TRANSDISCIPLINARITY— A Brief Introduction — by Tommaso Iorco November, 2001
One of the more attracting investigations born quite recently is undoubtedly transdisciplinarity, which is that kind of research aiming at finding a transcultural synthesis of apparently different disciplines like Art, Science and Spirituality. It is an attempt at a “cultural decolonization” (to use Réné Berger’s words) and, at the same time, at a dynamic sinergy between the various materials, beyond the frontiers that ever more virtually separate the various countries and above every kind of exclusiveness and partial vision (but without destroying the uniqueness, the charateristics and the specificity of each).
As Edgar Morin said in his book On Transdisciplinarity, the necessity is to follow «a knowledge in motion, a knowledge which progresses by moving back from the parts to the whole and from the whole to the parts».We live in a world which, with ever more peremptoriness, require an eye pure and precise, void of impurities as prejudices, partisanship or chauvinism, preconceived ideas and creeds or a priori — all beams that prevent us from seeing the manifolds truths of Life and Spirit. Direct experience, and not any second-hand knowledge as it is for pedantic scholars and academics, constitutes our main real reference privileged in this research. As the physicist Basarab Nicolescu suggestively point out in his Nature and Mirror, «inner experiences is the first reference point for the radical difference between transdisciplinarity on the one hand, and multi & inter-disciplinarity on the other. […] Any return to an ideology, religion or philosophy of the past is today detrimental — neverthless, it is not a matter of excluding, but on the contrary, of rediscovering all the world’s tradition. […] In transdisciplinarity, as in quantum physics at the beginning of the [XXth] century, one cannot make something new with what is old. […] The site of transdisciplinarity is without place. It is found neither in the inner man — thus, transdisciplinarity does not engender a new religion, nor a new philosophy or metaphysics, — nor in the outer man — it also does not give raise to a new science, and were it the science of sciences. […] In fact, transdisciplinarity raises, I think, the question of another point of view, that of the reconciliation — and thus unification — of the inner and the outer man, of inner and outer universes, of experience and theory, of subject and object. Thus emerges the long path leading from the fragmented knowledge to understanding in the name of rediscovered hope».For this high and fascinating purpose, we have first to operate in the advice of Leonardo da Vinci (one of the greatest transdisciplinarian though ante litteram), that is to make our entire being a universal one, so that we can look at things in her totality. We have to exceed our self, as Nietzsche puts in the fiery mouth of his Zarathustra, in order to find our real self, which is one with all existences. Better, we have to transcend all our limitations in order to comprehend all things in our unitarian and global consciousness. And this is, precisely, the very core of spirituality. It is not only a matter of widening our cultural ranges and enhancing our intellectual horizons, but of enlightening all our cognitive stuff with the effulgence of — to use again Leonardo’s words — «a Mind of Light almost divine», till we reach the very Sun of all our existence, the Sun of the Supreme Consciousness-Force (which is Sri Aurobindo’s supramental consciousness) that, exceeding all things without annihilating nothing, contains in the absolute radiance of his majestic compact orb, the self-determination of the One to be innumerable, without never losing its ineffable and eternal unity. Any other synthesis that is not based on this vision and dimension of being is only poor, mental and artificial, and cannot help us moving very far towards our rich and radiant goal. Furthermore, in this attempt at finding something which had never existed before, we need obviously to know first what existed before us. And we will find quickly how the real acquisitions of the past lay buried under the mass of our preconceived notions that are, as we have said, the first stumbling-block that we have to remove from our path of free research. As Sri Aurobindo point out in his elliptic way, «We have not yet get rid our minds from the hold of a one-and-only God or one-and-only Book, and now a one-and-only Science». Many are in fact the snares on the path, as the trap in which inevitably fall the founder of religion. One might even begin this research by investigate on the reason for chosing India as the land selected by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as the starting point of their Work — they who have at first created «the most complete synthesis achieved up to the present between the genius of the East and of the West», as the Nobel Graduate Romain Rolland said. And for us it is fundamental to note that the formulation of such a grandiose synthesis has been, for them, only the divingboard (but a magnificent one!) to plunge into the ocean of the Being and find there the real solution to the Riddle of this World (it is sufficient to read the magnificent prose of The Life Divine to notice how perfect is such a Vision — not to speak of that miracle of epic poetry which is Savitri, or that fabulous document of the evolutive experimentation which constitute Mother’s Agenda). We too, we are not obliged to stagnate in a synthesis, however complete, because our real way commences, to use Sri Aurobindo’s own words, at the point were the others stopped. We, sons of the luminous future that is dawning, have to go forward, pausing nowhere, as the Vedic Restrainer ever impelled the ancient rishis: «Forth now and push forward also in other fields» — niranyatashcidârata (Rig-Veda, I.4.5). Obviously, it is not in the aims of this brief article to enter in a domain that requires years of careful studies and meditations, but we can at least anticipate here that Indian history is a unique example of an uninterrupted survival of a civilization which date back at least to the Paleolithic Age, and by which all had begun: spirituality first, and inspired poetry (Veda) at the same time (besides, from the same source); and, afterwards, intuitive seeds of truths (Vedanta) that contains, as in a nutshell, all possible philosophies and metaphysics formulated whether in the East or in the West; and practical psychological systems (Samkhya, Yoga, Tantra), and scientific investigations, and politics. By this time, several scientific discoveries confirms what the Western scholars full of prejudices and of racial pride refuse to accept, but that the great German philosopher and critic Friedrich von Schlegel already foresaw in 1803: «Everything without exception is of Indian origin. […] Whether directly or indirectly, all nations are originally nothing but Indian colonies.» (Geschichte der alten und neuen Literatur). For, as we move from early Greek philosophy, still steeped in the cryptic imagery and enigmatic style of the Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries, towards the mysticism of the Orient and India’s ancient wisdom, a cultural watershed could be followed in our climb to the source of all spiritual knowledge — thus, we return back at the direct soul’s experience and realisation, of which we started the present article.The Vedic age, through the symbolic images of its inspired poetry, alive with the power of mantra, can inform our quest. In the very first verse of the Rig Veda addressed to Agni is the clue to the riddle of the “flame-child”. For Agni, the mystic Fire, is kumâra, the child, and is described as the son of force, sahojâ, immortal in the mortal, marteshu amrita, incarnating the Seer-Will, kavi kratu, the conscious energy of the one in the many, knower of all things born, jâtavedas. This flame-child grows, as our evolution unfolds from the spark born by the waters of consciousness, climbing from the heat of the earth, through the flashing of lightnings in the sky of mind and air of life, ascending until he reaches his true abode, sve dame, the world of light, its solar fulfilment — where knowledge and power, indissolubly one, manifest at the conflagration of the galaxies as at the core of each atom of matter. Agni, the Child, is the King (paidòs he basileìe, says Heraclitus), the ruler by the power of his supramental knowledge, turning into the radiant energy of his fire the opacity of the inert substance of our surface existence. He is aglow in the heart of man, as our very soul. By his emergence from the dark cave of the inconscient the human being is newborn into a divine childhood, and this individual awakening bring nearer and nearer the possibility of a new dawn on the earth-consciousness. For Agni is not only swarat, ruler of himself, but is also samrat, ruler of the world around him.Then, let us prepare to salute the dawn of the new Day that is coming with well-opened eyes, ready to the marvel — that marvel, camat, which Abhinavagupta considered as the foundation of the inexhaustible and divine enchantment of the worlds.