The Illusion of Separation – the cause of our current crises
‘I regard the grooves of destiny into which our civilization has entered as a special case of evolutionary cul-de-sac. Courses which offered short-term advantage have been adopted, have become rigidly programmed, and have begun to prove disastrous over longer time. This is the paradigm for extinction by way of loss of flexibility.’ Gregory Bateson.
What has become widely referred to as ‘Western civilisation’ has brought great technological advancement and social change over the millennia. Its underpinning scientific-philosophy is now the dominant paradigm in most parts of our world, regarded by many as the only viable way ahead and a panacea for all our ills.
The cultural belief has grown that, with enough time and money, all problems can be solved through this science and technology. One has only to be reminded of the great strides we have made in, for instance, computing, manufacturing, medicine and food production to recognise the attraction of this creed.
Yet something is amiss. We seem to be facing increasingly insurmountable social, psychological, economic and environmental problems of epic proportions. Many are now recognising that these problems run deep and wide. These are pivotal times for humanity. And yet the regular reaction to our plethora of problems is to find scientific, monetary or technological fixes way downstream from the inherent problems themselves. All too often these downstream fixes actually exacerbate the underlying problems. As the scholar Joseph Milne notes, ‘There is a tendency in our age to rush to change the manifest effects of wrong actions without seriously considering the root causes’.
Have we become addicted to a pathway that undermines our very evolution? Are our sustainability initiatives optimising inherently unsustainable strategies? Would it not be wiser to take sufficient pause to explore and reveal the root causes of our many crises and remedy them there rather than trying in vain to deal with their ever deepening, spreading and complicating down-stream ramifications? By stepping back to ponder, we can start to identify the ensemble of intrinsic, culturally embedded problems within our social, economic, scientific and philosophical Western paradigms – for convenience referred to collectively herein as the ‘Western paradigm’.
Far from our Western paradigm being the grand solution-provider to all our ills, many prominent thinkers in business, politics, education, society, the arts and sciences point to its role in actually fuelling the multiple crises. For instance, the much admired award-winning former Chairman and CEO of Interface, Ray Anderson explained,
‘We have been, and still are, in the grips of a flawed view of reality – a flawed paradigm, a flawed world view – and it pervades our culture putting us on biological collision course with collapse.’
Christine Lagarde, Head of the International Monetary Fund points out that
‘we are currently subsidising the destruction of our planet on an enormous scale.’
And contemporary writer C.J. Moore notes that:
Many of our accepted practices and beliefs have brought us, and our planet, to a place of extreme vulnerability and dire ugliness … Governments and institutions that should have been protectors of society and landscape, have played into the hands of commerce and short term profiteering.
While this Western paradigm has brought much material betterment (details of which are well versed) it has an insidious, cancerous quality causing it to undermine our very existence. Its historic tendency has been to colonise new lands and ’markets’ in a way that is fundamentally destructive of its host, like cancer does. Put bluntly, our prevalent way of attending is systemically anti-life. There are ample books, research papers and scientific studies exploring in detail the damage inflicted by modern humanity upon our biosphere and it is assumed the reader is either aware of, or can find out with ease, the current demise of life on Earth which goes far deeper than the hot topic of climate change.
For instance, bio-diversity loss on Earth is now assumed to be happening at a rate of somewhere between 100‒1000 times faster than background rates. Another obvious warning sign is the gigantic ‘plastic islands’ now coalescing in our oceans. The one in the Pacific Ocean known as the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is thought to be larger than the size of France and growing by the day.
This systemically anti-life behaviour begs the questions, ‘Are we able to change our way of living to one that is supportive of, rather than destructive to, life? If so, how and how fast?’ These are pivotal questions for our time. This book takes us on a journey upstream to find root causes and then sets about exploring ways of attending to life that could overcome these corruptions.
Clearly a small book cannot hope to provide definitive answers if there were such things – and indeed, as we shall explore, the quest for certainty through definitive logic is at the root of our present difficulties – yet in The Illusion of Separation we provide an accessible exploration of:
- How the Western paradigm developed in the way it has done and what the root causes of this carcinogenic way of attending may be (by ‘attending’ is meant our overall experiencing of life – analysing, perceiving, relating, engaging, and embodying);
- Ways to rectify these root causes at source;
- A way ahead which does not constrain itself with the same thinking that caused the problems in the first place.
In Part One we start from the present day situation of consumerism which we seem so hopelessly dependent upon in the West. We explore how the Freudian desire to control the irrational aspects of our psyche influenced a perceived need to manipulate society through consumerism.
Then we take a step upstream, back in time, to Darwinism and the way in which we came to view the world through the lens of competition. We explore how this perception originates with the abstraction of separating content from context and how this goes hand-in-hand with capitalism and the desire for control through socio-economic systems.
From here we go further upstream to the Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth century. We explore how our Western mind became predominantly materialistic, whereupon Nature was perceived as a collection of objects to be controlled and manipulated.
From here we venture yet further upstream in search of the formation of Western philosophy in ancient Greece. We also explore the rise of Christendom in Europe during medieval times and its effect on our way of perceiving life.
Then finally, we forge further upstream to the springs of civilisation and the invasions of Neolithic Europe in search of how domination and control came to pervade Western culture.
Having identified potential root causes and their restrictive effects, in Part Two we start to re-view life beyond these restrictions, unshackled as it were from ingrained cultural habituations. We start off by exploring Nature’s myriad ways of relating.
Then we take a brief look at the exciting discoveries of quantum physics and how our perception of space, energy and matter can deepen beyond mechanistic materialism. This leads us on into exploring some interesting Western theories about the relation of consciousness and matter.
We then explore some profound developments in Western thought which point to life beyond the tidy confines of objectified science: phenomenology, process philosophy, participatory consciousness and ecological psychology.
Then our own psyche and conscious awareness is explored within a journey of self-realisation. This leads us on to a deeper perspective of our imagination, heart and soul. And then, the ancient yet timeless wisdom of indigenous cultures is related to all that has been understood so far in our explorations.
Finally, the concept of a ‘paradigm shift’ is discussed along with what leadership capabilities this may call upon. Having explored Western conceptual thinking, we can then dive into a new way of embracing life in Part Three.
You can find independent reviews about The Illusion of Separation on Good Reads here
Here is a short 2 minute video about it:
The Illusion of Separation can be found on Amazon across the globe – here is it on Amazon.com