Extending the Range of Science – by Chris Thomson

Chris ThomsonChris Thomson has worked as an economist, a researcher in Chinese, a lawyer, and in think-tanks in Scotland and the USA. He now lives in the Catalan Pyrenees, and devotes himself to writing, mentoring and trying to make the esoteric exoteric. The following article argues for a new extended approach to science to improve our understanding. Like much of Chris’s work he challenges us to rethink our approach in order to expand our experience.

His lecture on “Conscious Evolution” at the Scientific and Medical Network Annual Gathering 2016 was greatly applauded. His recent book “Full Spectrum Intelligence” is receiving 5 star reviews on Amazon and is thoroughly recommended.

Extending the Range of Science

by Chris Thomson
(This article is Copyright © Chris Thomson 2016 and reprinted with permission, all rights reserved)

A new, extended science is needed because science in its current form is both limited and limiting. It is limited because its limits its explorations and explanations to the physical. And it is limiting because, as the dominant source of knowledge in the world today, it effectively blocks exploration of some of the most important aspects of our lives.

Science, as it is currently understood and practised, is unable to accommodate important questions and phenomena. These include:

  • The ultimate nature of things,
  • Self-organisation in living systems,
  • Non-local causality,
  • The consciousness of the observer,
  • The concept of self,
  • Altered states of consciousness,
  • Purpose,
  • Paranormal phenomena.

And because it limits itself to exploring the physical aspects of the world and the human being, it gives us a misleading, one-sided picture of what the world is and who we are. It has been evident for a long time that we need a science that can give us a fuller, more accurate picture of the world and ourselves, and that can accommodate the topics listed above.

There are two main reasons why current science cannot accommodate these things:

  • Its core ontological[1] assumption of separatenessthe observer is separate from the observed; man is separate from nature; mind is separate from matter; and science is separate from spirituality.
  • Its core epistemological[2] assumption that the only way to get evidence is through our five physical senses, and through extensions to these senses, e.g. microscope, telescope. Any other source of evidence is considered secondary or even inadmissible.

If we could replace these with an ontology and epistemology that more fully and more accurately reflect what the world is and who we are, we would have an “extended science” that would give us a fuller picture of ourselves and the world, and that would be able to accommodate questions and topics currently beyond the range of science. In my view, and the view of many who have written about this, the core ontological assumption of an extended science would be oneness/connectedness. And the core epistemological assumption would be that we contact reality in several ways, and not just with our physical senses. As we will see shortly, many important things flow from these two core assumptions.

Now, there will be those who object to these proposals. That is understandable, because it is not easy to change the beliefs and habits of a lifetime. That said, it is worth stating that they are entirely consistent with what we now know about the world and with our own personal experience. For example, connectedness has been a central feature of physics for nearly 100 years (e.g. non-locality, and much of quantum mechanics). And at the personal level, all of us have had experiences that seem to have nothing to do with the physical senses – such as telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, and so on. In other words, we can interact with reality in several ways.

A note of caution. It will not be enough simply to believe, at some intellectual level, that everything is connected. For the new, extended science to function well, connection will have to be lived, as a daily experience. Similarly, it will not be sufficient simply to use one’s intuition more, important as that is. What will be needed in extended science will be a developed, active inner life on the part of scientists, so that new classes of experience emerge. These new experiences will be a reflection of the fact that new senses are growing inside the scientist. It is with these “additional senses” that scientists will be equipped to explore aspects of the world and human being currently beyond the range of science.

Ontology and Epistemology of Extended Science

Ontological assumption

Consciousness is primary. Matter and the physical are products of consciousness, not the other way around, as commonly believed:

  • This applies to us. We are primarily consciousness. This has significant implications for our understanding of evolution. Consciousness is probably not the result of billions of years of evolution. It is probably the other way around.
  • The universe is wholly conscious. This “universal consciousness” is far beyond our current capacity to perceive or understand.

Epistemological implications of this assumption

When exploring anything, we recognise that we are exploring both consciousness and the products of consciousness.

“The human mind is ultimately the organ of the world’s own process of self-revelation………(and)…Nature becomes intelligible to itself through the human mind.” (Richard Tarnas)[3]

“I regard consciousness as fundamental, matter is derivative from consciousness We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness. There is no matter as such; it exists only by virtue of a force bringing the particle to vibration and holding it together in a minute solar system; we must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. The mind is the matrix of all matter.” (Max Plank)[4]

Ontological assumption

The universe is a living organism, as is everything in it, including planets:

  • Some things seem to be non-living, but this because we have a very limited concept of “life”.

Epistemological implications of this assumption

The universe and human being cannot be usefully studied as “machines”, but rather as constantly evolving organisms.

There can be no fixed scientific laws. The laws of science will evolve as we evolve.

Ontological assumption

The universe far transcends the physical, the material, because it also has non-physical (“spiritual”) aspects:

  • This applies to us too. We have non-physical, spiritual aspects.
  • When we combine this with the earlier assumption that consciousness is primary, we can say that we are spiritual beings who have temporal physical bodies.

Epistemological implications of this assumption

Each of us has the potential to experience the non-physical directly for ourselves. Our “inner senses” will be a powerful investigative tool in an extended science.

Indeed, all forms of perception and experience are valid and useful.

A developed inner life is an important part of being a scientist.

Ontological assumption

The universe is a holarchy[5]:

  • We contain the “essential nature” of the universe…. the “Divine spark”, if you like.

Epistemological implications of this assumption

Things (and people) are studied in terms of the whole, as well as in terms of the parts.

Since each of us contains the “essential natures” of all the higher holons of which we form part, we have the potential capacity to know these higher holons directly. (see section on “Essential Natures” below).

Ontological assumption

The universe is fully imbued with meaning and purpose:

  • We are part of this meaning and purpose, whatever it turns out to be.

Epistemological implications of this assumption

The more fully we know ourselves, the more fully we can know the universe.

And conversely, the more fully we know the universe, the more fully we can know ourselves.

Afterthought

By extending the range of science, we will be using more of ourselves to explore and understand more of the world. In doing this, we will discover that we are more connected to the world and each other than we might imagine. And we will discover that the universe is more like us, and we like it (“As above, so below”).

Essential natures

Everything is part of something larger. That much is obvious, but the implications may not be so obvious. I had no vocabulary for this until I came across something Arthur Koestler wrote. I believe that Koestler coined the terms “holarchy” and “holon”. In any holarchy, every holon is a part of all the larger holons above it. And, at the same time, every holon contains all the smaller holons below it.  This gives holons a dual nature – an “integrative” nature and an “assertive” nature. What this means is that every holon is a member of all the higher holons in its holarchy, and therefore has to comply with, or integrate with them. At the same time, every holon consists physically of all the smaller holons below it, and therefore asserts its personality on them.  Since we are also part of a very large holarchy, this dual nature applies to us too. Each one of us is unique and to some extent free and independent and we can therefore assert ourselves, yet at the same time each one of us is part of something greater and must therefore cooperate and be interdependent and integrate.

We see in the diagram below that we are members of many higher holons. Some of this is obvious and uncontroversial, some of it less so. For example, we are all members of the human race, which is itself a holon. The human race is a member of a larger holon, Nature – which I define as “the totality of all living things”. Nature, in turn, is an integral part of this planet, which is part of the solar system, and so on, through successively larger holons until we reach the largest possible holon of all, the universe itself. We know it is the largest possible simply because we have chosen the word “universe” to denote “absolutely everything in existence”. There cannot be more than one universe. That would be a contradiction in terms. The holarchy that we know best is the one that contains us. Here is an outline of it:

Universe

Local group of galaxies

Milky Way galaxy

Solar System

Earth

Nature (the totality of all living things)

Vertebrates

Primates

Human Race

Human Being

Cell

Molecule

Atom

Quantum (defined as the smallest thing conceivable)

Please note that this particular holarchy makes no claim to be the only one or the comprehensive one. We have no idea, for instance, how many holons there are between a star and the galaxy of which it is a member, nor between a galaxy and the universe. There are probably some that we have yet to discover. In addition, not every molecule forms part of organic life, and not every star has its own system of planets. These and other similar considerations suggest that the universe may consist of a very large number of parallel holarchies that look increasingly similar to each other at their tops and bottoms. An image of a vibrating violin string comes to mind!

The concept of the holarchy is not new, but it is potent.  As Joseph Needham wrote in 1935: “The hierarchy of relations, from the molecular structure of carbon to the equilibrium of the species and ecological whole, will perhaps be the leading idea of the future.”[6]

“Essential natures”

Now, let us explore what it means to be “part of something bigger”. Each of us is a part of something larger, the human race. This means that each of us is imbued with the “essential nature” of the human race. Each of us has those qualities that distinguish human beings from all other forms of life, and which make us recognisable as humans. The totality of these qualities is the “essential nature” of the human race.  Just to be clear, I am not talking about qualities we share with other forms of life. The “essential nature” of the human race is the set of qualities unique to it.

Each of us is also part of the many greater holons. For example, each of us is part of the whole of Nature.  This means that we are imbued with the “essential nature” of Nature – i.e. those qualities that are unique to all living things. When we think about it, this seems to be true. As with all other forms of life, we are born, we mature, we adapt and evolve, we reproduce, and we die. This is the cycle of life through which all living things appear to go.  Yet, although these qualities are apparent in us, they are apparent only at a very general level. At a more specific level, we are vertebrates. At a more specific level still, we are primates. At an even more specific level, we are human beings. And at the most specific level of all, each of us is unique. Of course, we are all very similar to each other, yet at the same time very different from each other, with our unique faces, fingerprints, DNA, personalities and destinies.   The similarities represent our integrative nature and the differences our assertive nature. What we are of speaking here is the principle of unity in diversity. There are countless examples of this. Perhaps the best known is the snowflake. All snowflakes are undoubtedly snowflakes – with their familiar hexagonal crystal patterns – yet every snowflake there ever has been, and ever will be, is unique. What applies to snowflakes applies equally to fingerprints, starfish, black cats, oak leaves – the list is endless. It is an awe-inspiring thought, and a testimony to the creative potential of the universe.

Continuing up the holarchy, Nature herself is imbued with the essential natures of the many larger holons that she forms part of. In our diagram, the holon above Nature is planet Earth. So, we would expect Nature to be imbued with the essential nature of our home planet, i.e. those qualities that are unique to this planet. Again, this seems to be the case. There can be little doubt that Nature – i.e. life as we know it here – is shaped and determined by this planet’s unique features. Life here has adapted to, and been formed by, all the many unique characteristics of this planet, the strength of its gravitational field, its mean surface temperatures, its magnetic fields, the many forms of electromagnetic radiation which affect it, the relative proportions of its chemical elements and compounds, as well as all the many other unique conditions which we know about or have yet to discover. In all these respects, Nature on this planet is imbued with the unique nature of the planet. Another way of saying this is that Nature contains the essential nature of planet Earth.

Moving up a level, planet Earth is in turn a “child” of the Sun, and so it goes on. Each holon is part of, and determined by, the holon above it, and by all the holons above that. Although the idea may be strange and novel, we human beings on this planet are actually members of the Milky Way galaxy. So each one of us contains its essential nature, whatever this turns out to be. That is a fascinating discussion, but beyond the scope of this article.

Emerging levels of consciousness

One way of visualising all this is to imagine that we contain within ourselves successively deeper levels of order, rather like the layers of an onion. The larger the holon of which we form part, the deeper will its essential nature be contained within us.  At our deepest core lies the essential nature of the greatest possible holon, the universe itself. But since everything is part of the universe, this means that everything, including us, is imbued at their deepest core with the essential order, the essential intelligence, of the universe. Perhaps this is the “divine spark” in everything.

I believe that some of the layers of our “onion” have come to the surface and have manifested as levels of consciousness. And I believe this happens because we have inside us the counterparts of the things we eventually get to know in the world outside us. If you like, the “essential natures” in our onion come to the surface and are then able to “resonate” with their counterparts in the world. They are able to resonate because, in some mysterious way, they are the same – they are on the same wavelength. I believe that that there is some evidence that this actually happens. We are privileged to have witnessed in the last 100 years or so the emergence of what we might call “human race consciousness”, “Nature consciousness”, and “planet earth consciousness”. First, we became aware of the idea of the human race as a whole, as a single entity. This awareness has taken many forms, such as the emergence of the United Nations, the concept of the human family, and so on.  Second, we have developed an awareness, a consciousness, of Nature as a whole, as a single entity. This has taken the form of our interest in wild life, threatened species, the environment, ecology, and the fact that we are all part of these things. Third, and thanks to pictures of Earth taken from space and to writers such as James Lovelock, we are beginning to think of the planet as a single entity. Some of us even think of it as an intelligent, living being – Gaia. Three things, in particular, have accelerated all this emerging consciousness in the last 25 years or so – the internet, globalisation, and David Attenborough.

The point I want to make is that each of these three forms of consciousness was always there, in the form of layers of our “onion”, waiting to be awoken and brought to light at the right moment. If this is true, then the likelihood is that, at some time in the future, even deeper levels of consciousness, corresponding to even greater levels of order in the macrocosm (larger holons), will awaken within us and come to the surface as forms of consciousness. What it will be like to have “Solar consciousness” and “Galactic consciousness” remains to be seen. Meanwhile, we might note that an important part of the process of growing in consciousness might be gaining access to the higher levels of order and intelligence already latent within us.

[1] Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence or reality as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.
[2] Epistemology is the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion.
[3] Professor Richard Tarnas – The Passion Of The Western Mind, 2010.
[4] Max Planck The Observer, 25 Jan 1931.
[5] A holarchy, in the terminology of Arthur Koestler, is a connection between holons, where a holon is both a part and a whole. The term was coined in Koestler’s 1967 book The Ghost in the Machine.
[6] Joseph Needham, Order and Life, 1935

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