Arthur Young's Theory of Process and the "Paradigm Shift" | Oct 2011

FMBR Editorial: Oct, 2011

Arthur Young's Theory of Process and the "Paradigm Shift"

Michael J. Buchele, M.D.


You may be hearing about the work of Arthur M. Young for the first time. I worked with Arthur at the Institute for the Study of Consciousness in Berkeley from the years 1976 until his death in 1995. During that time, I was able to study his book The Reflexive Universe and The Geometry of Meaning, as well as to attend many seminars and discussions hosted by Arthur at the Institute. I became aware of the power of Arthurs' work and how it allows one to put into perspective the numerous fields of science and the multitudes of philosophies and religious traditions, all of which are trying to find the explanation of what "reality" is. I believe that Arthur has given us a key to unlocking the secrets of the universe, by providing us with a framework, as so elegantly illustrated by his Theory of Process (ToP). This four level, seven stage model allows us to integrate and relate the knowledge and wisdom from the worlds of science and philosophy into a coherent whole.

Arthur Young was an inventor who was instrumental in the development of the first commercial helicopter. Today we take helicopters for granted, as if such vertical flight is a given, not realizing that it did not exist until the laws of the universe were discovered and then applied to create something that was possible, but had never existed before. Once Arthur was well under way on the helicopter project, he began to turn his attention to understanding the mysteries of the universe. He approached the solution of these mysteries from a unique perspective, that of an inventor.

A scientist tends to take the part of the universe he is studying and experiment upon it, trying to "take it apart and find out how it works". A philosopher is allowed to ask the question "why" but most philosophers tend to do "thought experiments" that are not necessarily grounded in or testable in the "real" world. Likewise, mystics and religious leaders tend to ask "why" and then to rely on revealed truths, such as in major religious texts, or in their personal experience of the divine. Yet, in most cases these revelations are beyond the testability of science and are often not grounded or even particularly relevant to the "real" world. Because of this chasm between science and religion, the "truth" of the universe seems to fall somewhere in between.

As an inventor, Arthur took a different approach. First, he realized that when science describes the universe, or the human body as a machine, which can be taken apart and analyzed, science tends to omit the fact that any machine has always had a purpose. An automobile has the purpose of transportation, a chair has the purpose of support, etc. The Universe has been described by science as a giant machine that operates like clockwork, having testable rules that can be discovered and then applied. However, science is not able to answer the questions of what is the purpose of the Universe, "why" did it come into being. Science says that "it's here, it's real, so let's deal with it!"

Instead, Arthur asked the question, "if the Universe is a machine, and operates according to discoverable rules, what are the rules and, more importantly, what is the purpose of the Universe?" He then used what he called the "Yoga of Thinking" to turn the question on its head. He postulated that the purpose of the universe was to know itself, which would require life and consciousness and the ability to ask the questions "why". Then he used his inventor's hat to declare: "If I were going to invent such a universe, what are the rules that must be followed to allow such a universe to "fly"? Since he had the wealth of scientific facts to use to test his "invention", he began on his quest to discover the rules to the Universe," and the results of that quest are revealed in the books The Reflexive Universe and the Geometry of Meaning.

I view Arthur's work as similar to a "Star Trek Universal Translator" device, in that it allows those from different "cultures" (be it science disciplines, religions, etc.) to meet on a common ground and to see where they all fit in to the overall process. In a world that seems to be becoming increasingly fragmented and divided, Arthur's work (including a book of his essays Which Way Out?) provides a "way out" to encourage dialogue and understanding so that we can truly make the universe work in its purpose of knowing itself.

Excerpted and reproduced with the author's permission. The entire article originally appeared in Bridges: The quarterly magazine of ISSSEEM, Fall, 2001, No. 3. More of Arthur Young's work can be found at