The Spirit of Science: From Experiment to Experience
Edited by David Lorimer
Floris Books (1998)
This fascinating book is a collection of papers presented between 1978 and 1998 at England’s annual Mystics and Scientists conference. It’s divided into Cosmology and Physics, Biology and Gaia, Consciousness and Psychology and Mysticism and Spirituality. Overall it aims to challenge a dogmatic turn Western science took during the Enlightenment and the threat this narrow dogmatism (which views human beings as mere machines) poses to finding solutions to the environmental, health and humanitarian crises confronting humanity.
The Spirit of Science begins by laying out recent changes in physicists’ understanding of the origin and make up of the universe. Most striking, in my view, is the discovery that the universe couldn’t have arisen from random events. To the contrary, according to quantum field expert David Bohm, the universe arose via the same mathematically predictable self-organization found in all natural systems.
According Bohm, the explosion of light 15-20 million years ago known as The Big Bang led (within milliseconds) to the formation of elementary particles, which cooled and condensed out into atoms, which collected into stars, galaxies and planets. The entire process relied on an amazing sequence of just right coincidences, eg an exact rate of expansion (any slower and the matter would have collapsed back into a black hole, any faster and galaxies would have persisted as a matter-less energy field). Equally remarkable is the discovery of organic molecules dispersed throughout space, which, according to the rules of quantum mechanics, have virtually zero odds of forming from random collisions.
These and other discoveries have led many scientists to hypothesize “an invisible hand” directing this capacity for self-organization in all matter, both living and inanimate.
The book also contains fascinating essays about the role of this universal self-organizing principle in enabling plants to communicate with each other and with animals and in coordinating hive insects (and diverse human cells) in undertaking complex activities. One essay describes the unique receptivity of certain indigenous people and animals to plant signals that allow them to find healing herbs. Sadly this receptivity has been lost in the vast majority of modern humans.
There are also several excellent papers on the concept of morphic fields,* including one, “Evolutionary Habits of Mind, Behaviour and Form” by biochemist Rupert Sheldrake.
*A morphic field is defined as a force field that enables one event to lead to (via telepathic effect or sympathetic vibrations) to similar events in the future or ideas conceived in one mind to arise in another person’s mind without formal communication.