Marilyn Ferguson is one of the most influential writers of our time. Her book, "The Aquarian Conspiracy," was described by "Megatrends" author, John Naisbitt as going straight to the heart of the deep structural changes occurring in the final years of the 20th century. Her other books include "The Brain Revolution." Ferguson is the founder of the highly regarded, "Brain-Mind Bulletin."
DiCarlo: "Paradigm" is a term that is being bandied about quite freely these days. Could you please offer us a working definition of what a paradigm actually is, and delineate the emerging paradigm as it relates to business?
Ferguson: Paradigm is a fashionable term for a working perspective. It's your method of explaining something to yourself. For example, there are paradigms in science, where the term first came into use. It is a mental model which makes it comfortable for people to explain things. But since all our knowledge is incomplete, the paradigm ultimately has to be replaced by another one. Eventually it must yield to new information. In The Aquarian Conspiracy, I used paradigms in science as a model for the fate of new ideas in general-paradigms of relationship, education, heath care...
What we know from science is that even people who are supposed to be professionally objective, are very resistant to new information-even if the newly discovered information is more powerful and better explains the data.
DiCarlo: Was there any particular event in your life that served as a trigger, and caused you to look beyond the party line of the traditional and dominant world view of our society?
Ferguson: Well, my parents were people who questioned the establishment a lot. My parents used to talk scathingly about the "almighty dollar," and yet they gave me the sense that I could be anything I wanted to be. I suppose I was fortunate in that my parents were the children of immigrants from Italy on my fathers side, and Germans Russia on my mother's. When families have to make it on their own in a new country, they have somewhat of a different perspective.
You see that a lot in the children of immigrants, even today. They are often more ambitious than the natives, even though they're poorer. When I began to question what was going on in this society, perhaps it was because my father had questioned too. Pointing out how ridiculous the commercials on the radio were for example. Challenging the predominant paradigm came with breathing. I was a poet and later a non-fiction writer. I got interested in the cultural paradigm in 1968 when I wrote a book called "Champagne Living on Beer Budget," a book about how to live well on a modest income. I was kind of looking behind the scenes there, "Who makes brand x?" for example. When you look into institutions, you become increasingly aware of their moral paralysis. There's no point in blaming. We got here through our collective ignorance. I also wrote for trade journals and I was a stringer for Time. I got a sense of how creative business people saw things, which was contrary to the conventional wisdom.
When my children were tiny, I became interested in the work of Berkeley scientists who found that the brain changes in response to stimulation. I was amazed too, at the early research on Transcendental Meditation. My next book, The Brain Revolution. looked at the mysteries of the brain and mind-the interface of the tangible and intangible. The physical brain, which is so complex-the most complex bit of matter on earth and so mysterious-and the mind, which is completely intangible.