The Movement of Wholeness - 1
The Continuum of Change and Time
In the Greece of the fifth century B.C. Heraclitus gave a lasting formulation to what always had been the most common, basic experience of human beings — "The only thing that does not change is change itself." His contemporary thinkers apparently were so disturbed by his glorification of ceaseless change and all- consuming fire that they formulated opposite systems assuming a supersensible, non-existential realm of permanent entities and changeless order opposed to an ever-changing, illusory, existential realm. (The most famous is Plato's concept of a realm of archetypes or Ideas.) Human beings poignantly need the security of believing that order is a basic fact of the universe. But there may be order in unceasing change. In the continuum of changes, the possibility of persistent, quasi-permanent formations (that is, formations which are but relatively and temporarily changeless) is not only conceivable but a matter of common human experience. The truly significant problem of philosophy is to try to understand the facts of this common experience — not to evade it. Man might become fascinated by either the willfully, and tenaciously induced, rarified, and hardly formulatable experiences of yogis and religious mystics. Or he might be drawn to the equally stressful, intensely analytical, and disruptive methods of modern scientists who have forced themselves to ignore all that is not objective, material, measurable by highly complex machines, and expressible through the most involved mathematical symbols. Today attempts are being made to show that these two extreme approaches — that of the mystic yogi and the atomic physicist — lead to somewhat similar pictures (or "models") of the universe.(1
) Such pictures are scornfully opposed to the "commonsense" picture of the world held by the immense majority of people in their instinctive demand for a simple, understandable realization of order and permanence.
Scorning and undervaluing this commonsense picture may not, however, be the wisest thing. If this picture is naive and childlike in many ways, it is due to the narrow field of vision of most human beings (which is limited by the possibility of experience of the physical body, its senses and organs of action). Equally confining is the narrow focus of attention of most people and their even narrower ability to establish significant correlations between events and generalizations of sequences of happenings and interpersonal relationships, What is limiting and progress- deterring in a commonsense approach to reality is not its quality
but its scope
. The most important issue is not how the mind perceives but the way in which the field of perception is limited by the power of biological drives and the emotional responses elicited by the need to satisfy (or the frustration of) these instinctual impulses and psychic overtones. The basic aim of both the yogi and the atomic scientist is actually to transcend the biological level of the mind. The mystic does this by trying to paralyze, as it were, his "lower nature" (that is, his biological impulses and desires, especially for sex, food, sleep, human contacts, and speech); the scientist achieves the same end by distrusting his personal sense impressions and substituting intricate machines (whose objectivity he trusts), the assumed impersonality of statistics, and the abstract logic of mathematics.
If one could retain the quality inherent in the commonsense approach to reality — its livingness and warmth, and yes, its essential insecurity and mystery — while immensely broadening and giving new meanings to the frame of reference within which change is experienced, a significant world-picture would emerge. On its expanded and indeed all-inclusive basis, a new feeling of reality could inspire the creation of a culture far more wholesome and sane than the one whose origins go back to the Greece of the fifth century B.C. What was begun then at once led to such unsatisfactory developments that it had to be compensated for by the mass movement of a devotional and dogmatic Christianity, which in turn gave rise to the violent individualistic reactions of the Renaissance and the scientific empiricism and social materialism of recent centuries.
Such an expansion of the commonsense picture of the world neither can nor should ignore what has been revealed by, at one end of the spectrum of human experience, atomic science and modern astrophysics, and at the other, the intense subjectivism of Indian yoga. Extreme objectivity within a strictly materialistic frame of reference, and extreme subjectivity leading to an absolute or quasi-absolute denial of the reality of all but an inwardly experienced state of changeless Oneness, undoubtedly have engendered significant developments and realizations; but their integration within a much expanded commonsense picture of being transcending the realm of life instincts and personal-emotional impulses requires a new frame of reference. What is introduced here as the "Movement of Wholeness" is meant to be such a frame of reference. Within it, the primary and universal experience of change and the human yearning for order and permanence of structure (or "form") no longer have to be seen as irreducible opposites. There is order in change — cyclicity. Once this is accepted as the foundation of being, every conceivable approach to reality and every method for acquiring knowledge finds its significant place within the whole cycle of being and in relation to one another
See, for example. The Tao of Physics
by Fritjof Capra (Shambhala Publications, Boulder, 1976). Return
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