Introduction


In the West we generally believe in the need for a pluralistic society in which each person has their own view of life, and in which tolerance of each other's views, rather than agreement on a common view, is regarded as the most desirable social goal. We tend to look down on societies that are governed by a single worldview, religious or secular. In this climate, Stefan Hlatky's unitary system of thought seems anachronistic. Yet the basis of Hlatky's endeavour is quite distinct from that of traditional religious or other worldviews. Historically, all such worldviews have contained much that is inconsistent, in Hlatky's opinion. This means that they could not be presented rationally, but only in authoritarian ways. In some cases, it was even argued that reality was inherently beyond human understanding. Or, as modern science maintains, it was said that only the 'how' and not the 'why' of reality could be understood - which in Hlatky's view means our understanding would be incomplete.

When Hlatky, who was brought up as a Roman Catholic in Hungary, was himself told as a child that the original cause - traditionally, when viewed as living, called 'God' or some equivalent - could not be understood, he could not accept this. He thought that if God existed, he would have given us the ability to understand him. This was the basis on which Hlatky pursued his own questioning and his own efforts to understand reality. The outcome of his study and thinking is what he first called, in the 1960s, 'The organic view of unity'. The important feature of his hypothesis is that it can be reasoned. Hlatky believes that if we reflect on our total, common experience of everyday life, his hypothesis can be understood by any one of us. So Hlatky is presenting a unitary worldview that is not authoritarian or dogmatic.

The reflection that is required of us, however, is different from the complicated, intellectual thinking that is promoted by our educational system and that we are so used to today. We need to return to the kind of reflection on our immediate experience that we had as children. It is part of Hlatky's thesis that children ask all the right questions to arrive at a logical understanding of the original cause of the world around us, but that they generally give up their quest at a certain point because the grown-ups are confused and cannot answer the children's questions satisfactorily.

Hlatky began presenting his ideas to the public in the early 1970s. He gave many public talks, which included until 1996 a weekly seminar at the ABF Huset, an adult education centre, in Stockholm, Sweden. He has done much writing. Some of this, translated here, has been used in 'exhibitions' devoted to his hypothesis, but none has hitherto been formally published. He himself has used his writing to help clarify how his hypothesis could be best presented and to serve as a basis for dialogue with others. His preferred method, however, has always been face-to-face dialogue - for reasons that are basic to the arguments for his hypothesis [see, for example, the sections in Dialogue 4 entitled 'Agreeing on axioms' and 'Consciousness vs thinking']. He hoped that through dialogue his hypothesis might be taken up and discussed by the main institutions nowadays responsible for education - the church and the various institutions of science, psychology and politics - so that it could be more widely debated alongside its alternatives. This has not happened, hence his agreeing to the writing of this book.

In order to capture something of the kind of dialogue that Hlatky has always sought to foster, we present his ideas and their implications not just as articles, but also in dialogue form. These Dialogues, which form Chapter 2, are based on taped dialogues recorded during 1995. It is difficult to present a unitary system of thought in a neat, linear form, since no element of it stands on its own. Through the format of the Dialogues in particular, therefore, the reader will find themes approached a number of times from different angles so as to convey the picture of the whole. This makes for a certain amount of repetition, but we hope that the reader will find this helpful.

Chapter 1, 'Understanding reality: a basic human need', is a brief presentation of Hlatky's views. This simplified overview serves as a reference point for the reader, as well as an introduction to later chapters. Chapter 2 comprises the four Dialogues between Hlatky and Booth, joined, in parts of Dialogues 2 and 3, by Matilda Leyser. Chapter 3, 'The organic view of unity', written by Hlatky in 1976, examines in detail the major axioms that are referred to throughout this book, as well as some of the implications of Hlatky's view. Chapter 4, 'Are we alike or unlike?', written by Hlatky in 1980, is a fuller, formal presentation of Hlatky's view. Its second part, 'The historical background', presents the answers of five major world religions and the answers of modern science to the major philosophical problems that Hlatky's hypothesis aims to solve. We have tried throughout this book to be clear about where Hlatky's view is similar to and different from other views, and 'The historical background' is intended to reinforce this clarity. Also relevant in this regard is Chapter 5, 'Science, religion and philosophy', a lecture given by Hlatky in 1986, which sets the same philosophical problems in historical context.

It should be said that Hlatky's hypothesis has remained the same since he first proposed it. That means that he has not yet been convinced by efforts to refute it. The terminology he has used to describe it has, however, altered slightly from time to time. This has been in response to the issues that have dominated society at large over the years, and to common confusions about his view that he has met in his dialogues with other people. The word 'organic', for example, has taken on different connotations over the last forty years, so Hlatky now prefers the word 'living'. For a long time he persisted with the word 'consciousness', but has recently come to prefer the term 'ability to experience', to distinguish his view more clearly from prevailing interpretations of the word 'consciousness'.

The sense in which Hlatky uses certain words may seem strange to the reader, but Hlatky believes that he is using them in their proper sense. However, to help the reader with such words, a Glossary has been added. The reader is alerted to these words when they first appear in the text, and they are printed in bold in the Index.

Appendix A on language and Appendix B on the definition of 'dialogue' are occasional pieces written by Hlatky that are too long for the Glossary.

Finally, the reader who is interested in other translated articles by Hlatky will, by the end of 1999, find one or more available on the Internet at the website http://www.reality.org.uk. The original Swedish versions of Chapters 3 and 4, along with other articles by Hlatky in Swedish, can already be found at the website http://hem1.passagen.se/lanor.

Philip Booth
March 1999