by Basarab Nicolescu
BASARAB NICOLESCU is a theoretical physicist, researcher at the Centre National de Recherches Scientifique in Paris, and professor at the Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania. He is founder and president of the International Center for Transdisciplinary Research and Studies (CIRET) and co-founder of the Study Group on Transdisciplinarity at UNESCO.
This well-known wood engraving first appeared in French Astronomer Camille Flammarion's 1888 publication L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire.
It illustrates the tale of a medieval monk who claimed to have travelled to the end of the world, where the sky meets the earth. Finding an opening in the firmament, he peers into the metaphysical world and beholds the "wheels of nature," the cosmic machinery behind the visible world.
Notice that the “visible world” of sun, moon, stars and fertile countryside is warm, friendly, scenic and teeming with life. Our spiritual traveler boldly lifts the veil of materiality to glimpse the "reality behind the reality;" but instead of God, Truth or Meaning, he finds only a mechanistic vista of wheels: alien, impersonal, deterministic and terrifying. Certainly no human being could flourish in such an ecosphere!
I turn my eyes to the Schools & Universities of Europe,
And there behold the Loom of Locke, whose Woof rages dire
Wash'd by the Water-wheels of Newton: black the cloth
In heavy wreathes folds over every Nation: cruel Works
Of many Wheels I view, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic
Moving by compulsion each other: not as those in Eden, which
Wheel within Wheel in freedom revolve in harmony & peace.
William Blake Jerusalem p. 15
While the advance of science has exponentially increased our knowledge, our mastery of nature and our material well-being, the benefits of science have been significantly offset by its parasitical fellow-traveler: the Cult of Scientism.
Though "scientism" may not be a familiar term to most of us, we are all well-acquainted with its doctrines: We live in a clockwork universe, created and maintained not by a Heavenly Father, but by impersonal and imperious laws of nature. We are not free beings created in the image of God; we are Trousered Apes whose behavior is determined by genetic programming and social conditioning. With a universe of 200 billion galaxies as our backdrop, it is fanciful to imagine ourselves as anything more than a mildew-growth on a speck of dust orbiting a Class G hydrogen star. There is no God, no afterlife and no meaning.
Note that none of these propositions are testable hypotheses. These are not theorems; they are doctrines! Scientism is a godless philosophy that nevertheless looks suspiciously similar to a religion, complete with credal authority, anathemas, evangelists, apologists and dogma enforcement squads.
Having abolished the old God and his values, secularists have taken it upon themselves to craft a New Morality.
Here is what they have come up with so far: “God is dead, everything is permitted, nothing is true, all opinions are equally valid, except religious ones. The only sin is imposing your own values on others. Violaters will be prosecuted.”
With the advance of science, knowledge has increased; wisdom has not.
While modern science marches from triumph to triumph, the ideologies and values that have evolved from scientism imperil the very civilization that birthed the Scientific Revolution.
In Science, Meaning & Evolution: The Cosmology of Jacob Boehme, Basarab Nicolescu explains why it did not have to be this way, and why it cannot remain this way.
For many years Nicolescu has been a leading advocate of Transdisciplinarity, the dialogue between different forms of knowledge, especially of Science and Tradition. In Jacob Boehme he has found a guide and living witness to this vital alliance.
I consider Boehme to be not a precursor to modern philosophy, but a modern philosopher himself. His writings are alive…
Like a modern physicist, Boehme is haunted by the idea of the invariance of the cosmic processes and by the paradoxical coexistence of unity and diversity. All is movement, in a continual creation and annihilation, in a perpetual genesis where nothing is stable and permanent. But this movement is not chaotic or anarchic; it is structured, organized by virtue of an order that is certainly complex and subtle, but nevertheless perceivable. As Boehme says to us continually, "even God is begotten by this movement, he is born not in the world but with the world." The absence of a system of values adapted to the complexity of the modern world could lead us to the self-destruction of our own species. The formulation of a new philosophy of Nature seems to me, in this context, of immediate urgency. Jacob Boehme is among us in this quest: he is our contemporary.
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