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Walter Truett Anderson

      . . . President of the World Academy of Art & Science, political scientist, journalist, globalization expert. The Next Enlightenment is the latest in Dr. Anderson’s series of books about the world being reconfigured by globalization. In it, he explores the intersection of the Western Enlightenment and the Eastern spiritual traditions bearing the same name, offering a new vision of human evolution. Dr. Anderson’s lucid considerations appear as journalism, poetry and books, including most recently All Connected Now, The Future of the Self and Evolution Isn’t What It Used to Be.

Excerpts3:22 secs

Ignorance and Illusion have Enlightenment in common. The Western Enlightenment promised liberation from the former, the Eastern Enlightenment promises liberation from the later. Scholar and author Walter Truett Anderson reports that both Enlightenments call on essentially the same cognitive process:  Question Everything.  

Globalization is at the heart of the disturbing and exciting call to “Question Everything,” says Dr. Anderson, author of The Next Enlightenment: Integrating East and West in a New Vision of Human Evolution. The break down of every conceivable kind of boundary -- in the sciences and religion, culture, politics, society and economics -- defines our current era, Dr. Anderson has found. That breakdown, he says, both accounts for why being alive now is so uncomfortable for those clinging to perceived fundamental verities and why being alive now is so very interesting.

“Enlightenment,” by whatever name, belongs to human nature and the human mind and to humans growing up, Dr. Anderson says. It is not notably different from getting through puberty or any other part of human life (though he believes that it is a stage that the Western world hasn’t quite gotten straight yet.)  

Dr. Anderson’s convinced that “Enlightenment” is just a matter of stretching our own definitions of what “normal human consciousness” is. For almost a hundred years, Piaget and others in Western developmental psychology have studied how people grow, the stages we go through, how we keep re-constructing our ideas of who we are, how we are different, how we fit in. And every culture has a word for experiences and understandings shared by people the world over whether it’s “peak experience” or “an Aha!” or a “satori,” or a “metanoia” ... or “enlightenment.”

Dr. Anderson is confident that our task -- both as humans and as humanity -- is to mature. To grow beyond what we currently are, while respecting and honoring where we’ve come from.  In short, we need to Grow Up. As old configurations die and new ones are being born in every aspect of our lives, from cells in our bodies to emerging nebulae, we can take comfort. However discomforting it is to embrace this new way of thinking, it is how life is: forever changing; deeply connected; inconceivably complex.

Walter Truett Anderson calls us all to participate in this vital Growing Up process. He assures us that even with all of our uncertainties, we all have an obligation to engage.  Try to be quite honest about what we know and don’t know. Be part of this process of maturing. Because, Dr. Anderson says, it’s going to take all the work that any of us can do to accomplish our task -- to mature, individually and collectively. Where to begin? Ask hard question about things that don’t seem like there should be any question about them at all, Dr. Anderson says. It’s one of the healthiest things we can do. Both Enlightenments light the way.

[This Program was recorded October 5, 2003, in Kensington, California, US.]

Conversation 1

Walter Truett Anderson introduces Paula Gordon and Bill Russell to a variety of ways to be liberated. Enlightenment -- Eastern and Western -- is about human nature, the human mind, “growing up,” and stretching the definition of “normal human consciousness,” Dr. Anderson says.

Conversation 1 RealAudio6:33 secs

Conversation 2

Eager to avoid subcultures, Dr. Anderson describes a natural psychological growth process inherent in humans and the planet. Both Western psychology and Eastern spiritual traditions, he says, are interested in how we go through stages, reconstruct ideas about ourselves and fit into our surroundings. Globalization is at the center of this confluence of Western and Eastern Enlightenments, Dr. Anderson observes, confident that human beings, individually and as a species, have room to mature.

Conversation 2 RealAudio11:07 secs

Conversation 3

Recognizing that challenges to any perceived fundamental verity -- cultural, political, social, economic or religious -- reinforce fundamentalisms, Dr. Anderson shows how both Eastern and Western Enlightenments share the same essential cognitive process: “Question everything.” We need to use scientific terms to ask many of the questions religions ask, he says, confident that psychotherapy, Western psychology and most spiritual traditions address an unmistakable need to grow and grow up, even though the process can be scary. “Change” is at the core of everything, he says, convinced life’s everyday “little deaths” are as important as life’s inevitable conclusion.

Conversation 3 RealAudio11:45 secs

Conversation 4

The Enlightenment/Growing Up/Liberation process includes becoming increasingly aware of how inseparable we are from everything else in the universe, Dr. Anderson insists, with examples of enormous consistencies between Western science and Eastern spiritual traditions. “Change,” “Connections,” and “Complexity” are woven together. People are still coming to terms with being one species, he says, then points to discoveries that have helped people move closer to the non-local Enlightenment he’s talking about. When we embrace what complexity is telling us about our universal connections, Dr. Anderson is confident that it is quite possible to be at peace.

Conversation 4 RealAudio11:01 secs

Conversation 5

Dr. Anderson calls us all to be engaged in the world in whatever way we are able -- it’s going to take all the work that any of us can do, individually and collectively, to “grow up.”  He expands. Then he uses a metaphor of “having his windshield cleaned” to describe his own unmistakable physical experience in this realm, an experience so common, he says, that every culture has a word for it, including “peak experience,” “satori,” “aha!” and “metanoia.” Language itself is examined. Dr. Anderson considers the ossification process that seems to affect all religions, then accounts for what he thinks makes our current era both uncomfortable and interesting.

Conversation 5 RealAudio11:00 secs

Conversation 6

Since both Enlightenments offer liberation -- one from illusion, one from ignorance -- Dr. Anderson says that now the questions are:  What are we ignorant about? and How do we go about getting liberated? His suggestion: Ask really hard questions about things that seem obvious. It’s those hard questions that the two Enlightenments share, Dr. Anderson says, then offers a final word on language and concludes with a story.

Conversation 6 RealAudio5:32 secs


Walter Truett Anderson first caught our eye when we happened onto his wonderful book The Truth About The Truth a number of years ago at KramerBooks&Afterwards, our friend Bill Kramer’s former bookstore in Washington, D.C. It was a most fortuitous encounter.

We are grateful to Walt Anderson for his quiet way of untangling complex and urgent issues, rejoice in his clear thinking and appreciate his dedication to a better world. We keenly enjoyed his hospitality when we were in the Bay Area, value his guidance, feel fortunate to have him as a colleague and are especially glad for his continuing friendship. Onward.

Paula found The Next Enlightenment particularly valuable. She calls it “immensely useful and timely.” A personal note of thanks from Paula to Dr. Anderson for this worthy work.

Related Links:
The Next Enlightenment is published by St. Martin’s Press and is distributed in Canada by H.B. Fenn and Company, Ltd.
Dr. Anderson’s personal website was underconstruction at the time this Conversation was recorded, we invite you to check on its progress.

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