Four ages of the Western Mind, and the fifth

Underlying the shift to peer to peer modes of human organization and technological infrastructure is a deeper epistemological shift, i,e. a new way of seeing the world, of ‘knowing’. For a good history of these modes of seeing, the 1994 book by Henryk Skolimowski, is still a recommended must. He distinguished Mythos, Logos, Theos, Mechanos as is explained in the quote from Peter Reason below.

We know need to add a fifth, reflecting the shift towards the participatory modes of knowing, no longer predicated on our independence (of nature, of others) and on separation, but on interdependence and partnership.

This needs a name: how could we call a coming age of participation? Philippe Van Nedervelde suggests two possible names, also drawn from classical Greek:
1) Synergos, from “sun/syn” = together; “ergos” = work

2) Metechos, denotes sharing/participating

Peter Reason summarizes the ideas of Henryk Skolimowski, on the evolution of western thought:

Henryk Skolimowski, in his book The Participatory Mind (Arkana, 1994), sketches out what he describes as the four great cycles of Western mind, each of which provided us with experience of a different world. If we go back to ancient Greece the experience of people was defined by a worldview we can call Mythos: people saw in the stories of their lives the visible presence of the gods, intervening from Mount Olympus. Around C6 BCE there was a radical transformation as classical Greek Logos emerged: the search for the coherent and harmonious order of the Universe. The fusion of Greek Logos with Roman power provided the hegemony of the Roman Empire. However, it seems that no worldview can persist, the seeds of decay set in, leading to the Dark Ages. Out of this came Theos, the Medieval worldview in which all thought and action was inspired by and dedicated to the glory of a transcendent divinity, which emphasised the transient nature of physical reality and earthly existence. Theos led to the glories of Chartres, but disintegrated with the rise of a mercantile middle class and the increasingly corrupt power of the Church. Skolimowski argues that the Renaissance which followed the disintegration of Theos was an exuberant outburst and period of liberation that did not lead to a complete and lasting new worldview, and we had to wait for Bacon, Galileo, Descartes and Newton to define the new and powerful worldview that is Mechanos.Mechanos has been the worldview of modern times: it is based on the frighteningly simple yet powerful metaphor of the clockwork universe. In this perspective, there is a real world made up of real things we can identify, operating according to natural causal laws which govern their behaviour—laws which we can deduce by analysing the operation of the component parts. Mind and reality are separate: the rational human, drawing on analytical thought and experimental methods, can come to know the objective world. So the objective world spawns the objective mind, which becomes detached, analytical and thus in the end uncaring and cold. Human progress is dependent on the processes of science, the purpose of which is the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. In the late twentieth century Mechanos is no longer a guide to wise action. The ecological, political, social, and personal crises we confront at this time need no rehearsing here. Fundamental to all these crises is the way we think and how the way we think separates us from our experience, from each other, and from the rhythms and patterns of the natural world.�

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.