The Meaning of a University in the Third Horizon

H3Uni begins from the imperative that we humans must transform our way of life to live in harmony with and on less than the boundaries of Earth’s resources. Humanity has only this planet to live on and is a part of the planetary biosphere not separate from it. University implies unanimity of this one basic fact, that if we do not accomplish one-planet living then we are most likely to arrive at the conditions that ensure global civilisational collapse. This existential predicament is indifferent to race, culture, geography and belief systems.

So the essential meaning of university is oneness. A university of the third horizon needs to be rooted in the idea of unity; that is the unity of life, the unity of mankind, the unity of wisdom and unity with the universe as a totality; hence the name university.

This orientation is utterly different from the current university culture of specialisation, fragmentation, commercialisation and proliferation. The so-called subjects or disciplines have become defended territories of piecemeal knowledge that pretty much ensure that understanding of wholeness will not arise in the human mind. Understanding (to stand under) is to acknowledge a greater pattern of meaning and connection possible only through the expansion of rather than the contraction of mind. It is arrived at not by academic faculties but by a higher capacity that is released through real education.

Unification, however, is not the same as homogenisation. Modernist projects such as globalisation may seem to be seeking unity but they do so by enforcing a lowest common denominator, perhaps best summarised as homoeconomicus. Consumerism is not the foundation of a viable globality. The values and mindsets associated with current globalisation are established by the impositions of largely hidden, exploitative and constraining powers. This imposition the conditions narrow and fragmented psyches rendering them blind to what is happening and subverting meaning.

What we need instead is an open and inclusive exploratory worldview that pursues a never-ending quest for wholeness that enables a re-union of fragmented knowledge into a wider understanding. We need to move from a terrestrial economics and ecology to a cosmic economics and ecology, back to the root meaning of eco which is home; at home in our homeland, at home on the planet and at home in the universe.

A university of the third horizon must operate independently from domination by either the state or by commerce. The result of this disentanglement is not a reduction in practicality but an increase in genuine relevance. Freed up, a university can be a movement of learning how to learn for the practical good of humanity.

Realising the third horizon of one-planet living requires us to prioritise the cultivation of collective creative intelligence over the obsession with divisive competition. Only in this way will we find ways to a life of sustainable abundance. The transformative innovation needed to create sustainable abundance in the context of one planet living, will require immense diversity of creative contribution in the context of unanimity of purpose. The immense variety of socio-ecological systems must be matched by a requisite variety in the way humans run their affairs, locally and globally.

A third horizon university must emphasise self-teaching, shared learning, mutual verification and cultivation of the capacity to learn, whatever the starting point of an individual’s intelligence and knowledge. The application of learning and teaching will be directed towards the practical needs of humanity inclusive of the intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual nature of man. Qualifications need to be recognised by the manifest fruits of creative learning in application. Life is the true test, not disconnected and artificial examinations. Further, the meaning of practical is extended to include the quest for the meaning of man in this vast and minimally understood universe. It is time for the emergence of a cosmic ecology unconstrained by religious, political or scientific dogma and open to transdisciplinary exploration and discovery by every planetary citizen.

The university of the third horizon will take full advantage of the technology of the Internet to increase access to all who desire this kind of learning, but will also bridge to the local campus through utilisation of social networking technology, local learning groups and peripatetic mentors. This because there is a deeper learning needed for praxis that requires apprenticeship and transmission of energy. Also, one of the important values of the traditional campus is the social and interactive dimension of learning, forming in its most valued form, the community of learning, mentoring and mutual dialogue.

The ultimate result of this approach to education is the recognition that, in a mature society, all life is the University; and University, fundamentally, is a state of mind. Education moves through knowledge, through know-how, to practical understanding. It is based on models of learning that require the teachers and designers to ensure that the student has learned practical capacity even within the space of an initial encounter with a learning opportunity. An educational ecology needs to be created that is serving the emergence of a new epoch which must be based on creation of a viable future for all humanity. At its heart must be compassion. We all have the potential to be living on one planet in harmony with the biosphere and cognisant of its position in the cosmic scheme of things. Worldviews and cosmology then become freed from the exclusive hegemony and compartmentalisation of science, politics and religion and opened up for exploration this new epoch.