The 20th century composer of devotional music, John Tavener, has written of the “one simple memory,” a deeply buried sense of a time when understanding was unified and spoke to our inner wholeness. In that period the artisan, miner, metal worker and artist alike were considered as the midwives to nature, aiding her in her striving to perfection.
The physicist Wolfgang Pauli believed that this sprit was still alive in the 17th century when the quantitative science of Kepler and Galileo coexisted with a more deeply symbolic approach to nature and matter—each complementing the other. This later vanished in the hands of the followers of Descartes and Newton and, for Wolfgang Pauli, the ‘spirit in matter’ was banished for over two hundred years.
Particularly in the twentieth century, physics (and subsequently other major disciplines, mirroring themselves in it) had lost its initial vision and become obsessed with a “will to power” as it sought control over nature. A “bifurcation of nature” —the harsh separation of reality as conceived by science and as experienced by humans (including scientists) —, in the words of mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, is one of the greatest fallacies of modernity and a major impediment to human flourishing.
However, a “resurrection” of spirit within matter may be at hand today. Such wholeness can be explored in the medieval hilltop town of Pari, Tuscany, for in the Middle Ages nature, beauty and the sacred were seen as one.
The presenters and participants who come to Pari will bring together many skills to the discussions on the relationship of religious ritual to sacred theatre; of brain activity to the orders of music and mathematics; the ultimate nature of reality as seen from these various disciplines; limitations to knowing, and questions of the origin of the universe. Topics move towards questions that stretch the limits and boundaries that are currently placed around science, the sacred and the arts.
We will discuss, and hopefully experience, the underlying unity that was initially present in the spirit of the arts, the scientific mind and the spiritual quest. We shall seek to “re-member” such one simple memory — indeed, we have taken as our maxim a quotation from Carlo Levi “The future has an ancient heart.”