Basarab Nicolescu (quantum physicist and poet) and Javier Moreno (writer and mathematician) talk about Cosmodernity, the Hidden Third and words as quantum phenomena. This is how our first two authors break away from the conventional levels of reality…
Interview to Basarab Nicolescu
By Javier Moreno
Basarab Nicolescu is a Romanian professor and theoretical physicist known for being one of the founders of the theory of transdisciplinarity, a theory that seeks a reconciliation of science and humanities through a core of stimulating concept – metaphors ( hidden thrid, levels of reality … ), a rational gnosis which aims to make sense of the complexity of the universe in all its manifestations. What could be a better excuse to interview the recent appearance in Spanish of The Hidden Third)?
JM: In 1967 Roland Barthes published in the Times Literary Supplement an article entitled “From science to literature” in which he proposed that both science and literature, actually belonged to an extended field he called “writing”. According to Barthes, the main difference between science and literature is that where the first says “believe”, while the second says “read”. What is your position?
BN: You can also say that the first says ” read ” and the second “believe”. It depends on what kind of science and what type of literature we are talking about. In fact, my position is that both science and literature deal with the unknown, with that which is neither written nor formulated.
JM: When I read The Hidden Third I thought of the encyclopedic project by Novalis, and especially in the Greek pre-Socratic philosophers; perhaps because, as with these thinkers, the difference between “poetic” and “physical” is not entirely clear. Do you think the later Socratic division between mythos -logos is basically another myth?
BN: Yes. In fact, my heart is very close to the Novalis of the “Fragments”. Our mind introduces the difference between ” poetic ” and ” physical ” but the world is one.
JM: In this book you coin (to my knowledge) a new term: the Cosmodernity. Could you explain what it is?, what are the main features of this concept?
BN: In contemporary science the object has been replaced by relationship, interaction and interconnection of natural phenomena. This is one of the basic characteristics of the Cosmodernity. Systems theory and quantum thought, based on quantum physics, but it goes beyond the narrowness of science, understanding the universe as a whole, a vast cosmic matrix, where everything is in perpetual motion, structuring itself energetically. But this unity of the world is not static; it involves differentiation, diversity, and contradiction. The world is in a state of eternal genesis. Cosmodernity recognizes this vast cosmic matrix to which we belong. The Third Hidden (the concept of interaction between subject and object), in its relation to the levels of reality, is fundamental in understanding the unus mundus described by Cosmodernity. Reality is simultaneously unique and multiple. The transdisciplinary Subject and its levels, the transdisciplinary Object and its levels, and The Hidden Third define the transdisciplinary reality or transreality. This transreality is the foundation of a new era: the Cosmodern Era.
Cosmodernity essentially means that all beings in the universe are defined by their relationship to other entities. Humans, in turn, are related as a person with the great Other, the Hidden Third. All human beings on this earth recognize their face in any other human being, regardless of religious or philosophical beliefs, and all mankind is recognized in the infinite otherness. All cultures and religions are interrelated. Cosmodernity is by its very nature, transcultural and transreligious. Everyone, our world, is a network of ideas, people, cultures, religions and spiritualties. Cosmodernity is based on a new vision of the interaction between contemporary science, culture, spirituality, religion and society. The old idea of the cosmos in which we are active participants has risen. We are on the threshold of a new Renaissance, which calls for a new cosmodern consciousness.
JM: Poetry is essential to your work (“Clearly, words are quantum phenomena”, ” Poetic Knowledge is the is the quantum Knowledge of the Hidden Third”) . Many poets like Robert Juarroz- are or have been linked to transdisciplinarity. Could you explain how the language of transdisciplinarity can be considered poetic language?
BN: The language of transdisciplinarity is beyond poetic language. I had lengthy discussions on this subject with Roberto Juarroz and Michel Camus. At first, Roberto was convinced that poetry was the language of transdisciplinarity, but it filled me with happiness his final position on this issue, when he was speaking at the First World Congress of Transdisciplinarity (Convent of Arrábida, Portugal, November 2-6, 1994), he announced that we should find the new language of transdisciplinarity based on three radical ruptures: rupture with the conventional level of reality, with the external repetitive language and, with our mortal lifestyle.
JM: You distinguish different levels of reality, incommensurable with each other. I guess you are skeptical about the “unification theories” in physics. If there are no laws that unify the different levels, maybe analogy is the only way to transition from one level to another?
BN: Not analogy but isomorphism. There are no general mathematical laws unifying the different levels, but I think there are general symbolic laws to unify. The main point here is that the world is simultaneously knowable and unknowable. The irreducible mystery of the world coexists with the wonders discovered by reason. The unknown comes into every pore of the known; but without the known, the unknown could be an empty word. Each level of reality is characterized by its incompleteness: the laws that govern this level are only part of all laws governing all levels. And even all the law does not exhaust the whole of reality: we also have to consider the subject and its interaction with the object . Knowledge is always open. The Hidden Third between Subject and Object disclaims any rationalization. Therefore, reality is transrational. The Hidden Third ( ie , the third secretly included) determines not only the flow of information between subject and object, but also between the different levels of reality of the subject and between different levels of reality of the object. The discontinuity between different levels is compensated by the continuity of the information held by the Hidden Third. A source of Reality, the Third Hidden feeds on this reality in a cosmic breath that comprehends both us and the universe.
JM: In The Hidden Third, you also talk about politics: the transpolitical, without left or right or center ( “its geometry will be isomorphic to the one of the universe: the center is everywhere and nowhere”). Do you think the transpolitical could provide concrete solutions to our current economic crisis?
BN: In my opinion, the economic crisis has a spiritual root. A unified theory of levels of reality is crucial in order to build a sustainable development and a sustainable future. The considerations made so far in this area are based on the reductionist binary thinking: everything is reduced to society, economy and the environment. The individual level of reality, the spiritual level of reality and the cosmic level of reality are completely ignored. A sustainable future, so necessary for our survival, can only be based on a unified theory of levels of reality. Our planet and our human species are in danger of death because of our irrational belief in permanent economic gain. A transpolitical, transnational and trans-religious attitude is today a need in order to protect our planet and our human species.
JM: Lately, there are been many initiatives on the relationship between science and literature. For example, I am thinking in the French magazine Épistémocritique (littérature et savoirs ). Do you think this new approach to science literature will mark the sign of the times?
BN: Yes, as part of transdisciplinary culture.
JM: Is The Hidden Third a completed work or a work in progress ?
BN: Neither a finished work nor a work in progress. My book was an experience in its writing process and its transmission process. The floodgates of imagination, the feeling of what buried suddenly opened. The book was written in a very short time, two months. It was something dictated to me, as if I were a scribe. My role was to find a route through the fragments, which appeared in a total mess. I took note of these texts in quite incredible situations: in the interval between sleep and waking, in the shower, on the subway, at conferences in physics … In total, 12 notebooks. It is a unique experience. I tried to imitate some fragments without success. It was impossible for me to write more “poetic theorems” for the Hidden Third after this singular event. I came to the conclusion that this experience cannot be repeated. It will remain a unique experience in my life as a writer. Everything was said through me without me saying anything. I still have to write several books.
JM: What has been the reception of this work in France and in countries where your work has been published?
BN: I am constantly amazed by the fate of poetic The Hidden Third.
The reception of the French edition went very well in France, Belgium and Quebec. I will mention about a few events, the most memorable.
In France, The Hidden Third was read for a week, every day, three times a day, in the famous radio show France Culture “Poésie sur parole”, directed by André Velter. My friend, the pianist and composer Alain Kremski gave, in beautiful locations of Paris, such as the Théâtre Saint- Louis and Hôtel de Lauzun, piano recitals where my theorems were read together with poems by Roberto Juarroz, in between piano pieces. At an international scientific conference at UNESCO, a show was represented with an Indian dancer and a reading of The Hidden Third. Also, at the conference “Man and the Universe”, a reading of the Hidden Third was presented with music, accompanied by Tibetan gongs played by Alain Kremski. Let me add that Babel editions published a selection of the theorems – the collector’s book El tercero secretamente incluído, with illustrations by the great painter Frédéric Benrath.
In Belgium, Monique Dorsel invited me for a reading of The Hidden Third at Théâtre Poème Brussels . Also, I was invited by Eric Brognet to the Maison de la Poésie in Namur, where the actor Paul Roland read my theorems interwoven with texts by Rumi, the thirteenth century Persian poet, without saying what text belonged to whom. After this last event, a lady came to me and asked, “Are you Mr. Rumi “? I was very touched this question. To me, it meant that something is transmitted through the ages.In Montreal, during an art exhibit, my theorems were read at the International Art Gallery Harrison.
The Romanian translation was made by the great Romanian writer LM Arcade. He was also well received a reading that was performed at the National Theatre of Bucharest Romanian by an important actor. The two splendid bibliophile editions have been published were illustrated by the Romanian grandmaster Mircia Dumitrescu. Let me also mention something that happened in Mexico. When I honored as Doctor Honoris Causa at the Universidad Veracruzana in Xalapa, my friend Sunday Adame, Dean of the School of Theater, offered me a wonderful surprise, a “happening” enacted by his students, inspired by The Hidde Third.
JM: Please, tell us the name of five contemporary writers (novelists or poets) that can be categorized as transdisciplinary.
BN: Clara Janes, Adonis, Roberto Juarroz, Michel Camus, Vintila Horia.