IONS50 Series: Changing Definitions in the Noetic Sciences

February 14, 2024
A Report by Winston O. Franklin, Executive Vice President, Foreword by IONS Board Chair and Interim CEO Claudia Welss

This month’s IONS50 Blog Series post is from 1991 by Wink Franklin.  Wink was President Willis Harman’s “other half” as CEO and Executive Vice President of IONS from 1984 to 1997, ultimately taking over for Willis from 1998 until 2003.  

As President, Wink Franklin provided context and a guiding compass for IONS with his “noetic bet,” describing a winning worldview based on four assumptions: that reality is more than physical, that everything and everyone are profoundly interconnected, that our individual and collective capacities are virtually limitless, and that we participate daily in our own evolution, individually and collectively.  

Like Willis, Wink was deeply committed to IONS’ role in shifting consciousness in order to catalyze real social innovation for global transformation.  His experience advancing democratic ideals with the Charles F. Kettering Foundation, and working with cultural leaders like Joseph Campbell and Margaret Mead, informed his vision of IONS as a “global wisdom center.” His experience as a venture capitalist, entrepreneur and film producer informed his ability to help IONS succeed as a pioneering nonprofit organization that was 50 years ahead of its time.  As a Fetzer Institute Trustee for many years, he was an instrumental link to a very important foundational partner for IONS.

While at UC Berkeley, I worked with some of the best scenario thinkers in industry and academia identifying subtle clues and weak signals to anticipate unanticipated change — including Willis and Wink.  In the brief article below, Wink observes changing definitions as an indicator of a coming paradigm shift in consciousness. From the vantage point of today, progress toward “a growing appreciation for wholeness,” as reflected in the changing definitions of our own time, can seem difficult to detect. Yet our explorations to reveal the true nature of consciousness — and our understanding of the world-changing power of affirming a positive vision — lead us to believe, as Wink did, that humanity is “close to acknowledging just how profoundly interconnected we are.. thereby redefining “self.”  How close we are, and how we get there, depends on us all. — Claudia Welss

Changing Definitions in the Noetic Sciences

We read a lot today about the rate of technological change and its impact on our lives. Our focus at IONS is principally on change of another kind, that being our changing beliefs, values and assumptions which serve as the very foundation for our society. Recently we have been observing the changing meanings of some of the words we use in everyday conversation that seem to us to reflect change at this level. The shifts in meaning of these words are all towards a growing appreciation for wholeness, the dynamics and impermanence of living systems, and the reality of consciousness and spirit. Here are a few examples (the italic is Webster’s preferred definition).

COMMUNITY- a body of people living in the same place under the same body of law. Many of us now consider work environments as our community. Others experience our community as geographically dispersed around the country or the world, connected by phones and faxes. Still others encompass all of humanity or all of life as our community.

CITIZEN – an inhabitant of a city or town, a person who owes allegiance to a government. Today many of us affirm an Earth citizenship with an allegiance to a higher order than any national or international government.

HEALTH – sound physical or mental condition. The acknowledgment of the spiritual dimension as real profoundly changes our meaning of not only health, but also “healing” and “death”. Also, a systems perspective introduces the concept of balance, and recognizes that imbalance is as natural as balance, and that both are temporary states.

MANAGEMENT – the act or art of managing, to handle direct or control, to make and keep submissive. Again, a systems or more dynamic perspective places the emphasis on communications, feedback, vision, personal meaning and the opportunity to be part of something greater than ourselves.

SECURITY – safety, certainty, freedom from wrong, protection. As we recognize how completely we are part of the whole, we see that there is no security through separateness, no certainty or protection to be gained in isolation. The basic concept of security is increasingly replaced by “trust” and “participation” in the whole.

WEALTH – large possessions or resources, abundant supply, property that has money or exchange value. The accumulation of wealth has long been part of the American dream. But why? ls it because it is linked with our desires for “control” and “security”? Yet who of us today really believes that we can buy either “control” or “security”? Wealth is increasingly being thought of as “having purpose or meaning”, being part of a community, or part of a whole.

SELF – the essential person distinct from all other persons. We realize that our pollution affects not only our neighbors, but future generations; that our cigarette smoking affects our loved ones; that even our moods affect our loved ones and colleagues; that we communicate in many subtle ways that we are only beginning to understand; that our subconscious is affected by our earliest childhood experiences; and that our values and beliefs are strongly culturally based. We certainly are close to acknowledging just how profoundly interconnected we are, and thereby redefining “self”.

Willis Harman (left), Wink Franklin (right)

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