(This article is Appendix 2 of my Mandala Book)
A very short Summary of the Lessons
Small is beautiful.
Growth is limited.
Human rights and animal rights.
Sacredness of the Earth.
Beware of dictators and the stupidity of the masses.
Limits to reason and rationality.
Limits to science.
Reality cannot be completely grasped and understood using language, including mathematics.
Korzybksi's Structural Differential and extensional devices.
Complementarity, perspectivism, and both/and logic.
Relativity and post-modernism.
Complexity theories, including chaos theory, and nonlinearity.
Incompleteness (even in mathematics).
The importance of networks and the phenomenon of emergence.
Holism and holomovement.
Gestalt psychology, humanistic psychology, transpersonal psychology, and integral psychology.
Evidence for psychic phenomena. The conscious universe.
Surrealism, abstract art, and happenings.
Meditation and silence.
The power of Now.
Laughter and laughter yoga.
So-called theories of everything such as Ken Wilber's AQAL map.
Integral Life Practice.
You find more detailed summaries at the end of this article.
Some Major Events in the 20th Century
The 20th century was a most extraordinary century (see, for example, Watson 2002, Higgs 2015). It was also marked by horrible events: two world wars, the holocaust and other genocides and atrocities (see, for example, Ferguson 2006). Soviet communism with its regime of terror eventually collapsed, but capitalism became deeply entrenched and the poor remained poor or became even poorer.
Three major forces dominated society, especially in the West: science/technology, capitalism, and mass media. Religion still played a role, but was increasingly replaced by science, which, to a great extent, became scientism, a scientific pseudo-religion. Of course, enormous advances were made in science and technology: Einstein’s relativity theories, quantum mechanics, the elucidation of the genetic code that eventually led to genetic engineering, recognition of the importance of information besides matter and energy, the Internet, to name just a few. Great innovations occurred also in the arts. The industrial age led to the information age. Mass media became dominant: radio, TV, the Internet and social networks, enhanced by a variety of digital devices such as the mobile phone, smart phone, etc. The mass media supported a capitalist consumer society that focused on growth – unfortunately growth predominantly for the rich, not the poor. Materialism flourished in mainstream science and society. An increasing number of people suffered from depression and other psychological problems. America became the superpower of the world, but still has much poverty and crime. As a response to its imperialist foreign politics, resistance and terrorism arose.
The following lessons, which so far have been learned only by few people and few segments of society, do not produce the temporary superficial happiness that consumer society offers, but a more profound happiness that can be reached only through major personal and social transformation.
Economics, Politics, and Society
In the midst of all the misery of the 20th century many positive and healing voices arose. E. F. Schumacher published a book entitled Small is Beautiful. The message of this book is not only a corrective to unchecked capitalism and our consumer society that embrace the opposite ideal, but also an incentive for a healthier and happier life based on spiritual values. This book, like others, reminds us of the limits to growth and advocates a sustainable economy and life in harmony with nature (see, for example, Lent 2017, p. 406/7). It emphasizes that economics should not be divorced from ethics, and in many ways it resonates with the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Earth Charter, and some aspects of feminism such as eco-feminism (see also Wellbeing, happiness and sustainability: hallmarks of a new economic paradigm).
Following Schumacher’s advice would not have led to the enormous debt of many individuals, families, organizations, companies, and governments. Following Schumacher’s advice would not have led to the financial crises that resulted from overspending and an obsession with “bigger and bigger,” fuelled by relentless advertising of goods and services of our consumer society. Instead it would have encouraged individuals and society to search for a more profound happiness based on spiritual insights (see below). Furthermore, taking Schumacher's advice may have counteracted global warming because as Klein (2014) pointed out unchecked rampant capitalism seems largely responsible for increased carbon emissions and the destruction of our environment (see also Monbiot 2017). But the obsession with economic growth has become the religion of the modern world (Cohen 2018).
Our materialistic, money-worshipping society has conditioned us to believe that we need much money to be happy. However, it is well known that the richest people are not necessarily happier than people with a very modest income or maybe no income at all. Daniel Suelo leads a happy life in a cave in Utah with zero money. Although his life-style seems extreme and exceptional, living with a rather modest income can be compatible with profound happiness and can point the way to a sustainable, debt-free society, and a sacred economics (Eisenstein 2011).
Our widespread obsession with economic growth represents “the ideology of the cancer cell” (Mintzberg 2015). A saner society requires a rebalancing (see also Fleming 2017 and a review of this book).
Two major problems we are facing today are "ecological collapse and technological disruption" (Harari 2018, p. 16). "Economic growth will not save the global ecosystem; just the opposite, in fact, for economic growth is the cause of the ecological crisis. And economic growth will not solve technological disruption" (ibid.).
Another lesson we could learn from the 20th century and preceding centuries: Beware of dictators and the stupidity of the masses (see, for example, Snyder 2017). Politics may explain how they get into their powerful positions. But economics may also play a much more important role than we normally realize. Laurence Rees pointed out that "in good economic times, during the mid-to-late twenties in Germany, Hitler was thought charismatic by only a bunch of fanatics...so that in the 1928 election the Nazis polled only 2.6% of the vote. Yet less than five years later Hitler was chancellor of Germany and leader of the most popular political party in the country. What changed was the economic situation... and in that context, Hitler...seemed to be the bringer of salvation." Even democratically elected leaders may use poor economic situations as a pretext to undermine democracy and destroy civil liberties.
Science, Philosophy, and Society
Many lessons can be learned from science and philosophy (see, for example, Higgs 2015). Contrary to the hubris and unrealistic belief of the Age of the Enlightenment and the 19th century that science and technology will eventually resolve all problems, 20th century science and philosophy taught us humility, which unfortunately has not yet become part of our mainstream culture. Important discoveries have shown limits to reason, rationality, science, systematic philosophy and communication through language. Freud and Jung pointed out that our conscious rationality is only the tip of an iceberg of a non-rational subconscious. Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, and others have shown that science is limited because it is based on questionable philosophical assumptions, which are often defended like religious dogma (see, for example, Biology as Ideology by Richard Lewontin and The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake). Hence, science appears inherently biased and incomplete. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Alfred Korzybski, and others showed how language, which we use in science, philosophy, and everyday life, removes us from reality, from that which is. So how can any verbal scientific or philosophical statement or theory tell us the truth? Kurt Gödel demonstrated that even mathematics, a cornerstone of much modern science, remains incomplete.
20th century physics has taught us many important lessons, most of which unfortunately have not yet become sufficiently part of our mainstream culture. Einstein taught us relativity in physics; Korzybski and postmodernists emphasized relativity and relativism in many aspects of our culture. Although some postmodernists may have exaggerated relativity and thus may have led us to rather nihilistic conclusions, one can hardly deny that many statements and theories are based on a specific point of view. If one takes another point of view, things may look different. Thus, different points of view complement and enrich our understanding. Niels Bohr, the founder of the complementarity principle in physics, resolved the controversy whether light consists of waves or particles in terms of the complementarity principle: depending on how we look at light, it may appear as particles or waves. Thus, the two views complement one another. Since the complementarity principle in physics is related to Bohr’s Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum physics and since this interpretation has been questioned by some physicists, complementarity in quantum physics has also been questioned (see, for example, Gribbin 1995, p. 115). However, Bohr emphasized that the complementarity principle is also useful in many areas outside physics (see, for example, the chapter on Complementarity in my book Wilber's AQAL Map and Beyond) and Korzybski (1973) referred to a general complementarity principle, which leads to tolerance of different, even contradictory points of view. It can serve as an antidote to fundamentalism in religion, culture, and science. According to perspectivism, different points of views may be seen as different perspectives on reality. Nietzsche explored perspectivism and coined the term, but the idea has ancient roots.
The recognition of complementarity implies both/and logic in addition to the traditional Aristotelian either/or logic that is still the predominant logic in our society and even in many branches of science such as the life sciences. According to both/and logic, light can manifest as both waves and particles, a proposition can be both true and false, that is, true to some extent and false to some extent. Fuzzy logic has been developed to deal with such fuzzy situations that are very common. Even in popular thinking it is sometimes recognized that there can be “a grain of truth” in a proposition that is considered “false.” Hence, the dichotomy of the traditional either/or logic - that has still a firm grip on the majority of people – can be transcended. Such transcendence could help us to avoid many unrealistically one-sided confrontations and even wars. As long as we continue thinking that a man or an organization or a nation is either good or evil, we remain locked into an impasse. Both/and logic and fuzzy logic can liberate us from this destructive fixation. For this reason I called these kinds of logic healing logic or a healing way of thinking.
One of the greatest lessons we could have learned – but unfortunately very few people have learned – includes Korzybski’s Structural Differential, which illustrates that our perception of reality is only a selection of a part of it, filtered out by our limiting senses and nervous system; and our description of our perception is even more limited because language cannot completely encompass our perception. Think of a sunset. What you perceive is not identical with what is actually happening. For example, you cannot perceive ultraviolet. And your description of your perception is a further abstraction that omits much of the richness of your perception. For this reason Korzybski concluded: “Whatever you might say something “is”, it is not.” What it is cannot be conveyed through words. Therefore, Korzybski referred to reality as the unspeakable, as mystery. If we could remain aware of this, we could avoid many conflicts and even wars because we could no longer insist that we can verbally state the truth. And remaining aware of the unspeakable mystery would avoid falling into nihilism of which so many critics of postmodernism are afraid. In the experience of the mystery we are united, whereas in opposing dogmas we are divided and often ready to fight and destroy. However, when different and even opposite tenets are considered complementary, the destructiveness is avoided; tolerance is possible. And as we experience the mystery beyond language, logic, and reason, we even transcend relativity and complementarity (see also Steve Stockdale's website). Note that “mystery” refers not what is not yet known but to the unknowable and unspeakable (see, for example, Sattler 2016) .
The 20th century has been called the century of complementarity. Others called it the century of uncertainty. David Peat entitled his book on the 20th century From Certainty to Uncertainty. Thus, “The End of Certainty” (Prigogine 1997). Heisenberg introduced the uncertainty principle in quantum physics. Korzybski extended it to other areas. Thus uncertainty has become a general limitation whose recognition could counteract dogmatism and fundamentalism that are still widespread in our society. Like complementarity, uncertainty leads to humility, to the recognition that we can longer claim to be certain that our preferred point of view is the only one that is tenable. Much conflict and even wars could be avoided if complmentarity and uncertainty were recognized.
We encounter uncertainty also in one of the greatest scientific and mathematical breakthroughs of the 20th century: complexity or chaos theory that deals with nonlinear, unpredictable phenomena. The most famous and popular of these phenomena is the so-called butterfly effect, whereby a butterfly fluttering its wings in China may influence the weather in America. But chaos theory has many other aspects and applications. It has been introduced “into the heart of science. Today chaos theory, along with its associated notions of fractals, strange attractors, and self-organizing systems, has been applied to everything from sociology to psychology, from business consulting to the neurosciences. As a metaphor it has found its way into contemporary novels. As a technique it is responsible for the special effects of so many movies” (F. David Peat. 2001. From Certainty to Uncertainty, p. 115). According to chaos theory, chaos may arise out of order and order may arise out of chaos. The slightest disturbance of a phenomenon that appears stable (such as a butterfly fluttering its wings) may send it into chaos. It has been suggested that life happens at the edge of chaos, where order and chaos meet and can easily switch into one another. This means we have to come to grips with chaos and uncertainty. Pema Chödrön’s book Comfortable with Uncertainty can be very helpful in this respect. Contrary to a widespread belief that we need certainty, Pema Chödrön shows that we can be profoundly happy living with uncertainty instead of chasing illusory certainty.
Not only has there been a recognition of uncertainty but also of incompleteness. Even in the most rigorous of human endeavours, namely mathematics and mathematical logic, Gödel showed that there are inherent limitations in all but the most trivial operations.
We have also learned that looking at the world in terms of linearity can be rather simplistic because often we have found complex networks. Thus, thinking in terms of networks leads to a more realistic picture of the world (see, for example, Sattler 1986, Chapter 6).
Another important lesson: the phenomenon of emergence, which means that a system has emergent properties that cannot be found by examining the system’s parts. For example, a bird can fly, but its cells and genes cannot. Yet one of the major limitations of modern biology and medicine is its obsession with parts of organisms, its ambition to reduce everything to cells and genes. Systems thinking and organicism constitute important contributions that could counteract these reductionist tendencies. For example, Richard Lewontin et al. in their book Not in our Genes: Biology, Ideology, and Human Nature provided strong arguments against genetic reductionism. Unfortunately, most biologists and medical researchers are still caught in the gene-centric way of thinking, which hinders major breakthroughs in many areas. Billions, if not trillions of dollars have been spent for cancer research and only very limited progress has been made because of the insistence on a predominantly reductionist approach. Genetic engineering, which also uses the reductionist approach, poses enormous risks and dangers to society and the planet, as Mae-Wan Ho and others have pointed out.
Although mainstream thinking is still predominantly reductionist, the importance of holistic understanding has been pointed out by many authors including Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Paul Weiss, and Fritjof Capra. In physics - which has become more holistic than biology – David Bohm made the distinction between an explicate and implicate order. In the explicate order we see separate objects, whereas the implicate order represents oneness. The ultimate ground of the explicate and implicate orders is holomovement, the movement of the whole of existence. Thus, Bohm points to both wholeness and dynamics. Process philosophy also emphasizes that process is primary to objects that are abstracted from the underlying process. Time-lapse photography illustrates the dynamic where it seems imperceptible. Hence, dynamics appears all-pervasive. Many people then ask themselves how we can feel secure in a world where nothing remains ultimately stable. In his book The Wisdom of Insecurity, Alan Watts shows that we can feel secure by accepting and being the flux, which seems a major challenge for most people in a culture that aims at control and security.
In the flux everything appears connected. In physics interconnectedness has been most strikingly demonstrated through non-locality, which means that entangled elementary particles remain connected even after traveling for enormous distances in opposite directions. In ecology we have learned that because of interconnectedness pollution may easily spread from one location to another.
We remain integral parts of the web of life, of Gaia, and the universe. Therefore, in a sense what we do to others and the environment we do to ourselves. Awareness of networks and interconnectedness will lead to greater responsibility and respect for the environment.
According to Darwinism and capitalism that reinforce one another, competition reigns the world; cooperation plays only a minor role or no role at all (see, for example, Sattler 1986, Chapter 8.7). Hence, it is considered natural to be selfish, aggressive and competitive. However, some researchers in the 20th century found that cooperation is widespread in nature. Hence, it is also natural to cooperate! We need not go against nature when we cooperate.
Many of the above lessons of 20th century science challenge our traditional ways of thinking and living. Much of what we have taken for granted now has to be reevaluated. For example, we thought that the question "What is the length of a piece of string?" has a simple answer. Not so anymore. Depending on our measuring devices (a ruler, laser, or light), we may get different answers. According to fractal geometry, a piece of string may be infinite. And according to quantum physics as espoused by Schrödinger a string has no length: we create the length through our observation, that is, our interaction with the string.
Language and Linguistics
One lesson we can learn from linguistics – and other sciences - is that one person or one school of thinking can dominate a whole discipline and suppress and/or ridicule other ways of thinking. For example, since the last century Noam Chomsky has dominated linguistics with his theory of a universal grammar, a deep structure that supposedly applies to all languages. However, some linguists and philosophers provided evidence to the contrary. Thus, Benjamin Lee Whorf demonstrated that certain Amerindian languages such as Nootka appear verb-based and do not follow the common noun-verb structure. For example, the Nootka would not say “The sun shines,” or “It shines;” they would simply say “shining,” which means there is no agent that does the shining. Or with regard to creating, there is no creator who does the creating: there is just the activity of creating. Hence, no necessity of a Creator-God. As these examples show, a verb-based language can have far-reaching consequences on how we perceive and interpret the world. It reveals a world that is basically dynamic. Process is primary as in process philosophy. But in languages with a noun-verb (subject-predicate) structure, process is secondary and entities referred to by nouns or pronouns are primary. Thus, languages with a noun-verb structure portray a world fragmented into entities such as you and I and plants and animals and so on. Oneness is obscured; fragmentation is reinforced through each sentence we utter. Thus language conditions us to take fragmentation for granted. In fact, we may not even see it as fragmentation. We may believe that in reality subjects and objects are separate (for more on this subject see David Peat's website on language & linguistics).
In his book Science and Sanity, Korzybski pointed out that the way we commonly use language often leads to much distortion of what is actually going on and thus contributes to the insanity in our society. He suggested the following extensional devices to align language more with reality and thus to reduce insanity (see also General Semantics):
1. Indexing – Whereas a category defines commonalities, indexing retrieves the differences within the category. Thus, instead of only seeing the category A, we can be aware of A1, A2, A3, etc. For example, instead of just referring to the category liar, we can index, that is, differentiate between liar1, liar 2, liar3, etc, all of which differ in important respects. Or instead of only referring to love, we can differentiate between love1, love2, love3, etc. Such indexing may help overcome futile discussions on whether he loves her or not. Therefore, “by using indexes, we remind ourselves of the important differences between individual people, ‘objects’, events, etc.” (Susan and Bruce Kodish. 2011. Drive Yourself Sane, p. 171).
2. Dating – Since everything changes over time, it is important to express time in our language. To do this we can add the date of an event. For example, instead of simply referring to John, we can say John-January 1, 2012, John March 15-2012, etc. This helps us to realize that we change, and therefore referring simply to an individual John without a time reference may miss crucial differences. For example, John-January 1, 2012 might have behaved in a nasty way, whereas John-March 15, 2012 appeared very loving.
3. Etc. – We can add ‘etc.’ to indicate that we cannot say all, that something else could have and maybe should have been added to provide a more complete picture. For example, if we say ‘John a liar,’ this is a very incomplete and therefore misleading statement about John. He is also charming, intelligent, sensitive, etc. For this reason, if we want to say that John is a liar, it would be appropriate to say ‘John is a liar, etc.” If, in addition we index and date this statement, we can provide a much better description of John, which would render interpersonal relationships more appropriate and less destructive. The same applies to many other situations, including statements about organizations, ethnic groups, nations, etc. One might argue that we can be aware of the ‘etc.’ without adding it explicitly. However, explicit use of ‘etc.’ promotes an etc. attitude. “When we have an et cetera or non-allness attitude, we ask ourselves: What might I have left out? What else? What other effects does this have, etc.?” (Kodish, ibid., p. 174). In other words, it creates openness. We know that the last word has not been said.
4. Quotes and Hyphens – Quotes are used to draw attention to terms that may be problematical in various ways. Hyphens are used to connect terms that suggest a separation that does not exist in reality. For example, since body and mind are not separate entities, we write body-mind to indicate their connection or unity. In a similar manner we refer to space-time, organism-environment, etc.
In their excellent book Drive Yourself Sane (Chapter 13), Susan and Bruce Kodish suggested additional extensional devices that render our language more appropriate and reduce neurosis and insanity. However, like Korzybski, they emphasize that reality cannot be fully captured through words and language (see above Korzybski's Structural Differential); hence the importance of silence.
Gestalt psychology, humanistic psychology, transpersonal psychology, and integral psychology were important innovations in the 20th century and taught us important lessons. Gestalt psychology emphasized a holistic approach to psychology, which resonates well with holism in science. Humanistic psychology, also holistic, focused on meaning, values, personal responsibility, human potential, spirituality, and self-actualization. Transpersonal psychology went beyond the limited self toward the universal Self, thus emphasizing self-transcendent spiritual experience. Integral psychology comprises transcendence and immanence, the experience of the unmanifest and the manifest (see below under Integral Philosophy and Spirituality).
During the 20th century much evidence was obtained for parapsychological phenomena of extrasensory perception (psi) such as telepathy and clairvoyance (see Dean Radin. 1997. The Conscious Universe. The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena, and Rupert Sheldrake. 2012.The Science Delusion, Chapter 9).
Health and Healing
Especially in the West and Westernized countries, 20th century healthcare was dominated by conventional materialistic/mechanistic medicine. However, alternative holistic modalities of healing, although harshly condemned by the conservative medical establishment, often proved helpful where conventional medicine failed. Many people relieved headaches and other ailments through acupuncture, alleviated all sorts of aches through herbal medicine, homeopathy, and other holistic methods. Some people even recovered from severe illnesses such as cancer through methods of alternative holistic medicine. Usually these successes were dismissed as anecdotal and unscientific by the conservative medical establishment. However, alternative holistic medicine is not always as unscientific as purported by the medical establishment. In alternative medicine such as, for example, herbal medicine the scientific methodology of conventional medicine has been used for a long time (see, for example, Daniel B. Mowrey. 1986. The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine). William Bengston provided scientific evidence that hands-on-healing can cure cancer (William Bengston. 2010. The Energy Cure). Many other alternative methods are supported scientifically. However, some successful alternative methods may surpass the strictures of conventional scientific methodology. They demonstrate the limitations of conventional scientific methodology (see, for example, Rolf Sattler. 2001. Non-conventional medicines and holism. Holistic Science and Human Values 5: 1-15).
In many, but not all cases, treatment through alternative holistic methods seems preferable for the following reasons:
1. Healing through alternative methods appears much less hampered by negative side effects than in conventional medicine.
2. Healing through alternative methods is far less expensive than in conventional medicine.
3. Healing through alternative holistic methods contributes to the well-being of the whole person and not only the sick part.
4. Healing through alternative methods creates less pollution than conventional methods that involve all sorts of chemical compounds, many of which may be detrimental to our health and the environment.
5. Finally, alternative medicine is very useful for the prevention of illness and thus again reduces greatly healthcare cost.
In spite of all the advantages of alternative holistic medicine, it is very much controlled and suppressed by what Dr. Guylaine Lanctôt called the "medical mafia": the medical establishment, the pharmaceutical industry, and governments (Guylaine Lanctôt. 1995. The Medical Mafia. How to get out of it alive and take back our health & wealth).
Fine arts, literature, and music contributed many novel aspects to our enjoyment and understanding of reality. Impressionism that began in the 19th century and still left its mark at the beginning of the 20th century explored and played with light as never before in the history of humankind (see, for example, Monet). In abstract art objects were no longer needed as fundamental elements of a picture. Surrealism, in visual art and literature, presented connections invisible in realistic art, stressing the subconscious, imagination, dream, and the disinterested play of thought (see, for example, Magritte and Chagall and The Modern Mind by Peter Watson).
Literature and poetry went beyond constraints and forms that were accepted in the19th century and addressed important issues of the 20th century. Music also liberated itself from constraints to produce new tonalities and soundscapes. In his happenings, John Cage relinquished all constraints, allowing the listeners to create whatever they would feel like, thus breaking down the barrier between artist and audience. Ultimately, music led to silence. In John Cage’s 4’ 33” (1952), the pianist sits in front of the piano without touching it, in complete silence, for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. According to John Cage’s instructions, this piece can also be “performed” on any other instrument for any amount of time. Here, music becomes silent meditation.
Already at the end of the 19th century Nietzsche had declared, “God is dead.” Subsequently, during the course of the 20th century we witnessed in the Western world a decline of organized dogmatic religion. At the same time interest in spirituality increased. Practitioners of Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism came to Western countries and instructed people in various forms of meditation and other spiritual practices such as yoga, qigong, and taiji (that can be seen as dynamic forms of meditation). Yoga, especially hatha yoga, that emphasized physical exercises, became so widespread that it can almost be considered part of Western mainstream culture.
Through insight, spontaneous happenings, and the practice of dynamic, sitting or standing meditation our ordinary ego-centered state of consciousness can be relaxed and even transcended in an experience of universal wholeness and oneness (see Shinzen Young's mandala on 5 Ways to Know Yourself). Ultimately, this experience can become a way of Being that is beyond religious dogma.
At the end of the 20th century Eckhart Tolle published his book The Power of Now (1997). This book has a transformative power that leads to a "sense of freedom that comes from letting go of self-identification with one's own personal history and life-situation, and a newfound inner peace that arises as one learns to relinquish mental/emotional resistance to the "suchness" of the present moment" (The Power of Now, 2004, pp. XIV-XV). Thus, the power of Now opens up eternity and infinite space, the "timeless and formless realm of Being" (ibid., p. 49).
Many books and teachings by other spiritual masters have also pointed out the way to spiritual transformation. Most of these masters follow more or less spiritual wisdom traditions such as, for example, Tibetain Buddhism or Christian mysticism. Others such as, for example, Krishnamurti, Eckhart Tolle, or Byron Katie, do not rely on particular traditions. Osho, a provocative modern mystic, presented his own vision and was able to explain the wisdom of many spiritual traditions in the context of 20th century society.
Laughter and Silence
The 20th century began with the publication of Henri Bergson’s book Le Rire (1900), meaning laughter in English. Subsequently, other authors and spiritual masters drew attention to the importance of laughter. Toward the end of the century, in 1995, Madan Kataria, and East-Indian physician, and his wife, a yoga teacher, founded Laughter Yoga, a new form of yoga that, like traditional forms of yoga, has as its aim liberation. For liberation to happen we have to transcend our enslavement by the thinking mind that fragments the world and thus creates the basis for antagonism and fear. Engaging in total laughter instantaneously frees us from this enslavement because one cannot profoundly laugh and think at the same time. Thus, laughter is like an instant vacation from the thinking mind and all the worries that are created by the thinking mind. Hence, paradoxically, the result of laughing is peace and silence – silence in which we are one with existence as it can also happen in other profound meditations and spiritual experience.
Laughter, other forms of meditation, and silence are great gifts and lesson of the 20th century. They may help us to transcend suffering and nihilism.
Integral Philosophy and Integral Spirituality - Integral Life Practice
Integral philosophy and spirituality have been advanced by Sri Aurobindo, Haridas Chaudhuri, Jean Gebser, Don Beck, Allan Combs, Stanislav Grof, Michael Murphy, Roger Walsh, Ken Wilber, Erwin Laszlo, Thomas McFarlane, and others. Some authors have referred to an integral movement, which can be defined in a narrow and wide sense (see, for example, Alan Kazlev’s comprehensive article “Redefining Integral”).
Integration constitutes the major aim of the integral movement – integration of East and West (especially Eastern spirituality and Western psychotherapy), the manifest and the unmanifest (or the namable and the unnamable), science and spirituality, body, mind, soul, and spirit, etc. Ken Wilber’s AQAL map presents an integration of body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature (or in art, morals, and science). This integration can be practiced and cultivated in one’s personal life (as Integral Life Practice), in integral science, integral medicine, integral ecology, integral politics, integral law, integral governance, integral business, integral education, integral religion, etc. (see, for example, A Theory of Everything by Ken Wilber). Integral practice in all these areas requires awareness that anything can be experienced at different levels in terms of a specific culture, subjectively in one’s self, and objectively. Major levels include body, mind and spirit. Finer differentiations and other conceptualizations of levels can be made (see, for example, the AQAL chart and Integral Spirituality by Ken Wilber).
Since Integral Life Practice includes practice and cultivation of the body, mind, soul, and spirit, it is more comprehensive and inclusive than certain religious and spiritual practices that denigrate the body or bodily oriented practices. And since an integral map such as the AQAL map allows us to be aware of major levels and dimensions of reality, including ourselves, we are better equipped to navigate through challenging and difficult situations, and we can become more fully human and achieve greater happiness even in adverse situations. For a critique of Ken Wilber's AQAL map see, for example, Ken Wilber's AQAL Dogma.
In most schools, colleges, and universities, 20th century education emphasized memorization and the acquisition of practical and intellectual skills such as language skills, mathematical skills, scientific and technological skills, etc. It tended to be head-oriented, neglecting soul and spirit. Even the physical body was not sufficiently trained because physical education was not offered every day. It has been shown, however, that more physical exercise is not only beneficial for the body but improves also academic performance. Besides more physical exercise, it would be desirable to exercise mind, soul, and spirit. With regard to the mind, students should learn lessons such as the ones I included in this essay. With regard to the soul, students should learn how to deal with negative emotions such as anger, jealousy, and fear. They should learn nonviolent communication, for example, as proposed by Rosenberg (2012) and take a course in peace studies (see, for example, Thich Nhat Hanh 1991, Chopra 2005). With regard to spirit, students should be able to pursue a spiritual path of their liking such as yoga, taiji, various forms of dynamic, sitting and standing meditation, etc.
In general, schools and universities should offer an education based on a holistic approach, an integral philosophy, integral spirituality, and integral life practice as described in the above section. So far very few schools, colleges, and universities have moved in this direction: Waldorf schools, founded by Rudolf Steiner, Schumacher College in England, California Institute of Integral Studies, Integral Institute, and Naropa University in the US, and others. Some exceptional teachers and professors at conventional schools, colleges, and universities offer a more integral education and sometimes risk losing their position because they subvert the official curricula that limit education to a fraction of the intellect and a bit of physical exercise.
Since the lessons of the 20th century include incompleteness and uncertainty, this article also remains incomplete and cannot claim certainty. The search for lessons to be learned remains open-ended and the experience of the mystery beyond words can emerge at any moment...
Harari (2018) published an important book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Most of these lessons are not new. They could have been earned from the 20th century and even long before. For example, the lesson on ignorance could have been learned from Socrates as Harari pointed out. However, some of the lessons in this book have become especially evident and urgent since we entered the 21st century. Even more than in the last century, it has become evident that "economic growth will not save the global ecosystem; just the opposite, in fact, for economic growth is the cause of the environmental crisis. And economic growth will not solve technological disruption, for it is predicated on the invention of more and more disruptive technologies" (Harari 2018, p. 16). Disruptive technologies result from biotechnology and artificial intelligence. If unchecked, they can have grave and destructive consequences. According to Harari, they may lead to a "useless class" of unemployed people or all jobs may be be lost to robots; they may lead to the loss of liberty and "create the most unequal societies that ever existed" (Harari 2018, p. 72). These technologies may lead to digital dictatorship, "the shift in authority from humans to algorithms" (Harari 2018, p. 43). Furthermore, these technologies may estrange us from our bodies, which will lead to alienation and disorientation. "If you don't feel at home in your body, you will never feel at home in the world" (Harari 2018, p. 90). But instead of focussing mainly or solely on intelligence such as artificial intelligence that may surpass human intelligence, Harari emphasizes the importance of consciousness and urges us to know ourselves before we will be hacked by Big Data of artificial intelligence. And therefore he also emphasizes the importance of meditation.
Harari points out that post-truth is nothing new. "In fact, humans have always lived in the age of post-truth" (Harari 2018, p. 238). Post-truth is related to power for power distorts truth. "If you want power, at some point you will have to spread fiction" (Harari 2018, p. 247). And the desire of power is common in humans and our animal ancestors. "As a species, humans prefer power to truth" (ibid.). Fortunately this is not the case for all humans, and history is full of many exceptions to this tendency. Nonetheless, never underestimate human stupidity.
Goldberg (2018) warns of renewed divisive and destructive forces such as tribalism, populism, nationalism, and identity politics that may destroy democracy.
Summary of Important Lessons
Limitations of Reason – Sigmund Freud, Carl G. Jung, Paul Feyerabend, postmodernism, etc.
Existentialism – Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, etc.
Postmodernism – Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, etc.
The new Pragmatism - Richard Rorty, etc.
Limitations of Science – Jürgen Habermas, Paul Feyerabend, postmodernism, etc.
Limitations of Empiricism - Willard Van Orman Quine
Limitations and Ambiguity of Language – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Alfred Korzybski, Roland Barthes, postmodernism, Osho, etc.
Incompleteness in Mathematics – Kurt Gödel
Uncertainty – Werner Heisenberg, Alfred Korzybski, Pema Chödrön, etc.
“The Wisdom of Insecurity” – Alan Watts
Relativity and Relativism – Albert Einstein, postmodernism, etc.
Perspectivism and Complementarity (both/and logic) – Friedrich Nietzsche, Niels Bohr, Ernst Peter Fischer, etc.
Fuzziness (fuzzy logic) – Lofti Zadeh, Bart Kosko, etc.
General Semantics (Non-Identity, etc.) – Alfred Korzybski
Self-Reference – Douglas Hofstadter, etc.
Open Systems and Systems Thinking – Ludwig von Bertalanffy, etc.
Organicism and Contextualism – Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Paul Weiss, etc.
Process Philosophy – Alfred North Whitehead, etc.
Holomovement – David Bohm
Non-Locality – Alain Aspect, etc.
Information – Claude Shannon, David Bohm, etc.
Superstring Theory (11-dimensional M-theory) – Edward Witten, etc.
Complexity (Fractals, Chaos, etc.) – Benoît Mandelbrot, Stuart Kauffman, etc.
Self-Organization – Ilya Prigogine, Stuart Kauffman, Herbert Fröhlich, Mae-Wan Ho, etc.
Morphomatics – Ian Stewart
Laws as Habits – Rupert Sheldrake, Ken Wilber, etc.
Network Thinking – F. Vester, Fritjof Capra, Internet, etc.
Not in our Genes and IQ – Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose, Leon J. Kamin, Stephen Jay Gould, etc.
Dangers of Genetic Engineering – George Wald, David Suzuki, Mae-Wan Ho, etc.
Ecology, Sustainability, Deep Ecology, Ecofeminism – Arne Naess, etc.
Planet Earth as Gaia – James Lovelock
Pollution and Global Warming – Rachel Carson, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, etc.
The Limits to Growth – D. H. Meadows et al.
Small is Beautiful – E. Fritz Schumacher
Cooperation and Coevolution – P. Kropotkin, Lynn Margulis, Game Theory (non-zero-sum games = win-win situations)
Economics and Ethics – Amartya Sen, etc.
Ills of Communism, Capitalism, Consumer Society, and Mechanical Work – Erich Fromm, E. Fritz Schumacher, Herbert Marcuse, Noam Chomsky, etc.
Feminism – Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Rebecca Walker, etc.
United Nations Charter
Universal Declaration of Human Rights – John Peters Humphrey, etc.
Earth Charter – Maurice Strong, Mikhail Gorbachev, etc.
Gestalt Psychology and Gestalt Therapy – Christian von Ehrenfels, Wolfgang Köhler, Fritz Perls, Paul Goodman, etc.
Humanistic Psychology – Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, etc.
Transpersonal Psychology – Abraham Maslow, Roger Walsh, Stanislav Grof, etc.
The Conscious Universe – Dean Radin, Rupert Sheldrake, etc.
Subtle Energy – William Tiller, etc.
New Perspectives on Language and Linguistics – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Alfred Korzybski, Roland Barthes, Benjamin Lee Whorf, David Bohm, David Peat, etc.
Nonviolent Communication – Marshall Rosenberg
Holistic Education – Waldorf Schools, Naropa University, Schumacher College, David Peat’s Pari Center for New Learning, etc.
Innovations in Art – Claude Monet, Dada, Pablo Picasso, René Magritte, Marc Chagall, T.S. Eliot, Herman Hesse, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, John Cage, etc.
Importance of Laughter – Henri Bergson, Osho, Madan Kataria (laughter yoga), etc.
Importance of Silence – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Alfred Korzybski, John Cage, Osho, etc.
“God [as an external power] is dead” – but the mystery remains (Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas J. J. Altizer, Osho, David Peat, Gerald Walton Paul, etc.
Meditation, Spirituality – The East and West, Alternative Culture, Some Aspects of the New Age Movement
Spiritual Teachings – Rudolf Steiner, Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, G. I. Gurdjieff, J. Krishnamurti, Alan Watts, Zen Masters (Shunryu Suzuki, Philip Kapleau, etc.), Chögyam Trungpa, Dalai Lama, Osho, Shinzen Young, Pema Chödrön, Byron Katie, etc.
Divergence and Convergence of Science and Spirituality – Fritjof Capra, David Bohm, Ravi Ravindra, Ken Wilber, etc.
Integral Philosophy and Integral Spirituality – Ken Wilber’s AQAL Map, Thomas J. McFarlane’s Integral Sphere, Integral World, etc.
Whereas some of the above ideas such as human rights and the Earth Charter are having some impact, most others such as Korzybski’s general semantics (non-identity, etc) have not yet been sufficiently recognized. In this Mandala book I draw attention to the enormous potential of these and other ideas for the betterment of society, for greater understanding, integration, conflict resolution, and peace.
A Condensed Summary of the Lessons
Limits to reason, science, control, and progress
Limits to law and order, regularity, and prediction (quantum physics, laws as habits, chaos theory, fractals, nonlinearity, strange attractors, complexity theory, self-organization, etc.)
Incompleteness, ambiguity, and uncertainty, relativity, perspectivism, and complementarity
The wisdom of insecurity
Limits to and bias of perception, logic and language
General semantics, both/and logic, fuzzy logic, network and systems thinking
Wholeness (holomovement), non-locality, and self-reference
Existentialism, organicism, contextualism, process philosophy, post-modernism
Gaia, environmentalism, deep ecology, cooperation, eco-feminism
“The Limits to Growth,” “Small is beautiful.”
Dangers of Genetic Engineering, Pollution, and Global Warming
Ills of communism, totalitarianism, capitalism, consumer society, and mechanical work
UN Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Earth Charter, feminism
Subtle energy and the conscious universe
Gestalt psychology, humanistic and transpersonal psychology
Innovations in the arts and linguistics
Non-violent communication and holistic education
The importance of laughter and silence
“God [as an external power] is dead” – but the mystery remains
Meditation and Spirituality – East and West, aspects of the New Age movement and the alternative culture
Divergence and convergence of science and spirituality
Integral philosophy and spirituality
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