Saturday, December 13, 2008
How can science provide us with pathways to the spirit when we are living in the modern age of the brain? Today, the majority of scientific materialists, which include most psychologists, neurologists and psychiatrists, believe that anything we call mental or spiritual is merely a by-product of biochemical processes taking place in the brain. For them, the spirit or soul is merely an illusion - it simply doesn't exist. For other scientists however, consciousness and the spiritual self are not regarded as illusory epiphenomenona but rather something that transcends the physical brain altogether.
So if the soul or spiritual self is something other than a by-product of brain activity, then what is it? Spirit is generally described as an indwelling animating force present within all living things, associated with mind, will and feeling and responsible for one's sense of personal identity as a spiritual being and immortal soul. Within the context of Christian theology it is part of the trinity, called the holy ghost, while parapsychologist usually regard it as an indwelling nonlocal consciousness which is nonphysical in nature and therefore capable of mentally transcending many normal limitations of physical space and time, as well as surviving the demise of the physical body. In this article we will examine two different scientific pathways to the spirit provided by prominent research biologists and quantum physicists who have rediscovered an ancient truth - that the indwelling spirit is present in the physical world actively participating in its enfoldment. The Biology of the Spirit
Gregory Mendel (1822-1884), an Augustian monk who lived in Brunn Austria, discovered the fundamental biological laws governing heredity by breeding pea plants in his monastery garden. He crossed varieties and species of plants, carefully observing the physical characteristics of the hybrids that he produced. His conclusions, based on his discovery that physical traits are genetically inherited, were published in 1865 in an obscure scientific journal, which to his surprise attracted practically no attention. It wasn't until 1900 that Mendel's discovery resurfaced again, when Hugo DeVries, Erich Von Tsohermark and Carl Correns, working independently, duplicated Mendel's experiments and corroborated his findings.
Today, based on Mendel's materialist genetic theory, all living things are merely regarded as biochemical machines entirely programmed by their genes. Living organisms are regarded as nothing more than complicated collections of organic particles, blindly pushed and pulled by its neighbors. Richard Dawkins describes living things, including ourselves, as nothing more than automatons or 'gene machines'. Thus one's biological fate is sealed as it entirely predetermined, unalterably recorded in their genes.
The independent existence of mind and spirit are no longer recognized as they are considered to be merely epiphenomenona created by biochemical processes taking place within the physical body. Now, geneticists have gone even further, claiming that it is not only physical characteristics that are inherited but all psychological traits including abnormal behavioral as well. Whether it be an inherited disposition to acquiring a particular disease, a health problem, or a tendency to abnormal behavior such as lying, stealing or homosexuality, one can always opt out of any personal responsibility for their condition or behavior by claiming that it is not their fault - that they get it from their genes!
One of the problems with conventional genetics is the kind of language generally used to describe biochemical processes. If genetic material is composed of inert molecules of protein and amino acids, how can they possibly contain a 'memory' of coded genetic information? We cannot legitimately describe biochemical processes by appealing to subjective terms as if matter had mental qualities - a concept which biologists have already rejected.
If the brain is a blob of matter and consciousness is merely an epiphenomenona created by its activity, then how can we claim that the right side of the brain 'appreciates music', or imply that inert chemical molecules are aware of their environment and can intelligently respond to it. We can't attribute to physical matter subjective characteristics that belong to mind unless it really does posses those characteristics. And this is the crux of the problem; what if matter really does have mental characteristics that most biologists are unwilling to recognize?
According to molecular biologists the primary necessity of living things is to reproduce themselves through genetic duplication and DNA is perceived as being the physical blueprints required for the reproduction of the species - but who is there to read those blueprint? If these genetic blueprints are merely comprised of different forms of inert, unintelligible molecules, then how do we explain how a plant is able to successfully develop without the presence of some form of intelligence to inform and guide the complex biological processes involved in its development? The belief that blind biochemical processes can accomplish this miracle is entirely unwarranted.
The Psychogenetic Revolution
I recently obtained a copy of Dr. Bruce Lipton's book: The Biology of Belief, which has finally substantiated my long-held belief that there is something drastically wrong with the current scientific theory of genetics. As a result of his extensive research in cell research, he has literally turned the scientific world up-side-down with his revolutionary approach to a new biological theory he calls epigenetics.
Dr. Lipton is certainly well qualified to lead such an important revolution. He began his career as a cell biologist, receiving his PhD. Degree from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville before joining the Department of Anatomy at the University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine in 1973. Between 1987 and 1992, while conducting basic research at Stanford University's School of Medicine, he achieve an important breakthrough in the study of cellular behavior which seriously challenges the validity of the conventional genetic theory that is so widely accepted by biologists today.
In our search for pathways to the spirit, Dr Lipton has discovered a very important one that will help us understand how the mind and spirit participate in the enfoldment of all living things. In what remains of this section on the Biology of the Spirit I would like to summarize Dr. Lipton's findings and would encourage you to visit his website at www.brucelipton.com.
Some of the insights that Dr. Lipton's research reveals includes the following:
1.The body is not a mechanical device but depends on the participation of mind and spirit. Although every cell is a free-living entity capable of surviving on its own, the body's collective cellular community works together responding to the intentions and wishes of the controlling voice - the mind and spirit. These messages that we mentally send to our cells, including our particular unconscious beliefs and the way we perceive the world around us, directly influences our genetic programming and physically affecting our well-being. For example, habitual negative thinking or prolonged chronic stress are so debilitating that they are able to over-ride healthy genetic programming resulting in many forms of organic dysfunction and disease.
2. Conventional thinking among most biologists continue to entertain the concept of 'genetic determinism' which is the theory that the nucleus of the cell containing genetic material is the commanding center or all cellular activity and is in complete charge of the development of a living organism. But Lipton has demonstrated that once the genetic material in the cell's nucleus is removed it continues to survive for several months. In the absence of any genetic material the cell is still able to maintain its metabolism, digest food, excrete waist, breathe and respond to its immediate environment. As Dr. Lipton has concluded: the fact that a cell maintains a successful and integrated life in the absence of genes reveals that they are not the 'brain' or controlling center of the cell. In actuality, genes cannot be the controlling center of cellular activity as they have no way of chemically turning themselves on or off. What then does turn genetic activity on and off, thus controlling all cellular activity?
3. Dr. Lipton made the revolutionary discovery that it is the membrane surrounding the cell, which provides a perceptual interface with its environment, that is actually the controlling center of cellular activity. This outer membrane of the cell has previously been regarded as being a passive, semi-permeable barrier, whose primary function was to contain the cytoplasm. But it has been discovered that this outer cellular membrane has receptors and effectors capable of monitoring and responding to signals in its surrounding environment. In other words, it has the perceptual capability of being consciously aware of changing conditions in its environment, with the capacity of responding accordingly. But an even more revolutionary discovery is that we are not helpless victims of our genetic inheritance. Because we are continually interactively communicating with these outer membranes surrounding the millions of cells that comprise our physical body, we can alter our genetic programming by changing our beliefs, intentions, and the particular way we perceive reality.
Such a discovery immediately frees us from the dominating fear that is normally associated with the materialistic doctrine of genetic determinism, providing us with an awareness of how we can intentionally begin to participate both mentally and emotionally in influencing our biological well-being. In addition, Lipton's theory of epigenetics ushers in a new age of enlightenment - a biology of the spirit that provides us with an important path that each of us can follow in discovering our spiritual nature that is intimately interwoven within the very cellular structure of our biological world.
Quantum Physics and the Sacred
Does Quantum physics also provide us with a pathway to the spirit? Dr. Lawrence W. Fagg, a retired research professor in nuclear physics originally associated with The Catholic University of America believes so; a conclusion resulting from his thirty-five years of pioneering research exploring the quantum frontier between spirit and matter. His revolutionary findings were published in a book entitled: Electromagnetism and the Sacred, in 1999.
Dr. Fagg's general thesis is that the material world is electromagnetic in nature and that its interactions, which underlie the very fabric of our experiential world, from rocks and planets to minds and living organisms, all depend on the activity of virtual photons which are the 'messenger particles' for the electromagnetic force responsible for the formation of the physical world.
Every form of electromagnetic radiation is composed of photons, both real and virtual. Real photons, which are observable and can be measured, are responsible for illuminating the world around us. They are produced in various ways, for example, when charged particles are accelerated or when electrons collide. Virtual photons on the other hand, are not observable or measurable, yet they play a vital role in constraining electrons to specific orbital paths surrounding the nucleus of an atom thereby providing a stabilizing force required for structuring and sustaining the existence of the many different kinds of molecules that comprise our physical world. Without the active participation of virtual photons there would be no electromagnetic interactions and consequently no physical world at all.
As all electromagnetic phenomenon are essentially different forms of light, Dr. Fagg believed that the creative role of light in manifesting physical reality reflects the wisdom of sacred scripture and religious beliefs which have persistently claimed down through the centuries - that God is light. He wondered if there really was a meaningful connection between electromagnetism and God's immanence within the nature of things. But if that were the case, then we should expect to find an all-pervasive intelligence actively present within quantum phenomena itself, and that is exactly what we do find!
The concept of nonlocality, or 'action-at-a-distance' was first proposed in 1935 by Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, which has since become know as the EPR paradox. This was originally a 'thought experiment' which involved sending twin particles off in separate directions, each with its own spin. If one was spinning to the left the other would have to spin to the right. Now, assuming that these spinning particles were separated by a vast distance, what would happen if an experimenter suddenly changed the spin of one of the particles? Would the other particle become aware of this change and alter its own spin in the opposite direction?
Alain Aspect, a French physicist, was able to successfully perform the EPR experiment in 1982 and found that twin quantum particles did in fact communicate with each other at a speed greater than the velocity of light, compensating for any abrupt change in polarization or direction of spin. The question now is, how do we propose to explain this exchange of information?
First of all, orthodox quantum mechanics in its original form was not capable of explaining this type of mental phenomena. Since the inception of quantum mechanics by Heisenberg and Bohr, consciousness had been completely excluded from the physical universe. Bohm, an American physicist, later introduced his theory of the 'quantum potential' which postulated fields of active information in terms of 'pilot waves' and 'back action', which provided a workable model for understanding the relationship existing between quantum energy and the distant communication between particles in the EPR experiment.
For David Bohm, a particle rather than just being causally influenced by mechanical forces, is always accompanied by a pilot wave which informs and guides it. The idea of 'active information' is that the pilot wave, which has very little energy itself, uses the information it has to directly influence or control the much greater energy possessed by the particle. According to his concept of 'back action' quantum information is also constantly fed back from the particle to the pilot wave, which then revises the information it has accordingly. Like a pilot controlling the incredible power of a jumbo-jet, information is conveyed from the plane’s instruments according to a mental choreography in which the plane and the pilot interact, giving it the semblance of a living object that is sensitive and responsive to changing conditions in its environment. It is this same kind of scenario that is taking place on the quantum level.According to Bohm, in order to understand this interaction taking place between an informed particle, its pilot wave and the objective environment, including the presence of an observer, all these elements must be viewed in their undivided wholeness. The humble particle, like other living things, is not entirely subject to chaotic mechanical forces but rather through the presence of consciousness provided by the quantum pilot wave which accompanies it, it is able to participate to a degree in its own self determination. For further information on Bohm's contributing to the development of quantum theory, there are two books that are well worth reading: Wholeness and the Implicate Order by David Bohm, and Infinite Potential: the life and times of David Bohm by F. David Peat.As physical reality is comprised of quantum electromagnetic energy, we need to finally recognize the fact that ordinary matter exhibits a nonlocal, rudimentary level of consciousness that is able to transcend the physical limitations of time and space such as the ultimate speed of light, which is approximately 186,000 miles a second. Through time, these pilot waves or quantum fields of awareness associated with matter have slowly evolved to progressively higher functional biological levels of consciousness and at each level there is a proportionately higher degree of complexity and response, such as we find in living organisms. As quantum electromagnetic energy manifesting as our experiential world is simply different manifestations of light, we are in a position to appreciate Dr Fagg's revolutionary insight into the relationship that he has found to exists between electromagnetism and the sacred. Both Lawrence Fagg and David Bohm have provided invaluable insights regarding the nature of an important pathway to the spirit which is actively present at the very deepest levels of the quantum world.