Archives for category: Science
Credit: reality-choice.org

Credit: reality-choice.org

The blog began with a consideration of Upanishadic metaphysics culminating in Shankeracharya’s Advait philosophy of Transcendental Monism, – then moved to the metaphysics of science with David Bohm’s theory of an Implicate Order and we now reach metaphysics in biology with Rupert Sheldrake’s theory about Morphogenetic Fields and Morphic Resonance. While the first two were concerned with the cosmos ( and beyond) the last has more to do with manifest Nature.

 Sheldrake is an eminent biologist who had studied at Cambridge and Harvard, travelled widely attending conferences on holistic thought, science and mysticism, where Bohm and Capra represented physics and Sheldrake was the most prominent biologist. Renee Weber (see previous post) in her book ‘The Search for Unity’ extensively interviewed Sheldrake ( among others). Below I have sought to present the substance of her seminal dialogues with Sheldrake on his hypothesis on Morphogenetic Fields.

Like Bohm was dissatisfied with the lack of interpretations of quantum mechanics by scientists for us, being confined to math. and equations, so too Sheldrake was dissatisfied with the mechanistic – reductionist view of biology among

Credit: wikipedia

Rupert Sheldrake
Credit: wikipedia

physiologists, biochemists and biophysicists who he felt were more physicists and chemists than biologists. This he called a major internal crisis in biology. A dissident tradition was on the other hand looking for something going beyond such a view – this group consisted of developmental biologists and embryologist, according to him the true biologists with whom he identified. They dissented from the mechanist view that the DNA and chemicals in human organisms were the sole cause of their form and properties. Everything was attributed to DNA in the mechanistic model. He felt that this was grossly over-rated. DNA was attributed unexplained powers and properties which could not be specified in molecular terms at all. This he describes as the fantasies projected onto the DNA.

Like Bohm sought to make sense of quantum mechanics by proposing an Implicate Order (previous post), Sheldrake postulated Morphogenetic Fields to explain what the DNA clearly was not doing. All that the DNA did was to provide a code enabling cells to make certain proteins. How then the cells used the proteins, organized themselves into particular forms and grouped together in tissues of certain forms and shaped them into an organism of forms was still a mystery. He gave an example to explain. DNA gave us the bricks and mortar with which the organism is built but how these are assembled into patterns, shapes and structures remained beyond known capabilities of DNA.

Sheldrake said that primary forms are defined by two fields, gravity and electromagnetism. Gravity is a kind of formation field but at a lower level, creating forms like spheres. Electromagnetic fields are also simple in contributing form but neither can explain the complexity or multiplicity of forms of organisms. He explains that as animals and plants develop, the complexity of their structures becomes greater and greater – more form coming from less, defying physical explanations.

His theory of Morphogenetic Fields proposes that there is a field which is responsible for development of form (the things which the DNA evidently does not do ). The form pre-exists in the field which guides the developing organism and controls its form and development. Each organism has a field dedicated to it. The fields are derived from past organisms of the same species through ‘Morphic Resonance’. Past forms influence present ones through the field by a kind of resonance and present forms feed-back into the field in a two-way kind of on going evolution of the same form.

He explains ‘Morphic Resonance’ with the analogy of radio and TV. Wires and transistors receive transmissions from stations. The DNA of a chicken are the wires and transistors which receive the transmissions from the Morphogenetic field of Chickens. the present approach to biology is like looking at a picture on the TV screen and examining the transistors, wires and chemicals in the TV set without accounting for the fact that the transmissions are not coming from the box. Indeed he holds that Morphic Resonance can be tested. An example is that of rats learning a new trick in one place and the rats of the same breed then learning that trick more quickly all over the world (in a later post I propose to show numerous examples of scientifically tested cases of so-called Morphic Resonance).

Weber then asked Sheldrake about the nature and characteristics of Morphogenetic fields. He explained that the fields are invisible, and like gravity has spatial patterns. The spatial patterns of a magnetic field can be seen in the iron filings on the magnet. Therefore the fields are invisible but detectable only through their effects. Morphogenetic Fields are also invisible and undetectable directly but only through the Morphogenetic effects. However they are not ‘energetic’ like magnetic fields because they are outside space and time.

Credit: shift.is

Credit: shift.is

Forms are not mere archetypes in the mind of God unlike what Augustine would have said. Sheldrake proposes that they are evolutionary not fixed. While they are affected by past forms of the same type of organism through a kind of cumulative effect, the field is also affected by existing forms – a kind of two-way process through a feed-back. This is similar to Bohm’s idea of the Implicate Order ‘unfolding’ and then ‘enfolding’.

He agrees that there is a kind of persistence of memory on a cosmic scale. He then approaches the God thought. He believes that Nature itself has a source beyond the natural world. Creativity within the universe and the universe itself can only be explained through a kind of idea of transcendence – some non-physical, trans-physical reality, spiritual in nature.

Once again I sat back to allow the mind-blowing concepts to settle in. Yet another scientist, a biologist this time had opened his mind to speak of science and metaphysics seeking this time to explain development of form, their multiplicity and evolution. When the circuits had stopped whirring and the alignments had been made, once again a new mind-set had evolved. Nature was indeed alive, intelligent with memory, intent and transcendental influences. No less important the fact that we are not merely products of nature but active participants in its evolution. As Bohm’s Implicate Order was affected and transformed every time we ‘enfolded’ back into it, so too Sheldrake’s Morphogenetic Fields evolved through our individual ‘contributions’.

Credit: 3news.co.nz

Credit: 3news.co.nz

”’ I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research” – Einstein

David Bohm is considered among the worlds leading and most influential theoretical physicists of our age. His work has been primarily concerned with the basics of quantum theory and relativity and their philosophical meaning. He is also among a handful of scientists whose interest also reaches beyond science into the area of metaphysics and the implications of the scientific discoveries for consciousness and the hidden dimensions of the universe.

While sceptics can easily discount views by sociologists like Redfield and intellectuals like Zukav, even physicists like Capra and Russel as over imaginative and obtuse indulging in far-fetched linkages which cannot withstand the highest standards of empirical research, when confronted by a physicist of Bohm’s eminence and standing, ideas emerging from his mind cannot be dismissed and have to be respectfully heard and given due consideration.

Dr. Renee Weber

Dr. Renee Weber

Dr. Renee Weber professor emeritus of philosophy at Rutgers university, N.J. in the eighties undertook an amazing dialogue with scientists and mystics and produced  an insightful book in pursuance of a search for unity of man, nature, consciousness and matter seeking the integration of science and mysticism. Below I have sought to summarize and present the gist of her probing  dialogues which seek to  bring out the views of the great scientist David Bohm.

As we know, Newton’s mechanistic model of the world exists only at our ‘macro’ level but doesn’t work as we go down to smaller and smaller units at the micro level. According to Bohm at that level the behaviour of matter becomes not mechanical but subtle, very like large masses of humans conform to predictable patterns of behaviour but individually they are ‘subtle’. When asked whether the electron behaved as if it was alive Bohm replied that it could be. It behaved in strange ways, being a wave and a particle at the same time, jumping from one state to another without passing in between. He remarked that if it were not ‘alive’  it was certainly a mystery. He felt that there was a hidden order at work beneath the seeming chaos and lack of continuity of individual particles. He remained highly dissatisfied by the current interpretations of Quantum Theory and the manner in which physicists approached the subject. There interest was confined to presenting findings through mathematics and equations without attempting any rational meaning or interpretation of the implications of the findings for us.

David BohmTo set this right he conceived of a framework, a matrix, a complexity within which the findings of Quantum Mechanics could make sense beyond the confines of the experiments and equations. He believed that the ‘findings’ could only carry ‘meaning’ if seen from such a perspective. He then explained that the level at which the Newtonian mechanistic model worked was a three dimensional one of space, time and objects, which he named ‘THE EXPLICATE ORDER’. This was both contained within and emerged from an all-encompassing field or matrix in a muti-dimensional reality which was not manifest and from which arose Time, Space, and forms but which was itself beyond them. This he called ‘THE IMPLICATE ORDER’.

All potential forms were contained  and latent within it and manifested and ‘unfolded’ from it into the Explicate Order from time to time, though only a small part of what was enfolded within it was unfolded and became real and visible. The Implicate Order was immensely bigger than the Explicate. Matter was a ripple in an ocean of energy which was not manifest because it was in a multi- dimensional matrix. ‘Folding’ and ‘Unfolding’ keeps taking place (this is what Quantum Mechanics appears to show) from energy to matter and back, first manifesting and later unmanifesting. In its stable form it is our visible world and universe, the enfolding and unfolding being arrested for a time in a state of balance, creating the stability of matter. Bohm calls matter as condensed or frozen light.

Credit:misteriosdoundo.com

Credit:misteriosdoundo.com

Beyond the Implicate Order he conceives of a Super-Implicate Order within which the former is contained and beyond that further orders beyond our conception, each containing the other. According to him such a state of orders alone would make some sense of the apparent chaos and lack of continuity of quantum Mechanics.

Bohm then applies the Implicate Order concept to nature, holding that our very consciousness is a form of subtle matter which derives from the ‘consciousness’ of nature. Our creativity and insight are a manifestation of the same phenomenon in nature. The amazing diversity  of forms are the manifestation of this creativity and insight. Nature in a sense may be said to be ‘alive’, intelligent, and both material and mental. When forms are created it is an evidence of creative intelligence. The multiplicity of form goes way beyond the need of survival. Without such a creativity, a complex form like that of the human brain could never have come about. Nature, Bohm avers has deep intentionality, creativity and purposefulness, which he implies, derives from the Implicate Order. He believes that matter and mind are inseparable, the separation being only an intellectual abstraction.

Bohm then moves to the concept of unity in diversity:   Your unique insight ( he says ) does not come from your pre-dispositions, it comes from the whole. The word individual itself means something that cannot be divided!  Ego-centredness is not ‘individuality. Ego-centredness centres on a self-image which is an illusion, a delusion!  True individuality is an ‘unfolding’  from the whole in a certain way, at a certain moment. True individuality is only possible by being grounded in the whole.

There are no events in the universe, nothing ‘happens’, everything ‘is’, the past, the present and the future are all contained within it. Deep down the consciousness of man is one.

After reading the dialogues so kindly made available by Dr. Renee Weber in her book ‘Dialogues with Scientists and Sages – The Search For Unity’ (1986) I was simply overwhelmed by all the ideas streaming in, forming a kind of critical mass. I just sat back with a kind of mental explosion. I sat quietly allowing confirmation of the many wisdoms imparted by my culture, by reaffirmation of my ideas that developed through me in my life of interaction with nature and a host of new thoughts. The circuits of my mind began the inevitable process of linking, modifying, reforming, till in that silent meditation there began to emerge a whole new mind-set configured from the old and the new, the spiritual and the scientific, a new mind-set that is now with me and is me.

I am sure that not many will have the same reaction. Each one with their own ‘individual’ backgrounds, environments, associations and developments are bound to react in their own ways. After all we are each an ‘individual’ apart, like the whirring electrons observing the energy uniquely, coming from the ‘whole’ which forms us and which, indeed contribute to forming and shaping it – as Bohm says – unfolding out of and enfolding into it.

Credit: goldenageofgaia.com

Credit: goldenageofgaia.com

I had mentioned in an earlier post that Peter Russel a Cambridge scholar, in his book ‘The Awakening Earth’  had postulated in the eighties that before long we would be moving from an Information Age to a Consciousness Age. Literature on the subject has been growing exponentially since then, including scientists, psychologists, sociologists, journalists, scholars and writers of fiction and Science Fiction. The fact that these books have become best sellers is an indication of the growing interest in the subject.

If  Gary Zukav presented a view of the New Age concept of the soul, James Redfield in his book ‘The Celestine Vision’ went further in making a complete survey of developments on the emergence of the Consciousness Age of spiritual awareness, predicted by Russell three decades ago. Redfield had earlier written two book in fiction on the subject. I managed to read them when they had already sold over a million copies. Redfield became not only another pioneer in the field but in my view a New Age Guru with his extensive insight and research.

james redfieldRedfield, a sociologist who spent many years as a therapist with emotionally disturbed youth, believes that human society is on its way to taking a quantum leap into a whole new way of life and that a critical mass is developing. He ascribes the runaway success of his books to an indication of this phenomenon.

With the discarding of the Newtonian view of the universe seen as a Secular Machine and the ushering in of the wonders and uncertainties of Quantum physics the universe is now perceived as  an  interconnected, responsive, intelligent and compassionate entity, rather than being a machine. It also appears to have intention and ‘wishes’ to encourage evolution. According to Redfield the interconnected universe moves intentionally through synchronicity or meaningful coincidences. Redfield’s vision revolves around this concept and also provides an  ‘effective practice’ to guide those interested. One coincidence leads to another; chance meetings,information arriving at the right moment, dreams. It appears as a force leading us towards our destiny. It needs to be taken seriously as a first step to spiritual awareness.

He also speaks of the power of the will and intention to influence events, the force of prayer, how intention can effect even the growth of a plant ( more seed  faster growth), effecting miraculous cures and dwells on the studies and experiments which seek to establish this. He says a person is an energy field that radiates outwards and influences the world. Being a psychologist he deals with a whole range of ‘control dramas’  which we enact to manipulate one another, which leads to a false and negative empowerment which we need to overcome. He speaks of transcendence in sports, dance, the arts, with amazing outcomes which sports persons and artists vouch. He underlines the importance of sacred sites which open the doors to enlightened states.

Each one of us plays an important role in the universal scheme as instruments of evolution. Redfield echoes the same ideas of New Age reincarnation that we find in Zukav – that we have chosen precisely our present incarnation and its circumstances to heal. The universe produces miracles to guide us through synchronicity, an idea which the great psychologist Jung first proponded.

Judgement at death is not by an unforgiving God but by ourselves through our soul – again the idea of the soul deciding its own fate and the process of its healing. We are here on an assignment which will help the evolution of the universe.

 These are new ideas, new concepts for a New Age, take it or leave it.

Vedic Sage: the scientist of yesteryear

Vedic Sage: the scientist of yesteryear

In the previous posts we dwelt on the idea that science and spiritualism were inseparable and complimentary and saw that in pre – history they were indistinguishable. Wonderment and curiosity about nature and the desire to harness it reflected a mystical urge combined with a pragmatic, scientific inclination being expressed together.

With the advent of civilization these urges took concrete form and shape in established religion. The magical practices evolved into religious rituals. Religion became the vehicle for fundamental enquiry into the world and our relationship with it. Sages, seers and the ecclesiastical order engaged in examination and surmise of  natural,  supernatural and astronomical phenomena. Likewise religion became the foundation for development of ethical concepts and codes of civilized behaviour. Spiritual inspiration engendered glorious movements in the fine arts, music, architecture, astronomy, mathematics, alchemy, medicine and scientific enquiry in support of  scriptural pronouncements. Religious institutions like Church, Temple or monastic orders became the repositories of knowledge of the unknown in every avenue of human advancement. Religion developed theories of creation, of the natural order and the cosmos. It also examined the cosmology of the spirit.

Every new advance was related to religion and brought to serve it. Religious thought was both mystical and pragmatic, metaphysical and physical, magical yet progressive, spiritual and scientific in inspiration. The best minds were at the service of religion. Sages and Yogis dwelling in the forests, the deserts and the mountains, meditated on the ultimate, much as scientists do today in their labs. They became the repositories of wisdom attracting disciples and students who gravitated towards them to learn the arts and crafts, jurisprudence, astrology. mathematics, medicine and Yoga  and share their findings on the mysteries of the manifest and unmanifest worlds.

Technology then was the ritual of prayer and propitiation and science was another term for religion. Chapter seven of the Gita for instance is titled ‘The Yoga of Knowledge and Science’ (Gyan – Vigyan Yoga) and explains the nature of the material world and its relationship to the spiritual world. In that dawn of history therefore the priest, hermit, sage, dervish and Brahmin was considered by common folk as a scientist is viewed today. They were the Newtons, Einsteins and Planks of  yesteryear and the ‘Church’ a laboratory where knowledge, discoveries and inventions were churned out by the finest minds of the epoch. Science and Spiritualism were synonymous.

statue of Patanjali - ancient author of Yoga treatises

statue of Patanjali – ancient author of Yoga treatises

Credit aquasoul.com

Credit aquasoul.com

The prism is the same, whether you look from the scientific angle and get a rainbow or a mystical angle looking at the facet of the cut, or if you combine both you will see a many faceted prism throwing out rainbows of light. It could be an empirical urge for proofs or an intuition which needs none, but if you join them together there might well be a eureka moment. Science and Spirit have always been two sides of the same coin.

In tribal societies and before the development of civilization the earliest indication of the presence of a scientific bias was evident in an over layer of wonderment accompanying the animal reaction of fear towards natural phenomena. The most powerful natural forces of thunder, lightening and earthquakes inspired awe and the conclusion that superior forces originated from a superior being capable of unleashing it. Even less fearful though equally striking phenomena like the season of spring, rainbows and auroras came to be associated with a creative benign force. Later, it was assumed that a relationship existed between man and such forces in as much as these could be propitiated through offerings or cajoled and bribed into the service of man. The technique of influencing or controlling the force was developed into a system which came to be called magic.

The conceptualizing of such forces was clearly an excercise in primitive spiritualism. The assumption that techniques and rituals could be developed to channelize and harness the forces was a product of the inherent scientific bent. We see that magic therefore was the earliest form of spiritual appreciation and recognition of a higher order of superior or supernatural forces. Magical practices simultaneously manifest the scientific urge to relate to the forces and to channelize them both for comprehension and gain.

Thus, at the earlier stages of human development, we see that there was no distinction between the faculty of wonderment at awe-inspiring phenomena and the creative and inventive faculty to appeal and propitiate, to harness and release these forces through ritual magic. The magic was both a prayer and a scientific discovery, the witch-doctor both a priest and a scientist, soothsayer and medic. At the inception of human civilization Science and Spirit were indistinguishable.

Credit finerminds.com

Credit finerminds.com

In my view Science and Spirit are one, though we have learnt to treat them as being antithetical. We have been taught that the two are incompatible, that the spiritually inclined individual cannot have a scientific temper and that the scientist is, by training, at variance with spiritual inclination. But scientific temper and spiritual inclination are a single facet of the human personality and genius. The most fundamental attribute of human nature, corresponding with the natural order, are a scientific temper in evidence in inherent qualities such as curiosity, exploration and examination and a spiritual or mystical urge manifest in nobility of thought and action, humanitarianism, sacrifice, compassion and other non-egotistical actions. The human mind engages in finite logic and infinite imagination. We could well ask whether these are attributes of an ingrained materialism related to organic need or an inherent spiritualism related to an evolution to a higher order. Are these manifestations then of a scientific bent for material enquiry, or a spiritual quest?

I believe we have through a historical mistake clubbed materialism and attendant egocentricity with scientific temper and dismissed spiritualism and mysticism as outdated relics of religion to be put away in a closet. But I am reminded again and again of the metaphor that the creator is a master scientist. how else could he have created this wondrous precise world where physical, chemical, mathematical and dimensional codes hold their sway from the micro to the macro levels? The scientific temper and spiritual urge within us are in my view not at all antithetical but complementary. they are part of a single force or dynamics within us and the sooner we understand this the better for our evolution. Science should not be subjected to an exaggerated secular quarantine but be permitted to enquire freely into spiritual and paranormal phenomena without the stigma attaching of absurdity or of the guilt of engaging in an obscure and obtuse excercise.

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