We Are in the Midst of a Global Transformation (pt. 1 of 2)

Prolific author and philosopher Ervin Laszlo discusses his most recent books, in which he outlines how the latest discoveries in science converge with spiritual insights and point to the ways in which society might evolve in ways that will help overcome contemporary crises.

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Rob Johnson:

I’m here today with an extraordinary man.

Ervin Laszlo is both a scientist and a master of spiritual thinking. A person who is pushing us forward to integrate and understand the crisis before us can be an opportunity, and that we need to change the way we think and act.

He’s written many, many books. I believe over a hundred books in his lifetime. But recently he’s put together, in 2020, Reconnecting The Source. Excuse me, Reconnecting to The Source, Global Shift NOW!, and recently a book called The Immutable Laws of the Akashic Field.

I’ve seen him on videos with people like Deepak Chopra. I’ve heard people say that had been very involved in nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize in the first part of the 20th century.

He has a book coming out this fall, which I’ve already pre-ordered, called The Wisdom Principles.

And as you read The Immutable Laws of the Akashic Field, I think an understanding of why that book is a follow-on is very important.

But, Dr. Laszlo, I first became acquainted with you through your book Simply Genius about your beginnings as a pianist. And as I mentioned to you in our conversation, my father was a physician and a jazz pianist. But I’m so inspired by the depth and the breadth of your holistic mind and vision.

And I know that people are concerned now. And so, thank you for joining me and joining our audience. And please, share with us, how do you see this crisis starting… How you say… That’s evolved into the pandemic and beyond as an opportunity. And how would you describe the nature of that opportunity?

Ervin Laszlo:

Yes, it’s the key question of our time. I would like to start to say, what you’re mentioning, people are concerned. That I think is the key. If people are complacent, or people are simply believe that the, that’s the way to go on, then the change will be difficult, if not impossible.

And then the crisis will multiply one, on top of the other. We need to change, and this calls for people who understand this need. Who are concerned about staying where we are, because where we are is not a good place to be.

A Chinese saying is that if we continue the way we have been going, we get to exactly where we have been heading. And we should not head to where we have been heading because that sort of creates more instability, more towards the crisis.

You know very well in economics, but also in ecology, and the demographics in our treatment of each other. Violence. We could make a long, long list of more crisis points.

However, the main aspect is, as I like to emphasize, is that now we are becoming aware of that we need to change.

And the question is not, “Should I be changed or not?”

The question is now, “How do we change?”

And I’m trying to point out that here we have options. We can change for the better.

“We can create a better….” Well that’s a very optimistic statement, I know, but we are in the midst of a global transformation.

Which, in the system size, is called a bifurcation. A change in the evolution. In evolution’s trajectory of systems. In this case of the human system that we have created, this human social economic ecological system on the planet. This system is now right for change.

And if you have had a crisis like you have had, and to some extent you are still having. A health crisis, a virus caused crisis. That seems on first sight to be sort of.

It’s anytime that it can wipe out vast populations, and we never know what’s going to or how it’s going to end.

On a deeper look, maybe look at the structure of the situation of the world in which we live. It turns out that this could be a blessing in disguise because it precisely moves us out of the rut that we have been.

Rob Johnson:

So in it being a blessing in disguise, is in essence, knowing that we’re off course and the anxiety creates the opening to explore a new vision?

Ervin Laszlo:

Exactly, exactly. But we also need to have the help in finding a way forward. And I maintain again, somewhat optimistically, but I think also it’s a good deal of realism. And there is in nature, in the universe, something that is equivalent to our electronic GPS. A guidance system.

Without this guidance system, the universe would be just a heap of random atoms and molecules. And there will not be structure and coherence in this universe.

Yet coherence, as Einstein said, is the single most amazing thing about this universe. That it is coherent. That it is not purely a product of chance.

You know, for a long time, it was a main dogma of science. That the way the world is, is the result of a whole series of random interactions. That there is no higher guidance.

Scientists are afraid of theology, of the idea that there is somehow a higher will. Recallings like religion, and the dogmas of religion. Guiding us, telling us what to do.

It turns out, I think, that there is a higher guidance and it’s not outside. It doesn’t come from above. It’s inside and is below. This guidance is in us. It’s in every complex system in the world. All together exist, is the result of something that’s close to a miracle, because it could not be chance interactions.

It has to be something that biases the chance. There is what I call a tropism. I also like to call it an attractor. In complex systems, if [inaudible 00:07:54] complex systems. And you find something which is… It’s just not purely random. It gives it the direction of its evolution and we call it but an attractor. It’s a point attractor, periodic attractor, a strange attractor. Whatever. We could map it in different ways, but it’s not purely up to chance. That’s the big message.

And this, “Not up to chance,” Is something which is in us, which is our motivation. Which is a natural force and a force of evolution.

The young people say, “Go is the force,” in Star Wars. And I think we can go with the force that is not above us and beyond us, that is in us. That is in every quantum of our brain, every molecule of our organs, and of our system.

Because we are a product of an evolutionary process that turns out to be a process that’s maximizing coherence and complexity in the world. Creating complex integral, integrated systems such as you and I. We human beings are complex coherent integral systems. We are not the product of just one happenstance or ones that happen after another.

Ervin Laszlo:

We are a product of a motivation of a prompt of an attractor, I like to say. Which is basic to the universe. It’s just there in the system of quanta, in ourselves. It is there, in our environment.

The earth itself is an example of a complex integral system. We have forgotten that this is how evolution works. Evolution moves in this direction. We have denied that it does. We saw there’s only this, “The strongest survives.” There is no guidance here. Yeah, there is.

And if there wouldn’t be guidance, it would indeed be in bad shape. But it would be all together to discuss it because we are coherent complex systems ourselves, and remarkable miracles of evolution on this earth. All of life is that, perfectly. So I say, my optimism, I call it not so much optimism as possibilism. I’m saying it’s possible to move in a better direction.

I think it stems from the fact that to we, ourselves, exemplify a direction in evolution. A direction of development, which we can use to conduct ourselves. This is our GPS.

This is what tells us, “Are we moving the right way? Or are we off course.” We haven’t been off course now for a hundred years. 200 years, perhaps. Certainly as long as we have been going by the old Newtonian paradigm. This is not the paradigm for Newton, personally. He was a mystique and a great thinker. But Newton’s followers who made his mechanistic laws into the paradigm of our working of the universe and of our being.

So if we go past this Newtonian paradigm, Newtonian Darwinian paradigm, and go understand the new biology, the new quantum biology, the new cosmology, the new psychology and consciousness research. All telling you there is connection. There is direction. There is a meaning unfolding in the universe. This comes from physicists as well, comes from David Bohm, among many others. We could make a long, long list.

This is our hope. This is our possibility. That we ourselves manifest and embed in our being a higher directionality and movement toward a direction. Which is toward well-being, towards thriving, because it’s toward the integration of diverse elements into holes. Health in the human body means such integration. We couldn’t survive. We couldn’t exist on this. All cells, all organs in our body are moving together, working together to maintain us as a complex and coherent system.

So let’s not forget that. This is where we are. We could join this, that we could get on that bandwagon as it were, moving naturally. Moving with nature. Nature, who doesn’t create fragments and powers, but these integral holes. The new holism is a holism of nature. A holism of the new cosmology, and the holism of quantum mechanics. Not mechanics, that’s a misnomer. But a quantum systems view of the world.

That is, I think, a hope.

Rob Johnson:

One of the census that I had in reading your work in preparation for this conversation, sir, was that there was something both wrong with expertise if it misspecifies the model. And your integration of spirit, holistic nature, and science is a very important assertion.

But what I guess haunts me a little bit is the notion of demagoguery and the notion that when people are anxious, they lurch backward to the familiar more easily than forward. And demagogues, in an uncertain time, can also get a great deal of what I’ll call traction or influence.

And so to overcome the resistances, and see things as you describe, does seem to me to be a necessary condition. But I think there may be obstacles, and one that comes to mind is the notion that interhuman relations, called otherness. Saying, in essence, “We’re not working for the wellbeing of mankind. We’re working for our own tribes so that we survive and let those people perish.”

And I know Pope Francis’ most recent Fratelli tutti is about cohesion, and citizens. Excuse me. And humans, across the planet, not seeing each other as friends and allies. How do we overcome some of these psychological resistances, fears in the potential for demagoguery, and the temptation of a scientist to reassure people when they’re scared? Even if they create a false sense of certainty.

Ervin Laszlo:

You know, there’s a saying in the old Testament. I believe in… I forgot exactly where it is in. Which says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

What we need is vision, not arbitrary fiction. But a vision based on solid facts. We can get that vision. One way is to get it, is to look at the results, the implications. The developments with new sciences, which are systems sciences, which are quantum sciences.

And yeah, these are sciences that tell us that what is being evolved in this universe, I might say altogether, are whole systems. Not just fraction of the parts. Now, of course, what you say is like you mentioned, is a true danger.

When the old one is threatened, or the established system is threatened, people try to grab something that is more assured and sometimes they go back. Here I think we’ve had to point a very clear finger at the past. The world that we have created, maybe past 100, 150, or 200 years is not a world we want to get back to. It’s a world which is unsustainable, inequitable, which is precisely all the time just favoring the powerful on the misread Darwinian principle. This, “The fittest survives.”

It’s not the fittest, but the most cooperative that survives. But the general census that, “Yeah, let’s get something where we can take control ourselves.” Controlling to assure our own short-term immediate interest. And that’s why demagogue.

That’s why we have dictators rising now in the world. That’s why we have this far-right movement coming about here and there, because people are desperate. They want to look at something. Look for something that they can hold on to.

Strong men. Strong men is now not the answer. Enlightened men, yes. A leader, yes, we could use. But it has to be an enlightened one. One who looks at the whole system, and not only at that part where he is immediately acting. Where he is in charge. We need a whole new politics. A whole new culture. Basically, a whole new sense of who we are.

And I think that this, you can get partly from science, partly from the spiritual experience. My book on the Reconnecting to The Source, I’ve asked I think 19 or 20 people. Well-known eminent individuals to recount their spiritual experiences. Have they had such crucial experiences?

These people said they did, not talking about it. And then I asked them to unpack these to actually tell us what they were. They came to remarkable similarities. Remarkable conclusions. The end of a spiritual experience, if it’s deep and genuine, and allowed to unfold, is a deeper understanding. Is a closer relationship. A closer sense of belonging together. The old spiritual sayings of oneness and unconditional love.

These are all sayings that young people often use. The kind of saying that the Beatles would use. But it turns out that people who are serious scientists, but honest and creative people. When they have these deep experiences, they come away with a sense of they are not strangers.

You mentioned otherness. My view is that when we are developed, and we are evolved, and we have a somewhat wiser mental constitution. Then we realize that there are no others in the world. There are no others. We are, not I. And then we are in the world because the whole world makes a single system. A very coherent, self-evolving, and interacting system.

To be a part of that, is to be part of a great teams. A part of a great enterprise. And it says that’s immense attraction. Knowing that we are on beat. We are harmonizing, synthesizing all the steps with the beat of the universe. If you could understand that, then we will not grab back to the old methods of just me and I, and mine.

Everything is short term, narrowly focused thinking. Then we would go and look what has been. In the past, has been metaphysics, but now it’s becoming science. Quantum science. Just [inaudible 00:20:24] called holism. The holistic principles.

What is the principle? It’s so simple. I tried to summarize it by saying, “What is good for the whole is always a necessarily good for the part. If not sooner, then later. But what is good for the part in the short term, is not necessarily good for the whole. It might sub-optimize the whole if I just promote one part of the whole at the expense of the others.”

What is, for example… It’s a nasty example… But it’s how you. What is cancer, if not sub-optimization? The group of cancer cells optimizes itself. It grows, it creates tumors. But independently of its environment. And as a matter of fact, it’s at the expense of its environment. Which is the rest of the organism.

Ervin Laszlo:

So to be an old fashioned politics, old fashioned way of managing of businesses, is to be a kind of a cancer in the body of the human system. We have got to become a positive element in that, which means that you recognize that you are a part of that system and our interests lie in making the system live, survive, indeed strive. That is, I think is the new politics. Sounds idealistic, but it has become a survival imperative of the human species. I’m convinced of that.

Rob Johnson:

Well, we have so many politically powerful institutions organized around a previous, which you might call false consciousness, and we have the economics profession as you alluded to focused on Newtonian physics as a model.

I don’t want to say this, but the question came to my mind. We could design a curriculum for young people in the next generation, and should do that anyway, but are we not, particularly in the realm of climate, on a time schedule that requires a transformation of existing adults? Not just an evolution that waits for the young people’s wisdom to blossom.

Ervin Laszlo:

We have very little time, but there are two things to keep in mind here. One is this, our new electronic technologies. Information, communication technologies are creating a system that can carry information, messages, instantly to almost any part of the globe. Almost every person of the human family.

And the other one is that we have an information system built in. Built in to the whole system. Because this is a quantum system where one thing interacts with all other things, you can’t do just one thing. [inaudible 00:23:36] said that sometime ago, but referring to ecology and to environmental actions. You can’t do just one thing, because a host of other things follow. But in a quantum system, there is no way you can do one thing, because everything that you do is connected with all the other things. I think this is a phenomenon that’s being talked about this book that I’ve done.

I want to emphasize. In that book, I want to emphasize this phenomenon in the Akashic field, that things are connected and things are moving in a concerted direction. That it’s natural and it’s healthy. And the system works. So all of the dangers are there, of Darwinian, Newtonian, short-term, fractionated, reductionist thinking. It’s all there and we have got to move out of that. And a shock, like a global crisis, it shows us we are all in the same boat. Yes, we’ve got to change and change together. It’s a beneficial crisis, in that sense.

It shortens the time in which we change. We can’t wait a whole generation to begin to change. In the past years, new cultures took several generations to emerge and to become dominant. We don’t have all the time. So we need a shock treatment. We have been getting it, we are getting it. And people, I’ll come back to what you said in the beginning, people are becoming concerned. That concern should be put to good use. That’s a natural, good thing.

Ask what you can do. Ask how I can be part of what there needs to be done. These are the key questions you should pose and try to answer, honestly, in view of what we are ready to do. What you’re willing to do. And what, obviously, what we can do.

Rob Johnson:

When I imagine you, in reading your work, it makes me curious. And I’m speaking, not only for myself, but we have over 15,000 members of our Young Scholars Initiative. Many feel the pressure to belong. But this enlightened vision, this integration between spirit and science, these things, can you give us a window into some of the experience you’ve had in your life that catalyzed or illuminated this new direction?

Ervin Laszlo:

I’m having these experiences all the time. They’re not really sort of the fancy kind of mystical experiences where I see spirits and whatnot. But, I had the experience first through the form of musical performance and the piano because things that I played seemed to me, the greatest music, seemed to me so natural. So self evident, that all I had to do was follow it. I haven’t had any question of interpreting this or that, and the music plays itself and shows the way. And one enters into this dynamic field, that everything is meaningful. It’s all expressed in sound, in tones, in melody, and rhythm. But it unfolds itself. It can’t be any other way.

This is particularly true of the greatest music like Mozart and Schubert. And even the modern music like Barto, for example. Where things proceed in a logical way, which has its own inner logic.

So that was one experience of being guided, as it were. It seems this experience was one of coherence. One of meaning. I was looking for it also in science. Suppose that can be fined, but can be fined for the idea that we are guided toward a more coherent, more integral vision of ourselves and base of behavior. And of course you find it now in the new biology, you find it in the quantum biology, and the new cosmology, the new physics. And I think sooner or later, it has to come into the new psychology, it’s beginning to contrast personal psychology, for example. And in the… Hopefully, also in your field, in the new economics.

I have touched with some people who are trying to bring in this new economics and bringing it to a higher level, into a practical form. This is the way we need to go find it. There’s a natural way, a GPS in us. Now, let me just mention in my own experience, a continued experience. When I work on an idea, like you pose these questions, and then I ask myself, “What meaning do they have? What is it that we can learn? How we can explicate this? Or, we can follow it up.”

Very often, when I speak and when I write, answers seem to come. Not very fanciful answers, but some answers that tell me way is better to go. How should I inquire? Is there a reason to despair? Is there hope? Which phase should I ask? Well, which way should I orient my energy? A real GPS. Very spontaneous.

And often, if everything seems to work fine, I can sit down and start writing and think about that I didn’t know that I wanted to express, that I didn’t have in mind before. They follow each other, just like the musical Mozart. One thing follows another, and there couldn’t be any other way. Also, it couldn’t be any other way. So this is an experience I have been having. Often I learned not to pre-program any talks I’m giving. Just set up the problem, the task, and then try to allow these ideas to come forth, to frame themselves.

Often, not always, but what often happens that I’m saying things and coming across, coming up with things I didn’t think of before. And so I’m learning from my experience. I learned to not to control it, allow it to blossom, allow it to come.

I’ve had this experience since I was five years old, the music, and I continue having it now. I’m nearing 90. I think this is partly a [inaudible 00:30:35] . Direction is in us. We are not alone and we are not mechanical puppets. We are not just robots. We are a self-directing, intensely alive entity. We as coherent within itself, as long as we can be healthy, we are coherent. And we can be coherent with other surroundings.

And we can build a new economics, a new social science, a new political science as well because that is the task that is now facing us. Recreating something better. Not back, but forward. That’s what bifurcation, it allows the novelty. It allows was talking about, created novelty in the world.

I think there is such a novelty. Possible, and the time that it can shine forth is when the old is crumbling and its questions. I always ask everybody, my lead is to question. Ask. Question your beliefs. Question your aspirations.

Yes, if you find that they are reasonable, they’re good. Fine, go ahead, obviously. But not automatically, just because you are being told. Not just because other people don’t like them. So that’s the beginning of this to know that we don’t know, but we want to find out.

Rob Johnson:

Well, sir, your inspiration through music is certainly something that affects my life and sense of purpose. I remember as a young man, when I’m looking forward to our discussion of the immutable laws of the Akashic field and the Indian spirituality, I remember following George Harrison very closely. And he wrote a song that I found terrifying called I Me Mine.

The last verse is: All I can hear is I me mine, I me mine. Even those tears , I me mine. No-one’s frightened of playing it , Everyone’s saying it. Flowing more freely than wine, all through your life, I me mine. And he was in despair about that focus on me, and not we, that you alluded to. But there are other influences in my life. I had minored in music in college. I mentioned at the outset, my father’s piano and my mother was a singer with the Detroit Symphony at times in her life.

But I was always moved very much by John Coltrane. And I recently met the physicist, a gentleman whose name is Stephon Alexander. He’s a black man, a physicist, a saxophone player. And he wrote a book, The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe. And I had a chance to be on a panel with him earlier this year.

But when I listened to Coltrane, I feel like I hear you. I feel him reaching to that broader place. That place, which he referred to as the Love Supreme. And so, as we conclude the first part, I want to thank you for exploring with us. And I look very much forward to the second part of our conversation that relates to your book about the immutable laws of the Akashic field. The depth, and the breadth, of your thinking leaves me in awe. But it’s also an example of the holistic vision that you are trying to inspire us to join. So thank you for this first part and I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Ervin Laszlo:

I want to thank you because being inspired by the right ideas is actually being inspired yourself. So it’s a wonderful thing to encounter people like you, and also have access to a broader public.

Let’s get these ideas out where people have an aha experience where they say, “Yes, I knew this. I intuited this, but now I can recognize it.” That I think is what’s so hard to teach. Not something new, but something that people can recognize.

Plato said that two and a half thousand years ago. And I think he was right. We have to not cognize. Not just cognize, but recognize of who we are.

You’re going back to what our true self. You are doing, that. Thank you for this conversation.

Rob Johnson:

Thank you, and I also want to encourage people in September to be ready for the book, The Wisdom Principles, because I think there’s some timelessness in looking forward and looking back. In, how would I say, I would imagine you see the elements of what you’re seeing and wanting us to see. There are probably, how do I say, clues and signals in those wisdom principles. And that should be very exciting.

Ervin Laszlo:

They are little nuggets on these people.

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