Thinking Big requires a new approach to the way we pursue knowledge about our universe, our lives, and our species. We’re still asking life’s Big Questions and tackling humanity’s Big Problems, but in the context of Big History — a blend of cosmology, physics, chemistry, geology, biology, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and history. Such a meta-disciplinary approach yields a single, unifying, compelling narrative that continues unfolding meaning, purpose, and insight.
Humans have always pursued cosmology. Perhaps the greatest ancient discovery was the Precession of the Equinoxes, a recurrent 26,000 year cycle, leading to the model of astrological Ages and the mytheme of Eternal Return and The Great Year. Jung took an interest in astrology because he found it archetypally predictive.
The change of Age, such as we face now, was always considered a challenging time of crisis and chaos as the old ways die while new forms emerge. Therefore, today we find the mindscape riddled with the transitional, messianic, and apocalyptic memes of “2012”, the Rapture, and Ascensionism. A crisis can be a blessing when it gets us to the devastating point where the pain of letting go is less than the pain of hanging on to a self-system that is so undeniably wounding.
Not just the world, but “psyche” is in a time of crisis. The modern apocalyptic imagination, the economics of the spiritual marketplace, the commodification of countercultural values, and the cult of celebrity reign supreme. We must acknowledge the variety of manifest emotional and active responses globally to the onslaught of crises facing humanity and the centrality of psyche in articulating, holding and acting on these concerns, in a fragile world in turmoil.
We’ve always wanted to understand our origins, going right back to creation stories or creation myths. Physics connects the largest and smallest things in the Cosmos: “As Above; So Below”. It is our common story because, for the first time, humans have an origin story that transcends our regional, religious, and tribal differences. That is, at least in theory. The flip side is that there is no consensus in physics, behind rather desperate attempts to rescue the Standard Theory from oblivion and the proliferation of orthodox and heterodox models. What may be closer is that we have a fantasy about how we think this has revolutionized our world.
The narratives of the past were as clear as the grossly limited understandings, beliefs, and superstitions of their times allowed them to be. Chasing an ancient past that we are ill-equipped to understand in its original context is a sure path to detour or derailment in all conclusions resulting from it , if we take it literally. Old ideas are rediscovered, and succeeding generations find new applications, valid and illusory, for these ideas.
Much of the value of studying these ‘Holy Grail-type’ notions comes from making connections across disciplines and ultimately building up our intellectual muscle power — conceptual background. Learning different perspectives from our own is a primary source of human creativity. It can also be fallacious. To the extent such ideas spark insight they may help us move forward, but new ideas in reductionistic form can stall progress, too.
We know more than previous generations and have caused more problems than previous generations. The future we craft together depends on transformational dialogue and sharing worldviews. Exponential growth must be curbed to avoid catastrophic consequences. Decisions made now have effects over a very long period.
There is a hidden revolution in science today. Instead of focus on a part, focus has moved to relationships. A psyche capable of manipulating forms can create logical relationships, but logic remains a limited tool. Imaginal images have enabled interaction, projection and cultural expansion. The human capacity itself is an extension of nature.
So, instead of what something is, we look instead toward what something is doing and its non-deterministic effects on whole systems. The solutions lie not in the past but the future-perfect tense. Still, the near future is unlikely to be perfect. Furthermore, the nature of that future is a wide-open field, subject to endless confabulation — personal and collective delusion. The ability to shift approaches with agility and speed is the essence of future adaptation.
We sense we are ending and yet just beginning because both are simultaneously and timelessly true. Humanity’s race is against time toward the great Unknown. The perennial question remains, “What is wrong with the world and why is it that way?” Neither religion, philosophy, nor systems theory has been able to do more than balance out the negative, much like Yin and Yang. Transcendental religions seek to escape time and its dichotomies altogether.
The treasures of cultural history and spontaneous renewal reside within this living field, our connection with the primal source of life and parallel phenomena. The history of the world emerges from the multidimensional field of possibilities. Somehow life works despite infinite deviations. Viability can be anticipated if not planned. But we’ve outgrown Earth’s carrying capacity.
Though barely aware of them, we are tied together by deep processes. We can learn to consciously understand and apply, rather than destructively act out these eternal patterns. We must learn to recognize what is being revealed even though it is always open to interpretation. We are also subject to delusions and misperceptions, so we need to learn discernment. We need to focus on our own dynamic process, not just its finite contents, personalistic signs and symbols.
Do we have to imagine our end to find a new beginning, to reinvent civilization? Change starts with the questions we ask because they have the potential to shift our awareness. What is inconceivable one day may not be the next. The tipping point could come at any juncture. Reality is neither structure nor chaos, but a process in which structure and chaos dance between form and formlessness. This is the eternal cycle of death and renewal.
Abrams and Primack write: “if we were to possess a transnationally shared, believable picture of the cosmos, including a mythic-quality story of its origins and our origins — a picture recognized as equally true for everyone on this planet — we humans would see our problems in an entirely new light, and we would almost certainly solve them.” Is this the meaning of today’s crises rooted in the changing Age?
Our ancestors may have had as much native intelligence as we do, but being dead doesn’t make you smarter, so in retrieving their “wisdom” we may bog ourselves down in the undertow of outmoded thinking, swayed by emotional draw to archetypal fascinations, stereotypical superstitions, and magnetic symbolism. Yet, each person cleaves to their limited interpretations, conceptions, and overdrawn conclusions like a jealous lover. Our theories of self, others and world are contrained by the limitations of our individual minds.
Consciousness doesn’t mistake itself for a god; people do. Some cultures are still locked in worshiping their version of God, while others have reduced god to the personalistic level, wishing to be that through such memes as co-creation, LOA, and “intentionality”. The later is thinly disguised ego-aggrandizement. Whether that is possible in any sense or not, it is hubris, or spiritual pride, an addictive state of the ego that opens the door to self-deception, even in science.
Big Questions will always remain as our understanding is necessarily limited. We are receivers of revelatory downloads in symbolic and cognitive form that can change the paradigm. But we lack the capacity to “know” it all, which is reserved to the archetypal domain. Thus, the unified theory, which would be more than theory because it actually describes reality, remains elusive.
Professor Russell Stannard offers unanswerable questions that include:
“The brain is a physical object and many people liken it to an elaborate computer. But unlike a computer the brain is conscious.” What is consciousness?
Free will versus determinism: “Will a scientist be able to to predict what anyone does in the future? That doesn’t match with our decision to make a choice – it is the free will versus determinism question”.
“Why is there a world in the first place? Why is there something rather than nothing?”
“If the world was chaotic, there’s nothing to explain. Certain things happen and other things cannot happen because of the Laws of Nature. But why are there any laws at all?”
Is mathematics something human beings invented or something we discovered?
For all of us to be here, many many conditions had to be satisfied. The chance of life happening on earth, and satisfying those conditions were “practically zero”. We find ourselves in one of these freak universes.
How do you prove that there are universes other than our own?
Cosmologists are able to describe the tiniest fraction of a second after the Big Bang. There was neither space nor time before the Big Bang. Some theories do not require nor include a Big Bang at all, making it’s “cause” meaningless.
Does the universe go on forever? Where is its border and where does it stop?
No one knows what the smallest unit of distance or time is, or the length of a “string”.
We are appropriating for our own consumption a large and increasing fraction of the biological productivity of the entire earth. This is why we need to figure out quickly how to transition out of the current period of worldwide human inflationary growth as gently and justly as possible. Cosmology can help – by providing a model for this seemingly insurmountable task. The way that cosmology, and cosmic thinking, can help is to provide an accurate big picture of the universe that might motivate people to change enough, fast enough. Abrams and Primack argue that for the human race to take responsible and meaningful action, we must first agree on a common creation story. http://bigthink.com/ideas/41338