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Reviews

“R-evolution: Taking the Pulse of the World’s Consciousness” – a film from the World Servers Foundation (available on request from their website, www.worldserversfoundation.org)

“R-evolution” is structured as a series of short reflections from a wide variety of sources. It begins with a critique of materialism and environmental degradation, including the famous short address by Severn Suzuki to the UN Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. There are contributions from a number of well-known thinkers in the emerging field of the evolution of consciousness, such as Danah Zohar, Dennis Lipton and Richard Barrett, discussing the need for humanity to move forward. It is proposed that consciousness is continually evolving, from a Newtonian, billiard ball reductionist model of the universe towards a more holistic and participatory perspective.

A number of examples of inspiring service initiatives are given, such as the NGO Combatants for Peace, which uses theatre to facilitate reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a section on the Egyptian revolution, an Egyptian citizen notes that, before the revolution, it was shameful to be a citizen. Dr Hussein el Kazzaz shares his observation that, by rapidly building civil councils, the people effectively created a parallel state almost overnight. The Egyptian revolution is therefore suggested as a model of civil society action for others.

The idea is proposed that a certain measure of breakdown may have to happen before breakthrough, ? y have to happen tain measure of e almost overnight.so revolutions are partly inevitable. It is also suggested that different nations may be at different levels of conscious evolution, and that this should be taken into account.

A section on China includes the reflections of former UN Ambassador Wu Jianmin, who suggests that Chinese youth feel the need to contribute to the world, and that the world is moving away from competitiveness to interdependence. A number of civil society initiatives in China are also highlighted.

A report from Australia underlines the importance of values education in schools, teaching values such as fairness, respect and integrity.

Richard Olivier considers the power of stories, suggesting that the great stories are coded into us as ways of making meaning. The problem with “business" is that it is currently lacking a compelling story.

A section on philanthropy begins with Andrew Wallas, who notes that his success in business became increasingly hollow, and that he graduallylearned to give without conditions, anonymously.

The founder of the World Servers Foundation, businessman and philanthropist Mr Gábor Kovács, shares his opinion that the richest 5% will have to learn how to grow business with a social consciousness. Money needs to be recognised as a form of energy, which can be directed into world service. As part of this process, the richest 5% will need to transform themselves first, and then to facilitate transformation of others. This connects with the need for a new paradigm of leadership, servant-leadership, which serves the community, the environment, the planet, and future generations.

The film concludes by highlighting the need for all to shift from striving to be “the best in the world” to “the best for the world”, and that there is an urgent need to inspire the youth of today to serve the world.

The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry by Rupert Sheldrake. Coronet Books (Hodder & Stoughton). Hardback 392 pages. www.hodder.co.uk

In his latest book, Rupert Sheldrake, the well-known biologist and author of more than 80 technical papers and ten books, challenges the dogmas of the “scientific worldview” – the belief system that governs conventional scientific thinking. He does this in a spirit of open-minded scientific enquiry, questioning and challenging “the scientific creed” – those core beliefs that most scientists take for granted and which are based upon a materialist view of the universe. He proposes new avenues for research, bearing in mind his view that materialist science is “prone to suffer from a sense of disconnection and isolation”, believing that it has answered all of the fundamental questions. Sheldrake points out that scientific research is now a huge industry, with more than seven million researchers worldwide producing 1.58 million publications a year; he maintains that genuinely new discoveries are more likely to occur if research is not confined by existing beliefs, dogmas and taboos.

Sheldrake poses the intriguing question whether, on the basis of a few hundred years of scientific research, we can be sure that the laws of nature are fixed. Existing beliefs and dogmas which are subject to scrutiny in the book include: the idea that the universe is a machine in contrast to a living organism; the theory of the Standard Model of cosmology where “dark energy” currently accounts for about 73% of the matter and energy in the universe; and the idea that the entire evolutionary process has no purpose.

Sheldrake explores the theory of morphic resonance, through which humans, animals and plants inherit characteristics through the collective memory of the species, in contrast to materialist theory, which states that memories are stored in the brain and are wiped out on death. There is also discussion about the mind-brain controversy, in particular the conventional scientific view that mental activity is nothing but brain activity, with the mind confined to the brain. There are also informative chapters on the evidence for psychic phenomena or telepathy, and the argument for an inclusive, integrative approach to medicine rather than an entirely mechanistic system.

Sheldrake acknowledges that scientific knowledge has brought great benefits to humanity, although the power unleashed by scientific knowledge has also had adverse effects on the environment. This book is a fine contribution to a new, more open-minded scientific worldview, that challenges existing dogmas and beliefs about the nature of Life and the universe.