Panorthosic Consultation Decades
By John Taylor; 2008 June 19, 15 Nur, 165 BE
Baha'u'llah tells us to be anxiously concerned with the current situation in the world. This has to be the one lesson of His that I actually live up to, in spades. I am becoming more than anxious, more than concerned; I am positively obsessed. The world today has collected an awesome momentum in a particular direction, and I ask myself constantly: How are we going to turn the corner? How can we save the world from chaos and destruction? We have almost seven billion people on earth now. How will we provide for them all and not destroy our resource base? Questions like this drive me forward but then catch up and return in different form. They never let me go. I have been reading one of Donald Schon's books, and I think he touches the heart of the problem when he writes,
"I have become convinced that universities are not devoted to the production and distribution of fundamental knowledge in general. They are institutions committed, for the most part, to a particular epistemology, a view of knowledge that fosters selective inattention to practical competence and professional artistry." (Wikipedia Article, "Donald Schon")
We need to get down to the true fundamental of all epistemology. We must change the basis of all we know. To me the abasement of the very word "fundamentalism" is the most ominous sign of how far astray we have wandered. We let a few fringe fanatics appropriate the word "fundamental" for their own purposes and fail to ask, what truly is fundamental?
Comenius's Panorthosia (Universal Reform) is shaping up to be one of the most important books that I have ever read because it addresses this very question: what is the true fundamental on which change and adaptation is to be based upon? How do we turn the particular into the universal and the universal back to the particular without doing violence to either? The Bab Himself raised this question when He wrote,
"The greatest achievement of the servant is to raise all objects to their supreme station of detachment and unity." (qi Saiedi, Gate of the Heart, 52)
The Panorthosia is helping me fit the Baha'i principles together into a coherent scheme that I have lacked before. Everything here turns around a key image of the essence of ourselves, that is, the mind, as Tabula Rasa, or blank tablet. We saw last time that Comenius did not take the limitations of Aristotle's metaphor of mind as stone tablet at face value. No, he pointed out, the mind is not bounded by a blank page, it can be written and rewritten on forever. It is more like, well, a mirror. A mirror can reflect the universe, but in an instant, when the lights go out, it is dark as the dullest rock.
The mind as mirror is the core image that the Bab adopted as His central metaphor of the mind. The human mind is a reflection of a Mind within a mind, in other words it mirrors the dual nature of what He called a Manifestation of God. The Bab wrote,
"And within the inmost reality of all things there hath been, and will forever continue to be, a sign from God through which the unity of the Lord is celebrated. This sign, however, is a reflection of His Will present within it, through which naught is seen but God. However, within the Will, that supreme Sign is the Will Itself, the Supreme Mirror of God, which hath never referred, nor will it ever refer, to aught but God ..." (in Nader Saiedi, Gate of the Heart, p. 46)
As the Bab teaches, the dual nature of the Manifestation, that of reflection (absolute) and servitude (relativity), projects onto and informs our own dual nature as humans, servitude and animality. This new epistemology reflects now in our technology. Our tools now are digital; that is, they have a dual hardware and a software component. Hardware answers to commands from software and the latter can be re-programmed infinitely, just as conscience is constantly written upon and changed by the Spirit.
This is not idle theorizing or sterile theology. I see it applied in what I call "plugged-in meetings," connected gatherings concentrating both learning and questioning into a unified, world circling process of reform. The ultimate purpose of such gatherings has to be peace, as Comenius points out,
"Any reforms in philosophy, religion and politics must fall short of perfection, unless they bring peace and lasting happiness to the minds, consciences and societies of mankind." (Comenius, Panorthosia, Ch. 1, para 4, pp. 48-49)
In order for us to have a hope for peace, we must immediately retool our entire economy, rapidly converting every home and every engine to electrification based on renewable energy. So extensive must be the change that consultation on every level, simultaneously, must be carried out. This was understood decades ago by far-sighted thinkers like Buckminster Fuller, but now we have to catch up to them very quickly.
"The fact that Bucky, advocate extraordinary of industrialization, is also fervent for ecology superficially seems to be another of his paradoxes. It is not. For his kind of industrialization is based on ephemeralization [more for less] and recycling. By doing more with less he would conserve the resources of Spaceship Earth and virtually eliminate pollution." (Buckminster Fuller: At Home in the Universe, Alden Hatch, Dell Publishing, New York, 1974, p. 226)
In 1966 Fuller initiated a "Design Science Decade" meant to coordinate planning for the application of science in the noble goal of eliminating poverty forever. I have been trying to find out more about Fuller's design decade but the information on the Web is sparse. From what I have read, the DSD seems similar to the rotating planning decades that I have been working out on this blog over the past several years. The Panorthosia of Comenius is a big missing peace, for his plan is much more comprehensive and universal, since it includes religion, language and many other pieces that were missing from the jigsaw puzzle. It sketches the most complete picture I have yet seen of the "universal gathering of humanity" that Baha'u'llah called the kings and queen to institute. For example, he recognizes that unity must be elevated to an end in itself if we are ever going to get over our natural fractionalizing ways of thinking,
"One common failing among previous efforts at reform has been the tendency of scholars, churchmen and politicians to proliferate into so many different sects. They claim to renounce the ways of error, superstition and tyranny without seeing the clear light of truth shining as one." (Comenius, Panorthosia, Ch. 1, para 6, p. 49)