Rene Descartes posited a new philosophy separating the mind and the body, the material from the immaterial. It helped to create the new scientific method that gave a consistent framework and language for new discoveries. It was partly in response to the power that the church had over learning and philosophy, which had become mired in personality and politics. While this was important for defining part of his new world of scientific discovery, it has led to people focusing on one or the other and to seeing the difference between them.
The revolution that Descartes introduced had a parallel in the works of Isaac Newton. Newton released a massive and revolutionary body of learning that spoke of the universe as a mechanical entity, faithfully following set laws. No longer were we reliant on the gods for the motion of the planets across the skies, instead God had set the planets in motion and let the law of gravitation be responsible for the rest. All actions had re-actions and all effects had underlying causes.
This mechanical paradigm stayed in place until the early 20th century when Albert Einstein and others introduced General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. All of a sudden the mechanical world was not so stable as causality took a battering and straight lines became curved. It was a complete change of paradigm.
In the same way the work of Descartes has come under fire in the last 30 or so years as it has become apparent that an experiment can no longer be treated as independent of its surrounds nor of its observer. This observation has come from Quantum Mechanics in the west but also from spiritual practice and healing methodologies from the East.
Now of course, many modern thinkers are embracing a holistic view of ourselves and our identities – how our thoughts, emotions and our spiritual state affect our physical bodies and our health. This new way of thinking cannot be reduced to a scientific experiment with objectives and observable outcomes. We are the “observable outcome”!
How do I respond? I am trying to live more in the now. I am trying to see what influence my surroundings exert on me. I am trying to see the Spirit in others.