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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