This Good Reads section highlights material published by authors who can enhance your understanding of key worldview and mindset issues. In particular, this section highlights books and articles published by philosophers, researchers, and social scientists who are investigating the cosmologies held by various large-scale civilizations; for example, the worldviews currently treasured and staunchly defended by Christian, Islamic, and Native American people. Moreover, this section highlights books and articles published by authors who explain and analyze the historical evolution of Western World's sense of the universe. Featured material will also examine work published by practitioners writing about the unique mindsets that characterize particular groups of people, especially today's leaders, learners, and organizational change agents. Finally, this section will review books and articles that examine the ideas of practitioners writing about the ways we can support individual human beings develop their habitual modes of thinking and habits of mind.
To date, we human beings have been the most adaptable creatures on the planet. Perceptive and responsive enough to evolve in conscious ways as the world around us, we’ve managed to both survive and thrive. Today, with a vast range of existential crises in front of us, ranging from climate change to nuclear war, we seem to be facing challenges the likes of which we’ve never faced before. Nonetheless, those who think about the adaptive challenges we’re now facing believe we should be able to chart a new course for ourselves. Some of that charting is already being done; in this instance by Robert Ornstein and Paul Ehrlich. In this book (New World, New Mind) they assert that our old 20th Century mind is being challenged in dramatic and difficult ways. The solution to this new situation, from Ornstein’s and Ehrlich’s point of view, is an evolution of our consciousness. They seem to believe that we can bring this type of effort together and produce for the world at large a large-scale program for a rapid 'change-of-mind'. We know, they assert, what the problem is. We know the 'solution,' even though its creation will not to anything close to simple. We simply need to generate the social and political will to move a program of conscious evolution to the top of the human agenda.
The scope of this book is monumental, covering the evolution of the Western World's understanding of mankind's place in the universe from ancient Greece in 12BC through to today's 21st Century's Post-Modern postulations. Tarnas launches his review of this voyage by exploring in great detail the ancient Greek's "mythic worldview." He suggests that ancient Greece's cosmology pictured its people as embedded in a sense of self that left them "undifferentiated" from their unconscious experience of the real world, what Tarnas describes as a participation mystique full of anthropomorphic projections. Tarnas closes his study by suggesting that, today, people in the Western World are living their lives through a Post-Modern worldview that suspends them "between the inner craving for a life of meaning, and the relentless attrition of existence in a cosmos that our rational scientific world assures us is empty, dead, and devoid of all purpose" -- in short, a life filled with anomie and anxiety.
What we find most interesting about everything Tarnas shows us in The Passion of the Western Mind is his suggestion that, just now, as the Western World actually begins to accept the idea that, in our thinking and feeling, we're fully purified, cleansed of any of the left over "anthropomorphic projections" we inherited from ancient Greece's mythic worldview, we nonetheless are more fully enmeshed in anxiety and alienation than ever before. Just now, when we are beginning to believe that the external world we think we're living in is for sure a construct of our own preconscious brains and minds, its now when we're most troubled by what philosophers describe as our modern mind's "impersonal soullessness."
At 445 pages, The Passions of the Western Mind is a heavy read. In it, Richard Tarnas offers the kind of specific details that have the heft needed to convince you that worldviews do change; that they do evolve; and that it is possible they develop, get stronger, more complex, and more sophisticated. But, it also has the heft needed to convince you that worldviews also, at certain critical historical inflection points, can also get caught in regressive cross currents. If you're interested in understanding the complex dynamics, dramatic opportunities, and worrisome dangers that presently are bound up in the interactions going on between the old and new worldviews alive in our world today, then Passions is a book you'll want to read.