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During recent years there have been a number of attempts to create a "world
university" although the idea was originally advanced in the 16th century by
Comenius. Many institutions with more specialized concerns have also emerged. These may be
usefully seen as experiments by society in developing facets of such a university. As
explained later, some of these initiatives were part of the process whereby the University
came into being. Some of them continue to fulfil certain functions for the
The range of relevant initiatives, past and present, can be usefully grouped as follows:
1. Research and development emphasis: This is most evident in the case of international "think tanks", whether of the not-for-profit variety (Battelle Memorial Institute), or as peace/future research institutes (e.g. International Peace Research Institute Oslo, the Transnational Institute, or Futuribles). They may focus on legal questions (e.g. Institute for World Order) on military questions (e.g. International Institute for Strategic Studies), on design (e.g. Bauhaus, Taliesen Fellowship), on development (e.g. Marga Institute), on policy (e.g. Institute for Policy Studies), on religion (e.g. Pontifical Institute for Oriental Studies), on agriculture (e.g. International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas), or have a more general orientation (Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, East-West Center, Bariloche Foundation, International Center for Integrative Studies). Some now take the form of laboratories (e.g. International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases, European Organization for Nuclear Research). Relatively few of these bodies are of intergovernmental origin (e.g. International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, European University Institute) and only one of these has been created as a world university with a research orientation (United Nations University).
2. Education and personal development: Usually quite distinct from the bodies with a research emphasis are those concerned primarily with education. These include many international schools, academies, seminaries, colleges and universities. Some focus on international affairs (e.g. College of Europe), others on management (e.g. European Institute of Business Administration, Central American Institute of Public Administration), on religion (e.g. Friends World College, Ecumenical Institute for the Development of Peoples, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Goetheanum School of Spiritual Science), on agriculture (e.g. Tropical Agricultural Research and Training Center), on conflict resolution (e.g. International Diplomatic Academy, International Peace Academy, University of Peace in Huy, Diplomatic Academy of Vienna), on parapsychology (e.g. International University of Lugano), or on theatre, music or other arts. Some may function as conventional universities (e.g. Inter-American University), others as decentralized networks (e.g. University\13), others as a collaborative arrangement between countries (e.g. University of East Africa, University of the West Indies, University of Botswana/Lesotho/Swaziland), or between national universities (e.g. Inter-University Centre of Post-Graduate Studies). Some maybe tied to particular belief-systems (e.g. Maharishi European Research University, Pontificia Universitatis Lateranensis, Universidad de la Nueva Era), to intergovernmental systems (e.g. UN Institute for Training and Research, UN University of Peace in Costa Rica), or to particular cultures (e.g. World University in Tucson, Université des Mutants in Dakar). Other bodies in this category include residential growth centres (e.g. Esalen), schools for the gifted or specially handicapped, and training camps of various kinds.
3. Decentralized mode of organization: In addition to their concerns, some groups are of significance because of their mode of organization. These include conventional international organizations of various kinds (e.g. International Federation of Institutes of Advanced Study, International Council of Scientific Unions, World Future Studies Federation, International Foundation for Development Alternatives, International Peace Research Association, Society for International Development, World Council of Churches). Some of these have experimented with the creation of international universities (e.g. World Academy of Art and Science, Union of International Associations). Some have explored dimensions of world government (e.g. World Association of World Federalists, Planetary Citizens, Association for the World Government of the Age of Enlightenment). Significant groups have taken the form of semi-formal networks (e.g. Club of Rome, Paris Group, Club of Dakar), possibly tied to a series of conferences (e.g. European Management Forum, Pugwash Conferences of Science and World Affairs, Tagungen, Alpbach Symposia, Mankind 2000, Bilderberg Group, Lindisfarne Association, Delos Symposia, Ditchley Park conferences, World University Roundtable), or to international projects (e.g. World Order Models Project, Forum Human projects). In some cases there is a special emphasis on funding (e.g. Foundation for Reshaping the International Order, European Science Foundation, Threshold Foundation, Kettering Foundation, World Peace Foundation). Invisible colleges and networks may also be based on periodicals (e.g. Studium Generale, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Futurist, Turning Point, Coevolution Quarterly, Resurgence, Main Currents, General Systems) or on teleconferencing systems (e.g. EIES, SOURCE, PLANET). Of special interest is the deliberate formation of fraternal and religious orders (e.g. Opus Dei, Rotarians, Rosicrucians, Catholic third orders, Sufi orders, compagnons, freemasons), some of which may be associated with hospitals (e.g. Sovereign Military Order of Malta), or missionary networks (e.g. Society of Jesus, Ramakrishna Mission Association), and/or centred on monasteries (e.g. Benedictines, Franciscans). Others may take the form of charismatic-leadership movements (e.g. Rajneesh, Hari Krishna, Maharishi Maheshi Yogi). More loosely organized are those associated with voluntary work camps, especially in developing countries (e.g. United Nations Volunteers, Peace Corps), or community development (e.g. Institute of Cultural Affairs). More concrete in focus are the many cooperative networks (e.g. grouped by the International Cooperative Alliance) and multinational enterprises linked by holding companies based in tax havens.
4. Recreation, recuperation and reflection: This emphasis isevident in academic/sabbatical "retreat" centres (e.g. Rockefeller Bellagio Center, Center for the Behavioral Sciences) or in corporate "retreat" centres, although it is most developed in the case of health (e.g. modern health "farms", traditional locations for "taking a cure" or convalescing) and religion (e.g. monastic retreat centres, Adyar, Dornach, Iona). These may also function as centres of pilgrimage (e.g. Taize, Caux, Montserrat, Lourdes, and their many equivalents in the East), or primarily as recreational centres (e.g. country clubs), holiday resorts (e.g. the Club Mediterranee network), or summer camps (e.g. the Sufi gatherings at Chamonix). Some annual conferences may serve a similar purpose (e.g. those of the Association of Humanistic Psychology, Findhorn gatherings). Also of interest is the formation of "colonies", whether oriented to the arts (e.g. in Ibiza), or determined by the seasons (e.g. Darjeeling, Poona).
5. Dedicated environment: The physical setting in many examples from the previous point highlights this emphasis. It may also be seen in modern initiatives to construct dedicated towns (e.g. Akademgorodok, Arcosanti, Auroville). This is also evident in the construction of international centres (e.g. Peace Palace in The Hague, Palais des Nations in Geneva, and its equivalents in Vienna), world trade centres, international conference centres (e.g. Scanticon), and the various attempts to design an international city. However, such contemporary efforts lack the artistic and social sensitivity of temple-and-garden complexes (e.g. in Japan) or of palace-and-garden environments (e.g. Italian Renaissance), although these factors may be taken into account to some extent in corporate research complexes (e.g. IBM or Bell Telephone) or in the attraction of alternative groups to a particular location (e.g. Taos, Australia's "Rainbow Triangle").
6. Intentional community: Examples of this emphasis are evident in the many networks of monastic communities (Catholic and Buddhist) which have survived centuries of social upheaval, some with a dedication to learning (e.g. the Benedictines). Of a different nature are isolated religious groups (e.g. Bruderhof, Hutterites, Amish). Somewhat different in organization are the guru-based Hindu ashrams and the more recent Western-oriented experiments in charismatic leadership communities (e.g. Gurdjief in Fontainebleau, Steiner in Dornach, Krishnamurti in Ojai, Rajneesh in Poona, Aurobindo in Pondicherry), although with the expansion to other countries, the leader may rarely be in residence (e.g. scientologists at East Grinstead), and some may have a service rather than a religious orientation (e.g. Gaskin's Farm in Tennessee). Perhaps of greater significance are the communities which succeed without such charismatic leadership (e.g. Koemonia, Findhorn, Twin Oaks), although they may have a primarily agricultural orientation (e.g. kibbutzim), possibly enforced by political structures (e.g. Russian kolkhoz, Chinese communes). Increasingly certain communities function within a world-wide network of centres between which members travel (e.g. Society of Emissaries, Rajneesh ashrams, Findhorn One Earth Network, Order Ecumenical, International Communes Network). In a different way the international community of people associated with the complex of international organizations in a place such as Geneva is also of interest, especially in the light of deliberate attempts to interlink those involved (e.g.freemasonry, meditation groups, ideological action groups, One Percent for Development Fund).
7. Archetypal dimension: This emphasis is significant because of the manner in which it renews creative reflection about what might be brought into being. Speculation on communities of the distant past (e.g. Pythagoras at Croton, the Essenes, Khwajagan, Ikwen al-safa, Din-e Ilahi) continue to inspire, possibly because of the lack of details. The same is true of the Eleusinian "mystery schools", the community surrounding the temple complex at Delphi, or the original "museum" in Alexandria. Some classical Greek academies are also of interest, particularly as a model for their Renaissance equivalents. Of special significance are the examples of "enlightened courts", whether primarily legendary (e.g. Arthur's Camelot) or reasonably well documented (e.g. Jacobean Heidelberg, Sagres of Henry the Navigator, Prague of Emperor Rudolf II, Fatehpur Sikri of Akbar the Great, Florence of Lorenzo the Magnificant, Samarkand of Ulus Beg). Also of relevance, because of the mystique surrounding their original success, are some religious orders with a strong secular orientation (e.g. the Knights Templar and their network of "commanderies"), the cathedral builders as well as some religious communities (e.g. Cathars). Such experiments of the past continue to nourish the imagination through fictional explorations of these possibilities (e.g. in Bacon's "New Atlantis", in Hesse's "Glass Bead Game", Foster's "Game Players of Zan" and the literature on utopias), or through participation in the rituals and mythology of some secret societies (e.g. Rosicrucians, Sufi orders, Golden Dawn, theosophy, freemasons) whatever their defects.
8. Harmonization with nature: The aesthetic aspect of this emphasis has been mentioned above with reference to temple and palace gardens, which in Renaissance times, for example, was interwoven with a magical notion of harmony. Of equal, if not greater, significance is the functional aspect, namely man's relationship to the ecosystem on which his survival depends. Efforts at organic farming, botanical gardens, conservation of species, nature reserves, and game parks represent some of the steps in this direction. Current experiments at designing complex mutually dependent cycles are a further step (e.g. New Alchemy Institute, Permaculture movement).
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