I was watching part of the recent Academy awards and found myself in agreement with a statement made during the broadcast. In a video clip showing previously awarded Oscars to members of a film technology group, one of the speakers stated “art and science are one and the same.”
We tend to see art as being for the non-linear thinking, creative types, and science for the linear thinking, non-creative types. But this is far from the truth. Creativity is not just the process of creating art; it is a way of thinking, of making quantum leaps in the thought processes that ultimately lead to insights that are considered beyond the normal scope of thinking.
Unfortunately, the way we form our thinking patterns are based on the current educational model, a model that is quite disconnected (Root-Bernstein, 1999, p. 22). We are taught various disciplines separately, leading to a lack of comprehension as to how things are interlinked. Instead, we pigeonhole each discipline, not seeing the interrelationship of the parts to the whole. Without seeing how the parts are connected to the whole, each discipline loses its essence, its foundational underpinnings; each discipline then exists in a vacuum. And, according to classical physics, a vacuum is an area devoid of energy and life (but thanks to quantum theory we now know that a vacuum is quite the opposite). Thus begins the climb to a way of thinking that is devoid of vitality, thinking that is analytical and piecemeal.
Disciplining the mind
In fact, the entire concept of disciplines is an artifice invented by Francis Bacon. He surmised that because civilized thought is considered disciplined, then the natural sciences should follow suit and call themselves disciplines. Each of the branches of the natural sciences then became to be called disciplines; other branches of the sciences and humanities then followed suit. And all, by calling themselves disciplines, followed Bacon’s injunction to discipline the imagination for the good of scientific and intellectual inquiry (Goodwin, in Harman and Clark, 1994, p. 238).
I can relate to this very well. In my education I was very adept at math. I was a proud slide-rule carrying math geek. Yet in physics and chemistry, I did not do so well – I could not see how the sciences had any connection to math, or was I taught as such. The concepts in the sciences boggled my mind and I couldn’t catch hold of them. It was only in later years, when I began the process of self-education, that the sciences started to become easy for me. The trick was my self-education was interdisciplinary, and I began to comprehend an underlying value system that was the foundation of life.
I was reminded of this just recently when I was watching a video on quantum theory. While watching it I thought to myself, “Why wasn’t I taught this in high school?” I believe had I learned this in high school, instead of the Newtonian version of classical physics, I would’ve had a better time of it, because it would have been far more
interesting and ultimately, much more interconnected to other things I was learning. In the book Sparks of Genius (1999) by Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein, the authors relate a similar story:
We had a friend – we’ll call him John – who was considered one of the most brilliant students in the history of our college. He completed unheard-of amounts of work, acing class after class. This was no mean intellectual feat, though John’s feet, like those of many a mere mortal, turned out to be made of feet of clay.
We made the disheartening discovery on the way out of the physics building, just a few weeks after a series of lectures on mechanics. John was a rather tall, lanky young man – no athlete, but no 90-pound weakling either. Nevertheless, try as he might, he could not open one of the very heavy oak doors of the old lecture hall. One of us reached for the doorknob and gave the door a shove that swung it cleanly open.
“How did you do that so easily?” John asked.
“You’re kidding, right?” we responded. “We just studied the physical principles that relate to doors a couple of weeks ago.” John had mastered the relevant equations so thoroughly that he got one of the highest scores ever recorded on the midterm exam, but nevertheless he appeared puzzled. “No. Really. I don’t understand,” he said.
We gave him a clue. “You were pushing at the center of the door rather than at the edge.”
“Well, why are doorknobs usually put at the edges of doors rather than in the middle?” “It’s easier to make the latching mechanism, I suppose,” John essayed. “Sure. But what physical principle is involved?” John shrugged his shoulders. He really hadn’t the slightest idea. For all his genius, he wasn’t putting us on. “Torque, John, torque!” we cried.
The problem was that John made no connection between this intellectual work and his personal experience of the physical world around him. Torque problems were posed by a physics professor and solved using mathematics during a test. John could see what one might characterize as the “illusions” of torque equations before his mind’s eye, but it had never occurred to John that such mathematical problems existed in real life. He could not relate his incredible store of academic knowledge and his fantastic facility with numbers to everyday activity. (pp. 14-16)
John suffered from a disconnected education, not seeing how one discipline related to another. Perhaps John’s case was a bit more extreme than most, but each of us, if we’ve grown up educated in the western model of education, has a little bit of John in us.
The Demilitarized Zone
Not too long ago I had the privilege of visiting a middle school in the city of Schenectady, NY, to address a class on Chinese medicine. This was an honors class, so they were well above average in intelligence. The teacher had sparked their interest by having them do reading on the subject. It was an enjoyable experience for all parties involved.
My education came while I was walking the corridors of the school. It had been a long time since I had last been in a middle school. I honestly felt like I was in prison. The “inmates,” the kids, prowled the corridors, their pent-up energy and raging hormones barely under control. The teachers looked weary and frazzled, probably because they are caught in the middle of a system that asks them to shovel information into the brains of these predominantly disinterested, bored, unfocussed, inattentive kids. And amidst all this are the “correction officers,” mainly in plainclothes, walking around, eyeing the action, talking into their walkie-talkies, maintaining the peace and calm.
This scene wasn’t much different than a battlefield – it was that tense. More accurately, it could be called a demilitarized zone. The only thing missing was the armies of both sides firing weapons at one another. We wonder why our schools are imploding amidst the episodes of violence – the answer is right in front of our nose. The schools are stifling our young, forcing them to think a certain disciplined way; in doing so, we are fitting their minds into a square box, a box that tells them there is only one way to think: the linear way. There is only one right answer, our schools tell us, and the answer is what we tell you it will be. The approach fostered in schools can be summed up by the title of a book by Edward de Bono: I Am Right, You Are Wrong (1990).
I Am Right, You Are Wrong
In his book, de Bono discusses the inherent weaknesses of a system based purely on a logic system. This system creates a dichotomy in which perceptions are divided between right or wrong and choices boil down to absolutes of either/or, without any gray areas in between. And with these discriminations, de Bono argues, it becomes virtually impossible to create new perceptions that cut across this chasm of absolute beliefs.
Critical thinking. De Bono also discusses the problems with modern-day education, saying that too much emphasis is put on critical thinking and not enough on constructive and creative thinking. With critical thinking, the student learns to analyze and find what is wrong with something. Every attempt is made to unpeel the model until all errors are removed. De Bono asks “Is thinking that is free from error good thinking?…Critical thinking lacks the productive, generative, creative and design elements that are so needed to tackle problems and find our way forward…Our traditional thinking system is based on ‘truth,’ which is to be uncovered and checked by logic and argument. The result is a strong tendency towards negativity and attack. Negativity is seen to be a powerful way of uncovering the truth” (pp. 6-7).
Praise to criticism ratio. Research has shown that a four to one ratio of praise to criticism is needed to help students stay on track, and an eight to one ratio of praise to criticism is required to help students make a change in their habits and abilities (Firestien, 2001). This seems like a worthwhile and easily achieved goal, yet if, as De Bono says, critical thinking is the main approach in schools, then the methodology of teaching does not emphasize enough the value of praise over criticism.
Punishment. I was reminded of this recently when a woman told me her sixth grade son was given three days of detention for not doing his homework “right.” She was outraged, but wasn’t sure how to go about fighting the system. And a friend of mine was telling me, not too long ago, how he got a split lip in Catholic school: the teacher turned his back to the class, and while the teacher was in that position, my friend was talking to the classmate next to him. The teacher heard him, and asked him to come to the front of the class. When he did, the teacher punched him in the face, knocking my friend backward over a few desks. With blood spilling down his face, my friend meekly returned to his desk.
Sure, my friend never acted out in this teacher’s class again, but at what price? What did it do to my friend’s perception of education?
Visions of Change
A New School Format
And so, as I was walking the corridors of this middle school, sensing the various staked out turfs, I had the vision what schools need is to change their formats and teaching methods. The students need more time out in the field, doing hands-on work that will give them practical real-world experience, in addition to their classroom time – which is necessary for intellectual growth. At this age kids are very physical, and need to find avenues of expression; making them sit still and quiet for so many hours a day is virtual torture. They don’t need teachers who instill fear in them; they need mentors and role models to help shape their futures and allow them to become potential leaders.
Just a pipe dream perhaps, but many a new idea starts out as a pipe dream. The trick is that to bring new ideas to fruition, perseverance is required. A new idea will at first be criticized, attacked, and/or ran away from, and the critical thinkers will unequivocally state why it won’t work.
For instance, in 1959, a man living in Marin County, California, and working in San Francisco, devised a method to reduce his commuting time. He was weary of being stuck everyday in his car because of the tollbooths on either side of the Golden Gate Bridge. There must be a way to save time, fuel consumption, and wear and tear on the vehicles, he wondered. And then he came up with a revolutionary thought: why not just have toll collectors on one side of the bridge, and let the toll be double the one-way fare?
Now in this day and age that would hardly be considered a radical concept. But in 1959 it had never been done before, and no one was sure if it was such a good idea. It flew in the face of common practice. The critical thinkers were able to tear apart the idea and find the errors inherent in it.
It wasn’t until 1967, a mere eight years later, that the idea was given a trial run. A new regional commissioner of transportation had been appointed, and he was somewhat of a neophyte, not totally cognizant of all the so-called “accepted” practices. He was willing to give it a shot. It was such a phenomenal success that within one year, the field of bridge toll collecting across the country adopted the practice. (Firestien, 2001)
To achieve this change took two variables: the innovator who refused to admit it couldn’t be done (and had the perseverance to wait it out); and a sympathetic person with the power to put it into practice, somewhat naive to the nature of the field he was overseeing.
Ignorance is Bliss It was the historian of science, Thomas Kuhn, who understood this phenomena when he wrote:
Almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change. And perhaps that point need not have been made explicit, for obviously these are the men who, being little committed by prior practice to the traditional rules of normal science, are particularly likely to see that those rules no longer define a playable game and to conceive another set that can replace them. (1962, p. 90)
I know nothing about the bureaucracy of the educational system, so according to Kuhn I would be a good candidate to strive to change it; unfortunately I don’t have the time to commit to attempting to change it. Yet, obviously something needs to be done.
Learning to Think
Expressing An Opinion
First and foremost, we need to recognize that some students have different ways of thinking and expressing themselves. We cannot force all of them to think from the same mold. A letter writer to a daily newspaper recently voiced her concerns in this regard. The letter writer was commenting on an article in a newspaper, in which Ronny Glassman, director of Application and Interview Coaching Services, Ltd., a consulting firm for college applicants, was quoted as saying “To succeed you have to give them what they need to see…students who rock the boat rarely get into their first choice of college.” Rocking the boat included, according to Mr. Glassman, expressing an opinion.
The letter writer was appalled by this advice and wondered what kind of commentary that was on “our educational institutions.” The letter writer went on to write, “I thought the purpose of education was to help young people learn to think, to reason, to feel and to be independent and responsible” (Wieck, March 22, 2001, p. A10).
Merging With the Group
That should be the ideal of educational institutions – to encourage students to think for themselves. But the problem once again is the concept of critical thinking. If a student comes up with an idea that is not part of the norm, the critical thinkers will attack his idea. Unless the student is extremely strong mentally, and capable of weathering the attacks of his peers and superiors, he will be quick to shrink his thinking and merge with the group. And that will then be the end of the innovative thinking.
And if people learn these negative traits as students, there’s a good possibility it will carry over to adulthood, manifesting either in their personal and/or working/professional lives.
An educational film comes to mind. I saw it while in college; it was an intriguing psychology experiment. A man, an actor in the experiment, was strapped to a chair. Various people, one by one, were brought in to ask the man pre-arranged questions. If he answered a question incorrectly, he was given a jolt of electricity. The supposed pre-text of the experiment was to ascertain how much electricity a person could take. In reality, there was no jolt of electricity; the actor just gave a performance. The people asking the questions did not know this.
Each supposed jolt of electricity would be higher than the next, and with each questioner, the man in the chair got to the point of begging for mercy, asking them to stop asking questions. He was virtually pleading for his life, saying the jolts were getting too intense, and he was afraid. His performance was frighteningly real. But the people were told to continue asking questions until the experimenters felt they had sufficient data.
The real aim of the experiment was to examine if people would do what they were told, no matter what the consequences might be. The sad outcome of the trial was that very few of the interrogators were willing to stop the questioning – they had to follow orders, they believed, and there was no jurisdiction in which they could make their own independent decision. That would mean going against orders, and in essence, thinking for themselves.
This goes back to the concept of critical thinking, that there is just one way to think. These people were told there was just one outcome for this trial, one absolute answer. The great majority felt they had no flexibility to think any other way. This is the way we are taught to think.
It is thought that teaching intelligence is teaching the ability to solve problems, utilize logic and to think critically – that there is a uniform cognitive capacity; and such abilities can be measured on a test. The test that is used is the Stanford-Binet Test, also known simply enough as the IQ test.
To this day American education is dictated by the student’s scores on a battery of intelligence tests, from kindergarten through university. This is the paradigm of Universal Schooling – an educational system based on national standards and efficient, cost-effective assessment in the form of multiple-choice, number two pencil exams.
Many an educational reformer has said, “Taking tests merely shows that a student is good at taking tests.” Einstein and Edison were terrible at taking tests and thus terrible at school in general (www.edweb.gsn.org).
Young Einstein’s poor language skill provoked his Greek teacher to tell him, “You will never amount to anything.” (West, 1991, pp. 118). Einstein was later expelled from high school and flunked his college entrance exam. Forced to accept a lowly job in the Swiss patent office, Einstein in his mid-twenties seemed destined for a life of mediocrity (Wenger and Poe, 1996, p. 7).
Yet we know what happened to Einstein. Either he was struck by lightning and given extraordinary cognitive faculties, or he just didn’t believe what his teachers told him.
Regardless, after his death, science was curious as to what made Einstein the genius he was. In 1955, after Einstein’s death, the pathologist at Princeton Hospital who was slated to perform the autopsy, without the family’s permission, took it upon himself to remove and keep Einstein’s brain. For the next forty years, Dr. Thomas Harvey stored the brain in jars of formaldehyde, studying it slice by slice under the microscope and dispensing small chunks to other researchers upon request. The goal was to discover the secrets of Einstein’s genius (Wenger and Poe, 1996, pp. 7-9).
Harvey never found anything, but one of his colleagues did. In the early 1980’s, Marian Diamond, a neuroanatomist at the University of California at Berkeley, announced what she believed to be the secret. She found an increased number of glial cells in Einstein’s left parietal lobe, a kind of neurological switching station that Diamond described as an “association area for other association areas in the brain” (Bower, May 1985, p. 330). Glial cells act as a glue holding the other nerve cells together and also help transfer electrochemical signals between neurons. Diamond had expected to find these, because she had done research with rats and found high glial cell concentrations in rats who had been given super-stimulating environments (Wenger and Poe, 1996, pp. 79).
This research may partly explain Einstein’s brilliance, but more insight may be had from Einstein himself. When asked how his thought processes worked, Einstein replied, “Words and language, whether written or spoken, do not seem to play any part in my thought processes. The psychological entities that serve as building blocks for my thought are certain signs or images, more or less clear, that I can reproduce and recombine at will” (Einstein, in Hadamard, 1945, p. 12).
What Einstein is stating is that his thought processes were not purely linear, as many have thought. There was a certain amount of imagery that came into his mind as he was working out concepts. But because education is oriented towards a logical, linear approach, and Einstein did not think in that manner, he was a terrible student.
Howard Gardner’s Theories
The realization that there are different ways to think, and that not all people think predominantly in a logical, linear fashion, has led researchers to the understanding that there are many nuances to human thoughts.
Developmental psychologist Howard Gardner has proposed the theory of Multiple Intelligences to explain these nuances. Multiple Intelligences is a pluralized way of understanding the intellect. Recent advances in cognitive science, developmental psychology and neurosciences suggest that each person’s level of intelligence is actually made up of autonomous faculties that work either individually or in concert with other faculties. Gardner has identified eight such faculties, or intelligences:
- Musical Intelligence
- Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
- Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
- Linguistic Intelligence
- Spatial Intelligence
- Interpersonal Intelligence
- Intrapersonal Intelligence
- Nature Intelligence
Logical-mathematical. Logical-mathematical intelligence is our current educational model. Multiple Intelligence theory has demonstrated that ability to take tests lies in the area of logical-mathematical intelligence; theorists see that the reason some don’t do well on these types of tests is that they just apply to 1/8 of a person’s intellect.
The SAT is another test that is supposed to measure a student’s intelligence, though it also focuses on the logical-mathematical faculty. There is such weight to the SAT, there is such an assumption that the SAT can predict future achievement, that certain scores automatically dictate whether a student was in or out of a prospective program (www.edweb.gsn.org).
Close encounters. Interestingly enough, in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, when the aliens land on earth, the scientists become aware that their standard manner of communication will not suffice. They comprehend that the aliens speak on a different level. The scientists are able to bridge the communication gap when they realize that the aliens understand and can “speak” through musical notation. We could say that the aliens were predominant in musical intelligence.
Emotional and Spiritual Intelligence
Two other writers have recently added their theories to the fray of multiple intelligences, adding the concepts of emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence to the lexicon.
Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence (1995), outlined five skills that make it up:
- Self-awareness: The ability to recognize our feelings
- Managing emotions: The ability to put our feelings in context
- Motivating oneself: Directing the emotional impulses in the service of a goal
- Recognizing emotions in others: Being empathetic to others
- Handling Relationships: The ability to manage other people’s emotions
Goleman believes that the development of emotional intelligence and the five above traits can separate people who do well in life from those who fail or who simply never seem to get very far, even if they have high academic intelligence (Fisher, 1998, p. 293). Goleman also demonstrates in his writings that low emotional intelligence can retard people’s full intellectual and life potential by doing such things as flooding the brain with stress hormones that impair memory, learning and thinking (Begley, 1998, p. 74).
Spiritual intelligence is linked to humanity’s longing and capacity for meaning, vision and value; it allows us to dream and to strive; and it underlies the things we believe in and the role our beliefs and values play in the actions that we take (Zohar and Marshall, 2000).
All Perspectives Interrelate
As Gardner, Goleman, Zohar and Marshall show, there are many ways to think and perceive; if we take this concept to its ultimate, we can say that we have an aperspectival capacity of thinking. Ken Wilber discusses the concept of aperspectivalism in many of his writings; he defines it as a way of seeing that “privileges no perspective as final,” and “that all perspectives interrelate” (Wilber, 1995, p. 193).
Aperspectivalism is a pluralistic, multiple-perspectives view, in contrast to formal rationality, or what is called “perspectival reason,” which tends to take a single, absolute perspective and views all of reality through that narrow lens (Wilber, 1998, p. 131).
A Hierarchy of Ideas
Wilber also stresses that although no perspective is final, and that we are capable of integrating all perspectives, there is a hierarchy of ideas, or what he calls a “holarchy.” Ideas and concepts fit into larger ideas and concepts, each higher level synthesizing and integrating the lower level. Wilber has written (1999, p. 7) that “reality is a rich tapestry of interwoven levels, a series of nests within nests within nests, so that every thing and event in the world is interwoven with every other.” And Huston Smith has said, “Reality is graded, and with it, cognition” (Smith, in Wilber, 1999, p. 35).
The concept of aperspectivalism, of seeing the broadest possible perspective, is inherent in the creative process, no matter the domain. Alex Osborne applied the concept to the business world with his invention of brainstorming. Osborne was an advertising executive; his invention was used in advertising, but the principles are relevant for any activity where new ideas are required. In brainstorming, a group gathers together in an attempt to come up with new ideas, with a few guidelines to abide by. These guidelines set parameters that allow each participant free rein, to let the mind go with no boundaries, to think aperspectivally. The guidelines are:
1) Defer judgement. Do not criticize any of the ideas that are presented.
2) Strive for quantity. To come up with good ideas, you have to come up with lots of ideas. Osborne found that the first 1/3 of ideas are the usual ideas; the second 1/3 of ideas are unusual ideas; and the third 1/3 of ideas are sophisticated and unusual ideas. Osborne found that creativity and innovation come in the stretch run
3) Seek wild and unusual ideas. He was all for letting the imagination run free.
4) Combine, improve and build on other ideas. Osborne understood that ideas could build on other ideas. (Michalko, 1991, pp. 295-307)
Brainstorming is meant to exist in any individual or group situation where new ideas are necessary – in other words, in virtually any situation under the sun, or moon, for that matter. In the business environment, it is a great way to allow for aperspectivalism.
Speaking of business, Michael Eisner, the CEO and Chairman of the Disney Corp., says that creativity “has a way of cleaning up the balance sheet and making the income statement shine very brightly” (Wetlaufer, 2000, p. 14). Eisner doesn’t believe that the creative process only extends to the creative side of a business; he says that it “doesn’t stop when we talk about strategy or finance…When we sit in business meetings, we stay and talk and talk until we figure out how to increase cash flow, or reduce corporate duplication, or rethink our hurdle rates.” These meetings are important, he believes, because it’s during the last half-hour or so that the best ideas come out. “Everybody starts driving each other crazy with ideas, and then somebody says something and it all comes together” (Wetlaufer, 2000, p. 115).
A Walk on the Moon
Edgar Mitchell, who was an astronaut with Apollo 14 and walked on the moon, had a unique opportunity to understand the vastness of the universe and how our perspective is as infinite as the cosmos; he came to realize that only our rational mind limits our perspective. Mitchell’s mission to the moon altered his life and inner ways of thinking regarding life and the universe, and he had a profound sense that all things are interconnected. Mitchell said “while in space I felt the connection between my molecules and those of the stars.” Prior to his travels he knew intellectually there was a connection, but while in space he felt the sensation in his body (Mitchell and Williams, 1996).
If we are truly interconnected to everything in the universe, then we need a way of learning that teaches this, as opposed to a method in which all learning is separated by disciplines, each disconnected from the other.
The problem, as Mitchell put it in a recent talk, is “we need to think creatively, and to do so we need to think out of the box.” And the box, Mitchell continued, “is our mindset that our society has taught us, both through science and culture” (Mitchell, 2001).
The box is the logical-mathematical approach, of one absolute, right answer. As Mitchell said, what and how society teaches us – our family, schools, communities, politicians, jobs, doctors, gurus, and others – creates the box. There is a place for logic – a strong place. Many facets of our lives are based on the precision of logical thinking and engineering. But it takes going beyond logic, and opening up to a creative capacity, in order to innovate, and create new concepts. And the same goes for a person to make positive changes in their own life – they need to think beyond. Often a person is stuck in the box of self-limiting beliefs and can’t find a way out of it.
Many a time I’ve had a patient who is improving tell me they have a friend who has a similar problem. They tell me they have encouraged their friend to come for acupuncture, but the friend won’t. The friend may have had this ailment for years, may be taking various medications that are not helping and causing side effects; yet the friend cannot step beyond their belief system and get out of the box. Their box tells them that only the logical scientific methodology of western medicine has the answers; they are hoping that if they try enough drugs, or have a surgery or two, eventually the answer will come. For many people, it’s safer to stick with something they know, even if it doesn’t work, then to venture into the unknown.
Three Ways of Thinking
According to Danah Zohar in her book, Rewiring the Corporate Brain (1997, pp. 26-37), there are three ways of thinking. The first is the way of rational, logical, rule-bound thinking, what she calls serial thinking. The second is associative, habit-bound thinking that gives us pattern-recognizing abilities in which we see that things are interlinked; she calls this parallel thinking. The third way is creative, rule-breaking and rule-making thinking; a type of thinking that challenges assumptions, breaks habits, or changes mental models. She calls this way quantum thinking.
Both-and. Zohar explains that quantum thinking is holistic, unifying, and integrating, and sees the whole picture. She states that “It unifies all the millions of data impinging on the brain at every moment into a field of experience with which we can deal. Quantum thinking itself seems to arise from a field across the brain built up by the synchronized oscillations of neurons from many different parts of the brain” (Zohar, 1997, p. 37).
Furthermore, Zohar discusses how quantum and serial thinking impacts on our cognitive faculties. Serial thinking, she states, is akin to linear thinking. It follows the methodology of either-or, in which a statement is either true or false, and there is just one right way to do things. This parallels the paradigm of Newtonian physics, where something is either a wave or a particle, either here or there, now or then.
Quantum thinking follows the approach of quantum theory, where an entity is both particle-like and wave-like at the same time. This entity is both present here and now and spread out as clouds of possibilities everywhere in space and time simultaneously; and as it does so, it interconnects with members of other systems (pp. 5455).
A dead and alive cat. Quantum thinking suggests a cat stuck in a box, if it had a 50-50 possibility of eating poison, would then be both dead and alive. From a logical perspective, this makes no sense. Something is either dead or alive, not both dead and alive. To think in this both-and way is to think in the broadest possible sense, in an aperspectivalist way. But since we are not brought up to conceive things in this manner, many say this way of thinking is counterintuitive, that it runs against the essence of our way of thinking. Counterintuitive is also a label that critics placed on quantum theory for years, until laboratory experiments proved the critics wrong.
Crazy theories. Neils Bohr, one of the founders of quantum theory, used to love to poke fun at the critics of quantum mechanics – those who told him that the theories he devised flew in the face of everything that was known about matter. Once, while speaking to an audience of skeptics on quantum theory, he said, “We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough” (Calder, 1977, p. 15).
Yes, quantum theory is a crazy theory. But the reality is that it is the truth. As always, truth is stranger than fiction: the universe is endless, and matter, also known as the wave function, extends beyond our known four dimensions of space and time and into infinite positions of dimensionality.
A Leap in Thinking
As we ponder this, we realize it is the proof that we live in an aperspectivalist universe, in which infinite possibilities are the norm. The hard part of conceiving this is that it takes a leap in thinking, from linear to non-linear, to fathom the potency of it. This leap is considered discontinuous thinking; discontinuity is the way movement occurs in the quantum world.
Infinity. As an example of discontinuous thinking, take the concept of infinity. You could count until you were blue in the face, and still not count to infinity. To get to infinity, you have to take a discontinuous leap, a quantum jump – you have to hurdle across a mental chasm. You have to go from a logical mindset and suddenly embrace a broader perspective.
Electrons. The same is true of electrons. They jump from one orbit to another without going through intervening space. They disappear and reappear – this is discontinuity. Logical thought used to place the electrons spinning around the nucleus, akin to a solar system revolving around a sun. But this is not the case. Their movement is uncertain, and our ability to grasp their movement compels us to think non-linearly, or discontinuously.
Thus, thinking differently, which is the same as thinking creatively, is all about thinking discontinuously. And we are constantly thinking in this manner, whether we know it or not.
The infinite possibility wave. In the quantum world exists a world of infinite potentials, a world where an entity spreads out beyond time and space. This infinite possibility wave is collapsed into one position, the position that we call “I.” This collapse is a discontinuity; it is consciousness that collapses the possibilities. Thus, discontinuity occurs at the fundamental level of existence, by collapsing the possibility wave, and thereby creating our lives and our perspectives. Therefore, in one sense, there is always a touch of the infinite at our beckoning. At all times the new can be created; and with it, creative thinking can arise (Goswami, in Mishlove, 1997).
In saying the new can be created, that doesn’t mean a person can or will wake up one morning having turned into a cockroach, as in a Franz Kafka story; nor if a person has an arm amputated will they be able to grow a new one back (although they may feel phantom limb pain, but that’s another story). After all, there are certain logical parameters to consider. What it does mean is that new thoughts are always there, waiting to be tapped into. There is a wealth of information at our fingertips, streaming into us from the infinite realm of the quantum world.
One of the most profound ways of tapping into that information, of hearing the rhythms of the quantum world, is to tap into the deeper self of the soul. When you do that, you go beyond the logical thinking mind and into the discontinuous mind. Amit Goswami, in his book Quantum Creativity (1999, p. 267), gives five practices to tap into this awareness. These are:
- The practice of openness, awareness and sensitivity
- The practice of concentration
- The practice of imagination and dreaming
- Working with archetypes
- The practice of ethics
All of these are inner disciplines; some are meditative practices. The desire here is to quiet the mind and let the spaces within speak in its own inherent language, which is often rich in imagery and symbols. This is the way many of the leading creative thinkers throughout history have thought. Einstein told us so himself, when talking about his own thought processes; we did not have to carve up his brain to understand this.
Quantum Creativity in the Business World
In the business world, where fast-paced deadlines are anathema to quieting the mind, there are some that understand and advocate this approach. The comic actor John Cleese, who has produced business training films, parodied the logical thinking mindset in one film:
If you spot a colleague engaging in unfamiliar activity such as wondering out loud or gazing thoughtfully into space, poke them with a sharp stick and accuse them of wasting time. And make the questioning of deadlines a capital offense. If you’re in a state which does not allow capital punishment, relocate to Texas (Cleese, 1999, p. 47).
Jerry Hirshberg, the former Nissan Design International vice president, found that when his design group got bogged down, he would do such things as take the entire group to the movies. He found that “The tension began to dissipate. Within days ideas started flowing, knotty problem areas unraveled, and the design began to lead the designers, a sure sign that a strong concept was emerging” (Fisher, 1999, p. 292). By allowing his team to unwind, relax, and have fun, Hirshberg was allowing them to tap into the spaces within.
Business consultant Marsha Madigan believes that it is the responsibility of leadership to help others actualize their creative potential. She states:
When leaders see the value of allowing space in between their thoughts, perspective in their thinking, they can see beyond the circumstances and content of problems and situations, to graceful responses and effortless solutions…If we want to change our experience, we need to let go of our current thinking in order to see something new. We need a stance of curiosity, of willingness to give up being ‘right,’ in order to see what we don’t yet know, in order for a new reality to manifest through us (Madigan, 1999, pp. 2-3).
People who study the creative process understand the value of the silent spaces. When that gets tapped into, discontinuities can occur, and this can lead to the creative moment, when an insight occurs. This is the “aha” moment, when the mind opens up to possibilities. Where it exactly comes from is somewhat of a mystery, yet at the same time we know it is coming from the depths of the universe, from the quantum fields in their infinite positions.
Creatives in various fields sound akin to mystics with their talk of the creative process (Goswami, in Mishlove, 1997). They feel that when creativity occurs, a person becomes one with the divine force. They speak of the path to creativity being a spiritual path. This is true, in that in the act of creativity a person is touching their quantum self, delving deep within their soul. Yet at the same time, a little more discriminating criteria may be desired.
Some people feel that any sort of mystical experience, any sort of feeling of divinity, as in the creative act, should be viewed in awe and seen as being the truth, with no questions asked.
Alan Greenspan, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, a short time ago had a little fun with this viewpoint. Greenspan, up until recently, had been exalted for his stewardship of the national economy to unparalleled heights. At a Senate committee hearing last year, Senator Phil Gramm of Texas exulted Greenspan as a “national phenomenon” and an “oracle.” Greenspan responded that oracles’ insights come “from deep depths of thought which are indescribable, unprovable and rarely correct” (Stevenson, April 2, 2001, p. A1).
What Greenspan was getting at is that some believe that if a person has prophetic or intuitive insights, they must always be absolutely correct, because they must be getting their messages from God. This belief is especially rampant in the new age field, where many “divine” proclamations are accepted at face value, no questions asked.
Matter and Spirit
This type of thinking believes that reality is a two-tiered hierarchy, of the explicate and the implicate, the “Newtonian physical world,” and the “Absolute,” or the “Void.” This is a reductionist view, because it only allows for matter and spirit, and negates the teachings of the wisdom traditions – which teach us that there is a Great Chain of Being that goes from matter, to body, to mind, to soul, to spirit. In the reductionist view, biology, psychology and theology are eliminated (Wilber, 1997, pp. 209-210). In this view, all one needs is the capability to touch Spirit in order to be considered as being enlightened. Thus, there is a fallacy that artists are more highly evolved than non-artists, because they can touch Spirit.
Maturity of Ego
A Temperamental Artist
This was brought to light recently when I went to visit my wife at the Skidmore College ceramics studio where she’s been working on her master’s degree. There was a palpable tension in the air at the studio, because an independent artist, who is allowed to use the facilities, was having a snit. He was talking to his friend, going on about how he was an artist. Later, at home, my wife told me how extremely talented this person is, yet at the same time how difficult he is to get along with.
It is not enough to touch spirit; also required is a mixture of maturity of ego, emotional intelligence, and a rational grasp on your place in the world. Otherwise you will become like Greenspan’s oracle, a legend in your own mind.
Integrating Ego Many spiritual seekers make this same mistake. They feel that by touching Spirit, they are negating ego, and by doing so, have reached the pinnacle of life. All they think they need to do now is continue in that vein. Psychotherapist and Tibetan Buddhist practitioner John Welwood comments:
“When people have major spiritual openings, often during periods of intensive practice or retreat, they may imagine that everything has changed and that they will never be the same again. Indeed, spiritual work can open people up profoundly and help them live free of the compulsions of their conditioning for long stretches of time. But at some point after the retreat ends, when they encounter circumstances that trigger their emotional reactivity or their habitual tensions and defenses, they may find that their spiritual practice has hardly penetrated their conditioned personality, which remains mostly intact, generating the same tendencies it always has…When people use spiritual practice to try to compensate for feelings of alienation and low self-esteem, they corrupt the true nature of spiritual practice. Instead of loosening the manipulative ego that tries to control its experience, they strengthen it, and their spiritual practice remains unintegrated with the rest of their life” (Spring 2000, pp. 43, 46).
It is not enough to just be creative or to just be spiritual. Although it is a magnificent feeling to taste the nectars of the Absolute, there is a spectrum of consciousness we must go through on the path to higher stages of consciousness, a spectrum that encompasses our spiritual, creative, rational and emotional aspects.
Integrating Rational Thought
Some think rational, logical thinking is the root of the entire world’s problems, and the answer is to think less rationally. Yet if we think less rationally, we will become irrational, and live in a realm in which we act on our impulses. The answer is not less rationality, but to integrate rationality into a broader perspective. We need to think transrationally, which is the same as quantum thinking, which is the same as aperspectivalist thinking.
Consciousness as a Multi-Modal Phenomena
The Potential for Vision
Stuart Hameroff, an anesthesiologist who, in collaboration with the mathematical physicist Roger Penrose, has done a lot of research in the field of quantum consciousness, said this of consciousness: “I think of consciousness as our inner life – a series of multimodal integrated experiences” (Horrigan, 1997, p. 75).
Consciousness is an integration of our rational, emotional, creative and spiritual natures. This multimodal capability gives us the potential for infinite vision, to see multiple ways. We have the innate ability to see far beyond the box of socialized thinking. Although we can say it is partly our educational system that molds our minds into a set way of thinking, we cannot use it as an excuse as to why we are rigid in our thinking. We are free at anytime to break the cords.
Unblocking the Issues
Psychological issues hold a lot of people back from realizing this potential. But if we were to learn simple creative measures to unblock the mind, many of those with negative psychological holdings might be able to move on. We all have so much unused potential that is being frittered away, mostly due to these psychological issues.
Perhaps simple creative measures won’t totally cure a person, nor allow them to become a quantum thinker, but it will be a first step towards helping them to evolve their consciousness to higher levels, stages that would propel them to see beyond their own disconnectedness to the world at large. Imagine the positive energy that would be released onto the world if more people could see beyond the horizon of their own self-inflicted wounds.
To see beyond the horizon is to go beyond the ego. In going beyond, we do not negate the ego. Traditionally, wisdom traditions teach that we don’t abandon emotions, thoughts, desires or inclinations; the teachings instead emphasize the Emptiness of all Forms, not to get rid of the Forms (Wilber, 1996, p. 240).
The Awakened Mind In attempting to understand the ego in all its manifestations, we use a higher faculty of mind that helps us witness the actions of the ego. To the Hindus, this higher mind is called buddhi. Buddhi is defined as the discerning intelligence and enlightened will. Buddhi is used:
To plan or dream or imagine what can be done. It makes formations for the future which the will can try to carry out if opportunity and circumstances become favorable or even it can work to make them favorable. In men of action this faculty is prominent and a leader of their nature; great men of action always have it in a very high measure. But even if one is not a man of action or practical realization or if circumstances are not favorable or one can do only small and ordinary things, this vital mind is there. It acts in them on a small scale, or if it needs some sense of largeness, what it does very often is to plan in the void, knowing that it cannot realize its plans or else to imagine big things, stories, adventures, great doings in which oneself is the hero or the creator…It concerns itself with a pursuit of pure truth and right knowledge; it seeks to discover the real Truth behind life and things and our apparent selves and subject its will to the law of Truth (Aurobindo, in Dalal, 2001, pp. 47, 51).
Buddhi can be considered the awakened mind; this is a mind that has an innate comprehension of the unity of all things. This fundamental unity is the core teaching of the wisdom traditions; in these teachings it is believed that Spirit lies at the foundation of, and creates, the universe. It is further believed that to create the manifest world, Spirit must go out of itself and empty itself into manifestation (Wilber, 1996, p.301).
Spirit and Buddhi
Spirit is all around us, the wisdom traditions tell us, and it is our eternal challenge to comprehend this. This is part of the trajectory of our lives – to discover Spirit. It is said that Spirit goes from slumbering in nature to awakening in mind to final realization as Spirit itself. And with the emergence of mind, of buddhi, Spirit becomes self-conscious and then starts to awaken to itself, to become self-actualized – this results in the universe beginning to think about the universe. We then are able to go from an objective Spirit in nature to a subjective Spirit in mind (Wilber, 1996, pp. 301-303).
Buddhi is the name for the emergence of Spirit in mind – it is the enlightened mind. It is a mind freed from the tyranny of the ego and its mental habits, capable of comprehending the infinite dimensions that exist in the quantum realm and understanding how the infinite dimensions manifest in our everyday realm (we call that complexity theory).
Creativity and the Integration of Mind, Being and the Universe
A Creative Universe
Awakening buddhi is also about realizing a more integrated mode of being and identity from which to create, from which a person can fulfill their human potential. Once a person has integrated mind, being and the universe, they are capable of quantum thinking, of seeing the infinite possibilities of a creative universe.
Inner and Outer Creativity
Amit Goswami (1999) discusses two types of creativity – what he calls inner and outer creativity. Inner creativity is about self-exploration, of a “creative transformation of the self…that yields new contexts.” Outer creativity refers to creativity that yields objective and/or new products in the outer, public arena (pp. 52-53). We could say that inner creativity is more of a spiritual, subjective, ego-less, approach, while outer creativity is more of a materialistic, objective, ego-driven, approach.
These two modalities are not mutually exclusive. “Using outer creativity to investigate inner creativity is an age-old practice” (Goswami, 1999, p. 265). For example, this is the purpose of Zen koans. They engage the mind and force the student to use their outer creativity to think out of the box; if they get it, and realize the essence of the koan, they will have accessed their inner creativity and have touched the depths of infinity. And going from finiteness to infinity, as I discussed earlier, means having a discontinuity of consciousness, a quantum leap in thinking. It is these discontinuities that are fundamental to quantum thinking.
An Approach to Aid in Integration
Ultimately, quantum thinking is a spiritual drive. It is our quest to understand the cosmos in all its glory. Its tool is buddhi, the awakened mind, the mind that has opened to Spirit. Once a person realizes buddhi, they can go beyond the box, beyond a mindset locked in by its various dogmas.
Because consciousness is a “multi-modal integrated experience,” my belief is that to achieve this level of mind, a person has to use a multi-modal, integrated approach. If, as discussed earlier, our perspective is aperspectival, it would only make sense that we would need a broad approach to match our broad perspective. It would have to be a way that encompasses our various levels of existence: the physical level, the electromagnetic/energetic level, the mental – emotional and cognitive level – and the spiritual level. The aim would be that as we exercise these various levels, it would stimulate our inner creativity, and help us break through the mental blocks that lock us into a rigid pattern of thinking. Techniques of outer creativity can also be used to help us along, since outer and inner creative have a synergistic relationship.
By working on all these levels at once it can be possible to creatively evolve in consciousness to higher stages of thinking and being. And as we evolve, we can more fully intuit the cadences of the universe, to help us realize more of our potential. What holds us back more then anything is our own self-limiting beliefs, beliefs predicated on a way of thinking that holds to a world that exists in just one perspective, a linear and logical one.
Running Out of Options
A few years ago, an older man I know said to me “As you get older, you run out of options.” I’ve never forgotten his words, because I found them to be depressing in their starkness. How can we run out of options? Only in a person’s mind can they run out of options. Life goes on indefinitely; the wisdom traditions say that life continues after death, a fact researchers studying the near-death experience have affirmed (Greyson, in Cardena, Lynn, and Krippner, 2000, pp. 315-332).
Even if a person doesn’t subscribe to such transcendent viewpoints, stories abound everywhere of people living rich, fulfilling lives well into their elder years. A recent newspaper article told of a master violinist in New York City, Robert Mann, who celebrated his 80th birthday recently by performing in concert with his quartet. The pieces he selected to play were new compositions by his friend, the 92-year-old composer, Elliot Carter (Griffiths, April 7, 2001, p. B10).
Some people, like this 80-year-old man, have an innate drive towards quantum thinking that they may owe to genetics. But this type of thinking is not an inherited trait. We are all capable of it. We are all capable of rising beyond the box, of going beyond how we are taught to think. All we need do is exercise the various dimensions of our being. In doing so, we can realize higher aspects of potential and a broader scope of vision. And it will not just be a personal vision that will be expanded; it will be a vision that will look at society and the world, and consider what types of creative solutions can be formulated that can help heal the ailments of a disconnected world in disarray.
This is the approach of Quantum-Integral Medicine. Using quantum thinking, we can set ourselves the challenge of formulating a healthy integral vision – one that attempts to awaken buddhi in self, culture and society, and in the progress, helps to heal self, culture and society.
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