Pelletier studied meditators in the laboratory, he found not only highly integrated responses but the ability to shift the body into a parasympathetic phase. “The yogis have learned to let go of those excess levels of self-stressing neurophysiological activity and simply quiet themselves down."

Most of us suffer from what he called a “cumulative destructive cycle. The secret is paying attention, investing your life with attention." Paying attention to stress in a relaxed state transforms it. Meditation, biofeedback, relaxation techniques, autogenic training, running, listening to music — any of these can help elicit the body's recovery phase.

Refusal to acknowledge stress means that we pay double; not only does our alarm not go away but it goes into the body. This was evident in a recent laboratory experiment. The threat of an imminent painful electric shock caused strikingly different body changes in individuals, depending on whether they decided to confront it or avoid thinking about it. The confronters tried to understand the situation. They actively focused their attention on the coming shock and wanted to get it over with. They thought about events in the laboratory environment or directed attention to their bodies.

The avoiders, on the other hand, used a host of strategies to distract themselves. They tried to think about nonstressful subjects, matters outside the laboratory; or they fantasized. Whereas the confronters felt they could do something about the stress situation, if only to prepare for it, the avoiders tended to feel helpless and tried to escape through denial.

Muscle activity increased in the confronter — an appropriate physiological response. The avoiders had significantly higher heart rates, suggesting that their stress was pushed back to another, more pathological level.

Denial can follow us to the grave. Not only does the mind have strategies for walling off psychological conflict; it can also deny the illnesses that result from the first round of denial. The pathological effect of this refusal to face facts was evident in a cancer study at the University of Texas. Those patients who showed the greatest denial in response to questions about their disease were likeliest to have a poor prognosis when they were followed up two months later.

Conflict not dealt with consciously can wreak its physical damage in almost as many ways as there are people. One of the Aquarian Conspirators, who had worked in a medical setting, expressed her belief that ill people should not be told, "You'll be your old self again."

Very often they don't want to go back to being the way they were, doing the things they were doing. My daughter-in-law, who had a stroke recently, conceded that she hadn't faced the fact that she wanted to change her life. So the stroke changed her life.

Another man I know of was a car dealer in partnership with a lazy brother. He carried the whole load of work without saying anything. When he had a stroke, his brother had to take over. He said later that he was glad he'd had the stroke.

If we learn to pay attention to such inner conflicts, we can resolve them in ways less drastic to our health.


As more is learned in brain research, the connection between mind and illness becomes more understandable. The brain masterminds or indirectly influences every function of the body: blood pressure, heart rate, immune response, hormones, everything. Its mechanisms are linked by an alarm network, and it has a kind of dark genius, organizing disorders appropriate to our most neurotic imaginings.

The old saying, "name your poison," applies to the semantics and symbols of disease. If we feel "picked on" or someone gives us a pain in the neck, we may make our metaphors literal — with acne or neck spasms. People have long spoken of a "broken heart" as the result of a disappointing relationship; now research has shown a connection between loneliness and heart disease. In animal research, heart disease has been caused by the prolonged stimulation of a brain region associated with strong emotion. The same region is connected to the immune system. So the "broken heart" may become coronary disease; the need to grow may become a tumor, the ambivalence a "splitting headache," the rigid personality arthritis. Every metaphor is potentially a literal reality.

All illness, whether cancer or schizophrenia or a cold, originates in the bodymind. On his deathbed Louis Pasteur acknowledged that a medical adversary of his had been right in insisting that disease is caused less by the germ than by the resistance of the individual invaded by the germ. "It is the terrain," he conceded. [1] As Lewis Thomas pointed out in The Lives of a Cell, our bodies often respond hysterically to harmless germs, as if the intruder evokes ancient memories and we react to a kind of propaganda. "We are, in effect, at the mercy of our own Pentagons most of the time."

The body's ability to make sense of new information, to transform it, is health. If we are flexible, able to adapt to a changing environment, even a virus or damp air or fatigue or spring pollens, we can withstand a high level of stress.

A recent and radical concept of the immune system can help us understand how the "inner physician" maintains health — and how it fails. The body, via the immune system, seems to have its own way of "knowing," parallel to the way the brain knows. This immune system is linked to the brain. The "mind" of the immune system has a dynamic image of the self and a drive to transform environmental "noise," including viruses and allergens, into sense. It does not reject certain substances or react to them violently because they are foreign, as was believed in the old paradigm, but because they are nonsense. They cannot be fitted into the orderly system.

This immune system is powerful and plastic in its ability to render sense out of its environment, but since it is tied into the brain it is vulnerable to psychological stress. Research has shown that stressful mental states like grief and anxiety alter the immune system's capability. The reason we sometimes “get” a virus or have an “allergic reaction” is because the immune system is functioning under par.

This immune system has a memory whose subtlety was demonstrated in animal research. If an innocent drug is paired with an immunosuppressant — a drug that suppresses the immune system — the body learns to suppress its immune system when it gets only the innocent drug, even if it is months later. In just this way, stressful periods of our lives can be paired with innocent cues in the environment (for example, allergens or events that remind us of other events) to cause chronic illness, long after the original source of stress has been removed. The body “remembers" to be sick.

Cancer, of course, represents a failure of the immune system. At various points in our lives, most of us have malignant cells that do not become clinical cancer because the immune system efficiently disposes of them. Of the psychological factors implicated in cancer, the most conspicuous is bottled-up emotion. One researcher remarked that many cancer patients exhibit the stolid faces of the famous Grant Wood painting, American Gothic.

Cancer patients have more difficulty remembering their dreams than patients found not to have cancer, fewer marital changes (separations, divorces), fewer symptoms of illnesses known to reflect psychological conflict (ulcers, migraine, asthma). [2] Various studies have found that cancer patients tend to keep their feelings to themselves, and most have not had close relationships with their parents. They find it difficult to express anger. One study reported that they are conforming and controlled, less autonomous and spontaneous than those whose tests later prove negative. One cancer therapist said of her patients, "They have typically experienced a gap in their lives — disappointment, expectations that didn't work out. It's as if the need for growth becomes a physical metaphor."

Unexpressed grief may trigger pathology by depressing the immune system. One study showed that the death of a spouse resulted in lower immune function during subsequent weeks. A Boston project found a 60 percent miscarriage rate in women who got pregnant just after losing a baby to the Sudden Infant Death syndrome. The report urged that such bereaved women "should wait until the body is no longer feeling the effects of grief."

THE BODY AS PATTERN AND PROCESS Over the years our bodies become walking autobiographies, telling friends and strangers alike of the minor and major stresses of our lives. Distortions of function that occur after injuries, like a limited range of motion in a hurt arm, become a permanent part of our body pattern. Our musculature reflects not only old injuries but old anxieties. Poses of timidity, depression, bravado, or stoicism adopted early in life are locked into our bodies as patterns in our sensorimotor system.

In the vicious cycle of bodymind pathology, our body's tight patterns contribute to our locked-in mental processes. We cannot separate mental from physical, fact from fantasy, past from present. Just as the body feels the mind's grief, so the mind is constricted by the body's stubborn memory of what the mind used to feel, and on and on.

This cycle can be interrupted by "bodywork" — therapies that deeply (and often painfully) massage, manipulate, loosen, or otherwise change the body's neuromuscular system, its orientation to gravity, its symmetry. Changing the body in this way can affect the whole bodymind loop profoundly. The late Ida Rolf, whose structural integration method (Rolfing) is one of the best-known approaches, quoted Norbert Weiner, the founder of cybernetics: "We are not the stuff that abides but patterns that perpetuate themselves."

Just as some psychotechnologies increase the fluctuation of energy through the brain, enabling new patterns or paradigm shifts to occur, bodywork alters the flow of energy through the body, freeing it of its old "ideas" or patterns, increasing its range of movement. Structural integration, the Alexander method, Feldenkrais, Applied Kinesiology, Neurokinesthetics, bioenergetics, Reichian therapy, and hundreds of other systems initiate transformation of the body.

John Donne's famous line, "No man is an island," is as true of our bodies as of our social interdependence. Belatedly, half a century after we should have taken the hint from physics. Western medicine is beginning to recognize that the body is a process — a bioelectric whirlpool, sensitive to positive ions, cosmic rays, trace minerals in our diet, free electricity from power generators.

Picturing the body at its dynamic level helps us to make sense of otherwise puzzling controversies. For example, orthomolecular psychiatry, which treats mental disturbances with megadoses of vitamins and trace minerals, bases its approach on the effect of these nutrients on the brain's bioelectrical activity. Electrical stimulation hurries the healing of slow-mending bones, perhaps by creating large enough fluctuation of energy to bring about regeneration. Direct current has been measured at the acupuncture points.

Acupuncture and acupressure, which stimulate particular points on precise meridians, show how even remote parts of the body are connected. The more we see of the effects of acupuncture, the better we understand why treating symptoms alone seldom alleviates disease.

We are oscillating fields within larger fields. Our brains respond to the rhythm of sounds, pulsations of light, specific colors, tiny changes of temperature. We even become biologically entrained to those close to us; couples who live together, for example, have been shown to share a monthly temperature cycle. When we engage in conversation, even if we are only listening, we enter into a subtle "dance" with the other person, synchronous movements so small they can only be detected by examining movie film frame by frame.

Stimulation in the environment affects the growth and connections of the plastic human brain from its earliest critical periods to its last days — its weight, nutrients, the number of cells. Even in the elderly, the physical brain does not lose a measurable number of cells if the environment is stimulating.

If the bodymind is a process, so disease is a process. . . . And so is healing, whole-making, with seven million of our red blood cells blinking out of existence every second, replaced by seven million more. Even our bones are fully rebuilt over a seven-year period. Just as in the dance of the goddess Shiva, we are continuously creating and destroying, creating and destroying.

Wallace Ellerbroek, a former surgeon now a psychiatrist, said:

We doctors seem to have a predilection for nouns in naming diseases (epilepsy, measles, brain tumor), and because these things "deserve" nouns as names, then obviously they are things — to us. If you take one of these nouns — measles — and make it into a verb, then it becomes, "Mrs. Jones, your little boy appears to be measling," which opens both your mind and hers to the concept of disease as a process.

Ellerbroek has successfully treated a number of diseases by teaching the patient to confront and accept the process — to pay attention to it. In one well-known experiment, he instructed chronic acne patients to react to any new outbreak of pimples with nonjudgmental attention. They might look into the mirror and say, in effect, "Well, pimple, there you are, right where you belong at this moment in time." They were urged to accept the acne rather than resisting it with negative emotions.

All participants had had their acne for fifteen or more years without relief. The results of the experiment were stunning. Several patients were completely clear within weeks. An active process — fear, resentment, denial — had been maintaining the acne.

Health and disease don't just happen to us. They are active processes issuing from inner harmony or disharmony, profoundly affected by our states of consciousness, our ability or inability to flow with experience. This recognition carries with it implicit responsibility and opportunity. If we are participating, however unconsciously, in the process of disease, we can choose health instead.
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Re: The Aquarian Conspiracy, by Marilyn Ferguson

Postby admin » Sun Apr 28, 2019 4:34 am

Part 2 of 2


Illness, as Pelletier and many others have said, is potentially transformative because it can cause a sudden shift in values, an awakening. If we have been keeping secrets from ourselves — unexamined conflicts, suppressed yearnings — illness may force them into awareness.

For many Aquarian Conspirators, an involvement in health care was a major stimulus to transformation. Just as the search for self becomes a search for health, so the pursuit of health can lead to greater self-awareness. All wholeness is the same. The proliferating holistic health centers and networks have drawn many into the consciousness movement. A nurse said, "If healing becomes a reality with you, it's a lifestyle. Altered states of consciousness accompany it, increased telepathy. It's an adventure."

One woman sought biofeedback instrumentation to see if she could lower her intraocular pressure and cure her glaucoma. She succeeded, but more importantly, she discovered that her states of consciousness affected her entire life, not just her vision. An MD, concerned about the abusive doses of Valium he was taking for his headaches, tried biofeedback . . . which led to inner attention . . . which led to meditation and wrenching change, including a far different career in medicine. A prominent attorney came to believe that there was a valuable purpose in his progressive loss of eyesight:

I felt called, not to fight against the sudden impairment of outer vision but to cooperate with it as a way to enhance my own life process. Looking back over the past fifteen months. I'm convinced it would have been a great loss if by some chance, miracle, or effort of will, the process had been reversed at once.

A conspirator-bureaucrat said he discovered health as a by-product of meditation. After several years of Transcendental Meditation he found it easy to give up his compulsive drinking and soon thereafter his compulsive overeating. "At an age when I should be going downhill. I'm healthier than I was five years ago and getting healthier all the time."

A psychologist, a national leader in holistic medicine, wandered into the field by way of a T'ai Chi instructor who interested him in acupuncture. He has now successfully integrated alternative medical approaches into the curriculum of a major medical school and has arranged lecture series on holistic approaches for a group of medical schools. "When you develop liaisons," he said, "it's critical that you speak the right language. If I talked yin and yang to most neurosurgeons, they wouldn't hear me. I talk the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. If we want to help people change, it's important that we don't push them or pull them — just walk together."

A former political activist — now on the faculty of a medical school — who teaches courses on the biology of the bodymind, said, "This revolution says that we're all basically all right and that the return to health is natural. It's anti-elitist. Professionalism, the degree on the wall, is eroding as a symbol of authority. Love is the most irresistible power in the universe. Caring — that's what healing is all about.”

A New York MD, all but paralyzed from chronic back pain after an automobile accident, discovered that pressure at acupuncture points on her foot relieved her agony. "I believe my acumassage worked because of my readiness and perspective at that time and the treatment itself which redirected the flow of energy. Through that experience I became interested in learning more about hypnosis, biofeedback, and meditation.” A clergyman who responded to the Aquarian Conspiracy questionnaire opened a holistic health and meditation center after finding relief from chronic pain through meditation. A New Mexico MD said she began using a spiritual network as a counseling adjunct for patients who were slow to get well. Several respondents said they had been drawn into the psychotechnologies by their curiosity about healing phenomena they saw as medical professionals.


The new way of thinking about health and disease, with its message of hope and its charge of individual responsibility, is widely communicated by the Aquarian Conspiracy, as in a 1978 Washington conference, "Holistic Health: A Public Policy,” cosponsored by several government agencies and private organizations. Agencies from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare were represented. So was the White House staff. Insurance companies, prepaid health-plan organizations, and foundations sent representatives — in many cases, their top executive officers. Politicians, physicians, psychologists, traditional healers, spiritual teachers, researchers, futurists, sociologists, and health policymakers shared the platform. The assistant surgeon-general opened the conference; principal speakers included Jerome Frank on the placebo effect, California legislator John Vasconcellos, meditation teacher Jack Schwarz, Buckminster Fuller on human ecology.

Topics included public-health policy, implementation of holistic health centers, crosscultural healing practices, systems theory, the holographic theory of mind and reality, yoga, music and consciousness, acupuncture and acupressure, Buddhist meditative techniques, electromedicine, alternative birth approaches, bodywork, biofeedback, guided imagery, homeopathy, nutrition — and "the changing image of man."

This inclusive program typifies the new paradigm, which sees many nontraditional healing systems as complementary to Western medicine. Whether we understand how they work or not, they can be put to our service, just as conventional medicine uses aspirin, digitalis, and electroconvulsive shock without knowing why they are effective.

It was in 1970 that the first group of scientists and physicians — friends — gathered in a public forum to assert their interest in spiritual realities and alternative approaches to health. The standing-room-only program at De Anza College in Cupertino, California, was underwritten by Lockheed Air- craft. Six months later a similar cast of characters staged twin weekend programs at UCLA and Stanford, emphasizing the role of the mind in disease, telling of "new" therapies: meditation, visualization, biofeedback, acupuncture, hypnosis, psychic healing, folk healing. Within a few years, variations on this scientific-spiritual mating dance had been performed on the campuses of most major universities in the country, including Yale, Harvard, New York University, New York Institute of Technology, every branch of the University of California system, and the Universities of Massachusetts, Miami, Michigan, and Illinois. The Rockefeller, Ford, and Kellogg foundations funded programs exploring the interface of mind and health.

In October 1975 Roy Menninger of the Menninger Clinic said at a Tucson conference, "The traditional ideas about medicine and the new concept of man are on a collision course." Other speakers foresaw confrontation and resistance in the realm of health-care reform.

But even then, at the Tucson meeting, detente had begun. Take the case of Malcolm Todd. Todd, then president of the conservative AMA, gave a somewhat defensive recounting of the technological wonders of modem medicine. His talk was not an audience pleaser, but everyone agreed that his willingness to appear on the platform along with unorthodoxy was significant.

Less than a year later, appearing on a similar, larger program in San Diego, Todd endorsed the concept of a "humanistic medicine" that deals with the "bodymind." Nine months later he urged a heavily medical audience in Houston to take an active role in the integration of these holistic approaches into the system. Wisely used, he said, they promise an exciting rejuvenation of Western medicine. "The spectrum of components might range from biofeedback and the psychology of con- sciousness to paranormal phenomena, psychic healing. . .

The conspiracy has understood that potential opponents should be listened to, not shouted down. And they should be given first-hand experience of the larger context. In 1975 and 1976 Rick Carlson, an attorney specializing in health policy, and others organized small conferences at Airliehouse, Virginia, near Washington, to acquaint government officials and legislative aides with the power of holistic concepts and alternative medicine. [3] Those who attended had an opportunity to try biofeedback, meditation, imagery, relaxation, and other psychotechnologies. Those meetings were quietly funded by Blue Cross-Blue Shield.

In 1976 "the Blues," the Rockefeller Foundation, and the University of California-San Francisco cosponsored a meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, where two hundred top policymakers were introduced to alternative health approaches, emphasizing the importance of the "inner physician." Two months later a similar meeting was held, this time with an additional sponsor, the Institute of Medicine.

The conspirators moved around the country like circuit riders, preaching a perspective, not a dogma; launching an educational program here, a pilot project there, promoting and publicizing the work of others in the network, forging new links. Some worked at changing their local and state professional organizations. Others alerted foundations and the press to the possibilities of a wider paradigm.

The most successful strategies were gentle persuasion and first-hand experience. The wooing of influential policymakers has been an effective way of shaking the status quo. For example, some conferences served a dual purpose, enlightening the paying participants and seducing partially committed speakers into full alliance.

Like a promise, a litany, a manifesto for wholeness in a broken society, are the gatherings. And they are materializing all across the national landscape, more quickly than they can be counted: symposia and conferences, workshops and seminars, retreats, fairs and festivals, giant expositions. Among them: Ways of Healing, Healing East and West, New All-American Bi- Centennial Medicine Show, Annual Healing Arts Camp and Fair, Health Expo, New Age Expo, Toward Tomorrow Fair, New Physics and New Medicine, Meditation-related Therapies, Human Ecology, Human Energy, Common Ground, Body Faire, The Mind Can Do Anything, It's All in the Mind, Holistic Health Retreat, Holistic Life University, Celebration of Health, New Perspectives on Medicine, New Prescriptions for American Medicine, Physician of the Future, Healing Center of the Future, Cultural Perspectives in Healing, Na- tive American Healing, Natural Resources for Health, Self and Body, Body-Mind-Spirit, Stress Without Distress, Stress and the Psychol- ogy of Cancer, Biofeedback and Behavioral Medicine, Reintegrating the Body-Mind Split in Psychotherapy, Chinese Total Health for Body and Mind, New Dimensions in Health Care, Touch for Health, A Holistic Affair.

And the organizations: The Center for Integral Medicine, The Institute of Humanistic Medicine, The Association for Holistic Health, numberless "holistic-health centers" and "holistic-health clinics."

The conspiracy concedes that there is strength in numbers and certainly strength in cooperation, but not in centralization. One tentative effort to weld a single body of practitioners in 1977 was vigorously resisted. Despite its powerful national alliances and coalitions, the movement is determined to stay grass-roots and decentralized. [4]

The networks are SPINs, classic examples of the self-sufficient, multicentered groups described in Chapter 7. Caucuses have been formed in many of the older professional organizations, and, at every national convention, panels and workshops are devoted to topics relating to alternative medicine: altered states of consciousness, acupuncture, hypnosis, meditation, biofeedback. The body- mind-spirit slogan of these sessions may take its place as a revolutionary motif with "liberty, equality, fraternity." A number of holistic-health centers, conferences, and networks have also emerged from churches or church-affiliated foundations.

One newsletter said, "At this time holistic medicine is very much a 'people field' rather than an institutional field, depending on a communications pattern which links a global informal network. ... As in many emerging disciplines, this informal network is the field of holistic health." Just as the new collective was said to be the new politics, so the health networks are the new paradigm of wellness — living and breathing examples of a better way.  

The conspiracy also recognizes the importance of semantics to bridge the old and the new. For example, the protocols for a landmark study of unconventional healing were approved by participating hospitals under the title "therapeutic touch" because it seemed less esoteric than "the laying on of hands." A researcher prepared a grant proposal to study "The Psychobiology of Health." It was rejected. Knowing that the funding agencies are more oriented to pathology than wellness, he retitled his proposal "The Psychobiology of Disease" and it was promptly accepted.

By 1977 there were weekly "rap groups" at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), informal discussions of shamanic healing, meditation, aura diagnosis. A working conference in California, sponsored by NIMH, produced a book of commissioned papers on alternative medicine for the express purpose of giving legitimacy to the concepts. Federal grants supported the study of bodymind changes produced by the psychotechnologies. NIMH also contracted for the preparation of an annotated bibliography on holistic medicine. In its work request, the agency eloquently defined the need:

During the last two decades many physicians and mental health professionals have begun to discover the limitations in the paradigms and practices of western allopathic medicine The focus on pathology and disease rather than prevention, the destructiveness of so many pharmaceutical and surgical remedies, the too-rigid separation of physical and emotional problems, the assumption of an asymmetrical relationship between an all-powerful physician and a submissive patient . . . have all prompted clinicians and researchers to look for answers in other traditions and techniques.

This search has led many to seek out traditions in which body and mind are regarded as one, in which therapeutics are directed at aiding natural healing processes Some workers have turned their interest to forms of traditional medicine — acupuncture, homeopathy, herbalism, meditation, psychic healing; others, to such new techniques as guided imagery and biofeedback.

“The war is over," Norman Cousins, publisher of Saturday Review, said in 1978. “We have allies out there, a lot of doctors who believe as we do but need encouragement." Cousins had reason to know of the “allies out there." He had recounted in the New England Journal of Medicine his own dramatic recovery from critical illness using an unorthodox approach when conventional medicine was at a loss. He prescribed his own treatment — a marathon of Marx Brothers movies and old “Candid Camera" shows, along with massive intravenous doses of Vitamin C. What had appeared to be a fatal cellular disease was reversed.

The response to his article was phenomenal. Seventeen medical journals asked to reprint it, thirty-four medical schools included it in their course materials, and Cousins was invited to address medical schools around the country. More than three thousand physicians from many countries wrote him appreciative, enthusiastic letters. Later in 1978 Cousins joined the faculty of the UCLA Medical School.


Cousins also addressed the 1977 convention of the American Medical Students Association (AMSA) in Atlanta. The convention theme, "Alternative Roles in Health — a New Definition of Medicine," made it increasingly clear that the paradigm shift is happening in medical schools. Around the country, students and sympathetic faculty have started informal discussion groups on consciousness and holistic approaches to medicine. These groups meet regularly at such medical schools as UCLA, the University of Texas in Galveston, Baylor in Houston, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

A national network. Goldenseal, grew out of the Johns Hopkins group; one of its founders was then vice-president of AMSA. From its two founding members it grew to a membership of two hundred fifty in its first year.

The AMSA official magazine. New Physician , devoted an entire issue in 1977 to alternative practices and has a regular department on humanistic medicine. Laurel Cappa, 1976 president of AMSA, told a physicians' convention of the students' interest in family practice and in nontraditional approaches such as meditation and Gestalt psychology. Medical students were saying that they want to be partners, not authority figures to their patients.

In 1978, the AMSA immediate past president, Doug Outcalt, was invited to Denver to address the founding conference of a new organization of physicians, the American Holistic Medical Association. He urged the members to serve as models for those students looking for a more open, humanistic approach to health care.

Medical students, he said, can be roughly divided into thirds: the Traditionalists, content to pursue medicine as it was practiced by their fathers; the Dues-payers, who don't approve of the system but can't imagine that it will change; and the Searchers, those actively interested in alternatives. "You can help us," Outcalt said. "Infiltrate the admissions committees. Infiltrate the curriculum committees. Get on the clinical faculties at the medical schools."

Conspiracy and crisis are indeed changing medical schools. A number of those who filled out Aquarian Conspiracy questionnaires are on the faculties of medical schools, not only offering the students a more generous paradigm but also organizing continuing medical-education programs for licensed physicians. (Many states require physicians to update their training with a minimum number of hours' training each year.)

In Sacramento, the medical-affairs committee of the California legislature was considering whether changes in medical-school curricula were in order. A conspirator-psychologist and friend of the committee chairman announced himself — "I represent the non-physicians of the state of California" — and proceeded to make recommendations for humanizing the education of future doctors.

When the medical-college deans protested that the suggested changes would be too difficult and complicated, he said mildly, "I agree. Innovation probably is too difficult for our medical schools." The deans backtracked at once. Well, maybe it wasn't that difficult.

But above and beyond the conscious assistance of the Aquarian Conspiracy, the implosion of knowledge and the failure of "rational medicine" are inexorable forces for change.

Life has not been easy for most doctors caught in the paradigm shift. They are between generations, not young enough to move smoothly into the new concepts, not old enough to have died with the technological dream and the mystique of the doctor.

Many health-care professionals around the country have been serving as the kind of "transforming leadership" described by James MacGregor Bums (see Chapter 7). In a way, they are trying to break their own cultural trance, for Western medical training is a narrow subculture, what one medical anthropologist called "the harsh Galenic tradition."

The holistic ideal is hardly new. In the prestigious journal Science, in an essay titled "The Need for a New Medical Model," George Engel pointed out that the approach had been attempted at Johns Hopkins medical school before 1920. In The Will to Live (1950), Arnold Hutschnecker, a physician, made a vigorous case for bodymind medicine. The physician's preoccupation with disease and the psychoanalyst's preoccupation with the mind would be synthesized, for the truth is not a monopoly of either branch of medicine. "They will meet and fuse, and their fusion will be found most profoundly in the general practitioner."

What Hutschnecker could not have foreseen was the rapid disappearance of the general practitioner. In 1950 nearly 90 percent of the graduates of medical school went into family practice. By 1970 that figure had dropped to less than 10 percent. Mind and body were not only treated by separate camps but every part of the body became somebody's turf.

Specialization was the understandable, perhaps even inevitable, result of an increasing reliance by medical schools on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). According to Harrison Gough, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who has been studying medical students since 1951, the test shaped a generation of American medicine by selecting students of a particular temperament. As higher scores were required for admission, the test eliminated many "doers and good workers" in favor of those with a strong academic orientation. These scholarly types tended to go into research or into specialties like radiology and anesthesiology. "Reliance on the test produced a generation of doctors who didn't want to talk to a patient about how his stomach hurt."

Gough discovered over the years that the most creative medical students were the likeliest to drop out. “It's not that they weren't fit to be doctors. They just couldn't tolerate the chain gang — the highly scheduled lockstep program of medical school."

Especially in recent years, many of the best potential doctors did not even make it to the dropout stage. Increasingly intense competition for relatively few spaces meant that spectacular grade averages were prerequisite to admission. Warmth, intuition, and imagination are precisely the characteristics likely to be screened out by the emphasis on scholastic standing and test scores. The right brain, in effect, was being denied admission to medical school. There were no quotas for creativity.

In April 1977, nearly thirty thousand applicants took a dramatically different MCAT for 1978-79 entry to medical school. By its very nature, the new test blunted the sharp competitive edge that once favored science majors. It enabled non-science majors to qualify for admission. Furthermore, it screened for characteristics never before tested: the ability to synthesize, to see patterns, to extrapolate, to ignore irrelevant data. There were few cut-and-dried answers.

The new MCAT was the first truly new test for medical school admission since 1946. The American Association of Medical Colleges, which had commissioned the test at a cost of one million dollars, has begun actively considering strategies for evaluating the kinds of human traits likely to make a good doctor. A spokesman said, “Everyone agrees that the traits not tapped by cognitive tests are important — perhaps more critical than a candidate's knowledge of medicine."

The medical colleges are also assessing the impact of the curriculum itself on the student's personality. A former dean of the Harvard Medical School remarked that “there is less intellectual freedom in the medical course than in almost any other form of professional education in this country." Howard Hiatt, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, urged the broadening of medical education, too long “isolated from the richness of the university's mainstream."

The new test, by requiring only knowledge from first-year science courses, is expected to encourage pre-med students to take courses in the humanities. In fact, there is a small but significant trend among medical schools to encourage the applications of non-science majors. At McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, entering medical students are about evenly divided between science and humanities majors.

Medical students are starting to demand (and even organize) courses in nutrition, psychosomatic medicine, biofeedback, acupuncture, and other non traditional alternatives.

In a lecture to the faculty and alumni of the University of California-San Francisco medical school, an intern, Scott May, urged the respect and nurturance of feminine principles. He listed examples of the exaggerated masculine orientation: the medical schools' pushing students to ignore the exhaustion of their own bodies, the "objectification” of the patient which keeps the doctor from understanding his own feelings, the lack of compassion, the suicides and breakdowns and drug abuse among doctors. "Value, don't deprecate, those students who are less thick-skinned, less distant from their own feelings and those of the patients. Look for them on the admissions commit- tee." He urged his classmates, "Remember your heart. . . ."

A Yale medical student, Tom Ferguson, launched a successful publication, Medical Self Care, offering articles on nutrition, psychology, exercise, psychotechnologies, herbs, drugs, assorted alternatives. Ferguson also started an adult-education program, saying, "The way the medical-school curriculum is set up now, people interested in medicine for very humanistic reasons are put into situations where they're kept away from patients for two, three, or even four years." To get human contact, frustrated students at the University of Louisville School of Medicine set up their own free clinic.

Younger doctors see themselves in partnership with non- physicians. Their view was typified in a letter to the American Medical News editor protesting an article that had characterized chiropractors as cultists. The student said, "Let's work with chiropractors." Old issues of power (who has the expertise, who deserves more authority) are fading. Psychologists are as influential as MDs in a number of innovative medical programs. In California, a doctorate in mental health is being experimentally offered — a blend of psychiatry, psychology, and social-work courses. Old hierarchical distinctions fall away: Psychiatrists seek advice from psychologists, orthopedists from chiropractors, ophthalmologists from optometrists. Nurse-practitioners, midwives, family counselors, lay counselors, clergymen, folk healers, body therapists, physicists, medical engineers — anybody can contribute to holistic medicine. As an anatomist at a California medical school put it, "We all have a piece of the truth. Nobody has it all." Harvard's Hiatt said:

The days of the physician as the sole central figure in the health arena are over. No matter how able the doctor is ... we need other professionals involved in the system because medical care, no matter how well delivered, is not the sole solution to most of the health problems that con- front us.

These issues demand input from law and economics, Hiatt said, as well as from the biological sciences, mathematics, public policy, business, journalism, ethics, education. [5]


Everything of importance is already known, a sage said — the only thing is to rediscover it. Much of the current excitement about healing is a kind of collective remembering, a homecoming to the old wives and old doctors. Hippocrates, with his insistence on the importance of mind and milieu, could have warned us of the consequences of medical pigeonholing.

Scientific discoveries about the richness and complexity of nature reveal the poverty of our usual approaches to health, especially our efforts to deal externally, forcefully, and invasively with systems whose delicate balance can only be corrected if the inner physician is recruited. Just as outer reforms have limited effect on the body politic, external treatments are insufficient to heal the body if the spirit is in conflict.

In many instances traditional ways are being re-adopted, not out of nostalgia but because we recognize that our “modern" approaches have been an aberration, an attempt to impose some sort of clumsy order on a nature far more ordered than we can imagine. For example, the twentieth century gave us four-hour bottle feedings of infants, induced labor of childbirth and Caesarian-section deliveries for the convenience of hospitals and doctors, birth and death segregated into isolated, sterile environments empty of human consolation.

In a typical modern delivery, drugged babies are taken from drugged mothers, pulled into a shock of bright lights and loud noises, tied up, wrapped, and placed in plastic boxes. Their fathers see them through glass, their siblings not at all. Yet we know now that mothers and infants become physically and emotionally “bonded" if given time enough together immediately after birth: The eye contact, touching, smiling, and feeding seem to have a long-term effect on their rapport and the child's later development. Practices from other cultures and revived customs from our own show us the startling benefits of natural behavior toward the newborn: a mother's cuddling, a father's play, human milk furnishing substances crucial to development, the human voice triggering micromovements in the infant.

The importance of bonding has been quantified by crosscultural studies that have shown strong correlations between bonding and the mother's later sensitivity, the child's long- term IQ, and reduced instances of abuse or neglect. There seems to be a paternal bonding as well. Swedish fathers al- lowed to handle their babies in the hospital were much more involved with them three months later. Long-range studies have shown greater social competence in children whose fathers were involved in their infant care.

At first the interest in bonding was dismissed by the medical profession. Capitulation, when it came, was sudden and unexpected. In 1978 the AMA announced its endorsement of obstetric approaches that consider the importance of mother-infant bonding.

Obviously, modern hospitals were not designed for family childbirth, a factor that caused an enormous wave of home births in recent years. At first this trend was looked on with alarm by the medical profession, but the first major evaluation of safety was a shocker. Studying nearly twelve hundred cases of home childbirth, the California State Department of Health found them safer than the state average on every count. (The mothers, who had been screened for major risk, were not quite representative of the general population.) More than twice as many babies died in the hospital deliveries, and midwives out-performed physicians when it came to handling complications! (For example, the midwives' techniques kept lacerations to around 5 percent, compared to 40 percent in physician deliveries.)

In the face of consumer revolt, a growing number of hospitals have attempted to compete. The obstetric ward is "a home away from home," a humane environment with access to emergency facilities. In the New Life Center at Family Hospital in Milwaukee, the Alternative Birth Centers at San Francisco General and Hollywood Presbyterian, parents and other children are together in homelike quarters, listening to music, visiting during the mother's labor, sharing meals.

Many hospitals have adopted the delivery method of French obstetrician Frederic Leboyer. The baby is born into a dimly lit environment in silence and then gently welcomed, massaged, placed in a warm bath. A physician at Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago remarked on the "almost universal smile" that appears as the baby stretches. A Florida physician told his colleagues, "It's a concept, not a procedure."

Leboyer has described his gradual discovery of the awareness and intelligence of the newborn, a phenomenon he had been educated against in his medical training. "A person is there, fully conscious, deserving of respect." A French experiment studied one hundred and twenty babies delivered by the Leboyer method, all from working-class mothers who knew nothing of the method when they arrived at the hospital for delivery. These babies scored higher on psychomotor scales than the average infant, had superior digestion, walked earlier, and were surprisingly likely to be ambidextrous!

Leboyer was among the speakers at a 1978 Los Angeles conference organizing Our Ultimate Investment, a foundation devoted to "conscious childbirth," sponsored by Laura Huxley, widow of Aldous Huxley. Strong convictions about the spiritual and psychological aspects of childbirth, infant care, and bonding have led to the formation of a network, NAPSAC (the National Association of Parents and Professionals for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth). Widespread interest around the country has inspired conferences, seminars, books, and informal mutual-support networks. It has greatly increased support for established natural approaches to birth, like the Lamaze method, and the La Leche League, a mutual-help network for women wishing to breastfeed their babies.

A woman who filled out the Aquarian Conspiracy questionnaire described the birth of her child at home as "a drugless psychedelic high, a peak experience." Her husband, who delivered the baby, also ranked the birth as a high point in his life, "being born a parent." The mother said she was grateful to all the women who had preceded her "in bearing children in their own way, reclaiming birth from the field of medicine and giving it back to parents and children, to whom it belongs."

And just as increasing numbers of prospective parents are demanding home births or homelike settings, many of the dying are coming home to die or are seeking ou4 the few available hospices, which are humane centers for the terminally ill modeled after St. Christopher's in London. Advocates of the hospice movement have described it as "a concept rather than a specific place/' just as the Leboyer method was called a concept rather than a technique. "The hospice movement," said a Science report on a two-day meeting on hospices at the National Institutes of Health, "far from being a separate and specialized phenomenon, supplies a model for getting the whole health system back on the track."

"It is ultimately the concept of life, not the concept of death, which rules the question of the right to die," remarked Hans Jonas, a professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research. "The trust of medicine is the wholeness of life. Its commitment is to keep the flame of life burning, not its embers glimmering. Least of all is it the infliction of suffering and indignity." The technology of slow death — tubes, respirators — can now be rejected in many states in the name of "the right to die." [6]

The Shanti Project in Berkeley employs lay and professional counselors for the loving guidance of the dying and their families. At the Center for Attitudinal Healing in Tiburon, California, psychiatrist Gerald Jampolsky supervises a group of children with life-threatening illnesses like leukemia. They meet in each other's homes once a week to share their fears, meditate together, and convey healing thoughts to those among them in crisis. A grant from Pacific Bell has made it possible for the center to sponsor a telephone support network so that children around the country can talk to each other about their shared experiences of dangerous illness.

Of all the self-fulfilling prophecies in our culture, the assumption that aging means decline and poor health is probably the deadliest. Although research has demonstrated that there are many ways to age, we set ourselves up for senility or death. We draw the aging away from meaningful work: The elderly rich are tempted into sunny, childless ghettos and the elderly poor are left in neighborhoods long since abandoned by families. Even the ambulant ill are often segregated in nursing homes.

But revolution is upon us. Not only is a vocal minority chanting, “Hell, no, we won't go," but sympathetic younger generations are likely to be even more militant. Maggie Kuhn of the Gray Panthers typifies the Radical Center of the new views toward aging:

Let's not pit ourselves against the young. We don't want to be adversaries. And you young people — together, we will conspire. We need radical social change, a new agenda. Such an agenda would include age-integrated housing, an end to mandatory retirement.

Together we can devise holistic health centers — to challenge and change, to point the way to large institutional change.

We're experiencing a new kind of humanness and our corporate power to change society.

I'm sorry when my peers put all their efforts into obtaining services, like reduced utility rates. Services are Novocain. They dull the pain but they don't solve the problem.

We can be coalition builders. And we can experiment. Those of us who are old can afford to live dangerously. We have less to lose.

Kuhn urges her peers to take college courses, to become involved in self-actualizing activities, to launch imaginative enterprises. A group of Gray Panthers in one city jointly purchased several old houses to renovate, occupy, and rent.

The national SAGE program — Senior Actualizations and Growth Explorations — combines spiritual and body therapies: acupuncture, meditation, T'ai Chi, music, even opportunities for barter. A recently founded National Association for Humanistic Gerontology is comprised of professionals interested in fostering alternative approaches to aging. Individuals of any age may join chapters of the Phenix Club founded by Jerome Ellison. The activities and mutual support are designed to make the second half of life a creative, spiritual adventure.

Predictably, there are also new approaches to treating psychiatric disorders. Medical science is less sure these days of the efficacy of its conventional methods, including the major tranquilizing drugs. The new drugs greatly increased the number of hospitalized patients who could resume functioning in the world, but they did little for the inner dissonance that helped trigger psychosis.

Psychiatry in the West is beginning to respect the insight of those societies that view madness as an attempt to break through to new vision. Acute psychosis may be a feverish strategy to transcend conflict, a sometimes valuable natural process rather than a symptom to be quickly eradicated. Sanctuary and understanding are often more effective than the powerful but temporary chemical adjustment usually given to psychotic individuals. In one California study young male schizophrenics who were not given drugs recovered from their acute psychoses about two weeks later than those given Thorazine, but they were far less often readmitted over the course of the next year.

Psychiatry means, literally, “doctoring the soul." It is unlikely that great doses of tranquilizing drugs can heal a fractured soul; rather, they interrupt the pattern of distress and conflict by altering the brain's disturbed chemistry. Remembering that the brain can either deny or transform conflict, we can understand Karl Menninger's observation that many individuals who recover from madness become “weller than well." They have reached a new level of integration, another example of stress driving individual evolution.

Some communities have established retreats so that stressed persons can find rest and support before their conflict becomes more than they can handle. A few retreats also handle psychotic disturbances. Diabasis House in San Francisco and Crossing Place in Washington are residential structures that have proved valuable even for acutely psychotic patients and cost much less than psychiatric hospitals.

All through history the fear of creative behavior and mystical states — of the intuitive side of human experience — has led to witch-hunts too various to name. Psychiatrist R. D. Laing blames this on the ambivalence of the society toward inner hungers, the consensus of denial of spiritual needs on which artists and mystics throughout history have been shipwrecked. Now increasing numbers of former mental patients have joined forces to oppose what they consider insensitive treatment of mental illness and to promote a greater reliance on such noninvasive therapies as biofeedback, meditation, nutrition, and sanctuary rather than drugs and electroshock. One such network is the Bay Area Association for Alternatives in Psychiatry. Many psychiatrists are looking at alternative therapies.

There is also a growing interest in traditional and folk healing systems. Physicians, nurses, psychologists, and anthropologists are looking into the shamanic (native healing) practices of many cultures: Chinese, Native American, Tibetan, African, Japanese. Insurance companies are now reimbursing the visits of Alaskan Eskimos to their shamans and Arizona Navajos to their medicine men. Shamanic healers help the sick look for meaning in the illness and see it in the context of their families or communities. Traditional healing systems view illness as a disturbance of the individual's harmony with others and with nature.

Brazil's popular medicine, sometimes called cura (“curing"), may be a preview of the synthesis taking place in some parts of the world. Cura blends Western medicine, spiritual healing, herbalism, homeopathy, Amerindian and African healing traditions. Some sixty million Brazilians are estimated to partake of cura, with rapidly growing numbers among the well-educated and middle class. Cura involves body, emotions, soul. There is a great respect for the “moral ascendancy" of the healer as well as the expertise of formally trained physicians. Cura emphasizes whatever works and establishes a support group for the individual in need of healing.


“I am convinced that there is such a thing as healing power," Jerome Frank said at a New York conference on alternative medical approaches. But he expressed doubt that it will be evaluated clearly enough in the near future for full acceptance by Western scientists.

Actually there is already something of a scientific grid through which we can understand a healing resonance between people. Bell's theorem, the Bohm-Pribram holographic theories, and other radical proposals offer a model for understanding the connectedness between persons. The image of the body as a responsive field of energy, predominant in Eastern philosophy, coincides with evidence that the acupuncture meridians are a reality and that the chakras of Buddhist lore may indeed have a basis in fact. Dolores Krieger, a professor of nursing at New York University, elegantly demonstrated changes in hemoglobin values in patients treated with a kind of "scanning" healing, in which practitioners do not actually touch the body but attempt to sense field changes — heat, cold, a tingling sensation — as their hands pass over particular regions of the body.

There is other evidence of a healing effect: unusual brainwave patterns in persons attempting to heal, enzyme changes, EEG shifts in the "healee," inexplicable tumor remissions, and other rapid cures. Medical interest is high. Krieger's method, for example, has been taught in day-long therapeutic touch workshops to thousands around the country, mostly nurses, and Krieger herself has been invited by several New York hospitals to teach the method to their entire nursing staffs. A number of doctors are now using similar methods.

Unorthodox healers like Rolling Thunder, Olga Worrall, Paul Solomon, and Jack Schwarz have lectured to medical schools and conducted workshops for doctors and medical students.

While psychic healing may prove a useful adjunct to medicine in the future, it is unlikely to become a primary mode of treatment — for a simple reason. A “healer” is ministering in much the same way as a doctor, doing something to the patient. Shamanic healers — the curanderos of South America, for instance — tell those they treat that they can affect the symptoms but they cannot change the inner process that produces disease. The symptom may disappear for a time but too often the deeper matrix of disease has not been changed. Only the individual can effect a healing from within.

A healing state of mind has specific benefits for the healer, however, and for the rapport between therapist and sufferer. A British scientist has observed a particular configuration of brain rhythms in most of the spiritual healers he has tested. (England has thousands of licensed healers, and they are permitted to work in hospitals.) One anxious physician wired to the brainwave device did not show that pattern. Finally the sympathetic researcher said, “Imagine you are about to treat a patient. You have no medicine, no equipment. You have nothing to give but your compassion." Suddenly the physician's brainwave activity shifted into the “healing state" pattern.

Robert Swearingen, a Colorado orthopedist, tells of finding himself with an emergency-room patient in intense pain because of a dislocated shoulder. The rest of the clinic staff was attending to a more critical emergency, so he could not call for a nurse to deliver tranquilizers and anesthetic.

At that moment I felt overwhelmed by a sense of impotence, of dependence on technology. Partly to reassure the patient, partly to calm myself, I began urging him to relax. Suddenly I felt the shoulder let down — and I knew that with the patient's cooperation I could slip it into place without pain or pain medication.

The experience changed his entire career, not only because he was then able to teach the painless procedure to nearly anyone, but also because he discovered the crucial importance of the human element in medicine. He also found that he could achieve a nonverbal rapport with patients, a kind of "listening" that led to intuitive diagnosis beyond anything his technology had given him.

A famous psychologist once remarked privately that biofeedback is the ultimate placebo, an intermediate step for those clinicians and patients reassured by "hard" science, who have not yet noticed that all the action is in a soft brain and vanishes into whirling particles on closer inspection. "It's all in the imagination," he said. We can have it as we imagine and as we will.

In the sixteenth century Paracelsus observed that the physicians of his day "know only a small part of the power of will." Yet on another level, we always knew that you can die of a broken heart, that a woman's prolonged distress can disturb her unborn baby, that old people don't grow senile if they maintain an interest in life.

Surely historians will marvel at the heresy we fell into, the recent decades in which we disregarded the spirit in our efforts to cure the body. Now, in finding health, we find ourselves.



1 This is not to disregard the role of genetic susceptibility or environmental  influences such as smoking. Illness or health originates in a milieu. The  translation of unresolved conflict or change into a particular disease is partially  influenced by genetic vulnerability, which biases us toward particular disorders. One whose family history includes a high incidence of allergy, diabetes,  schizophrenia, or cardiac disease is somewhat likelier to experience these  disorders than, say, cancer under stress.
2 In most such studies, personality assessments precede the diagnosis. Those  later found to have cancer are then compared to those whose tests were  negative. In some studies, large groups have been followed for decades to  determine whether those who eventually develop cancer have distinguishing  personality characteristics or similar life stresses.  
3 Actually, the Airliehouse meetings had been preceded by a ten-day London  "human-potential workshop" in May 1975 in which various speakers — Moshe  Feldenkrais, Rick Carlson, Fritjof Capra, Werner Erhard, and others — had  brainstormed potential social change under the theme, "Frontiers of Medicine  and Science."  

4 Any wide-open, fuzzy field like "holistic health" offers abundant opportunity  for fraud and overpromise. Ground rules include making sure that the unorthodox procedures are used only to complement proven conventional treatments rather than subjecting consumers to needless risk. Consumers are  warned against practitioners who make unwarranted promises or charge outrageous fees.
There have been some calls for licensure, but the debates usually come to  this: Holistic health is a perspective, not a specialty or discipline. You can't  license a concept. And you can't even know for sure what works. As Marshall  McLuhan once said, "Mysticism is just tomorrow's science, dreamed today."  The line between quackery and crazy-new-paradigm is not always easy to  establish.
5 In late 1979, in response to lawsuits and government pressure, the AMA  began circulating a new code of ethics allowing physicians to cooperate with  nonphysicians. Psychologists were also challenging physicians' groups and  insurors in the courts, demanding their right to be included in health-care  payments.
6 One indicator of turnabout in medicine: Twenty years ago only 10 percent of  the physicians polled believed patients should be told that they have cancer,  whereas a recent survey found that 97 percent favor telling them.
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Re: The Aquarian Conspiracy, by Marilyn Ferguson

Postby admin » Sun Apr 28, 2019 9:55 pm

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER 9: Flying and Seeing: New Ways to Learn

I would like to be able to fly if everyone else did, but otherwise it would be kind of conspicuous.

— Twelve-year-old girl quoted by DAVID RIESMAN in The Lonely Crowd

'Tis ye, 'tis your estranged faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.


We are in the early morning of understanding our place in the universe and our spectacular latent powers, the flexibility and transcendence of which we are capable. The scientific breakthroughs are throwing out a challenge: If our memories are as absorbent as research has demonstrated, our awareness as wide, our brains and bodies as sensitive; if we can will changes in our physiology at the level of a single cell; if we are heirs to such evolutionary virtuosity — how can we be performing and learning at such mediocre levels? If we're so rich, why aren't we smart?

This chapter is about learning in its broadest sense. It's about our surprising capacities, new sources of knowledge, mastery, creativity. It's about the learner within, waiting to be free.

And it's about how the learner came to be unfree . . . about our culture's great learning disability, an educational system that emphasizes being "right" at the expense of being open. We begin to see the unease and disease of our adult lives as elaborate patterns that emerged from a system that taught us young how to be still, look backward, look to authority, construct certainties. The fear of learning — and transformation — is the inevitable product of such a system.

This is the poignant human paradox: a plastic brain capable of endless self-transcendence, equally capable of being trained into self-limiting behavior. It is evident even in newborn babies, who have been shown by modern research techniques to be incredibly sensitive, seeking out patterns, reacting to subtle emotions in the human voice, attracted to faces, discriminating between colors. But science has also shown how easily newborns can be programmed. They can be conditioned to respond to a light or a bell not unlike the salivating dogs in Pavlov's famous experiments. Both Teilhard and Skinner were right: We are capable of evolutionary leaps and conditioning in boxes.

You can only have a new society, the visionaries have said, if you change the education of the younger generation. Yet the new society itself is the necessary force for change in education. It's like the old dilemma: You can't get a job without experience, but you can't get experience because no one will give you a job.

Schools are entrenched bureaucracies whose practitioners do not compete for business, do not need to get re-elected or to attract patients, customers, clients. Those educators who would like to innovate have relatively little authority to change their style.

The consumer cannot simply boycott this institution. Private schools are beyond the reach of most families and may not be an improvement over public schools. Yet some parents are now saying that deliberate withdrawal of their children from compulsory schooling — an illegal act in most states — is not unlike draft resisting in an immoral war.

Of the Aquarian Conspirators surveyed, more were involved in education than in any other single category of work. They were teachers, administrators, policymakers, educational psychologists. Their consensus: Education is one of the least dynamic of institutions, lagging far behind medicine, psychology, politics, the media, and other elements of our society.

They are, as one expressed it, "in peaceful struggle" within the system. There are heroes in education, as there have always been heroes, trying to transcend the limits of the old structure; but their efforts are too often thwarted by peers, administrators, parents. Mario Fantini, former Ford consultant on education, now at the State University of New York, said bluntly, “The psychology of becoming has to be smuggled into the schools."

Yet there are reasons for optimism. Our error has been in assuming that we had to start with the schools. Schools are an effect of the way we think — and we can change the way we think.

“The fallacy of the back-to-basics movement and the vast majority of educational reform efforts in this country," said John Williamson, former director of planning and policy development for the National Institute of Education, "has been the failure of our common-sense point of view." We have overlooked the critical variables, he said — the limiting personal beliefs of our students, the consciousness of our educators, the intention of our communities.

Beliefs. Consciousness. Intention. We can see why piecemeal reform is hopeless, for the problems are mired in our old notions of human nature, and they are intricately related. The inability of conventional education to teach basic skills and the failure to foster self-esteem are part of the same deep mismanagement and misperception.

Perhaps the back-to-basics movement could be channeled deeper — to bedrock fundamentals, the underlying principles and relationships, real “universal" education. Then we can reclaim our sense of place.

Only a new perspective can generate a new curriculum, new levels of adjustment. Just as political parties are peripheral to the change in the distribution of power, so the schools are not the first arena for change in learning.

Subtle forces are at work, factors you are not likely to see in banner headlines. For example, tens of thousands of classroom teachers, educational consultants and psychologists, counselors, administrators, researchers, and faculty members in colleges of education have been among the millions engaged in personal transformation. They have only recently begun to link regionally and nationally, to share strategies, to conspire for the teaching of all they most value: freedom, high expectations, awareness, patterns, connections, creativity. They are eager to share their discoveries with those colleagues ready to listen.

And many are ready, veterans of earlier, partially successful movements to humanize the schools. They have learned a lot. Much as social activism moved in recent years from confrontation to cooperation and from external to internal healing, educational reformers are shifting their emphasis. And there is power in the new alignment of parents and educators. Teachers, administrators, and sympathetic school-board members are working together rather than confronting one another.

These networks have an ally in scientific research . We are beginning to realize, with appalling clarity, how unnatural many of our educational methods have been and why they worked poorly, if at all. Research in brain function and consciousness demonstrates that teaching must change if we are to tap our potential.

Another strong force for change: crisis. All the failures of education, like a fever, signal a deep struggle for health. The business of the Aquarian Conspiracy is calm diagnosis of that illness — to make it clear that synthesis is needed — paradigm change rather than pendulum change.

If the streambed of education is being enlarged, one formidable force altering its contours is competition. Learning is where you find it: on “Sesame Street," in inner games of tennis and the Zen of everything, in teaching and learning cooperatives, in computers, on FM radio, in self-help books, in magazines, cassettes, and television documentaries.

The most potent force for change, however, is the growing recognition of millions of adults that their own impoverished expectations and frustrations came, in large measure, from their schooling.


If we are not learning and teaching we are not awake and alive. Learning is not only like health, it is health.

As the greatest single social influence during the formative years, schools have been the instruments of our greatest denial, unconsciousness, conformity, and broken connections. Just as allopathic medicine treats symptoms without concern for the whole system, schools break knowledge and experience into “subjects," relentlessly turning wholes into parts, flowers into petals, history into events, without ever restoring continuity. Or, as Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner observed in Teaching as a Subversive Activity:

English is not History and History is not Science and Science is not Art and Art is not Music, and Art and Music are minor subjects and English, History and Science major subjects, and a subject is something you “take" and when you have taken it, you have “had" it, and if you have “had" it, you are immune and need not take it again. (The Vaccination Theory of Education?)

Worse yet, not only is the mind broken, but too often, so is the spirit. Allopathic teaching produces the equivalent of iatrogenic, or “doctor-caused," illness — teacher- caused learning disabilities. We might call these pedogenic illnesses. The child who may have come to school intact, with the budding courage to risk and explore, finds stress enough to permanently diminish that adventure.

Even doctors, in their heyday as godlike paragons, have never wielded the authority of a single classroom teacher, who can purvey prizes, failure, love, humiliation, and information to great numbers of relatively powerless, vulnerable young people.

Dis-ease, not feeling comfortable about ourselves, probably begins for many of us in the classroom. One biofeedback clinician remarked that the correlation between stressful memories and arousal of the body can be demonstrated. If a biofeedback subject is asked to think about school memories, the feedback shows immediate alarm. In one PTA workshop, every adult asked to write about a remembered school incident described a negative or traumatic event. Many adults describe nightmares of being in school again, late for class or having failed to turn in an assignment.

Most of us seem to have considerable unfinished business with school. This residue of anxiety may intimidate us yet on some level of consciousness; it may forever pull us back from challenges and new learning.

In Chapter 8 we noted the impressive research associating personality characteristics with diseases — the cancer patient's difficulty in expressing grief or anger, for example, or the heart patient's obsession with schedules and achievements. Is it possible that our authoritarian, achievement-geared, fear-inducing, clock-watching schools have helped set us up for the illness of our choice? Were we discouraged from expressing honest anger, sorrow, frustration? Were we urged to compete, strive, fear tardiness and deadlines?

Noel Mclnnis, an educator concerned with the physical environments for learning, described the process: For twelve years we confine the child's body to a limited territory, his energy to a limited activity, his senses to limited stimulation, his sociability to a limited number of peers, his mind to limited experience of the world around him. "What will he learn?" Mclnnis asked. "To don't his own thing." [1]

Whereas the young need some sort of initiation into an uncertain world, we give them the bones from the culture's graveyards. Where they want to do real things, we give them abstract busywork, blank spaces to fill in with the "right" answers, multiple choices to see if they can choose the "right" answers. Where they need to find meaning, the schools ask memorization; discipline is divorced from intuition, pattern from parts.

If wholeness is health, the violence done to both meaning and self-image by most of our educational institutions is a major source of disease in our culture— a force that fragments even the child from a secure and loving home. The trauma of Humpty Dumpty begins with the first denials of feeling, the first suppressed questions, the muted pain of boredom. No home can fully undo the effects of what Jonathan Kozol, describing his experiences teaching ghetto children, called Death at an Early Age.

Buckminster Fuller once remarked that neither he nor anyone else he knew was a genius: "Some of us are just less damaged than others." Like Margaret Mead, Fuller was essentially home-taught. Studies have shown that an impressive proportion of great, original achievers were educated at home, stimulated by parents or other relatives from infancy, borne up by high expectations.


Why have our schools routinely punished and diminished the young? Perhaps it's because schools as we know them were designed long before we had any understanding of the human brain and for a society long since superseded. Furthermore, they were designed to impart a fairly specific body of knowledge, from a period when knowledge seemed stable and bounded.

It was enough to master the content of certain books and courses, learn the tricks of the trade, and you were finished. The student learned what he needed for his “field." The journeyman knew his job. Knowledge kept in its proper compartments, people in their departments. In the very short history of mass education — not much more than a century — schools went from teaching simple piety and fundamental literacy to eventual instruction in the arts and social sciences. Education became “higher" and “higher" in terms of elaboration and sophistication.

But schools were always presumed to be carrying out the mandate of the society, or at least giving it their best effort. They taught for obedience or productivity or whatever trait seemed appropriate at the time, producing teachers for teacher shortages, scientists after we began worrying that we were falling behind the Soviet Union scientifically after the launching of Sputnik.

If now, as polls and some educators are saying, the society prizes self-actualization above all else . . . how do you teach?

Millions of parents are disenchanted with conventional education, some because their children are not acquiring even simple literacy, some because the schools are dehumanizing. One recent Oregon survey showed that the community gave equal weight to the importance of fostering self-esteem and teaching basic skills.

A revision in the education code of California, authorizing all school districts to provide for alternative schools, emphasized the importance of developing in students “self-reliance, initiative, kindness, spontaneity, resourcefulness, courage, creativity, responsibility, and joy" — a tall order. A study commissioned for the National Education Association, "Curriculum Change Toward the Twenty-first Century,” noted that we are entering a period of great discontinuity, change, and interdependence of people and events.

Ironically, because their structure itself tends to paralyze them, school systems have responded slowly, if at all, to (1) new scientific findings relating to the mind and (2) changing values in the society. Knowledge in general moves very slowly into the schools; textbooks and curricula are typically years, even decades, behind what is known in any given field. Except at the level of university graduate schools, education is not a party to grapevines, speculation, breakthroughs, front-line re- search. A society shaken by an implosion of knowledge, a revolution in culture and communication, cannot wait for a creaking educational bureaucracy to sanction its search for meaning. What we know of nature now has broken through the artifices of disciplinary boundaries; technology is accelerated so that traditional careers vanish and new opportunities materialize suddenly. New information is rushing together, dovetailing across disciplines.

The educational establishment has been nightmarishly slow in responding to our changing needs, slower than any other institution. At an increasingly high cost (nearly 8 percent of the Gross National Product, compared to 3.4 percent in 1951), the old forms are not working. New hardware and refurbished curricula are not enough. [2]


Innovations in education have crisscrossed the sky like Roman candles, and most sputtered quickly out, leaving only the smell of disenchantment in the air. Too often they addressed themselves to only partial aspects of human nature, setting off skirmishes: cognitive versus affective (emotional) learning, free versus structured settings. Max Lerner observed that theorists at both ends of the spectrum have long viewed American schools with an almost theological fervor. The other side is always charged with having destroyed the heavenly city.

Who killed our Eden? The humanists blame the technologists, the behaviorists blame the humanists, the secularists the churches, the churches blame the lack of religious education, the fundamentalists blame the progressives, and on and on.

In truth, we never had a heavenly city. Our public schools were designed, fairly enough, to create a modestly literate public, not to deliver quality education or produce great minds.

The Radical Center of educational philosophy — the perspective typical of the Aquarian Conspiracy — is a constellation of techniques and concepts sometimes called transpersonal education. The name derives from a branch of psychology that focuses on the transcendent capacities of human beings. In transpersonal education, the learner is encouraged to be awake and autonomous, to question, to explore all the corners and crevices of conscious experience, to seek meaning, to test outer limits, to check out frontiers and depths of the self.

In the past most educational alternatives have offered only pendulum change, pushing discipline (as in fundamental schools) or affective/emotional values (as in most free schools).

In contrast to conventional education, which aims to adjust the individual to society as it exists, the "humanistic” educators of the 1960s maintained that the society should accept its members as unique and autonomous. Transpersonal experience aims for a new kind of learner and a new kind of society. Beyond self-acceptance, it promotes self- transcendence.

Merely humanizing the educational environment was still something of a concession to the status quo. In too many cases the reformers were afraid to challenge the learner for fear of pushing too hard. They assumed old limits. (As we shall see in the next chapter, early efforts at "humanizing the workplace" also ran into the problem typical of partial solutions: They may be rejected before their full value is realized because they promised more than they can deliver.)

Transpersonal education is more humane than traditional education and more intellectually rigorous than many alternatives in the past. It aims to aid transcendence, not furnish mere coping skills. It is education's counterpart to holistic medicine: education of the whole person.

One of the Aquarian Conspirators remarked, "Transpersonal education is the process of exposing people to the mysterious in themselves — and then getting out of the way so you don't get run over." But he warned against overselling to educators, who are understandably skeptical. "Schools have had so many 'revolutions' over the past few years. The battleground is scarred. Don't promise miracles, even if you expect them."

Phi Delta Kappan, the influential journal for school administrators, observed that transpersonal education holds potential for solving grave social crises, like juvenile crime, as well as enhancing learning. "Ill defined though it is," the journal said, "this movement is perhaps the dominant trend on the educational scene today and presages a momentous revolution."

Like holistic health, transpersonal education can happen anywhere. It doesn't need schools, but its adherents believe that the schools need it. Because of its power for social healing and awakening, they conspire to bring the philosophy into the classroom, in every grade, in colleges and universities, for job training and adult education.

Unlike most educational reform in the past, it is imbedded in sound science: systems theory, an understanding of the integration of mind and body, knowledge of the two major modes of consciousness and how they interact, the potential of altered and expanded states of consciousness. It emphasizes the continuum of knowledge, rather than "subjects," and the common ground of human experience, transcending ethnic or national differences. It aids the learner's search for meaning, the need to discern forms and patterns, the hunger for harmony. It deepens awareness of how a paradigm shifts, how frustration and struggle precede insights.

Transpersonal education promotes friendly environments for hard tasks. It celebrates the individual and society, freedom and responsibility, uniqueness and interdependence, mystery and clarity, tradition and innovation. It is complementary, paradoxical, dynamic. It is education's Middle Way.

The larger paradigm looks to the nature of learning rather than methods of instruction. Learning, after all, is not schools, teachers, literacy, math, grades, achievement. It is the process by which we have moved every step of the way since we first breathed; the transformation that occurs in the brain whenever new information is integrated, whenever a new skill is mastered. Learning is kindled in the mind of the individual. Anything else is mere schooling.

The new paradigm reflects both the discoveries of modern science and the discoveries of personal transformation.


• Emphasis on content, acquiring a body of "right" information, once and for all.
• Learning as a product, a destination.
• Hierarchical and authoritarian structure. Rewards conformity, discourages dissent.
• Relatively rigid structure, prescribed curriculum.
• Lockstep progress, emphasis on the "appropriate" ages for certain activities, age segregation. Compartmentalized .
• Priority on performance.
• Emphasis on external world. Inner experience often considered inappropriate in school setting.
• Guessing and divergent thinking discouraged.
• Emphasis on analytical, linear, left-brain thinking.
• Labeling (remedial, gifted, minimally brain dysfunctional, etc.) contributes to self- fulfilling prophecy.
• Concern with norms.
• Primary reliance on theoretical, abstract "book knowledge."
• Classrooms designed for efficiency, convenience.
• Bureaucratically determined, resistant to community input.
• Education seen as a social necessity for a certain period of time, to inculcate minimum skills and train for a specific role.
• Increasing reliance on technology (audiovisual equipment, computers, tapes, texts), dehumanization.
• Teacher imparts knowledge; one-way street.


• Emphasis on learning how to learn, how to ask good questions, pay attention to the right things, be open to and evaluate new concepts, have access to information. What is now "known" may change. Importance of context.
• Learning as a process, a journey.
• Egalitarian. Candor and dissent permitted. Students and teachers see each other as people, not roles. Encourages autonomy.
• Relatively flexible structure. Belief that there are many ways to teach a given subject.
• Flexibility and integration of age groupings. Individual not automatically limited to certain subject matter by age.
• Priority on self-image as the generator of performance.
• Inner experience seen as context for learning. Use of imagery, storytelling, dream journals, "centering" exercises, and exploration of feelings encouraged.
• Guessing and divergent thinking encouraged as part of the creative process.
• Strives for whole-brain education. Augments left-brain rationality with holistic, nonlinear, and intuitive strategies. Confluence and fusion of the two processes emphasized.
• Labeling used only in minor prescriptive role and not as fixed evaluation that dogs the individual's educational career.
• Concern with the individual's performance in terms of potential. Interest in testing outer limits, transcending perceived limitations.
• Theoretical and abstract knowledge heavily complemented by experiment and experience, both in and out of classroom. Field trips, apprenticeships, demonstrations, visiting experts.
• Concern for the environment of learning: lighting, colors, air, physical comfort, needs for privacy and interaction, quiet and exuberant activities.
• Encourages community input, even community control.
• Education seen as lifelong process, one only tangentially related to schools.
• Appropriate technology, human relationships between teachers and learners of primary importance.
• Teacher is learner, too, learning from students.
The old assumptions generate questions about how to achieve norms, obedience, and correct answers. The new assumptions lead to questions about how to motivate for lifelong learning, how to strengthen self-discipline, how to awaken curiosity, and how to encourage creative risk in people of all ages.


Think of the learner as an open system — a dissipative structure, as described in Chapter 6, interacting with the environment, taking in information, integrating it, using it. The learner is transforming the input, ordering and reordering, creating coherence. His worldview is continually enlarged to incorporate the new. From time to time it breaks and is reformed, as in the acquiring of major new skills and concepts: learning to walk, speak, read, swim, or write; learning a second language or geometry. Each is a kind of paradigm shift.

A learning shift is preceded by stress whose intensity ranges across a continuum: uneasiness, excitement, creative tension, confusion, anxiety, pain, fear. The surprise and fear in learning are described in The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda:
He slowly begins to learn — bit by bit at first, then in big chunks. And his thoughts soon clash. What he learns is never what he pictured, or imagined, and so he begins to be afraid. Learning is never what one expects. Every step of learning is a new task, and the fear the man is experiencing begins to mount mercilessly, unyieldingly. His purpose has become a battlefield ....
He must not run away. He must defy his fear, and in spite of it he must take the next step in learning, and the next, and the next. He must be fully afraid, and yet he must not stop. That is the rule! And a moment will come when his first enemy retreats. Learning is no longer a terrifying task.

The transforming teacher senses readiness to change, helps the "follower" or student respond to more complex needs, transcending the old levels again and yet again. The true teacher is also learning and is transformed by the relationship. Just as Burns pointed out that a dictator is not a true leader because he is not open to input from his followers, a closed teacher — the mere "power wielder" — is not a true teacher.

The closed teacher may fill the student with information. But the learner forfeits his participation. The students, like the citizens of a dictatorship, are unable to feed their needs and readiness back to the one who is supposed to facilitate their growth. It is like the difference between a loudspeaker and an intercom.

The open teacher, like a good therapist, establishes rapport and resonance, sensing unspoken needs, conflicts, hopes, and fears. Respecting the learner's autonomy, the teacher spends more time helping to articulate the urgent questions than demanding right answers.

Timing and nonverbal communication are critical, as we shall see. The learner senses the teacher's perceptions of his readiness, the teacher's confidence or skepticism. He "reads" the teacher's expectations. The true teacher intuits the level of readiness, then probes, questions, leads. The teacher allows time for assimilation, even retreat, when the going gets too heavy.

Just as you can't "deliver" holistic health, which must start with the intention of the patient, the true teacher knows you can't impose learning. You can, as Galileo said, help the individual discover it within. The open teacher helps the learner discover patterns and connections, fosters openness to strange new possibilities, and is a midwife to ideas. The teacher is a steersman, a catalyst, a facilitator — an agent of learning, but not the first cause.  

Trust deepens over time. The teacher becomes more attuned, and more rapid and powerful learning can take place.

A teacher clear enough for such attunement obviously must have a healthy level of self-esteem, little defensiveness, few ego needs. The true teacher must be willing to let go, to be wrong, to allow the learner another reality. The learner who has been encouraged to hear inner authority is tacitly welcome to disagree. Submission to outer authority is always provisional and temporary. As the Eastern wisdom puts it, "If you see Buddha on the road, kill him."

Like the spiritual teacher who enlarges or heals the self-image of the disciple, awakening him to his own potential, the teacher liberates the self, opens the eyes, makes the learner aware of choice. We only learn what we always knew.

We learn to walk through fears that held us back. In the transformative relationship with a teacher, we move to the edge, our peace is disturbed, and we are challenged by what psychologist Frederick Peris called "a safe emergency."

The optimum environment for learning offers security enough to encourage exploration and effort, excitement enough to push us onward. Although a humanistic environment is not a sufficient condition for transformation/education, it engenders the necessary trust. We trust the teachers who give us stress, pain, or drudgery when we need it. And we resent those who push us for their own ego, stress us with double binds, or take us into the deep water when we're still frightened of the shallow.

Yet appropriate stress is essential. Teachers can fail to transform if they are afraid to upset the learner. "True compassion," said one spiritual teacher, "is ruthless." Or, as the poet Guillaume Apollinaire put it:

Come to the edge, he said.
They said: We are afraid.
Come to the edge, he said.
They came.
He pushed them . . . and they flew.

Those who love us may well push us when we're ready to fly.

The too-soft teacher reinforces the learner's natural wish to retreat and stay safe, never venturing out for new knowledge, never risking. The teacher must know when to let the learner struggle, realizing that "help" or comfort, even when asked, can interrupt a transformation. This is the same good sense that knows the swimmer must let go, the bicyclist must achieve a new, internal equilibrium. Even in the name of love or sympathy, we must not be spared our learnings.

Risk brings its own rewards: the exhilaration of breaking through, of getting to the other side, the relief of a conflict healed, the clarity when a paradox dissolves. Whoever teaches us this is the agent of our liberation. Eventually we know deeply that the other side of every fear is a freedom. Finally, we must take charge of the journey, urging ourselves past our own reluctance and misgivings and confusion to new freedom.

Once that happens, however many setbacks or detours we may encounter, we are on a different life journey. Somewhere is that clear memory of the process of transformation: dark to light, lost to found, broken to seamless, chaos to clarity, fear to transcendence.

To understand how we learn fear and mastery, risk and trust, we have to look past the schools to our first teachers. Parents are our models of exploration. From them we learned to retreat or advance. We were imbued with their expectations. Too often, we inherited second-generation fears, anxieties we sensed in them. And — if we are not conscious of the cycle — we are all too likely to pass their fears and our own on to our children. That is the heritage of uneasiness, bequeathed from generation to generation: fears of losing, falling, being left be- hind, being left alone, not being good enough.

Recent studies of the "fear of success," a fairly common syndrome, revealed that its likeliest cause is the parent's communication of the fear that the child will not be able to master the tasks at hand. The child realizes simultaneously that (1) the task is considered important by the parent, and (2) the parent doubts that the child can do it unassisted. That individual establishes a lifelong pattern of sabotaging his own successes whenever he is on the verge of real mastery.

Most parents, it seems, don't mind if their children are better than they at certain things: schoolwork, athletics, popularity. There is vicarious satisfaction in a child's extending one's ambitions. But most parents do not want their children to be different. We want to be able to understand them, and we want them to share our values. This fear of an alien offspring appears in myth and in science-fiction tales of children who leap into new modes of being and are no longer subject to their parents' frailty or their mortal limits, as in Arthur Clarke's Childhood's End.

If as parents we are afraid of risk and strangeness, we warn our children against trying to beat the system. We do not acknowledge their right to a different world. In the name of adjustment, we may try to spare them their sensible rebellion. In the name of balance, we try to save them from intensity, obsessions, excesses — in short, from the disequilibrium that allows transformation to occur.

A parent who shows confidence in the child's capacity to learn, who encourages independence, who counters fear with humor or honesty, can break the ancient chain of borrowed trouble. As increasing numbers of adults have undergone their own transformative process in the decade just ending, they have become aware of this tragic bequest, and they are a powerful force for change — a historically new factor.


Another development is unprecedented. Once mind became aware of evolution, Teilhard said, humankind entered a new phase. It was only a matter of time until we would see evidence of a worldwide expansion of consciousness.

The deliberate use of consciousness-expanding techniques in education, only recently well under way, is new in mass schooling. Never before has a culture undertaken to foster whole-brain knowing in the general populace. The transcendent state in which intellect and feeling are fused, in which higher cortical judgment makes peace with the intuitions of the old limbic brain, was the province of the few: the Athenian philosopher, the Zen master, the Renaissance genius, the creative physicist. Such heroic stuff was not for "normal" people. And it was certainly not the business of the schools!

But there is no longer reason to confine whole-brain knowing to an elite. Both science and personal transformative experiences of great numbers of people demonstrate that it is an innate human capacity, not just the gift of artists, yogis, and scientific prodigies. The brain of each of us is capable of endless reordering of information. Conflict and paradox are grist for the brain's transformative mill.

We need only pay attention . By creating what psychologist Leslie Fehmi called "open focus," the psychotechnologies amplify awareness. They boost memory, accelerate the rate of learning, help integrate the functions of the two cortical hemispheres, and promote coherence between the old and new brain regions. They also allow greater access to unconscious anxieties that may be standing in our way.

They help the learner, old or young, to become centered — to create, connect, unify, transcend.

And it soon becomes obvious that our underestimation of the brain's capacity and our ignorance of its workings led us to design our educational systems upside-down and backward. Leslie Hart, an educational consultant, described schools as ' 'brain-antagonistic' ' :

We are obsessed by "logic," usually meaning . . . tight, step-by-step, ordered, sequential (linear) effort .... But the human brain has little use for logic of this kind. It is a computer of incredible power and subtlety, but far more analog than digital. It works not by precision but probabilistically, by great numbers of often rough or even vague approximations.

The brain's calculations do not require our conscious effort, only our attention and our openness to let the information through. Although the brain absorbs universes of information, little is admitted into "normal" consciousness, largely because of our habits and wrong assumptions about how we know what we know.

Discoveries about the nature of the mind, unfortunately, have been like the slow-spreading news of armistice. Many die needlessly on the battlefield, long after the war is over. Young minds are dampened and diminished every day in numbers too great to bear thinking about, forced through a system that stunts the capacity for a lifetime of growth. In contrast to insects, as someone said, human beings start out as butterflies and end up in cocoons.

Brain science was long absent from the course work in most colleges of education — understandably, since it tends to be swathed in technical language. The discoveries about the specialization of the right and left hemispheres, however oversimplified, have offered education a provocative new metaphor for learning.

The scientific validation of "intuition," our term for knowing that can't be tracked, has shaken science and is just now having its impact on education.

On the common-sense level, we try to trace ideas from point to point, like hard wiring or a "train of thought." A leads to B leads to C. But nonlinear processes in nature, like crystallization and certain brain events, are A-Z, all at once. The brain is not limited to our common-sense conceptions, or it would not function at all.

The dictionary defines intuition as "quick perception of truth without conscious attention or reasoning," "knowledge from within," "instinctive knowledge or feeling associated with clear and concentrated vision." The word derives, appropriately, from the Latin intuere, "to look upon."

If this instant sensing is disregarded by the linear mind we should not be surprised. After all, its processes are beyond linear tracking and therefore suspect. And it is mediated by the half of the cortex that does not speak — our essentially mute hemisphere. The right brain cannot verbalize what it knows; its symbols, images, or metaphors need to be recognized and reformulated by the left brain before the information is wholly known.

Until we had laboratory evidence of the validity of such knowledge and some inkling of the nonlinear process, it was hard for our one-track selves to accept this knowing, much less trust it. We now know that it derives from a system whose storage, connection, and speed humble the most brilliant investigators.

There is a tendency to think of intuition as separate from intellect. More accurately, intuition might be said to encompass intellect. Everything we have ever "figured out" is also stored and available. The larger realm knows everything we know in our normal consciousness — and a great deal more. As psychologist Eugene Gendlin put it, the dimension we used to call the unconscious is not childish, regressive, or dreamy but very much smarter than "we" are. If its messages are sometimes garbled, that is the fault of the receiver, not the sender.

"Tacit knowing" has always had its defenders, including many of our greatest and most creative scientists and artists. It has been the essential, silent partner to all our progress. The left brain can organize new information into the existing scheme of things, but it cannot generate new ideas. The right brain sees context — and, therefore, meaning. Without intuition, we would still be in the cave. Every breakthrough, every leap for- ward in history, has depended on right-brain insights, the ability of the holistic brain to detect anomalies, process novelty, perceive relationships.

Is it any wonder that our educational approach, with its emphasis on linear, left-brain processes, has failed to keep pace with the times?

In a way, it makes sense that evolving human consciousness eventually came to over-rely on that hemisphere in which language primarily resides. Some theorists think, based on the research data, that the left brain behaves almost like a separate, competitive individual, an independent mind that inhibits its partner.

Our plight might be compared to the long, long journey of twin sailors. One is a verbal, analytical fellow, the other mute and sometimes dreamy. The verbal partner earnestly calculates with the aid of his charts and instruments. His brother, however, has an uncanny ability to predict storms, changing currents, and other navigational conditions, which he communicates by signs, symbols, drawings. The analytical sailor is afraid to trust his brother's advice because he can't imagine its source. Actually, the silent sailor has wireless, instantaneous access to a rich data bank that gives him a satellite perspective on the weather. But he cannot explain this complex system with his limited ability to communicate details. And his talkative, "rational'' brother usually ignores him anyway. Frustrated, he often stands by helplessly while their craft sails head-on into disaster.

Whenever their convictions are in conflict, the analytical sailor stubbornly follows his own calculations, until the day he stumbles onto the schematics for his brother's data bank. He is overwhelmed. He realizes that by ignoring his twin's input, he has been traveling through life half-informed.

Jerome Bruner, one of the leading scientists interested in the realm of learning, remarked that the young child approaching a new subject or an unfamiliar problem — like the scientist operating at the edge of his chosen field — would be paralyzed without intuition. We do not "figure out" how to balance, for example. More often than we realize, we feel our way. The A-Z computer fine-tunes its guesses, and we move.

If we are to use our capacities fully and confidently, Bruner said, we must recognize the power of intuition. Our very technology has generated so many options that only intuition can help us choose. And because our technology can handle the routine, the analytical, we are free to refine the attention that gives us access to holistic knowing.

Now we realize that the right brain sees relationships, recognizes faces, mediates new information, hears tone, judges harmonies and symmetries. The greatest learning disability of all may be pattern blindness — the inability to see relationships or detect meaning. Yet no school district has remedial programs to overcome this most basic of handicaps. As we have seen, our educational system aggravates and may even cause it.

Research confirms what observant parents and teachers have always known: We learn in different ways. Of our assorted brains, some are left-dominant, some are right-dominant, some are neither. Some of us learn better by hearing, others by seeing or touching. Some visualize easily, others not at all. Some recall odometer readings, telephone numbers, dates; others remember colors and feelings. Some learn best in groups, others in isolation. Some peak in the mornings, others in the afternoon.

No single educational method can draw the best from diverse brains. Findings about the specialties of the two hemispheres and the tendency of individuals to favor one style or the other also helps us understand why we differ so much in how we see and think.

Brain research is also revolutionizing our understanding of differences in the ways males and females perceive. The sexes vary markedly in some aspects of brain specialization. The left and right hemispheres of the male brain specialize at a much earlier age than those of the female brain, which gives them certain advantages and disadvantages. Male brains are superior at certain types of spatial perceptions, but they are less flexible, more vulnerable than female brains to deficits after injury. One recent study found almost no language loss in women who had suffered injury to the left brain and subnormal language in males with the same type of trauma. Vastly more males than females suffer from dyslexia (reading difficulty).

Dyslexia, which afflicts at least 10 percent of the population, seems to be associated with a dominance by the right cerebral hemisphere in the reading process. Those with a strong holistic perception are often handicapped by our educational system with its emphasis on symbolic language and symbolic mathematics. They have initial difficulty in processing these symbols. Yet this neurological minority may also be unusually gifted. They typically excel in the arts and in innovative thinking. Ironically, their potential contribution to society is frequently diminished because the system undermines their self- esteem in their first school years.

Schools have taught and “graded" a kaleidoscope of individual brains by a single program, a single set of criteria. They have overrewarded and conditioned some skills to the exclusion of others, “failing" those whose gifts are not on the culture's most-wanted list, thus convincing them for life that they are unworthy.

Individually, and as a society, we have urgent needs that can only be met if we think differently about learning.
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Re: The Aquarian Conspiracy, by Marilyn Ferguson

Postby admin » Sun Apr 28, 2019 9:56 pm

Part 2 of 2


Synthesis and pattern-seeing are survival skills for the twenty-first century. As culture grows more complex, [3] science more all-encompassing, choices more diverse, we need whole-brain understanding as we never needed it before: the right brain to innovate, sense, dream up, and envision; the left to test, analyze, check out, build constructs and supports for the new order. Together they invent the future.

Novelist Henry James anticipated brain science when he observed that there are two major kinds of people: those who prefer the emotion of recognition and those who prefer surprise. The left hemisphere seems to specialize in processing highly structured stimuli, like a click, whereas the right integrates novel, diffuse information, like a light flash. The left essentially recognizes the relationship of the stimulus to what it already knows. The right handles material for which there has been no previous experience.

The hemispheres are conservative and radical, traditional and innovative. Experiments suggest that in addition to understanding relationships and excelling at depth perception, the right also perceives better through gloom and dimness. This seems poetically appropriate in view of its peering into the unknown, its penchant for the mystical.

Free-floating right-brain knowledge is like a borrowed book, a snatch of melody heard in passing, a vague memory. If the felt idea — the stranger — is not given a name, a definition, an outline, it is lost to full consciousness. It goes to wisps and tatters like a half-remembered dream. It is not realized. Without the left brain's ability to recognize, name, and integrate, all the imagination that could rejuvenate our lives remains in limbo.

The psychotechnologies ease the emergence of the stranger. In a state of diffuse attention, complex feelings and impressions come forth to be recognized by the analytic left brain. The real mystery is in this sudden integration, when the inchoate clicks into place. Then the whole brain knows. It's like the light bulb that appears over the head of a cartoon character who has a "bright idea."

We are living in a time of rapid readjustment in everyday life and radical revisioning of science. Multiple levels of reality, new notions about the physical world, expanded states of awareness, staggering technological advances — these are neither science fiction nor a curious dream. They will not go away.

Most schools have been especially inhospitable to creative and innovative individuals in the past. Innovators jolt, they disturb the drowsy status quo. They dissent from the comfort of consensus reality, assorted Hans Christian Andersons marveling at the emperor's gleaming nakedness.

Hermann Hesse wrote of "the struggle between rule and spirit" that repeats itself year after year, from school to school:

The authorities go to infinite pains to nip the few profound or more valuable intellects in the bud. And time and time again the ones who are detested by their teachers and frequently punished, the runaways and those expelled, are the ones who afterwards add to society's treasure. But some — and who knows how many? — waste away with quiet obstinacy and finally go under.

Inadvertently, we may push people to the extremes of their innate tendencies by the bias of our schools. The rebelinnovator diverges more and more, perhaps to become antisocial or neurotic. The timid child who wishes to please is shaped into an even more conformist position by the authoritarian structure. In their study comparing high schools to prisons, Craig Haney and Philip Zimbardo commented that the real tragedies are not the troublemakers or even the dropouts, but "the endless procession of faceless students who go through the school system quietly and unquestioningly, unobtrusively and unnoticed."

Fear can keep us from innovating, risking, creating. Yet we settle for only the illusion of safety. We prolong our discomfort, and we are troubled in our sleep. On one level we know that we are in danger, avoiding change in a changing world. The only strategies imaginative enough to rescue us will come from listening to our "other" consciousness. We must open and re-open the issues, we must break and reform the structures again and again.

Alvin Toffler suggested in Future Shock (1970) that we need "a multiplicity of visions, dreams, and prophecies — images of potential tomorrows " Conjecture and visions become as coldly practical as “realism" — both feet on the floor — was in an earlier time. “We must create sanctuaries for social imagination."

Tomorrow is likely to bring thrilling, scary, even cataclysmic surprises. An educational system that pushes “right answers" is scientifically and psychologically unsound. And by demanding conformity, in either belief or behavior, it inhibits innovation and asks for scorn in an increasingly autonomous age.

“The present educational paradigm assumes that the only questions worth asking are those for which we already have the answers," said Ray Gottlieb, an optometrist specializing in learning. “Where, then, can one learn to live with the uncertainties of the real world?"

We are beginning to realize that we must educate for the uncertainty of freedom beyond frontiers. The ability to shift perspectives is a distinct aid to problem solving. In one experiment, psychologists trained students to reframe problems or to visualize them more vividly. Students who learned to reformulate had to enlarge their definition of the problem and check their assumptions to see if they were all true and necessary. The reframers dramatically outscored the visualizers! The experimenters remarked that perhaps you can be clear about the wrong thing, achieving “crystal clearness where there is none." [4]

Imaginative leaps, curiosity, synthesis, spontaneity, the flash of insight — these should not be the franchise of a favored minority. Educator John Gowan, whose special concern is creativity, said:

Heretofore we have harvested creativity wild. We have used as creative only those persons who stubbornly remained so despite all efforts of the family, religion, education, and politics to grind it out of them .... If we learn to domesticate creativity — that is, to enhance it rather than deny it in our culture — we can increase the number of creative persons [to the point of] critical mass. When this level is reached in a culture, as it was in Periclean Athens, the Renaissance, Elizabethan England, and our own Federalist period, civilization makes a great leap forward. We can have a golden age of this type such as the world has never seen. ... A genius is always a forerunner; and the best minds of this age foresee the dawn of that one.

Having no alternative, we were born creative. Our first sights and sounds were fresh, new, and original. We explored our small universes, named things, and knew them intimately in the I-Thou sense. Then, abruptly, formal education interrupted this contemplation, forcing us into another, more anxious kind of attention, shattering the state of consciousness necessary for good art and good science.

For the first time, if we're very lucky, education may undertake to foster that richer, more fluent consciousness. Our schools may gradually stop trying to row sailboats.


Meaning emerges from context and connectedness. Without context, nothing makes sense. Try to imagine checkers without a checkerboard, language without a grammar, games without rules. The right brain, with its gift for seeing patterns and wholes, is essential for understanding context, for detecting meaning. “Learning to learn" includes learning to see the relationships between things. “Unfortunately our schools are no help," anthropologist Edward Hall said, “because they consistently teach us not to make connections There should be a few people at least whose task is synthesis — pulling things together. And that is impossible without a deep sense of context."

Context . . .literally, "that which is braided together." We are looking now at the ecology of everything, realizing that things only make sense in relation to other things. Just as medicine began to look at the context of disease, the milieu and not just symptoms, education is beginning to acknowledge that the interrelationship of what we know, the web of relevance, is more important than mere content. Content is relatively easy to master, once it has been given a framework.

Preschoolers, in one experiment, for example, learned to read words more readily than individual letters, apparently because they associated meaning with the words. The word heavy, which includes the letter e, was easier to learn than the letter e alone. However, if the letter was given a meaning rather than just a name or sound — if the children were told that e meant "taxi" — it could be learned as easily as a word. The researchers remarked on what a powerful factor meaning is and what a relatively minor influence visual complexity has if meaning is part of the equation.

Under the Title I program designed to help culturally deprived children, educational consultants from Synectics, a Cambridge, Massachusetts firm, have taught thousands of elementary-school children how to make connections — in effect, how to think metaphorically. [5] Initially, most of the children cannot make meaningful connections if the teacher asks, "How is the growth of a seed like the growth of an egg?" Typical responses of third-graders before training: "The flower is best." "The chick can walk." "The chicken is smaller." "There are no feathers on the flower."

After several hours of group exercises in connection-making, the children are asked again about the seed and the egg. All can now generalize some aspect of the similarities: growth, changing form, and so on. Their metaphors are often striking. In a program in Lawrence, Massachusetts, one child said, "Only the egg and the seed know what they'll be when they grow up Something inside must tell them. It's like 'Mister Rogers' on TV. He tells a story, and only he knows how it'll come out." One said that both a seed and an egg start small and get surprisingly big, like father's anger. "When he's mad, it starts out a little mad — and gets madder and madder." One com- pared the cracking of the seed and egg to the cracking of water pipes by expanding ice.

When the children in the Lawrence schools were tested one year after their training in metaphorical thinking, first graders showed a 363 percent increase in knowledge of letters and sounds, a 286 percent increase in aural comprehension, a 1038 percent increase in word reading. Kindergartners showed year-to-year increases of 76 percent on a picture-vocabulary test. Third graders showed an increase of nearly 40 percent in reading scores.

William J. J. Gordon, the originator of the Synectics approach, believes that learning is based on making connections that relate the new to the familiar, an ability that has been discouraged in many people.

Among the questions in Synectics exercises: "What needs more protection, a turtle or a rock?" "Which weighs more, a boulder or a heavy heart?" "Which grows more, a tree or self-confidence?" Metaphor builds a bridge between the hemispheres, symbolically carrying knowledge from the mute right brain so that it may be recognized by the left as being like something already known. Synectics also asks for examples of repulsive attraction, delicate armor, frozen haste, disciplined freedom — exercises in transcending paradox.

In the midst of a wealth of information, we may be moving toward an economy of learning — a few powerful principles and theories making sense across many disciplines.

The elements of the world cannot be understood except in terms of the whole, as our best thinkers keep trying to tell us. "Nature is one wonderful unit," Albert Szent-Gyorgyi said. "It is not divided into physics, chemistry, quantum mechanics " Kenneth Boulding, economist and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, spoke of the "profound reorganization and restructuring of knowledge" taking place in our time: "The old boundaries are crumbling in all directions." Note that he said restructuring, not adding onto. It is the shape and form of what we know that is changing.

People must learn to accommodate "the whole brain in a whole world," said Joseph Meeker, speaking of what he called "ambidextrous education":

Left-brained linear thinkers are in for some hard times. Those who persist in believing that they live in a garden will find their carrots veering off to join or intersect the lettuce, while weeds and animals from the forest insinuate themselves through the slackening fence wire. No one thing can any longer be treated in isolation . . . Life in such a wilderness will require all the brain there is, not just that part that thrives on analytical divisions.

In its 1977 report, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching said, "We have been through a period when knowledge was fragmented, but dreams of coherence survived Field by field, individuals have sought to recreate an intellectual whole after a long period of fission. We seem to be entering a period of new attempts at synthesis." From fission to fusion ... As the report noted, this coming-together of knowledge is more evident at the graduate level of education because "the expanding edges of fields, where new research takes place, are closer to each other than are the central cores of fields."

It's hard to visualize the far edges of our various fields of knowledge coming together. We might more easily think in terms of depth: the penetration of human inquiry, from whatever direction, seems to be taking us to certain central truths or principles.

Indeed, at the level of graduate education, synthesis is evident. The National Endowment for the Humanities is sponsoring a five-year teaching and research effort in conjunction with San Francisco State University, the Science-Humanities Convergence Program. The newly formed National Humanities Center near Duke University, funded by private foundations and corporations, aims to encourage interdisciplinary research by providing support for scholars. Law schools, medical schools, and other centers of professional training are enriching and broadening their curricula.


Not only are we learning to connect information, but we are connecting with each other as well. We are increasingly aware that no one culture and no period in history has had all the answers. We are gathering our collective wisdom, from the past and from the whole planet.

"We have been the benefactors of our cultural heritage," said psychologist Stanley Krippner, "and the victims of our cultural narrowness." Our concepts of the possible are mired in the heavy materialism, the obsolete mind-body dualism, of our cultural perspective.

Just as medical innovators have drawn upon insights about health from other cultures — curanderismo, shamanism, acupuncture — we are now discovering and adapting traditional teaching systems, tools, and perspectives.

One such tool is the Indian Medicine Wheel, or the Cheyenne Wheel of Knowledge. In contrast to the way we compartmentalize information, the Cheyennes and other American Indian tribes attempt to show the circular, connected nature of reality by mapping knowledge on a wheel. For instance, the wheel may be divided into four seasons, the "four corners of the earth," or the seasons of one's life. Or, it may demonstrate patterns and relationships between social groups or crops, like a round flow chart. Educators at the Harvard School of Education have adapted the wheel to illustrate relationships between disciplines.

And just as the advocates of. holistic medicine have resurrected relevant statements from Plato and other Greek philosophers, so educators are belatedly examining a holistic Greek concept, the paidea. The paidea referred to the educational matrix created by the whole of Athenian culture, in which the community and all its disciplines generated learning resources for the individual, whose ultimate goal was to reach the divine center in the self.

Euphenics, a recent idea in genetics, suggests that there is a scientific basis for such learning approaches as paidea. Whereas eugenics promoted the breeding of certain traits and selecting against other traits, euphenics takes the view that the environment can be optimized to bring out potential traits. In human terms, we might say that everyone is gifted, in the sense of having special potentials in the genetic repertoire, but that most of these gifts are not elicited by the environment. If the learning environment is stimulating and tolerant, a great array of skills, talents, and capacities can be developed.

Another native system offers a new way to introduce relevance. Students have often complained that there is little point to the information offered by schools. A number of American educators have adapted the idea of the "walkabout," a prolonged and dangerous journey into the wilderness required for male Australian aborigines at about age fourteen. Knowing that they are preparing for a life-or-death initiation gives immediacy to the aborigines' tribal education. In some schools, urban youngsters are now creating their own programs of study in preparation for a great task they choose, their version of the walkabout.

There is growing excitement among educators about old myths and symbols, oral history, earth festivals, primitive rites of passage and customs, extraordinary abilities documented in cultures less linear than our own.

As our view changes, the world changes: It becomes smaller, richer, more human, like McLuhan's Global Village, the jewel-like planet of the Whole Earth Catalog, Buckminster Fuller's Spaceship Earth . What is it to see subtle patterns in a terrain of snow or sand, to navigate from island to island, to dance on coals, to try to exorcise sickness? What can human beings do? What are all the things we collectively know? “None of us," says a poster in an alternative school, "is as smart as all of us."

We discover that we, too, can create myths, an age-old strategy for cultures engaged in transformation.

In the accounts of life-changing, shaking experiences included in the Aquarian Conspiracy questionnaires, several individuals mentioned cultural shock — moving to another country, another part of the world.

There are powerful lessons for us in other cultures. Primitive initiations, for instance, teach the initiate about pain, identity, confrontation. An Eskimo child who feels tense is encouraged to stare at a bird or a fish, temporarily withdrawing from a disturbing situation as a bird might take flight or a fish might swim rapidly away. The child is also taught to return to the problem after this respite, just as the bird and the fish return.

The Plains Indians of North America teach their children about "the twinness" in man, the existence of conflicting selves that can be made whole. An old chief quoted by Hyemeyohsts Storm in Seven Arrows compared this twinness to the forked branches of a tree. "If One Half tries to split itself from the Other Half, the Tree will become crippled or die — Rather than taking this barren way, we must tie together the paradoxes of our Twin Nature with the things of the One Universe."

Our culture has needed its Cheyenne Wheel of Knowledge — a cosmology into which it can order information and experience: our place on the planet; our sequence in the pageant of evolution and history; our relationship to the infinitely small electron and the immense galaxies; our environments for birth, death, work, families. All of these are contexts. We cannot understand ourselves, each other, or nature without seeing whole systems: the tissue of events, the web of circumstances, multiple perspectives.


"What we thought was the horizon of our potentials turns out to be only the foreground," Tom Roberts, an Illinois educator, told a group of teachers interested in transpersonal education. A proposed project in the federal mills, "The Limits of Human Educability," recommended that researchers identify some of the outer limits: "The very task of identifying those limits serves to focus energy on going toward or beyond them. Focusing on the outer reaches of human educability creates a different perspective ...."

The transpersonal view encourages the learner to identify with those who transcended "normal" limits. What we think of as intellectual giftedness is potential in every normal brain, as research has shown, yet most of us fall tragically short of our birthright.

Experiments have also demonstrated the power of the self-image: the high or low expectations held by one's parents, one's teachers, oneself. A recent study of men from the same low socio-economic class revealed that those who were upwardly mobile had one critical ingredient the others lacked: parents who had expected them to succeed.

Teachers have been trained to expect little. In a famous experiment in the 1960s, Robert Rosenthal of Harvard and Lenore Jacobson, a San Francisco educator, demonstrated what they called the Pygmalion effect — the finding that teachers unintentionally communicate their expectations of what a student can do, thus setting in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those youngsters expected to do well usually thrive, even if the teacher's expectations are based on bogus information. On the other hand, one study showed that teachers give little negative feedback to students of whom they expect little, making it difficult for the students to correct what they're doing wrong. Not only has the Pygmalion effect been replicated in hundreds of experiments; it turns out that teachers also have measurable biases based on the sex, race, and physical attractiveness of their students.

When Abraham Maslow asked a college class whether anyone there had expectations of achieving greatness, no one responded. "Who else, then?" he asked drily. A master teacher in Great Britain tells all the students she trains, "Do you realize when you stand before that class that you have there the Einsteins, the Picassos, the Beethovens of the future?"  

We must stop fragmenting our image of high achievement, making separate labels for intelligence, creativity, giftedness, leadership, morality. As educator Barbara Clark put it in Growing Up Gifted:

When we have integrated our focus, changed and extended our view of reality, and established the underlying connectedness of each to all, we will then have a new meaning of giftedness. The gifted, the talented, the "intuned," and the illuminated will then be merged ....

There is an impetus in education to develop “values clarification," a curriculum for moral development. Lawrence Kohlberg and others have reported that children become sensitive to moral issues if they are led to think about them. Actually, the teacher's character can inspire cooperation, altruism, and service in students — or hypocrisy, put-downs, and competitiveness. As someone has pointed out, all teachers teach values, consciously or unconsciously.

The possibilities are staggering — haunting, if we consider the human waste, the lost potential. But the very fact that we are now discovering this potential and communicating our concern offers hope. We live in the age of the Guinness Book of World Records. We can look to Olympic athletes who break their own barriers, folk heroes who pull people from burning cars, television human-interest stories like that about a crippled ghetto father who propelled his wheelchair eight miles to a hospital to get help for the fevered baby in his lap.

This is living moral education, teaching for transcendence. Because of travel and communications, the interaction that once produced “schools" of artists and clusters of great physicists and writers can now be accomplished in surprising measure on a global scale.


Reform after reform, some no doubt promising, failed because too many teachers disliked the key concepts or misunderstood them. As Charlie Brown in Peanuts remarked, “How can you do new math with an old-math mind?"

You can no more reform education by decree than you can heal by what Edward Carpenter called “external ministrations." Teachers have to understand new ideas from the inside out if they are to benefit from them. As one educator said, “Teachers who do a bad job with old tools are likely to do a worse job with strange new tools."

Some teachers are what Bruner called “dream killers," what Aldous Huxley called "bad artists" whose shortcomings can affect whole lives and destinies. Just as medical colleges have tended to select for the academically sharp, good memorizers rather than those best suited to care for people, so the colleges of education have constructed an obstacle course of jargon and course work dull enough to discourage all but the most stubborn of the creative candidates.

If the bright, imaginative individual survives the training marathon, the system itself is chilly to change. The creative teacher who hires into an experimental program frequently experiences burn-out — exhaustion and depression from the prolonged struggle to keep innovation alive amidst paperwork, constraints, attack.

We have put the lowest premium on talent and sensitivity in the profession most critical to the society's mental health.

Long after the original Pygmalion experiments, Rosenthal and his associates at Harvard developed a 200-item audiovisual test, "Profile of Non-verbal Sensitivity" (PONS), to measure the ability of an individual to perceive the emotions and intentions of others without the aid of verbal cues.

As a group, teachers were relatively low scorers. Students, on the other hand, were quite perceptive. Those who believe that others can be manipulated — who score high on the "Machiavellian scale" — are relatively insensitive to nonverbal cues.

The testmakers categorized the high scorers as Listeners, the low scorers as Speakers. On the whole, teachers are accustomed to telling, not hearing. Or, as one book title put it, The Geranium on the Window Sill Just Died, but Teacher You Went Right On. Meanwhile, students, in their sensitivity to all that is un- said — the teacher's looks, postures of disapproval or rejection — learn what they must to survive the system.

Until recently, education has had it backward, caring little about the teacher, who is a kind of context for learning, and enormously about the content. Yet a gifted teacher can infect generations with excitement about ideas, can launch careers — even revolutions. Carl Cori, for example, a Nobel laureate professor and researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, supervised the work of six scientists who later won Nobel prizes.

The lifelong impact of a single first-grade teacher was reported in Harvard Educational Review. Two-thirds of the former pupils of "Miss A," all educated in a poor neighborhood in Montreal, had achieved the highest level of adult status, and the remainder was classified as "medium." None was in the "low" group. [6]

Miss A was convinced that all children would read by the end of first grade, regardless of background. She impressed upon her students the importance of education, gave extra hours to the slow learners, stayed after school to help them, shared her lunch with students who had forgotten theirs, and remembered them by name twenty years later. She adjusted to new math and innovative techniques for teaching reading, but her real secret, former students and colleagues said, was that she “taught with a lot of love."

Educator Esther Rothman, author of Troubled Teachers, attributes poor teaching not only to ineptitude but also to unconscious conflicts, needs, and motives in the teacher. Violence, sarcasm, power games, permissiveness, low expectations leading to low achievement, especially in minority children — all these contribute mightily to the failures of education, she said. Budgets, school environments, and techniques are of secondary importance.

As teachers allow their deepest feelings and motivations to emerge, as they go inward to seek self-awareness and to free themselves emotionally, they are beginning to move outward to change the social structure. Then the teacher-idealist, the "undercover reformer," makes a mark, Rothman said.

Many teachers are already crusading rebels in the best sense of the word; some are in the process of becoming. . . . Only then, when aggression, love, and power are used constructively in the classroom, can education really succeed. . . . Education, like the neurons of the brain, would then be an expressively aggressive process, dynamic and explosive.

Voices in education have proclaimed this need. "Education can transform culture, but only insofar as educators are transformed," said Diane Watson, a member of the Los Angeles school board.

Recently, within education's policymaking circles, the "facilitative behaviors" movement has focused attention on teachers as human beings who can kill or nurture learning. "Most school districts have concluded within the past five years that they can't improve education if they don't change teachers," one consultant said.

This movement sounds simple: It aims to awaken teachers to their classroom behavior and their attitude toward themselves and others. By rating teachers in the classroom or by having them rate themselves on videotape, the facilitative-behaviors approach calls attention to positive and negative acts.

Research has shown that children learn best from adults who are spontaneous, creative, supportive, physically fit . . . who look for meaning rather than just facts . . . who have high self-esteem . . . who see their job as liberating rather than controlling the slow learner. Good teachers are more interested in the process of learning than in achieving specific goals. They admit their own mistakes, entertain radical ideas by students, discuss feelings, foster cooperation, encourage students to help plan their work, provide resources beyond the call of duty. Humiliation, lining up, punishment, and rulemaking inhibit learning.

Project Change in Los Angeles is just one example of the training programs around the country designed to increase teachers' sensitivity. “Without exception," one trainer said, “the teachers tell us that the greatest benefits were in their personal lives, total changes in perspective. They say they're now aware of talents they didn't realize they had, and many experience a real explosion of creativity in the classroom. They're more open to others — less critical, more apt to see what others have to offer. There's a correspondence between this growth and the teacher's productivity. They write more lessons, there are self-reports of more energy, and the students rate them higher."

Educators engaged in transpersonal and humanistic methods have begun linking in national networks and centers; there are also local networks, like Lifeline in Los Angeles, sponsored by the Association for Humanistic Psychology, whose intention is the establishment of a new paradigm in education "co-existing with other, more traditional paradigms."

Beverly Galyean, consultant on "confluent education" for the Los Angeles city schools, expressed the network's conspiratorial, Radical Center intentions at a 1978 meeting:

We meet as professional humanistic educators, expert in traditional methodology, wise enough to know what works and is to be retained, yet humble enough to seek new solutions.

Around Los Angeles hundreds of people are practicing this kind of education, but fear permeates the environment because of a call for “fundamentals," discipline, control The individual humanistic teacher, counselor, administrator, parent, or student is left wondering how to merge a philosophy of love, openness, trust, belief in process and learning from within, creative expression, personal responsibility, and group consensus with a tradition that seems its opposite.

Our answer: Take the need where it is. Provide creative alternatives to those programs that no longer work. If your district wants "back to basics," improved reading scores, and better attendance, show them how your humanistic program, or the program of your colleagues, accomplishes these goals. You can use traditional subject matter to provide students with processes for self-reflection. . . .

Or, if your district wants discipline, tell them about programs that operate on the principle of internal control. . . . Perhaps hyperactivity is a problem at your school. Use natural methods for calming over-active energies: yoga, meditation, massage, movement, nutrition.

No one can learn when the environment is distracting, fragmented. Learn how to lead focusing activities, group meditations, and relaxing techniques

The crises now facing most school districts can be the springboard for your own humanistic experiments. When people hurt they ask for help. Education is hurting and is asking for help. Let's not be shy in responding.

Even a tiny minority of committed teachers, counselors, and administrators can set off seismic shocks with programs that work.


Because the emergent educational paradigm encompasses a great deal more than the old, experimental programs often fall short of their own ambitions. These are, after all, innovations and experiments, by definition not yet refined or streamlined. It is no small undertaking to humanize schools and challenge students at the same time.

The new school community is very close, more a family than a school, complete with occasional family fights. Teachers, parents, and students jointly decide important issues of policy and curriculum and hire new staff members. Students address teachers by first name and view them more as friends than authoritarian figures.

Age groupings are usually flexible, not the lockstep structure of traditional education. Most innovative educational programs eventually learn to include enough structure to remind students of their responsibility and to prepare them for some old-paradigm expectations when they leave school. Letter grades are available for those who need a record for college entry.

The new curriculum is a rich and subtle tapestry, constrained only by school bureaucracy and budget and the limits of the teacher's energy. Virtually no subject is too difficult, controversial, or offbeat to think about.

In most states, of course, some components of the curriculum are prescribed by law. Even so, educators integrate many academic subjects with "right-brain" activities (music, gymnastics, the arts, sensory stimulation) or present it dramatically, as in the reenactment of historic trials so that students will think freshly and with interest about the issues. Students experience other historic periods and other cultures by staging fairs and festivals, by learning the crafts and music of other times and places.

They use their mathematics to build domes. They use the community for their campus. Parents and "experts" from the community are volunteer teachers for special subjects, and the students also tutor each other. Typically the curriculum includes a sophisticated dose of the arts and humanities; students may learn calligraphy and batik dying, stage a Broadway play, write and perform their own television scripts. They learn the uses and sources of political power by attending school board and city council meetings. They learn biology by caring for animals, botany while planting gardens.

They learn about conditioning. They learn to recognize their own patterns of behavior, how to identify fear and conflict, how to act responsibly, how to communicate what they need and what they feel.

Altered states of consciousness are taken seriously: "centering" exercises, meditation, relaxation, and fantasy are used to keep the intuitive pathways open and the whole brain learning. Students are encouraged to "tune in," imagine, identify the special feeling of peak experiences. There are techniques to encourage body awareness: breathing, relaxation, yoga, movement, biofeedback.

Students are encouraged to think about semantics — how labels affect our thinking. They study topics that would be considered too controversial for most classrooms — birth and death, for instance. Foreign language may be taught by techniques like the Silent Way, a method in which the teacher says little and the student is challenged to use the language right away; or Suggestology, the accelerated-learning method that originated in Bulgaria, which employs music and rhythmic breathing to engage the right hemisphere. There are courses in ecology, in discriminating between junk food and good nutrition, in being an intelligent consumer.

Students are pushed to think about paradoxes, conflicting philosophies, the implications of their own beliefs and actions. They are reminded that there are always alternatives. They innovate, invent, question, ponder, argue, dream, agonize, plan, fail, succeed, rethink, imagine. They learn to learn, and they understand that education is a lifelong journey.

Students of all ages play games: educational games, math games, board games of fantasy, history, space exploration, social issues. Rather than fiercely competitive physical games, they may play "New Games," an ever-expanding collection of activities, some of them ancient sport, that fit the slogan of the New Games Foundation: "Play hard, play fair, nobody hurt."

Competition, status, and popularity contests play a relatively small part in the dynamics of such schools. Most students attend voluntarily because they and their families favor this educational approach. Such families tend to de-emphasize social striving and competition and to emphasize excellence for its own sake. The curriculum and teacher behavior also reinforce autonomy, empathy, and mutual support in students. Squabbling is more in the vein of transient sibling disputes rather than the deep patterns of "in" and "out" groups typical of conventional schools.

A major ambition of the curriculum is autonomy. This is based on the belief that if our children are to be free, they must be free even from us — from our limiting beliefs and our acquired tastes and habits. At times this means teaching for healthy, appropriate rebellion, not conformity. Maturity brings with it a morality that derives from the innermost self, not from mere obedience to the culture's mores.

As modern history has tragically shown, obedience based on fear is not morally selective. Psychologist Stanley Milgram, in a series of now classic experiments, ordered experimental subjects to administer what they believed to be painful shocks to another person. (Actually, the victim, a confederate of the experimenter, only pretended to be in pain.) Most subjects, although visibly anguished over what they were being asked to do, were incapable of saying no to the "authority," a psychologist in a white coat. Sixty-five percent of these ordinary people were willing to inflict severe, possibly permanent, damage by pushing the bogus lever of the apparatus to its highest setting. Even when they heard terrible screaming from the other room, they could not bring themselves to walk out on the experimenter. This phenomenon — Milgram calls it "obedience to authority" — crosses all cultures and age groups, with children slightly more susceptible than adults.

Most people conform in exchange for the world's acceptance. If we already feel at home in the world, deeply related and comfortable, if we are unafraid, we do not have to strike this kind of bargain. The autonomous learner navigates by an inner gyroscope, obeying an internal authority. Sarah McCarthy, a Pittsburgh schoolteacher, urged that educators introduce remedial programs for "overly obedient" children, teaching them a kind of creative, appropriate disobedience as an antidote to the Milgram effect.


Although the rise in educational alternatives has been relatively dramatic, most families do not have access to innovative schools, open classrooms, and the kinds of teachers who can make it work — who resonate, celebrate, initiate.  

Help is at hand — not a uniformed cavalry to the rescue, but volunteers, renegades, advance scouts. There are new places to learn, new ways to learn, new people to teach, new abilities to master, new connections to be made. We are moving into a period of learning without boundaries, age limits, prerequisites, flunking. The larger educational matrix draws heavily on the community and on entrepreneurs who have discovered the thirst for learning, for transformative technologies, for useful skills and knowledge.

Achieving paidea, the Radical Center, the heavenly city; "teaching both halves of the brain" — this is no small ambition. No school can do it. No school has ever done it. Only a community can offer holistic education, and only a whole person can take it. Simultaneous personal and social transformation can take us into what Confucius called "the great learning," compared to the "little learning" imparted by the schools. "The university will most likely not grow into the size of a city," said William Irwin Thompson in The Edge of History. "It will shrink as it realizes that it is the city itself (and not the campus) that is the true university."

The greatest re-form of education may be decentralizaton, the dismantling of the windowless walls that have closed off school from community, from the milieu of real life. Ronald Gross, an educator, said:

My hope is that through the gradual weakening of the constraints of schooling, we will so loosen its fabric and so strengthen the opportunities to learn from other sources, that it will become impossible to separate learning from life, and student and teacher from friends learning together. For this we need a real flowering of other options ....

A top-level government policymaker for education speculates that we may eventually have the equivalent of the GI Education Bill in lieu of compulsory curricula — an allotment to be spent by the individual for whatever learning, specialized or general, he seeks: "funding the student and not the institution." The idea of educational vouchers in lieu of compulsory public education has appeal across the political spectrum, however starkly different the radical and conservative rationales may be.

Demystification, decentralization, despecialization are the order of the day. Most of the exciting changes and successes in education's new incarnation reflect its return to its proper keepers, the community and the learner. Just as medicine's turnabout was instigated not only by reformer-doctors but also by biofeedback clinicians, nutritionists, psychologists, journalists, brain scientists, and those from dozens of other disciplines; so new partnerships in education mean new life.

The learning process has opened up: universities without walls, "free universities," mobile schools, work-study projects even for young children, medieval-style tutoring programs, community-run schools, elderly volunteers in the schools and youngsters in real work environments, field trips, adult education, an explosion of crafts and self-teaching literature for skills, life-experience credit toward college degrees, private instruction, peer teaching, skill-sharing, student-service and restoration projects in the community. And technological aids are getting cheaper and more accessible — tape-cassette instruction, for example, and computer kits.

Teaching and learning are now cottage industries. The home-start projects for disadvantaged children, community-run public schools, parent-created learning and play groups for preschoolers and after school, learning networks, the successes of Jesse Jackson's PUSH program urging pride and literacy among ghetto kids — all are essentially independent of the system.

Part of the transformative process is becoming a learner again, whatever your age. When we were children we had little choice about what and how we learned. In this sense, most of us remain passive children for the rest of our lives, never aware that we can choose, never aware that learning — transformation — takes place. We grow up, whatever our age, whenever we take over the process, when we become conscious learners rather than accidental learners.

"All of us," said Jerry Fletcher of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Education, "even those apparently most fully functioning, have areas of our lives in which we are blocked, unable to fully experience and develop." True education, he said, strengthens the capacity to continue to make sense of one's life as it develops.

A change in cultural expectations will do a lot. One of the things that will change the cultural climate most rapidly is a carefully worked-out description of the levels that are possible above what most adults now attain. If our description of this becomes accepted as legitimate in the culture, we are on our way.

An example of the openness to lifelong learning is the Elderhostel program, a network of residential study programs for adult learners on two hundred college campuses. Similar programs are in effect in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, and Canada. The participants, primarily older people, need not have had a formal education. Mental and physical stimulation are provided in college-level classes and physical activities, lectures, and round tables.

"Free universities" first appeared in the mid-sixties as part of the student rebellion. Now nearly two hundred independent free universities around the country offer a potpourri of non-credit courses in every imaginable subject. Seventeen thousand attended Denver Free University's summer session in 1979. The state of Kansas is offering the free schools funding assistance in the hope that they may create a sense of community in rural areas.

In 1971 a consortium of twenty-five colleges and universities formed the University Without Walls (UWW) program, which they administer as the Union of Experimenting Colleges and Universities. Similar programs, many with less firm accreditation than the UWW, have been developed all over the country, some modeled on Britain's Open University.

Jose Arguelles said of such networks:

What the networking model suggests is a common paradigm linking together the physical and psychological, the intellectual and the intuitive, the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere. . . .

Just as the human being goes from childhood to puberty and sexual awareness, so the idea of educational networking must . . . take its place in the great and fertile context of ideas and social values which comprise the evolutionary thrust of humanity.

We give each other the courage to move into the unknown, to risk in each other's company and with each other's blessings. We are constantly engaged in what someone has called "mutual education." One who has become involved in his own education again needs the company of others on that journey. When we say we've "outgrown" someone or someone has outgrown us, we mean that one of us in interested in learning and the other is not.

It is characteristic of the Aquarian Conspirators to describe as their teachers not only formal educators but also their friends, children, spouses, former spouses, parents, colleagues — and life events. If you are noncompetitive and nonhierarchical in defining masters and learners, then everyone is a teacher, every experience a lesson, every relationship a course of study. "Even the stone is a teacher," said the Sufi, Idries Shah.

The intense intellectual and spiritual sharing of the Aquarian Conspiracy, the joint expeditions into new territory, the pooling of the wealth, create the kind of mutual inspiration John Gowan described. The almost sexual interplay of ideas, yin and yang, old and new. East and West, results in a kind of collective synthesis: a creative community, hospitable to risk and imagination.


Long before Thomas Kuhn observed that new ideas may have to wait for a new generation's acceptance, folk wisdom made this bittersweet point. A Hebrew proverb warns, "Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time."

Karl Pribram once commented that a new generation will learn about paradox in the early grades and will grow up understanding concepts of primary and secondary levels of reality. Not long thereafter, coincidentally, a junior-high student, John Shimotsu of Los Angeles, tried his hand at interpreting for his fellow eighth graders the holographic model of reality proposed by Pribram and physicist David Bohm. In conclusion, he said:

Why can't you perform actions that we consider paranormal? I think it is because you do not think you can. You may say you wish to, or may sincerely want to, but that will not change what you subconsciously think. Our culture says that those actions would not be possible, so that is what you think is real. To change your reality, you would have to alter your innermost thoughts . The holographic idea is fascinating. What is theory today may be fact tomorrow.

All over the world, children and young people are being exposed, via the communications revolution, to such ideas. They are not limited to the parochial beliefs of a single culture.

Paul Nash likened this shift in realities to the gap between an immigrant couple and their children. “The children usually learn the language and adopt the local mores more easily than do the older folks, who become dependent on the children as guides to the 'new world.'"

Variations on this theme, the powers of the child and the primitive, appear in recent writings like Joseph Chilton Pearce's Magical Child and Lyall Watson's Gift of Unknown Things. A generation in love with Tolkien's fantasy and Castaneda's sorcerer are ready for magic in themselves and in their young children.

Entry into this new world is suggested by the titles of conferences on transpersonal learning and childrearing: Children of the New Age, Celebration of the Child, Nurturing the Child of the Future, The Metaphoric Mind, The Conscious Child, Transpersonal Frontiers, Infinite Frontiers.

If education cannot be mended, perhaps it can metamorphose. As someone pointed out, trying to explain the difference between reform and transformation, we have been trying to attach wings to a caterpillar. Our interventions in the learning process to date have been almost that crude. It is high time we freed ourselves of attachment to old forms and eased the flight of the unfettered human mind.



1 The wasted potential was dramatically illustrated in the Milwaukee Project, an experiment in the sixties sometimes known as Operation Babysnatch. Psychologists at the University of Wisconsin arranged for special attention to be given to babies born to a group of borderline feeble-minded women (IQs of 70 or less). Normally, by the time they are sixteen, such children show intelligence as low as their mothers. Presumably, a dull mother cannot stimulate a baby's mind very much.
Forty babies were picked up at their homes and taken to a university center where they were played with, sung to, and otherwise stimulated. Later they learned in small groups of toddlers. By the time they were four, these children scored a mean IQ of 128 on one test, 132 on another — in the range psychologists label "intellectually gifted." These experimental children were brighter than the typical child from a superior, middle-class home. Forty children of comparable circumstances who had not received the extra attention scored IQs of 85 (very low normal) by age four. The magic of human interaction had made all the difference.
2 An example of the misuse of educational funds: In 1972 Edith Green, a  member of Congress, revealed that 60 percent of the first year's budget of the  federal Right- to-Read program had been misspent in unauthorized architectural and office decorating expenses, public relations, and salaries.  
3 Sociologists calculated recently that an individual in Western society receives  sixty-five thousand more pieces of stimuli each day than did our forebears one  hundred years ago.
4 For example, subjects were asked to design a clock that has no moving parts  on its face or any feature that changes visibly during normal use. The answer:  an auditory clock. Trying too hard to see a clock trapped most people into  assuming that the clock must give visual readout.
5 Synectics exercises are also used for adults, especially in training for creativity.
6 As established on a comparative basis in the group studied, not in the society  as a whole. Remember, these individuals lived in a low socioeconomic  neighborhood, and "highest group" includes college instructor, successful  businessman, etc.
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Re: The Aquarian Conspiracy, by Marilyn Ferguson

Postby admin » Tue Apr 30, 2019 4:02 am

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER 10: The Transformation of Values and Vocation

If the nature of the work is properly appreciated and applied, it will stand in the same relation to the higher faculties as food is to the physical body.

— J.C. KUMARAPPA, philosopher and economist

If there is power in the transformative experience, it must inevitably shake our values and, therefore, the total economy — the marketplace, the factory, corporations, the professions, small business, social welfare. And it must redefine what we mean by words like "rich" and "poor"; it must make us rethink what we owe each other, what is possible, what is appropriate. Sooner or later, the new paradigm changes the individual's relationship to work; part-time transformation is inherently impossible.

Making a life, not just a living, is essential to one seeking wholeness. Our hunger turns out to be for something different, not something more. Buying, selling, owning, saving, sharing, keeping, investing, giving — these are outward expressions of inward needs. When those needs change, as in personal transformation, economic patterns change. For example, spending is an opiate to many people, a balm to disappointments, frustrations, emptiness. If the individual transforms that inner distress, there is less need for drugs and distractions. Inner listening makes clearer to us what we really want, as distinct from what we have been talked into, and it might not have a price tag. We may also discover that "ownership” is in some sense an illusion, that holding on to things can keep us from freely enjoying them. Greater awareness may give us new appreciation for simple things. And quality becomes important — the much-talked-about "quality of life." If work becomes rewarding, not just obligatory, that also reorders values and priorities.

We will look at the evidence for a new paradigm, based on values, which transcends the old paradigm of economics, with its emphasis on growth, control, manipulation. The shift to the values paradigm is reflected in changing patterns of work, career choice, consumption . . . evolving lifestyles that take advantage of synergy, sharing, barter, cooperation, and creativity . . . the transformation of the workplace, in business, in- dustry, professions, the arts . . . innovations in management and worker participation, including the decentralization of power ... the rise of a new breed of entrepreneurs ... the search for "appropriate technology" ... the call for an economics congruent with nature rather than the mechanistic views that have propelled us into our present crises.


We have proved that you can't eat yourself slim. Trying to consume our way to prosperity, we have been exhausting our resources. High production costs, scarcities, inflation, and severe unemployment have become our regular diet.

Because the economy is such a political issue it is propagandized, rationalized, lied about. Because our beliefs about the economy affect it, as in the "confidence index," business and government try to buffer the reaction of investors and consumers to unnerving economic news.

And because divergent viewpoints are loudly argued, you can choose whom to believe:

Nuclear power is essential/deadly.
Solar energy will be cheap/impractical.
Fossil fuel is plentiful/exhausted.
We should consume/conserve.
Full employment is feasible/impossible.
Automation/environmentalism do/do not undermine jobs and growth.

There are illusions of rescue by technology, by the reshuffling of moneys and resources. But our temporary easing of this chronic illness — scarcities, dislocated markets, unemployment, obsolescence — is as dangerous as the medical treatment of symptoms when the cause of disease is unknown. Our intervention in the body economic, like intervention by drugs and surgery, often leads to severe side effects requiring further and deeper intervention.

The crisis is evident in the chronic nature of unemployment and underemployment: the technological obsolescence that has overtaken millions of specialized skilled workers, increasing numbers of the highly educated vying for too few white-collar jobs, increasing numbers of teenagers and women trying to enter the work force.

A United States Department of Labor study found "true unemployment" — including those working but with earnings below the poverty level — more than 40 percent. Fewer jobs, more applicants. Proportionately fewer interesting jobs. Technological ingenuity that doubles the productivity of worker A so that B can be laid off so that A can grumble about paying taxes to help support a demoralized B. Affirmative-action programs that often just redistribute the unfairness and bitterness to a different group.

Labor and management savage each other periodically, like crazy Siamese twins who don't know that their lifeblood is the same.

The indices of our economy are often misleading. For example, the Gross National Product figures include the expenditures for treating disease, repairing wrecked automobiles, and eliminating factory pollution; that is, we are measuring activity, not true production. It is increasingly evident that our efforts to control, explain, and understand the economy are wholly inadequate.

The economy is alive and integrated, more an organism than a machine. It has qualities as well as quantities. Like the weather, it cannot be repaired. It won't be still long enough and is predictable only in patches. Even its "laws" are only descriptions of the past. "The truth is," said David Stemlight, chief economist for the Atlantic Richfield Company, "there are no facts about the future."

It is fashionable to assume that any economic prediction is better than none, E. F. Schumacher said in 1961. "Make a guess, call it an assumption, and derive an estimate by subtle calculation. The estimate is then presented as the result of scientific reasoning, something far superior to mere guesswork." Colossal planning errors result because this method offers "a bogus answer where an entrepreneurial judgment is required."

The unexamined assumption of the old paradigm — dominant since the days of John Locke — is that human beings are most deeply motivated by economic concerns. Yet, beyond a certain level of material sufficiency, other strong needs clearly take precedence: the desire to be healthy, to be loved, to feel competent, to participate fully in society, to have meaningful employment. And even if Locke were right about our economic motives, we would have to change: Our civilization cannot go on escalating its manufacture and consumption of non-renewable resources.

Assessing the New York City financial crisis in the mid-seventies, Julius Stulman of the World Institute said that our greatest mistake is that we continue to relate everything to the past, "the steps we have laboriously climbed for six thousand years — brick by brick, hand over fist, in singular, linear fashion. However necessary those steps may have been to our evolution, that stage has ended. We cannot cope until we think differently."

Our best hope now is to pay attention, to recognize the ways in which our lives and livelihood have been influenced, even run, by outmoded structures. Our ideas about work, money, and management grew out of an old stable social order irrelevant to present flux and were based on a view of humankind and nature long since transcended in science. The real world turns on different principles than those imposed by our partial economic philosophies.


The economic systems of the modern world take sides in the old argument: individual versus society. When we are polarized, we are arguing about the wrong issue. Rather than debating whether capitalism is right in its emphasis on opportunities for the individual or socialism in its concern for the collective, we should reframe the question: Is a materialistic society suited to human needs? Both capitalism and socialism, as we know them, pivot on material values. They are inadequate philosophies for a transformed society.

The failures of our economic philosophies, like the failures of our political reforms, can be attributed to their emphasis on the external. Inner values, like inner reform, precede outward change. In synthesis may be our salvation — the path between right and left Aldous Huxley called "decentralism and cooperative enterprise, an economic and political system most natural to spirituality."

Just as health is vastly more than medicine, just as learning transcends education, so a system of values is the context for the workings of any economy. Whatever our priorities — self-aggrandizement, efficiency, status, health, security, recreation, human relationships, competition, cooperation, craftsmanship, material goods — they are reflected in the workings of the economy. A society that prizes external symbols will want showy automobiles, whatever the cost. A family that values education may make considerable sacrifices to pay tuition for a private school. One who values adventure may give up a financially secure job to sail around the world.

Most importantly, when people become autonomous, their values become internal. Their purchases and their choice of work begin to reflect their own authentic needs and desires rather than the values imposed by advertisers, family, peers, media.

Louis Mobley, former director of executive training for IBM, suggested that the turn inward marks a cultural reversal. Having concluded an era in which we looked only outward and denied our inner realities, we are now making value judgments. "And that's why the answers escape economists." The 1978 Nobel laureate in economics, Herbert Simon, criticizes the classic "rational" assumptions of economists and their consequent failure to deal with changing values and expectations.

Societies, as Ilya Prigogine pointed out, are the strangest and most unstable of dissipative structures. The complexity of our modern pluralistic society and the increasingly autonomous values of its people have created vast economic uncertainty. Now we need an approach to the economy comparable to the wise uncertainty of the physicist. 1

The two paradigms might be summarized as follows:


• Promotes consumption at all costs, via planned obsolescence, advertising pressure, creation of artificial "needs.”
• People to fit jobs. Rigidity. Conformity.
• Imposed goals, top-down decision-making. Hierarchy, bureaucracy.
• Fragmentation, compartmentalization in work and roles. Emphasis on specialized tasks. Sharply defined job descriptions.
• Identification with job, organization, profession.
• Clockwork model of economy, based on Newtonian physics.
• Aggression, competition. "Business is business."
• Work and play separate. Work as means to an end.
• Manipulation and dominance of nature.
• Struggle for stability, station, security.
• Quantitative: quotas, status symbols, level of income, profits, “raises," Gross National Product, tangible assets.
• Strictly economic motives, material values. Progress judged by product, content.
• Polarized: labor versus management, consumer versus manufacturer, etc.
• Short-sighted: exploitation of limited resources.
• “Rational," trusting only data.
• Emphasis on short-term solutions.
• Centralized operations.
• Runaway, unbridled technology. Subservience to technology.
• Allopathic treatment of “symptoms" in economy.


• Appropriate consumption. Conserving, keeping, recycling, quality, craftsmanship, innovation, invention to serve authentic needs.
• Jobs to fit people. Flexibility. Creativity. Form and flow.
• Autonomy encouraged. Self-actualization. Worker participation, democratization. Shared goals, consensus.
• Cross-fertilization by specialists seeing wider relevance of their field of expertise. Choice and change in job roles encouraged.
• Identity transcends job description.
• Recognition of uncertainty in economics.
• Cooperation. Human values transcend "winning."
• Blurring of work and play. Work rewarding in itself.
• Cooperation with nature; taoistic, organic view of work and wealth.
• Sense of change, becoming. Willingness to risk. Entrepreneurial attitude.
• Qualitative as well as quantitative. Sense of achievement, mutual effort for mutual enrichment. Values intangible assets (creativity, fulfillment) as well as tangible.
• Spiritual values transcend material gain; material sufficiency. Process as important as product. Context of work as important as content — not just what you do but how you do it.
• Transcends polarities. Shared goals, values.
• Ecologically sensitive to ultimate costs. Stewardship.
• Rational and intuitive. Data, logic augmented by hunches, feelings, insights, nonlinear (holistic) sense of pattern.
• Recognition that long-range efficiency must take into account harmonious work environment, employee health, customer relations.
• Decentralized operations wherever possible.
• Human scale.
• Appropriate technology. Technology as tool, not tyrant.
• Attempt to understand the whole, locate deep underlying causes of disharmony, disequilibrium. Preventive “medicine," anticipation of dislocations, scarcities.


In the nineteenth century John Stuart Mill saw past the early materialist promises of the Industrial Age: “No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes place in their mode of thought." In the 1930s historian Arnold Toynbee spoke of “etherealization" — the development of higher, intangible riches as the ultimate growth of a civilization.

There seems to be growing sympathy, if not a mandate, for reversing the materialist trend. Maybe the etherealization is happening. A 1977 Harris poll showed an astounding preponderance of persons — 79 percent — favoring better use of basic essentials rather than reaching higher material standards of living. A similar percentage preferred spending more time on human interaction rather than improved technological communication and hoped to see the society appreciate human values over material values. The idea of developing bigger and more efficient ways of doing things was less attractive than “breaking up big things and getting back to more humanized living."

A majority said they preferred finding inner rewards from work rather than increasing productivity, and they wanted to see their children's education directed more toward such intangible rewards than toward a higher material standard of living.

Most people living in the United States today have sampled the fruits of at least a little affluence. We have been free of the desperate survival needs that haunted generations of human history and still haunt whole populations. Still there is hunger, of a different kind, and still we are not free. Beyond our compulsive, addictive behavior, we can discover what we want; we can pay attention to the unfocused questions inside us. Now we are asking. What matters?

Our prehistoric ancestors helped lay the groundwork for this anticipation, in a sense, when they stopped being hunters and gatherers and became farmers, cooperating with nature's major cycles. Perhaps that is where we got our “agribusiness" minds, plowing and planning, concerned for the coming harvest. Perhaps we may become hunters and gatherers of a sort again, living for the day's treasures as well as for the long growing season.

Perhaps, as one report put it, we are living in a “post-extravagant society." We seem to be hunting for meaning, for a transcendent vision like that of our founding fathers.

The etherealization was expressed by one of the Aquarian Conspirators, a teacher:

I have been influenced by knowing and sharing with persons who have no major needs (financially well-to-do) and with persons who voluntarily adopt poverty (religious vows). It is mainly in terms of these associations that I have been able to order my values: authentic vs. inauthentic, must-haves vs. nice-to-haves, permanent vs. immediate, happiness vs. pleasure.

Autonomous human beings can create and invent. And they can change their minds, repudiating values they once held. Business analysts are now looking realistically at the creeping effects of what were once the values of the counterculture. They see the coming of age of a generation less impressed by the old toys and symbols.

A Bank of America economist said in 1977 that the demand for durable goods was likely to level off permanently as more and more Americans see national and personal consumption as wasteful. Goods would increasingly be purchased as replacements rather than as symbols of conspicuous consumption or because of style and model changes. The pendulum would swing back to the virtues of thrift, integrity, and high moral values, he predicted. The primary population growth over the next decade, those twenty-five to thirty-four years old, will place a high value on the quality and social implications of their purchases.

A young truck driver with a liberal arts degree answered the frequent question about what he intended to do with his education:

I will practice living. I will develop my intellect, which may incidentally contribute to the elevation of the esthetic and cultural levels of society. I will try to develop the noble and creative elements within me. I will contribute very little to the grossness of the national product.

His five-year struggle to earn a living intensified his appreciation and respect for his education, he said. The environment in which he worked was so hostile to imagination that his books and art were especially exciting and vital to him. “I work alongside people who attempt to secure meaning for their lives by pursuing the tawdry baubles American industry has to offer ...."


However many wars and weapons we may have devised, human beings are a biologically social, cooperative species. We have survived by helping each other. Even our prehistoric ancestors exhibited tenderness, lining their children's slippers with fur, caring for their cripples; recent archeological evidence suggests that they buried their dead with flowers.

The whole is richer than its parts. This synergy has opened the way for new sources of goods and services: cooperatives, barter, mutual-help networks. Pooled resources make everyone richer, pooled information makes everyone smarter, and nothing is lost in the dispersal.

Older than money, ancient economic shortcuts like cooperatives, credit unions, and barter give leanness to the cumbersome distribution system, for they involve only that which people want and have to offer, in contrast to the ever-accelerating production of items people have to be persuaded to buy or “invest in."

There are modern urban counterparts of quilting bees, barn-raisings, and farmers' co-ops. Carpools, learning networks, food cooperatives, and shared childcare create a sense of community as well as an economic boost. [2]

Popular women's magazines have begun publishing articles on how to start networks and cooperatives. Low-income people formed the Oregon Urban-Rural (OUR) credit union, in the tradition of the drought-poor villagers in southern Germany who started the first credit union in the mid-nineteenth century. Around the country, labor pools and service collectives have coalesced. Free for All in Los Angeles was organized for the bartering of services. Commercial barter companies like Trade-Americard, Executive Trade Club, Charge-a-Trade, and Business Exchange swap and credit goods and services to their members through sophisticated bookkeeping. One barter company does a yearly business of around one hundred million dollars in reciprocal trade agreements, recycling surpluses and mistakes, advertising space, and hotel rooms. About seventy-five bartering groups in the United States are franchised under the International Trade Exchange. [3] They use computers to facilitate the transactions among member businesses, trades-people, and professionals. Trading, as the owners of one exchange remarked, helps beat inflation. Barter is likely to boom in a recession. New Age observed:

In a time when the little metal and paper tokens we call wealth are becoming increasingly isolated from the craft or toil which they are supposed to represent, the business of barter seems a healthy trend indeed. "Payment in kind," the original mode of economic transaction, is grounded on cooperation more than competition; rather than the accumulation of money for its own sake, it stresses the quality of human work.

The founders of Provender, a natural-food cooperative in the Northwest, wrote of the self-reliance and regional unity they sensed when they joined forces: "Fellow cooperators, we can celebrate the birth of a network ...."

The reward transcends the mere economics involved, as can be seen by some of the statements of purpose of such networks:

. . . The Community Soap Factory and the co-ops were started, not because of the promise of commercial success — by those standards they are risky — but by the beliefs in an ideal, a vision of how society might be If we can formulate a cogent, communitarian ideology, many more people will be moved to create and support alternative structures.

* * *

We focus on right attitude and right timing. This opening up and transformation of the power dynamic is the very stuff which will move us into a new age of compassion and self-empowerment.

* * *

The work of our communities is to lay the foundation, the groundwork ... to develop the models, designs, and archetypes of a new civilization.

* * *

The Community Memory Project will help people connect to others of similar interests and will add exchange of goods, resources, and ideas. This network is nonhierarchical and interactive — that is, the information in the system is created and shared by the people who use it, not "broadcast" from a central authority.

Cooperative ventures include intentional communities and shared housing. In some cases several families have collectively developed apartment houses and condominiums. Some have acquired clusters of private residences and established specific communal activities like shared gardens and shared weekly meals. The commune comprised of middle-class professionals is becoming increasingly commonplace. In fact, the 1980 census was designed with a special category for communal households.

One example of an established large communal household is Ramagiri, a center whose members came together in 1971 after experimentation in smaller groups. There are now forty members (including ten married couples, four pairs of siblings) living on a 250-acre California farm that was once a small Catholic seminary. Ramagiri has its own sustaining businesses, but most of the residents work outside as teachers, health professionals (nurses, physical therapists, nutritionists), secretaries. Two young medical residents plan to open a practice together. A garden, office, and kitchen are communally operated. The commune has published several successful books by Eknath Easwaran, the Indian teacher around whom its members originally coalesced, and a best-seller. Laurel’s Cookbook.

Members of Movement for a New Society, a Philadelphia group, live in fourteen communally operated houses. They run a media training group, seminars, an organization for older women, and a 'Transit collective” for shared transportation. They publish Resource Manual for a Living Revolution and other literature on nonviolent cultural change.

A group in the making. Cooperative College Community, has been coordinating the efforts of teachers and artists from East Coast colleges to live together on a large tract of land, already acquired, and operate a small liberal arts college. Its organizers stated:

We conceive of this enterprise as an experiment in human values. It is an attempt to demonstrate that a rich and dignified life can be sustained in an economically limited community, [by] sharing labor and political responsibility, choosing to restrict accumulation and consumption of material wealth, and making efficient use of natural resources We do not presume to be presenting either a social panacea or an easily replicable paradigm for every existing social institution. But we do believe we are realizing one possible alternative, thus concretely challenging prevailing conceptions of social and economic organization.

One participant in a communal project said, "We are not land developers, we are community discoverers. We do not offer a dream home but an opportunity to create a new life more satisfying than the one we are leaving behind."

From a newsletter:

One of our objectives is to demonstrate that it is possible for a group of ordinary human beings to come together and to create a "new-age" community. New-age communities are not going to be built by big governments or by big corporations, and it probably wouldn't be a good idea for that to happen anyhow. We think it is desirable for people to take charge of their own lives, to become self-reliant (as groups). ... We want to show that life can be lived more simply, in harmony with nature, within the constraints of nature, cooperatively, creatively, humanly. . . . We hope to see a network of New Age communities, sharing, working, helping each other.

Some of the larger communities have indeed established ties; they are not competitive, and however different the expression, their visions have much in common. A magazine published for cooperative communities praised the networking between the larger ones, such as Arcosanti (Arizona), Another Place (New England), Auroville (India), and Findhorn (Scotland): "An important element of this sense of world community is the reaching beyond our idiosyncrasies, getting at the essence of what we are trying to do. Our work must be translatable to be usable."

An ever-changing portion of the population is living a shared dream in the midst of the wreckage of the old dream. One observer said, "Communes have been no less successful than the mundane American Dream. We judge them more harshly because they attempted to be more." We also judge them too often by the values of the old paradigm: economic success and stability.

Another Place, a rural collective and network in New Hampshire, welcomes people involved in politics, alternative schools, meditation, holistic health — "creative alternatives to the dominant society." It takes its name from a poem by Wendell Berry, whose book. The Unsettling of America, is influential among community builders:

. . . the mind turns, seeks a new
nativity — another place.
simpler, less weighted
by what has already been.

Another place
it's enough to grieve me —
that old dream of going,
of becoming a better man
just by getting up and going
to a better place.

The mystery. The old
unaccountable unfolding.
The iron trees in the park
suddenly remember forests.
It becomes possible to think of going.

The new life begins, not with action but with a new awareness, when it first becomes possible to think of going.

In community, in human exchange, there is a qualitatively different kind of wealth.


Our values come consciously out of our understanding — or unconsciously, out of our conditioning. As we become aware of once-unconscious motives, we may awaken to what we really want and what our options are.

Just as the public has withdrawn considerable legitimacy from its other institutions, it has become increasingly suspicious of the consumption ethic — the mystique of things. The consumer movement, for one thing, raised awareness about shoddy business practices and deceptive merchandise. The ecology movement raised questions about environmental quality and exploitation of resources. Our growing sophistication has made us less susceptible to the glossy fictions of advertising.

Our problems are often the natural side effects of our successes. For example, increasing efficiency in production meant that fewer people could produce the basics of life, so we were trained over the decades to "need" more (or better, or different). People were there to serve the economy, prodded by government as well as by business, teased by gimmickry, tricked by obsolescence.

We all know the feeling of being offered food when we are not hungry. Now, as consumers, we may find that our appetites are changing. Knowing what we want, we may spend less, we may spend more, or we may spend differently. In 1936 Richard Gregg, a political philosopher, coined the term voluntary simplicity to describe a lifestyle in which one avoids clutter and focuses one's energies on what really matters. “The degree of simplification,” Gregg said, “is a matter for each individual to settle for himself." A person living a life of voluntary simplicity might choose to own a costly and sophisticated quadraphonic sound system, for example, and drive an old car.

Voluntary simplicity is an attitude, not a budget: thoughtful consumption, resistance to artificially created “needs," sensitivity to the limits of natural resources, a more human scale for living and working. According to a Stanford Research Institute (SRI) report, adherents of voluntary simplicity want to realize “higher human potential, both psychological and spiritual, in community with others."

The report, which provoked more reprint requests from the business community than any other publication in the history of the think tank, warned business interests that a different social order may be in the making, one aimed more toward material sufficiency than material abundance. Its values would favor enlightened self-interest rather than competition, cooperation rather than rugged individualism, and both rational and intuitive judgments. An ever-growing segment of the population cares little for status or fashion, is willing to recycle durable goods and pay for products that are healthful, non-polluting, authentic, esthetically pleasing. Many of these products and the services likely to become popular are as easily furnished by entrepreneurs and local businesses as by multinational giants. The report was not an economic forecast to cheer General Motors and General Electric. [4]

Laurence Peter, author of The Peter Principle, related how he and his wife determined not to let their possessions possess them. Their move toward deliberate simplicity was “not an attempt to live cheaply but rather to achieve a better balance between the material and nonmaterial components of life." Each new acquisition, whether esthetic or practical, was chosen for its quality and permanence as well as for its real need.

Until I replaced our cheap power lawnmower with the highest quality hand mower obtainable, I would not have believed what a big step forward I was taking. The hand mower costs more but is a delight to operate. It never runs out of fuel. It never tests my patience getting it started. It emits no pollutants. It provides me with healthful exercise. I can stop and start it with ease. I feel in control. I feel relieved of the nervous strain, the safety hazards, and the inevitable mechanical problems and responsibilities that power equipment entails.

For most of its adherents, voluntary simplicity is neither altruistic nor a sacrifice. It can even be hedonistic. Simple lifestyles can become a pleasure in themselves.

One advocate called it “the only way to be rich." Usually it is embedded in larger changes: a deepened appreciation of ordinary pleasures, a keen sense of living in the moment, the company of affectionate, like-minded friends. One of the profound rewards of the transformative process is the discovery of how much we really have. Enhanced attention reveals all the valuables we have misplaced, forgotten, or — blinded by habit- failed to notice: books, records, people, pets, vistas, lost arts, neglected hobbies, abandoned dreams. "I'm not at all contemptuous of the comforts," economist E. F. Schumacher once said, “but they have their place, and it is not first." The less you need, he remarked, the freer you become. In Thoreau's terms, “You must live within yourself and depend on yourself, always tucked up and ready for a start."

"A realm of intimate personal power is developing," said the statement of purpose of the Whole Earth Catalog, "the power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment. . . Kits, manuals, tools, books, and other resources in the catalog were geared to another vision of life, one rich in options.

The originators of an environmental fair, the New Earth Expo, announced their eagerness to reach all those who assume there is no hope: "There are many things people can do to regain control over their own lives." Increasing self-sufficiency is one.

Many businesses are already trying to respond to the coming wave of "conscious consumptions." In an SRI report Willis Flarman said, "Humanistic and transcendental values aren't a luxury imposed on economic values. They're the measure of the appropriateness of economic values. . . . We can choose either to understand and move with the tides of history, whatever they may be — or try to resist them. [5]

"Upon that choice may rest in great measure the state of business in 1990 — and beyond."
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