Paradigm Shift: My Introduction

The opening of a new paradigm is humbling and exhilarating;
we were not so much wrong as partial, as if we had been
seeing with a single eye. It is not more knowledge but a new knowing.
– Marilyn Ferguson

It was in the late 1980’s that I began to read several authors who spoke about our living in a time of profound “paradigm shift” on all levels. The term “paradigm shift” originated in science with Thomas Kuhn. He used it to describe “the eruption of something that challenges and subsequently changes the rules.”

Anne Wilson Schaef and Diane Fassel include an introduction to Kuhn’s ideas in their book, The Addictive Organization. Other books I remember reading on this topic are The Aquarian Conspiracy by Marilyn Ferguson, The Turning Point by Fritjof Capra, and The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav

I learned from these authors that we are in the midst of an ongoing cultural shift, and that this paradigm shift involves an emerging perspective in dramatic contrast to the mechanistic worldview established through Newtonian science which dominated Western thinking for centuries. In the view of some observers, that mechanistic metaphor for reality favored such “dysfunctional” values, beliefs, and practices as hierarchy, dualism, conformity, stability, individualism and determinism.

In contrast, the so-called “new paradigm” emerging through the advancements in quantum physics and other sciences is a more holistic and organic worldview, supporting such values, beliefs and practices as mutuality, complementarity, innovation, process, collaboration, and openness to the unexpected (See, for example, Diarmuid O’Murchu, Our World in Transition, NY: Crossroad. 1992).

I moved into full study of this idea of a contemporary paradigm shift after taking a writing workshop with the novelist and poet Madeline L’Engle at Mundelein College in 1991. During the workshop, L’Engle shared with us that the “new physics” had become the major resource for her meditation and prayer.  This was fascinating to me because, though I had long ago set it aside, I had become fascinated with astronomy as far back as the fourth grade. For several years, on every visit to the library I brought home many books to read on to subject. I also did my own observations of the moon through my limited power telescope, received as a Christmas present. As I said, it had been years, though, since I had actively pursued the hobby. Yes, now in my early 30’s, I was again being invited to explore our Universe.

Encountering the new science as an adult, and reading the material about the “paradigm shift” to a more holistic, organic, evolutionary worldview, brought me to the realization that the shift being called for was not a “shift” at all for me, but a “coming home.” I remember saying to myself at the time: “This is so helpful, because now I realize the reason for my lifelong discontent. It lies in the fact that I am not making a shift because I never lived in the old paradigm. Instead, I always lived in the new one — way before anyone around me was doing it. That’s why I always felt out of step with the crowd.”

Today, as I search for a way to try to explain that experience of discontent, the only thing to which I can attribute the experience is my childhood “mystical” moment –  the intense feeling that “oneness” permeates all of reality. Within that experience, I became grounded in a subtle but powerful worldview in which the boundaries, the rigidity, the exclusions, the dualities of the old paradigm never made sense.

Also today, I am able to say that I have moved from within that sense of “oneness” to a place in which I try to view the values, beliefs and practices of the “old” and “new” paradigms as complementary in themselves, and not view them with an “either/or” stance. In other words, if our Universe truly is “one,” then it makes sense that all of these dynamics are present within it for a purpose.  However, in our human individual and cultural limitations, we, at least in the West, historically came to favor one side of the polarity of values, beliefs and practices over the other.  Answers to why this occurred came to me in future steps in my own growth in conscious awareness.

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Ferguson. M. (1980). The aquarian conspiracy. New York, NY: Tarcher Books. p. 30.

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