… old thinking, new thinking …

We mostly think through conventional forms and givens, for practical reasons, while another way of thinking embraces invisible and unknown dynamics via intuition – like the seeming particle/wave paradox in quantum mechanics, where a local particle also exists as a non-local wave. The two perceptions can potentially mingle creatively, but, notably in times of social uncertainty, they clash, and fewer people maintain the ability to tolerate negative capability.

The way autocratic opinions over divisive issues are sensationalised by some tabloids, sends my thoughts flitting through the mutable and nuanced zones of shadow lands. I write the glut of absurdities off my chest, only to delete the drafts, not having the talent or guts for the iconoclastic fun Marina Hyde pours into her articles for the Guardian.

The tit for tat race of opposing interest groups that blame, attack and counter attack each other eludes any balanced comprehension of events. Opportunists, generously funded, like to whip up the chaos for their own benefit. Fertile ground for tyrants. This will go on until the churning oceans calm and offer deeper reflections.

My early education was unremarkable, but I fondly recall a few teachers who made space for ambivalence, encouraging us to question everything and value respectful, if inconclusive, debates. Glib opinions and self-righteousness were mocked and laughed at.

In the early seventies, doing a short apprenticeship with a small Dutch advertising firm in London, we had weekly meetings, where ideas, no matter how crazy, were explored. Every person working in the building was asked to the table, including caterers and cleaners. This inspirational seedbed sparked successful projects and maintained a motivated team.

Decades later, during a part time stretch at Social Services, policy makers introduced a new computer programme for tick-box client assessments, a software developed without involving the people who were meant to use it – us. Sparing you the specifics of this nonsensical scheme, the nightmare in its wake resulted in multiple nervous breakdowns by employees. Since I had a private psychotherapy practice I escaped the hell and resigned.

A relentless trend towards greater efficiency continued despite loud social backlash. Over and over I listened to the stories of my stressed clients suffering from the overbearing changes in public institutions and private companies. The forced procedures insulted the intelligence of workers, who felt the stupidity and pain of it all in their guts, as did I. The harmful effect on mental health, family life, education, small traders and community venues … is ongoing.

Recently I re-read a 1970s lecture by my Sufi teacher, Fazal Inayat Khan – Old Thinking, New Thinking – also used as title of a small collection of his controversial talks, published in 1979 by Harper & Row. Some of Fazal’s students insisted on this publication. He reluctantly agreed. I’ll share here a few notions that struck me form the lecture, Old Thinking, New Thinking:

The end of real is false, while the greatest false is real.

The real is about form, the false (non-evidenced) is about essence. Fazal addressed two qualitative different ways of thinking, both beneficial if used in the right time and context. Those supporting form and tradition set out to protect stability, whereas those who seek essence knock over the stable towards the freedom of the unknown. Imaginative people, including scientists and artists, tend to overshoot crumbling realities.

The sad logic of power driven politicians is to manipulate social anxieties by promising simple fixes to allay feelings of uncertainty. In such times people tends to grope towards old thinking, to what can be predicted and depended upon, thus moving away from the immeasurable independence of anything beyond facts.

Old thinking relies on valid knowledge; however, to apply this knowledge intelligently requires new thinking, so essence can find expression once more.

Old thinking will bring achievement, notwithstanding that without new thinking it will have achieved nothing. Traditions wedded to established forms exemplify old thinking. Yet for a tradition to remain sincere and dynamic new thinking is required.

In other words, only what changes stays functional. Much as we dislike it, life could not continue if it were not for the transient growth and death phases of nature. The same applies to cycles that call for the expansion of consciousness.

How is one to value both form and essence in complex times and stay sane? No way around it, we must suffer the anguish of holding the tension between static knowledge and intuition in our hearts. Not easy. Perhaps because I experienced the 1960s new thinking surge, any leaps of goodwill from young people still brings tears to my eyes. I’m interested in everything. I’m interested in bridging divides. I even occasionally delight being in the spirit zone, with the effortless flow of things. (A Zen concept)

Deep, maybe very deep down, every one of us knows the bliss of being in the zone.

Old thinking is a sorting process – new thinking is a melting process

Old thinking is a claim – new thinking is an aim …               Fazal Inayat Khan


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20 responses to “… old thinking, new thinking …

  1. Lovely post Ashen thank you. Essential for new winds to blow fresh air into what is static.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree with Susan’s comment, and your thinking. Old thinking definitely needs to be revived with new ideas. Thanks for reminding us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Gwynn. You make me think – we need to write, paint and do some unusual and crazy stuff, especially in these time, when all around us people are either asleep or feel anxious about world affairs. There’s a need to rise above this mood.


  3. A fascinating argument, Ashen. Not only does it mirror the messy political moment we seem to have entered, it resonates with some of the fiction I’ve been reading lately. The truth is, I suppose, that too many of us fear change. Those tick-box solutions simplify decision making. I’ve just added Fazal Inayat Khan to my wish-list of books.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. thanks for this… been trying to live there for years 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Rob Leech

    Beautiful piece Ashen!
    I feel that the ground of existence is Mystery. Reality is much too vast, various and changeable to squeeze into any rational philosophy, though our minds, or perhaps egos is a more apt term, crave to do so. And the simpler the story the more comforting it is.
    But the Mystery seems to speak, sometimes in the language of religion, sometimes art, sometimes science, sometimes in the language of washing the dishes. In fact it’s probably talking all the time in all events but mostly we are oblivious, too busy trying to construct a simple story that allays our anxiety as we perch precariously on the edge of the void.
    I reckon that to hear what The Mystery is saying, we need to let go of all certainty.
    Go well

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Rob Leech

    May be it’s something like the Mystery, the essence of all things, arises from no thing and reverberates through all of existence.
    Existence is the ocean surface, the surface of Mind. Here an equation rises up and bobs on the waves; there the song of a bird or trees in the wind.
    Here the wise sayings of a sage; there a conflagration.
    Here laughter; there tears.
    All are fleeting shadows and echoes of our essence
    which is beyond words.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello Ashen.
    Talk about a timely post.
    Presently, I am battling against naysayers and conservative traditionalists on what could be described as very small issues. But issues they are.
    Not to be held back by age, there are many thought processes which will stay with me for years, including possibility thinking. The excitement of possibility is addictive and ultimately, the only way in which changes can be developed.
    To remain glued to a system, a method, a type; can be admirable but ultimately result in failure.
    I guess Balance is always the key.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Philippa Rees

    JUst found this Ashen! Been without access to the internet for reasons that should inspire a brutal story of Old Thinking in full application! But the good news was I wrote more by hand in three days than previous long months- so a perfect illustration of your central reminder!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thank you. I’ve been in touch. What a saga. It’s great however, that you writing keeps flowing ☼

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A blend of old and new thinking is definitely essential, unfortunately, as you have eloquently written, new thinking has been pushed aside. I love the quote at the end. I am going to post that up on my pinboard.

    Liked by 2 people

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