It was in 1962 that the philosopher Thomas Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and the term “paradigm shift” first appeared. Kuhn used the term to describe the monumental scientific revolution instigated by Albert Einstein’s theories and the subsequent development of quantum mechanics. The dramatic shift away from Newtonian physics into this new paradigm effectively changed the world. In addition to paradigm shift, Kuhn also popularized the term incommensurable, which means that two competing theories cannot be reconciled.
In our own time, the problem of the nature of consciousness may also be facing a paradigm shift and certain incommensurability. After decades of study and countless books and papers trying to explain consciousness as a function of brain chemistry, we are no closer to defining and accepting the nature of consciousness as an epiphenomenon of evolution. As Einstein himself said, how is it that human beings are able to discover and formulate equations for the laws of the universe when such a skill has no evolutionary advantage for doing so? Some more universal connection must be at work.
Another answer to that question comes from ancient sources in the wisdom tradition.
Stated simply, consciousness is an essential attribute of the universe itself and permeates space/time along with matter, dark matter and dark energy. This theory of the presence of a universal consciousness, which all living things have access to, is becoming in our own time a viable theory in a broad range of disciplines. Including cosmology, philosophy, psychology, religion, and physics.
Great minds, like Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger in physics; Plato, Plotinus, Spinoza in philosophy, the great sages of the Eastern sacred texts; and now more contemporary writers and thinkers, are postulating this theory of consciousness as a serious alternative to brain chemistry. And of course the theory is incommensurate with materialism and biology.
One such contemporary advocate of this potential paradigm shift is Ervin Laszlo, the Hungarian philosopher, scientist, and systems theorist, who has been studying what he terms “quantum consciousness.” László’s 2004 book, Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything, develops his theory in broad terms, including cosmology, physics, and Eastern traditions as a means of defining what Ken Wilbur calls the integral operating system. Laszlo’s most recent book (2014) is entitled The Immortal Mind and he has taken Kuhn one step further by coining the term Macroshift to suggest the coming revolution in thinking.
That we are now beyond the point of labeling a theory of universal consciousness the product of delusional imagination should be obvious, given the quality of work being disseminated. Whether or not we are in the midst of a paradigm shift, however, will no doubt await a major shift in consciousness, because it is also true that testing such a theory in the lab is incommensurate. There’s the rub.
Professor Richard Geldard