Science in Christian Perspective
A Personal Integration of Scientific and Biblical Perspectives
Pseudo-Science and Pseudo-Theology:
(C) Cosmic Consciousness
RICHARD H. BUBE
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Stanford, California 94305
Response: Willis W. Harman, Stanley E. Linquist, William A. Tiller
From: JASA 29 (December 1977): 165-176.
Disillusionment with the ability of science to solve all human problems and a growing awareness of the magnitude of the problems facing the human race in the near future have led in recent years to an outbreak of mysticism: a desperate attempt to find religious comfort in an impersonal world, to establish individual freedom in a world of increasing collective limitations, and to prepare the foundation for that great Utopia of man's making which is always around the corner and never at hand. Although this move toward mysticism can be viewed as a reaction against scientific rationalism, coming as it does in the age of science, it seeks in spite of itself to establish its validity on scientific grounds. In its various manifestations, therefore, it presents itself as a grand harmonization of science and religion, a final unification of the whole man. As such it has a unique appeal to scientists dissatisfied with the fruits of their labors, and to those who are seeking some objective evidence for the validity of their religious faith. This general movement toward mysticism may well present at one and the same time, therefore, a major move toward the breakdown of the dichotomy between science and Christianity which all Christians can applaud, and a major move toward the denigration of every basic Christian concept which Christians hold dear. It seems to offer "the answer;" in fact, it all too often is only once more "the problem," an ancient heresy with a modern veneer. It poses one of the major challenges to Christianity in the encounter for men's minds in the near future.Getting Your Head Together
A quite useful summary of the variety of movements involved in cosmic consciousness is given in the September 1976 issue of Newsweek.1 It is not possible to describe each of the many (possibly hundreds?) of groups, cults, movements and schools that have blossomed over the last 20 years. They include transactional analysis, transcendental meditation, primal scream, bioenergetics, yoga, guided fantasy Arica, psychosynthesis, est, creative consciousness, bioifeedback, rolfing, mind control, Esalen, the Feldenkrais Method, and humanistic psychology. What do they have in common?
As a cultural phenomenon, the consciousness movement feeds on the romantic notion that inner experience alone can transform reality and that anyone can knead his life into a perfect work of art. As a religious movement, it signals a return to gnosticism, which always disparages common humanity in the name of higher truths. At its best, it offers an antidote to both false piety and complacent materialism. But at its worst, by ignoring the demonic side of man and smothering tragedy in a cloud of consciousness, it offers a sentimental journey for those who cannot stand too much reality.1This is a harsh and amazingly perceptive assessment to be found in a modern secular magazine. Involved in the
With antecedents in such movements as Spiritualism, Theosophy, and Christian Science, the various aspects of cosmic consciousness emphasize the power of mind over matter, and most include the basic assumption that the world perceived in normal human fashion through the senses is much less real and certainly less significant than the world that can be perceived through arriving at altered states of -consciousness. By combining modem psychotherapy with inputs from Eastern religions, the cosmic consciousness movement turns inward upon the individual in order to produce harmony between the individual and his own true self, nature around him, and finally the cosmic forces of the universe. Most forms of the movement assume "the innate goodness of man, the inevitability of human progress, and the inherent alterability of character."1 Here finally is a way to change human nature, a way at the control of each individual and justified by its scientific validity, rather than a way based upon the authoritarian edict of an ancient religion.
We have argued in a previous installment, however, that unjustified extrapolations from objective evidence should not lead the Christian to reject the evidence itself. We cannot appreciate the academic appeal of the cosmic consciousness movement without stepping back from the popular manifestations of it as various forms of mystic therapy, and considering the theoretical and experimental foundations of the movement. For example, internationally known spectroscopist Edward G. Grame reports that he has discovered to his satisfaction that lengthy group prayer over ordinary water breaks down the molecular bonds that hold a group of H20 molecules together and produces a simpler kind of water composed of single molecules which, he believes, is healthier to drink.2 (In addition to his scientific work as a chemist, Dr. Brame is also described as a "parapsyebologist" after hours and on weekends, a type of life characterizing an increasing number of scientists in recent years.) In May 1977, the Maharishi European Research University announced that advanced practitioners of transcendental meditation bad acquired the ability both to levitate themselves and to become invisible. These were presumably just the first steps in a grander program of acquiring mastery over the fundamental forces of nature. A graduate student from MERU reported,
Scientific investigation is an important part of the world plan of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. . . . Combining knowledge of ancient texts with modern ideas of physics, Maharishi announced in 1958 a plan "to spiritually regenerate mankind."3
In a paper entitled, "Enlightenment and Siddhis"' (siddhis are supernormal phenomena) Maharishi wrote
According to the laws of physics, the home of all the
laws of nature is the superfluid vacuum, the physical
state of least excitation. Here all the constituents and
tendencies or laws of nature are found in an unmanifest
yet infinitely correlated fashion; it is the source of all
activity, the dynamic field of all possibilities.3
It is to physics, therefore, that a basic appeal is made for justification of cosmic consciousness movements. This is a point to which we shall return in several later sections.
An Evaluation by J. G. Sire
A very helpful evaluation of the cosmic consciousness movement has been made by James G. Sire in his book, The Universe Next Door.4 Sire lists five basic tenets of what he calls "the New Consciousness." They are helpful in developing an integrated picture of the movement.
1. "Whatever the nature of being (idea or matter, energy or particle) the self is the kingpin-the prime reality. As mankind grows in his awareness and grasp of this fact, he is on the verge of a radical change in human nature; even now we see harbingers of the new man and prototypes of the new age."4 The God of the theist, and the physical world of the naturalist, is replaced by the Self. This self has the potentiality of being in control of all reality. It is both Creator and created. In such a situation, how is it possible to discriminate between self-deception and genuine perception?
2. "The cosmos, while unified in the self, is manifested in two more dimensions: the visible universe, accessible through ordinary consciousness, and the invisible universe (or Mind at Large), accessible through altered states of consciousness."4 The physical universe is only the most prosaic of the realms available to the self. The invisible universe, enterable through meditation, physical discipline or drugs, touches the essence of existence. Sire points out that the new consciousness is peculiarly Western amidst its Eastern forms because in general it does insist on the reality of the visible universe that obeys knowable physical laws. The invisible universe, however, the Mind at Large, does not obey the laws of the visible universe.
3. "The core of the new consciousness is the experience of cosmic consciousness, in which ordinary categories of space, time and morality tend to disappear."4 We can now answer the question raised at the end of statement 1, above: it is not necessary to be concerned about self-deception, for there is no such thing. Anything the self perceives, is, for the self is in control of everything. "Appearance is reality. There is no illusion."4
The label cosmic consciousness comes bearing a metaphysical explanation of the experience, one widely accepted among proponents of the new consciousness world view. The point is this: when the self perceives itself to be at one with the cosmos, it is at one with it. Self-realization, then, is the realization that the self and the cosmos are not only of a piece but are the same piece.4
Eastern monism dominates cosmic consciousness movements.
4. "Physical death is not the end of the self; under the experience of cosmic consciousness, the fear of death is removed."4 This is a popular theme in a variety of modern explorations of occurrences "after death," as for example, R. A. Moody's Life After Life.5
5. "Three distinct attitudes are taken to the metaphysical question of the nature of reality under the general framework of the new consciousness: (1) the occult version, (2) the psychedelic version, and (3) the conceptual relativist version."4 The three choices enumerated by Sire can be considered as alternative answers to the question, "Where is this separate reality?" The occult version replies that it is a reality with an existence independent of the viewer. The psychedelic version replies that it is a reality projected from the self. The conceptual relativist version replies that cosmic consciousness deals with the same reality as other modes of consciousness but using models of reality which are different, no particular model being any "truer" than any other.
Sire offers three principal critiques of this new consciousness worldview. (1) It shares with naturalism and pantheistic monism the concept of a closed universe. Ethical issues are therefore largely ignored. If the self is truly in control of the universe, why is anything required except the satisfaction of the self? (2) It reverses the process of desacralization of nature that Christianity accomplished, by once again calling into being the spirit inhabitants of the "inner spaces of the mind."4
While spirit activity has been constant in areas where Christianity has barely penetrated, it has been little reported in the West from the time of Jesus. Christ is said to have driven the spirits from field and stream, and when Christianity permeates a society the spirit world seems to disappear or go into hiding. It is only in the last few decades that the spirits of the woods and rivers, the air and the darkness have been invited back by those who have rejected the claims of Christianity and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.4
(3) It has no inner test for truth, only for patterns of coherence. "Every system is equally valid; it must only pass the test of experience and experience is private. Taken to its logical conclusion this notion is a form of epistemological nihilism."4An Incomplete Guide to the Future
Sire uses the writings of Carlos Castaneda6 as a specific case of the new consciousness in action. A much less esoteric case, and hence perhaps an even more effective one, is provided by Willis W. Harman in his book, An Incomplete Guide to the Future.7 Harman holds an MS in physics and a PhD in electrical engineering; starting in 1967 when he was a professor of engineering-economic systems at Stanford University, he began to become involved with futures research, which led to his book. Not insignificant, however, is the fact that since 1954 he has been interested in sensitivity training, the human-potential movement, and the study of consciousness through psychedelic chemicals and biofeedback. It is not surprising, therefore, that when Harman finds industrialized society deficient and constructs a new paradigm for a post-industrial society,8 he also finds the development of human consciousness as a compelling force driving the new society into being.
Of direct interest to us here is his description of the new man and his reasons for believing that this new man is currently emerging. Harman rejects, as would the Christian, deficient models of man such as a phys-
This general movement toward mysticism seems to offer the answer; in fact it all too often is once more the problem, an ancient heresy with a modern veneer.
iologically motivated mechanism, a psychologically conditioned animal, and a free being. He also rejects the model of man as God's creation in favor of the model of man as a transcendental being, "who has ,the Divine within,' a 'true Self' or 'Atman' or 'Oversoul,' which the individual may come to experience as one with a 'Higher Spirit,' 'Brahman,' or the 'Divine Ground.7 We may note in passing that Harman's rejection of the biblical model of man is primarily because be finds its context objectionably authoritarian, and because such traditional religious positions have lost their influence in the modern world.
The attraction of Harman's thought for the Christian
is illustrated by his statement,
We are gradually coming to realize that such well-worn dichotomies as free will versus determinism, physical
versus spiritual, and science versus religion are really only expressions of the tension between complementary
and equally valid metaphors.7
In his effort to get free of the industrialized paradigm with its emphasis on science as the way to truth and on technology for materialistic ends, Harman faces the choice of seeing science as a valid endeavor within its historical limitations of knowledge obtained by the interpretation of sense data,9 or of seeing science as inappropriately limited by its past methodology and needing to be broadened and freed to provide us with insights into wider realms. As is characteristic of every choice made in the context of cosmic consciousness, Harman opts for the latter possibility. He sees scientific orthodoxy as being challenged by a host of new phenomena including among others growing awareness of hypnosis, unconscious processes, psychosomatic illness and the power of self-suggestion, various states of consciousness and psychic research into telepathy, clairvoyance, faith healings, retrocognition, precognition, psychokinesis, unusual control of involuntary processes, thought photography, and unusual mental abilities.
Harman appears quite correct in arguing that it is possible to know through intuitive identification (as with persons) as well as through rational, empirical investigation (as with scientific facts). His desire to see scientific and religious descriptions combined to produce man's wholeness is also sound. But Harman uses this framework to launch into a set of faith presuppositions of his own about the nature of "the new man" who will revolutionize life on earth and make the post-industrial paradigm a reality. This "new man" is the man with cosmic consciousness, following quite closely to the description given by Sire.
In Harman's view the human race is approaching a new evolutionary stage of awareness with no counterpart in history. As in Clarke's 200110 man's advent into space marked a new evolutionary breakthrough akin to the first time that pre-human creatures began to use tools, so Harman sees all of the above phenomena as marking a new period of man's internal and "spiritual" development. Although he makes no reference to it, his vision is not greatly different from that of Teilhard de Chardin" who envisioned a major convergence in the evolutionary process to Omega after the stage of noogenesis (human thought) had been established.
Harman refers to a "perennial philosophy" which he sees as characterizing the hidden wisdom of all ages in a theme reminiscent of the "hidden key" motif of gnosticism. It has always been believed by the wisest of men that man can attain cosmic consciousness, a kind of immediate knowledge of the reality underlying the physical world. Normal life can be likened to going through life in a kind of hypnotic sleep, not really seeing; once he sees more clearly, he is able to become aware of the directions of his inner self. Driven by a profound motivation to participate fully with awareness in the evolutionary process, human potentiality is limitless; all knowledge and all power is ultimately accessible to the human mind looking within itself.
Unfortunately in his zeal to show that this biddeu wisdom is typical not only of Eastern thought but also of Christian thought, Harman includes Luke 17:33 "Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it." This he represents as being equivalent to the statement from the Upanishads, "Having realized his own self as the Self, a man becomes selfless; and in virtue of selflessness he is to be conceived as unconditioned." Only gross misunderstanding permits such an attempt to harmonize Eastern monism with Christianity.
Finally the Christian can also agree with Harman
when he states,
The concept of a transcendental, choosing, ultimately responsible self is central to the entire theory of democratic government. It underlies the assumption that the individual is finally responsible for a criminal act. It is basic to the assumption in the judicial process that the judge can make a meaningful judgment.7
But it is almost exactly this picture of the human being that is conveyed by the biblical representation of man as a creature made in the image of God. Harman seeks after symbols with the power to restore health to society; it is frustrating that his search takes him so far afield.The Influence of Modern Physics
Scientists trained in modem physics often find in an interpretation of that discipline a clue to the world view that leads to cosmic consciousness. This aspect of the subject receives the least public exposure because it is so difficult to discuss on a popular level; on the other hand, it is this aspect of the subject that has considerable appeal for scientists with a bent toward believing in paranormal phenomena.
One starting point is a paper by the distinguished physicist Eugene P. Wigner, "Remarks on the MindBody Question," published in 1961.12 Wigner addresses himself to a basic problem in the interpretation of quantum mechanics and concludes that not only does the body influence the mind, as is generally conceded, but also that the mind influences the body. In a day when psychosomatic illnesses are generally accepted, this statement is not very revolutionary, but it is coupled with another by Wigner, "The second argument supporting the existence of an influence of the consciousness on the physical world is based on the observation that we do not know of any phenomenon in which one object is influenced by another without exerting an influence thereon." Wigner therefore urges a search for instances in which it is observed that consciousness alters the laws of nature.
It is to physics that a basic appeal is made for justification of cosmic consciousness movements.
What lies behind Wigner's paper is a problem in the interpretation of the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics. In conventional quantum mechanics the total state function of a system is represented as a combination of eigenstate (possible state) functions for the system. The act of measurement somehow selects one of these eigenstates as the result of the measurement. The question is: how does the act of measurement select one of the possible states and make it the observed state? In the "traditional" interpretation after von Neumarm,13 it is argued that the act of measurement causes the state function to collapse to a single eigenstate as given by the measurement; the state function itself does not represent reality but only provides a means of making statistical predictions about reality. Wigner, on the other hand, proposed that it is the entry of the measurement signal into the human consciousness of the observer that selects one of many possible outcomes. He argues that grossly nonlinear departures from the normal uantum mechanical equations occur when consciouSeings are present. If this argument seems obscure, at least it illustrates concern with the role of human consciousness in the measurement procedures of modern physics.
Another effect of modern physics has been to demolish the classical separation between the observer and the observed. The well-known Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is a general statement of the fact that a scientist trying to measure the position of an electron must interfere with the electron in making the measurement so that he cannot simultaneously determine the velocity of the electron; the very process of measurement destroys the availability of some information about the system. It is not always possible to view the scientist as an independent observer, whose observation of the system leaves it unaffected. Rather it has become necessary to incorporate the observation of the scientist into the total system being considered.
A simple but basic illustration may help at this point.14 Consider a light source able to emit single photons, a polaroid filter that polarizes the light, and a second filter of the same type placed beyond the first filter. If the axis of the second filter is parallel to that of the first filter, all photons will get through both filters; if the axis of the second is at 90' to that of the first filter, none of the photons will get through. Now set the axis of the second at 450 from that of the first. Subsequently some of the photons will get through and some will not, so that if enough pbotons are observed, on the average one-half will go through. The question is raised: "What causes some photons to get through and others not to?" The answer of traditional quantum mechanics is that nothing causes these events: they are totally describable by a statistical chance situation. But suppose someone does not wish to believe this. Following suggestions by Bohm" he may suppose that the photons are really different as they come from the light source, which imparts to a particular photon the property that makes it be transmitted or not, as the case may be. Then it is the light source that controls the behavior of the experiment and not the polaroid filters. Now add a third polaroid filter beyond the second one, at 45' with respect to the second filter. Observations will now show that some photons will get through both the second and the third filter, and some will not; if enough observations are made it will be observed that exactly 1/4 of the photons get through all three filters. At this point, simply remove the second filter; now none of the photons will get through (the first and third filters are oriented at 900 from one another). So removing a filter markedly changes whether or not a photon makes it through. This violates our previous notion that it was the light source that determined this effect. Instead we see that the whole system of light source and all filters must be considered together; it is one total system that cannot be meaningfully separated into independent parts. So the scientist becomes an integral part of the experiment which he is performing.
If this is true, then why is it that we have been able to live our lives so long without paying attention to it? The answer appears to be that the forces that control the physical world are so different in magnitude and range that there is very little overlap between the domain of one force and that of another. Davies in The Scientific Approach16 separates forces into four major categories: (1) weak and long range gravitational and electrostatic forces, (2) inter-molecular attractive forces which are weak with a rather short range, (3) intra-molecular attractive forces (chemical bonds) which are strong but with very short range, and (4) forces within the nucleus which are extremely strong and of extremely short range. Selection of a particular physical phenomenon identifies which of these four force ranges dominates in the formulation of the relevant law of action, other forces being essentially irrelevant to this particular law. For the motion of the planets gravitational forces dominate, for the chemical behavior of atoms forces between atoms
Does a monistic view of the origin of natural forces really constitute support for a monistic religious view any more than it supports the biblical view of the one God who creates and sustains?
dominate, for the properties of the nucleus nuclear forces dominate. It is this separation of physical forces into bands of influence that permits formulation of physical laws in such simple form. Whereas it is true that a remote body in the universe does exert a finite gravitational attraction on my body, the magnitude of that attraction is so small that it is totally negligible compared to the effects of other forces.
If a physicist formulates the major forces and their domains, he is likely to make a somewhat different set of choices from that suggested by chemical engineer Davies. Weinberg,17 for example, describes the four forces in the natural world as the gravitational, the weak, the electromagnetic and the strong, in order of increasinLy strellath. Both the gravitational force and the electromagnetic force are in principle of infinite range. Both the weak and the strong forces referred to arise from studies of the nucleus; the strong force has a range of 10-13 cm, and the weak force has an even shorter range by about a factor of 100! One of the challenges of modem physics has been to develop a unified theory that would encompass all four of these forces. Weinberg discusses a class of theories known as "gauge theories" in which "there is a principle of invariance which logically requires the existence of the forces themselves." What does all this have to do with cosmic consciousness? Simply this: physicists speculate that at a sufficiently small scale three of these forces may be the same.
This suggests that in the early universe, when the temperature was extremely high, the forces of nature may
not merely have been related by a bidden symmetry,
but rather were actually all alike; the weak, the electromagnetic, and the strong interactions may all have been
long-range, inverse-square strength.17
When the universe is perceived as being describable by a series of different forces with different ranges, then separation between phenomena is a natural philosophical correlate. But when the universe is perceived as being describable by one basic set of forces, then support for philosophical monism can be claimed: at its most profound level, the universe is a unity of interactions occurring among all levels through a fundamental interrelatedness that our classical view of physics with its domains of different forces has obscured until the present time. Add to this the additional concept of "mind" as a kind of "cosmic force" operable at a fundamental level, and then it becomes "obvious" how mind can control matter by operating at this fundamental level to change gravitational, weak, electromagnetic and strong forces of "everyday" physics.
Another dimension of this approach is expounded by Capra in The Tao, of Physics.18 Whereas Weinberg was reluctant to draw philosophical conclusions from the apparent direction of modern physics, Capra's purpose is to show that it is possible to produce an integration of modern physics and the concepts of Eastern religions, in fact that it is only the Eastern religions that are adequate to such a task. Arguing from the unity and interrelatedness of all phenomena and the intrinsically dynamic nature of the universe, Capra suggests that "quantum theory forces us to see the universe not as a collection of physical objects, but rather as a complicated web of relations between various parts of a unified whole."" This monistic conclusion seems to Capra to fit beautifully with the views of Eastern philosophers. The concept of the universe as in ceaseless motion that comes out of modern physics Capra sees as similar to that symbolized by the dance of Shiva, revered by Hindus. Astronomer Mansfield says of the book,I strongly recommend the book to both layman and scientist. . . . The infusion of an Eastern view of nature into modern physics could provide the significant paradigm shift that many claim is needed in physics in the last quarter of the twentieth century19
Perhaps it is possible to see a parallel here between
the historical development of the theory of evolution
and this modern twist arising from physics. Evolutionary theory can also be interpreted as a striving toward
,'monism,, -a common origin for all things, in contrast
to a series of unrelated multiple origins. When a series
of unrelated origins is considered philosophically essential for harmonization with the biblical account of
creation, then evolution with its thrust toward monism
becomes a threat to Christianity. So in this present
development if a monistic view of the phenomena of
the natural world is viewed as being intrinsically antibiblical and anti-Christian, it will cause profound difficulties in attempts to treat scientific and biblical
thought in an integrated manner. A fundamental question may be raised, however. Does a monistic view
of the origin of natural forces really constitute support for a monistic religious view any more than
it supports the biblical view of the one God who
creates and sustains? That is, isn't the choice of
religious implication derived from quite nonscientific inputs and not impelled by the scientific model
at all? The answer must be affirmative unless there
were some reason to believe that Christianity leads
to the conclusion that all natural forces cannot by
their very nature be scientifically describable in a
single unified model; I know of no such reason. Nor do
I know why the acceptance of the possibility for a
common origin for all natural forces should lead one
to believe that this violates the practical macroscopic
observation of separation between force domains. It is
common experience in modem physics that one can
treat the radioactive decay of a large number of decaying atoms quite deterministically, even though the
scientific description of the process for a particular
atom is completely a chance description. The major
question is not whether all forces can be described in
a unified field theory, but whether or not there exists
some hitherto unknown force of quite different nature
from the four forces described by Weinberg. On the
latter question there appears to be considerable difficulty in obtaining relevant specific evidence.
In order to demonstrate the consequences of believing that we are at the edge of a major revolution in scientific understanding as we understand the connection between these philosophical implications of modern physics and the role of "mind" in the universe, we consider the position of William A. Tiller. Tiller is Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University and a scientist with an established reputation in the theory of crystallization. He is also Director of the Academy of Parapsychology and Medicine, and former Director of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, as well as being Director of Health for the New Age Trust (England). In November 1976 be presented a lecture at Stanford University in a series on Psychic Phenomena, entitled, "Towards a Multidimensional Physics and its Relationship to Psi." He is quoted elsewhere as having made the following statement that summarizes his perspective,
We are on the threshold of a revolution. A revolution so vast, much more vast than this world has ever seen, even in the days of the Creeks. We are talking about a revolution of scientific understanding, vast new technologies growing out of that understanding, knowledge of man's relationships within himself, between himself and his brothers. I think we're moving towards an 'energy medicine' where acupuncture is just the tip of the iceberg. I think we'll be leading ourselves toward vast new energy sources, new ways of influencing plant growth. As we learn the true meaning of mind and thought and put them to work we will grow to a potential far, far beyond what, presently, we manifest; and we can make of this earth a rather fantastic place.20Tiller sets forth the outline of his position in six basic suggestions he believes indicated by developments in the field he calls "psychoenergetics."
Unfortunately Christians are often so eager for scientific support that they embrace pseudo-science without critical evaluation and sometimes play havoc with their basic position in the long run.
1. Energies exist in the universe different from any known to date.
2. The aspect of reality we perceive with our senses is quite limited. Man's view of reality is an effective jailer, limiting his perspective. Other dimensions of reality exist beyond those detectable by our five senses, but human beings have within themselves latent systems for contacting these other dimensions.
3. The universe can be likened to one great organism, just becoming aware of itself. At some level of reality, everything is interrelated. We are all part of that one organism.
4. Time, space and matter can all be changed by human beings. One can perceive events out of time and out of their locations in space, and matter can be de-materialized and re-materialized.
5. The world that we perceive is not an objective world with existence independent of us. Rather it is a world altered by our intentions. We cannot perceive reality.
6. Man is at the present time developing the final stages of a new sensory system which will enable him to couple into other dimensions of the universe.
It is evident that these beliefs are on the border line between science and pseudo-science, exactly where the boundary is not being clearly defined at the present. Tiller himself bases his belief on his personal experiences with Kirlian photograpby2l and a visit he made to the Soviet Union in 1971 as a member of a sevenman team to investigate Russian activity in the field of psychoenergetics. There he saw psychokinesis experiments first hand from two demonstrators: two women who were able to move gold rings, plastic pen tops, and aluminum cigar cans presumably by concentration of mental energy.
Tiller sees these as developments in a growing under standing of a new dimension of science. just as classical medicine and agriculture depended on standard chemistry, and the new field of neuropsychiatry developed with the understanding of electromagnetic fields, so Tiller argues the activities of aikido, Zen, yoga and biofeedback are associated with the new emerging understanding of the powers of mind. He gives basic credence to a variety of phenomena reported around the world, including the change in the surface tension of water by a "healer" or by magnets, the change in the optical absorption and hydrogen bonding of water as affected by a "healer," the effect on a normal subject's physiological reactions by the concentration of a psychic, mental control of a magneiometer, of a falling die, and of matter a la Uri Geller, and a whole new phenomenon of organic gardening based on love' concern and positive thinking as these affect "the spiritual world of plant life."
Tiller himself does not stop with this borderline between science and pseudo-science, but pushes on into the realm of pseudo-religion as well. He includes the miracles of Jesus and other great teachers in the same category as the phenomena just described. He sees mind as the connecting link between positive and negative space-time fields and a level be calls "Spirit," which in turn is a link with the ultimate level of "Divine."
Of particular interest to Tiller is the influence of these new energy fields in the area of medicine. Traditional medicine is still bound to the level of positive space-time fields (electromagnetic fields). New medical breakthroughs (e.g., "healers," acupuncture) are beginning to make use of negative space-time fields. Tiller's goal is to develop a model of this multidimensional. universe, establish the connection between positive and negative space-time fields, and determine the role of the human being as receiver, transducer and transmitter of this energy. In this model the human
There is no evidence of any kind for the powers of human "'mind" without the presence of a living human "brain."
being is an array of antenna elements (the acupuncture points linked by the autonomous nervous system); evidence for this are the "auras" claimed to be seen by psychics around human beings, and the related-pbenomenon of "dowsing." The determination of the connection between body functions and the electrical properties of acupuncture points is a first step in this direction. Of course, participation in this higher level energy may require that an individual be in an altered state of consciousness.
An interesting twist to this approach to the paranormal or supernormal is the turning of a standard argument from traditional science against these phenomena into an argument in favor of them. If traditional science were to check the reality of psychokinesis experiments, for example, it would demand that the experiments be possible and reproducible under a wide variety of extraneous conditions. Failure to perform under some fraction of these conditions would be interpreted as evidence against the new energy of the mind being advocated. Lack of control on a host of parapsychological experiments has plagued their investigation for years. Under this "new" view, however, the ability to demonstrate a particular parapsychological phenomenon depends upon the total physical and mental environment in which the experiment is carried out since the experimenter cannot be separated from the observers: they are all part of one system. It is therefore to be expected that a psychic will be successful before an audience of believers and not successful before an audience of doubters! If the mental attitude of the environment were irrelevant, the theory of parapsychological phenomena would be inconsistent. This aspect of the "new science" therefore makes a radical break with every aspect characteristic of traditional science in the past, one of the most prominent aspects of which was the insistence on publically reproducible data under controlled conditions. But in the view of the "new science," this is no break at all, but simply the application of new understanding from the discipline of modern physics.The Appeal to Christians
There is a strong strain in the Christian community which values scientific support for their religious convictions. While, on the one hand they denigrate scientific descriptions that appear to conflict with their theological descriptions, they are also so much a part of the scientific age that they value highly demonstrations by "true science" that their religious picture is true. Unfortunately they are often so eager for scientific support that they embrace pseudo-science without critical evaluation and sometimes play havoc with their basic position in the long run. This appeal of what is presently on the borderline of science and pseudo-science with strong leanings toward pseudo-religion, is one of the major dangers of these developments for the Christian.
One delight of Christians is to embrace the evidence that these phenomena testify against a materialistic interpretation of the universe. In the body of a cautious assessment by Stephen Board" he nevertheless gives voice to sentiments of this type.
In addition to physiological explanations of some of these phenomena, there may easily be room for fresh thinking on psychic explanations. As Vernon Grounds of Conservative Baptist Seminary in Denver puts it, "Reality is much more porous than our scientific mind-set has been ready to view it." The edge of knowledge in telepathy, extrasensory perception and other psychic wonders may expand under the stimulation of people like Raymond Moody. This need not be rejected by Christians, for these areas may be neither divine or demonic but a neutral part of creation. . . . The crude materialism long associated with the world of science is today chastened and in retreat because of such mysteries as those reported by the thanatologists. Pure materialism has become an act of blind faith.
Here Board makes the important point that Christians need not (must not?) reject what is objectively true, even if these same phenomena are used by others to advance an anti-Christian theology. And it is true that he modifies materialism with the adjectives "crude" and "pure". Still the implication is that we are through these phenomena getting evidence for non-materialistic manifestations. The conservative Christian quickly translates this into meaning we have scientific evidence for the existence of soul and spirit. This is not true. Whatever phenomena may or may not exist, whatever mystic energy fields may or may not be associated with human mind, one fact remains: none of these phenomena occurs without the participation of human beings and human beings are material creatures. One might as well argue that electromagnetic or gravitational fields are evidence of a spiritual realm. There is no evidence of any kind for the powers of human "mind" without the presence of a living human "brain." The claims of the parapsychologist who extrapolates into pseudo-religious interpretations are far more compatible with Christian Science than they are with biblical Christianity. An author supporting Christian Science writes, for example,
The particles of the atom have no more solidity than a thought or feeling. Gradually, in this century, matter as a solid thing has been drained out of the universe. It has disappeared, replaced by a basic atomic unit composed of space and non-material charges of energy. This nonmaterial nature of the atom is a most essential point in relating the physical universe to the spiritual dimension.23
An example of curiously ambiguous Christian response is found in a book review of Parapsychology and the Nature of Life by John L. Randall in Faith and Thought.24 The reviewer starts with glowing praise,
It would be difficult to imagine a better book than this one to put into the bands of a serious but materialistically minded sceptic. . . . Its conclusion is modest-science and religion can be reconciled but science does not at present favour one religion rather than another, though it points strongly to belief in autonomous mind as a creative principle and to the existence of God.
The author of the book is cited as arguing that the main findings of psychical research are now firmly established, that efforts to avoid a God-of-the-Gaps are misguided, and that the evidence against the mechanistic view of the world is overwhelmingly convincing. At the end of the review, the reviewer stops suddenly, however, and suggests why there may still be resistance in spite of the "masterpiece" he is reviewing. His comments are illuminating.
Opposition to the new discoveries may stem in large measure, from the fear that if ESP and PK are accepted, superstitions of all kinds will be rationalized scientifically. If it becomes generally accepted in the world of science that the human mind can influence the fall of dice, manipulate the disintegration of atomic nuclei, influence the will of animals and even modify the movements of insects and plants, shall we not soon find ourselves back in the witchcraft days? The malicious old lady next door will perhaps impel me to act stupidly, or she will manipulate the internal organs of my body to make me sick, or torment me with ESP-induced cancer, or by PK remove bolts from my car and make me crash. . . . There is no end to it . . .
Can you imagine a more frightful world than one in which all the claims of paranormal phenomena are valid? What a nightmare existence that would be when every moment was involved in a conflict of mind power against mind power! Suddenly all the foreseeable evils awaiting the human race seem to pale by comparison. This does not, of course, mean that many of them may not come to pass if that is the way the world is really put together.
A more perceptive response is found in the editorial pages of Christianity Today in comments on Moody's Life After Life" and similar publications.
Before Christians run to jump on the bandwagon or add these data to their apologetic arsenal, they should be aware that no essential difference is reported between the OBEs (out-of-body experiences) of believers and unbelievers! . . . Christians testify to seeing Christ while Hindus say they come face to face with Krishna. Cultists tend to have their worldview validated, and some nominal Christians adopt heterodox opinions. . . . Christians should encourage further serious research in the area while recognizing that faith cannot be "proved" by scientific research.25
Other Christians, however, tend to be much less cautious. Writing in the Creation R6earch Society Quarteriy, Robert W. Bass26 has an article entitled "Quantum Psycho-Physics." Bass supposes that the usual interpretation of quantum mechanics in terms of statistical processes means that "human beings are demonstrably capricious robots." He is therefore receptive to a new theory that postulates that actually random events are "controlled by a non-physical entity, the brain's consciousness (or 'spirit' or 'soul')." Cited supporting evidence is a report of French physicists that school-children can telepathically alter the rate of radioactive decay. Bass' conclusion is
In 1974 scientists have at last discovered hard evidence that human beings have real but non-physical "spirits" or "souls" which can control matter-rather than conversely-and can interact at a distance without physical media of transmission.
The accuracy of the claims aside, the conclusion simply does not follow from the data given.
Coming closer to home, we may include remarks on "Psychic Phenomena as Related to Science and Christian Experience,"27 given in a commencement address at Trinity College in 1974 by Dr. Stanley E. Lindquist, Professor of Psychology at California State University at Fresno, who was being honored at Trinity for his work with the Link-Care Foundation. Lindquist starts with a strongly dichotomous view of man,
The essence of our life-the spirit-is using these earth space suit bodies as the necessary form through which the spirit can have being on earth.
Continuing with an affirmation that "the spirit living within is eternal," Lindquist claims that "when Jesus said 'God is a spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and trutb" He delineated the central core of psychic phenomena as it relates to Christian experience." Lindquist looks for a breakthrough: "If a non-material dimension were confirmed, scientific materialism, which places matter in first place, would be dealt a mortal blow." Lindquist believes that we may be on the crest of a wave of change that can totally transform science as we know it. After citing standard references to psychic phenomena, be goes on to state,
: . . great men have postulated the intervening variables in their quest for answers. Einstein said E=mc2 . . . Copernicus said the world is not the center of the universe . . . Jesus Christ, opening the way to God, is the supreme example of a person being the way, and today each of us here owes the life we live to the God who became the way for us. Today we can turn to a man such as Dr. Tiller, Chairman of the department of imaterial sciences, Stanford University, who may be a pioneer like Einstein or Copernicus. He says in essence that today's psychic phenomena may be tomorrow's physics -that we cannot limit ourselves to the current timespace continuum any longer if we are to learn about new dimensions in life.
Lindquist continues his strong identification of the "new science" with the Christian faith,
Psychic phenomena are part and parcel of the whole human, and especially of the Christian experience. If the principles of this new dimension could be demonstrated scientifically, new bridges could be built between science and our faith. Windows of understanding could be opened in the blank and resisting walls which now exist.
These quotations from Lindquist show how deeply the sincere Christian, seeking scientific support of his faith, may ally himself and call upon others to ally themselves with a movement which may not accomplish at all what they wish and which moves steadily in a direction contrary to what they would follow.Unexpected Critics
A curious response to the cosmic consciousness movement is the establishment of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, with its publication The Zetetic, the name given to the followers of the Greek skeptic philosopher Pyrrho. Founders of this Committee are members of the humanist movement. As quoted in Science28, Lee Nisbet, executive editor of the Humanist has said that "It's a very dangerous phenomenon, dangerous to science, dangerous to the basic fabric of our society. . . . We feel it is the duty of the scientific community to show that these beliefs are utterly screwball." Targets of the committee listed in the Science article include "astrology, parapsychology, faith healing, life after death, flying saucers, chariots of the gods, astral projection, Atlantis, kirlian photography, exorcism, pyramid power, poltergeists, psychic plants, sasquatches (a.k.a. Bigfeet) and of course the Bermuda triangle." It was the Humanist that in 1975 gathered the signatures of 186 scientists affirming that there was no scientific basis for astrology.
This social polarization places the Christian in a curious position. Should he side with the mystics of cosmic consciousness because they welcome his belief in the supernatural-along with many other beliefs that the Christian does not hold? Or should he side with the humanists who deny the existence of God and the supernatural, but seem to have a level head on their shoulders when it comes to being skeptical about mystical esoterica'? Not surprisingly the Christian must do neither in spite of the strong pulls that be is going to experience.Conclusions
With this discussion of cosmic consciousness and its many ramifications, we conclude this three-part installment on pseudo-science and pseudo-theology, to return in subsequent installments to the other aspects of integrating science and the whole person. The conclusions from our discussion, offered for your evaluation, may be briefly summarized as follows.
1. Christians must be careful not to deny the existence of objectively observable phenomena in the world, simply because the theological context in which such phenomena are advanced and interpreted is non- or anti-Christian.
2. Christians must be careful not to credit non- or anti-Christian perspectives as being valid or "intrinsically Christian" simply because they are the framework within which objectively observable phenomena in the world are advanced and interpreted.
3. To discriminate between authentic science and pseudo-science, and even sometimes between authentic theology and pseudo-theology, is not always a simple matter. Complexities should be expected, and care should be taken before arriving at conclusions.
4. To defend Christianity in a scientific day by attempting to transform biblical categories into scientific categories is an instance of philosophical reductionism and is bankrupt.
5. To defend Christianity in a scientific day by attempting to provide scientific descriptions for spiritual phenomena is a dangerous path to tread. It is dangerous because authentic science can easily be transformed into pseudo-science as the means to achieving theologically defensible ends. It is dangerous because revolutionary transformations of scientific methodology should be approached with great caution. It is dangerous because what may be scientifically describable (e.g., new energy fields or forces) cannot be identified with spiritual aspects (e.g., soul, spirit).
6. The extrapolation of scientific theories into theological analogies has always been and continues to be a totally questionable procedure.
Neither of Us is "Right"
Willis W. Harman
Associate Director Center for the Study of Social Policy
Stanford Research Institute Menlo Park, California
Thank you for your courtesy in sending me a draft copy of your "Pseudo-Science and Pseudo-Theology" article.
I am sure we share the frustration of attempting to communicate with words, and then finding the words transmitted a different shade of meaning than was meant. Because this problem arises out of the divergence of our experiences, it is not very remediable. What I am attempting to say is that I don't feel you understand what I was really trying to express-but on the other hand, I can't take great issue with what you did with my words. So, since in the end each reader has to sort this out for himself anyway, let the debate go on.
I think that my observations already published, and your comments here, give the reader an opportunity to further clarify his own perceptions-and that's the real objective anyway. The limitations of language being what they are, we can be reasonably sure that neither one of us is "right."
Stanley E. Lindquist
Professor of Psychology
California State University, Fresno
President, Link Care
Fresno, California 93711
I'm enclosing some comments concerning your article as you requested. Frankly, I'm disturbed that you would use a speech for such careful analysis and as a case history to prove your point. However, I also realize that anyone who does give talks on esoteric topics is also subject to such analysis.
I have moved away from the position in that speech by now so that it is not an adequate presentation of my present thoughts.
In general, I agree with the basic conclusions that Bube offers. It is important to maintain the independence of Christian faith from science. The two are on totally different levels and an attempt to base the one on the other would be foolhardy.
I am disturbed, however, at the method Bube has chosen to illustrate his points. From a speech which had as its total appeal, for Christians to recognize and amplify spiritual aspects of their faith, he has extracted statements for use in his own arguments. He has drawn conclusions which go far beyond my original purpose and intent. This may make for good journalism but is inaccurate reporting.
My original talk (1974) was to present Christians with another perspective on the interface between Christianity and science. It was not a scientific treatise that grasped eagerly at some seeming potential scientific buttress for Christian faith as Bube implies. Rather, it was a call to laymen to take a broader look at the spiritual, rather than being totally preoccupied with the scientific and material side of life. The burgeoning interest in psychic phenomena and the work of a few scientists who appeared to be changing from a former preoccupation with the material world to a concern for the immaterial were used as an example of a change in outlook,
Throughout, my use of the term "psychic" and
"psychic phenomena," as it was briefly defined in
the original talk, followed the dictionary definition of
pertaining to mental phenomena that cannot be explained otherwise than originating outside or independ, ent of normal physiological processes-spiritual' (underlining mine.)
In each instance, my illustrations were carefully couched in speculative terms, not as dogmatic fact, e.g., "If a non-material dimension were confirmed . . .," "Dr. Tiller ... may be a pioneer . . .," "If the principles could be demonstrated scientifically . . ."
Bube has taken such conjectures as being representative of acknowledged fact and has disregarded their original import within a context that differed totally from that which Bube suggests.
In the case of my supposed, "strong identification of the 'new science' with the Christian faith," Bube has failed to recognize that my definition of psychic phenomena and "tomorrow's physics" are not the same thing. In this case a trend was noted. True science is as Christian as any other endeavor. To try to remove any aspect of the realities of life as non-Christian is as dangerous as attempting to make Christian faith dependent upon science.
While I commend Bube for taking on "the enormous task of trying to clarify some of the ideas about psychic phenomena," I wish that he had been more careful in his methods of illustrating his points. For a personal analysis of my remarks, I can only suggest, for those who are interested, that they draw their conclusions from my total speech rather than from selected parts, taken out of context, and interpreted differently from their original intention.
William A. Tiller
Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
Stanford, California 94305
The theoretical work of Einstein showed that time and the three dimensions of space are intimately connected, such that they form a space-time manifold in our experiential frame of reference. He showed that ' in certain domains of our experiential variables such as very high velocities, very large energy densities and very large mass densities, the observable behavior of nature meaningfully departs from expectations based upon a linear extrapolation of our more common experience; i.e., clocks slow down, measuring sticks shorten, everything becomes heavier, etc. Experiments of the past two decades have confirmed that these very nonlinear and totally unexpected phenomena do, in fact, occur.
Today, a number of investigators are considering the consequences of a multidimensional universe of the space-time-X, space-time-X-Y and space-time-X-Y-Z type where the variables X, Y, and Z are other significant qualities of the human experience on a parallel footing with space and time. It is being postulated that, as a consequence of self -integration of various types, individuals may manipulate the X-quality to such a degree that the space-time-X manifold behaves in a strongly coupled fashion so that essentially nonlinear effects appear in the common space-time perception domain of this manifold.
It may appear as if the scientific laws of our universe are being contravened by many of the psychoenergetic phenomena and that they therefore are really fraudulent. However, a more open-minded conclusion would be that the appearance of such phenomena seems to indicate that a purely 4-dimensional space-time continuum description of the universe is naive and that a higher dimensional description is probably needed to satisfactorily draw the new phenomena into our "World View" paradigm. Further, reproduction of such phenomena by other investigators would require that they have access to this X-quality of sufficient degree as to be located in that same domain of perception space wherein the phenomena are lawfully manifest. Obviously, this X-quality requires the development of reliable measurement techniques for its quantitative discrimination before such reproduction can be meaningfully assessed. The development of such measurement systems is being pursued in a number of quarters.
A common misconception is that the "scientific method" requires the experimenter to be coldly and distantly objective during the conduct of the experiment. Instead it really requires a complete description of the necessary and sufficient conditions or protocol for anyone to reproduce the experimental result at any physical location. If this requires setting a mental and an emotional field at certain strengths-so be it. If these are to provide a positive, negative, or neutral bias-so be it. However, we must find the measuring instruments with which to set the field strengths. That is our problem today-we don't yet know enough to design the correct instruments, we know only enough to recognize a significant influence and to realize that it is not easily controlled.
We generally tend to think that our science makes definitive and absolute statements about nature whereas, in fact, it provides us with only a set of consistency relationships about our experience of nature, It is internally self-consistent but that doesn't mean that it describes the Absolute. The common pillars of this edifice of relationships, symbolized in the form of beautiful equations, are mass, charge, space, time, etc. These qualities are not deeply understood by our science but they provide a good support structure for the edifice provided they are unchanging or unalterable by other qualities of man or nature. The X-quality of certain humans appears to be manifest in them to a sufficient degree that these key pillars can be locally perturbed for a brief duration, which upsets our nice set of consistency relationships. Many, tend to respond by stating that since such phenomena violate Reality, fraud is involved. Others recognize, more correctly, that it puts into serious question our present "View of Reality" and suggests that we are limiting ourselves by rigidly embracing the present "World View."
The body of evidence supporting the need for a new
"World Picture" is growing each day by leaps and
bounds. I would strongly recommend that we not
develop a fixed position against it but that we reserve
judgment until researchers have developed the skills
and abilities to meaningfully test the new ideas. In this
regard, if more capable scientists would seriously and
open-mindedly study these phenomena, then we would soon know what limits to place upon
them and ourselves. Perhaps, as Jesus said, we will come to perform all the miracles he conducted
and even more, and we may find they belong in the domain
row's physics" as a higher dimensional expresswo man and nature.
Autbor's Note: I can certainly agree with most of this general conservative statement by Prof. Tiller if I interpret it as being equivalent to points (1) and (3) of my Conclusions. I have no reluctance to view physical reality as far more complex than described by modern science, but the Christian must respond with extreme caution to all attempts to derive spiritual or religious significance from scientific descriptions.