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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science Converge on the “Whole” Thing


Campbell (1995) explicates that the “great experience in Indian thought—indeed, the fundamental illuminating principle throughout the orient—is this realization that all of these beings that seem so various are one” (p. 263). Briefly, we will explore a few instances of how modern science is in sync with this view of wholeness that Grof and Campbell describe— in the areas of cosmology, quantum physics, holography, chaos theory, and mathematics. Other links between ancient wisdom and modern science are described in Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science (Grof 1984) and Lost Discoveries (Teresi, 2002) —but they would take us off on further tangents.






Campbell (1995) explicates that the “great experience in Indian thought—indeed, the fundamental illuminating principle throughout the orient—is this realization that all of these beings that seem so various are one” (p. 263). Briefly, we will explore a few instances of how modern science is in sync with this view of wholeness that Grof and Campbell describe— in the areas of cosmology, quantum physics, holography, chaos theory, and mathematics. Other links between ancient wisdom and modern science are described in Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science (Grof 1984) and Lost Discoveries (Teresi, 2002) —but they would take us off on further tangents.


Systems theorist Ervin Laszlo (2004) also sees in the quantum vacuum, a physically real cosmic plenum, a superdense sea of energy and information (p. 50). In two of his most recent works, The Connectivity Hypothesis (2003) and Science and the Akashic Field (2004), Laszlo discusses his paradigm of universal connectivity that embraces quantum, life, cosmology, and consciousness, as he seeks to reconcile existing paradoxes that exist in these different branches of science. Most of these anomalies or puzzles, as he calls them, that confront the current scientific “Cartesian/Newtonian” world view are of coherence and correlation. Laszlo discusses the coherence of our universe at length—from the subatomic realm to consciousness, from biology to cosmology—and how this coherence points to the presence of an interconnecting field, which he originally called the "psi field" but now calls the "A-field." Laszlo’s (2004) inspiration was to seek the “simplest possible scheme that can tie together the observed facts” (p. 90) and his connectivity hypothesis was the result and aspires to do just this. Similar to Bohm’s implicate order, as we will see, this subquantum domain, or A-field is “a cosmic field that underlies and links all things in the world” (p. 105). Laszlo continues explaining that this subquantum domain is a:


perennial intuition, present in traditional cosmologies and metaphysics. The ancients knew that space is not empty: it is the origin and the memory of all things that exist and have ever existed. But this knowledge was based on philosophical or mystical insight, the fruit of private and unrepeatable if often seemingly indubitable experience. The current rediscovery of the Akashic Field reinforces qualitative human experience with quantitative data generated by science’s experimental method. The combination of unique personal insight and interpersonally observable and repeatable experience gives us the best assurance we can have that we are on the right track: that a cosmic information field connects organisms and minds in the biosphere, and particles, stars and galaxies throughout the cosmos. Nature’s information field is now being rediscovered at the cutting edge of sciences. (p. 112)


This cosmic information field that underlies and informs everything does much to explain such disparate things as nonlocality and the collective unconscious. Grof (2004) in discussing this field say that it is like a cosmic Hollywood archives, where everything that ever happened is recorded and stored.


David Bohm, another quantum physicist, agrees. He talks about wholeness as the implicate order that is behind all of the diverse “things” of our world that he calls the explicate order: “For Bohm, our universe is filled with nothing or no-things—it is a vast fluid no-thingness in which everything is” (Briggs & Peat, 1984, p.145). For Bohm, reality is a coherent, unbroken whole involved in an unending process of change, which he calls holomovement. Everything that we perceive is derived from this undefinable and unknowable whole. Bohm was influenced by the theory of holography when developing these ideas (Briggs & Peat, 1984).



Bohm says that what we perceive as reality, the unfolded or explicate order is like a projected holographic image, while the enfolded or implicate order is a level of reality that is analogous to the hologram that we are not able to perceive. Grof (1993), describes the process:


A hologram which might be compared to a photographic slide from which we project a picture—is a record of an interference pattern of two halves of a laser beam. After a beam of light is split by a partially silvered mirror, half of it (called the reference beam) is directed to the emulsion of the hologram; the other half (called the working beam) is reflected to the film from the object being photographed. Information from these two beams, required for reproducing a three-dimensional image, is “enfolded” in the hologram in such a way that it is distributed throughout. As a result, when the hologram is illuminated by the laser, the complete three-dimensional image can be unfolded from any fraction of the hologram. We can cut the hologram into many pieces and each part will still be capable of reproducing an image from the whole. (p. 7)

Karl Pribram’s research indicates or suggests that the brain functions holographically as well (Briggs & Peat, 1984).


Quantum physics is not the only place where wholeness shows up. Honorable mention should also be give to mathematics and chaos theory. In mathematics, deMarrais (2001, online) playfully discusses double cusp catastrophes and the equations of Vladimir Arnol’d which shows, of all things, the “mysterious unity of all things.” Lastly, we come to chaos theory, where at the turn of the Twentieth Century, when Henri Poincaré first glimpsed chaos: “it was not in terms of a disorder and lawlessness in the universe. What he saw was that chaos is wholeness.” (Briggs & Peat, 2000, p. 153). We will return and look further into chaos later.


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