From Pisces to Aquarius: The New Paradigm

Before the 2012 SnowStar Conference fades into the background I would like to push forward some of Roy Hoover’s comments regarding the changing paradigm. As I recall – apologies for any inaccuracies – he spoke of the need for integrating the insights of Galileo and Darwin in order to make the paradigm shift from the age of superstition to the age of reason. History as a search for what actually happened and science now form the road to truth.

I heartily agree, as I believe would all members of SnowStar. The challenge, as I see it, is moving on to incorporate the insights of the twentieth century in order to enter the new paradigm.

To stop with Darwin, and the transformation in thinking that had taken place since the fifteenth century, leaves us with a 19th century paradigm. This is essentially a Newtonian paradigm of a clockwork universe, the scientific method, reason, and a down-playing of the mystic and mythic.

This was a paradigm four centuries in the making and is a major and necessary step forward in human evolution. Science and technology have given us the wonders and creature comforts of our modern age, at least for the developed world, and has transformed us into a “global village.”

Unfortunately, it has a down side. As we look at our word today, we are on the brink of disaster. Our objective scientific method has cut us off from our historical and spiritual roots and often from one another. Busyness, loneliness and depression are symptoms of a society with no grand purpose beyond a materialistic acquisitiveness.  We lay waste the world and spend massive quantities of our creativity and money on learning how to more efficiently kill one another. Unfortunately this is the paradigm that dominates the western world and infects the whole world. Perhaps Nietzsche made the most succinct comment; “God is dead. And we have killed him. But I have come too early.”

However, we are not left bereft. The inner movement of history carries us forward in spite of ourselves.  Well over a hundred years have passed since Nietzsche’s comments. It is no longer too early and we must now move into a new paradigm, a new story, a new age. Having moved from a supernatural paradigm to a rational paradigm, we must now move to a wholistic paradigm.

I make some assumptions. First, the shadow behind the flame of modern life – to use Salim Mansur’s vivid image in another context – is that we are on the road to self-destruction. Second; there will be no divine intervention to save us. Third, science and technology can either delay or bring on the inevitable, but will not save us. Fourth, we are the authors of our situation. Fifth, the solution resides within us. Sixth, the only possibility of continuing the natural flow of human life on earth is to grow “in wisdom and stature and in favour with the Universe and humanity.”

In other words, we must make a leap in consciousness, maturity, and all those qualities and values that make us truly human, or we are toast. To grow in consciousness we must broaden and deepen our awareness. We must go outward and inward. And it is happening in many, many ways within us, among us and all over the world. The Armageddon question is, will it reach critical mass before we do ourselves in?

My contribution is to think other people’s thoughts after them and connect the dots in order to present a big picture. I offer here the barest of bare bones outlines of the emerging paradigm.

Every new age grows out of what has gone before it. The seeds of the New Story are growing out of the dying Newtonian/rational paradigm and were planted in the twentieth century. I look to two towering minds who came to maturity in the twentieth century and who stand as symbols of the grand transformation that is underway. Entering the new paradigm is aided by integrating their, and their followers, insights.

Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955), with his many followers, has given us a new vision of the universe. We have been introduced to the quantum universe and now see its grand magnificence in both its vastness and its minuteness; the big world and the small world. We now have The Universe Story, an awareness that we have evolved from and belong to a Universe that has been evolving for 13.7 billion years. (Thomas Berry, The Universe Story.)

Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) explored the inner world of the psyche. Sigmund Freud opened the door to the unconscious and Jung entered it. We now know that the reality and complexity of the inner world matches that of the outer world. Jung traces and explores the evolution of human consciousness and gives us The New Story of the pathway to wholeness, which he called individuation.

To begin with Einstein and the quantum world. Great strides are being made in our awareness of the earth and universe. The reality that we are destroying the earth is entering our consciousness and the outcry is, we believe, beginning to penetrate the powers that be. And with space travel, the Hubble telescope, the Hadron Collider, and such things, the universe is becoming more real to us. (Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel R. Primack, The New Universe and the Human Future.)

This means we are relearning the oldest story of humanity. The first act of human consciousness was very likely to look up into the starry sky and say, “Wow, what’s that all about?” And awe was born. To view the universe through our modern telescopes is to marvel anew at its wonder and beauty and so relearn awe. Such awareness can deepen our awe at the birth of a child or the beauty of a flower. The rational paradigm pushed awe into the background. Now it is re-emerging. (Everything is Holy Now: song by Peter Mayer. Holy of Holies: song by Emily Kierstead.)

And there are many other learnings. The second response of human consciousness was probably fear. “Is there a mysterious power out to get me?” With the demise of the supernatural we can lay aside our fear but have a conscious awareness that we are one with the universe. “You are a child of the Universe,” said the Desiderata.  This is the great uniting story. Whatever our race, colour, religion, sexual orientation or anything else, we are all Children, or Adults, of the Universe.

This means that the age of religions is over. No longer can any religion claim to be a self-contained and complete expression of the truth. Religions reflect one stage in human evolution which we can now draw upon as reservoirs of wisdom.

A new sense of responsibility is awakened. The earth and the universe is not there for our benefit. Everything is an organic whole and we must take responsibility as part of that whole.

An earmark of the new paradigm is relationship. Whereas the rational paradigm studied and analysed the parts, we now must see how everything is related to everything else. Nothing happens in isolation. Knowing about the parts is necessary and important but if it is all going to work we must connect the dots and view the whole.

We may not understand Einstein’s theory of relativity but the awareness that everything is relativity has penetrated our consciousness. We now know that everything is not solid, sure and unchanging, but is evolving and changing and relative to everything else. And behind it all is Mystery. Everything, pushed to its limit, ends in mystery. In relation to reality, we are ultimately all agnostics. The best we can do is explore our best contemporary understanding.

This all adds up to the most needed lesson of all, which is humility. The rational paradigm produced a massive arrogance. Man, in all his patriarchal glory, was the centre of all things. The earth was for our use and abuse; a thing there for our benefit. As someone has said, humility is knowing who you are, but knowing you are not God. It is a hard lesson which is only beginning to dawn on us.

Now to the other great twentieth-century mind, Carl Jung. We are beginning to catch on to the Einsteinian/quantum reality, but only here and there do we catch a glimmer of Jung. We can be more or less objective to the outer world. When we turn to the inner world we are looking at our own souls, and that seems harder for us to face.

Perhaps a couple of quick side trips can help us approach Jung.

I turn to the mythologist, Joseph Campbell (1904 – 1987). The rational paradigm shunned myth but Campbell awakened us to the reality that we all live within myths. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and much of his other writing, he makes clear that every life is a hero’s journey. We are all living out a personal story, myth or personal paradigm. The Transactional Analysis people talk about the Scripts People Live, (Claude Steiner), which describes the myths we seek to play out in our lives.

We have learned that the myth is the meaning giving story. Marshall McLuhan reminded us that “the medium is the message.” In this case, the myth is the message. History is not just what actually happened but how it was understood and the stories/myths that grew up around it; Jesus’ life being a good example. When Jung talks about individuation, the process of coming to wholeness, he is referring to the hero’s journey which we all undertake.

On a cosmic scale, Campbell, in The Masks of God, made it clear that the countless images of divinity, which evolved from the mythologies of the earth, are all masks. What the Ultimate is in itself is always a Mystery. Yahweh is the image, or mask, of the God of the First Testament. Campbell helps us understand that a mask of God is our human response to an intuitive awareness of what Bonhoeffer called “the beyond in our midst.”

This may help us understand Jung when we talks of the Psyche or the collective unconscious as the place where we encounter the numinous energies, the archetypes, the myths that form us and that we, in turn, help to form.

Next I turn to Jean Houston (1937 – ) who has extensively analysed humans experience as the gateway to our understanding of the whole of reality. Back in the nineteen sixties, when Timothy Leary was extolling the virtues of LSD, Jean Houston was asked by the US government to research the effects of the drug. In analysing the various visions resulting from LSD trips she found that such visions could be categorized under three main headings.

As she put it, after also studying the various spiritual traditions of the world, “In the cartography of human experience, sacred traditions have tended to map three major realms of experience. Doubtless there are many more realms, with levels upon levels inside each, but three stand out as significant: the realm of the historical and factual, the realm of the mythic and symbolic, and the realm of the unitive or source level of being . . . .  The human challenge is to become full participants in and co-creators of the historical, the mythic, and the unitive realms.” (The Search for the Beloved, p. 23).

If you like alliteration the realms can be named, the Material/Mortal, the Mythic, and the Mystic. As mortals it is within all three that we “live and move and have our being.”  As Herbert Marcuse reminded us, the Newtonian paradigm tended to turn us into One Dimensional Man. The new paradigm recognizes that we are much more complex creatures drawing our being from all dimensions of reality.

The Source realm resides in Mystery. We have traditionally named this realm “God.” As someone has said, when we say, “In the beginning God created” we are admitting we don’t have a clue, but we and the universe are here. The scientist is in the same boat. We know that everything that exists is some form of energy, but what energy is in itself resides in Mystery. The scientist has no answer to why there is something rather than nothing. Energy, however, seems not to be a neutral force. It always pushes toward complexity, life, consciousness. So the Source can also be named Eros, the urge toward life and wholeness that exists within us and within everything.

The Mythic realm is the wondrous home of thought, imagination, intuition, dreams, fantasies and all the energies that swirl around us and through us. It is what Jung called the Psyche. It is the home of heroes and heroines, gods and goddesses and all the myths that humanity has evolved. A Jungian term that has entered the language is “archetype.” Archetypes are energy centres that have been traditionally called gods and goddesses. They influence us and our lives, in turn, enlarges their content.

Jung makes clear that the Psyche is an objective reality as well as a subjective reality. On the one hand it is eternal and universal, on the other it is unique and time limited. In other words, the eternal and universal thrust toward life, wholeness, consciousness finds a particular expression, a calling or purpose, in each one of us. This means that the Psyche is in some sense alive and active with the will and intention to grow and become whole. The Psyche takes on many of the attributes which we traditionally ascribed to God.

That the Psyche itself is in the process of becoming conscious or whole is one of Jung’s major insights, and very difficult for the Western mind, immersed in the Newtonian paradigm, to grasp. Since in our experience, according to Jung, we cannot distinguish between the Psyche and God, it means that God is in the process of becoming fully conscious. This Jung spells out in Answer to Job – probably the greatest theological work of the twentieth century.

We mortals are “of the earth, earthy.” Our primary, or initial, home is within this material/mortal/historical universe. We are all unique and time limited. We are mortal. Yet we participate in the eternal. Each one of us, if we at least in some measure fulfill the possibilities within us, follow our calling and offer our tiny bit toward bringing the Universe to wholeness.

Our task is to become as whole, mature and conscious as possible and do what we can do to bring humanity to wholeness. This is of special relevance now since a leap in our individual and collective maturity is key to our survival.

Jung was all about the evolution of Human consciousness, which he called individuation. A much more comprehensive exploration of his wisdom is necessary. I can only encourage you to take the plunge. Jung, born into the home of a protestant clergy, became intensely aware of the theological non-sense that Christianity had become, and his life’s work was to provide an experience based, psychological process, for understanding life and history in general and the Christian faith in particular. His Memories, Dreams, Reflections should become sacred text.

Jung drew heavily on the Judeo/Christian tradition in exploring the psychic evolution of humanity. The Bible can thus be seen as the best witness of the western world to the evolution of human consciousness. It draws on all three arenas of reality as outlined by Jean Houston. It is history in that it reports actual happenings. It is mythic in that it interprets happenings and evolves stories that make it difficult to ascertain what actually happened. It is mystic in that their whole history and tradition has evolved from a relationship with what Samuel Terrien called The Elusive Presence, Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to as, “the Beyond in our midst” and the Hebrew people named Yahweh.

Scholarship has done well in sorting out and analysing the parts and details of the Bible. The great gift of the Jesus Seminar is to present us with major glimpses of the historical Jesus. Their work enables us to see Jesus as a purely human person, and a person of such quality, compassion and integrity that he is an abiding avatar of what human life can be. Scholarship has done less well in seeing the Bible as a whole. That is the work of the new paradigm, and Jung has given us a good beginning.

The Bible, as one traditions story of the evolving toward human maturity, will remain as a primary source of our self-understanding as individuals. We must all go through the process of learning how to be human and can see our own growth reflected in the various stories and stages of the Bible.

After the creation accounts, the tradition begins with Eve’s step into consciousness – each one of us as a two-year old – and continues with an awareness of the purpose of life – “in you all the families of the earth shall be blest (Genesis 12:1b); the Exodus – we all leave home in many ways; the kingship – the establishing of our identity and place in the world; the exile – the great mid-life crisis; Jesus – our maturity and what will I do with my life; Act and Letters – beginning to get it in place; and Revelation – the grand mythic exploration of the rough journey to wholeness. (See my Celebrating Eve: Christianity as a Pathway to Wholeness, and perchance a forthcoming book possibly titled, The Death and Resurrection of God: From Christianity to the New Story.)

The whole history of humanity, in all its cultures and religions, is the multi-stranded story of our attempts at learning how to be human. The biblical book or Revelation is a grim reminder that we have a long way to go.

We are, however, on the way. From the fifteenth to the twentieth century we moved from a superstition paradigm to a rational paradigm. We are now moving from a rational paradigm into the paradigm of wholeness. In effect, we have Frederick Hegel’s thesis, antithesis, synthesis; superstition, rationality, wholeness.

It will take centuries to integrate the new paradigm. But we don’t have centuries. We need to push forward in the hope that we will become sufficiently mature in time to avoid our self-destruction. I see SnowStar as having an important role to play in this human adventure.

Review & Commentary