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The word paradigm in present usage means the model constructed by our unconscious and conscious mind which we use to understand and explain the world. Our paradigm incorporates all of our basic assumptions about the nature of reality. It is our worldview; it’s the lens through which we look at the world and it colors everything we see.
This paradigm-lens is itself created and formed partly from our education and partly from the primal feelings living at the deepest levels of our heart and mind. Primal feelings are shared by all human beings, each of us having our own particular mix depending on our individual constitution and experience and on the culture in which we live. Most important in this inner mix of primal, basic feelings toward life and the world is whether love or fear rules.
In ancient times the ruling paradigm was based on love for the world. Today our ruling scientific paradigm is based on fear of the world. At a deep unconscious level—but just below the surface in medicine— we live today in a fear-based paradigm. Because of this underlying fear, science and medicine assume that we must control and master Nature in order to survive. This new paradigm that is now struggling to be born challenges us to develop the courage and selflessness to master and change ourselves in order to survive.
The ruling paradigm of a culture determines the kind of knowledge on which governments are based, the kind of knowledge on which the education of children and the pursuit of science are based; in short the kind of knowledge on which enlightened civilization is based.
If we could ask a welleducated citizen of ancient times what kind of knowledge should form the basis of an enlightened civilization, the answer most certainly would be, “Well, of course, knowledge of the gods and of their will.”
The ruling paradigm shared by the peoples of the ancient world was god-centered and spirit-centered. But all that changed because human consciousness is in constant evolution and the human heart and mind never stand still. Paradigms are like living things which grow, reach maturity, and then become old, overripe, and prone to illness and decay. By the 1500s, the ancient spirit-centered ruling paradigm in Europe had become entrenched in the powerful authority of the church and had grown old and corrupt, no longer able to keep up with changing, evolving human consciousness.
Then came a mighty paradigm shift, as western science was brought to birth by Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. The human mind and senses gradually lost their capacity to experience spirit as a concrete reality. After Galileo, the physical matter of the universe assumed ever-growing importance for the mind, and for science. To understand the deep inner reality of matter became the quest of science, eventually leading to the unsettling conclusion by modern physics that the basis of all matter was after all nonmaterial: energy. Things were coming full circle, as our western paradigm, having shifted from spirit-based to matter-based, then shifted to energybased in the 20th century.
The birth of western science was also the birth of a freer and more individualized human thinking. Galileo was a pioneer fighting for the freedom to think about reality in a way that respected no outer authority but respected only the truth as he saw it. He stood for the inviolable right of the scientist to follow ones own conscience, free from outside pressure. This fresh, young, scientific paradigm represented by Galileo matured over the next few centuries. It became well-established and institutionalized, and now has become entrenched and very powerful. Now the free spirits in science are again having a hard time. Their freedom to call it as they see it is again being curtailed; their academic freedom is threatened. And of course, today it is not the church which threatens freedom of thought in science, it is the system that institutionalized science has become which stifles individual freedom and creativity. Most Americans today believe that a scientist is free to pursue the truth as she or he sees it, free from any influence whatsoever. This is sadly not the case.