A. Limitations of the Common Scientific Paradigm
Earlier, we mentioned the Grand Material Metaparadigm as identified by Schwartz. As another summary, quantum physicist Amit Goswami lists five characteristics of the “dogma” of conventional science for the last 350 years:
• Causal determinism: the universe is a grand machine with everything happening in accordance with Newton’s laws and the initial conditions (position and velocity).
• Continuity: all change is continuous, with no abrupt transitions.
• Locality: all causes progress in space in a finite amount of time. This gave Newton a problem, since he never found a local cause for gravity, and he famously stated, “I frame no hypothesis.” Einstein discovered that material objects have a speed limit, which is the speed of light. Thus causes could not produce effects in less time than light would take to travel between the objects involved.
• Strong Objectivity: the world is independent of observers; i.e., us.
• Material monism and reductionism: everything is made of matter and its force fields, and every phenomenon can be reduced to a material origin.
• Epiphenomenalism: Consciousness and all subjective phenomena are secondary effects (epiphenomena) of matter, and have no causal efficacy. All causation is upward causation in that subatomic particles constitute atoms; atoms constitute molecules; molecules constitute living cells; cells called neurons constitute the brain, in which consciousness arises. [Paraphrased from Goswami, Amit; The Visionary Window; Quest Books; Wheaton, Ill., 2000, pp 27-29]
Historically, there has been no problem with this list of characteristics defining the study of science; the problem is that it has – at least in the last two centuries – been taken to define reality. But none of these ideas can be proven, so they are taken on faith. Let us examine each doctrine.
The early years of the development of quantum theory were marked by intense metaphysical disagreements among the great physicists of the time. Heisenberg posited his famous uncertainty principle that literally states that there is an ultimate limit to the precision with which the position and momentum of an electron can be simultaneously measured. If we precisely locate the position, we know nothing about the momentum, and vice-versa. Initially, this fact was thought to result from the way in which the measurements were made: by shining light upon the electron, we perturb its motion. However, a great debate ensued, the result of which was that Neils Bohr’s Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics prevailed. According to this interpretation, not only are the precise position and momentum of an electron in principle unknowable, they cannot be said to have a cause in the normal sense of the word. Quantum mechanics is not about causes and effects, but rather about statistical probabilities. Quantum-mechanical equations yield an expression for a wave, not a particle, and Max Born brought attention to the fact that the square of this wave function yields a probability. Thus quantum mechanics can tell us where an electron (or other particle) is most likely to be, but not where it actually is. In fact, the strict Copenhagen Interpretation indicates that the particle is actually not really located anywhere until it is observed, at which time the probability wave “collapses” into a specific position in accordance with the observation This fact about subatomic particles is also true about larger objects, except that the probability function of – say – a table is not spread out very far in space compared to the physical dimensions of the table, so the uncertainty in its position is negligible for all practical purposes. Thus according to the most common interpretation of quantum mechanics, the initial conditions of particles cannot be known; hence, determinism is not a viable postulate.
One of the great problems in physics in the early 20th century was that atoms could be stable. It was known that moving charges radiate energy, so electrons orbiting in atoms must radiate – and thereby lose – energy. One would then expect the electrons to “spin down” to zero distance from the nucleus of each atom because they ran out of energy. Neils Bohr not only proposed the radical idea that electrons only lose or gain energy when they change orbits, but they lose or gain energy in discrete amounts, or “quanta.” He was able to support this idea by calculating the spectrum of light radiated or absorbed by hydrogen atoms: specific frequencies of light radiation that had been measured by optical spectrum analyzers. His calculations agreed so well with he measurements that his theory was considered proven. The later history of quantum mechanics records the acceptance of additional radical ideas. The electron does not change orbits by moving through the physical space between orbits, but by disappearing from one orbit and appearing in another simultaneously – a phenomenon somewhat misleadingly called “tunneling.” Quantized emission and absorption of energy and tunneling are distinctly non-continuous processes, so continuity is also not a viable physical postulate.
Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen attempted to prove that quantum mechanics is absurd by showing that two particles created from the separation of a single particle, and thus sharing the same wave function (quantum entanglement), would remain related in certain ways even if subsequently separated by an arbitrarily large distance. For example, one of the characteristics of a subatomic particle is called spin. If the spin of one of two quantum-entangled particles is reversed, the other will simultaneously reverse, even if it is located on the other side of the universe. The EPR argument was that such “ghostly action at a distance is impossible, since it would require some sort of superluminal (faster that light) communication. In fact, French Physicist Alain Aspect showed experimentally in the early 1980's that quantum-entangled particles do indeed behave as Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen predicted, although it is believed that this phenomenon cannot be used as a means of superluminal communication, since the changes undergone by such particles are fundamentally non-causal or random in nature. Thus the EPR theory unwittingly predicted, and the Aspect experiment proved, that nonlocal events do occur.
As mentioned earlier, the most commonly accepted interpretation of quantum mechanics states that the position of a particle cannot even be defined until the particle is observed; all that we have before observation is probabilities concerning the location. A related characteristic of electrons and other subatomic particles is their nature: like waves, or like particles? For many years, electrons were considered without question to be particles, just as light was considered without question to be waves. Thomas Young’s demonstration of the wave phenomena of interference and diffraction of light in 1800 as considered to have finally proven the wave nature of light. Einstein’s work on the photoelectric effect – for which he first became famous – indicated that light could also behave as particles, which we now call photons. Louis DeBroglie suggested that electrons have a wave nature, and subsequent experiments demonstrated interference and diffraction of electrons. Then things became even more interesting, for it was demonstrated experimentally that if we observe an electron (indirectly, since there is no way to see an electron) with a particle-sensing instrument, we will find that the electron has a specific location and that interference and diffraction do not occur. But if we observe it with a wave-sensing apparatus, the electron’s “location” will be spread out in space and interference and diffraction will be found. Thus we find that the wave-like or particle-like nature of electrons, photons, etc., all depend upon the observer. Much discussion has occurred as to the meaning of observer: who or what qualifies as an observer able to “collapse” a probability into an actual position? In 1955, mathematician John von Neumann stated that the observer must possess consciousness. If this is so, strong objectivity cannot be defended.
If we admit that consciousness causes the collapse of probability waves into actuality, we must question whether consciousness has a material origin, since all matter ultimately begins as probability waves. Thus epiphenomenalism falls: the reasoning is circular. If consciousness exists, and if it is nonmaterial, then materialism – everything is made of matter – cannot be true.
What is the scientific understanding of matter? First, the scientific understanding involves matter only as a subset of matter/energy, as shown by Einstein’s famous equivalency relation E=mc2 . The particles of which matter is made, presently considered to be quarks (which, according to string theory, are themselves configurations of vibrating one-dimensional lines), pop into and out of existence from the “virtual sea” of energy. At a larger level of size, matter is made of atoms which are primarily empty space, and are themselves not fundamentally separable into particles having definite positions or natures without the intervention of consciousness. In order to avoid yielding to feelings of insanity, we are forced to recognize that all we know of matter consists of models which we now know to be at best abstractions of whatever reality might be. David Hume must be chortling in his grave!
The current paradigm of science does not consider the possibility of spirit. But virtually all religions teach that there is a superior reality consisting of spirit or consciousness. These two terms are often used interchangeably, but in fact there are many definitions of each. Those who believe in the reality of spirit understand it as being the animating principle in all life. The Far-Eastern religions prefer to speak of consciousness rather than spirit, and consciousness is believed to be the ground or basis of everything. Spirit is considered to possess consciousness, or consciousness is believed to be an aspect of spirit, but the two are not quite the same.
A level of reality also not formally examined under the current scientific paradigm is mind as a distinct thing or function. Mind is also variously defined. Some philosophers think of mind as the portion of a being in which will originates. Others speak of it as an organizing principle. Twentieth-century mystic Edgar Cayce described spirit, mind, and body as a trinity or tri-unity in which “the spirit is the life, mind is the builder, and the physical is the result.” These conceptions of mind accord somewhat with the Logos as discussed by Philo of Alexandria, except that in Philo’s thought, Logos is an aspect only of God, not of humans.
In his book Eye to Eye, Integral theorist Ken Wilber identifies six levels of consciousness:
1. Physical: nonliving matter/energy
2. Biological: living, sentient matter/energy
3. Psychological: mind, ego, logic, thinking
4. Subtle: archetypal, transindividual, intuitive
5. Causal: formless radiance, perfect transcendence
6. Ultimate: consciousness as such, the source and nature of all other levels.
Quantum physicist Amit Goswami prefers to think in terms of Hinduism’s “five bodies of consciousness” [Physics of the Soul, Goswami]:
1. Physical: the human physical structure
2. Vital: the individual habit patterns of feeling
3. Mental: the individual habit patterns of thought
4. Supramental: cosmic consciousness
5. Bliss: ground of being
Goswami’s supramental body seems to subsume Wilber’s subtle and causal bodies; this level of consciousness contains the contexts in which we think (such as three-dimensionality) plus other contexts in which we do not habitually think, plus the archetypes in the Platonic sense: fundamental essences such as Love in the abstract, etc.
Solid-state physicist William Tiller’s model [Science and Human Transformation; Tiller] also has five levels:
1. Physical: the human physical structure
2. Etheric: a “body” that interpenetrates and interacts with the physical, but whose interaction with inanimate objects is non-obvious
3. Emotional: the “feeling” body
4. Mental: seems to include Goswami’s Mental and Supramental levels.
5. Spiritual: the fundamental level of “beingness”
According to Dyani Ywahoo [Voices of our Ancestors, Ywahoo], the Native American tradition speaks of three functions of mind:
1. The will to be.
2. Compassion and the resulting compassionate action.
3. Actualization: the “builder” aspect of mind.
Traditional Christianity speaks of body, soul, and spirit. The ancient Hebrew thought from which many Christian ideas flow was not essentially analytical in the sense in which the other systems that we have mentioned are. Nephesh, the Hebrew word translated as “soul” in the Old Testament, probably translates more closely into modern English as “entity”, meaning the whole of body, mind, and spirit. Subsequent influences from Zoroastrian (Persian) and Greek thought have modified this idea to speak of:
1. Body, including the physical urges and desires (flesh in St. Paul’s writings).
2. Soul, composed of mind – the thinking faculty, emotions, and will.
3. Spirit, which vivifies the body and soul and is the portion “created in the image of God”.
Christian mystics would add that the human spirit can become “one with” the Holy Spirit, one of the ways in which we perceive God, in the sense of holding unity of motivation and intention: unconditional love toward God and all His creatures. Thus God is One Spirit, and humans can grow to become part of that oneness.
All of these systems perceive spirit, mind, and the physical as distinct from each other. This can imply a hierarchy of reality, in which spirit is at the top and the physical is at the bottom. Ken Wilber says this is more accurately conceived as a holarchy: all levels are included in the Ultimate, whether you call it spirit, consciousness, or anything else. Under the Ultimate, there are other wholes (holons, in Wilber’s terminology), each of which contains separate wholes underneath them. As we move from macrocosm to microcosm, each holon includes everything that is “more micro”.
Modern psychology has identified four fundamental states of consciousness:
1. The “conscious” mind.
2. The “subconscious mind.
3. The superconscious mind.
4. The state of deep dreamless sleep.
These terms somewhat confuse the concept of consciousness, because what varies among them is not truly consciousness, but awareness. (After all, all four are called “states of consciousness”). Awareness can be described as the ability to communicate perceptions through the apparatus of the body, at the time when the perceptions are experienced. Maximum awareness of the physical world exists in the “conscious” state; less awareness of the physical world is experienced in the “subconscious” state; awareness of a different reality (real, at least, to the perceiver) is present in the superconscious state of deep meditation; and no awareness of the physical state is present in deep dreamless sleep, although consciousness is still present, as indicated by the documented ability of people in coma to recall conversations held in proximity to them. Edgar Cayce identified the subconscious as the level of awareness that is present in dreams: it is associated with the autonomic nervous system and has access to memories and feelings that are not accessible to the “conscious” mind. The “conscious” mind is associated with the cerebrospinal nervous system, and is more closely tied to inputs from the sense organs of the body. He described the superconscious as bearing the same relation to the subconscious mind as does the subconscious to the conscious mind. The conscious, subconscious, and superconscious minds in a three-dimensional reference frame then correspond to the body, mind, and spirit. It is through the subconscious that emotions affect consciousness. Viewed another way, the conscious mind is the most individualized; subconscious is more easily in contact with the subconsciousnesses of other sentient beings; and the superconscious is able to experience the unity of the Creative Forces, or God. This conception is in keeping with the descriptions of many Christian mystics. Thus, as suggested by Herbert B. Puryear [Meditation and the Mind of Man; Puryear], our experience of individuality can be represented by a field of inverted cones (point downward). Our conscious minds are represented by the points, which are separated from one another. Moving up the cones, we find that the separation decreases, and at the subconscious level we can experience telepathy and other “psychic” phenomena. At the top, all the cones merge into an infinity of consciousness that is shared among all sentient beings and is a part of God. This is the superconscious level.
These concepts are described variously in different religious traditions, and at the “street level” of the common adherent of most religions, they are seldom considered at all. Probably this fact accounts for the great differences among the beliefs of adherents at this level: in communicating their experienced reality, the founders and great leaders of all religions communicated some aspects of their experienced reality in different ways, and with different simplifications and emphases, to those having less deep experience of the superconsciousness. Thus different believers of equal devoutness, having different cognitive experiences, and quite likely, different subconscious experiences; and sharing no recall of direct superconscious experience of the trans-physical life, can hold equally strong convictions of quite contradictory ideas. This condition has led to most, if not all, of the enmity among those of different religious faiths, and also to much of the misunderstanding between science and religion.
In order to provide a basis for clear discussion, we must therefore adopt a consistent terminology. In particular, let us use the following words with the meanings given below (after Tiller):
1. Physical: the human physical structure, including the sense organs and brain.
2. Etheric: a “body” that interpenetrates and interacts with the physical, but whose interaction with inanimate objects is non-obvious. The reality of the etheric body is denied by the present paradigm of science, although it was explicitly accepted and studied by scientists and philosophers of the past, including William James, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Todd Lincoln, Emerson, and Thoreau; as well as contemporary nuclear physicist Amit Goswami and Solid State physicist William Tiller. The etheric body is thought to communicate with the physical body through subtle means affecting the subconscious mind.
3. Emotional: the “feeling” body. This body provides the “kick in the pants” to precipitate decisions supposedly in the conscious mind – the difference between thinking rationally that a certain decision is right, and actually making the decision with a sense of conviction. The emotional body communicates with the physical body through neuropeptides released throughout the body, especially by the endocrine glands. In much conventional usage, the emotional body is called the “ heart”, with the recognition that it is not the physical organ that is being discussed. (However, the extensive research conducted by the Institute of Heartmath clearly shows a connection between the experience of emotions and the physical functioning of the heart organ.)
4. Mental: seems to include Goswami’s Mental and Supramental levels. Includes both rational thought and the three functions of will (will to be, compassion, and actualizing will), as well as “revelation” or “spiritual callings” from the cosmic level. This level is mediated through the brain, although its functioning neither begins in nor is confined to the brain, since it includes the function of assigning and evaluating meaning, which John von Neumann has proven cannot be accomplished by a computer, whether mechanical, electronic, or biological. When we speak of mind, it should be taken to mean the mental body.
5. Spiritual: the fundamental level of “beingness.”
Using Wilber’s Holarchy concept, each of these five levels or “bodies” can be considered as a holon, containing all lower-numbered bodies within themselves. Thus we define, not an anatomy of the spirit, but something more like our microscopic view of matter: matter is made of molecules, which are made of atoms, which are made of neutrons, protons, and electrons, which are made of quarks, which are perhaps made of strings. In order to fully appreciate the power of this analogy, we must recognize that strings (if they exist at all) are not just tiny bits of matter, corresponding to grains of sand in a chunk of sandstone. They do not even have length, width, and depth, but are one-dimensional mathematical constructs. Thus they are not physical at all in the ordinary sense, but mathematical. So for the world of strings, mathematics is the ground of being, and it manifests as holons made up of strings, etc., and so on up the scale of holarchy. In spiritual reality, the ground of being is spirit, and it manifests as the cosmos, including all matter and life. Mathematics is a structure perceived by mind, and spirit is a “structure” perceived by Consciousness. (Here, Consciousness is considered to be unitive and all-pervasive. Goswami, Willis Harmon, and many others have argued eloquently for the idea of a unitive consciousness as the ground of being. Spirit seems to be a way in which we can think of Consciousness.) At the individual level, the spirit of a person acts upon, and is acted upon by, the mental body, which acts upon, and is acted upon by, the emotional, etheric, and physical bodies. And so on through the holarchy, or “great nest of being”.
Seen in this way, the Hebrew concept of the nephesh makes sense, as an individual person is a unique composite of holons. The Greek idea of mind is perhaps best understood as the characteristics of the mental holon as distinct from those of the other holons that are included within the mental body.
Goswami considers the soul to consist of memories. Those thinkers whom William James calls “medical materialists” have long held that the brain is the locus of memory. The work of Dr. Ida P. Rolf and others has demonstrated that memory at the physical level is potentially located in all structures of the body. Christians add the non-physical memory in “God’s book of remembrance”, which Hindus and Buddhists call “the akasha”. These latter areas of memory help to explain ideas such as Jung’s “collective unconscious”.
However we think of memory, is seems to be an element accessed within the mental holon. The "soul" of Christian thought would then consist of holons 2-4 (etheric, emotional, and mental). Note that in this definition, soul is distinguished from spirit, as seems to be the case in much of Hebrew and Christian Scripture, though perhaps not in common usage.
Logically (and perhaps chronologically), the holarchy is described by Buddhists, Hindus, and Native American religions as follows. First there was the One (“In the beginning was God.”) Then God considered Gods’s-self and the One became Two: the observer and the observed. The Two exhibited the aspects of polarity: male/female, light/dark, positive/negative, good/evil. (note that these are separate aspects, not parallel polarities such that male would be equated with light, positive, and good. There are many aspects of polarity.) Thus the two became Three, and as the Native Americans say, we live in the world of three. But the three are just different views of the One. Through intermingling of different polarity aspects in different proportions, the Three became many. Anything other than oneness is a model required so that we can perceive the cosmos. Hindus and Buddhists call this model maya, or illusion. According to this understanding, it is no accident that our world has three spatial dimensions, that we consider ourselves in the triune fashion of body, soul, and spirit, and that many religions teach a triune aspect of God (although the Christian Trinity is probably the best-known).