Sunday, January 31, 2010

The New Psychophysical Complex by Harry Schwarzlander

Now that we have a New Environment blog I thought I should explain what, in the New Environment Association, we mean by “New Environment.”
I introduced that term in my manuscript, “Toward a New Environment,” as simplified wording for “New Psychophysical Complex.” That means I’ll have to explain what’s meant by “Psychophysical Complex.” My essay on the Psychophysical Complex contains a detailed introduction. Here I can only provide a sketchy outline.

1. Motivation. When trying to address an enormously complicated matter such as changing the dominant cultural patterns in a fundamental way in order to achieve a sustainable society, we need some new thinking tools. Our ways of thinking and talking about things are rooted in ancient times when everything encountered in daily life could be considered separately -- as a thing upon itself. An important feature of today’s world is that everything strongly interconnected. We need to be able to look at, and talk about, the totality -- without loss of meaning and clarity.
2. Every person’s immediate experience occurs in the mind, or consciousness. This includes thoughts, memories, knowledge, beliefs and insights, as mediated by language, feelings, hopes, wishes, desires, fears, anger, bodily sensations, subconscious promptings, etc., as well as meditative experiences, and so on. I call this the person’s "mental world." We each live in our individual mental world.
3. Beyond one’s mental world is the physical world, beginning with one’s own body. Through our senses and bodily motions, we are able to perceive and interact with the external physical world -- that part of the physical world that extends beyond our own body -- including other human beings. However, the physical world also includes many features that we do not perceive. Some of these have become known through scientific exploration.
4. Through interaction with another person (speech, observation, joint activities and so on) we are able to find out a little bit about that other person’s mental world.
5. The totality of the physical world, along with the mental worlds of all living human beings, constitutes the "psychophysical complex." Of course, the psychophysical complex is constantly changing and evolving -- as a result of changes in the physical world and changes in people’s mental worlds, and as a result of some people dying and others being born. It is a process.
6. It appears that the direction in which the existing psychophysical complex is evolving (we call it The Old Environment) is leading to very unpleasant conditions on the planet, and possibly a collapse of human societies.
7. The direction in which the psychophysical complex is evolving cannot be changed significantly by admonitions, good deeds, laws and regulations, and so on. Why not? Human beings and their activities have by now to a significant extent become structured into vast “feedback loops” (sequences of cause-effect relationships that close back upon themselves) that have become “rampant phenomena.” By this I mean arrangements that were initially created because they were seen as beneficial (or came about by chance), but by now we have become locked into them even though their detrimental effects greatly outweigh their benefits. Furthermore, these feedback loops weave in and out of people’s mental worlds. There are many "rampant technologies," and "rampant organizational structures," as well as "rampant phenomena of the mind" (ideologies and belief systems). Furthermore, because of the vastness of these feedback loops, we tend not to be aware of the extent to which we do their bidding.

Now, if we look at the world in this way, a vast new imperative emerges that is entirely different from all the ongoing chit-chat and hullabaloo about sustainability. If the existing psychophysical complex is a sinking ship, so to speak, and we can’t repair it, shouldn’t all hands on deck start getting busy with the life boats? What that means in practical terms is that the beginnings of a new and different psychophysical complex -- a "New Environment" -- need to get created while that is still possible. And so the New Environment Association was born in 1974.
The idea was that people need to come together in small and gradually expanding groups, not governed by existing affiliations, to develop trust and caring, and work together cooperatively with mutual support, sharing and creativity in order to evolve -- or re-invent -- a way of life that is satisfying and enjoyable, spiritually uplifting, peaceful, human scale, in harmony with natural systems, and with vastly reduced use of non-renewable resources: the New Environment. This involves, first of all, changes in people’s mental worlds. That in itself is very challenging, but can be worked on through group activities and small group interaction in a supportive setting, as well as two-way sharing and listening. However, it is through a new kind of schooling for the children that a more solid basis for the New Environment can be created. The young people emerging from such schooling can then more effectively carry forward the expansion the New Environment.


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