The Paradigm Shift

From The Aquarian Conspiracy 

by Marilyn Ferguson

For background information see A New Way of ThinkingWillis Harman


Quote Index


Chart: Paradigm Shift


Note: Today, thirty years after "The Aquarian Conspiracy" was published, many of Marilyn Ferguson's forecasts for change have become social realities. Spurred by the student movement of the sixties, the New Age movement that followed, the educational transformation, and a controlled liberal media, America has indeed been changed by "people's conspiracy" blindly led by the media, schools, and "power elites."

        "Most of the people simply drifted along. They didn't know what was happening or where they were headed. Even churches failed to notice the rising hostility toward God's Truth and values. [See Hating Christianity]

      "A leaderless but powerful network is working to bring about radical change in the United States. Its members have broken with certain key elements of Western thought, and they may even have broken continuity with history.... This network is the  Aquarian Conspiracy....

      "Broader than reform, deeper than revolution, this benign conspiracy for a new human agenda has triggered the most rapid cultural realignment in history. The great shuddering, irrevocable shift overtaking us is not a new political, religious, or philosophical system. It is a new mind--the ascendance of a startling worldview that gathers into its framework breakthrough science and insights from earliest  recorded thought.... 

      "The Aquarian Conspirators range across all levels of income and education, from the humblest to the highest. There are schoolteachers and office workers, famous scientists, government officials and lawmakers, artists and millionaires, taxi drivers and celebrities, leaders in medicine, education, law, psychology....They are in corporations, universities and hospitals, ... in state and federal agencies, on city councils and the White House staff....  in virtually all arenas of policy-making in the country....

     "There are legions of conspirators. They are in corporations, universities and hospitals, on the faculties of public schools, in factories and doctors' offices, in state and federal agencies, on city councils and the White House staff, in state legislatures, in volunteer organizations, in virtually all arenas of policy-making in the country.... They have coalesced into small groups in every town and institution."[p.23-24]

     "The crises of our time, it becomes increasingly clear, are the necessary impetus for the revolution now under way. And once we understand nature's transformative powers, we see that it is our powerful ally, not a force to feared our subdued. Our pathology is our opportunity."[p.25]



Emphasis on content, acquiring a body of "right" information, once and for all.

Emphasis on learning how to learn... pay attention  to the right things, be open to and evaluate new concepts, have access to information....

Hierarchical and authoritarian structure. [Teachers teach facts!]

Egalitarian. Candor and dissent permitted. [Teaches facilitate class dialogue]

...emphasis on the "appropriate ages for certain activities"

Flexibility and integration of age groupings.

Emphasis on external world. Inner experience often considered inappropriate in school setting.

Inner experience seen as context for learning. Use of imagery, storytelling, dream journals, "centering" exercises, and exploration of feelings encouraged.

Emphasis on analytical, linear... thinking.

Augments left-brain rationality with holistic, nonlinear, and intuitive strategies.

    "...the Aquarian Conspiracy is a different kind of revolution, with different revolutionaries. It looks to the turnabout in the consciousness of a critical number of individuals, enough to bring about a renewal of society...."[p.26]

    "The Paradigm Shift.  New perspectives give birth to new historic ages. Humankind has had many dramatic revolutions of understanding --great leaps sudden liberation from old limit. We discovered the uses of fire and the wheel, language and writing.... Each of these discoveries is properly described as a 'paradigm shift,' a term introduced by Thomas Kuhn, a science historian and philosopher, in his landmark 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific  Revolutions. Kuhn's ideas are enormously helpful, not only because they help us understand how a new perspective remerges but also how and why such new views are invariably resisted for a time."[p.26]

    "A paradigm is a framework of thought (from the Greek paradigm, "pattern")... a scheme for understanding and explaining certain aspects of reality.... A paradigm shift is a distinctly new way of thinking about old problems."[p.26]

    "Given the superior power and scope of the new idea, we might expect it to prevail rather quickly, but that almost never happens. The problem is that you can't embrace the new paradigm unless you let go of the old. You can't be half, hearted making the change bit by bit. 'Like the gestalt switch,' Kuhn said, 'it must occur all at once.' The new paradigm is not 'figured out' but suddenly seen." [p.27]

    "Real progress in understanding nature is rarely incremental. All important advances are sudden intuitions, new principles, a new way of seeing."[p.28]

    "By naming a sharply recognizable phenomenon, Kuhn made us conscious of the ways of revolution and resistance. Now that we are beginning to understand the dynamics of revolutionary insights, we can learn to foster our own healthy change and we can cooperate to ease the collective change of mind without waiting for the fever of crisis. We can do this by asking questions in a new way -  by challenging our old assumptions. These assumptions are the air we breather, our familiar furniture. They are part of the culture. We are all but blind to them, yet they must give way."[p. 28]

    "For the first time in history, humankind has come upon the control panel of change -- an understanding of how transformation occurs. We are living in the change of change, the time in which we can intentionally align ourselves with nature for rapid remaking of ourselves and our collapsing institutions."[p.29]

    "Human nature is neither good nor bad but open to continuous transformation and transcendence. It has only to discover itself."[p.29]

    "Recall the model of the paradigm shift introduced by Thomas Kuhn: Every important new idea in science sounds strange at first. As the physicist Niels Bohr put it, great innovations inevitably appear muddled, confusing, and incomplete..."[p.151]

    "A political paradigm shift might be said to occur when the new values are assimilated by the dominant society. These values then become social dogma to members of a new generation, who marvel that anyone could ever have believed otherwise."[p.197]

    "If we are to break out of this pattern, if we are to be liberated from our personal and collective history, we must learn to identify it -- to see the ways of discovery and innovation, to overcome our discomfort with and resistance to the new, and to recognize the rewards of cooperating with change. Thomas Kuhn was by no means the first to point out this pattern."[p.197]


    "The intense intellectual and spiritual sharing of the Aquarian conspiracy, the joint expeditions into new territory, the pooling of the wealth, create the kind of mutual inspiration John Gowan described. The almost sexual interplay of ideas, yin and yang, old and new, East and West, results in a kind of collective synthesis: a creative community, hospitable to risk and imagination."


Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy (Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, 1980), page 289-290.

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