sábado, 20 de julio de 2013

Theory of Retroevolution - Salvador Pániker

Salvador Pániker (Bacerlona, 1927), son of a Catalan mother and Hindu father, is an author, philosopher and industrial engineer. Professor of Philosophy and Metaphysics at the University of Barcelona, he created the philosophical concept of  "retroprogression".

He is president of the Association for the Right to Die with Dignity and founder of the publishing house Kairos which releases translations and works on psychology, new science, perennial wisdom, budhism or health. This is a translation of a text published in El Pais the 27th of June 1997.

"It’s about time to replace the cancerous myth of progress for the more ambivalent notion of retroprogress"

"If any sense is to be derived from a digitally synchronised world is that of allowing us to recover the ancient wisdom of timeless things, the present of a daily reinvented living."

Theory of Retroevolution
El País - Salvador Pániker - 27 junio 1997 

Declining ideologies, growing nationalisms, religious fundamentalism, neonaturalist retreat in the face of biotechnological advance. One looks at this and other such fenomena from the perspective of a wider, more general model. Let see. I’ve long mantained that one can’t know much of what is happening if the simplistic linear concept of progress is not replaced by the more caotic and complex concept of retroprogression. I have expressed the idea that the history of science, even of culture, is defined by a movement of parcelation and retreat from the origin which, paradoxically, feeds back a drive to recover a lost origin. When a science grows into adulthood it also becomes abstract. By a proces of compartmentalization and parcelation of reality to achieve a formalization which would allow a formal treatment (logical, mathematical, etc) , science moves away from its original non-duality.

Now, that very movement explains that under the whole adventure of human knowledge beats a mistical breath: returning things to the original non-duality. Growing complexity and gravitation towards origin are therefore two faces of the same process. It’s time then to replace the cancerous myth of progress for the more ambivalent notion of retroprogress. It’s time also to become conscious of the fact that wherever advance is not retroprogressive the costs of progress exceed its advantages. For example, if a digital society is no good to recover certain virtues of preindustrial society is no good for much. You know, this example of a time when clocks and calendars didn’t exist, humans weren’t obessed with the passage of time which generates anxiety. Now then, if any sense is to be derived from a digitally sincronised world is that of allowing us to recuperate the ancient wisdom of timeless things, the present of a daily reinvented living.

In the retroprogressive age everything tends to be hybrid, at the same time innovative and traditional, once the historicist mirage is overcome, which is the mirage of linear time. Once inside this context, retroprogression is the real crux of so called postmodernity. Is not becasue the concepts of reason and progress have entered a critical stage; its because thay have complexified. Modernity certainly agonizes. But in this crisis partial answers are not going to work, nor neofundamentalism (religious, nationalistic, ethnic), nor postmodernism which preaches the end of history. Getting nearer to the origin while open to the uncertainity of the future is the retroprogresssive key which our epoc demands. Retroprogression, postmodernity: mumblings of an finally pluralist age, without totalitarian discourses, without supreme syntheses, where the recovery of the ways of the past are conciled with the eruption of new technologies, with the fertile pact between complexity and origin.

 It is commonly denounced that the west, with modernity, bet for the unidimensional card of progress; but what is less adverted is that the demand to concile progress (secularization, rationalization, growing complexity) with regress (approximation to the inexhaustible origin, mistical recovery of lost reality). If things are not viewed from this angle, it is incomprehensible. I give again this example, the resurrection of the religious phenomena (and non religious) of belief and myth. I mean to say that if men didn't feel a previous need for non-duality, if man weren’t and intrinsically mystical animal, the tendency towards belief and myth would be inexplicable.

In any case, that simplistic identification, located in the 18th century, between historical development and progress, has already ended. Such an idea, first formulated by Condorcet, culminated in the French revolution, consacrating the false antagonism between the new (revolution) and the old (reaction). Then, the 19th century was, no doubt, the century of history. Lamarck and Darwin, albeit from different models, discovered evolution. But the crisis of progress started with the concept of entropy. Finally, in physics, in biology, in psychology, in social sciences, we discover the evolutionary ambivalence: together with the push upwards, the gravitation towards the origin. Lets remmember an idea from Konrad Lorenz: when too many mutations occurr without its correponding conservation of the past, monsters appear: because of loss of genes or loss of tradition. The retroprogressive mechanism fails.

In consequence, simplifications are to be avoided. It is superficial, for example, to denounce an antagonism between the supposed postmodern irationalism and the historical line of the enlightment. It is a cliché to say opposition to progress starts witgh Romanticism, progresses through Nietzsche and Heidegger and reaches the structuralists of the sixties. The question is ¿who forbids the conciliation of Nietzsche and Heidegger with the discourse of the enlightment? For not having a retroprogressive model available, Habermas accused postmodernity of being a mere regression to premodernity. But nothing impedes an ambivalent conciliation. A retroprogressive human is defined by a feeling of being at the same time secularised and resacralised, in other words, by being simultanously open to the adventure of reason and the mistery of origin.

Retropregress is therefore a model of health and equilibrium. “The deeper the roots, the higher the tree” Nietzsche wrote. The retroprogressive animal is one thats makes a difference in both directions, that who secularises and fragments at the same time is recovering the roots. In terms of deep psychology: recovery, first, of the unconscious, then, the body, then, the natural habitat, finally, of wholeness. The retroprogressive animal knows that she or he can build a strong rational ego, and at the same time, restore the stunted mystical conscience. (What hinduism calls advaita).

Knows, also, that substitutes are not good anymore. Politics, for example, which has been the great religion of modernity, has entered a healthy crisis with the crumbling of marxist ideologies. Today nobody trusts politics religiously anymore as a vehicle of salvation. Reduced to more modest proportions, politics leaves the ground open to delve in the strictly religious, which is the place of art and astonishment.

In resolution, genuin progress is retroprogress, ascending/descending dialectics, spiral movement towards complexity and towards origin, towards individual and colective, towards spirit and matter. Over this scheme, and at a time when biotechnology poses strictly unprecedented challenges, it would be very timely to build a new theory of retroevolution.

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