Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Marilyn Ferguson

American Transpersonal Psychologist, Author, Editor, Public Speaker, Founder and Editor Brain/Mind Bulletin

"Creative people have always felt separated from their societies. It’s as if they see too well the contrast between what is and what could be."

"Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is a freedom."

"As the greatest single social influence during the formative years, schools have been the instruments of our greatest denial, unconsciousness, conformity, and broken connections. Just as allopathic medicine treats symptoms without concern for the whole system, schools break knowledge and experience into “subjects,” relentlessly turning wholes into parts, flowers into petals, history into events, without ever restoring continuity... Worse yet, not only the mind is broken, but too often, so is the spirit. Allopathic teaching produces the equivalent of iatrogenic, or doctor-caused” illness - teacher-caused learning disabilities. We might call these pedogenic illnesses. The child who may have come to school intact, with the budding courage to risk and explore, finds stress enough to permanently diminish that adventure."

"Making mental connections is our most critical learning tool - the essence of human intelligence: to forge links; to go beyond the given; to see patterns, relationship, context."

"Your past is not your potential. In any hour you can choose to liberate the future."

"We do not make use of our freedom. We have given away the fundamental freedom to visualize and shape our world. We allow actors, advertisers and politicians to dream for us. And a culture that does not dream is not free."

"Over the years your bodies become walking autobiographies, telling friends and strangers alike of the minor and major stresses of your lives."

"The greatest revolution in our generation is that of human beings, who by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives"

"Fear is a question: What are you afraid of and why? Just as the seed of health is in illness, because illness contains information, our fears are a treasure house of self-knowledge if we explore them."

"The brain's calculations do not require our conscious effort, only our attention and our openness to let the information through. Although the brain absorbs universes of information, little is admitted into normal consciousness."

"No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by emotional appeal."

"Of all the self-fulfilling prophecies in our culture, the assumption that aging means decline and poor health is probably the deadliest."

"If we are to find our way across troubled waters, we are better served by the company of those who have built bridges, who have moved beyond despair and inertia."

"A conspirator-bureaucrat said he discovered health as a by-product of meditation. After several years ot Transcendental Meditation he found it easy to give up his compulsive drinking and soon thereafter his compulsive overeating. 'At an age when I should be going downhill, I'm healthier than I was five years ago and getting healthier all the time.'"

"A belated discovery, one that causes considerable anguish, is that no one can persuade another to change ? To the individual whose gate of change is well defended, the transformative process, even in others, is threatening. The new beliefs and perceptions of others challenge the "right" reality of the unchanging person; something in himself may have to die. This prospect is frightening, for our identities are constituted more truly by our beliefs than by our bodies. The ego, that collection of qualms and convictions, dreads its own demise. Indeed, each transformation is a kind of suicide, the killing of aspects of the ego to save a more fundamental self."

"A former political activist?now on the faculty of a medical school? who teaches courses on the biology of the body-mind, said, 'This revolution says that we're all basically all right and that the return to health is natural. It's anti-elitist. Professionalism, the degree on the wall, is eroding as a symbol of authority. Love is the most irresistible power in the universe. Caring?that's what healing is all about.'"

"A paradigm is a framework of thought (from the Greek paradigm, pattern)... a scheme for understanding and explaining certain aspects of reality... A paradigm shift is a distinctly new way of thinking about old problems."

"American society has at hand most of the factors that could bring about collective transformation: relative freedom, relative tolerance, affluence enough to be disillusioned with affluence, achievements enough to know that something different is needed."

"A leaderless but powerful network is working to bring about radical change in the United States. Its members have broken with certain key elements of Western thought, and they may even have broken continuity with history... This network is the Aquarian Conspiracy."

"A Major task of the Aquarian Conspiracy is to foster paradigm shifts by pointing out the flaws in the old paradigm and showing how the new context explains more?makes more sense ? the most powerful transformative ideas from modern science connect like parts of a puzzle. They support each other; together they form the scaffolding for a wider worldview."

"Apparent contradictions between the behavior of individuals and their claims of personal change. Many people discuss their purported new awareness as if it were the latest film or diet; yet even this phase may precede real change. Some people feel as if they are changing in ways not evident to others. Still others go through apparent negative change, periods of withdrawal or emotionality, before achieving a new equilibrium. We can only guess about the changes in another person; transformation is not a spectator sport. And we may even misread what has happened in ourselves."

"Broader than reform, deeper than revolution, this benign conspiracy for a new human agenda has triggered the most rapid cultural realignment in history. The great shuddering, irrevocable shift overtaking us is not a new political, religious, or philosophical system. It is a new mind--the ascendance of a startling worldview that gathers into its framework breakthrough science and insights from earliest recorded thought."

"A psychologist, a national leader in holistic medicine, wandered into the field by way of a T'ai Chi instructor who interested him in acupuncture. He has now successfully integrated alternative medical approaches into the curriculum of a major medical school and has arranged lecture series on holistic approaches for a group of medical schools." 'When you develop liaisons,' he said, 'it's critical that you speak the right language. If I talked yin and yang to most neurosurgeons, they wouldn't hear me. I talk the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. If we want to help people change, it's important that we don't push them or pull them?just walk together.'"

"A political paradigm shift might be said to occur when the new values are assimilated by the dominant society. These values then become social dogma to members of a new generation, who marvel that anyone could ever have believed otherwise."

"An atmosphere of trust, love, and humor can nourish extraordinary human capacity. One key is authenticity: parents acting as people, not as roles."

"Context? literally, "that which is braided together." We are looking now at the ecology of everything, realizing that things only make sense in relation to other things. Just as medicine began to look at the context of disease, the milieu and not just symptoms, education is beginning to acknowledge that the interrelationship of what we know, the web of relevance, is more important than mere content. Content is relatively easy to master, once it has been given a framework."

"By naming a sharply recognizable phenomenon, Kuhn made us conscious of the ways of revolution and resistance. Now that we are beginning to understand the dynamics of revolutionary insights, we can learn to foster our own healthy change and we can cooperate to ease the collective change of mind without waiting for the fever of crisis. We can do this by asking questions in a new way - by challenging our old assumptions. These assumptions are the air we breathe, our familiar furniture. They are part of the culture. We are all but blind to them, yet they must give way."

"Darwin's theory of evolution by chance mutation and survival of the fittest has proven hopelessly inadequate to account for a great many observations in biology ? a larger paradigm is emerging to broaden our understanding of evolution."

"Cultural transformation announces itself in sputtering fits and starts, sparked here and there by minor incidents, warmed by new ideas that may smolder for decades. In many different places, at different times, the kindling is laid for the real conflagration -- the one that will consume the old landmarks and alter the landscape forever."

"Each of us is here for a purpose; each life has significance and meaning. This meaning?whatever it is?cannot be realized if we abdicate our powers"

"Even most scientists do not relate scientific knowledge to everyday life. Peer pressure discourages them from searching for wider meaning or significance "outside their field." They keep what they know compartmentalized and irrelevant, like a religion practiced only on holy days. Only a few have the intellectual rigor and personal courage to try to integrate their science into their lives. Capra remarked that most physicists go home from the laboratory and live their lives as if Newton, not Einstein, were right?as if the world were fragmented and mechanical. 'They don't seem to realize the philosophical, cultural, and spiritual implications of their theories.'"

"Heretofore we have harvested creativity wild. We have used as creative only those persons who stubbornly remained so despite all efforts of the family, religion, education, and politics to grind it out of them? If we learn to domesticate creativity?that is, to enhance it rather than deny it in our culture?we can increase the number of creative persons [to the point of] critical mass. When this level is reached in a culture, as it was in Periclean Athens, the Renaissance, Elizabethan England, and our own Federalist period, civilization makes a great leap forward."

"Human nature is neither good nor bad but open to continuous transformation and transcendence. It has only to discover itself."

"Expanding consciousness is the riskiest enterprise on earth. We endanger the status quo. We endanger our comfort. And if we do not have the nerve to resolve the ensuing conflicts, we endanger our sanity."

"Euphenics, a recent idea in genetics, suggests that there is a scientific basis for such learning approaches as paidea. Whereas eugenics promoted the breeding of certain traits and selecting against other traits, euphenics takes the view that the environment can be optimized to bring out potential traits. In human terms, we might say that everyone is gifted, in the sense of having special potentials in the genetic repertoire, but that most of these gifts are not elicited by the environment. If the learning environment is stimulating and tolerant, a great array of skills, talents, and capacities can be developed."

"Fear can keep us from innovating, risking, creating. Yet we settle for only the illusion of safety. We prolong our discomfort, and we are troubled in our sleep. On one level we know that we are in danger, avoiding change in a changing world. The only strategies imaginative enough to rescue us will come from listening to our "other" consciousness."

"Experiments have implicated the endorphins in the mysterious placebo effect, in which an inactive substance like a sugar pill produces relief because the patient expects it. ? Faith, inspired by the placebo, apparently releases endorphins. How it happens is as big a mystery as how intention works in biofeedback."

"Given the superior power and scope of the new idea, we might expect it to prevail rather quickly, but that almost never happens. The problem is that you can't embrace the new paradigm unless you let go of the old. You can't be half, hearted making the change bit by bit. 'Like the gestalt switch,' Kuhn said, 'it must occur all at once.' The new paradigm is not 'figured out' but suddenly seen."

"Health and disease don't just happen to us. They are active processes issuing from inner harmony or disharmony, profoundly affected by our states of consciousness, our ability or inability to flow with experience. This recognition carries with it implicit responsibility and opportunity."

"Fear has been our prison: fear of self, fear of loss, fear of fear."

"For the first time in history, humankind has come upon the control panel of change -- an understanding of how transformation occurs. We are living in the change of change, the time in which we can intentionally align ourselves with nature for rapid remaking of ourselves and our collapsing institutions."

"If we are to break out of this pattern, if we are to be liberated from our personal and collective history, we must learn to identify it -- to see the ways of discovery and innovation, to overcome our discomfort with and resistance to the new, and to recognize the rewards of cooperating with change. Thomas Kuhn was by no means the first to point out this pattern."

"If we are to dream a larger American dream, we must go beyond our own experience, much as the authors of the Constitution immersed themselves in the political and philosophical ideas of many cultures and as the Transcendentalists synthesized insights from world literature and philosophy to frame their vision of inner freedom."

"If we try to live as closed systems, we are doomed to regress. If we enlarge our awareness, admit new information, and take advantage of the brain's brilliant capacity to integrate and reconcile, we can leap forward."

"If we imagine that we are isolated beings, so many inner tubes afloat on an ocean of indifference, we will lead different lives than if we know a universe of unbroken wholeness. Believing in a world of fixity, we will fight change; knowing a world of fluidity, we will cooperate with change"

"In our own biology is the key to the prison, the fear of fear, the illusion of isolation. Whole brain knowing shows us the tyranny of culture and habit. It restores our autonomy, integrates our pain and anxiety. We are free to create, change, communicate. We are free to ask 'Why?' and 'Why not?'"

"Inadvertently, we may push people to the extremes of their innate tendencies by the bias of our schools. The rebel-innovator diverges more and more, perhaps to become antisocial or neurotic. The timid child who wishes to please is shaped into an even more conformist position by the authoritarian structure. In their study comparing high schools to prisons, Craig Haney and Philip Zimbardo commented that the real tragedies are not the troublemakers or even the dropouts, but 'the endless procession of faceless students who go through the school system quietly and unquestioningly, unobtrusively and unnoticed.'"

"In the beginning, certainly, most did not set out to change society. In that sense, it is an unlikely kind of conspiracy. But they found that their lives had become revolutions. Once a personal change began in earnest, they found themselves rethinking everything, examining old assumptions, looking anew at their work and relationships, health, political power and "experts," goals and values."

"If there is power in the transformative experience, it must inevitably shake our values and, therefore, the total economy? it must make us rethink what we owe each other, what is possible, what is appropriate. Sooner or later, the new paradigm changes the individual's relationship to work; part-time transformation is inherently impossible."

"I used the term Aquarian to try to make clear that it was something benign. I didn't realize at that time that there are people for whom that word might push buttons, but I was really looking at it in the sense of the myth of a new beginning?the wish, the hope, the popular image that there might be a new time, as in the words from the song "The Age of Aquarius"?the time of the mind's true liberation. And about that time I also discovered that Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, the Jesuit paleontologist, had once written about a conspiracy of love?that if anything was going to save this society, it would be a conspiracy of men and women of good will. And the Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis had once written, "I hope to say a word in time to my companions, a password, like conspirators." And he went on to talk about giving a human meaning to the superhuman struggle, to give to the earth a heart and a brain"