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Today’s presentation features Henryk Skolimowski’s book The Participatory Mind: A New Theory of Knowledge and of the Universe. Skolimowski’s book explains five phases of western civilization, in ancient times through present day: nature, knowledge, religious, modern, and global. Skolimowski says that while we take I.Q. tests, we should be required to take Compassion Aptitude tests. 

He argues that mind and emotions need to be seen in the same spectrum if the battered human psyche is to be mended. Skolimowski sees an opportunity for a new order to be brought about if the Western mind can return to, then reintegrate, the spiritual. He says this is caused by traditional patriarchal religions failing to provide a meaningful spiritual platform from which modern human beings may appropriately evolve. John Wesley opposed slavery after reading the work of Anthony Benezet. Let’s continue this tradition and oppose traditional patriarchal constructs in religion.

Should Christians adopt participatory thinking to their worldviews?


There is also the ideological or religious aspect — secularism. Secularism is a new religion of Western man. It is a religion in disguise. Secularism proclaims that we don’t need any religion, any God to bring us salvation. We don’t need any salvation. We want fulfilment here on earth. The idea of fulfilment on earth, however, becomes a new form of salvation. We can find fulfilment and happiness on earth through our own effort. We can create a paradise on earth. The paradise on earth becomes a new theology, a new religion. This is also a challenge to the traditional idea of God. Secularism assumes that we human beings are as powerful as God. In this scheme human reason and human knowledge are elevated to extraordinary heights. Through knowledge, which is power, we shall harness and create a paradise on earth.


Yet the fundamental question still remains. How do we accomplish the reconciliation between East and West? Or better still — the synthesis between East and West? This is a problem that has preoccupied many great minds in the twentieth century. Perhaps the key problem, on which hinges the solution to other problems, is: how to reconcile objective evidence with subjective evidence. Better still: how to demonstrate that ‘subjective’ evidence and ‘objective’ evidence interlock, complement each other, represent partial but complementary approaches to ultimate truth.


In a sense the Western world has travelled the whole circle: from early holistic unity of the pre- Socratics and Plato via the period of fragmentation and atomization of the empiricist era, to a new wholeness based on evolutionary unity, which is reminiscent of early Greek philosophy but which nevertheless is not a return to the original point. We have not travelled in a simple circle, but rather in a spiral. Although we have come to re-embrace many points that have been kept as constant stars in the firmament of Eastern thought, we do not dissolve ourselves in Eastern philosophies. Rather, we bring them up to our level, give them a new sense of coherence and meaning. The East and the West are not merging by one absorbing the other, but by each transcending its previous positions.


We are all aware that the mechanistic cosmology, via science and technology, has brought about enormous material benefits. But we are also aware of the dark side of the mechanistic cosmology — ecological devastation, human and social fragmentation, spiritual impoverishment. After a reign of three centuries, the mechanistic cosmology is now collapsing; it has been doing so for the last seventy or eighty years. We have been slow and obtuse in acknowledging the fact, mainly because we have not yet worked out a new logos that would more satisfactorily explain the cosmos. We simply have not worked out a new spiral of understanding, which would be capable of creating a new cosmos for us.


Life is engagement, a continuous dance of participation; while technology, particularly hi-tech, is disengagement, a dance of atrophy. Technology is damaging to our health primarily not because it pollutes our environments (including the mental one), but because it systematically disengages us from life, thus from participation, thus from meaning, thus from our essential nature. The prophets of technology triumphant are not even aware of the deep connection between healthy and meaningful life and deep forms of participation. Nor should we expect them to be so. They blindly serve the objective universe in which facile forms of linear participation prevail.


The imperative of holistic thinking, of holistic perception, of the integrated being, is today perceived by many to be of importance second to none. Eco-feminism is one of the new important voices but by no means the only voice. Although we are travelling by different roads, the destination is the same — the creation of a new mind, new sensitivities, new epistemologies which would be the cornerstone of genuine justice and equity in this world, and which would open for us a new chapter of our evolutionary journey.


Participatory thinking is a culmination of systems thinking, cybernetic thinking, holistic thinking and reverential thinking. Participatory thinking is the vehicle of the compassionate consciousness. Participatory thinking gives us the freedom of opening up, of in-dwelling in the immensity of the universe. Participatory thinking is the first step, and perhaps more than this, to what Albert Einstein admonished us to do — to evolve a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.