The totality of my academic undertaking, although unbeknownst to me, has been for the purpose of providing myself with an understanding of the differences entailed in my life experience, between the status quo of my country and that of my ethnic heritage and cultural legacy. In an academic setting, seeking to determine the differences in worldviews between people of various ethnic, linguistic and geographic origins, consists in a tendency to take stock of the behavioral patterns of the group being examined and the expressed ideology used to convey its shared significance for its people. By proceeding in this fashion, it becomes possible to compare different groups and thereby better understand the approach that each group takes in satisfying common human needs. While such a process of investigation is overly simplistic, it does, nevertheless, reflect the objectives of the contemporary models of analysis. Such an approach is of no use to me in seeking to understand the iron cage of science nor the manner in which to transcend its limitations.
In an effort to avoid future ambiguity, allow me to clarify the manner in which I will be using the term “worldview”. With respect to our comparison between the dominant ideological matrix of the United States and that of Hispanics, as my focal point reflecting poetic consciousness, the term “worldview” will be used to refer to the ideological elements of a group that serve to shape and inform the structure of consciousness of the group. Such a perspective does not include a cultural aspect that can take on a variety of elements influenced by regional location, local customs and more. As the structure of each worldview is revealed, it will become evident how each group has evolved to stand uniquely apart.
The Status Quo Worldview of the U. S.
The birth and historical evolution of the Enlightenment served a very specific function. Prior to the enlightenment, Western Europeans were suffering through a period whose description I have herein extended, that was known as “the dark ages”, a period in which truth was believed to be associated with mystery and the ancient Gods of antiquity or their alleged descendant kings. There were no standards to follow and no consistency in what constituted truth. Instead, truth was determined by appeal to deities or kings.
The enlightenment can be said to have begun with the publication of Sir Frances Beacon’s text entitled “Novum Organum” in 1620. This text marks the first appearance and explication of scientific methodology. The “Encyclopedists”, who served as a distribution center for intellectual ideas throughout Western European societies, began to emphasize scientific methodology and they highlighted the work of Sir Francis Beacon in Novum Organum as well as the work of John Locke, an American philosopher, in his foundation text “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”, published in 1690. The objective of these works was to provide a systematic approach to scientific methodology and denounce the need for appeal to deities or kings. It was then believed within this proposed paradigm shift that anything that happens in life can and should be explained through science. Subsequently, science was then understood to facilitate humanity’s ability to control nature and produce goods for the betterment of human kind.
Describing the worldview of the U.S. is relatively simple. In fact, there are a number of countries that follow the same Modernist principles since the beginning of the Enlightenment. Western European ideology has served to shape the consciousness of its adherents with varying degrees of success. In the United States the principles of modernist ideology have been extended to push the very limits of scientific discourse. Having coupled scientific methodology with the resounding success of the industrial revolution in the U.S., the worldview of our country now reflects a history of success and accomplishments not equaled by other countries.
Over the course of the nation building process and against the background of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the United States has evolved to reflect what can only be described as a scientistic form of consciousness governed by a democratic and capitalist infrastructure. It is within this context that we come to understand the worldview of the United States and the consciousness of its people. Concomitantly, the U.S. also maintains that science serves to control nature to produce goods for the betterment of human kind.
The Worldview of Hispanics
The Mestizo consciousness of Hispanics is shared with indigenous peoples from the Chaco Canyon in New Mexico to Peru’s lost city of Machu Picchu and all points in between. In spite of linguistic and regional differences between indigenous peoples of this three continent area, the elements that they have in common which serve to shape and inform their consciousness are in fact, overwhelming. Interestingly, none of the distinguishable groups within this vast area had a “Dark Ages” from which to escape. Furthermore, none of them lacked knowledge of scientific methodology. Each of them possessed their own form of what is referred to in Western European terms as epistemological dualism. Additionally, each of them based their knowledge of astronomy on the observation of planetary movements with profound accuracy. Most importantly, however, is the fact that each of them placed the role of science in a subservient position to that of ideology.
The Aztec empire, heavily influenced by Mayan philosophical beliefs, serves as the indigenous origin of the vast majority of Hispanics living in the United States today. The revered king of the empire, Montezuma, posed a very specific question to the empire’s poets and wisemen, “What is there that we can truly say we know in life”. In a gathering of poets and wisemen a poem was written as the response to Montezuma’s question entitled, “Flor Y Canto” (Flower and Song) which is a metaphor for poetry. The response to Montezuma’s question was in essence that the only thing we can ever know for sure as human beings is that life is a poem to be lived, everything else is ever changing. [Sidebar – We would do well to note that this view is in fact centuries ahead of the Heisenberg principal of uncertainty proposing that every element of matter is ever changing.] Some of the more significant elements contributing to the worldview of the Hispanic are:
1) Life is to be lived in harmony with nature rather than viewing nature as an object to be controlled by human beings to produce goods for the benefit of human kind. We should keep in mind that the reason they place science in a subservient position to ideology in their efforts to understanding our place in the universe is because of their having studied planetary orbits and seasonal changes in nature. This approach to understanding our existence inherently seeks to align itself to the motions and rhythms of nature.
2) Fatalism and death is an accepted and natural part of life that should be celebrated because those that have gone before us have contributed to our stock of knowledge and wisdom that lives and runs through our veins.
3) As people, we are all different from each other in the same way that our planets are different from one another as they complete their planetary cycles. Those among the people that are poets or wisemen are responding to planetary influences and are therefore predisposed to accessing the flow of ancestral wisdom within us.
4) Communication is itself magical and poetic and wisdom or knowledge is often conveyed through storytelling, in dancing and in song. In this way the identity of the group is perpetuated through time.
5) Women are revered as the vessel that brings forth human life and brings balance to the life and death cycle of our existence.
The Significance of our differing worldviews:
At a profound and fundamental level, the most important difference between scientistic and poetic consciousness is that one is exclusive while the other is inclusive. That is, the modernist ideology underlying the scientistic consciousness of the United States, reveals itself to be established on an empirical basis through the use of scientific methodology. What this means in terms of its Western European origin is that ideology is excluded from consideration. This was the necessary element required by those wishing to establish stability and certitude as the foundation of truth in an environment previously enmeshed in mystery and the required appeal to deities and kings.
Alternatively, poetic consciousness is innate and inclusive of scientific consciousness in that it has no restrictions imposed upon itself as does scientific consciousness in its elimination of anything based in ideology. In consideration of the fact that poetic consciousness is founded upon the belief that all human beings are united in their mutual relationship to the flow of energy within us, there becomes available a whole gamut of possible perspectives within poetic consciousness. Furthermore, given that this flow of energy possessed by human beings is conveyed to each of us in differing degrees of awareness through our own level of self-actualization, it is possible for one to believe that they are wholeheartedly in tune with scientistic consciousness in contradistinction from their own ancestral beliefs.
The principles of science and empirical methodology are at the base of scientistic consciousness and they have led to the self-imposed iron cage of science from which the citizens of our country are unable to transcend or escape. This fact has had an extremely negative impact of the social and human aspects of our existence. For example, in order for racial prejudice to exist a society would need to believe that scientific evidence justifies the conclusion that their ethnic origin is superior to that of others. In poetic consciousness it is already believed that we are all united as human beings. Scientistic consciousness is at the heart of many problems that exist today worldwide. Paulo Freire, in his text, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, has said that “only the oppressed can liberate their oppressor”. Thus, it remains for those possessing poetic consciousness to engage in the process of helping those that are trapped in the iron cage of science to find their way back home in their humanity that flows within us all.