from DarkStar1 Website
Having developed a conceptual frame of the universe as one great machine governed by exact mechanical laws, Newton’s calculus enabled scientists for the first time to calculate the exact speed of accelerating bodies at a given time. (1)
For Newton, the world consisted of atoms
and fields, the primary building blocks of the universe, a universe
of solid matter of independent parts, independent too of observers,
waiting to be explored empirically and through measurement.
Leibniz was critical of Newton’s concept of an absolute time and space, and in many ways could be seen as developing an early theory of general relativity, although his theory never reached the point of being proven.
The Monads in
relationship to Matter
The unreconciled philosophies of Leibniz and Newton can be modeled in Figure 1, showing Leibniz’s philosophy where wholeness and the relationships between the parts is primary, and Newton’s philosophy where the parts, or matter is primary.
McKenna for example, saw the monads as a
precursor to modern theories of a holographic universe. (4)
But at the same time, perhaps in reaction to the soulessness of the science, the romantic movement in culture blossomed with the leading lights of Schiller and Goethe. Goethe though famous for his poetry and literature, saw his scientific endeavors as his greatest achievement, culminating in his works on optics which he saw as his most important work. (5)
At the age of sixteen Goethe went to university in Leipzig to study law, which bored him. Goethe read philosophy, but wrote that the scholasticized versions of Leibniz and Wolff “simply refused to become clear to me.” (6)
Early on Goethe had been much more
influenced by the monotheistic philosophy of Spinoza.
So we can now see how, in Figure 2, Goethe was able, through a complementary scientific protocol, further develop the holistic aspect of scientific methodology.
Goethe’s Wholeness in
Goethe was not satisfied with traditional science as he could not see how it enabled a true encounter with wholeness.
Whatever static concepts were given to capturing life were not true, because life is something in motion. That understanding came through experiencing the whole as a motion of the wholeness behind the static. Once that wholeness had been encountered, then it was possible to ask the question “how can we now make use of this?”
The following quotes by Goethe capture some of this thinking: (8)
While introducing many perplexing issues when attempting to explain the fundamental building blocks of the universe, some scientists were perceiving some form of wholeness within the ambiguities and contradictions of the various quantum theories. (9)
Moreover, there was no single interpretation of quantum physics, and this was the subject of much debate.
Science had progressed in its ability to probe deep into the nature of particles, as shown in Figure 3, but many questions remained unanswered.
In his book ‘Cosmos,’ Smolin provides a useful overview of the entirety of Leibniz’s work, including his criticisms of Newton’s absolute and fixed concepts of space and time, compared with Leibniz’s own concepts of space and time arising from the relations between entities, a precursor to Einstein’s general theory of relativity. (11)
However, what is noticeable in its absence from Smolin’s attempt to unite quantum theory and relativity through a ‘many observers’ (pluralistic) explanation, is a serious attempt to account for consciousness.
The Paradigm Shift into Quantum Mechanics
Rather than refusing to speculate beyond that which was observed in experiments, Bohm began to develop his theory of the implicate order in the 1960s. He started by turning Newtonian mechanics on its head.
Rather than begin with the assumption of an objective cosmos consisting of elementary particles, he saw the fundamental reality being one of constant movement:
Bohm proposed that particles have both a wave aspect and a particle aspect at one and the same time, as opposed to the wave aspect collapsing into its particle aspect at the point of observation which others had proposed.
Bohm used the analogy of a ship being guided by radar, in that the wave (or field) aspect of quantum system, such as an electron, influenced the particle aspect. Bohm saw matter being enfolded and unfolded in a higher dimension of reality which he termed the ‘implicate order’.
As explained by Pylkkänen, a close collaborator with Bohm:
So we can now see in Figure 4 above, how
Bohm’s framework leads back to a new definition of wholeness, which
again like Goethe and Leibniz, provides us with a more holistic
framework for science.
The implicate order, although in a continual state of flux, is the more fundamental reality, out of which emerges (or unfolds) the explicate order.
The explicate order can be seen as that aspect of reality that we experience, one of consciousness and matter made up of particles which have the appearance of solidity and localized causation.
As Pylkannen notes, Bohm’s framework was just that, and had not reached the stage of becoming a fully fledged theory:
This new mathematics showed that seemingly chaotic and complex behavior could give rise to ordered structures. It also brought to light the fact that some behavior could not be exactly predicted, which contributed to the shift towards an analysis of qualitative behaviors.
The Lorenz Strange
As an example, a pendulum under friction will move towards a stationary point in due time.
This point is called an attractor.
Chaotic non-linear systems behave differently, and the attractors
are called ‘strange attractors.’ Since the equations are extremely
sensitive to initial conditions, the system may settle around
different points within the phase-space, as can be seen by the
Lorenz attractor in Figure 5, designed to model convection rolls in
Here the important point to note is that alternative attractors can be interpreted as qualitative behaviors, for example:
In parallel, within Biology, it was becoming clear that many phenomena could not be reduced to an explanation of simply the parts within a system.
As Capra noted:
Systems theory was being developed, in which the role of feedback was understood to play an integral role.
A range of innovative thinkers in science began to incorporate many aspects of systems thinking in order to derive more holistic explanations of the self-organizing and self-regulating aspects of many phenomena.
Maturana and Varela developed the concept of ‘autopoeisis’ or ‘self-making’ is a network pattern in which the function of each component is to participate in the production or transformation of other components in the network. (18)
Prigogine and Stengers complemented the ‘closed’ organizations of autopoeitic structures by described living systems as dissipative structures, open to the flow of energy and matter.
Matter and energy flow through them but the structure stays
the same. (19) And Lovelock looked at feedback loops at a
planetary scale, in his
Theory of Gaia and the self-regulatory
nature of the biosphere. (20)
As Kauffman explains, the entire neo-Darwinian paradigm can be subject to serious criticisms:
The New Science of
It is not just at the physical level, in biology that these new models are making their impact felt.
Dynamic Field Theory has been applied in the areas of infant cognition, to provide more complete explanations for infant habituation (24) and infant reaching (25). The models use dynamic field equations, which measure stimulus strength, distance, stimulus time intervals, and coupling between activation and inhibition.
They therefore make these interactions
explicit and show how the parameters may interact in complex and
For example, the mathematics of the
Reaction are shown to model how wave patterns in slime mould can
emerge when food sources are scarce. Lovelock’s Daisyworld
computer model was explicitly developed to show how the whole
system of both organisms and the environment when coupled together
could evolve into a self-regulating system that did not have to
resort to pan-psychism. (26)
Consciousness does not have to be explained:
In contrast to Minsky, Perus provides a good summary of the various points of view in the debate, and thinks that neural networks alone can not provide an explanation for consciousness:
For Pylkkänen, the reason why most researchers fail to solve the issue of how consciousness arises out of matter is that they make the assumption that matter has ontological primacy, and that consciousness somehow arises out of it.
In an echo of the monist philosophies of Leibniz and Spinoza, Pylkkänen explains how Bohm’s implicate order framework can be used to understand how both mind and matter, are ultimately, at a higher dimension of reality connected. (29)
Bohm went on to develop his framework further, with the concept of active information.
Minds were not to be seen as purely
non-physical, and matter was not to be seen as completely
non-mental. Mind and matter were fundamentally inseparable aspects
of an underlying active information. Bohm described the implicate
order as consisting of an increasing number of inter-related levels,
suggesting a metaphor of more and more closely woven nets.
However, the world that we experience, the
explicate order, one of solidity and particles, appears to our
senses to prevail the most because the quantum potential, or field
associated with each electron, is negligible at the large-scale
Pert has developed the idea that the three classically separated areas of neuroscience, endocrinology and immunology and their various organs, the brain; the glands; and the spleen, bone marrow and lymph nodes are all interconnected in a multidirectional network of communication, linked by information carriers, known as neuropeptides.
Again it should be noted that Bohm did not solve the hard problem of consciousness, but provides a theoretical framework that could be developed further to help us better understand the relationship between mind and matter.
Indeed, in suggesting the term ‘holomovement’ to describe the totality of movement of unfoldment and enfoldment, Bohm was explicit in stating that the holomovement could yet include fields currently unknown to us. (31)
If a hologram is broken up, each
separate physical part still retains the original holographic image.
Hence multiple instances of a single unit. Plants have the quality
of being able to grow a complete new plant from a single leaf. So
the ‘whole plant’ was present in a single part of the plant. In this
instance, what equates to a division in a hologram is not a physical
part of the plant, but the growth of each plant.
When we enter into Goethe’s way of
seeing, we attempt to ‘visualize’ in our minds the
‘coming-into-being’ of the plant, i.e. the journey the plant makes
from its wholeness, which is beyond structure, into structure, into
space and time. You see more than just the lifecycle of the plant,
you are seeing perhaps the movement from the implicate to the
What Bortoft does so well is to show how we as holistic scientists have to change our mode of perception, to ‘go upstream’ in order to ensure that a phenomenon we are seeking to explain is in fact an authentic whole, and not a counterfeit whole’.
This approach works well for example in
seeking to understand the inner organic organizations of plants,
animals or indeed cells.
Arrival at an
As we went through the wave from the separation of the whole and the parts, to a potential unification, and a holistic conception of reality, at this moment in time there are still many gaps in our understanding.
String theory seemed to promise a fundamental and unified theory of everything, but this has not materialized.
genome project nearing its completion has only
served to highlight just how possibly incorrect biologists were in
placing their faith in the ability of genomes to provide an entire
explanation of evolution and morphology.
I would propose that this is where we
find the soul, the anima mundi perhaps that has been intuited and
felt by indigenous cultures for millennia, that made a profound and
lasting impression on deep ecologists such as Aldo Leopold,
who saw fire in the eyes of a dying wolf that he had shot, and who
felt the disapproval of mother nature in his actions, and perhaps is
now awakening again in Western cultures as we wake up to the damage
that our collective actions are now wrecking on our delicate