Although the standard position in philosophy – at least as I remember it from the United States – is that of materialism, there is much thought outside of stuffy universities which challenges this dogma and points us towards a world of the non-material, the spiritual and God. By “material” I mean that fully explicable by physics, chemistry and biology (and if necessary other physical and social sciences). The problem with materialism, usually advocated because it is used to reject the existence of the mind, soul and God, is that it is seemingly refuted by advances in science.
Quantum mechanics, the physics of energy, matter and the small seems to require the existence of the mind. Quantum physicist Dr. Fred Alan Wolf has said: “Quantum physics really begins to point to this discovery. It says that you can’t have a Universe without mind entering into it, and that the mind is actually shaping the very thing that is being perceived.” Many see the acceptance of mind as a way of escaping something of an impasse that physics seems to have reached as described by Adam Frank, “Who Wrote the Book of Physics?” Discover, April 2010, pp.32-37: “The dogged pursuit of that ultimate truth has led to many great discoveries, but recently it has begun to seem like a promise unkept. The problem is that physics appears to be leading us not to resolution but into an Alice in Wonderland world of increasingly bizarre theories, each further removed than the last from our experience of the everyday world.” Frank has in mind String theory, which sees the world as comprised of cosmic “strings” vibrating in seven extra dimensions, drenched in complex maths.
Other physicists, to make sense of the way physics has permitted life to exist, have postulated an anthrophic principle and a “top-down cosmology.” Gefter quotes leading physicist Stephen Hawking who follows John Wheeler in seeing that “observers are creating the universe and its entire history right now. If we in some sense create the universe, it is not surprising that the universe is well suited to us.” (Amanda Gefter, “What’s God Got to Do With It?” New Scientist, December 6, 2008, p.48) This line of thought of the cosmic foundation of mind (e.g. Chris King, “Cosmological Foundations of Consciousness,” Journal of Cosmology, vol.13, 2011, pp.3706-3725), is defended in Amit Goswami (et. al.), The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World, (Putnam, New York, 1995).
It seems obvious to me that the logically next step is to identify this cosmic consciousness with a mind outside of ours – for otherwise we are trapped in the philosophical dead end of believing that we create the universe. It is much more plausible to believe that a genuinely cosmic and transcendental being – God – does this. Further, this hypothesis – the God hypothesis – fits well with many other aspects of science.
Mind and Consciousness
Although materialists had hoped that the mind would ultimately be reduced to just brain processes, neurology has not done this. The “hard problem” of consciousness, explaining subject experience remains unsolved by materialists. To this they may say that the idea of a mind-brain interaction can’t be scientifically entertained because it is uncertain how a non-material mind could causally interact with brain cells (neurons). To this one may reply that merely because an interaction is presently not understood in no way proves that it does not exist.
Further, materialists have a highly reductionistic view of the brain itself, usually seeing it in computer programming terms. However, as pointed out in the remarkable book, The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doige; Eric Kandel won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2000 for his discovery that when learning occurs genes in the neurons switch on to make new proteins. New neural connections can then be established with adjacent neurons. The brain is thus a highly adaptable organ, more like an ecological system than a computer.
Even more interesting is a discovery reported in the leading US scientific journal PLos One in August 2014. Two men 7,400 kilometres apart sent a simple message to each other without using any of the five senses. “Mind-to-mind direct communication or telepathy occurred: C. Grau (et. al.), “Conscious Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans Using Non-Invasive Technologies,” PLos One, August 19, 2014; doi: 10.137l/journal.pone.0105225.
This paper does say “brain-to-brain communication,” but it is puzzling how this can occur within a materialist framework. Not impossible of course, because as was said previously, ignorance of a mechanism doesn’t prove non-existence. Nevertheless if the mind is non-material the occurrence of parapsychological events such as telepathy is no longer unexpected.
Scientists have also defended the existence of the soul : See Mario Beuregard and Denyse O’Leary in The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul, (Harper One, New York, 2007). Quantum physicists Stuart Hameroff and Sir Roger Penrose have developed a quantum theory of consciousness where the soul is contained in neural structures called microtubules, which they call “orchestrated objective reduction”. In near-death experiences, or dying, the microtubules lose their quantum state but the information/soul within them is not destroyed but dissipates to the universe. It is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to suppose that souls could go to a specific place in the universe: Heaven or Hell.
Neuroscientist and former sceptic and materialist, Dr. Eben Alexander, argues exactly that in his book Proof of Heaven. Alexander as a neuroscientist once believed that consciousness was an illusion created by the brain’s biochemistry. However in an illness the bacteria E. coli destroyed part of his brain leading him to lapse into a brain-dead coma with no higher brain activity. During this time Dr. Alexander reports not experiencing nothingness, but had a glimpse of the Afterlife as timeless and embraced with love. Critics may say that he is lying; only he knows. But what he has recorded in his book is consistent with the great bulk of near-death and even “death” experiences. Dr. Alexander was diagnosed as brain-dead so no higher mental activity should have been occurring. I, for one, believe that he is telling the truth and that he really did experience what he describes in his book.
In biology, as in neuroscience, materialist reductionism is the dominant paradigm. Organisms are seen to be the epiphenomenal creation of “selfish genes” obeying Darwinian natural selection. The gene is a central directing mechanism, according to the central dogma of molecular biology where:
DNA –> RNA –>Protein –>Phenotypic trait.
DNA is thus seen as the code of life that constructs an organism. However even within reductionistic paradigm, the central dogma requires modification as RNA viruses such as HIV inject an RNA strand into a cell so that new DNA is transcribed from viral RNA. But the gene itself has come to be seen in molecular biology as a fluid protein maker and not a central directing mechanism, for there are other mechanisms, including epigenetic mechanisms, creating phenotypic traits.
See : P. Godfrey-Smith, “Genes Do Not Encode Information for Phenotypic Traits,” in C. Hitchcock (ed), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Science, (Blackwell, Oxford, 2—4); M-W Ho, Living with the Fluid Genome, (Institute of Science in Society, London, 2007); Dawson Church, The Genie in Your Genes, (Energy Psychology Press, Santa Rosa, 2009).
A particularly interesting book bringing together mind, physics and biology is Bruce Lipton’s The Biology of Belief, (Mountain of Love, 2005) which gives a detailed argument that the mind can control the body, even the genes. One aspect of this, undenied by orthodox medicine, is the placebo effect. For example D.G. Finnis (et. al.), “Biological, Clinical, and Ethical Advances of Placebo Effects,” The Lancet, vol.375, 2010, pp.686-695 is one of many mainstream scientific papers recognising the relevance of this mind-over-body effect. Indeed, the existence of the placebo effect is what necessitates blind controlled experiments, where the control group have no knowledge that they are taking something harmless and irrelevant, rather than the drug being tested. This statistical methodology explicitly accepts that beliefs – the mind – can causally influence the body, even in the performance of drugs. That is an implication of mainstream thought.
Mindfulness and Healing
Mark Williams (et. al.), The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness, (The Guilford Press, New York, 2007), has synthesized science and meditation to create mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for stress reduction. This is but one type of approach to psychology once reductionist materialism is superceded.
Mindfulness is defined as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to things as they are.” (p.47) Through full awareness of the present we learn to be at peace with one’s emotions so that negative thoughts such as “no-one loves me” need no longer be taken as real.
Automatic thought patterns and habits lead one down the same road and bring out the same feelings, causing depression. As in the movie Click, little-by-little, our life could drain away, leaving us astonished – and depressed – to find that old age has engulfed us. Instead of seeing old age as a blessing, of reaching the finishing line, we may feel cheated and frustrated.
Meditation has been intrinsically associated with Oriental philosophies, but this nexus can be broken. For the Christian it is better to think of “focus” and “deep relation,” putting one’s mind into “neutral”. The idea is to be in the present moment, relaxed and to focus on one object such as one’s breathing. There is no need to have a mantra, some word to be repeated. As they say: “There is no such thing as “good” meditation or “bad” meditation as long as we are mindfully aware and see clearly what is unfolding in the present moment.” (p.112)
Prayer is a natural development of mindfulness, being the mindfulness of God. It has been known for two thousand years that the act of praying itself, as distinct from the act(s) of God answering prayers, aids in both physical and psychological healing. Two books which explain the reality of prayer as a type of quantum communication with the universal mind (i.e., God) are Francis MacNutt, Healing, (Ave Maria Press, 1985) and Gregg Braden, The Isaiah Effect: Decoding the Lost Science of Prayer and Prophecy, (Hay House, 2000).
Gregg Braden has written a series of books which also attempt to synthesise all of these elements discussed above. The God Code (2004) argues that the letters of God’s name are encoded in human DNA, “God/Eternal within the body.” The Divine Matrix: Binding Time, Space, Miracles and Belief, (Hay House, 2007) is based on an idea of the physicist Max Planck who said in 1994: “All matter originates and exists by virtue of a force… We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.”
Braden calls this matrix, “the Divine Matrix”: “The divine matrix is our world. It is also everything in our world. It is us and all that we love, hate, create, and experience. Living in the Divine Matrix, we are as artists expressing our innermost passions, fears, and dreams and desires through the essence of a mysterious quantum canvas. But we are the canvas, as well as the images upon the canvas. We are the paints, as well as the brushes.” (p.vii) Quoting physicist Max Planck again: “Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are … part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”
Braden follows physicist David Bohm who in his book, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, rejected the idea of a universe as an explicate order (things appearing separate), and argued instead for an implicate order (a deeper order of connection and interpenetration). The universe is seen as a cosmic hologram with the whole in the parts and the parts in the whole; as above, so below; as below, so above. If there is a conscious face permeating the cosmos Braden believes that it is not unreasonable to suppose that there can be instantaneous healing across space and time. In his book The Spontaneous Healing of belief: Shattering the Paradigm of False Limits, (Hay House, 2008), drawing on insights from the quantum world he says: “If the particles that we’re made of can be in instantaneous communication with one another, be in two places at once, and even change the past through changes made in the present, then we can as well.” (p.12) Quantum mechanics sees the universe as built up of acts of observer participation, so that as a physicist John Wheeler has said, we live in a “participatory universe.”
Thus “something – some intelligent force – is holding the particles of you together right now… That force is what makes our beliefs so powerful. If we can communicate with it, then we can change how the particles of “us” behave in the world. We can write the code of our reality.” (p.16)
I am not a thoughtless supporter of all that appears above. As a Christian, and philosophically pretty orthodox and conservative, I am cautious about “new age” thinking. However as C.H. Douglas emphasized in all of his writings man has a brain and must use it. Or as the Buddha said perhaps 2,500 years ago: “Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumoured by many, or merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason, then accept it and live up to it.” This seems to be sound advice: one needs to read and think through this vast literature and make up one’s own mind.
Having said that though, I think it is clearly established that materialism is refuted as a philosophy and its manifestation as policies of a philosophy – in economics and practical life – is, as social crediters have shown, also grinding to a halt. Building a new economy will also need us building a new philosophy and spiritual world, or regaining what we have lost.