Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Future Passion of The Western Mind

I recently finished reading "The Passion of the Western Mind" by Richard Tarnas.

Strangely, I remember receiving this book as a present some twenty years ago and quickly concluding - without much study of its contents - that it was too bland for my taste.

Well, clearly something significant had changed in the meantime as on this occasion, I read it straight through, remaining enthralled with the unfolding narrative from start to finish.

It put me in mind of an earlier book that I had read in the 60's "The Western Intellectual Tradition" by Bronowski and Mazlish. However whereas this was confined to a relatively short period from about 1500 to 1850, Tarnas provides a marvellous perspective for consideration of all major developments spanning ancient Classical Greece right up to the end of the 2nd millennium

Then at the end he summarises his conclusions "For the deepest passion of the Western mind has been to reunite with the ground of its being." He further goes on to indicate that, to a remarkable extent, developments so far have been firmly rooted in the expression of the masculine principle. Therefore to achieve that desired integration, we have now to discover the complementary importance of the feminine principle (which has so greatly been ignored).

Speaking with respect to my personal attempts at achieving integration, I would wholeheartedly agree with these sentiments. However I suspect that this journey will be fraught with many difficulties requiring several hard won conversions before substantial progress can be made. In fact the satisfactory integration of both masculine and feminine principles, will I believe, require substantial spiritual transformation (in both personal and cultural terms) before it can become a reality.

And we are still very far from such desired transformation though admittedly the great acceleration of change at so many levels (e.g. technological and social) that we are presently witnessing across the globe may well facilitate the conditions for dramatic future growth in psycho-spiritual terms.

I will speak here of just some of the issues that will need to be faced before our culture is ready to properly embrace the feminine principle.

As regards the major religions, I see a big problem. For example the three great Western religions traditions Jewish, Christian and Muslim are based on an unbalanced transcendent perspective that directly equates with an exaggerated emphasis on the masculine principle.

For example in the Christian tradition - with which I am most familiar - God is viewed exclusively in male terms as a Father who then sent his (only) Son into the world to redeem it from sin. So the emphasis is strongly on a physical world that inherently is separate from God and thereby must be overcome in a spiritual manner.

In my own Roman Catholic tradition, women are completely excluded from priestly ministry. And as power has been directly exercised through such ministries, women have thereby likewise long remained completely excluded from all important decision-making in the church..
And so strong is this dominance of the masculine principle that church leaders, who in other respects  are demonstrably "good men", readily accept such blatant inequality as a norm that must be preserved!

So I have grave doubts as to whether the Western religions - given their historical baggage - can in fact incorporate the feminine principle while remaining faithful to their original roots.

It may well be that new religious leaders will be required to emerge that can inspire people with a spiritual message that can more readily resonate with their present life experience.
And if this is to happen, I believe that the immanent this-worldly aspect of spirituality will have to be equally emphasised. This of course does not mean that all secular developments should thereby be uncritically accepted, but rather that the many issues regarding authentic commitment in contemporary society will require proper integration with the spiritual perspective.
This would also entail that the major domains of the arts, the sciences and religion would themselves require integration in a "higher" synthesis serving as complementary routes to meaning.

Of course this will require radical changes with respect to our whole understanding of what the arts and sciences truly entail!

I have long had a special interest in Mathematics and from an early stage could sense that there was something fundamentally wrong with accepted understanding.

I would now say that - what is accepted as - Mathematics represents but a reduced and thereby limited view of what the discipline should properly represent.

Put another way, Mathematics - perhaps more than any other activity - operates completely under the masculine principle. So mathematical symbols are interpreted exclusively in quantitative - rather than qualitative - terms. Also in formal terms Mathematics is defined in a solely conscious rational manner thereby avoiding any reference to its unconscious intuitive aspect.

In truth, an enormous collective shadow hangs over the Mathematics profession in a total failure to address its own unconscious aspect (i.e. the feminine principle). So at every turn an unchallenged consensus has been maintained regarding - what in fact represent - highly limited interpretations (whereby qualitative type relationships are reduced in a merely quantitative manner).

I first dimly realised this problem as a 10 year old in relation to the conventional treatment of multiplication. Later while studying Mathematics at college I could recognise, in an enhanced manner, the same problem in relation to the mathematical treatment of the infinite notion.

This then led me to the development of an alternative aspect of Mathematics (Holistic Mathematics) where every symbol is directly defined in a qualitative manner.

 It later inspired a deep study of the nature of the number system through an attempt to give a more comprehensive explanation of the Riemann Hypothesis (incorporating both the quantitative and qualitative interpretation of mathematical symbols).

Ultimately, the startling conclusion emerged that the fundamental nature of the number system is inherently of a dynamic interactive nature and ultimately characterised by a holistic synchronous pattern of behaviour!

And what is true of the number system is likewise true of both physical and psychological reality. So ultimately all reality is characterised by global synchronous relationships (where everything is  interdependent with everything else).

And this discovery simply represents the complementary feminine principle as applied to both Mathematics and Science.

Thus one can perhaps appreciate the enormous task that will be required in terms of adequately incorporating the feminine with the masculine principle.

It means quite simply that the fundamental nature of what we mean by Mathematics and Science will have to radically change. In our present culture these are now exclusively defined in accordance with the masculine principle (whereby meaning is defined in an abstract objective manner in analytic quantitative terms).

Thus restoring the feminine principle requires establishing the meaning of all relationships likewise in a holistic qualitative manner!

Then the task of integrating both masculine and feminine requires balancing the analytic understanding of locally detached relationships with the holistic understanding of all relationships (as interdependent with each other).

Ultimately this worldview can lead to an experience where once again the physical and spiritual realms are seen as interpenetrating each other. However this will not be in the sense of the medieval perspective (sustained by much mythical appreciation). Rather it will come through balancing the  extreme of a detached quantitative science carried to the nth degree of abstraction (the masculine principle) with the opposite extreme of a participative qualitative science equally carried to the nth degree of personal intimacy (the feminine principle).

If this can properly be achieved, then all of nature will thereby significantly evolve in the process to the realisation of its own inherent destiny.