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Other reviews by Christian de Quincey, PhD
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An Integral Theory of Everything
Reviewed by Christian de Quincey, PhD on March 1, 2005
Why do many of us get excited by discoveries in science that appear to validate profound insights from the perennial philosophy? What prompts us to turn to science for confirmation of spiritual wisdom?
In Science and the Akashic Field, philosopher and systems theorist Ervin Laszlo makes the case that science is finally in a position to produce a theory of everything (ToE). Drawing on anomalies and advances in cosmology, quantum physics, biology, and consciousness studies, he shows how the discovery in physics of the zero point energy field (ZPE) is also the discovery of a universal “information” field.
Quantum physics, the “gold standard” of science, has discovered that underlying the manifest world of matter and energy is a universal field of quantum potential—the ZPE field. It is the source or foundation for all of physical reality.
ZPE theory explains how the world we know and live in—our undeniable, familiar reality—springs forth billions of times a second from the universal field of quantum potential. Everything we know, everything that exists, comes from the ZPE field, and sooner or later returns there—to be “recycled” back into our world in some other form, or perhaps into another universe.
The discovery of this field may be final confirmation from science of a profound insight into the nature of reality from ancient Hindu cosmology—the notion of the Akashic Field. Like ZPE, the Akashic Field records everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will happen from the birth of our cosmos till its ultimate end. In scientific terms, the “everything” that is recorded is the sum total of all events and the information they contain.
Based on the remarkable similarities between the Akashic and ZPE fields, Laszlo equates and renames them collectively the “A-Field”—deliberately using a scientific-sounding term for a venerable spiritual-metaphysical idea.
Why turn to science to bolster belief or faith in an essentially spiritual insight? Laszlo is clear that one of the hallmarks of science—and the main reason for trusting scientific knowledge—is that it is both empirical and experimental. Science tests its theories and thereby produces reliable, predictable, and practical knowledge.
Why should we trust that just because science says so, we are more likely to have a truer explanation of reality than we get from spiritual experience? One reason, I think, is that science is widely accepted in modern society as the ultimate arbiter of what is really real. Yes, we know that science has its limitations and blind spots, but overall it does a darn good job of exploring our world and presenting us with usable and repeatable knowledge.
It comes down to this: We trust science because it possesses the tools to explore, measure, and explain happenings in the physical world—the world of things we need for surviving and thriving. Knowledge not based on sensory input tends to be dismissed in our culture as “speculative” or “imaginary.” And if it is not tested, then why should we believe it tells us anything about the real world—why should we take it as “knowledge” at all? Science makes sense because it is based on what the senses reveal, and is tested by rigorous experiments.
But anyone involved in consciousness studies knows that the sense-world is not—and cannot—be the whole story. There is a curious paradox here: The only reason our senses can give us data about the world is because the process of measurement involves and requires a subject who experiences the sensory data. But experience is not itself a sensory object that can be measured. And so, ultimately, science relies on an aspect of reality that is beyond the reach of science. That’s the paradox. It’s what makes any scientific theory of “everything” incomplete.
In short, science is about the external objective world; but consciousness is interior, it is subjective. We turn to science for reliable knowledge about the external physical cosmos, and turn to spiritual traditions for knowledge and wisdom about the “inner cosmos” of consciousness, mind, experience. To know how science knows anything, we need a different kind of science—a science of consciousness, a “noetic” science. All knowledge of the external objective world relies ultimately on nonobjective consciousness.
What is intriguing and engaging about Laszlo’s new book, and his theory of the A-Field, is that it provides strong support for the idea that finally we have a common unifying concept for science and spirituality.
I think he is right: Information—as mind perceiving differences in energy—is the “missing link” in any truly comprehensive ToE. Drawing on this insight, Laszlo’s new book is a provocative overview and a masterful synthesis of knowledge at the frontiers of cosmology, physics, neurobiology, and consciousness studies.