For half a millennium Western science and metaphysics have taken separate routes to learning, to the detriment of balanced human progress. The result is a society where technological and administrative prowess has far outstripped the psychological and ethical capacities to use it wisely. Recognizing that humans’ beliefs about truth shape their behaviors, many writers now promote a reconvergence of science and metaphysics to save humanity from its materialistic myopia.
People realize that scientific truths like the following give rise to behaviors that alienate humans from each other, nature, and an inner morality: The universe's birth was a random event; humans developed from an unconscious process of accidental evolution; a few immutable physical laws (Newton’s gravity, Einstein’s relativity, etc.) govern all reality; and consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain that arose by chance. If such truths were the basis of eternal reality, we could not expect more from beings who are only accidental mutations in a dog-eat-dog universe.
However, new research indicates those 19th and 20th century truths are not consistent with the facts. Modern science has focused on the physical realm, breaking matter into smaller and smaller bits and electronically seeking the edges of the material universe. But, as scientists delved deeper into subatomic particles, quanta of energy, and nanobes (organisms 200 billionths of a meter in size), they discovered a more fundamental reality composed of invisible patterns susceptible to manipulation by non-local consciousness. Its existence points to a preexisting order, implying conscious designthe inner, formerly exclusive domain of metaphysics. Cosmic consciousness appears to be the underlying force of creation and humans have enough of it to be co-creators of local reality.
It is important to publicly follow and widely reinforce these developments. The 1999 International Conference on Science and Consciousness, organized by the Message Company in Albuquerque, New Mexico brought 52 scientists and practitioners together, with about 600 participants, to review the state of research on consciousness and its implications for humanity.
The challenge to the conference, and the science/metaphysics convergence movement in general, is to find ways to integrate two mutually exclusive ways of knowing: Experimental-protocol truth of the scientific method versus the unsubstantial truth of human feelings and beliefs. Two assumptions that transcend these polarities appeared to underpin the conference: (1) Acknowledged truth must be verifiable through widely shared human examination and (2) universal theories must encompass the full range of human experience. These principles distinguished participants from fundamentalists in both science and metaphysics; the former will not deal with paranormal or anomalous phenomena and the latter will not test their views through the rigors of experiential validation. By being honest about what they truly know, in contrast to what they believe, these serious scientists and metaphysicians entertained new hypotheses.
Taking that approach, the physicists at the conference incorporated the possibility of consciousness into models of the universe. By stretching current concepts of the electromagnetic spectrum (E/M-S) to include as yet-unrecognized areas called subtle magnetic forces (William Tiller), biofields (Beverly Rubik), consciousness-cum-light (Peter Russell), or vital energies (Amit Goswami), they formulated hypotheses accounting for the paranormal and anomalous. These are subject to third party validation.
Although tied to their theoretical base (after all, E/M-S is the core of Western science), these scientists extrapolated from it to more subtle realms. That framework makes it reasonable to hypothesize the physical realm (as E/M forces) is only part of a larger spectrum containing subtle energies and consciousness. Assuming E/M is on the grosser and less malleable end of that spectrum leads to consideration of the view held by mystics: Conscious intent, on the higher end of this universal spectrum, comes first. Subtle energies fall somewhere in between. The schema is not unlike that of wave patterns collapsing into particles first, then forming gas that turns into liquids before they can freeze solid. In this context the E/M realm appears as a derivative rather than a source of consciousness.
As metaphysicians, scholars in religion and philosophy offered the perennial perspectives of East (Shinzen Young) and West (Huston Smith and Robert Forman). They start from the other end of the spectrum, assuming that an act of creative consciousness resulted in our physical universe and that among several forces intent is the most powerful. Meeting the physicists extended hand (through their fuzzy spectrum concepts) they suggested ways to test assumptions through human experience. Philosophers (Christian de Quincy and Bernardo Monserrat) encouraged balancing the human faculty for open-minded, rational analysis with faith in conscious intent.
True ground breakers in the convergence movement, however, are practitioners whose work with humans involve both the material body and immaterial mind and feelings. (Allan Combs, neuropsychologist; Joyce Kovelman, anatomy/ psychology; Larry LeShan, mind/ body health; Paul Pearsall, psychoneuroimmunologist; Glen Rein, biochemistry; Elisabet Sahtouris, evolution biologist; and Leonard Shlain, surgeon/ researcher.) Presenters like them monitor the interaction of conscious intent with specific conditions and chronicle its influence on physical behaviors from the cellular to the organismic. They accumulate evidence of the power of consciousness and suggest practical ways to test new hypotheses. Half the presenters were practitioners, including humanistic and transpersonal psychologists, involved in the field testing of new knowledge and techniques in ways that benefit individuals and organizations.
Serving as professional catalysts were the interdisciplinary thinkers who see the implications of research in one field for others. (Edgar Mitchell, scientist/ astronaut/ explorer of noetics; Brian Swimme, mathematical cosmologist; Brian O’Leary, astronomy/ space science/ consciousness; Norman Friedman; physics/ engineering/ philosophy; Allan Combs, systems/ neuropsychologist, and Ken Cox, science/ humanities.) They wove together frontier research into patterns that point to new understanding of the whole. For my part, beyond reporting on my research on the subtle senses, I described the emerging story of frontier science and metaphysics and its likely implications for personal and institutional change.
The conference demonstrated significant progress in being made at the conceptual and research levels, but consciousness expansion through new mind/body practices leads the theory building.
Paul Von Ward, MPA, MSc, researches and writes in the fields of prehistory, consciousness, and frontier science. His most recent book is Solarian Legacy: Metascience and a New Renaissance. Paul can be contacted at www.mind.net/solarian.