Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
Does anyone recall the work of E.F. Schumacher? I remember I read his book, A Guide for the Perplexed, back when I was a freshman in college, I remember being impressed and inspired by it, and it was probably one of the early books that started me on a philosophical inquiry that eventually led away from my religious convictions of the time, but this was long before I had discovered Wilber's work. Interestingly, I came across some notes I had on the book today and looked it up on Wikipedia, where -- on reading the synopsis -- I was impressed by how much his ideas (published in this book in 1977) anticipated Wilber's work. The chain of being, holonic emergence, four fundamental perspectives (and correlated practices), evolutionary view, trans-egoic orientation, etc.
Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia summary of the book, A Guide for the Perplexed:
For Schumacher one of science's major mistakes has been rejecting the traditional philosophical and religious view that the universe is a hierarchy of being. Schumacher makes a restatement of the traditional chain of being...
Schumacher realizes that the terms -— life, consciousness, and self-consciousness —- are subject to misinterpretation so he suggests that the differences can best be expressed as an equation which can be written thus:
'Mineral' = m
'Plant' = m + x
'Animal' = m + x + y
'Man' = m + x + y + z
In his theory, these three factors (x, y and z) represent ontological discontinuities. He argues that they are differences can be likened to differences in dimension; and from one perspective it could be argued that only humans have 'real' existence insofar as they possess the three dimensions of life, consciousness and self consciousness. Schumacher uses this perspective to contrast with the materialistic scientism view, which argues that what is 'real' is inanimate matter; denying the realness of life, consciousness and self consciousness, despite the fact each individual can verify those phenomena from their own experience.
Schumacher points out that there are a number of progressions that take place between the levels. The most striking he believes is the movement from passivity to activity, there is a change in the origination of movement between each level:
Cause (Mineral kingdom)
Stimulus (Plant kingdom)
Motive (Animal kingdom)
One consequence of this progression is that each level of being becomes increasingly unpredictable, and it is in this sense that man can be said to have free will.
Schumacher identifies four fields of knowledge for the individual:
I → inner
I → other persons (inner)
other persons → I
I → the world
These four fields arise from combining two pairs: Myself and the World; and Outer Appearance and Inner Experience. He notes that humans only have direct access to fields one and four.
Field one is being aware of your feelings and thoughts and most closely correlates to self awareness. He argues this is fundamentally the study of attention. He differentiates between when your attention is captured by the item it focuses upon, which is when a human being functions much like a machine; and when a person consciously directs their attention according to their choosing. This for him is the difference between being lived and living.
Field two is being aware of what other people are thinking and feeling.
Despite these problems we do experience a 'meeting of minds' with other individuals at certain times. People are even able to ignore the words actually said, and say something like "I don't agree with what you are saying; but I do agree with what you mean." Schumacher argues that one of the reasons we can understand other people is through bodily experience, because so many bodily expressions, gestures and postures are part of our common human heritage.
Schumacher observes that the traditional answer to the study of field two has been "You can understand others to the extent you understand yourself." Schumacher points out that this a logical development of the principle of adequateness, how can you understand someone's pain unless you too have experienced pain?
Field three is understanding yourself as an objective phenomenon. Knowledge in field three requires you to be aware what other people think of you.
Schumacher suggests that the most fruitful advice in this field can be gained by studying the Fourth Way concept of external considering.
Schumacher observes that relying on just field one knowledge makes you feel that you are the centre of the universe; while focusing on field three knowledge makes you feel you far more insignificant. Seeking self knowledge via both fields provides more balanced and accurate self knowledge.
Field four is the behaviourist study of the outside world. Science is highly active in this area of knowledge and many people believe it is the only field in which true knowledge can be gained. For Schumacher, applying the scientific approach is highly appropriate in this field.
Schumacher summarises his views about the four fields of knowledge as follows:
Only when all four fields of knowledge are cultivated can you have true unity of knowledge. Instruments and methodologies of study should be only applied to the appropriate field they are designed for.
Clarity of knowledge depends on relating the four fields of knowledge to the four levels of being.
The instructional sciences should confine their remit to field four, because it is only in the field of appearances that mathematical precision can be obtained. The descriptive sciences, however, are not behaving appropriately if they focus solely on appearances, and must delve in meaning and purpose or they will produce sterile results.
Self-knowledge can only be effectively pursued by balanced study of field one (self awareness) and field three (objective self knowledge).
Study of field two (understanding other individuals) is dependent on first developing a powerful insight into field one (self awareness).
He says that the tasks of an individual can be summed up as follows:
*Learn from society and tradition.
*Interiorize this knowledge, learn to think for yourself and become self directed.
*Grow beyond the narrow concerns of the ego.
Man, he says, in the larger sense must learn again to subordinate the sciences of manipulation to the sciences of wisdom; a theme he further develops in his book Small is Beautiful.