Restoring the Soul of the World: Our Living Bond with Nature's Intelligence

Restoring the Soul of the World: Our Living Bond with Nature's Intelligence

by David Fideler


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Restoring the Soul of the World: Our Living Bond with Nature's Intelligence by David Fideler

Humanity’s creative role within the living pattern of nature

• Explores important scientific discoveries that reveal the self-organizing intelligence at the heart of nature

• Examines the idea of a living cosmos from its roots in the earliest cultures, to its eclipse during the Scientific Revolution, to its return today

• Reveals ways to reengage our creative partnership with nature and collaborate with nature’s intelligence

For millennia the world was seen as a creative, interconnected web of life, constantly growing, developing, and restoring itself. But with the arrival of the Scientific Revolution in the 16th and 17th centuries, the world was viewed as a lifeless, clock­like mechanism, bound by the laws of classical physics. Intelligence was a trait ascribed solely to human beings, and thus humanity was viewed as superior to and separate from nature. Today new scientific discoveries are reviving the ancient philosophy of a living, interconnected cosmos, and humanity is learning from and collaborating with nature’s intelligence in new, life-enhancing ways, from ecological design to biomimicry.

Drawing upon the most important scientific discoveries of recent times, David Fideler explores the self-organizing intelligence at the heart of nature and humanity’s place in the cosmic pattern. He examines the ancient vision of the living cosmos from its roots in the “world soul” of the Greeks and the alchemical tradition, to its eclipse during the Scientific Revolution, to its return today. He explains how the mechanistic worldview led to humanity’s profound sense of alienation, for if the universe only functioned as a machine, there was no longer any room for genuine creativity or spontaneity. He shows how this isn’t the case and how, even at the molecular level, natural systems engage in self-organization, self-preservation, and creative problem solving, mirroring the ancient idea of a creative intelligence that exists deep within the heart of nature.

Revealing new connections between science, religion, and culture, Fideler explores how to reengage our creative partnership with nature and new ways to collaborate with nature’s intelligence.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620553596
Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
Publication date: 11/20/2014
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 655,471
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

David Fideler holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and the history of science and cosmology. A recognized authority on the Pythagorean school, he is the editor of The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library; author of Jesus Christ, Sun of God; translator of Love’s Alchemy; and editor of the humanities journal Alexandria.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 10
The Mirror of Nature

Modern Cosmology and the Reanimation of the Universe

You may drive out Nature with a pitchfork, but she will always come back.

Lost in Starlight

It’s a dark, moonless night in early June. To escape the light pollution of my native town, at least once a year I make the pilgrimage north to the pristine, dark skies of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on the shores of Lake Michigan. There I rent a cottage at the Shady Shores Resort on the bank of Little Glen Lake and spend the days walking exquisite trails that lead to overlooks hovering hundreds of feet above Lake Michigan. At night I pack up my telescope and head out to a favorite observing site.

Twilight has past and darkness has fallen. Silhouettes of pine trees hug the horizon, illuminated by starlight. They punctuate the skyline and bridge the Earth to sky, a comforting reminder of where I stand on the face of our living planet. The night itself is deep and laced with mystery, extending off into the trees and countryside, and extending out endlessly into the infinite depths above. It’s early in the season so my activity is greeted by the song of some crickets, but not by the full-blown insect chorus of the late summer.

In the sea of darkness I seem isolated and exposed; a shuffle of activity making final preparations under the glow of a red flashlight. The telescope itself is large, extremely heavy, and rock solid. Having mounted it firmly on the tripod, I’m making the final electrical connections. The telescope is motorized and has a 64,000 object database. Now that it’s plugged into my car’s electrical system, I need only type a few keystrokes into the hand-controller and the telescope will slew across the sky, center any selected object in the field of view, and emit a beep—a wordless indication that observing can begin.

Before pressing any buttons, I look up and around, amazed by the vista. . . . Heaven and Earth are bound together by one luminous glow, the combined illumination of millions and millions of stars in our home galaxy. As I trace the textures and curtains of the vibrant tapestry through binoculars, the boundaries of daylight consciousness dissolve. My soul, my mind, and even my body are adrift, embraced and engulfed by the pulsating star stream. Like the words of the poet Kenneth Rexroth:

The stars stand around me
Like gold eyes. I can no longer
Tell where I begin and leave off.

At this time of year it’s impossible not to explore the rich starfields by the constellation Sagittarius. Shaped like a giant teapot, Sagittarius is climbing higher in the south. From the spout of the teapot emerges the hot, white steam of the Milky Way, a particularly brilliant and shining starcloud. . . . Right off the tip of the giant teapot is the heart of our own Milky Way Galaxy, some 25,000 light-years away. Encircling this core are the billions of stars that make up our galaxy and through a medium-size telescope you can see endless wonders. The region is rich in star clusters and contains the awesome Trifid and Lagoon nebulae, glowing clouds where new stars are coming to birth. But just as striking are the dozen or so globular clusters that you can see orbiting the central hub of our galaxy. The globular clusters are tightly packed spheres of ancient suns, each one containing between 500,000 and a million stars. Through a telescope they are a stunning sight, like countless diamonds huddled together in a sparkling, shivering orb.

Like the Roman god Janus, technology has two faces. On the one hand, technology separates and insulates us from the world. Because of the effects of technology, I am no longer able to experience the deep beauty of the sky and the Milky Way in my hometown. On the other hand, thanks to technology I am able to gaze into the deepest heart of our galaxy from my northern hideaway and actually understand what I’m looking at. Science and the development of technology go hand in hand, and the ever-increasing precision of technology has allowed us to gaze ever deeper into the microworld of the atom and the macroworld of the greater universe. And in the process, our observations and insights have increasingly eroded the premises of the mechanistic worldview. In fact, modern physics has proved that every major assumption of Newtonian science was flawed or incorrect.

It is no exaggeration to say that we are living in the wake of a cosmological revolution, for the most astonishing scientific discoveries of all time have been made only over the past one hundred years. These discoveries, made in astronomy and physics, have completely changed our understanding of the nature of matter and humanity’s place in the seemingly infinite cosmic tapestry. While this revolution is far from over, as philosopher E. A. Burtt pointed out, a cosmology or world picture is a civilization’s most vital possession, for our worldviews affect the way that we understand our relationship to the world and other people. As he wrote, “In the last analysis, it is the ultimate picture which an age forms of the nature of its world that is its most fundamental possession. It is the final controlling factor in all thinking whatever.” If the mechanistic world-view had implied that matter was dead and humanity was essentially distinct from nature, that viewpoint had inevitable social and ecological consequences. Now under the spell of the new discoveries, matter itself has returned to life. Nature can no longer be seen as a static, unchanging machine, and we now understand that all living beings are deeply interconnected, having emerged from the unfolding tapestry of the evolutionary universe. By necessity, as this vision becomes more deeply assimilated by society, it will affect the way that we envision human nature and relate to the world in the twenty-first century.

Table of Contents

In Search of the Living Universe

Part I
Awakening to the Beauty of Nature

Humanity and the Cosmological Impulse

1 Starlight and Cosmovision
Awakening to the Universe

Beauty, Desire, and the Soul of the World

Life in the Cosmopolis

The Light of Nature and the Alchemical Imagination

The Lushness of Earth and the Spirit of the Desert

6 The Last Flowering
The Rediscovery of Soul in Renaissance Florence

Part II
The Death of Nature and the Rise of Alienation

The Mechanization of the World

In the Name of Utility
The Exploitation of Nature and the Decline of Pleasure

Part III
Anima Mundi

Rediscovering the Living Universe

9 Psyche Regained

10 The Mirror of Nature
Modern Cosmology and the Reanimation of the Universe

11 The Pattern Which Connects
Life and Mind in Nature

Part IV
A World with a Future

Cultivating Life in a Global Community

12 The Turning Point
Returning Home in the Space Age

13 The Alchemy of Engagement
Working in Collaboration with Nature


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