The Imaginal Within The Cosmos: Natural Jesus (6): The Soul, Scientists & the Psi World
"The Pharisees met together; and one of their number tested [Jesus] with this question: 'Master, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? He answered, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.'" [Matthew 22: 36-38.]
In colloquial terms we think of the heart as our feeling function and of our head as our thinking function, but what of the soul? No doubt if we browsed around a good library, we would discover an infinity of speculations about the soul. But in this post I shall speculate upon the soul as that special, personal essence we possess that serves as a gateway to the Imaginal Realm--or to the Psi World, as some have described it.
Independent physicist and author, Fred Alan Wolf, who has also taught in academe and worked with General Atomics, thinks of the soul as "imaginal." He believes that our self is the "reflection of soul in matter." Wolf has written many controversial books, mainly based on the New Physics--but none is likely more provocatively exploratory than a recent work, THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE, which is an effort to relate quantum physics with the existence of the soul. For our purposes, however, I shall draw only upon Wolf's delightful "soul" conversation at the very end of his book:
Wolf talks about how most of our lives we are on "automatic pilot," but then something special, all of a sudden, happens that you cannot account for. You seem to develop a strong opinion about it, or you become quite attracted by it. As Wolf puts it:
"When you feel your Soul's presence...you feel as if you have expanded your awareness... You know...you are more than you think you are...you feel the presence of something sacred within you that can't be explained..." [Ibid, p. 319.]
But what of other scientists, what might they think of not only the Imaginal Realm--but of the soul as a gateway to such? I have found from their numbers some unexpected, well-known scientific figures, who talk of this special realm and its connection with us in their own way, employing their own labels and language.
Let me begin with Ervin Laszlo, a world-class science philosopher whose specialty is evolutionary systems theory. For Laszlo there is the possibility of what he terms a "psi field," a psychic field. Comparing this psi field to gravitational and electromagnetic fields, etc., it is here in which all individual experience could be accumulated and deposited at the universal level. Laszlo stresses that such a psi field would have to possess a "mental dimension." In essence, this special "psi field" would represent the "mental dimension of the universe." [Joseph H. Schaeffer, "Beliefs about Evolution, Mind, Nature, and Society: Excerpts from an Interview with Ervin Laszlo," ZYGON, Journal of Religion and Science, vol. 23, no. 2, Basil Blackwell, June 1988, p. 189.]
Laszlo believes that our basic archetypal maps, cognitive maps over many generations of previous cultures...have entered some kind of ambient field, a mental field" which he calls the Psi field--where the "store of experiences accumulated in each individual" enter into a special aspect of the universe.
Laszlo's basic assumption is that somehow the Psi World must be subject to the same laws as those of the physical universe, i.e., the laws of conservation as dynamic energy phenomena in the physical universe. As he puts it: "According to the laws of physics, energy is conserved. It is only transformed from one form to another, so that nothing is lost in the universe." [Ibid, p. 188.]
Douglas Hofstadter, a Professor of Computer Science and Cognitive Science at Indiana University, looks at the enactment of intelligence in terms of a formal system. In turn, Hofstadter declares that formal systems are *embedded.* He infers that in relation to what we perceive as explicit in a formal system, there is also an aspect that is intrinsically IMPLICIT.
Intelligence resides in our brain hardware, according to Hofstadter. Yet it is of a *different quality,* so infers Hofstadter. Intelligence, although brain bound, "can be lifted right out of the hardware in which it resides...or in other words, intelligence [can] be a software property." Hofstadter focuses on the pivot that configures intelligence, mainly information and its various expressions: such as words, stories, messages, and interpretations of meaning. [Douglas R. Hofstadter, GOEDEL, ESCHER, BACH: AN ETERNAL GOLDEN BRAID, Vintage Books, 1979, p. 358]
These expressions of meaning, in turn, make-up the software property of the brain's intelligence--they are rules that can seem to be playfully creative and changing. As Hofstadter puts it, these "rules that change themselves, directly or indirectly, are at the core of intelligence." For Hofstadter there must be some kind of "imaginable world, a world where the only restriction is that in it...logic should be the same as in our world." [Ibid, pp. 27, 99, 362]
Talking of creativity, of intelligibility as beauty, the late S. Chandrasekhar--once a Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago, and Nobel Prize winner for physics-- tells a lovely story of an earlier generation of scientists. Chandrasekhar quotes astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630):
"Now it might be asked how this faculty of the soul, which does not engage in conceptual thinking and can therefore have no prior knowledge of harmonic relations, should be capable of recognizing what is given in the outward world...To this, I answer that all pure Ideas, or archetypal patterns of harmony...are *inherently* present in those who are capable of apprehending them." [S. Chandrasekhar, TRUTH AND BEAUTY: AESTHETICS AND MOTIVATIONS IN SCIENCE, The University of Chicago Press, 1987, p. 66.]
And Chandrasekhar quotes a fascinating reply to Kepler by one of the 20th century's most brilliant quantum physicists, Wolfgang Pauli, who died in 1958:
"The bridge, leading from the initially unordered data of experience to the Ideas, consists in certain primeval images pre-existing in the soul--the archetypes of Kepler. These primeval images should not be located in consciousness or related to specific rationally formulizable ideas. It is a question, rather, of forms belonging to the unconscious region of the human soul, images of powerful emotional content, which are not thought, but beheld..." [Ibid, p. 67.]
One of Pauli's compatriots was Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Prize winner in physics, who died in 1976. Heisenberg, famous for his Uncertainty Principle, adds a few lines to Kepler and Pauli when he discusses the motivations behind much scientific discovery and technological innovations. As he nicely put it, "The development of science and technology has produced, for example, the IDEA of the airplane." Heisenberg is talking about that which is *a priori.* He elaborates:
"At that moment...when the true Ideas rise up, there occurs in the soul of him who sees them an altogether indescribable process of the highest intensity. It is the amazed awe that Plato speaks of in the Phaedrus, with which the soul remembers, as it were, something it had unconsciously possessed all along." [Ken Wilber (ed.), QUANTUM QUESTIONS: MYSTICAL WRITINGS OF THE WORLD'S GREAT PHYSICISTS, New Science Library, 1984, p. 67.]
Sir James Jeans (1877-1946)--mathematician, physicist, and astronomer--also pondered the Imaginal, specifically in relation to mathematics. Talking of "pure mathematics," Jeans refers to such as creations of pure thought "practically uninfluenced by contact with the outer world." He is talking about a special, strange "independent world created out of pure intelligence." [Ibid, p. 131.]
Jeans proceeds: "The making of models or pictures to explain a mathematical formulae and the phenomena they describe is not a step towards, but is a step away from reality; it is like making graven images of a spirit." [Ibid, p. 142.]
There are other scientists who approach this Psi world, this spiritual world, but I'll end this collection of scientists with one most can identify--Albert Einstein, who also was a Nobel Prize winner in physics and especially known for his pioneering work in general relativity theory.
Einstein talks of this Imaginal world in terms of a "cosmic religious feeling." For him, this special soulful feeling is the most "important function of art and science" and it is imperative "to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it." [Ibid, p. 103.]
Einstein never professed a personal God, but he sums up what is throughout being implied in this post--about the Imaginal Realm:
"Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a Spirit is manifest in the Laws of the Universe--a Spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers, must feel humble." [Noetic Sciences Review, printed quote by Albert Einstein.]
Catholic theologian Lucien Cerfaux helps to put a coda to this particular post. Talking of St. Paul's doctrine of the Holy Spirit, in "terms of nature," Cerfaux puts it thus:
"The Holy Spirit, in union with our *nous,* creates a new nature in us with new possibilities. The theological idea which I have endeavored to express in this way is suggested by the phrase 'the fruit of the Spirit.' The Holy Spirit is planted in us like a seed and the seed brings forth fruit, but this does not take place without man's labour." [Lucien Cerfaux, THE CHRISTIAN IN THE THEOLOGY OF ST. PAUL, Herder and Herder, p. 447.]
It is this--the bringing forth this special fruit in our lives--which is the way our soul loves God. It is about our being open, ever more receptive to the information flowing into our soul from this Psi field, this Imaginal Realm. And it is about incarnating, manifesting these images, this information in a fruitful way so as to enhance our selves, others, our knowledge, our world.
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