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Arthur Zajonc

Amherst College
Physics Department, Amherst College
Amherst, Massachusetts 01002, USA

413-542-5821 (fax)

What is the central organizing question that is the underpinning of your work?

For the last thirty years I have held the question:

What is the relationship between knowledge (especially scientific knowledge) and spirituality?

At the outset this may appear to be a question that one addresses alone, without the benefit of others, and I do value solitary study and contemplation. However, in recent years I have also come to value more and more fully the role of partners in the exploration of questions such as my own. Indeed, I have found again and again that real insight, and especially the application of insight into life, requires the joining of individuals to a common question or intention. It seems almost like a moral law that as long as an idea or impulse is mine alone it will remain sterile. If I can find a “consort,” a partner, then the initiative will take on life.

Here the role of friendship cannot be overvalued. The friend is the selfless partner whose only wish is to help. The force of love is then added to the intellectual energy of individual inquiry, and as a consequence one moves to another level of exploration. In a Rumi poem one finds the line, “Don’t scatter and sleep,/ Our friendship is made of being awake.” Friends awaken one another, sensing the highest in the other and holding faithfully to it under all circumstances. That wakefulness not only draws the two towards one another, but also acts as an illuminating energy that elevates their common work.

What is true for two can be extended to a larger group, but we should not underestimate the difficulty of this. Remember that Rumi’s beloved friend Shams-i-Tabriz was driven away and likely murdered by Rumi’s jealous students! The collective is not always wise. It has committed every imaginable sin and perpetrated every conceivable violence on those different from themselves. The only collective worth having today is a community of free individuals who love the otherness of those that surround them. In such cases the mystery of number and harmony can weave though the group and help real good to come about.

Links to this site or others

Interview of Arthur Zajonc by Otto Scharmer

The New Physics and Cosmology: Dialogues with the Dalai Lama, book by Arthur Zajonc

Dawning of Free Communities for Collective Wisdom

Sunbridge College

Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

Kira Institute

Mind and Life Institute

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