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|Astrology & the New
by Dennis Frank
This essay addresses the relationship between astrology and the new paradigm of science. My methodology includes identification of the key metaphysical concepts and principles of the new paradigm from a single source text, which was written as a multi-disciplinary review, using numerous discussions with opinion leaders in various fields. This text is "Uncommon Wisdom" (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1988) by the physicist Fritjof Capra. Relevance to astrology is explained via supplementary analysis and comment from myself. I hope that considerable consistency between astrology and the new paradigm will become evident to the reader, although a contemporary reformulation of astrology remains necessary.
Astrologers believe planets affect people. Some even think stars do. Most educated people think they are fools to do so, because there is no known link between planets, stars, and humans. Most people know they are extremely separate!
This is because most people grow up learning the prevailing belief system of their society. Following Kuhn, we now call this collective world-view a paradigm. It is a set of beliefs about the nature of reality that tend to seem mutually consistent. When they state what they have learned about it, people tend to assert it as "the truth", which "everybody knows".
The so-called Newtonian paradigm of materialist science combined Newton's laws with Galileo's methodology and the dualist philosophy of Descartes. Subject and object were known to be separate due to the absolute difference between mind and matter. The world of objects moved according to the forces at work within it, and a machine modelled this perception. Any machine that worked became very effective in reinforcing this collective perception, so the scientific paradigm displaced christianity as the ruling paradigm of western civilisation. Clocks were invented in the 14th century as time-keeping machines designed as simple models of the local cosmos. The local cosmos is the Sun, Moon, planets & stars as we experience them. When Kepler learnt it's operation a couple of centuries later he described it as 'the clock-work universe'. The name stuck and entered popular usage.
Then, early in the 20th century, this began to change when the world's leading physicists came to a different consensual view of how the world works. "The material world they observed no longer appeared as a machine, made up of separate objects, but rather as an indivisible whole; a network of relationships that included the human observer in an essential way." [p.15] Experiments were designed and conducted to establish if the deep level interconnections were real or not. It turned out they were. The separation between things was merely apparent; an underlying unity was proven to be the fundamental reality. Dualist scientific philosophy gradually gave way to holism.
Werner Heisenberg quantified the deep-level boundary of scientific knowledge; his uncertainty principle relates what can be known about the parts of the atom. "At the most fundamental level the uncertainty principle is a measure of the unity and interrelatedness of the universe. In the 1920s physicists, led by Heisenberg and Bohr, came to realize that the world is not a collection of separate objects but rather appears as a web of relations between the various parts of a unified whole." [p.18] Holistic philosophy is now the only credible approach when we describe how nature operates.
So now the objection to astrology made by the old scientific paradigm seems invalid. There is no absolute separation between people, planets, and stars. All that remains is a need to explain how the deep-level connections between cosmos and humanity operate to account for the perception of many of us that there is some truth to astrology, that - to some extent - it works.
Due to the inertial effect of the ruling paradigm there are many people still living who see the world the way they learnt to see it when young. These adhere to the ideas of old-fashioned science. Add to these the many who are by nature pragmatic or sceptical, and will not allow astrology any credibility unless it can be proven to work, and we must acknowledge that the paradigm shift in science will have limited effect in changing the way most people think of astrology. Yet many are attracted to the mystique of the subject, and some of these learn that it is more helpful than anything else in explaining why they have the character and life that they do.
We can ease the developmental path for these people if we present the subject in a way that is more user-friendly. Astrology is a fossil discipline with various mutually-inconsistent beliefs and techniques encrusted upon it, and the total package is liable to seem ridiculous to those who study it, particularly the smart ones! These are often alienated sufficiently to abandon it in disgust, and the effect of their withdrawal is to reinforce popular prejudice and scepticism. Those not so well-endowed with critical faculties fall victim to the 'true-believer' syndrome and swallow the entire set of traditions, and their collective effect is to retard progress. When the intake is garbage, the output is garbage, and one need only scan astrological publications to despair at the ongoing prevalence of the robotic approach to astrology.
Readers may think it unreasonable of me to be so critical. It seems reasonable to expect people to continue doing what they know, and quite unreasonable to expect them to engage what they don't know. George Bernard Shaw countered this attitude with marvelous finesse: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." Progress in the astrocommunity can only come from those able to make sense of the subject in terms sufficiently user-friendly that the substance of astrology becomes comprehensible to interested students. Those astrologers who reformulate the theory of their subject in contemporary language using metaphysics and concepts that have multi-disciplinary currency are the wave of the future. The purpose of this essay is merely to scout the territory of the new scientific paradigm to identify some relevant concepts, principles, and keywords.
Capra observes that Taoism is a traditional holistic natural philosophy. It emphasises "both the fundamental oneness of all phenomena and the embeddedness of individual and societies in the cyclical processes of nature." He cites Chuang Tzu referring to "the constant flow of transformation and change", and Huai Nan Tzu: "Those who follow the natural order flow in the current of the Tao." [p.35] This flow of the Tao is a time current. We flow with it, in tune, if we sense our inner connection to it. If we are cut off from it and ignore the inner promptings our actions will be mis-timed, our lives out-of-synch with the world, and we will be in disharmony with others and society. The value of astrology for people in my generation who developed an intuitive grasp of it has tended to lie as much in the improved capacity for natural timing as in comprehension of one's character potentials. One's personal connection to the cosmic flow of time can be instinctive or intuitive, as when one has it naturally, but astrology may also facilitate one's reconnection (in recovery from upbringing and education). In such cases the mind uses astrology to tune into the flow and thus regenerate the soul and spirit.
Temporal flow is therefore a key metaphysical concept, but it has yet to be addressed by science. It is merely tacit within the holistic relation between part and whole referred to earlier. Time is generated by the whole cosmos, but experienced and measured in relation to the natural time cycles created by the local cosmos. Our personal time flows in synchrony with this whole, which functions as a matrix for life on earth. Patrice Guinard recognised the import of this matrix, and I agree it is a key concept. As a temporal function it is midwife to natural development and timing. Within each whole in the natural holarchy, the parts evolve in synergy with each other and each whole system of which they are a part - this is the perspective of holistic philosophy. When this view is applied to specific localities and regions on earth it is ecology, and we refer to ecosystems. When we desire to integrate astrology into the new paradigm, it is necessary to retain the broader, more general view.
Capra tells of a conversation he had with Heisenberg after writing The Tao of Physics but before it was published in 1975. " I told him I saw two basic themes running through all the theories of modern physics, which were also the two basic themes of all mystical traditions - the fundamental interrelatedness and interdependence of all phenomena and the intrinsically dynamic nature of reality. Heisenberg agreed with me as far as physics was concerned and also told me that he was well aware of the emphasis on interconnectedness in Eastern thought." [p.49/50] Capra then showed him the various examples in his manuscript of Sanskrit terms used in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy that also demonstrated dynamic connotations, following which Heisenberg declared his complete agreement with Capra. This is a documentation of pan-cultural consensus on basic metaphysical principles that apply, not just to the subatomic realm, but also our realm of living experience. Firstly, the parts of the cosmos are interconnected; secondly, they are in a state of dynamic flow. Capra observes that "in relativity theory the unification of space and time and the dynamic aspect of subatomic phenomena are very closely related. Einstein recognized that space and time are not separate; they are intimately connected and form a four-dimensional continuum - space-time. A direct consequence of this unification of space and time is the equivalence of mass and energy and, further, the fact that subatomic particles must be understood as dynamic patterns, events rather than objects." [p.47] This gives us a picture of the cosmos as a fabric of patterns in temporal flow, with each event as a nexus within that flowing web of interrelated parts.
Capra then introduces the other of his two main inspirational mentors in physics, Geoffrey Chew. After Einstein's relativity revolution, and Heisenberg's quantum revolution, "Chew has made the third revolutionary step in 20th-century physics". His 'bootstrap' theory unifies quantum and relativity theory. In this union "nature cannot be reduced to fundamental entities, like fundamental building blocks of matter.. Things exist by virue of their mutually consistent relationships.. The material universe is seen as a dynamic web of interrelated events.. the overall consistency of their interrelations determines the structure of the entire web." [p.51/2] These days we have only to consider the structure of the internet and the World Wide Web to see manifested examples of the web paradigm in action.
Obvious relevance to astrology lies in the horoscope being an holistic representation of an event, with the solar system shown therein in phase relation to the local place at that time. It is a diagram of a single nexus in the temporal flux, a diagram of the holistic relationship between that part (event/moment) and the whole (temporal flux, local cosmos). Interpretation provides theoretical meanings to the detailed interrelations. Our experiential time is organic, deriving from our biological dependency on our ecosystem. Various temporal dimensions can be ascertained within the temporal flux of the local cosmos. These are made observable and experiential by the time cycles of earth, sun, moon and planets. It is an important point that science has yet to recognise any experiential basis to planetary cycles. Astrologers have a theoretical edge in this regard - considerably reduced in practice by lack of consensus on the effects and meaning of planetary cycles.
Also worthy of note are sociological implications. These theories of physicists obtain authority and impact on the world in proportion to the extent of consensus generated within the community of physicists. They are Greek to anyone else unless interpreted into metaphysical principles that relate to everyday experience. Unfortunately, when translated into common language precise meanings are often lost and experts may despair when unfounded generalisations are made on the basis of their theories. Popularisations of science are prone to this problem: human nature tends to distort a message given half a chance. All we can do here is our best, and draw any general conclusions carefully. It is often said that theories are but models. To those inclined to a postmodern view, this is comforting. No need to worry about truth if you are postmodern. I prefer to recognise that some theories and models capture the truth of nature better than others. Another Nobel laureate physicist, Richard Feynman, made the same point with this Americanism: "To do physics, ya gotta have taste." Yet aesthetic judgement can be made in such a way as to seem consistent with more sensible postmodern values, and Capra quotes Chew to this effect... "A physicist who is able to view any number of different, partially successful models without favoritism is automatically a bootstrapper." [p.61] There is a lesson here for contemporary astrologer-theoreticians: each may capture part of the truth. Better, then, to acknowledge the relative merits of each literary effort than compete in the old-fashioned ego-driven manner.
Capra proceeds to discuss the ideas of another leading theoretical physicist, David Bohm. "Bohm's starting point is the notion of 'unbroken wholeness', and his aim is to explore the order he believes to be inherent in the cosmic web of relations at a deeper 'nonmanifest' level. He call this order 'implicate', or 'enfolded', and describes it with the analogy of a hologram, in which each part, in some sense, contains the whole." [p.66] This means that the pattern of the whole also exists within the part. Astrologers traditionally have used the hermetic maxim 'as above, so below' to mean precisely the same thing. The time pattern of the local cosmos is mirrored within the event, and the archetypal qualities that compose that pattern of the whole are also contained within each part that it generates. "Bohm realizes that the hologram is too static to be used as a model for the implicate order at the subatomic level. To express the essentially dynamic nature of subatomic reality he has coined the term 'holomovement'. In his view the holomovement is a dynamic phenomenon out of which all forms of the material universe flow. The aim of his approach is to study the order enfolded in this holomovement, not by dealing with the structure of objects, but rather with the structure of movement, thus taking into account both the unity and the dynamic nature of the universe.
Capra moves on to Gregory Bateson, the influential anthropologist. He notes that "Bateson challenged the basic assumptions and methods of several sciences by looking for patterns behind patterns and for processes beneath structures. He declared that relationship should be the basis of all definition and his main aim was to discover the principles of organization in all the phenomena he observed, 'the pattern which connects', as he would put it." [p.74/5] This was indeed a prescient view. Traditional science focused on structure, which was the character of an object most evident in the moment of observation. Over a span of time, repeated observations made it evident that natural systems were more characterised by development processes, and the systemic structure at any one time was but a small part of the whole story. Generally speaking development is cued by the temporal pattern of the planet, so experiential time is the main pattern connecting the part (organisms) to the whole (ecosystem, solar system).
People often complain that holism is too nebulous, and in my previous writings I have endeavoured to counter this by detailing explicit principles of holistic philosophy. One such is therefore repeated here: the relation between part and whole in nature is temporal as well as structural. The parts move in unison by virtue of the coordination of the whole. The synchrony may not be evident to any particular observer. It is a matter of focus. The players in an orchestra may be playing different notes at any moment, yet the conductor coordinates them into the collective playing of the same tune. Their unison is in relation to the whole - it is not necessarily evident in relation to any other part of the whole. This is the explanation of Jung's concept of synchronicity - things apparently unconnected emerge in unison due to their underlying connection to the whole. In the moment, that which emerges dances to the same cosmic tune.
These temporal relations point to a key metaphysical concept in the contemporary reformulation of astrology. The problem of 'as above, so below' is the lack of apparent meaning. More people will 'get it' if it is translated into contemporary terms. Events are related to the temporal continuum by a time pattern. Meaning of each is given by interpreters in relation to the context of the whole. Things happen at a certain time due to the archetypal nature of that time. Things born and processes begun then are characterised by that archetypal nature. We interpret the detailed meaning from the diagram of the relation between the part and the whole, because the temporal pattern is common to both. "A central aspect of the emerging new paradigm, perhaps the central aspect, is the shift from objects to relationships. According to Bateson, relationship should be the basis of all definition; biological form is put together of relations". [p.80] Here we see relativity emerging as a metaphysical principle in natural philosophy! The part is significant via its relation to the whole. Its meaning cannot be given except in relation to the whole. Meaning is relative to context.
"One of the central ideas in Bateson's thought is that the structure of nature and the structure of mind are reflections of each other, that mind and nature are of a necessary unity." [p.82] This is clearly a metaphysical concept, and it seems similar in meaning to 'as above so below'. It implies that the structure of the psyche evolved to form an internal microcosm of nature (nature being the macrocosm). Dane Rudhyar used analogous reasoning in conceiving the natal horoscope as a model of the psyche. The diagram shows the sky without (in relation to the locality) but it also represents the 'sky within', symbolising the nature of the person born then. The idea that the mind reflects, or internally constructs, an experiential view of the external world, makes sense as a primal survival skill. Even animals and insects seem to form mental plans of their environment. It seems to me to also provide considerable support for the notion that the temporal environmental context is also internally reproduced, presumably within the realm of the collective unconscious.
"My first breakthrough in understanding Bateson's notion of mind came when I studied Ilya Prigogine's theory of self-organizing systems. According to Prigogine, physicist, chemist, and Nobel laureate, the patterns of organization characteristic of living systems can be summarized in terms of a single dynamic principle, the principle of self-organization. A living organism is a self-organizing system, which means that its order is not imposed by the environment but is established by the system itself. In other words, self-organizing systems exhibit a certain degree of autonomy. This does not mean that they are isolated from their environment; on the contrary, they interact with it continually, but this interaction does not determine their organization; they are self-organizing." [p.87] The "single dynamic principle" referred to here is the holistic coordinating relation between whole and parts that I mentioned earlier.
Identifying this as "the principle of self-organization", Capra (writing in 1986) tells us that over "the last 15 years, a theory of self-organizing systems has been developed in considerable detail by a number of researchers from various disciplines under the leadership of Prigogine. One Capra discussed these issues with was a colleague of Prigogine, the Austrian systems theorist Erich Jantsch, author of The Self-Organizing Universe (1980). Capra continues... "when I compared Prigogine's criteria for self-organizing systems to Bateson's criteria of mental process, I found that the two sets of criteria were very similar; in fact, they seemed close to being identical. I realized immediately that this meant that mind and self-organization were merely different aspects of one and the same phenomenon". [p.87]
A couple of conclusions can readily be drawn from this. Firstly, Capra intuitively recognised as a deep-level truth a metaphysical principle that had emerged in theories from different academic disciplines, and in the context of multi-disciplinary collaboration. This informs us that it is a key feature of the new scientific paradigm. Secondly, this common factor that structures both mind and natural systems generally is both form-producing and development-generating in its effect. It is therefore an active agency in nature that originates the spatio-temporal pattern, the archetypal design of the natural forms. Remember that the forms of nature are both organisms and ecosystems, and both are systems. Systems theory is encompassed by holistic philosophy, but it is an attempt to be more explicit. Back in the '60s it evolved out of cybernetics, but the focus has trended towards the organic since then due to a growing consensus that we can learn more about life from natural systems than artificial ones. Astrology can be reformulated on the basis of systems theory, in principle, because the human being and the solar system are both natural systems.
Capra gives an account of a 1980 discussion with psychiatrist RD Laing. "I emphasised that the quantification of all statements has traditionally been seen as a crucial criterion of the scientific approach, and I agreed with Laing that such a science is inadequate for understanding the nature of consciousness and will not be able to deal with any qualities or values.. 'A true science of consciousness', I went on, 'would have to be a new type of science dealing with qualities rather than quantities and being based on shared experience rather than verifiable measurements. The data of such a science would be patterns of experience that cannot be quantified or analyzed.'" He added that the "conceptual models interconnecting all the data would have to be logically consistent, like all scientific models.. but would also be able to deal with qualities and values based on human experience." [p.145]
Any theory of consciousness would have to account for the qualitative variations of experience. Of these, the most interesting have archetypal dimensions and resonances. Astrology, of course, can already account for these. It suffers the limitation of being hamstrung by Jung's old-fashioned theory of the archetypes. More precise meanings are obtainable when the archetypes are identified as natural principles rather than antique social constructs, and I believe anyone with more insight and talent than the average astrologer is inherently capable of recognising these. A sophisticated contemporary reformulation of astrology is therefore well-positioned to play a significant part in the new paradigm, even currently having a competitive advantage in its relation to science. To take advantage of this before it is lost in the passage of time, astrologers will have to agree to modernisation of the theory of their subject.
Laing asked Capra for a definition of matter, and after mentioning Einstein's "view of mass being a form of energy and matter consisting of patterns of energy continually transforming themselves into one another.. I had to admit that, while it is understood that all energy is a measure of activity, physicists do not have an answer to the question: What is it that is active?" [p.147/8] This is perhaps the most profound issue that the new paradigm must provide explanation for. That the answer to the question lies outside physics seems evident. Aristotle pointed to metaphysics as the realm of knowledge beyond physics, so I assume a suitable answer can be found there. Smuts, in the 1920s, identified "the whole" as nature's active agency, while more recently systems theory explains that natural systems are the active agents.
Capra has a considerable focus on the health implications of the new scientific paradigm. "My first impulse to study systematically the parallels between the paradigm shifts in physics and those in medicine came from Margaret Lock, a medical anthropologist whom I met at Berkeley while teaching a UC extension course on The Tao of Physics."
"I remembered from Joseph Needham's books that Chinese philosophy as a whole was more concerned with the interrelations between thing than with their reduction to fundamental elements. Lock agreed, and she added that the Chinese attitude which Needham called 'correlative thinking' also included their emphasis on synchronic patterning rather than causal relation. In the Chinese view, according to Needham, things behave in a certain way because their positions in the interrelated universe are such that they are endowed with intrinsic natures that make their behaviour inevitable." [p.164]
Lock referred Capra to the work of Manfred Porkert, "one of the very few Western scholars who can actually read the Chinese classics in their original form" (along with Needham). Lock: "In addition to the yin/yang system the Chinese used a system called Wu Hsing to describe the great patterned order of the cosmos. This is usually translated as the 'five elements', but Porkert has translated it as the 'five evolutive phases', which conveys the Chinese idea of dynamic relationships much better." she explained that "an intricate correspondence system was derived from the 5 phases, which extended to the entire universe. The seasons, atmospheric influences, colors, sounds, parts of the body, emotional states, social relations, and numerous other phenomena were all classified into 5 types related to the 5 phases. When the 5-phase theory was fused with the yin/yang cycles, the result was an elaborate system in which every aspect of the universe was described as a well-defined part of a dynamically patterned whole." [p.165/6]
Lock said this "formed the theoretical foundation for the diagnosis and treatment of illness". "Illness is an imbalance which occurs when the ch'i does not circulate properly.. The word literally means 'vapor' and was used in ancient China to describe the vital breath, or energy, animating the cosmos." [p.166]
"Among the Chinese concepts Lock and I had discussed.. the concept of ch'i held a special fascination for me. I had often encountered it in my studies of Chinese philosophy. I knew that it is generally translated as 'energy' or 'vital energy' but I sensed that these terms did not convey the Chinese concept adequately." "Like Chinese natural philosophy and medicine, the modern systems theory of life views a living organism in terms of multiple, interdependent fluctuations, and it seemed to me that the concept of ch'i is used by the Chinese to describe the total pattern of the multiple processes of fluctuation." [p.168/9]
Capra's book "The Turning Point" was published in 1982, and it remains the best overview of the new paradigm of science. Therein, Capra had written that ch'i "seems to represent the principle of flow as such, which, in the Chinese view, is always cyclical." Three years later he met Manfred Porkert at an acupuncture conference, and arranged with the organizers for a dialogue on 'the new vision of reality and the nature of ch'i, in front of several hundred people.
Capra began with a brief summary of the systems view of life, emphasizing in particular the focus on patterns of organization, the importance of process thinking, and the central role of fluctuations in the dynamics of living systems. Porkert confirmed "that, in the Chinese view of life, fluctuation is also seen as the basic dynamic phenomenon". He explained that ch'i is an ancient word meaning "a directed and structured expression of movement; it is not a haphazard expression of movement." Confirming that there is "no direct translation", he added that "Even scholars who are not very particular about using Western equivalents do not translate ch'i." It is close in meaning to energy "but it is not equivalent. The term ch'i always implies a qualification, and this qualification is the definition of direction. ch'i implies directionality, movement in a particular direction." [p.170/1]
Capra explains that "when the Chinese say tsang ch'i they refer to the ch'i moving within the functional orbs, which are called tsang. He "remembered that Porkert uses the term 'functional orb' instead of the conventional 'organ' to translate the Chinese tsang in order to convey the idea that tsang refers to a set of functional relations rather than an isolated part of the body." These are associated with conduits commonly called meridians. When he asked if the ch'i flowed along these, Porkert answered "Among other things." He then asked if it was a substance that flows and Porkert said it certainly was "not a substance".[p.171]
Capra: "It seems to me that ch'i has something of our scientific concept of energy in the sense that it is associated with process. But it is not quantitative; it seems to be a qualitative description of a dynamic pattern, of a pattern of processes." Porkert: "Exactly. In fact, ch'i transmits patterns. In Taoist texts, which in a way are parallel to the medical tradition, and which I studied at the very beginning of my research, the term ch'i expresses this transmission and conservation of patterns." [p.171/2]
Capra: "Now, since it is used as a device for describing dynamic patterns, would you say that ch'i is a theoretical concept? Or is there really something out there, which is ch'i?" Porkert: "In this sense, it is a theoretical concept. It is an evolved and rational concept in Chinese medicine, science, and philosophy. But in everyday language, of course, it is not." [p.172]
Porkert explained further that "I have used quality for almost two decades in a restrictive sense, as a complement to quantity. Quality, in that sense, corresponds to defined, or definable, directionality, the direction of movement. You see, we are dealing here with two aspects of reality: mass, which is static and fixed, which has extension and is accumulated; and movement, which is dynamic and has no extension. Quality, for me, refers to movement, to processes, to functions, or to change.." Capra: "So direction is the key aspect of quality. Is it the only one?" Porkert: "Yes, it's the only one." [p.172]
Capra then endeavoured to clarify the relation of ch'i to the yin/yang duality. "I knew that this concept is used throughout Chinese culture to give the idea of cyclical patterns a definite structure by creating two poles, which set the limits for all cycles of change." He suggested that "directionality seems to be crucial also to the notions of yin and yang." Porkert agreed. "The terminology implies directionality even in the original, archaic sense. The original meaning of yin and yang was that of two aspects of a mountain, the shady side and the sunny side. That implies the direction of movement of the sun. And when you talk about yin and yang in medicine, it's the same person, the same individual, but the functional aspects change with the passage of time." Capra: "So the quality of direction is implicit when the terms yin and yang are used to describe cyclical movement; and when you have many movements forming an interrelated dynamic system, you get a dynamic pattern, and that is ch'i?" Porkert: "Yes." Capra: "But when you describe such a dynamic pattern, it is not enough to specify the directions; you also have to describe the interrelations to get the entire pattern." Porkert: "Oh, yes. Without relationship there would be no ch'i, because ch'i is not empty air. It is the structured pattern of relationships, which are defined in a directional way." [p.173]
Apparently ch'i is more than the natural directional flow pattern of energy - it "is the structured pattern of relationships". It is the systemic development trajectory, in other words, consisting of the dynamic relational pattern of the evolving form of the system. Observed at any time, from any particular point, the structural pattern becomes evident (in relation to the observer). The horoscope represents the structural pattern of the solar system observed at a particular time and place. Depicting the structural pattern of the whole in relation to that part, it could therefore be described as representing the ch'i of the system.
Later in the book Capra tells how he embarked upon "an intensive exploration of a wide range of therapeutic models and techniques" for over a year, and eventually realised they had a common aim of restoring and maintaining balance. "Different schools would address different aspects of balance - physical, biochemical, mental, or emotional balance; or balance at the more esoteric level of 'subtle energy patterns'. In the bootstrap spirit, I regarded all these approaches as different parts of the same therapeutic mosaic". He learned that "our interaction and communication with our environment consist of complex rhythmic patterns, flowing in and out of one another in various ways"; illness was "lack of synchrony and integration." [p.193/5]
"In their pulse diagnosis [the Chinese] relate pulse to various flow patterns of energy that reflect the state of the entire organism." "If one looked at manifestations of rhythmic patterns, breath would be an obvious one." In conversation with oncologist and cancer specialist Carl Simonton, "Simonton told me that the holding back of emotions is a crucial factor in the development of cancer in general, and of lung cancer in particular. I still remembered RD Laing's impressive demonstration, a few months earlier, of the connection between holding back one's emotions and developing asthma, as a consequence of holding back one's breath as well, and I asked Simonton whether he thought that these emotional patterns were linked to one's breath. "Yes, I think they are connected with breath," he replied, "although I don't know how they are connected. That's why breathing is so important in many meditative practices." [p.209]
Capra saw "systems theory as a common language for describing the biological, psychological, and social dimensions of health". "My first formulation was based on the view of living organisms as cybernetic systems, characterized by multiple, interdependent fluctuations. In that model the healthy organism is seen as being in a state of homeostasis, or dynamic balance; health is associated with flexibility, and stress with imbalance and loss of flexibility." [p.215]
"I had learned from Prigogine and Jantsch that living, self-organizing systems not only have the tendency to maintain themselves in their state of dynamic balance but also show the opposite, yet complementary, tendency to transcend themselves, to reach out creatively beyond their boundaries and generate new structures and new forms of organization." Capra observes that environmental pressures can induce two types of response from an organism (or system). The usual is a re-balancing, returning from temporary de-stabilisation to the prior state of normality. Sometimes, however, usually due to more extreme pressures, "the organism may also undergo a process of self-transformation and self-transcendence, involving stages of crisis and transition and resulting in an entirely new state of balance." [p.216]
"Following Jantsch, I had epitomized Bateson's definition of mental process as the dynamics of self-organization, which means that, according to Bateson, the organizing activity of a living system is mental activity and all of its interactions with its environment are mental interactions. I had realized that this new concept of mind was the first that truly transcended the Cartesian division. Mind and life had become inseparably connected, with mind - or, more properly, mental process - being immanent in matter at all levels of life." [p.216]
Capra met the pioneering alternative economist Fritz Schumacher, who spoke of "the difference between what he called 'science for understanding' and 'science for manipulation'." Schumacher explained that the former "has often been called wisdom. Its purpose is the enlightenment and liberation of the person, while the purpose of the latter is power." "During the Scientific Revolution in the 17th century", he continued, "the purpose of science shifted from wisdom to power." He quoted Francis Bacon's famous observation that 'knowledge itself is power', and declared that "since that time the name 'science' remained reserved for manipulative science." [p.226] This latter generalisation rather overstates the case, given the various social sciences that consist mostly of observation with a few dashes of theory and no manipulation whatsoever; however in respect of the overall social impact of science it is probably fair enough. Civilisation proceeds upon the basis of the technology that science makes possible, and wisdom is nowadays so marginal that very few people bother to accumulate it.
Schumacher made another comment that seems most astute. Although "he recognized the usefulness of the emphasis on interrelatedness and process thinking in the new physics, he could not see any room for quality in a science based on mathematical models." He insisted on this point: "The whole notion of a mathematical model has to be questioned. The price of this kind of model building is the loss of quality, the very thing that matters most." [p.227] This is music to the ears of that rare beast, the thinking astrologer. Suggestions that the underlying mechanism that links planets and people operates on a mathematical basis imply the exclusion of quality (unless mathematics is reformulated to include archetypal qualities).
[I believe that accounting for qualitative variations in passing time is the crux of the matter to as regards the interface between astrology and science in the new paradigm. In devising my own contemporary theory of astrology I intuitively saw that it was necessary to conceive that the astrological archetypes derived from nature. The basic premise is that temporal qualitative variations are archetypal in origin, and emerge in natural systems as the archetypes are generated via the time cycles of the solar system. The theory accounts for only the most basic structural features of astrology as it is generally known - signs, houses, aspects - explaining that the archetypal qualities are actualised at the 12 equal phases of these cycles.]
Capra seems to have found Schumacher's view of modern physics somewhat too negative, and responded with reference to its "recognition of patterns". The new physics "implies a shift from isolated building blocks, or structures, to patterns of relationships." Capra speculated that "this notion of a pattern of relationships seems closer, somehow, to the idea of quality. And I feel that a science concerned primarily with networks of interdependent dynamic patterns will be closer to what you call 'science for understanding'." [p.228] Schumacher pondered this awhile then with a smile said that there had been a physicist in his family who he used to have "many discussions of this kind" with. Heisenberg had been married to his sister!
It became evident that Schumacher had specific objections to physics. "Physics cannot have any philosophical impact because it cannot entertain the qualitative notion of higher and lower levels of being." He even saw implications for morality... "With Einstein's statement that everything is relative the vertical dimension disappeared from science and with it the need for any absolute standards of good and evil." Schumacher explained his personal philosophy: "a fundamental hierarchical order" of 4 levels - mineral, plant, animal, human - with 4 corresponding characteristic elements - matter, life, consciousness, self-awareness; each higher level containing those lower. Capra describes this traditional holistic philosophy as the "ancient idea of the Great Chain of Being". Schumacher said the vertical levels are "ontological discontinuities". "This is why physics cannot have any philosophical impact. It cannot deal with the whole; it deals only with the lowest level." [p.229] Ken Wilber also makes this point in his book Eye to Eye: the Quest for the New Paradigm (1983, revised 1990).
Capra's reply reflected his embrace of systems theory, in which the levels of the holarchy of nature derive from ecosystem interfaces. This transcends physics considerably, of course, but he put himself on safer ground by observing that "following my mentors Heisenberg and Chew, the way in which we divide reality into objects, levels, or any other entities depends largely on our methods of observation. What we see depends on how we look; patterns of matter reflect the patterns of our mind." [p.229]
These are metaphysical statements, of course, and a weakness of Capra's otherwise masterly presentation of the new paradigm is perhaps due to his insufficient recognition of the role of metaphysics. Interpretations of scientific findings tend to be subjective, being determined by human nature in general and aesthetic preferences in particular. When expressed as general principles these tend to become metaphysics. Scientists who prefer tangibles and avoid philosophy tend to dismiss such reasoning as unfounded speculation. Scientists drawn to wisdom tend to favour metaphysical insights and the inspirational extrapolations that can be induced by scientific discoveries.
Judging the merit of scientific philosophy therefore tends to be a matter of personal taste. Scientists who are adventurous by nature will be keen to transcend old boundaries of belief. Those conservative by nature will defend the old paradigm with dogmatic assertions of the conventional description of reality. The general public tends to be led by whatever progressive trends inspire them, even when these are but intriguing possibilities. The reliable knowledge of science tends to be boring by contrast. Astrology recaptured the fancy of the public because it fulfilled a psychic need that science failed to satisfy, but there remains the question of whether the benefits of astrology to the public are real and substantial - or illusory. For those of us working to define the place of astrology in the new paradigm, this issue poses an ethical choice. Either we strive to make those benefits real, or not. I believe the ethical stance is to help people to see the reality of astrology, and show them how they can use it to help themselves. That's the approach I instinctively felt was required when I first practised it professionally 20 years ago, so I undertook it and applied it right from the start. I have not found it easy, since few people in our society are ready, willing and able to pursue a path of evolutionary development, but at least I made the option available to them. People will choose on the basis of what seems feasible to them. They desire astrology, due to the mystique, but only use what they are able to.
Metaphysical principles are what is required to formulate a new theory or paradigm, but these will attract support only if they resonate in the minds of people who access them. As memes, they will spread, but - as always - only on fertile ground. The best we can do as theorists is to formulate them in user-friendly language once we have selected them. Selecting them is always going to be more effective if done on a multi-disciplinary basis. This means starting by identifying general principles that have been recognised in more than one field of knowledge, preferably several.
Capra's first book was very influential, and it is rare for a work of contemporary philosophy to be such a publishing success. His second, "The Turning Point" was a more comprehensive and in-depth review of the new paradigm. Publication occurred in early '82, and Capra received his advance copy just before flying to New Delhi to give a speech at the centre for visiting scholars. He didn't know it, but he was to give that copy personally to the prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, a few days later. He had not been notified of the possibility of meeting her, but on arrival "I was told that she might be able to receive me briefly on the day after my lecture. When my hosts noticed my great surprise they told me that Mrs Gandhi was familiar with my work and, in fact, had repeatedly used quotations from The Tao of Physics in her speeches." The meeting took place, and Capra's account of it includes these words from her... "I believe that life is one and that the world is one. As you know, in Indian philosophy we are always told that we are part of everything and everything is part of us. So the world's problems, necessarily, are all interlinked." [p.336]
Such a tradition of holism stands in contrast to the traditional world-view of the west, in which things are separate unless linked by causal relations (in a bipolar manner). Recognising that the traditional holism of eastern ethnicities and contemporary scientific holism a la Capra, Smuts, Koestler, Sheldrake etc, both contain the key concepts 'oneness' and 'interconnections' is the first step necessary to developing a theory of holism. The main problem with holism as a philosophy is that the features of the world that it abstracts to form the basis of theory-building may seem static. It is therefore necessary to specifically include the concept of flow amongst the fundamentals of the theory. Bohm, for instance, achieved this by means of his concept the 'holomovement', by which term he described the universal flux that manifests natural forms out of the realm of potential. The holarchy of natural systems looks like a hierarchy to those old-fashioned enough to be guided in their judgements solely by authority and power, but it looks static to those who see time and development as being as fundamental as the interrelations between parts and wholes. So it seems to me that a process philosophy that fully includes holism is the necessary approach to formulating contemporary astrological theory.
Capra also found holism inadequate. He had made an "intuitive choice of the term 'ecological' to characterize the emerging new paradigm. Moreover, I began to see important differences between 'ecological' and 'holistic', the other term that is often used in connection with the new paradigm. A holistic perception means simply that the object or phenomenon under consideration is perceived as an integrated whole, a total gestalt, rather than being reduced to the mere sum of its parts.. A holistic approach does not need to go beyond the system under consideration, but it is crucial to an ecological approach to understand how that particular system is embedded in larger systems." [p.260/1]
This seems a valid point, but 20 years down the road it also seems flawed. I suspect his critique was appropriate to the limited comprehension of holism at the time, but now a credible philosophy of holism must take account of context. The subject of analysis, or the object of study, does not reveal its entire meaning unless we include its relation to its environmental context. This environment may be an ecosystem at first glance, or a societal or cultural matrix, but a closer examination will reveal that it is a part of a nested holarchy of enclosing systems. The total environment is really the cosmos. From the perspective of the new paradigm, the cosmos provides both temporal and spatial contexts. The meaning of an event, and the description of a natural system, are relative to this environmental (spatio-temporal) context. Such relativity of meaning is part of the foundational metaphysics of the new paradigm.
What I tried to do in my book (The Astrologer and the Paradigm Shift, 1992) was to show how show a contemporary astrological theory could be developed upon a metaphysical foundation of which a theory of holism was the primary component. It was thus an extension of Dane Rudhyar's pioneering work, incorporating an up-to-date multidisciplinary perspective of the new paradigm of science. I endeavoured to transcend the philosophical approach, observing its vulnerability to the criticism that it was too vague, by identifying a range of fundamental features that separated the new paradigm from the old. Some of these are concepts, some metaphysical principles. Some of the latter have qualitative import and some have operational import. This essay has followed the same analytical strategy.
Possibly the most important functional principle in the foundational metaphysics of the new paradigm is the holistic relation between part and whole. It is this operative factor that enables holism, as a philosophy, to permanently escape disposal into what Trotsky called 'the rubbish bin of history'. In the writings of scientic philosophy holism is often dismissed as nebulous, or of limited utility. We have all seen it over-promoted in new-age literature as a panacea for all attitudinal ills, and I recall one physicist-author referring to it as 'like a warm bath of mindless gravy'. The advisable antidote to such philosophical blather and mental diffusion is to focus on the coordinating role that wholes play in their relation to parts. It is, after all, what makes the world go round. Whether it be the gravitational coordination of the solar system, the ecological coordination of the ecosystem, or the biological coordination of your body, or the psychological coordination of your mind, the interplay between part and whole determines their mutual developmental trajectory.
So when we find Capra referring to "Schumacher's belief in a fundamental hierarchical order, the 'vertical dimension', as he called it" [p.235], we see that a metaphysical principle, the key operational feature of holism, is here recognised. The natural holarchy, the 'great chain of being', was traditionally seen as hierarchical, mainly made evident by 'vertical' power relations. The underdog lies on its back, subordinate to the dominator. The sun swings the planets round their orbits. The ruler rules; the chief commands his tribe, the government controls the populace and regulates social functioning. Holistic theory specifies an abstract principle common to all these instances of its manifestation. The whole system, as an active agency, endeavours to determine its development. It applies functional control sub-systems to properly coordinate its component parts. These parts are, in many cases, relatively autonomous systems themselves, endeavouring to pursue a developmental trajectory. The interplay between part & whole is symbiotic (in principle, and in many cases in nature it is so in practice). The bipolar relation between part & whole has a determining influence in both directions, but the subordinate agency tends to be governed by the higher authority. When more than two levels of the holarchy are viewed in relation, we get a part that is ecosystem to smaller parts or sub-systems within it. Koestler described this dual holistic relation as the 'Janus-faces' of the part/whole. Seen from above, it is the sub-system, ruled by the enclosing system of which it is a part; but seen from below it is the whole, and the ruler of its own parts.
This 'vertical dimension' of Schumachers is therefore better seen, in holistic theory, as the active informational link by which wholes coordinate their parts. A mechanist would conceive it as the 'command and control' relation between part and whole, between system and sub-system. Systemic functioning exhibits such behaviour, but this latter view, recognising only the descending directing influence of the whole, ignores the feedback of both information and influence that ascends from the part. The holistic relation between part and whole is therefore evident in a structural sense as the 'vertical dimension' of the holarchy, traditionally deemed hierarchy. In static views, such as scientific schematic diagrams, groupings of natural systems are shown in mutual relation organized by class membership in the vertical direction. Thus does the old concept of the 'great chain of being' get translated into modern representation. Interestingly, astrology has its equivalent representation. The horoscope represents the holistic relation between event and local cosmos. From a temporal perspective, the event is the part, the continuum of all such events is the whole. From a spatial perspective, the place is the part, the cosmos is the whole. From an organic perspective, the entity born then & there is the part, the environment is the whole. The 'vertical dimension' is, of course, the meridian. This directional alignment to the polar axis functions as the conduit for the directing/directional influence of the whole system of which we are a part. The whole system is represented in the horoscope by the sun, moon & planets and signs of the zodiac - the solar system and its orbital intersection with the galaxy. Earth is represented by the horizon.
"Throughout the history of western science and philosophy, there has always been the belief that any body of knowledge had to be based on firm foundations. Accordingly, scientists and philosophers throughout the ages have used architectural metaphors to describe knowledge. Physicists have looked for the 'basic building blocks' of matter and expressed their theories in terms of 'basic' principles, 'fundamental' equations, and 'fundamental' constants. Whenever major scientific revolutions occurred it was felt that the foundations of science were moving. Thus Descartes wrote in his celebrated Discourse on Method: "In so far as [the sciences] borrow their principles from philosophy, I considered that nothing solid could be built on such shifting foundations." Three hundred years later, Heisenberg wrote in his Physics and Philosophy that the foundations of classical physics, that is, of the very edifice that Descartes had built, were shifting: "The violent reaction to the recent development of modern physics can only be understood when one realizes that here the foundations of physics have started moving; and that this motion has caused the feeling that the ground would be cut from under science." Einstein, in his autobiography, described his feelings in terms very similar to Heisenberg's: "It was as if the ground had been pulled out from under one, with no firm foundation to be seen anywhere, upon which one could have built." It appears that the science of the future will no longer need any firm foundations, that the metaphor of the building will be replaced by that of the web, or network, in which no part is more fundamental than any other part. Chew's bootstrap theory is the first scientific theory in which such a 'web philosophy' has been formulated explicitly, and he agreed in a recent conversation that abandoning the need for firm foundations may be the major shift and deepest change in natural science".[p.67/8]
Heisenberg had told Capra of his stay in India in 1929, when "he had long conversations about science and Indian philosophy.. He began to see that the recognition of relativity, interconnectedness, and impermanence as fundamental aspects of physical reality, which had been so hard for himself and his fellow physicists, was the very basis of the Indian spiritual traditions." [p.43] Discerning this implied equivalence (whether it be similar or same) is an intuitive mental process that results in subjective insight. Rendering the insight into language form is a philosophic endeavour, and 40 years later Capra's own similar insight would take years to produce the distilled writing I have been examining. Such philosophy is not science, and tends to lose currency. However I believe that timeless value can be derived from such writing by means of the identification of metaphysical principles within it. For instance, in the above quote the three "fundamental aspects of physical reality" are key concepts. I suggest the most productive way forward for those of us interested in developing the new paradigm is to identify and collate such fundamental germinal concepts and principles. These principles will constitute the metaphysical bedrock upon which the philosophy and theories of the new paradigm will be erected. Relativity is a term that can be condensed no further - it is already a metaphysical principle. Interconnectedness is perhaps also, though it could be better expressed as interrelatedness - it implies fundamental union with the cosmos, holistic relations generally, belonging, coevolution, network, web. Impermanence is obviously change, though better expressed as a metaphysical principle by 'flux' or 'flow' - the perception of transitory phenomena thereby giving way to a perception of directional development.
Capra says he read Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" in September '68 on his flight from Europe to California to take up a teaching & research position. He was somewhat "disappointed by this much-talked-about book when I discovered that its principle ideas were already familiar to me from my repeated readings of Heisenberg. However, Kuhn's book did introduce me to the notion of the scientific paradigm, which would become central to my work many years later. The term 'paradigm', from the Greek paradeigma ('pattern'), was used by Kuhn to denote a conceptual framework shared by a community of scientists and providing them with model problems and solutions. Over the next 20 years it would become very popular to speak of paradigms and paradigm shifts outside of science as well, and in The Turning Point I would use these terms in a very broad sense. A paradigm, for me would mean the totality of thoughts, perceptions, and values that forms a particular vision of reality, a vision that is the basis of the way a society organizes itself." [p.20]
Capra tells us of a vigorous intellectual attack launched upon him (as a scientist) in 1980 by his friend of two years, R.D. Laing, in front of a group at the conference "Psychotherapy for the Future" near Saragossa, in Spain. "The main point of Laing's attack was that science, as it is practised today, has no way of dealing with consciousness, or with experience, values, ethics, or anything referring to quality." According to Laing, this situation "derives from something that happened in European consciousness at the time of Galileo and Giordano Bruno. These two men epitomize two paradigms.. Galileo made the statement that only quantifiable phenomena were admitted to the domain of science. Galileo said "whatever cannot be measured and quantified is not scientific"; and in post-Galilean science this came to mean: "What cannot be quantified is not real." This has been the most profound corruption from the Greek view of nature as physis, which is alive, always in transformation, and not divorced from us. Galileo's program offers us a dead world.. Experience as such is cast out of the realm of scientific discourse." [p.139]
To be more precise, the only facet of experience admitted to science was the act and result of observation of 'scientific' data, experimental findings. These were usually interpreted to provide meaning, but the subjective determination of the interpretation process remained unrecognised by most scientists until recent times. Capra's response was that "the first step had to be the shift from the mechanistic and fragmented approach of classical science to a holistic paradigm, in which the main emphasis was no longer on separate entities but on relationships. This would make it possible to introduce context and meaning." [p.140]
Readers may still retain the old-fashioned belief that science has authority as a belief system because it defines the nature of reality. Capra gives us his view on this: "scientists do not deal with truth; they deal with limited and approximate descriptions of reality." [p.69] As numerous other author scientists have made the same assertion in print, we can confidently assume that it represents the postmodern status quo. This makes science no more authoritative than metaphysics, when it comes to the formulation of a set of general principles that explain how the world works. Brittannica gives this definition of metaphysics: "the philosophical study whose object is to determine the real nature of things—to determine the meaning, structure, and principles of whatever is insofar as it is. Although this study is popularly conceived as referring to anything excessively subtle and highly theoretical and although it has been subjected to many criticisms, it is presented by metaphysicians as the most fundamental and most comprehensive of inquiries, inasmuch as it is concerned with reality as a whole."
The new paradigm is currently a different way of understanding reality, shared by progressive thinkers, that is explained by a bundle of philosophic approaches to life. We have seen that holism occupies a central position, with systems theory being a more specific extrapolation. Elsewhere, notably by Ken Wilber, it is referred to as the holographic paradigm. The design and modus operandi of the hologram indeed signal a central principle of relevance. I have suggested process philosophy is also an essential extension. Natural systems develop and transform according to innate informational programs. "When Bateson looked at the living world, he saw its principles of organization as being essentially mental, with mind being immanent in matter at all levels of life. He thus arrived at a unique synthesis of notions of mind with notions of matter; a synthesis that was, as he liked to point out, neither mechanical nor supernatural." [p.88] The point being made here is that natural systems are formed by informational patterns. Dane Rudhyar's emphasis on form was, I suspect, his philosophical attempt to make the same point. Systems in nature take the typical form they do due to inherent organizational patterns, and these inform the component parts. The part/whole relation mentioned earlier functions as a conduit for the directing information from the whole, which consists of instructions to the part on how to organise itself.
The development of Capra's philosophy trends, like that of Rudhyar, toward spiritual conclusions. In his debate with Laing, Capra "began with the view of living organisms as self-organizing systems.. and emphasized especially the view of biological forms as manifestations of underlying processes. I then wove in Bateson's concept of mind as the dynamics of self-organization and related it to Jung's notion of the collective unconscious. Finally, having prepared the ground, I.. specified that what I meant by 'consciousness' was the property of mind characterized by self-awareness." Awareness "is a property of mind at all levels of complexity." [p.142] This awareness is the capacity, and activity, of informational interaction with the environment. A natural system co-evolves with its environment, exchanging both energy and information in the process. Only humans, and possibly some highly-evolved animals, have the capacity to be self-aware (conscious). Biological structures "are manifestations of underlying processes". Self-organization "we have identified as mental processes. In this sense biological structures are manifestations of mind. Now, if we extend this way of thinking to the universe as a whole, it is not too far-fetched to assume that all its structures - from subatomic particles to galaxies and from bacteria to human beings - are manifestations of the universal dynamics of self-organization, which means of the cosmic mind. And this, more or less, is the mystical view." [p.143]
The psychiatrist Stanislav Grof gave Capra this account (at the 1980 Saragossa conference) of his work... "Many years ago I went through thousands of records of LSD sessions to study specifically those statements that addressed themselves to fundamental cosmological and ontological questions.. While studying these records, I was surprised to find that the seemingly disconnected experiences of these LSD subjects could be interated and organized into a comprehensive metaphysical system, a system that I have called 'psychedelic cosmology and ontology'. The framework of this system is radically different from the ordinary framework of our lives. It is based on the concept of a Universal Mind, or Cosmic Consciousness, which is the creative force behind the cosmic design. All the phenomena we experience are understood as experiments in consciousness performed by the Universal Mind in an infinitely ingenious creative play. The problems and baffling paradoxes associated with human existence are seen as intricately contrived deceptions invented by the Universal Mind and built into the cosmic game; and the ultimate meaning of human existence is to experience fully all the states of mind associated with this fascinating adventure in consciousness; to be an intelligent actor and playmate in the cosmic game. In this framework, consciousness is not something that can be derived from or explained in terms of something else. It is a primal fact of existence out of which everything else arises. This, very briefly, would be my credo." [p.150]
"One of the most frequent metaphors that you find in psychedelic reports is that of the circulation of water in nature. The universal consciousness is likened to the ocean - a fluid, undifferentiated mass - and the first stage of creation to the formation of waves. a wave can be viewed as an individual entity, yet it is obvious that the wave is the ocean and the ocean is the wave. There is no ultimate separation. The next stage of creation would be the wave breaking upon the rocks and spraying droplets of water into the air, which will exist as individual entities for a short time before they are swallowed again by the ocean. So, there you have the fleeting moments of separate existence. The next state in this metaphoric thinking would be a wave that hits the rocky shore and withdraws again but leaves a small pool of tidal water." When it evaporates to form clouds "the original unity is obscured and concealed by an actual transformation.. yet the water in the cloud will eventually reunite with the ocean in the form of rain." When water solidifies into ice or "a snowflake that has crystallized from the water in the cloud.. Here you have a highly structured, highly individual, separate entity which bears, seemingly, no resemblance to its source." [p.111/2] Yet ultimately it too returns to source.
Capra comments that "Ecological awareness, at the deepest level, is the intuitive awareness of the oneness of all life, the interdependence of its multiple manifestations and its cycles of change and transformation." He suggests that spirituality "could be defined as the mode of consciousness in which we feel connected to the cosmos as a whole. This makes it evident that ecological awareness is spiritual in its deepest essence. And it is the no surprise that the new vision of reality emerging from modern physics, which is a holistic and ecological vision, is in harmony with the visions of spiritual traditions." [p.113]
The health implications of the paradigm shift canvassed by Capra are not merely medical, they extend to mental health and spiritual health. In 1977 at Esalen, Grof told Capra about a lecture he had given at Harvard in the late '60s. He had "described how patients in a psychiatric hospital in Prague had made tremendous improvements after going through LSD therapy, and how some of them had radically changed their world-views as a result of the therapy, becoming seriously interested in yoga, meditation, and the realm of myth and archetypal images. During the discussion a Harvard psychiatrist remarked: 'It seems to me that you helped these patients with their neurotic problems, but you made them psychotic.' " Grof commented on this view from the old paradigm. "The criteria used to define mental health - sense of identity, recognition of time and space, perception of the environment, and so on - require that a person's perceptions and views conform to the Cartesian-Newtonian framework. The Cartesian world-view is not merely the principal frame of reference; it is regarded as the only valid description of reality. Anything else is considered to be psychotic by conventional psychiatrists." [p.126]
Those caught up in the intellectual, emotional, or spiritual conflict that tends to be generated by a paradigm shift are caught between the belief system of the past and that of the future. How they reconcile the polarity in their mind is often a most challenging question. I have found pragmatism useful in this respect - acceptance that the duality can be conceived as a choice between optional models, so that one can refer to either according to the suitability of whoever one is communicating with. The internal stance required is thus rejection of dichotomy in favour of complementarity. "His observations of transpersonal experiences had shown him, Grof continued, that human consciousness seems to be capable of two complementary modes of awareness. In the Cartesian-Newtonian mode, we perceive everyday reality in terms of separate objects, three-dimensional space, and linear time. In the transpersonal mode, the usual limitations of sensory perception and of logical reasoning are transcended and our perception shifts from solid objects to fluid energy patterns. Grof emphasized that he used the term 'complementary' to describe the two modes of consciousness on purpose, because the corresponding modes of perception may be called 'particle-like' and 'wave-like' in analogy to quantum physics." [p.126]
Complementarity is a key metaphysical concept in the new paradigm - it indicates the psychological state (or attitude) that is required in order to transcend duality. It still recognises the two polar opposites of meaning, but it subordinates them within an enclosing holistic context, in which either may have relative validity or significance. Relativity, as mentioned earlier, is another key metaphysical concept in the new paradigm. It relates a subject to a context, making us aware that meaning is relative to some known frame of reference. In everyday life, we invest new meaning in some freshly-encountered situation by reference to what we already know, thus contextualising it. New discoveries, insights, theories and models will accordingly acquire significance in relation to the paradigm that is being used, which is the operational mental context.
These concepts, then provide two essential psychological stances to the adept who navigates his/her way through the subject matter of the new paradigm. A more concentrated focus on the key features of the new paradigm may reveal others, and this is achievable by reviewing the quotes in this essay and compiling the main metaphysical principles identified by Capra and the opinion-leaders of the avante-garde of science that he discussed these issues with. I have performed such a selection and the compilation appears below (original wording largely retained). My intent, in doing this, is to illustrate my methodology in distilling the key principles, which appear at the end of each list in dual summary form. The alert reader may notice significant omissions. The holographic principle, for instance, although promoted intensively by other explorers of the new paradigm, receives scant attention from Capra. Nonetheless, his approach was more comprehensive than most, and I expect most will be included.
Key concepts & principles:
- intuitive awareness of the oneness of all life
- life is one and that the world is one
- [the world is] an indivisible whole; a network of relationships that included the human observer in an essential way
- unity and interrelatedness of the universe
- a web of relations between the various parts of a unified whole
- the fundamental interrelatedness and interdependence of all phenomena
- the fundamental oneness of all phenomena
- the analogy of a hologram in which each part in some sense contains the whole
- we are part of everything and everything is part of us. So the world's problems, necessarily, are all interlinked
- a) (experiential) We are an operational part of the universe, connected to it and the other parts at a fundamental level (which realisation may induce a mystical sense of oneness with the world).
- b) (intellectual) A natural system consists of component parts interconnected in a web of relations.
- the holomovement is a dynamic phenomenon out of which all forms of the material universe flow
- the constant flow of transformation and change
- the intrinsically dynamic nature of reality
- a dynamic web of interrelated events
- the principle of flow ... in the Chinese view, is always cyclical
- Those who follow the natural order flow in the current of the Tao.
- in the Chinese view of life, fluctuation is also seen as the basic dynamic phenomenon
- the healthy organism is seen as being in a state of homeostasis, or dynamic balance
- a) (experiential) We flow through changes and transformations, yet while being subject to cyclical environmental fluctuations, we tend to maintain a dynamic balance.
- b) (intellectual) Natural systems emerge from the holomovement, and evolve in cyclic homeostatic fluctuation as a dynamic web of interrelated events.
3. Patterns, processes, systemic relations
- our interaction and communication with our environment consist of complex rhythmic patterns, flowing in and out of one another in various ways...
- [illness is] lack of synchrony and integration patterns of relationships ... this notion of a pattern of relationships seems closer, somehow, to the idea of quality
- patterns of experience that cannot be quantified
- patterns of matter reflect the patterns of our mind
- synchronic patterning rather than causal relation
- ch'i transmits patterns
- ch'i is ... the structured pattern of relationships, which are defined in a directional way
- relationship should be the basis of all definition; biological form is put together of relations
- ch'i implies directionality, movement in a particular direction
- direction is the key aspect of quality
- patterns behind patterns, processes beneath structures
- the embeddedness of individual and societies in the cyclical processes of nature
- the concept of ch'i is used by the Chinese to describe the total pattern of the multiple processes of fluctuation
- mental process - being immanent in matter at all levels of life
- mind and self-organization [are] merely different aspects of one and the same phenomenon
- a) (experiential) We interact with our (natural & social) environment in a flux of rhythmic relational patterns, and when healthy integrate with the flow in synchrony with various environmental cyclic processes. These patterns and processes structure our experience via qualitative features, and the directional components provide us with a development trajectory.
- b) (intellectual) Natural systems coordinate their parts in synchrony with their environment, so they develop in processes informed by spatio-temporal patterns. In life at all levels, systemic activity processes information (from without and within); structures are built by informational processes, and these processes are informed by synchronic relational patterns that connect and coordinate them.
4. Development & evolution
- all energy is a measure of activity [but] What is it that is active?
- the organizing activity of a living system is mental activity and all of its interactions with its environment are mental interactions
- self-organizing systems exhibit a certain degree of autonomy
- living, self-organizing systems not only have the tendency to maintain themselves in their state of dynamic balance but also show the opposite, yet complementary, tendency to transcend themselves, to reach out creatively beyond their boundaries and generate new structures and new forms of organization
- a fundamental hierarchical order" of 4 levels - mineral, plant, animal, human - with 4 corresponding characteristic elements - matter, life, consciousness, self-awareness; each higher level containing those lower
- a fundamental hierarchical order, the 'vertical dimension'
- a) (experiential) We develop by exchanging energy and information with our environment, and evolve as individuals by creatively exercising our free-will to embark upon processes of transformation. We see hierarchy as the consequence of the power differential between the various control systems in nature and society, and seek to preserve and enhance our autonomy relative to this context.
- b) (intellectual) Systems in nature are relatively autonomous active processors of information; they exchange energy and information with their envirionment and use both to maintain their forms in dynamic balance while developing creatively. They have the inherent capacity to evolve and transform themselves into a more complex state. Nature's holarchy consists of levels of complexity of systemic organisation, with the emergence of new qualities at higher levels. The autonomy of any system is relative to the coordinating influence of any enclosing system of which it is a part.
We see here the metaphysical foundations of the new paradigm of science in a reasonably concise form. It is for the reader to intuit how fossil astrology can be reformulated in consistency with this contemporary conceptual picture. I have (elsewhere) explained to my own satisfaction how this may be achieved, but the like-mindedness that constellates a paradigm can only come from many seeing things the same way. Astrologers cannot make progress as mere observers of the paradigm shift, they must become contributors.
All rights reserved © 2002 Dennis Frank