When Being Modern Is No Longer Modern

Oh the great god of rationalism! At the beginning of the twentieth century there was a serious belief in psychology that our irrational side was an archaic remnent of consciousness, soon to disappear. Modernism (late 19th and early 20th centuries) was deeply committed to the view that the facts of the world are essentially there for study. They exist independently of us as observers and if we are rational we will come to know the facts as they are (K. Gergen).

This was perhaps the ultimate dream of nominalism, a clear and definitive boxed definition of every aspect of live, where nothing is left to interpretation. Enter the latter part of the 20th century with its digital technology. For the first time people were widely exposed to a broad range of ideas and influences that originated from outside the church, family and school. Disparate ideas not bound into a uniform, coherent model. And so the ease, wealth and security of the 70s and 80s gave way to the uncertainty of the 90's and 2000.

Joseph Pearce in his book The Crack in the Cosmic Egg noted: "Our cosmic egg is the sum total of our notions of what the world is, notions which define what reality can be for us. The crack, then, is a mode of thinking through which imagination can escape the mundane shell and create a new cosmic egg". Alvin Toffler spoke of the third wave describing the current fundamental changes in the human experience. Essentially most people experience the world as uncertain and threatening on many levels, leading to anxiety and often depression. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszenthmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, stresses the importance of experiencing a sense of "inner order" in satisfactorily engaging with the world. He refers to the lack of inner order as "ontological anxiety, or existential dread", which he describes as a fear of being; a feeling that there is no meaning to life and that existence in not worth going on with.

In a way it is as if the validity of rationalism has run out a little. At least as a single truth defining the position from which to understand life. Rationalism represents masculine thinking. Understand masculine as an archetypal idea. Psychologist James Hillman was firmly of the opinion that we needed to return to a more balanced relationship between the masculine and feminine in our approach to life. Physicist Fritjof Capra is another author that has expressed the belief in The Turning Point that we are in an era of decline of patriachy. The values of patriachy have taught us to value rational knowledge over intuitive wisdom, science over religion, competition over cooperation and exploitation of natural resources over conservation. Carl Jung saw the imperative to reconcile the perspectives of the masculine and feminine. He called this reuniting a sacred marriage, perhaps the essential shift we need to make to related better to our world around us.

Gerhardus Muller 2020-07-19

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