Methodological Foundation of

Transcultural and Transreligious Studies

1. Introduction

The methodology of transdisciplinarity is expressed in terms of three postulates [1] :

i. There are, in Nature and in our knowledge of Nature, different levels of Reality and, correspondingly, different levels of perception.

ii. The passage from one level of Reality to another is insured by the logic of the included middle.

iii. The structure of the the totality of levels of Reality or perception is a complex structure : every level is what it is because all the levels exist at the same time.

The first two get their experimental evidence from quantum physics and the cyber-space-time, while the last one has its source also in a variety of exact and human sciences.

It is important to note that one can assume the validity of the three postulates of transdisciplinarity independently of their historical roots in some branches of modern science. In other words transdisciplinarity does not rest on a transfer from modern science : this would be a wrong epistemological and philosophical procedure. Modern science, via its most general aspects, allowed us to identify the three postulates of transdisciplinarity, but once they are formulated they are supposed to have a much wider validity then in modern science itself. This is precisely the point of view adopted in this lecture, when trying to analyse how the postulates of transdisciplinarity could lead us to a methodological foundation of transcultural and transreligious studies.

The present study is a work in progress, with the aim of stimulating debates and research.

2. The transdisciplinary approach of Nature and knowledge

The transdisciplinary approach of Nature and knowledge can be described through the diagram shown in Fig. 1.

In the left part are simbolically drawn the levels of Reality

{ NRn, ... , NR2, NR1, NR0, NR-1, NR-2, ... , NR-n }

The index n can be finite or infinite.

Here the meaning we give to the word "reality" is pragmatic and ontological at the same time.

By "Reality" (with a capital "R") we intend first of all to designate that which resists our experiences, representations, descriptions, images, or even mathematical formulations.

Insofar as Nature participates in the being of the world, one must give an ontological dimension to the concept of Reality. Reality is not merely a social construction, the consensus of a collectivity, or some intersubjective agreement. It also has a trans-subjective dimension : e.g. experimental data can ruin the most beautiful scientific theory.

Of course, one has to distinguish the word «Real» and «Reality». Real designates that what it is, while Reality is connected to resistence in our human experience. The «Real» is, by definition, veiled for ever, while the «Reality» is accesible to our knowledge.

By "level of Reality", notion I first introduced in Ref. 2 and later developed in Ref. 3, I designate an ensemble of systems which are invariant under certain laws: for example, quantum entities are subordinate to quantum laws, which depart radically from the laws of the physical world. That is to say that two levels of Reality are different if, while passing from one to the other, there is a break in the laws and a break in fundamental concepts (like, for example, causality).

Levels of Reality are radically different from levels of organization as these have been defined in systemic approaches. Levels of organization do not presuppose a break with fundamental concepts: several levels of organization can appear at one and the same level of Reality. The levels of organization correspond to different structures of the same fundamental laws. For example, Marxist economy and classical physics belong to one and the same level of Reality.

The emergence of at least three different levels of Reality in the study of natural systems - the macrophysical level, the microhysical level and the cyber-space-time - is a major event in the history of knowledge. The existence of different levels of Reality has been affirmed by different traditions and civilizations, but this affirmation was founded either on religious dogma or on the exploration of the interior universe only.

The view I am expressing here is totally conform to the one of the founders of quantum mechanics Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli and Niels Bohr.

In fact, Werner Heisenberg came very near, in his philosophical writings, to the concept of «level of Reality». In his famous Manuscript of the year 1942 (published only in 1984) Heisenberg, who knew well the philosophy of Husserl, introduces the idea of three regions of reality, able to give access to the concept of «reality» itself: the first region is that of classical physics, the second - of quantum physics, biology and psychic phenomena and the third - that of the religious, philosophical and artistic experiences [4]. This classification has a subtle ground: the closer and closer connectiveness between the Subject and the Object.

The transdisciplinary viewpoint allows us to consider a multidimensional Reality, structured by multiple levels replacing the single-level, one-dimensional reality of classical thought.

According to the transdisciplinary approach, Reality is structured via a certain number of levels. The considerations which follow do not depend on whether or not this number is finite or infinite. For the sake of clarity, let us suppose that this number is infinite (i.e. we take nÆ in Fig. 1).

Two adjacent levels in Fig. 1 (say, NR0 and NR1) are connected by the logic of the included middle, a new logic as compared with classical logic.

The classical logic is founded on three axioms:

1. The axiom of identity : A is A.

2. The axiom of noncontradiction : A is not non-A.

3. The axiom of the excluded middle : There exists no third term T ("T" from "third") which is at the same time A and non-A.

History will credit Stéphane Lupasco (1900-1988) with having shown that the logic of the included middle is a true logic, formalizable and formalized, multivalent (with three values: A, non-A, and T) and noncontradictory [5] .

Our understanding of the axiom of the included middle there exists a third term T which is at the same time A and non-A is completely clarified once the notion of "levels of Reality" is introduced.

In order to obtain a clear image of the meaning of the included middle, we represent in Fig. 2 the three terms of the new logic A, non-A, and T and the dynamics associated with them by a triangle in which one of the vertices is situated at one level of Reality and the two other vertices at another level of Reality. The included middle is in fact an included third. If one remains at a single level of Reality, all manifestation appears as a struggle between two contradictory elements

. The third dynamic, that of the T-state, is exercised at another level of Reality, where that which appears to be disunited is in fact united, and that which appears contradictory is perceived as noncontradictory.

The T1-state present at the level NR1 (see Fig. 1) is connected to a pair of contradictories (A0 and non-A0) at an immediately adjacent level. The T1-state allows the unification of contradictories A0 and non-A0, but this unification takes place at a level different from the one NR0 on which A0 and non-A0 are situated. The axiom of noncontradiction is thereby respected.

There is certainly a coherence among different levels of Reality, at least in the natural world. In fact, an immense self-consistency a cosmic bootstrap seems to govern the evolution of the universe, from the infinitely small to the infinitely large, from the infinitely brief to the infinitely long. A flow of information is transmitted in a coherent manner from one level of Reality to another in our physical universe.

The logic of the included middle is capable of describing the coherence among these levels of Reality by an iterative process defined by the following stages: (1) A pair of contradictories (A0, non-A0) situated at a certain level NR0 of Reality is unified by a T1-state situated at a contiguous level NR1 of Reality; (2) In turn, this T1-state is linked to a couple of contradictories (A1, non-A1), situated at its own level; (3) The pair of contradictories (A1, non-A1) is, in its turn, unified by a T2-state situated at a third level NR2 of Reality, immediately contiguous to the level NR1 where the ternary (A1, non-A1, T1) is found. The iterative process continues to indefinitely until all the levels of Reality, known or conceivable, are exhausted.

The open structure of the unity of levels of Reality is in accord with one of the most important scientific results of the twentieth century concerning arithmetic, the theorem of Kurt Gödel [9] , which states that a sufficiently rich system of axioms inevitably leads to results which are either indecisive or contradictory. The implications of Gödel's theorem have considerable importance for all modern theories of knowledge, primarily because it concerns not just the field of arithmetic, but all of mathematics which include arithmetic.

To be sure, there is a coherence of the unity of levels of Reality, but this coherence is oriented in a certain direction: there is an arrow associated with all transmission of information from one level to the other. As a consequence of this, if coherence is limited only to certain levels of Reality, it stops both at the "highest" level and at the "lowest" level. If we wish to suggest the idea of a coherence which continues beyond these two limiting levels, so that there is an open unity, we must conceive the unity of levels of Reality as a unity that extends by a zone of nonresistance to our experiences, representations, descriptions, images, and mathematical formulations. In this zone there are no levels of Reality.

Quite simply, the nonresistance of this zone of absolute transparence is due to the limitations of our bodies and of our sense organs limitations which apply regardless of what measuring tools are used to extend these sense organs. The zone of nonresistance corresponds to the sacred to that which does not submit to any rationalization.

It is important to note that the three loops of coherence in Fig. 1 are situated not only in the zone where the levels of Reality are absent but also in between the levels of Reality : the zone of non-resistance of the sacred penetrates and crosses the levels of Reality. In other words, the transdisciplinary approach of Nature and knowledge offers a link between the Real and the Reality.

The unity of levels of Reality and its complementary zone of nonresistance constitutes what we call the transdisciplinary Object.

A new Principle of Relativity [1] emerges from the coexistence between complex plurality and open unity : no level of Reality constitutes a privileged place from which one is able to understand all the other levels of Reality. A level of Reality is what it is because all the other levels exist at the same time.

The different levels of Reality are accessible to human knowledge thanks to the existence of different levels of perception, described diagrammatically at the right of Fig. 1. They are found in a one-to-one correspondence with levels of Reality. These levels of perception

{ NPn, ... , NP2, NP1, NP0, NP-1, NP-2, ... , NP-n}

permit an increasingly general, unifying, encompassing vision of Reality, without ever entirely exhausting it.

As in the case of levels of Reality, the coherence of levels of perception presuppose a zone of nonresistance to perception. In this zone there are no levels of perception.

The unity of levels of perception and this complementary zone of nonresistance constitutes what we call the transdisciplinary Subject.

The two zones of nonresistance of transdisciplinary Object and Subject must be identical for the transdisciplinary Subject to communicate with the transdisciplinary Object. Knowledge is neither exterior nor interior: it is simultaneously exterior and interior. The studies of the universe and of the human being sustain one another.

The open unity between the transdisciplinary Object and the transdisciplinary Subject is conveyed by the coherent orientation of the flow of information, described by the three oriented loops in Fig. 1 which cut through the levels of Reality, and of the flow of consciousness, described by the three oriented loops which cut through the levels of perception.

The loops of information and consciousness have to meet in a least one

point X in order to insure the coherent transmission of information and consciousness everywhere in the visible and invisible regions of the Universe. In some sense, the point X is the source of all Reality and perception. The point X and its associated loops of information and consciousness describe the third term of the transdisciplinary knowledge : the Interaction term between the Subject and the Object, which can not be reduced neither to the Object nor to the Subject.

This ternary partition

{ Subject, Object, Interaction }

is radically different from the binary partition

{ Subject, Object }

which defines the modern metaphysics. Transdisciplinarity marks a deep rupture as compared with the modern metaphysics. It is precisely thanks to this rupture that transdisciplinarity is able to offer a methodological foundation of transculture and transreligion.

The Subject / Object problem was central for the founding-fathers of quantum mechanics. Pauli [7] , Heisenberg and Bohr, as Husserl, Heidegger and Cassirer refuted the basic axiom of modern metaphysics: the clear-cut distinction between Subject and Object. Our considerations here are inscribed in the same framework.

3. Academic disciplines, cultures and religions

Academic disciplines are studying fragments of levels of Reality. There is a multitude of disciplines associated with one single level of Reality.

Academic disciplines are connected exclusively with the Object, i.e. with only one zone out of the three zones described in the diagram of Fig. 1. Founded on the mechanist model of the classical science they correspond to an in vitro knowledge, the disciplinary knowledge DK (see Table 1). They are power-oriented through the domination of the external world. By definition, they are supposed to be neutral, i.e. their study has to be done in an independent way of any system of values.

However, according to the diagram of Fig. 1, all these feature are in fact ad hoc, artificial and illusory, because the Object has to be always in interaction with the Subject, through the third, Interaction term.

The full knowledge is a new type of knowledge - the transdisciplinary knowledge TK, which corresponds to an in vivo knowledge. This new knowledge is concerned with the correspondence beteen the external world of the Object and

the internal world of the Subject. The TK knowledge is really a knowledge of the third. By definition, the TK knowledge includes a system of values.

It is important to realize that the disciplinary knowledge and the transdisciplinary knowledge are not antagonist but complementary. Both their methodologies are founded on scientific attitude.



External world - Object Correspondence between external world (Object) and

internal world (Subject)

knowledge understanding

analytic intelligence new type of intelligence -

harmony between mind, feelings and body

oriented towards power and possession oriented towards astonishment and sharing

binary logic included middle logic

exclusion of values inclusion of values

Table 1. Comparison between disciplinary knowledge DK and transdisciplinary knowledge TK.

The above considerations explain the somewhat paradoxical statement that the transdisciplinary knowledge is able to bring a new vision not only on academic disciplines but also on cultures and religions.

The crucial difference between academic disciplines on one side and cultures and religions on the other side could be read on the diagram of Fig. 1. Cultures and religions are not concerned with fragments of levels of Reality only : they simultaneously involve a level of Reality, a level of perception and fragments of the non-resistance zone of the sacred. In other words, cultures and religions correspond to a well-defined horizontal section of the diagram of Fig. 1.

The resistance implied by the levels of Reality is connected with the given territory where a well-defined culture or religion appears,with the corresponding historical events through which a given collectivity of people went through, and with the mixture of different cultural and religious habits carried by the people crossing the given territory during the times.

The resistance implied by the levels of perception is connected with the given set of spiritual practices and cultural habits, associated with a given theology, a given religious doctrine or a given ensemble of cultural personalities and their teachings through the historical time.

The non-resistance zone of the sacred is, in fact, shared by all cultures and all religions. This fact could explain why there is an inextinguishable desire of universality, more or less hidden in any culture and in any religion in spite of their claim of absolute specificity.

The contemporary polemics about, for example, the status of an academic discipline like the history of religions and the violent debate around the life and the work of its founder, Mircea Eliade, are explained quite simply through the diagram of Fig. 1. One demands to the history of religion two mutually exclusive conditions : to be neutral, as any other academic discipline and to study a non-neutral phenomenon - religions. In other words, one demands to the history of religions to belong exclusively to the left part of the diagram of Fig. 1 and, at the same time, to belong to right part of the diagram. This is, of course, impossible in the framework of the methodology and the logic of the disciplinary knowledge. The only way out is, in my opinion, to accept the methodology and the logic of the transdisciplinary logic.

The crucial problem is certainly, as forseen by Eliade, the status of the sacred.

4. The transreligious attitude and the presence of the sacred

The problem of the sacred, understood as the presence of something of irreducibly real in the world, is unavoidable for any rational approach to knowledge. One can deny or affirm the presence of the sacred in the world and in ourselves, but, in view of elaborating a coherent discourse on Reality, one is always obliged to refer to it.

The sacred is that which connects. The sacred links, as indicated by the etymological root of the word "religion" (religare-"to bind together again"), but such an ability is not an attribute of just one religion. Mircea Eliade once stated in an interview: "The sacred does not imply belief in God, in gods, or spirits. It is . .

. the experience of a reality and the source of the consciousness of existing in the world» [8] . The sacred is first of all an experience; it is transmitted by a feeling the "religious" feeling of that which links beings and things and, in consequence, induces in the very depths of the human being an absolute respect for the others, to whom he is linked by their all sharing a common life on one and the same Earth.

The abolition of the sacred led to the abomination of Auschwitz and to 25 million deaths under the Stalinist system. The absolute respect for others has been replaced by the pseudosacralization of a race or of a new man, embodied by dictators elevated to the rank of divinities.

The origin of totalitarianism is found in the abolition of the sacred. While it is the experience of the irreducibly real, the sacred is actually, as stressed by Eliade, the essential element in the structure of consciousness and not simply a stage in the history of consciousness. When this element is violated, disfigured, mutilated, history becomes criminal.

The transdisciplinary model of Reality casts new light on the meaning of the sacred.

Experience of the sacred is the source of a transreligious attitude.

The transreligion designates the opening of all religions to that which cuts through them and transcends them. It does not mean a unique religion, but the open, transcendent unity of all religions. It is the sacred which allows this unity to be effective even if transreligion will be never formulated in terms of a theology.

Transdisciplinarity is neither religious nor irreligious; it is transreligious. It is the transreligious attitude emerging from lived transdisciplinarity which permits us to learn to know and appreciate the specificity of religious and irreligious traditions which are foreign to us, to better perceive the common structures which found them, and thus, to arrive at a transreligious vision of the world.

The concept of transreligion which I am formulating here is very near of what the great Arab poet Adonis calls the mysticism of art : a movement towards the hidden face of Reality, a living experience, a perpetual travel towards the heart of the world, a unification of contradictories, the infinity and the unknown as aspiration, freedom from any philosophic or religious system, spontaneous creation in a transrational state [9]. In fact all the work of Adonis has a transcultural and tranreligious nature as shown by Michel Camus in a recent book [10].

The transreligious attitude is also very near of what the great christian theologian and philosopher Raimon Panikkar calls the intrareligious dialogue : a dialogue which occurs in the heart of any human being [11].

The transreligious attitude is not in contradiction with any religious tradition or with any agnostic or atheistic current, to the extent that these traditions and currents recognize the presence of the sacred. In fact, the presence of the sacred is

our transpresence in the world. If it were widespread, the transreligious attitude would make all religious wars impossible.



[1] Basarab Nicolescu, La transdisciplinarité, manifeste, Le Rocher, Monaco, coll. «Transdisciplinarité», 1996.

[2] Basarab Nicolescu, Nous, la particule et le monde, Le Mail, Paris, 1985.

[3] Basarab Nicolescu, Levels of Complexity and Levels of Reality, in «The Emergence of Complexity in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology», Proceedings of the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 27-31 October 1992, Casina Pio IV, Vatican, Ed. Pontificia Academia Scientiarum, Vatican City, 1996 (distributed by Princeton University Press), edited by Bernard Pullman;

Basarab Nicolescu, Gödelian Aspects of Nature and Knowledge, in «Systems - New Paradigms for the Human Sciences», Walter de Gruyter, Berlin - New York, 1998, edited by Gabriel Altmann and Walter A. Koch;

Michel Camus, Thierry Magnin, Basarab Nicolescu and Karen-Claire Voss, Levels of Representation and Levels of Reality: Towards an Ontology of Science, in The Concept of Nature in Science and Theology (part II), Éditions Labor et Fides, Genève, 1998, pp. 94-103, edited by Niels H. Gregersen, Michael W.S. Parsons and Christoph Wassermann;

Basarab Nicolescu, Hylemorphism, Quantum Physics and Levels of Reality, in Aristotle and Contemporary Science, Vol. I, Peter Lang, New York, 2000, pp. 173-184, edited by Demetra Sfendoni-Mentzou, introduction by Hilary Putnam.

[4] Werner Heisenberg, Philosophie - Le manuscrit de 1942, Seuil, Paris, 1998, translation from German and introduction by Catherine Chevalley.

[5] Stéphane Lupasco, Le principe d'antagonisme et la logique de l'énergie, Le Rocher, Paris, 1987 (2nd edition), foreword by Basarab Nicolescu; Stéphane Lupasco - L'homme et l'oeuvre, Le Rocher, Monaco, coll. «Transdisciplinarité», 1999, under the direction of Horia Badescu and Basarab Nicolescu.

[6] See, for example, Ernest Nagel and James R. Newman, Gödel's Proof, New York University Press, New York, 1958; Hao Wang, A Logical Journey - From Gödel to Philosophy, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts - London,

England, 1996.

[7] Wolfgang Pauli, Writings on Physics and Philosophy, Springer-Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg, Germany, 1994, edited by Charles P. Enz and Karl von Meyenn, translated by Robert Schlapp; K.V. Laurikainen, Beyond the Atom - The Philosophical Thought of Wolfgang Pauli, Springer - Verlag, Berlin - Heidelberg, Germany, 1988.

[8] Mircea Eliade, L'épreuve du labyrinthe, interviews by Claude-Henri Rocquet, Pierre Belfond, Paris, 1978, p. 175.

[9] Adonis, La prière et l'épée - Essais sur la culture arabe, Mercure de France, Paris, 1993, pp. 143-146, translation by Leïla Khatib and Anne Wade Minkowski.

[10] Michel Camus, Adonis le visionnaire, Le Rocher, Monaco, 2000.

[11] Raimon Panikkar, Entre Dieu et le cosmos, Albin Michel, Paris, 1998, interviews by Gwendoline Jarczyk.