As a historian discovering the 17th century, you will know that it is not the wars of Europe, nor the demise of dynasties, nor the establishment of colonies, nor the industrial revolution that mark the importance of this period. In fact it was the science revolution which brought about a rethinking of worldviews from religion to science. The science revolution brought a new reality. It started in Western Europe infiltrating the known world. Harman attributes Copernicus, a Greek scholar, with its beginnings in the 1540s. Copernicus research found that the sun, moon and planets were seen (or not) because the Earth was rotating around its axis. Galileo 100 years later claimed that the earth moved and was not the centre of the universe. Revolutionary! These ideas and others resulted in challenging an entire ancient and autocratic system both in beliefs and established social norms. Galileo, branded a heretic, went to prison for his findings.
The science revolution prevailed creating a new way of seeking and validating knowledge. Knowledge was no longer the privilege of the rich or priesthood, challenging positions of authority. Science has become the new belief, the new social norm, the new way we see the world and accept what we follow. We measure our kids’ mathematical and scientific achievements at school. We measure adult success by financial and material standards. Our business norms are based on a capitalist system, economic growth models and a view of scarcity and insecurity. Success excludes failure, and business is separate to social capital of people. All norms are derived from science and hard evidence.
By now you may wonder what the most important thing is in the last century. Well, Harman found there is again a massive shift happening. Just as religion was challenged in the 17th century, the Western worldview is now being challenged by Eastern philosophy, global awareness and indigenous consciousness beliefs. As an example, Western science found evidence what Eastern philosophy has been saying for 3000 years, namely that humans have three brains!
This and other such examples bear the question: What other knowledge don’t we believe because there is no science based evidence?
Harman talks about the difficult task by scientists, and hence, the general public of Western nations, for open-mindedness and objectivity towards other knowledge. The consciousness revolution means accepting different types of knowledge merging them with prevailing social norms and beliefs. Business consciousness is shifting too, moving (among other things) towards shared value, the notion that inequality is bad for business and that failure is part of innovation.
Yet, we are only at the start in this shift. In the meantime, old worldviews create immense mental health issues. It is no wonder we struggle with innovation, which stems from creativity and requires sound mental health. Our Western science doesn’t readily give us the means to prevent mental health. But Eastern philosophy does. It has used mindfulness or meditation for centuries. But its coming in the Western nations too. The Harvard Business Review published an article on Mindfulness; Google Search has around 17 million results for ‘mindfulness in business’; and the UK parliament has regular mindfulness sessions before parliamentary sittings. Being more mindful in life brings more consciousness. The shift is here and growing.
Yet, like the religious leaders of the 17th century, many current leaders’ ‘open-mindedness and objectivity’ fight this shift. They hold onto the traditions and established beliefs that our world needs capitalism and economic growth, has scarcity and insecurity. And they do it to their own and global detriment. Akin the science revolution, the consciousness revolution is unstoppable…as your great great grandkids will know looking back as historians.