Paradigm Shift

‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
— Tennyson

The power of P-B cannot be underestimated. It mesmerizes even those who might think that they have escaped its influence. Every existing institution and system of thought in the global village today had its origin in P-B and therefore perpetuates it. That’s because every existing modern institution was only possible if it made sense within that narrative. If any theological ideas, scientific theories, philosophical concepts, theories of mathematics, etc., cannot fit into P-B they will be ignored, discarded or modified to conform to that paradigm. In other words, to be included in P-B, an idea must support it or it will not be accepted or indeed in most cases understood. To even think outside the dominant paradigm can be hazardous—think Socrates and Jesus.      

Jesus’ message was asking for a paradigm shift, a metanoia, a complete change in narrative. “The kingdom of God is at hand.  Meta noiete: Change your Ways.”[i] (Mark 1:15) The failure of Christianity to practice the teaching of the founder is precisely the failure to choose the identity that Jesus demonstrated.

To repeat, the problem we are going to have with changing our paradigm is that the old P-B narrative will not be able to accommodate that which is not included in the beliefs, attitudes and values of the old story. As Richard Edwards puts it: “The unorthodox is ignored because no one can believe it.”[ii] Nevertheless, we can take comfort in the reality that, in a sense, P-B is a self-fulfilling prophecy, destined to self-destruct. As our experience in P-B becomes more and more irrational, we will perhaps find the motivation for change.

To escape the influence of P-B, characterized primarily by the illusion of duality, the conditioning of the false self, and the influence of the collective unconscious, one must begin with seeing clearly the distinction between P-B and P-A. The Buddhists call this “right view.” Precepts such as the Ten Commandments or the Eight-fold Path are of little value since these are behavioral aspects of one’s identity and identity is driven by and defined by the context or narrative that one is immersed in. The “shift” must precede any identity change otherwise we are putting the cart before the horse and no authentic movement is possible.

Hence, P-B tends to maintain its dominance and has an enormous amount of inertia. For an individual to have an insight into another view of reality is not uncommon, but to shift paradigm, identity and behavior to a different worldview (P-A) is rare indeed. One barrier to a paradigm shift is that the paradoxes involved with P-A produce cognitive dissonance. For example, there is a process involved in shifting from P-B to P-A, and yet there is no process; it is difficult but easy; and intellectually the distinction between the two is at one and the same time, complex and simple.

The annual report by the American Psychological Association entitled “Stress in America,” cites the other barriers to making “lasting lifestyle and behavior changes.” They are “lack of willpower, not enough time, and lack of confidence.”[iii]  Other obstacles to the paradigm shift include: fear caused by the fundamental belief that the universe is not friendly which underlies the worldview of P-B; habit (conditioning) learned during the creation of the survival strategy of the false self; and unconsciousness (lack of awareness) caused by the avoidance of reality thought to be necessary to avoid pain and suffering.

Seth offers hope for the possibility of change. “You can stub your toe as easily on a misplaced idea as you can upon an old chair. It will help you, in fact, if you think of your own beliefs as furniture that can be rearranged, changed, renewed, completely discarded or replaced. Your ideas are yours. They should not control you. It is up to you to accept those that you choose to accept. In order to dislodge unsuitable beliefs and establish new ones, you must learn to use your imagination to move concepts in and out of your mind. The proper use of imagination can then propel ideas in the direction you desire.”[iv]  Moving concepts in and out of our mind is one of the goals of this article—but only a preliminary one.

A paradigm shift does not depend, as Seth has indicated, on any changes outside of oneself. We can all successfully learn to live in the present moment by making our life a meditation on Simple Reality. In all of the so-called Seth books by Jane Roberts the following statement is found at the heart of Seth’s “teaching.” “I cannot say this often enough: Your beliefs form your reality, your body and its condition, your personal relationships, your environment, and en masse your civilization and world.”[v]  Beliefs are vitally important, but they form only one of the components of the beliefs, attitudes, values and emotional reactions definition of worldview.

The behavior involved for an individual to bring about a paradigm shift is relatively easy to understand but group shifts, an idea related to evolution and to the theory of “critical mass” energies, is more difficult to support. The idea of a collective paradigm shift, however, is not new. “In the wake of the Newtonian revolution, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) dared to propose a different sort of science that was—like these shamanistic traditions—holistic, participatory, and qualitative. Through painstaking research, he established a three-step method of investigation designed to facilitate the perception of phenomena directly.”[vi]

David Feinstein in his article entitled, “Subtle Energy: Psychology’s Missing Link” continues his explanation of Goethe’s theory: “The first step is to change one’s mode of consciousness to the intuitive-holistic mind, commonly found in indigenous worldviews, through such practices as drumming, ecstatic dance, or a general change in attitude toward one of thanksgiving, respect, and receptivity. The next step, active observation, rests on the belief that the observer affects the observed, an idea that is integral to quantum theory, which came nearly a century after Goethe. The last step of Goethe’s method asks the researcher to become an organ of expression of the phenomenon, like the shaman who becomes possessed by a plant, animal, or nature spirit in order to gain knowledge or power and then communicate from that perspective.”[vii]  The modern and pragmatic equivalent of the practices mentioned above is The Point of Power Practice, so simple and yet more effective.

Paradigm shifts can be found throughout human history. When did what we would call the “minor shifts” in awareness occur as opposed to the shift of Self-realization? (Not all such shifts, by the way, have been positive.) One such shift, one of the most recent, was the shift from intuition to greater emphasis on thinking or dependence on the intellect.

Christopher Porterfield gives us an example of how it manifested in the realm of classical music. “Bach was the father of the Baroque, the waning age of myth and mysticism [feeling]; Frederick [the Great of Prussia] was a son of the Enlightenment, the dawning epoch of empiricism and reason [thinking]. Their musical duel took place at the ‘tipping’ point between ancient and modern cultures. The moment at which ‘the intuitions, attitudes and ideas of a thousand years were being exchanged for principles and habits of thought that are still evolving and in question three centuries later.”[viii]  Frederick had challenged Bach, who was much older, to show his prowess on the keyboard thinking that he could show up the older man. Big mistake! How embarrassing. Oh well, that’s what the ego does, especially a large ego.

Many great minds from different disciplines and backgrounds have conceived of a collective paradigm shift. Psychologist Robert Johnson found this very interesting but I don’t think we should be surprised. “It is fascinating to me that three great figures of the twentieth century occupying almost exactly the same lifespan—Carl Jung, the scientist; Teilhard de Chardin, a Catholic theologian; and Sri Aurobindo, a Hindu mystic—each talked of the new consciousness and new world order, though each spoke in the language of his own discipline.”[ix] 

Ever the optimist, Willis Harman was a lifelong promoter of the collective human potential to shift paradigm. “We are living through one of the most fundamental shifts in history—a change in the actual belief structure of Western society. No economic, political, or military power can compare with the power of a change of mind. By deliberately changing their images of reality, people can and are changing the world.”[x]  We are afraid that any lasting change will take more than modifying the images of reality.

Jung found that a profound change in the human narrative also shows up in our dreams.  “He [Jung] saw that the number three represented a consciousness that was time-dominated, devoted to acting, doing, processing, accomplishing. We live in an age that holds a Trinitarian view of theology. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is basic to the Christianity of our time, and the Holy Trinity is an exact model of our modern consciousness. The number four, though, denotes being, eternity, peace, and contemplation. Often the dreams directly involve three turning into four.”[xi] 

Do we have a choice with respect to shifting the human worldview? Rollo May thinks the challenge is daunting but describes impressive rewards. “We are called upon to do something new, to confront a no man’s land, to push into a forest where there are no well-worn paths and from which no one has returned to guide us. This is what the existentialists call the anxiety of nothingness. To live in the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize. Whereas moral courage is the righting of wrongs, creative courage is the discovering of new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which a new society can be built. My point is that creativity of the spirit does and must threaten the structure and presuppositions of our rational, orderly society and way of life. Plato in his beautiful dialogue the Symposium, described what he called the true artists—namely, those who give birth to some new reality. As I would put it, these are the ones who enlarge human consciousness. Their creativity is the most basic manifestation of a man or woman fulfilling his or her own being in the world.”[xii] 

We cannot solve our problems at the same level [or within the same paradigm] of consciousness with which we created them.
— Albert Einstein

Now we get to the challenging aspect of the paradigm shift, how to do it. We already know the essence of the process embodied in The Point of Power Practice and simply moment-by-moment, day-by-day choosing response over reaction. In addition, in my own experience, I supported my paradigm shift by becoming less focused on the outer and more focused on my inner world. That involved simplification including less dependence on technology. I was fortunate in that I could get by with basic phone service, no internet, and no cell phone. I was able to protect my solitude by maintaining an environment that was conducive to contemplation 24-7.

This is the ideal, but for most, not practical, so for most of us we can only begin to move in that direction. In the meantime, The Point of Power Practice is sufficient to begin and maintain the process of transforming our attitudes, beliefs, values and emotional reactions.

The failure to attain Simple Reality, which begins with the shift from P-B to P-A, can be a failure to have the “insight” or to attain the realization of Oneness. Life in a P-B context or story tends to mesmerize human beings with the ego or false self as the center of a pseudo-reality. In that state we lurch about in a zombie-like quest for meaning with no hope of attaining satisfaction until we escape the narrative that enthralls us—until we shift to the worldview of Oneness—P-A.

In the book The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers asks Joseph Campbell how human consciousness is transformed or in other words how can we shift from P-B to P-A. Campbell answers: “Either by the trials themselves [suffering] or by illuminating revelations [insights]. Trials and revelations is what it’s all about.”[xiii]  Trials are common enough. We face the continuous day-to-day, moment-to-moment challenge of our past conditioning and the habit of reacting to the unavoidable reality of life on this planet. That is life in P-B.

Revelations are equally available. We have only to look within to our profound and natural state of being which will reveal the truth and beauty of the life we have been given. Then we will have become the change we are seeking.

The mystics will speak now. “[The] basis of all healing is a change in belief.” Thomas Troward continues, “Therefore, what relatively to man, we call his creative power, is that receptive attitude of expectancy which, so to say, makes a mold into which the plastic and as yet undifferentiated substance can flow and take the desired form. First, the whole train of causation is started by some emotion which gives rise to a desire; next the judgment determines whether we shall externalize this desire or not; then the desire having been approved by the judgment, the will comes forward and directs the imagination to form the necessary spiritual prototype; and the imagination thus centered on a particular object creates the spiritual nucleus, which in its turn acts as a center round which the forces of attraction begin to work, and continue to operate until, by the law of growth, the concrete result becomes perceptible to our external senses.”[xiv] 

Troward was one of the most profound theorists for New Thought which teaches that rather than being a victim of the mind, the mind could be used as a medium for creating whatever one could embody in consciousness. The caution here is “be careful what you ask for.” If we ask for the experience of Simple Reality while in the context of P-A, we can’t go wrong. But, of course, we still have to make our life a meditation continually choosing response over reaction in order to have that experience of Simple Reality. 

From the pages of the magazine Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness: “Matter and spirit are meeting. Thoughts transform into physical reality. We see what we want to see. We see what we create. We are what we think. This growing consciousness changes politics, economics, science, and the arts. Scientific discoveries and spiritual growth lead to a new paradigm, just as it did when Copernicus postulated the Earth revolved around the Sun or when Newton calculated gravity.”[xv] 

Let us take encouragement from the insightful words of Ken Wilber. “At every stage of development, the next higher stage always appears to be a completely ‘other world,’ an ‘invisible world’—it has literally no existence for the individual, even though the individual is in fact saturated with a reality that contains the ‘other’ world. The individual’s ‘this-worldly’ existence simply cannot comprehend the ‘other-worldly’ characteristics lying all around it.”[xvi]  That is why an immersion in this material is so important and the meditation and The Point of Power Practice are so effective. In so doing we are peeling away the layers of the “this-worldly” existence.

“In other words, the real problem is not exterior. The real problem is interior. The real problem is how to get people to internally transform from egocentric to sociocentric to worldcentric consciousness, which is the only stance that can grasp, the global dimensions of the problem in the first place, and thus the only stance that can freely, even eagerly, embrace global solutions. In other words, global consciousness is not an objective belief that can be taught to anybody and everybody, but a subjective transformation in the interior structures that can hold the belief in the first place.”[xvii]  Simple Reality is the narrative that is friendly to a paradigm shift and will support it.

The IONS annual report for 2008 emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between P-B and P-A. “As we explore ways in which a new story about our lives and the universe can emerge, it might be useful to draw an analogy to a form of psychological healing known as ‘narrative therapy.’ When people seek help from a therapist, they arrive with a story that explains their difficulty. Narrative therapists inquire into this ‘problem story’ to seek out those details that their client has overlooked—details that tell a different story, that can rewrite the problem narrative. The focus is redirected to the intentions, dreams, values, and events that speak of forgotten competence and heroism. In a similar way, we can redirect our focus to innate human qualities such as compassion and generosity that we must cultivate in order to fully participate in the evolutionary forces of our time.”[xviii] 

Emerson makes that all-important distinction between truth and illusion as only he can. “Men, such as they are, very naturally seek money or power; and power because it is as good as money—the ‘spoils,’ so called, ‘of office.’ And why not? For they aspire to the highest, and this, in their sleep-walking, they dream is highest. Wake them and they shall quit the false good and leap to the true, and leave government to clerks and desks.”[xix] 

In a book written over a half century ago, Rollo May illustrates the futility of trying to understand human self-destructive behavior from within the context of P-B. He analyzes American behavior in the middle of the twentieth century and arrives at conclusions that appear plausible but focused on symptoms rather than the underlying causes that are revealed in P-A.

“[Everyone] would agree that in times of social upheaval, like our own, [the Depression, the Cold War, McCarthyism and the threat of the A-bomb] people suffer from feelings of ‘rootlessness’ and tend to cling to authority and established institutions as a source of security in the storm. As Dr. and Mrs. Lynd point out in their study of the American town during the depression, in Middletown in Transition, ‘Most people are incapable of tolerating change and uncertainty in all sectors of life at once.’ So the citizens of Middletown were turning toward more conservative authoritarian beliefs in economics and politics, more rigid moral attitudes, and were joining in increased numbers the conservative, fundamentalist rather than the liberal churches.”[xx] 

What should be seen by all observers of human behavior, whether today or any time in the past, is the self-destructive expression of the energy centers of the false self which is controlling the narrative, the identity and hence the behavior of virtually all of humanity. May makes an important conclusion related to the importance of the human context, the limiting effect of P-B.  “But no ‘ego’ moves on into responsible selfhood if it remains chiefly the reflection of the social context around it.”[xxi] 

“The traditions are in agreement that enlightenment produces two major changes: the view of external reality is permanently altered and the internal experience of suffering is alleviated. Both changes are derived from the shift in the association between awareness and mental events that occurs during enlightenment.”[xxii] Here Ken Wilber has revealed the substantial rewards for engaging in the process of leaving P-B and entering Simple Reality.

Moving on to the context of religion we learn an important aspect of the paradigm shift from Naropa who was one of the early teachers of Buddhism. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche describes how sudden the insight can be. “That was quite interesting and shocking. Naropa achieved realization in a sudden glimpse. He experienced life as a mirage. Then there is transference of consciousness. Since you do not believe in physical existence as a solid thing that you can take refuge in, you can switch out of such a belief into non-belief, transfer your consciousness into open space, a space which has nothing to do with the fixed notion of ‘me and mine’ and ‘that and this’ at all. The whole thing is seen as open, brilliant, as things as they really are. There are no mysterious corners left.”[xxiii] 

Most people contained in a religious narrative cannot see Simple Reality even though it is found in all major religions. For example, the concept often found in various theologies referring to being “born again” is the usually imperfect understanding of the necessity of a paradigm shift. For example, in Christianity we find in the New Testament (John 3:6-14) “That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’” Being “born of the Spirit” is simply to enter the NOW. The NOW is our natural state of consciousness but is “overridden” by our false-self behaviors.

Beginning with Adam we see resistance to living life in the present moment. “The anxiety in Adam,” observes Rollo May, “and the torture experienced by Prometheus also tell us psychologically that within the creative person himself there is fear of moving ahead. In these myths there speaks not only the courageous side of man, but the servile side which would prefer comfort to freedom, security to one’s own growth.”[xxiv]  

“Thomas Merton suggests that there is an existential anxiety crisis that precedes the final integration of life as a ‘new man.’ He tells us that this anxiety is a necessary partner to psychic rebirth, the birth of the person into a higher level of functioning and perceiving and feeling.”[xxv]  

Therefore if any be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.    
— Psalm 103: 12

Jesus in A Course in Miracles speaks specifically of the paradigm shift. “God’s Will is all there is. We can but go from nothingness to everything; from hell to Heaven. Is this a journey? No, not in truth, for truth goes nowhere. But illusions shift from place to place; from time to time. The final step is also but a shift. As a perception it is part unreal. And yet this part will vanish. What remains is peace eternal and the Will of God.”[xxvi] Joseph Campbell describes the shift mentioned by Jesus in this way: “The New Testament teaches dying to one’s self, literally suffering the pain of death to the world and its values [P-B].”[xxvii] 

The resurrection of Jesus is a metaphor for the shift from P-B to P-A as Thomas Aquinas writing in Summa Theologiae came close to understanding. “In rising, Christ did not come back to life in the usual sense of life as we all know it; rather, he entered a life that was somehow immortal and godlike.”[xxviii] In the narrative of P-A we understand that we are immortal energy, not subject to an identity based on the body, mind or our emotional reactions. We begin our human journey at a fork in the road, not in a garden with a serpent. If we choose the road that leads to P-B we begin the creation of an unsustainable future filled with horrific suffering. If we choose P-A, we choose to create a sustainable community in harmony with all of creation and a life lived in the present moment filled with compassion.

John Van Auken found in the New Testament book of John that: “Jesus is talking to Nicodemus and refers to that natural state [the NOW] telling Nicodemus that he will not ascend to heaven but that he is already in heaven. Later in the book of John he is talking to Thomas and Philip and says when asked about the Father, ‘Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me?’ (John 14:4-11) [xxix] 

Oneness is the P-A principle being referred to here, meaning that there is no duality. We are one with P-A and it is our natural state which we cannot separate from except in the delusion of P-B and that separation exists only in our mind. So the paradigm shift is only a recognition of our containment in P-A with the natural identity that such realization implies.

Again, Jesus in A Course in Miracles: “What the world is, is but a fact. You cannot choose what this should be. But you can choose how you would see it. Indeed, you must choose this. [xxx] Heaven (P-A) is here and now and the Father and I are one. Creation is perfect and we are all a perfect part of that creation. We have only to realize in a paradigm shift that perfection which always was and always will be. It is not too late to make that choice.

Paradigm Shift

[i]       Sheehan, Thomas. The First Coming. New York: Random House, 1986, p. 63. 

[ii]       Murck, Christian [ed.]. Artists and Traditions: Uses of the Past in Chinese Culture. Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1976, p. 185. 

[iii]      Harsanyi, David. “Don’t stress on stress.” The Denver Post. November 6, 2009, p. 11B. 

[iv]      Roberts, Jane. The Nature of Personal Reality. New York: Bantam, 1974, pp. 53-57.  

[v]       Ibid., p. 71.   

[vi]      Feinstein, David. “Subtle Energy: Psychology’s Missing Link.” IONS Noetic Review. Petaluma, California: Institute of Noetic Sciences, June-August 2003, p. 32.   

[vii]     Ibid. 

[viii]     Porterfield, Christopher. “Duel at the Tipping Point.” Time. March 14, 2005, p. 62.  

[ix]      Johnson, Robert. Transformation. San Francisco: Harper, 1991, p. 83. 

[x]       Harman, Willis. The 2007 Shift Report. Petaluma, California: Institute of Noetic Sciences, 2007, frontispiece.

[xi]      Johnson, op. cit., pp. 82-83. 

[xii]     May, Rollo. “Creativity.” Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness. Petaluma, California: Institute of Noetic Sciences, March-May 2005, p. 37. 

[xiii]     Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth. New York: Bantam, 1988, p. 126. 

[xiv]     Troward, Thomas. The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science. New York: Dodd, 1909, pp. 74-85. 

[xv]   “The New Paradigm of Connectedness.” Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness. Petaluma, California: Institute of Noetic Sciences, March-May 2006, p. 8.  

[xvi]     Wilber, Ken. Sex, Ecology and Spirituality. Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc., 1995, p. 267.   

[xvii]    Ibid., p. 276. 

[xviii]   “The 2008 Shift Report.” Shift: At the Frontier of Consciousness. Petaluma, California: Institute of Noetic Sciences, March-May 2008, pp. 58-64. 

[xix]     Hibbard, Addison, and Frenz, Horst. Writers of the Western World. New York: Houghton, 1954, p. 762. 

[xx]     May, Rollo. Man’s Search For Himself. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1953, p. 153.  

[xxi]     Ibid., p. 77.   

[xxii]    Wilber, Ken, et. al. Transformations of Consciousness. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1986, p. 268.  

[xxiii]   Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa. Illusion’s Game. Boston: Shambhala, 1994, pp. 50-51.  

[xxiv]   May, Man’s Search For Himself, op. cit., p. 160. 

[xxv]    Sinetar, Marsha. Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics. New York: Paulist Press, 1986, p. 112.

[xxvi]     A Course in Miracles © Volume Three: Manual For Teachers (Farmingdale, New York: Coleman Graphics), published in 1975, by the Foundation for Inner Peace, P.O. Box 598, Mill Valley, CA 94942-0598, and  p. 79.  

[xxvii]   Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth. New York: Bantam, 1988, p. 112. 

[xxviii]   Sheehan, op. cit., p. 254. 

[xxix]    Van Auken, John [ed.]. “In Our Womb of Consciousness.” Personal Spirituality. June/July 2009, pp. 1-2. 

[xxx]    A Course in Miracles, op. cit., p. 28.    


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