There is no idea, however ancient and absurd, that is not capable of improving our knowledge.- Paul Feyerabend
Here I want to give a brief summary of popular thinkers and traditions in the critical context of what we hope will become the new paradigm, what we are calling for convenience, creative coherence. Here are some of what we feel are important precursors to the thought of the future that nonetheless have important limitations that we wanted to put in a concise accessible way for those interested. This is where I reduce some of the best thought of the planet into caricatures for your convenience
Mainstream Science and Cosmology: By far the most popular ideology of our times. It is conquering the planet, though its shortcomings are so legion, that the New Age is starting to give its cosmology a run for its money. The biggest problem is that “science” is treated like a monolithic entity where the corporate-sponsored truth is sold as settled fact. Or perhaps, to the more skeptical, it is thought of as an evolving model that cannot be proven fact, but has disproven its competitors. But the truth is far more interesting. Behind the mirage of corporate science is a richly contested and evolving multiplicity of ideas, technologies, and possible worlds that depend on us shedding the monotone facade of established “fact”.
New Age Spirituality: While much of the New Age is about a return to a more “natural” pagan religious way of life, or a reduction of complex systems to primordial archetypes as foundational metaphysics, there is also an aspect that is science obsessed, either to prove mysticism, or develop a futuristic society. I am all for an enlightened planetary society but we have to be careful of the techno-mysticism and “ascension” based trends that are dangerously close to the trans-humanist obsession with technological transcendence of the human condition.
Alternative Science: While the future may be growing out of these fringe areas of research, there is also a lot of naivety about the ability of technology to “free” us without some kind of corresponding change in consciousness and political organization
Ancient Chinese Philosophy and Science: While they never developed the abstract sciences that the West pioneered, the West still hasn’t caught up with the sophistication of their analogical science of life. As we do, the insights of the ancient Chinese, especially when it comes to living energy systems, are only being confirmed and integrated within the more abstract Western framework. Though to the extent we follow their analogical logic, we can only help to benefit from its more relational, qualitative framework.
Progressive Politics: It has spent decades being fractured into identity politics, niche issues, anti-civilization eco-anarchism, just to name a few of neo-liberalism’s shadow spawn. We are seeing more and more coherence developing around class issues that can unify the struggle but we must be willing to play the long game of reform without letting our anarchistic ideals or liberal illusions collapse us into unrealistic expectations.
Western Esotericism, Theosophy: A tradition where the sciences of ancient civilizations were gradually diluted into mystery religions, were then mined for the inspiration to create modern science, and eventually were turned into a new hybrid of half understood symbols and a fledgling science of consciousness. Now we are starting to understand those symbols and reconstitute a working science of consciousness.
Christianity: What started out as a progressive movement within the Middle Eastern cultural matrix with a group of Egyptian styled Jewish mystics with a taste for the crazy liberal ideas coming from Greece, became, well, you know…something quite different. But with all its distortions, its initial will to bring God to the people and heaven to Earth has been carried through the centuries and prepared the Western psyche for just such a possibility.
Buddhism: What started out as progressive critique of the priests and ascetics in India with a more pragmatic individually empowering psychology—a trend that started in India with Vedanta—became a rather confusing mix of metaphors when some of its nihilistic concepts were stretched beyond their initial narrow focus on liberation into a broader philosophical and social context. In the context of Indian philosophy, it has much insight, but it misleads in many contexts, (especially western ones). It was always more suited to a solitary religious practice than a broad philosophy of life. Yet its pragmatism and universality allowed it to lend a systematic ethical and psychological order to the cultures and native religions it became a part of.
Ken Wilber, Non-dual spirituality, Integral Movement: Ken Wilber answered a need that developed out of the shortcomings of many of the movements and ideas listed here. People want an integral view of our planetary culture that can put the relative value of each perspective into an organizing framework. One of the reasons I have made this list is because such summaries and reductive analogies can be really helpful for people. But if people take them for truth, they have not properly understood postmodernism. Wilber tried to make his truths “relative” and contextual but they are ultimately bound to a traditional metaphysical structure grounded on an absolute Buddhist-like transcendence, or if you like, bound to a “two-truths doctrine” where relative and absolute are separately conceived but in the end, equated and conflated problematically. This lead Wilber and affiliated gurus into some ironic and unfortunate authoritarian positions. I suggest reading Gebser’s and Aurobindo’s Integral philosophies instead.
Libertarianism: An important tradition in progressive thought that has become hijacked in America to corral dissent around right wing politics and divide class interests into a morass of identity politics and cultural differences. Anarchism in general has historically been an important progressive force, though it often is plagued by a reductive mechanistic philosophy and a history of betraying its principles to a worship of an authoritarian science or logic. Such is the nature of linear logic. Without dialectics, any ideal taken to its extreme or taken to be supreme becomes what it opposes.
Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell: Two great geniuses that I feel are overemphasized in the world of alternative scholarship. They both had great learning and insight but in their wake so much thinking gets reduced down to archetypal cliches.
Wilhelm Reich, bioenergetics: As Jung’s work grows fainter with the passing of traditional societies and archetypes into memory, Reich’s science of life energy is on the rise. Though one of his central assumptions was a major error. Conflating sexual release with health and freedom leads down a dangerous road. The new science of life (quantum biology, fractal/organismic space-time) is about the organism not the orgasm. The organism is all about coherence. Structured flow. implosion not explosion.
Hinduism: such a rich collection of memories and traditions from a wiser time that any summary judgment would be especially unjust in this case. Though much of it has been misunderstood and misapplied as time has made its true meanings obscure. Some of those meanings have been restructured and made relevant for our times through the Tantric turn and the modern philosophers-i.e. Sri Aurobindo, Peter Wilberg who have integrated the masculine and feminine aspects that are so often out of balance in the Kali Yuga “Hinduism”. Many of the traditional teachers of modern times have been very misleading precisely because they ignored or underestimated the dangers of SHAKTI(power) and the ethical dimensions of its use.
German Idealism,Romanticism, Vitalism: Germans have had good intuition. Philosophically informed science is catching up and replacing romantic abstractions with a detailed understanding of “life” and “nature”. Lets not fall back on these abstractions though.
Systems theory,chaos theory: aspects of the new science which were still in the reductive mode until the post-structural savvy versions of complexity theory have been bringing us a new post-disciplinary science of reflexive modelling.
Post-modernism, post-structuralism: showed us how vital the moral implications of our models are, and they did it with high French style. Taken as a Metaphysics or worldview in itself, it misses its whole point of inescapable vested interest and asymmetry and falls back on an attempt at symmetrical neutral mediation, and a liberalism of reified differences and rules, now taken as pragmatic choices, but which ultimately betrays its liberating potential, for a semiotics of surfaces and disconnected spaces.
post-classical physics: like post-modern theory in general, quantum theory confronted the inescapable connection between text and context, seer and seen, and chose the path of an instrumental reason instead of the true epistemology of mutual co-variance and the science of coherence. Thankfully interdisciplinary science is correcting the deterministic bias of physicists and making sense out of the quantum. I hope this will catch on.
contemporary philosophy: Post-post-modernism is going nowhere without the complexity turn happening in the social sciences. Otherwise you just have criticism, aesthetics and archival work of a dying culture. Or with Badieu and Zizek you just get an empty hope for a radical event to bring something spontaneous into the world. Such a thing is coming, but nothing in the academic tradition is adequately preparing us for it. For that we must turn to the very thing the philosophical community’s materialism prevents them from exploring. Though in the complexity theory circles, the immaterial and emergent nature of reality is being modeled in reflexive embedded layers within an interactive topology, and the path is opening towards an understanding of the science of creative force
Shamanism, Neo-paganism: We need scientist-poets…artists and shamans of civilization, not westerners trying to regain tribal and personal coherence. I hope these traditions will remain alive and active, but to do that we need to learn from them and apply their magic to bring coherence to the global village and not get tempted by a rejection of our modern problems in our embrace of traditional simplicity.
Conspiracy Theory: a vast field these days. much of it encumbered by a right-wing reactionary mentality and endless speculation, but still full of good research and insights. Once one loses the attitude that demonizes all players in the black-budget world and intelligence community, one can get a more nuanced picture of the many levels and sides to the complex game
UFOlogy: esotericism for a scientific culture. After decades of speculation, (and centuries of mystical analogizing of what we didn’t have the technological sophistication to understand), a new cosmology is emerging. With Corey Goode and other alleged whistle blowers, we are getting a view of the big picture. Literal interpretations aside, this is the cutting edge of humanity’s creative attempt to make sense of what is increasingly a bizarre world
Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy: Steiner was a genius. He just took his metaphors too literally and mistook his creative and eccentric visionary talents as a science that all would see the same way. Those that have followed in his footsteps have succeeded by taking his metaphors and suggestions and developing them with their own insights into many applications that are part of the best of the counterculture today. While other spiritual teachers struggled to produce anything but followers, Steiner helped so many important movements become more deeply informed by esoteric wisdom.