Esteemed Reader: On the Verge of A Revolutionary Worldview | May 2022 | Esteemed Reader | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Esteemed Reader: On the Verge of A Revolutionary Worldview | May 2022 

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In school, perhaps 8th grade, I read about Galileo Galilei, the renaissance polymath who, along with Giordano Bruno and others, proposed the heliocentric model of the solar system. Here’s what I recall.

In Galileo’s time, the prevailing geocentric cosmology was the dogma supported by the most powerful institution in Europe, the Church. Presumably this was because it meshed neatly with Biblical cosmology, which, at least when taken literally, places the Earth squarely in the middle of the creation.

At the same time Europe received an influx of new tools for perceiving and evaluating the physical world. Notable acquisitions borrowed or stolen from the Arab society during the Crusades included mathematics (algebra comes from the Arabic al-jabr, literally “the reunion of broken parts”) and lens technology that gave rise to new, far-seeing telescopes. These gave students of the cosmos the ability to observe, chart, and calculate the movement of celestial bodies with greater precision.

These two currents—the dominant dogma and the new tools of observation and measurement—ran in parallel for a time. During this interstitial period in the evolution of worldviews the establishment scientists went to great lengths to prove the geocentric model. Their mathematical explanations were complex, sophisticated, and convincing, yet the models were so Byzantine that only the most erudite could understand the complexities of their formulations. These were the experts.

In contrast to the geocentric proofs, the mathematical modeling for the heliocentric view was remarkably simple, elegant, and understandable without elaborate training. Anyone could understand it because it was verifiable with naked eye astronomical observation and common sense. More importantly, understanding the model didn’t require the indoctrination into dogma required to promote an ideology that contradicted what people saw.

When the new renaissance thinkers proposed the heliocentric model, they were summarily dismissed, their work labeled fake science, censored, and made illegal. They were charged with terrorism, tried, and sentenced to death. Galileo recanted his theories and was spared. Giordano Bruno, whose statue now stands at the center of Campo de’ Fiori in Rome, his back to the Vatican, burned. The inscription at the base reads “A Bruno—Il Secolo da lui Divinato—Qui Dove Il Rogo Arse” (To Bruno—From the Age He Predicted—Here Where the Fire Burned).

Mark Twain wisely observed that “history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.”

Ask any researcher whose interests or views depart from a narrow set of acceptable dogmas and learn that she has either been forced to keep silent or has been defunded and her work labeled fake. The establishment makes heretics of anyone diverging from a narrow set of assumptions promoting discrete self-serving agendas.

A further indication of the inflamed state of what is called science is the arrogance of its adherents. We are admonished to trust “experts” without question or recourse to common sense. We are told that the specialist’s work is too complex and complicated to understand without extensive indoctrination.

Meanwhile, we can see clearly where the dominant worldview has led—catastrophic environmental destruction, obscene inequity of wealth and power between the rich and poor, and epidemic suggestibility to a handful of media corporations. The dominant worldview is what led to this situation, and it is not the solution.

If history is any indication, this state of ideological fundamentalism suggests that a new model, a new worldview is nascent, trying to find its way into the world. I suspect this is a seismic shift in perception, a revolution of understanding akin to a new model of the universe.

For me, the beginning is embodied in a formulation attributed to Socrates—summa scientia nihil scire—the highest knowledge is to know nothing. Striving to be empty of accumulated ideas opens a portal to mystery. Steadfastly facing the infinite mystery may lead to some genuine humility. Understanding that I don’t know opens the possibility of coming to see something new.

My own inquiry has led to the consideration of what may be reliable bases of the new worldview.

The unity of life. With humility, I see that though humanity has exceptional powers, the race is nevertheless an organ in the body of Great Nature and must strive to perceive and serve her purposes.

Life is sacred. Life and all life’s manifestations as plants, animals, and humans, are an unfathomable mystery that I can only face with humility and reverence. I don’t know, but I can respect the unity of life.

The universe is a cosmic ecosystem. Everything is an instrument for the transformation of energies. Everything eats and is fed upon. Beings exist in bodies at different scales and every being is part of a larger whole, which in turn is part of a still greater whole. Human beings are no exception and must strive to serve as transformers of energy in the way the cosmic ecosystem requires.

These are some of my thoughts. How do you see the revolutionary worldview that is surely on the verge of being born?

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