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Editorial (Issue 35)
Apr 1, 2001

Perceived Differences and Artifical Realities

One of the greatest plagues of history has been our propensity to deny the reality of human unity by constructing artificial hierarchies of human value. With the triumph of science in Europe and the application of Darwin's theory of evolution to human societies, the determining criteria became skin color and physical characteristics. Individual achievement and ability, non-European beliefs and cultures, were either ignored or explained away. In short, genetics became the new truth. But the theory of evolution is just that: a theory. The absence of any fossil record of transitional species or the ever-elusive 'missing link' has caused many scientists to discard it. However, it remains embedded in popular culture as a way to differentiate ourselves from others.

This desire to differentiate has resulted in different perceptions of reality. For many, reality is limited to the world we inhabit. Others proclaim the existence of non-material and invisible worlds: heaven, hell, purgatory, or realms for the spiritually evolved and those waiting to be reborn. And then there are the dualistic perceptions of reality, such as us vs. them, black vs. white, good guy vs. bad guy. How we perceive reality determines our relationship with our surroundings and other people. If we consider ourselves self-originated, we feel alienated and empty because there is nothing to connect us with existence. But if we consider ourselves part of a Divine comprehensive unity, we are related to everything through a common meeting point: God. Such connectedness enables us to feel at home in this world and in the universe.

Virtual reality, once the stuff of science fiction, continues to progress. By stimulating certain areas of the brain, scientists can 'create' someone's reality. If they can do this, certainly God can create a cosmic 'virtual' reality that is intimately connected with our eternal, and therefore real, life in the spiritual realm. Religions and spiritual philosophies have been saying this for millennia. And so now it is science that poses the classic Taoist paradox: 'Though Zhuangzi dreamed of being a butterfly, couldn't a butterfly dream of being Zhuangzi' and how would either know which was real?' Several of our articles address this issue.

Our book review of Lords of the Horizons recounts the Ottoman Empire's 600-year existence as a multiethnic and multireligious empire consciously based upon the concept of diversity within unity and minority self-rule. One wonders what the modern world would look like if it had decided to follow the Ottoman model instead of nationalism and the desire for difference.

In addition to our new look, we have added a new feature'Global Developments. If you come across similar items that would interest our readers, please pass them on! We encourage our readers to attend the conferences listed, to read and review the books cited, and make the Fountain's voice heard.

We hope that you enjoy this issue and, as always, look forward to your comments.