The Web of Meaning: Integrating Science and Traditional Wisdom to Find Our Place in the Universe
June 2021 publication | New Society Publishers (USA & Canada) and Profile Books (UK & Commonwealth).
We need a new story.
Our civilization is careening rapidly toward a precipice. Climate breakdown, ecological degradation, and gaping inequalities are symptoms of an underlying pathology: the worldview of the dominant culture that has brought us to this crisis. It’s a worldview based on disconnection, telling us that we’re each split within ourselves between mind and body; that as individuals we’re separate from each other; and that a fundamental gap exists between humans and the rest of the natural world.
This worldview has passed its expiration date. It was formed in seventeenth-century Europe, and is based on a series of flawed myths that have been superseded by modern findings in science. It is causing enormous unnecessary suffering throughout the globe and driving our civilization toward collapse.
The Web of Meaning offers a rigorous and intellectually solid foundation for an alternative worldview based on connectedness, showing how modern scientific knowledge echoes the ancient wisdom of earlier cultures. Weaving together findings from modern systems thinking, evolutionary biology, and cognitive neuroscience with insights from Buddhism, Taoism, and indigenous wisdom, it offers a coherent and integrated worldview that could enable humanity to flourish on the Earth harmoniously into the future.
The book presents a new paradigm of meaning, pointing to a central core of wisdom that people have known throughout history but was obliterated by the mainstream European tradition—the understanding that, at the deepest levels, we are all interconnected. It lays out the framework for a new integrated global consciousness, based on an underlying and all-infusing recognition of connectedness: within ourselves, with other humans, and with the entire natural world.
Living with this deep realization, we find ourselves at home in the universe—and are naturally driven to engage in the transformation to the life-affirming future our civilization desperately needs.
.Jeremy Lent is author of the award-winning The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning, which Guardian journalist George Monbiot has called “the most profound and far-reaching book I’ve ever read.”
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ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE WEB OF MEANING
“One of the most brilliant and insightful minds of our age, Jeremy Lent has written one of the most essential and compelling books of our time. The Web of Meaning invites us to rethink at the deepest level who we are as a species and what we might become.”
— David Korten, author, When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community
“The Web of Meaning is both a profound personal meditation on human existence and, as its title implies, a tour-de-force weaving together of historic and contemporary world-wide secular and spiritual thought on the deepest question of all: why are we here?”
— Gabor Maté M.D., author, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction
“We need, now more than ever, to figure out how to make all kinds of connections. This book can help-—and therefore it can help with a lot of the urgent tasks we face.”
— Bill McKibben, author, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
“Taking up where his brilliant The Patterning Instinct left off, Jeremy’s Lent’s Web of Meaning reveals the deeper purpose and passion for human existence: a collective quest for meaning though connection, without even having to believe anything in particular. An important and rationally argued primer for universal flourishing.”
— Douglas Rushkoff, author, Team Human
“With clarity, scholarship and passion Jeremy Lent rejects the ill-founded ideological cynicism of neo-liberal capitalism. Based on solid science, the book offers a viable and hopeful alternative that draws on Buddhist, Neo-Confucian and Indigenous philosophies and stresses the interconnectedness of all life. It is a wide-ranging synthesis written for all those who have not given up on a moral stand and can be spurred into action.”
— Eva Jablonka, author, Evolution in Four Dimensions
“The Web of Meaning lays the foundation for a true world culture which is solidly scientific, yet profoundly spiritual, telling a contemporary story of a meaningful universe that includes and embraces humankind. This book is a landmark work for a time that urgently needs to understand that the cosmos is our home and not our enemy to be conquered.”
— Andreas Weber, author, The Biology of Wonder
“A remarkable journey to explore the meaning of life and human’s place in our interconnected world. Lent’s deep knowledge of history, science, and traditional wisdom opens our eyes and our hearts to a new understanding of who we are and how our lifestyle is affecting the world around us. Lent presents an integrated worldview that points the way to living a meaningful life in harmony with nature. This brilliant book teaches us the wisdom and science we need to create a world where people care for each other and for Earth, and flourish.”
— Clair Brown, author, Buddhist Economics: an Enlightened Approach to the Dismal Science
“The Web of Meaning is a book of radical and profound wisdom. This book is a magnificent manifesto for a regenerative culture and for an ecological civilisation. Lent shows us a way out of the old story of separation and disconnection and leads us towards a new story of interconnection. The book beautifully addresses some of the most complex questions of life. I found the book like a friend and a companion in the journey of transformation.”
— Satish Kumar, Editor Emeritus, Resurgence & Ecologist and Founder of Schumacher College.
“There are so many ways to understand the world, and so many levels to be integrated, that everyone can use the guidance of Jeremy Lent. Moving from the ancient Tao to modern neuroscience and everything in between, he boldly weaves deep insights together to envision a better world.”
— Frans de Waal, author, Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves
“A widely ranging, deeply penetrating, and healingly prescriptive consideration of how to reposition humanity within the world. Lent’s ideas, drawn from all around the globe from antiquity to the present, provide a vision for a better shot at survival and a life that is worthwhile for our time—and for the rest of time.”
— Carl Safina, author, Beyond Words and Becoming Wild
“The Web of Meaning is a call for recognizing what both our newest science and our oldest spiritual traditions tell us: that we are all inextricably interconnected with one another and with nature. This thoughtful and passionate work is an important contribution to the urgently needed cultural shift from domination to partnership.”
— Riane Eisler, author, The Chalice and the Blade, The Real Wealth of Nations, and Nurturing Our Humanity.
“With deft and unrelenting strokes of compassionate penmanship, Lent unravels the stories that keep us bound to a colonial arrangement of anthropocentricity, superior markets, excavated nature, endless growth, and boundless consumerism, masquerading as the normal. And then he spins an alternative conception of things. To read Lent’s Web of Meaning is to be captured by a sensuous awakening – the scandalous idea that other worlds are possible and, perhaps given the state of contemporary collapse, almost inevitable.”
— Bayo Akomolafe, author, These Wilds Beyond our Fences: Letters to My Daughter on Humanity’s Search for Home
“Insightful, exhilarating, and hopeful! Lent not only traces the stunning correspondences between ancient wisdom traditions and vanguard biological sciences, he explains how recognizing our place in life’s web of interdependence opens up new vistas for change. The Web of Meaning is a bold, timely challenge to conventional science, religion, and social movements to see the world—and themselves—in new ways.”
— David Bollier, commons activist/scholar and co-author, Free, Fair and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons
“Maybe, just maybe, this is the skillfully organized and brilliantly written book that will turn the world around. Scientists cling to a seventeenth-century metaphysics that leads to nihilism and supports the policies that are destroying ecosystems everywhere. But Lent shows, convincingly, that there are masses of facts science has laid bare that call for a very different worldview of self-organizing entities. He is certainly right. Is there any chance that the slowly awakening world will listen?”
— John B. Cobb, Jr., author, Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition
“It is hard to build new regenerative narratives that honor the old without being in extractive relation to non-western lands and peoples, but this book is a damn good start. This book is a good place to sit for anybody interested in binding the wounds of thoughtless progress and allowing the emergence of new patterns of being.”
— Tyson Yunkaporta, author, Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World
“The Web of Meaning is a profound book of wisdom. If we are ever to remember how to live lives of meaning and grace, it will be in great measure because of books like this one.”
— Derrick Jensen, author, The Myth of Human Supremacy