Interview with Dr. Ervin Laszlo
by Masami Kondo of The Goi Peace Foundation
Masami Kondo: First of all, Dr. Laszlo, I would like to congratulate you on being awarded the Goi Peace Award 2001. On behalf the Goi Peace Foundation we would like to thank you for traveling all the way to Japan to receive the award and also for delivering a commemorative address to our audience.
Dr. Ervin Laszlo: I wish to thank the Goi Foundation for deciding to present this award to me. I feel very honored and delighted and I will try to live up to this great honor to work for peace.
Kondo: Dr. Laszlo, you have many aspects in your life but you are well known as a pioneer of systems philosophy. Actually systems philosophy is not quite familiar to many people. Could you firstly explain what that field deals with?
Laszlo: It is the idea that one can understand how many different things come together and how they act when they do. Like for example you have to understand how a living organism acts, as a whole organism. This is more than just one cell and another cell and another cell, because the whole system has its own life, its own characteristics. We have to understand how a whole society acts, which is more than just one individual and another individual put together. It has its own characteristics, its own dynamic features and so we are talking about understanding systems that mean whole complex organizations. This is a different way of looking at things from the so-called atomistic way, which means you look at each thing individually and they try to put it together. So like the old saying goes in English, you try to see the forest and not only the trees, because the forest consists of trees but the whole forest is more than just the individual trees. It is an ecological system also. So systems philosophy is a way of looking at the world as being made up of these complex self-organizing systems.
Kondo: Does that include humanity, the animals, the plants and the whole planetary system?
Laszlo: It includes all things in nature that arise as complex things from the very beginning of time. From the first bacteria all the way to the entire earth as a living organismwhat is now called by Dr. Lovelock, the Gaia system. They are all systems.
Kondo: That is a very much needed point of view when we look at the world today. I want to mention that your book Macroshift has recently been published and a new version will be out shortly. Now, when you talk about "Macroshift," you are saying that we are in the midst of a massive worldwide transformation that could change everything. Now it is very hard to imagine what's going to happen to us in the future. Why is this taking place now and what are the forces behind this transformation? Can you brief us?
Laszlo: It is not the first time that major changes have taken place. As we already know, just in the course of the 20th century, many major changes have occurred in the world. For example, we've seen the course in Japan from the 19th to the 20th century. I think the period of the Meiji Restoration was a very different world from the period between the two world wars and then after the Second World War. Civilizations change. However, before, this change happened relatively slowly. It took several generations to occur and now the changes happen very quickly. It is now driven by new technological advances. Initially, you had the first industrial revolution which took at least 100 years to develop. This was based on the steam engine and the coal fired engines and mass production and it spread from England and Germany and then to America and thence to the rest of the world. It changed the way societies operate but this change took several generations, 100 years at least, to really develop. Now our new technologies of information and communication, instant trade worldwide, and globalization, change the way we operate and change the way we work and that means that it has to change also the way we think and the way we live. At the same time as one part of the world is becoming globalized and more and more integrated, another part of the world is being separated or divided. Some people have access to this new technology and some dont. Those who have are in possession and those who are not are being left out. So we have to develop a world where everybody can participate in the change and this means that we have to develop new ways of thinking, new ways of acting.
Kondo: Because things are moving so much faster now, would this transition come rather abruptly and not so smoothly? Do we know when it is going to happen?
Laszlo: There is a period when all of these changes gradually build up until more and more change accumulates and there are more and more stresses and conflicts arising in the world. Then it comes to a critical point, and at that point, there can be either a positive constructive resolution or an ultimate extinction. It is like when the same thing happens in the life of a species. That species either creates a mutation and brings forth a new kind of organism, which is what happened over the period of millions of years on the life of the earth. Or, it becomes extinct, which is also what happened in the past as more than 90% of the complex species that at one point had emerged on earth have disappeared, or have become extinct. Also many civilizations have become extinct and in the past 5,000 years at least 30 civilizations have disappeared. Now we have a globally extended industrial civilization and the question is will this civilization adapt to the new conditions that it has created for itself. However, it has to adapt to these new conditions in terms of the way people think and the way people are organized, or it will also face a major crisis. So we are now in this critical phase and we see that very much in the world at present, since September of this year. We have entered a phase where everybody knows that we have to resolve a very serious situation which is not temporary, which is a worldwide situation. Thus it means that we have entered this critical period of the macroshift.
Kondo: You say that for this shift to occur "a mass global awakening of consciousness" is necessary. When we talk about awakening of consciousness, do you think that human consciousness is still in a developmental stage and that we will attain a higher consciousness? What would that be?
Laszlo: Human consciousness is changing and evolving all the time. Every time there has been a major change, or a macroshift, also our consciousness has changed. Usually all these changes are triggered or catalyzed by technology. New technologies change the way people relate to each other. But in the end they are consolidated and they are brought to a new level by peoples thinking and peoples awareness. As I said before we have had several generations of people to develop this new consciousness we have today. Now we must develop it even further in one generation, so it is a very great challenge. But consciousness is changing all the time and I think we are moving into a kind of consciousness that I use the word Holos to describe. This comes from the Greek word meaning whole. As I mentioned before, trying to think in terms of systems, that is trying to see the whole thing, the whole forest, the whole organism. Before we used to look very much at the parts, each part did its own thing. Now we have to look at the whole system because the whole of humanity has become one system.
Kondo: Ken Wilber talked about consciousness being predestined to reach divine consciousness. Is it similar to what you are talking about?
Laszlo: Yes, there are many ways that we can describe this. Many thinkers and researchers of human consciousness studies have talked about the next step. Ken Wilbur also talks about integral consciousness which I called the Holos consciousness. The great Indian philosopher, Sri Aurobindo talked about super consciousness. Carl Jung, the great psychologist was talking about the collective unconscious and people who are increasingly being able to communicate with the collective unconscious. So yes we are reaching a level where I think a more spiritual dimension is coming into our consciousness, not only this purely rational technological thinking but also deeper spiritual element is entering our consciousness again.
Kondo: You say in your book that "spirituality is the most promising baby of the emerging cultures." When you say spirituality, does that differ from the traditional religions? What do you exactly mean by spirituality?
Laszlo: There can be spirituality without religion and there can be religion without spirituality. Ideally religion has spirituality. I think the major prophets, the founders of the great religions, whether it be Moses or Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha or Confucius, are very spiritual people. But in time often the followers have organized themselves and they looked at only the teachings, the doctrines, and they forgot to some extent, about the inside, the felt dimension of religion, which is spirituality. So now people are often discovering spirituality outside the former religions, because they say that the temple of spirituality is the heart of the individual. You don't have to go to a church or to a temple or to a mosque. So I think it is a quest for the religions to recover their original spirituality and for people to develop spirituality whether or not they are associated or affiliated with a religion.
Kondo: Many of our members, some for over 50 years, have been praying the prayer "May Peace Prevail on Earth." They don't just sit once a day and pray; rather they sort of breathe the prayer all the time in their mind. Do you think such a practice is contributing to the transformation of the world?
Laszlo: You know I come from a scienctific background; my field was philosophy of science and as you know systems science. There is some interesting scientific evidence that shows when people engage in deep prayer or meditation, then their brain begins to work in a very coherent way. The human brain has two major sides - the front part of the brain, and the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Normally in everyday life, these two parts of the brain operate rather separately. Therefore feeling and rational thinking are separated. However when people are praying and when people are meditating, then these two brain hemispheres begin to work in the same way. They become highly synchronized and you can see this when you look at the brain waves, the EEG patterns, how they become harmonized. With normal brain activity, there is a zero to five percent level of synchronization. With deep meditation and deep prayer, the brain can be up to 98 percent synchronized. There is also evidence that when people are operating with the whole brain at this very intense level, then they are also sending out information that affects other people, without knowing about it. So many people if they meditate, they pray, by the very fact that they are in this very intense state of mind, they can influence and send messages to other people. So through the very act of praying, you can actually heal people, and help people evolve themselves. So prayer is a very practical thing.
Kondo: That's good to know. I understand that you integrate new sciences into your research and studies. How far has the frontier of science come towards discovering the nature of matter and mind? To grasp the essence of matter and mind I believe can change the way we look at the world and change the way we think.
Laszlo: As you know, the new physics, new biology and new cosmology are at the forefront of scientific change and they are coming up with a very different picture of the world. In the 19th century and up to the very beginning of the 20th century, classical physics was based on the idea that there are individual pieces of matter which, according to Newtonian physics, are mass points. These are independent to one another and they only affect each other like billiard ballswhen one ball pushes another one this provides an influence on the other but they are not really related. All of classical physics is based on this kind of interaction. The Einstein developed the relativity physics, and Bohr and others developed the quantum physics. Then came the new biology where they also discovered that all things are strongly related to each other. So actually there is no such thing as a piece of matter. Matter as such, according to the new natural science, doesn't really exist. What we consider to be matter is really just energy bound togetherenergy so integrated together it is almost like standing waves. It seems to create something solid but actually when you look at it, the atoms consist of particles, particles consist of quarks, and quarks are energy. So the fundamental entity in the world is not matter. It is energy, but energy brought together in such a way that it preserves and communicates information. So I think we have to understand the world in terms of energy and information. Our consciousness is also based on energy, but its main aspect is information.
Kondo: So what we call the power of mind must be that energy.
Laszlo: Yes. We can also have forms of information that are not associated with known kinds of energy. We are now getting into technical details. Up until now we used to think that there were only electro-magnetic waves. It turns out that in the world there are also other kinds of waves which are known as scaler waves, which have no force but carry information. It turns out that these have a very major role in the way our mind and brain operates. So I am developing a theory based on a field of pure information that is actually connecting all the quarks and atoms in the world, and connecting all the organisms together as a basic information field.
Kondo: And all of us can contribute either positive or negative energy into this field.
Laszlo: Absolutely, we are all part of it and depending on how we think, we can either input positive information that can integrate and make this field more coherent or we can do the opposite and contribute to destroying it. So we have a great responsibility not only in the way we act but even in the way we think, and the way we feel. I think this is our new responsibility to develop a new consciousness. When this new consciousness develops I think it brings people closer together and closer to nature, because we are after all part of and products of nature. We arose out of nature. Life on earth has been around for almost 4 billion years. Of course the major complex forms of life have arisen in the so-called Cambrian period 600 million years ago and humanity or the earliest hominoids arose 5 million years ago, but homosapeans have existed for maybe 50,000 years. For the last 10,000 years we had developed a higher kind of mentality, higher kind of consciousness, and now it is up to us to develop this consciousness, to recognize that we are part of this larger whole, part of life on earth, and that life on earth is part of the universe.
Kondo: So when you say what we do to others comes back to you, it really is like that.
Laszlo: We are not so separate. If you are part of a system, you affect the rest of the system and therefore whatever happens to that system happens to you too. So you can never say I am here and you are there, I can do something to you which will not affect me. If I do to you, I also do it to myself. This is by the way, also a principle of the new healing. Medication is not a doctor prescribing something to a patient but rather a doctor entering into communication with the patient and feeling and sending information so that they overcome the illness together. It is also the same as the ancient idea of medicine. For example, the ancient Japanese and Chinese medicine was based on similar ideas.
Kondo: So can you say that science is coming closer to ancient wisdom?
Laszlo: In the last 200 or 300 years, western science has developed one particular way. However science has been around for many thousands of years and this western science was just one branch of science. Now it turns out that this branch is discovering again some very basic insights that have been around for a long time, but discovering them through very sophisticated instruments. So we are discovering how the cosmos works, how particles work, how cells work, how genetic material creates an organism, and how many organisms create an ecological system. Through all this we are rediscovering some of the insights that the ancients knew by intuition. I think there is a Japanese word which says intuition is a direct power of reception. I think it is a very powerful tool.
Kondo: Dr. Laszlo, you are also the founder and president of the Club of Budapest which has a membership of eminent people from around the world, leading thinkers in different fields. Also here in Japan, the Goi Peace Foundation is launching an initiative to bring people together who work in different fields, but who share the same purpose of creating a culture of peace. So your experience with the Club of Budapest, and how you have successfully been a catalyst in bringing together all these wonderful people, is good example for us. Could you tell us how the Club of Budapest has grown to what it is now?
Laszlo: It was a very spontaneous process. Firstly, we realized one thing, that it is not enough just to make more calculations and more strategies. You can make very nice projects and when you propose them to governments or to big business enterprises, they will say that they are wonderful but then with the pressure of daily politics, competition and so on, they will not really follow them up. This was the experience that I had originally with the Club of Rome. So then in discussion with my colleagues from the Club of Rome, we decided to create a club that addressed people's heart also. So we brought together people from the spiritual dimension, from great religions, people like the Dalai Lama, also Sufi leaders, western theologians from all kinds of different religions, and also poets, writers, artists, sculptors, actors and singers. When we came up with this idea then many people told us ah yes so and so would be very interested. Then we talked to these people and they were enthusiastic and then joined our Club. I think it is an idea whose time has come. I think it is enough at this point to make it a signal. Here is an initiative and you can join it. Let's get together, the door is open. So we have been fortunate in getting very well known people who were very enthusiastic to work with us. Just a few days ago I came from Switzerland, where I spent the day with the great actor and playwright, Peter Ustinov. We have just now finished a one-hour special television production on the World Day of Planetary Consciousness, which was an event we had worldwide. Peter Ustinov is commentating on this program and he is hosting a television special on this event. So he has been the typical kind of person that we have among our members, who has recognized our idea in his own way. In his own way as a playwright and actor, he can bring these ideas to the public. So everybody can promote our aims in their own way. Another member of ours, Peter Gabrielle, a singer, is doing it through song; Chingiz Aitmatov, a Russian writer, is doing it through his novels; Arthur Clarke through his writing of science fiction. So we all recognize the need for this kind of new development of our consciousness and everybody does it in their own way.
Kondo: So everybody contributes their talents and their specialties for the same cause.
Laszlo: Yes, a common mission is what we share, and we can each promote it in the way we can do best.
Kondo: People who have special talents probably have more ways to reach many people, but for the ordinary people, they know that the world is entering a critical phase and they know something has to be done and they want to do something, but often don't know what they themselves can do. What is the first step they can take? Do you have any advice for ordinary people.
Laszlo: In the book you mentioned "Macroshift" the last chapter is entitled "You can change the world". It means that each individual now has the power. Let me just say why citing two points.
Firstly this world has entered a critical phase where it can go either this way or that way. How people think and feel can make a crucial difference.
Secondly this individual feeling and thinking, this level of consciousness development can spread in the world. Even by the very fact that you think and feel in a certain way can make a difference, and then when you get together with other likeminded people, you can create a movement. You can have movements in fashion, in eating, in so many different things. You can have a movement in music, trends in popular music for example. Then why not also have movements in thinking and in feeling. They are already coming about. This is what we try to do in the Club of Budapest. In different parts of the world and now in 16 countries, we have created a Club of Budapest which is not a serious formal organization; it is just a platform or a forum where periodically people who recognize their mission and recognize the importance of what they can do, come together, discuss issues among themselves and help to evolve themselves basically. Thus, by changing themselves, they can change the world around them. So my hope is also that we will have a very efficient, effective organization, where people can join and become members of the local Club of Budapest.
The name Budapest by the way just stands for integration because you know Buda and Pest were two different cities. 100 years ago, the first bridge over the Danube. A few years after the bridge was built, the two cities joined together and became one city. They each have their own individuality because each city, Buda and Pest still have their own character, but they create one entity where they can work together. This is in a way an ideal. Thus this chain bridge is now our logo. We have to build bridges so that people can come together and understand each other, because we now all belong to the same familythe human family.
Kondo: This may be a bit of an extraordinary question but, as humanity learns how to cooperate and continue to evolve, do you see in the near or distant future, humanity on earth cooperating with civilizations from other planets?
Laszlo: Well, I wish I knew that. The probability of there being life elsewhere in the cosmos is very high. I don't think there is any doubt that life has developed even on some other planets in just this solar system, and there are billions of solar systems in this galaxy alone and also there are billions of galaxies. Maybe not necessarily now but perhaps there was life sometime in the past, and it could again develop sometime in the future when the conditions are just right. There have to be certain conditions of temperature, energy flow, and chemical composition. The question is how far can life develop, whether it can develop to such a high level of complexity where consciousness in this explicit form can emerge. I believe that all life has consciousness. In fact the very primitive forms of life have their own consciousness but to have complex forms of life you need to have a long period of time. On earth, we have had this going back 4 billion years, the conditions were right for complex systems, complex organisms. So really the question is even if there are other forms of life, but they do not have the technology to communicate, then we will not know about them unless we can go visit them of course. And in the next few years I'm sure we can visit most of the planets of the solar system, but to go much further away would take longer. We would have to send satellites or even space ships over, because the distances are so great. So we are dependent on communication, and communication is dependent on a high level of technology, and a high level of technology in turn depends on whether people have a high level of this kind of intelligencetechnological intelligence. But we don't know how frequent life develops to that level in the Cosmos. The probability is that there must be life on other planets, but the distances are so big that we are not sure just when we can actually find signals. But we are looking for it. So I am sure that we are not alone in the universe but I am also reasonably certain that this level of consciousness is a rare gift and that we are very much responsible for this gift not to spoil it, not to take it for granted because humanity is one of the ways in which the universe is becoming conscious of itself. It is the eye of the universe. It is the mind of the universe and we now have the power to destroy this very quickly whether it is through nuclear weapons, biological weapons or conflict or just by destroying our life giving environment. On the other hand, we also have the power to preserve it and to develop it. So this is our responsibility to recognize we are the eye and mind of the universe and it is our responsibility to develop it to a new level of intensity and sophistication.
Kondo: Despite the sad and disturbing news that we hear everyday recently, are you optimistic in the end?
Laszlo: I see the possibilities. I am optimistic in the sense that I believe that humanity has come through many crises before and that we have the potential for wisdom. We can create an actual power based on our wisdom, but the danger is very real, as all processes of evolution can end in further development or in extinction. Both possibilities are always there and this is the time when we have not just to say what will happen but we have to say what can we do to make things happen. So it is our task. It is a creative task. It is very dangerous to be optimistic because it says that everything is going fine, its going to be all right, I don't need to do anything and that is not a good thing. It is just as dangerous to be pessimistic because you say that nothing will help anyway so why should I work. We have to know that we have the possibility to do something therefore it is our responsibility to do it.
Kondo: Yes. That is a wonderful message that we should all take to heart as humanity tries to move forward.
Laszlo: We are at a point where humanity is becoming united. We are already connected through technology. What happened last September has subsequently affected everybody on earth; everybody knows about it. We are really a global village, a global community. But now we have to develop the heart and the wisdom to act as a community.
Kondo: Thank you for your wonderful message. I enjoyed and learned a lot from you today.
Laszlo: Thank you for this nice discussion.