Unifying The Four Cultures of the Phoenix:

Reflections on the diversity of the First Phoenix Gathering at Monstesueños-Ecuador

© Brian O'Leary, Ph.D., July 2008, www.brianoleary.com

“The resistance to a new idea increases as the square of its importance.”
-Bertrand Russell

Over fifty years ago I began to explore the idea of the separation between the arts and sciences, since I loved them both and I wanted to do plenty of both in my life. In his famous essay The Two Cultures, C.P. Snow lamented the cultural disconnect between scientists and artists. That work helped inspire me to follow a liberal arts curriculum and to blend the two. But as life went on, I could tell I was fighting a losing battle. Career pressures put me squarely into the scientist camp until about 25 years ago, when I finally declared “enough” and I left, pursuing a more integrated life. The division of cultures embedded within the same society is a question that has always fascinated me.

Thanks to our recent animated dialogues, I saw cultural divides happening in new ways during the Phoenix gathering, a dynamically-facilitated democratic experiment among 25 motivated participants all passionately committed to finding “sustainable solutions to the crisis of civilization.” www.wakingthephoenix.org Many of us are known for innovative thinking, come to our peaceful valley from all over the world, including Ireland, India, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, the U.S. and other parts of Ecuador, for a week of intensive discourse. Our far-ranging dialogues began to pose for me some deeper questions about the relationship between a given culture and sustainable breakthrough possibilities. Why do many of us deny and resist them so? What cultures do we really represent? Why do we have such difficulty converging on solving the overarching problems that we all feel so passionately about and that brought us together?

I began to find answers when I felt taken aback when one professionally successful participant calling himself a pragmatist shared his mental stress from what he saw as my inadequate explanations about breakthrough “free” energy research. This concept known to thousands of scientists and informed lay people promises a clean energy future whose development has been blocked by vested interests. It is a topic in which I am experienced and have written and spoken about for years. This encounter for me once again raised an important set of issues about the epistemology of breakthroughs in our democratic discourse coming from a clash of cultures that aren’t really talking with one another—perhaps until now.

In my case, I gave a well-publicized-in-advance lecture Thursday evening during the gathering, which addressed the state-of-the-art of the free-energy research. Some of the group came to the talk, but our pragmatist and some others didn't. Even so, this is not a simple subject to comprehend at first blush--not only technically but culturally. It has taken me twenty years of deep study, including world travels to the innovators, skeptical analyses of the concepts, and a lot of personal research and writing, to begin to embrace the enormity of the potential of breakthrough clean energy. So for me to expect him to “get it” or for him to expect to receive this information concisely was unrealistic, and of course, this was not the first time my presentation was not well-received. This evident failure of communication I’d experienced so many times presented a unique opportunity for me to learn about where we all come from and how to communicate better in the future if we can stay with our commitment to dialogue— a powerful part of our experiment. Most pragmatists would have run for the exits and kept walking.

Given these practical challenges to being able to learn about the possibility of breakthrough energy, I would prefer that skeptical pragmatists suspend disbelief and address the general question of how technological quantum leaps might benefit our future world and also raise questions about how we can regulate them. There is plenty of reference material on free energy in the peer-reviewed scientific literature and on my website, www.brianoleary.com, www.newenergycongress.org, www.infitite-energy.org and many others.

Our group pragmatist prototype shared some belief-systems of a few of the others in the group, sometimes condescendingly, because they did not match his own beliefs. I prefer to call these systems as “cultures”. Within our group, I identified four such cultures as a convenient point of departure for understanding our differing approaches to our central concern. The gathering included each of these radically different cultures--one, possibly two, even three or all four of which each of us can feel comfortable with. In respectful consideration for each culture, I describe them as follows:

1) The so-called Paranoids (aka, conspiracy theorists) might be better described as Truth-Seekers who address unconventional breakthroughs and the lies, cover-ups and deceptions by vested powers that are blocking these possibilities. These suppression and disinformation campaigns are well-known to those of us who have been victims, but the information is also available in the progressive and deeper literature clearly showing many promising solutions such as free energy research that have been stopped. The best antidote to the secrecy is coming forward with the truth in ever increasing numbers as truth-tellers. That this culture has been frowned upon represents a deep cultural divide. For years, I sported a bumper sticker, “The truth will set you free but first it will piss you off”.

2) The Doomsdayers might be better described as very concerned Deep Ecologists knowledgeable about the extent of the destruction upon Earth wrought by Man. I believe most of them do not exaggerate. The prognosis is grim unless we radically change our ways. But these people are often afraid of new technologies, because of humankind’s horrible track record of their abuse. They’re also frowned upon, because the news they present is too sad to bear. Most of us are in denial about the bad news. Addressing these overwhelming issues can especially affect the most sensitive among us, and has led to the emerging field of ecopsychology, which is designed to move us through our grief about the death of nature, so we can become empowered to do something about it.

3) The Spiritualists or Consciousness Researchers are more like generalists who are also profoundly concerned and feel that appealing to a higher consciousness will help us unify in our mutual quest. Scientific experiments show, for example, that combined positive human intention can create significant results in the material world, e.g., healing, prayer, purifying water and contact with higher beings. Many frown upon this group because of the Spriitualists’ beliefs in “magic,” a transcendent reality which seems to scare off the secular pragmatists. From my own and others’ experiences with yoga, meditation and other spiritual practices such as indigenous ceremony, many of us have learned that these approaches can be very powerful.

4) The Progressive Pragmatists (PPs) are people such as our own group expample. These individuals want to find a consensus and solutions within well-defined parameters consistent with the kind of professionalism that goes along with a mainstream career. The PPs are reform-oriented within the current frame of culture. I consider myself as having been a pragmatist as an Ivy League professor until about 25 years ago. Only then did I become educated about the extraordinary degree of our challenges and the possibilities of outside-the-box solutions. I could tell from years of dialoguing with the PPs that it is a long process for a PP to begin to appreciate the importance of the contributions from the other three groups. In fact, as soon as I made some shifts in my own thinking, the cultural divide between myself and most all Pragmatists became enormous, much more so than I could have imagined. I also remembered having been on their side of the divide. I too had scoffed at the Truth-Seekers, Deep Ecologists and Spiritualists, because it was a politically correct way to behave with my scientific colleagues. By later embracing the other three subsets, I suddenly felt liberated from this cultural straightjacket but I also felt rejected by those still ensconsed in the old culture. I felt I suddenly “disqualified” myself as a “credible” source to the Pragmatists—for example, when they ignored me or placed the burden of a facile proof-of-concept on me rather than if they just mustered the discipline to do some learning for themselves. It was only then I discovered that this pattern of denial of the new has happened with paradigm-busting breakthroughs throughout history. That’s a pity, but the very fact that we’re dialoging about this is an encouraging sign.

I sometimes call the Progressive Pragmatists "the pushers," taking the current paradigm and expanding it as the most realistic approach to the huge problems presented. In today’s world, the Pragmatists, liberal and conservative, are clearly in charge of our mainstream secular institutions. For the most part, they focus on what is in front of them rather than spend time on long-term visionary thinking. Usually career trumps shifting the paradigm. The temptations of power and money can distract the PPs in particular. These dynamics do not apply as much to the other three cultures. Outside of cults and organized religions, the Truth-Seekers, Deep Ecologists and Spiritualists are generally freer to express and therefore constitute "the pullers" toward a larger worldview.

In my opinion, we need all four subsets for a culturally diverse group such as ours to achieve significant results, In that respect, I think our gathering was a great success as we further open the dialogue. More closure will follow once we appreciate more fully where each of us is coming from, and they can indeed be from very different cultures, yet addressing the very same mega-problems we all feel so strongly about solving.

On the other hand, some progressive pragmatists can also create miracles of potential change. Representatives of the Phoenix group recently met with the Ecuadorian minister of finance, and some brilliant proposals were presented: the practical, economical preservation of the precious resources of the oil-rich Yasuni rainforest through the sustainable use of herbal pharmaceuticals possibly worth more than the oil there; the use of alternative currencies for Ecuador to brace against the collapse of the dollar; and the application of re-localization ideas. This kind of interchange is essential to bridge the gap from the ignorance of nowadays towards a bright future for a nation in re-formation— and for the world. I applaud and support the efforts of Bruce Cahan, Chris Shaw and other pragmatists in our group for providing these bridges toward the future.

If this were a “normal” conference where differences in culture are unacknowledged, I believe that we could lead to "conclusions" that are more watered-down than the eventual solutions will have to be to the enormous problems presented. We didn’t do that, we’re still processing and that’s great.

It’s my belief that breakthroughs will determine our future more than a consensus of any committee that won’t look at the coming quantum leaps. Truth-telling, free energy, catastrophic biospheric collapse and planetary healings are real concepts that were acknowledged by the plenary group but not yet seriously discussed as possibilities or as serious issues. It seems hard to get beyond the questions: Are these breakthroughs real or possible? Should we be serious about considering these as viable disruptive shocks and solutions if most mainstream scientists, media and environmentalists don't even give them the slightest attention? Therein lies the cultural divide between the Progressive Pragmatists and the other three subsets. We need to acknowledge this cultural conundrum in future dialogues and seek ways to bridge the gap.

Discussion of outside-the-box concepts leads to a deeper understanding of what democratic discourse about transformational ideas can lead to. It could unify our diverse cultural perspectives. This gets to the core of what we really need to do together, without re-inventing old wheels destined for another dustbin. We need to be bold. It would seem that the next step might be to trust more the knowledge and wisdom of those of us who have toiled for decades on some of these outside-the-box questions, to listen more to those of us who have a long track record and motivation to share the rich expertise that can come from each culture, and to get beyond the frustration some of us may have felt at times about the duality between the fact that while we are equals as persons, some of us know more about some things than others. That would be the next step, I believe, and the foundation of trust is an important first step.

Our goal then should be to seek unity arising from the very diversity of our cultures.


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