Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The 6 Key Practices Suggested by E F Schumacher's "Guide For the Perplexed", (Plus Insight Into "Progress")

E F Schumacher's very good book, "A Guide For the Perplexed", describes but does not invoke the great tradition of wisdom. I therefore propose to describe six useful practices that flow from his book.

1. Becoming Adequate Internally.
Schumacher suggests that we cannot experience within us what we do not first come to believe exists. The single best exercise to become internally adequate is to read Jacques Maritain's book, "Introduction to Philosophy". There Maritain distinguishes between the sensible and the intelligible. The merely sensible is what every human being is adequate to; what Schumacher is primarily talking about is the intelligible.

2. Becoming Adequate Externally.
Schumacher spends a lot of time criticising Descartes in the second chapter on Adequatio. But Descartes clearly distinguishes between the res interna and the res extensa, the internal world and external world. And in terms of becoming adequate to the external world, there is no better way that Aristotle's Metaphysics, which beautifully describes the fullest grasp of intelligible first principles of reality.

3. Attention To Ourselves.
Schumacher talks about the first field as mechanical and resolved by contemplation and inquiry into our mechanical nature. The best approach to this, as Schumacher rightly points out, is the Maha-Satipatthana Sutta of the Buddha, Gotama. Schumacher quotes a number of philosophers and tends to muddy the subject rather than render it crystal clear. Mindfulness as taught in Buddhism is all that is needed, and just what the doctor ordered.

4. Taking the Inner Lives of Others Seriously.
I have found the best way to take the inner lives of others seriously is to use maps. Astrology is one such map, as is Doctor David R. Hawkins' Map of Consciousness.

5. Altruism.
The best source for guidance on altruism that actually works (as opposed to silly theories based on ideals which do not work) is the two books of Adam Smith, "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" and "The Wealth of Nations". Together, these constitute a single insight:
Human selfishness must be directed towards selflessly creating value for others if human society is to flourish.
6. Science.
Schumacher again flails about with multiple suggestions. I have only one: read Francis Bacon's "Advancement of Learning". This revolutionary review of the state of human knowledge is so prophetic and astonishing that it immediately drives home the power of genuine scientific progress in the 500 years since Lord Bacon lived. (The effect can be compounded by comparing Bacon's induction with Aristotle's papers on naturalism, a span of 17 centuries apart, demonstrating another astonishing leap in science. But you get the idea right?)

I want to leave you with one more priceless insight: truly progressive thinking is self-evidently solely the province of scientific inquiry. When the metaphor of "progress" passes into the fields of inner life or social conduct it quickly becomes first rancid then toxic to human life and welfare. We cannot "progress" our human nature or human social instutitions, any more than we can "progress" the aging process of our star the Sun.

What we can do, as Adam Smith ably points out, is accept and humbly adjust to the reality of human nature and human society. And it is of course in Adam Smith and the other intellectuals of the Scottish Enlightenment that a profound humanity and intellectual humility has borne the greatest fruit for human social welfare.

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