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Record Type: Review   ID: 350

The Participatory Mind: A New Theory of Knowledge and of the Universe

Skolimowski, Henry K.

 The author is a philosopher and directs the Eco-Philosophy Center. The key concepts presented here are that "the physical world has been made and remade many times in different cosmologies" (p. 176), and that we have it in our power to make the universe disconnected or connected. He presents his view of a connected and participatory universe in which evolution of consciousness is basic, but how it evolves is up to us. He reviews the role of mind throughout Western intellectual history, but with a chapter on different cultures/worldviews. He proposes that "matter behaves as the mind allows it. ... The mind is liberated, the behavior of matter is liberated," but the Western worldview is an extremely constricted view of matter and life. He sets forth in great detail a participatory paradigm that is ever changing and renewing itself in a spiral of increased understanding. Moreover, he sees experience as central, especially what he calls significant experience, which is very similar to exceptional human experience. Moments of significant experience are illuminating and play an important role in creating reality. There is a process moving from experience to knowledge to insights to a new reality. "Experience always mediates between reality and knowledge" (p. 345); thus, reality-knowledge does not exist independently of us, but neither are moments of illumination independent of knowledge and reality. The path we are on, which has often been called the spiritual path, is named better by Skolimowski. He calls it the path of becoming. In the universe as he (and I) envisage it, we are always becoming more than we were. We can say "there go I" to more bits of reality. "Through the human mind, the universe appreciates itself" (p. 382). He sets forth the tenets of a new research method called participatory research, which he acknowledges is also the feminist approach. He lists the following main characteristics: (a) it is the art of empathy; (b) it involves "the art of communion with the object of inquiry"; (c) it entails the art of learning as one and using its language; (d) it involves "talking to the object of our inquiry" (e) it consists of "penetrating from within"; (f) it involves "in-dwelling in the other"; (g) it uses "the art of imaginative hypothesis which leads to the art of identification"; and (h) it involves "the transformation of one’s consciousness so that it becomes part of the consciousness of the other" (pp. 160-161). This is the approach this Journal is promoting, and exceptional human experience is central to the participatory approach in that empathy and intuition and communion with the "other" and involvement in the research process are all EHEs. Finally, Skolimowski’s view entails the return of Grand Theory in the form of participatory philosophy—a philosophy built on a spiral of change and growth in connection rather than static disconnectedness and separation. The grand sweep and attention to detail are both to be found in this book, which indeed can serve as the basic backdrop for a new science and a new worldview.
Publisher Information:New York: Penguin Arkana, 1994. 395p. Chap. notes: 384-394
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