The SummaParadigm

Scott Virden Anderson Blog

Human knowledge has become so vast and deeply specialized that we are all necessarily naive about most if not all things.

No one has anywhere near the capacity to be a “sophisticated knower” of all things anymore – no more “Renaissance men” or women.

In some sense, this situation is only made worse by including esotericist ways of knowing – but not really…

My first teacher Swami Satchidananda used to tease “knowledgeable people” like me, “all your knowledge is a big zero – no matter how much knowledge you accumulate, it is all just a string of zeros that add up to nothinguntil you put The One in front.”

This homely bit of esotericist wisdom is about wisdom itself.

It illustrates how self-reference (here “wisdom about wisdom”) leads to profundity:

There is not only a fundamental difference between knowledge and wisdom, knowledge is transformed by wisdom.

Thus my consideration became:

  • How might our scientific knowledge be transformed by wisdom?
  • What would that transformed knowledge amount to?
  • What would it look like?

Reading Kuhn carefully for the first time with these questions in mind, I was led to the SummaParadigm:

As discussed previously, I saw a clear connection between self-reference and self-contemplation.

I saw that Kuhn had left us with an implicitly self-referential situation since his “scientific paradigm” itself represents a paradigm.

By 1987, I’d been deeply involved with the esotericist practice of Adidam for ten years – preceded by eight years with Swami Satchidananda.

I’d received many graceful lessons to the point, in late Spring 1986, of a “breakthrough incident” in which I was “touched by timelessness” in silent meditation one morning before dawn sitting with Adi Da in the pitch dark with several hundred others.

It became clear in the following months that relative to Kuhn, and relative to science as a whole, there was a “profundity option” – the possibility of a wisdom position with regard to science as a whole with all of its long history of shifting paradigms.

It became clear that that position would transform scientific knowledge by giving it a greater context, giving it new meaning, “restoring its soul,” if you will.

So, I coined the term “SummaParadigm,” and began journaling about it.

I had no idea where to try to publish these ideas – I could find no existing venue even remotely interested.

Even within Adidam I found virtually no interest – a paper I wrote on the SummaParadigm “fell on deaf ears.”

There were no “others” in Adidam who shared my life-long love of and involvement in science.

Worse yet, Adidam was (one might say “paradoxically”) deeply infected with a senseless anti-intellectualism almost totally opposed to any kind of “original thinking.”

It wasn’t until December of 1995, when Scientific American published “The Puzzle of Conscious Experience” by David Chalmers that I felt a new opening.

Chalmers proposed that science might have to take consciousness as “a fundamental” – like “mass” in physics – something that is just given and not necessarily open to scientific explanation (the Higgs boson was then only a gleam in the eyes of a few theoretical physicists).

Most scientists – if they consider the issue at all – assume that consciousness will eventually be explained somehow as a “product of brain activity.”

The fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 led to all manner of discussion of a possible “peace dividend” – remember that lovely notion?

One of the openings that ensued was in the increasingly fashionable “cognitive sciences” – it seemed to some that perhaps the time had now come to begin a new scientific address to “the problem of consciousness.”

Cognitive and other scientists saw this as one opportunity to get a piece of the “peace dividend” in the form what was hoped might become massive new funding.

This effectively became a movement – one that led, among many other things, to the First Tucson Conference on the Science of Consciousness in 1994, and the publication of Chalmers’ article in SciAm.

With encouragement from Chalmers, I took this as an opportunity to plunge into the debate and submitted three abstracts.

To my astonishment, all three were accepted and even published in short order in a Special Educational Supplement to the Times of London.

The conference itself, however, was another matter – it seemed to be dominated by a species of circular thinking (one that amounted to “the paradox option”) in the face of the inherently self-referential consideration of consciousness on the part of a large assortment of very knowledgeable, but not necessarily wise, academics for the most part.

There was virtually no interest in what I’m here characterizing as the “profundity option.”

Looking back on all this from the perspective of 20 years, I can see that we have made some modest progress: we’ve now got the internet (which makes it much easier to “publish” one’s ideas and “find the others”) and I think there is a growing sense that the “crisis of knowledge” is pointing more and more certainly toward a crying need for wisdom.