Monthly Archives: January 2017

An Integrative Method

By their very nature, revolutions in thought define themselves against the mode that precedes them. On a large scale, the privileging of rationality in modernity defined itself in relation to the comparatively naïve lack of differentiation between intellect and affect in premodernity. Similarly, whereas teleological thought was a dominant mode in premodernity, modernity has often defined itself by a rejection of teleology. The emerging mode does appear to define itself in relation to the mode that precedes it, the postmodern, which is founded upon the most fundamental premises of modernity taken to their logical conclusion. However, to a greater degree than the previously dominant modes of thought, the novel mode appears to subsume the previous world views in an emergent synthesis that transcends and includes all of these antecedent modes. This incipient world view shares with the postmodern a recognition of the radically constructed quality of lived reality, and even acknowledges the limited validity of the predominant postmodern interpretation of this insight as indicating that, if there is no fixed, transcendent truth, then the world is void of intrinsic meaning.

However, in a paradoxical operation characteristic of the emerging mode’s recursive complexity, this deconstructive interpretation of the world is simultaneously recognized as pragmatically plausible but contradicted by the integrative world view’s affective attitude, which affirms the partial validity of all points of view, and only denies the validity of those elements of developmentally previous world views which in their turn deny the positive beliefs affirmed by other modes of consciousness. Thus, the emerging mode appears to affirm the conditional validity of all positive beliefs, defined as those beliefs that do not explicitly or implicitly contradict another mode’s positive premises. This mode even affirms the temporary, historical necessity of the negative denial of positive beliefs for the forging of novelty. However, the emerging mode ultimately reconciles seemingly irreconcilable world views by discovering the inevitably partial truths in each side of any controversy. By refusing to succumb to the seductive ease of defining oneself in relation to what one is against, including the paradoxical act of defining oneself against being against anything at all, this mode of thought holds the tension between apparently incommensurable oppositions to allow a novel entity, “the reconciling third” as Jung puts it, to emerge from discord. Ultimately, one is not faced with a genuine controversy unless both parties to the disagreement have legitimate claims to some aspect of a larger reality, a multivalence revealed through the confrontation and reconciliation of the opposed perspectives.

[This post is an excerpt from The Dynamics of Transformation: Tracing an Emerging World View]

[The painting is Untitled Symbiosis by Christian Kurt Ebert]

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Novelty and the Will to Believe

It may not be too much to claim that every revolution that has occurred in the history of thought has met with great resistance from the current established orthodoxy. The old order has always had decades, if not centuries, to elaborate its point of view, to fill volumes with justification and explanation, to critique modes of thought that seem contrary to its premises, to develop forms of language to express its deepest beliefs. Consequently, it seems likely that every revolution in thought that has occurred in the history of the world, whether on individual or collective scales, has required an act of will, a leap of faith outside the established modes into unmapped realms of cognizance. In fact, these leaps of belief are often accompanied by the venturing of cultures that undergo such transformations into new realms of spatial exploration. For instance, the voyages of Columbus, Magellan, and Vasco da Gama disclosed the unity of the round Earth by traversing it during the same decades that Copernicus was attempting to prove that our planet revolves around the Sun, which is perhaps the single most significant discovery that impelled the subsequent trajectory of modernity. Similarly, the initiation of space exploration in the twentieth century, an entrance into a new orthogonal dimension, seems to have accompanied the multigenerational emergence of a novel mode of thought. The perspective from outside the planet afforded by the “Earthrise” photograph taken in 1968, which shows the Earth rising majestically over the Moon, appears to have symbolized and impelled the incipient integration of terrestrial world views. 

Each revolution required transgressive acts by a few individuals, Luther posting his ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenburg church near the dawn of modernity as much as Nietzsche declaring the “death of God” near its twilight, these acts rippling through networks of discourse and relation to transform those cultural streams. And these transformative individuals and groups are often derided, trivialized, or condemned, as they are attempting to articulate a mode of thought that has never been successfully expressed in a way that can be understood and participated in by the collective. New modes of thought almost always contradict orthodox presuppositions, so a great deal of controversy and debate must be undertaken in order to develop the novel perspective into a viable point of view. And in order for the new mode eventually to emerge triumphant in the cultural psyche, the majority of individuals who constitute the collective must decide, sooner or later, provisionally to adopt the new premises that form the core of the novel world view, to live and act as if they were true, which is the only way to prove the new conceptual system’s validity and value.

[This is an excerpt from The Dynamics of Transformation: Tracing an Emerging World View.]

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The Participatory Quality of Process

Each of us holds assumptions about the nature of reality. Whether one is a member of a tribe living in the depths of the Amazon uncontacted by outsiders who believes that the world is flat and full of spirits, or a postmodern academic living in the depths of New York City who believes in reductionist materialism and the socially constructed quality of reality, we all must necessarily hold beliefs about the world. To act is to act on premises, often unconscious, but premises nonetheless. As William James particularly understood, this pragmatic insight is an ancient one expressed in different inflections by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and by Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. But as James also understood, this mode of thought did not come to consciousness in the main streams of philosophical discourse until the decades surrounding the beginning of the twentieth century, largely through the work of James and his intellectual forebears, followers, and associates. Put simply, the premises we bring to bear in our interpretation of reality deeply condition the kinds of meaning that can be produced from the immediate experience of that reality.

[This is an excerpt from The Dynamics of Transformation: Tracing an Emerging World View]


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The Dynamics of Transformation

After a decade of work, I am happy to announce the publication of my new book, The Dynamics of Transformation: Tracing an Emerging World View. I was honored to receive these kind words from colleagues and mentors:

“Remarkable and nearly unique in its mastery and scope. There is a poetic sense behind the text that draws the reader along with pleasure.”

Allan Combs, Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina

“An inspiring vision.”

Richard Tarnas, author of The Passion of the Western Mind

“By the time one reaches the end of the argument, one has the sense of having undergone a kind of initiation into an ever-widening community of seekers for whom value and meaning, pattern and purpose are the real stuff of which worlds are made.”

Sean Kelly, Professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies

“Nietzsche’s Zarathustra said ‘I would only believe in a god who knows how to dance’; Maxwell traces out those dance steps, which he calls the dynamics of transformation.”

Timothy Desmond, author of Psyche and Singularity

“An important and insightful contribution to understanding the creative transition into a new paradigm of intellectual thought.”

Keiron Le Grice, Professor at Pacifica Graduate Institute

And here is the description from Persistent Press:

In the tradition of books like William James’ Pragmatism, Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos, The Dynamics of Transformation is a concise and clear presentation of a radically novel theory with the potential to transform the reader’s view of the world. The book offers twelve concepts that trace the contours of an emerging world view after the postmodern. Drawing on the work of a wide range of theorists, from Hegel, Carl Jung, Henri Bergson, and Alfred North Whitehead to Jean Gebser, Richard Tarnas, Ray Kurzweil, and Terence McKenna, it provides a framework for understanding how processes change over time. Synthesizing ideas ranging from quantum discontinuity, fractals, and archetypes to qualitative time, teleology, and exponential acceleration, Maxwell shows how these concepts relate to one another in a complexly intertwined network. He suggests that these theoretical approaches are all confluent streams that have gradually been converging over the last few centuries, and that this increasingly potent conceptual flood appears primed for a dramatic entrance into the preeminent currents of academic and intellectual culture.

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