9th HWCS International Symposium

28-29-30 April 2023


Crossing the borders of thought


The situation of crisis that humanity is going through at the present time is evident. The crisis manifests itself at different levels and in all spheres of human action, thought and experience. History has recorded numerous crises that endangered the survival of human groups in different times and places, but in this case – as it was the case a few decades ago with the “cold war” – it is a global crisis. This crisis seems to “surpass” the previous one by adding to the possibility of a nuclear war the no less serious threat of climate change, which could seriously disrupt living conditions on the planet.

What are our chances in this situation?

Often, when we look for answers in the face of this crisis, we are overcome by the feeling of moving within certain limits that do not allow us to go beyond a short-sighted pragmatism. It is as if we were living in a continuous state of emergency, something, moreover, perfectly represented by the pandemic we are going through at the moment.

These limits that prevent us from “flying” freely are related to the basic belief substratum of the time. Paradoxically, on the one hand, we need references to guide our action in the world but, on the other hand, traditional references appear to us as inadequate and stifling.

How can this be overcome?

If humanity today is totally interconnected, and is therefore “one”, and if it also covers the entire planet, partial, group or personal perspectives no longer correspond to the present moment. It is necessary to think globally, even when acting in a particular field. It is necessary to overcome that closed individualism that denies the historical and social process that has placed everyone in the situation in which they find themselves today.

In the past, different civilizations were relatively separate from each other, so that even if one civilization disappeared, some of its progressive elements could be transferred to future civilizations, thus enhancing the process of human evolution. The different civilizations, each in its own time, received influences from the others and influenced the others as well. But today we live in an interconnected world, on the way to becoming a planetary civilization. The situation today is therefore substantially different. The crisis we are talking about is no longer limited to a particular civilization but has global characteristics. From a certain point of view, we can say that the current globalized system tends to become a closed system. And according to physics, in a closed system entropy, I.e. disorder, inevitably increases. The more order one tries to impose, the more disorder is created. This can be clearly seen today. In a closed system there is a tendency towards homogenization in all its constituent areas, from economy to law, from values to language.

Even people’s lifestyles tend to become homogenized. In terms of thinking, there is a progressive loss of capacity for abstraction, to the benefit of an analytical and pragmatic view, ignorant of the notions of structure and process. For many, hope and even interest in understanding what is happening in the world has been lost.

It is not difficult to understand how the contents of consciousness tend to homogenize, if one takes into account that we all receive the same information, the same points of view, the expression of the same beliefs, etc. etc. etc. Sometimes there are clashes, but on the basis of a common belief. For example, capitalism and socialism dispute each other’s positions, but they share a materialistic view of the world.

Consciousness is the guiding factor of history. There is no human action that is not preceded by an idea or an image of what one wishes to do, or what one wishes to achieve with a certain action. Thus, every idea, every image of the future, every proposal for change, first arises in the realm of the individual conscience. But it happens that in these times, similar to what happens in the world, the consciousness itself tends to behave as if it were a closed system. By way of example, consider European medieval thought: an immutable god in the celestial spheres, who observes and takes note of human behavior, hell or heaven as destiny, monarchical and priestly hierarchy acting as intermediary, Inquisition for those who think differently, etc. etc. etc.

For those living in such conditions, it is difficult to devise “new” answers, because everything that is thought or imagined comes from the same closed sphere that already exists. However, the Middle Ages ended and the Renaissance came. It is not that there is no way out, but in principle, we are constrained to think within the universe given by the basic beliefs of the present moment. The substratum of beliefs delimits what can be thought, what can be imagined, what can be perceived and understood, and tends to close the horizon of consciousness.

Let us give another example: among other areas of thinking, the substratum of basic beliefs is at the basis of all scientific development. Innovators in various branches of science have been those who were able to leap over the beliefs of their time: who could have imagined at the beginning of the 20th century that time and space could be “relative”, “flexible” or “deformable” magnitudes? Einstein managed to make that “leap” in his consciousness, and today, GPS with relativistic corrections and detection of gravitational waves constantly certify the validity of those “unimaginable” conceptions. If one succeeds in “looking outside” the basic belief system, the possibility of development and expansion of consciousness remains open.

So, in the search for solutions to the present crisis, we are confronted with certain limits. Limits or boundaries of our mind. It is necessary to reflect on them. The crisis is accelerating and social actors are polarized: obscurantist, irrational and violent forms are emerging and competing with each other.

What are the limits, where are they and how do they prevent the human being from growing and evolving? What are their origins? How do they manifest themselves? What can we do to overcome them? Is it the very conception of human being that limits the possibilities of growth and development? In order to find “creative ways out” it is necessary to make an effort to overcome the limits that prevent us from thinking with relative freedom.

In the different fields of action, in the different disciplines of work and knowledge, the same situation exists: what has been done so far to overcome the crisis has been ineffective or insufficient, but in order to find new answers, it is necessary to open the consciousness to considering new possibilities. Everything begins there, with this opening of consciousness... this is the road to travel, to find new regions of thought... which will then become concrete images of action, perhaps new proposals for the necessary change to come.

Having reached this turning point, where do we go from here?

Neo-liberal globalization seeks to impose an exhausted landscape on the world. Perhaps the complementation of points of view among those who propose change can give rise to a new response. The different thematic axes of the Symposium may explore this possibility.

How to find creative ways forward? That is the challenge posed by this 9th Symposium, and that is the meaning of the call and the invitation.