Gary (Byrne, my co-author for SEVEN PATHS) and I are speaking to a screenwriters’ group tomorrow night. We will probably talk mainly about money, because that’s what they said they wanted us to talk about, but I think I’ll talk some about neurology, stress, and brain function. I had a good conversation last night with a new acquaintance about these topics, and she sent me a related vid link today from a man named de Bono.
De Bono’s gig is that the traditions of mental training in the West derive from the pre-Renaissance, and these disciplines derived from Greek analytical heritage, i.e. Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. They became the foremost tools of thinking in the West because they served the purposes of the West’s most influential institution of the time, the (Catholic) Church. The Church’s primary task then was suppression of the wide range of heresies that threatened to (and ultimately did) disrupt its grips on the social, political, and economic forces in its domain. Using its laws and liturgy as a bulwark of truth and fact, and the philosophical science of logic as taught by the Greeks (and perfected by the Jesuits), the Church, being the dominant force in all things, created and ultimately cemented a system of thought and conception fundamentally aimed at reinforcing the known and the believed, and driving out any challenges against conformity to the Church’s teachings. It was a system of thinking aimed at defense and entrenchment, rather than a system of creativity and new designs for living.
As the Renaissance began to unfold, and to evolve new visions of life and the universe, the Church retained its hold on the Big Picture in the West. Exploration of the New World, Africa, and Asia had the Cross at its vanguard and conversion as one of its aims, although by this time the Catholics had competition from emerging Protestant religions as well as Islam. Leonardo da Pisa, Da Vinci, Copernicus, Michelangelo, and Galileo refashioned mathematics, science, technology, and the arts in the West, and set the foundation for what would be the Age of Enlightenment. But, as new and indeed enlightening as the works of these men were, the dominant composition of human thinking – a need to fit the observed into the edifice of the known – did not fundamentally change in the West. Even the arts were largely controlled by the Church and, then, the “merchant princes,” those with enough wealth to dictate some personal choice.
Science, art, and politics often evolved together. As Humanism began to battle with deified worship, painting evolved pastoral and laboring scenes, rather than just religious and portrait commissions. As Van Leeuwenhoek developed the microscope to see tiny particles of life, the Dutch and Flemish Masters described tiny detail of insects and water droplets in their paintings. Newton theorized and experimented, machines and machinery moved across the landscape, and technology seemed to self-spawn. Most of what we know and have today are highly developed, highly refined derivations of these mental traditions.
What we lack, according to de Bono’s analysis, are the critical creative thinking skills to solve the world’s human problems. It seems to be his argument – and it seems to be a good one – that our mental analytical heritage has been based in proving and refining what we know, adding to it small increments of learning that come from processing new observations through the large body of received wisdom already accepted, and that this has constrained us in making the large creative leaps in human –rather than technical – terms that are needed to keep pace with the highly accelerated changes in the last one to two centuries.
It is intriguing to step into de Bono’s view here, that these constraints have their origin in religious orthodoxies of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and, in many cases, to today. Certainly, the elemental and ongoing human conflicts in the Near, Middle, and parts of the Far East, and in Africa are based on the opposing theologies of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. These are still fundamental factors today in what were the battlegrounds of the Crusades, begun almost 1000 years ago. In some ways, we have not moved off that dime. Could it be, as de Bono suggests, that this is due to a lack in human mental creativity, not because we lack “the truth?”
This seems almost certainly the case. The separate pursuits of “the truth” among religious scholars for centuries—Muslim, Christian, and Jew—have created the unresolved animosities that fuel the political, ethnic, and racial conflicts of today. Until humans can trade orthodoxies of belief for constructive harmony, we may never see the end of the emotions that lead to hatred and repression.