I ran across David Fideler’s work as I was researching an article I was writing on “the story of water” for an Italian publication.
Fideler studied Greek philosophy and Mediterranean religions at the University of Pennsylvania and holds a PhD in philosophy and the history of science and cosmology. His article in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of Kosmos Journal resonated with me and my book on water “Water Is…”.
Entitled, “Nature’s Living Intelligence” Fideler’s article covered many of the same paradigms and issues I’d run across in my own research and present in “Water Is…”. Briefly here, Fideler’s article discusses how the worldview of humanity—particularly of the western world—changed from one of a World Soul and “Intelligent Nature” to seeing a mechanized world not connected to humanity.
“The earliest Greek philosophers,” writes Fideler, “saw the world as alive and ensouled. The world and the heavens were seen as a living activity because they are in constant motion.” Nature’s intelligence is also reflected in its regenerative powers. And Nature’s forms are beautiful, operating in the most economical and efficient ways—employing proportional relationships in their structures. “These proportional relationships allow the parts to be integrated within the whole in the most elegant way, and these proportional harmonies give rise to beauty.” The proportionate and fractal shapes of flowers, trees, meandering streams, the human hand and spiral galaxies reflect a kind of intelligence (logos); and “it is because of these whole-part harmonies that the forms of nature are so beautiful,” says Fideler.
Plato used these whole-part fractal concepts to describe the “one Whole of wholes” and a ‘World Soul’ or the anima mundi; the soul of the cosmos in which Nature harmonizes Sameness and Difference through mathematical proportion and the recursive fractal pattern of self-similarity.
The emerging mechanistic worldview, borne out of the scientific genius of the 16th and 17th centuries during the Age of Enlightenment, described the cosmos as separate from humanity. The Cartesian philosophy propounded by Descartes, Bacon and others painted a new image of humanity—one of rationale spectator, of dominator over Nature. Isaac Newton’s model of celestial mechanics constructed a framework in which space and time were absolute and unchanging realities; a universe rigidly ordered and strictly deterministic, in which observer was distinct from the world under observation—something that quantum physics would later refute.
“By radically oversimplifying the world, classical physics contained the seeds of its own undoing,’ writes Fideler. “The entire edifice rested on a reductionist dualism that separated spirit from matter and self from the world. Because of this dualism, the cosmos was not a unified, organic phenomenon in which humanity and life even had a place.” Within three centuries of Newton, each of the primary assumptions of the mechanistic worldview were refuted by new scientific discoveries—mostly in quantum physics.
“Matter is not just active and creative,” writes Fideler. Matter evolves. Instead of being separate from the universe, as Descartes had maintained, “all living systems—including human beings—are creative outgrowths of the process of cosmic evolution, creative outgrowths of nature’s own intelligence.”
You can read the entire article in Kosmos Journal here.
Fideler’s book “Restoring the Soul of the World” explores the unexamined connections between science, religion, and culture, and how our deepest worldviews have influenced the ways we relate to the world, other people, and our innermost selves.
The book traces the ancient vision of living nature along its entire course: from its roots in the World Soul of the Greek philosophers, to its eclipse during the Scientific Revolution, to its return today. Drawing upon the most important scientific discoveries of recent times, Restoring the Soul of the World shows how the mechanistic worldview has broken down, and presents a new vision of living nature and our own intrinsic bond with the deepest structures of the cosmic pattern.
Fideler shares that by learning from and collaborating with nature’s intelligence, we can bring the world to fruition, by viewing nature as a teacher and creative partner — and helping to regenerate the Earth’s living systems.
Read excerpts of Fideler’s book here.
Nina Munteanu’s Water Is… (Pixl Press) on sale worldwide May 10, 2016
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist, limnologist and internationally published author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories and non-fiction. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books.