Part VIII: The Two Species of Homo
The Spiritual Nature of the Physical
PERCEPTION (ESP) is considered a kind of forbidden territory
by the scientific community, because it involves the operation
of forces which are beyond the range of ordinary experimental
procedures. Even more suspect is that subdivision of ESP, called
psychokinetics (PK). The validity of the latter is rejected outright
because it is argued that mind cannot possibly move matter
without some intermediary agency. And yet my mind can act
upon some matter merely by wanting to do so, for I can lift my
arm simply by willing to do so. We do not know how mind works
upon matter; how the will to lift an arm causes the arm to lift,
much less how sorrow causes the tear ducts to overflow, joy to
bring a sudden spring to the feet, or song to the tongue. But
these things happen.
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There is an interaction between
spirit and body in almost every waking moment, and even when
we sleep -- for we may cry out in our sleep as we cry out when
awake. But the mode of this interaction seems as far from being
explained as it ever was. Descartes said that mind and matter
were entirely different kinds of reality, that the living, acting,
and willing person is a duality of mind and matter; and we are
still in the position of being able to say very little more.
Some have tried to explain the
interaction as apparent only, by proposing that the succession
of bodily events is predetermined at any moment by all that has
preceded. The chain of cause and effect is an unbroken one and
basically electro-chemical in nature. Paralleling this chain
of events involving action is an equally deterministic chain
of emotional and intellectual states which succeed one another
in a similar way but quite unconnected except that the two separate
chains coincide in time. The timing is fortuitous and pure coincidence.
Both chains of events march in step so that the incidents happen
to occur on the same occasion and thereby appear to be casually
related. This view has been termed occasionalism. Coincidence
therefore operates throughout life
to make will and action
contemporary but without causal connection. We happen to will
to move a hand at a given moment because of a prior series of
states of will, and we happen at that moment to move the hand
because a series of prior physical states make the movement inevitable.
Although such a view has been seriously
proposed, it does not commend itself to the common man, who is
quite sure that his willing determines his acting and is not
concerned with how the interaction occurs. The view has only
this to commend it, it has the advantage of not requiring any
causal relationship between something which is spirit and something
which is material.
But fashions of thought change
and a scientific culture with its gross emphasis on materialism,
or physicalism as it has been termed, has increasingly tended
to view the reality of any spiritual force with suspicion,
or at least of any spiritual force which could exist independently
of matter. So the drive of the scientific method is towards reducing
spirit or mindedness to mere energy, and equating energy with
matter. Thus the dualism of Descartes is converted into a monism,
by denying the separate existence of any such mysterious force
as spirit, will, or mind. These things, whatever they are, are
not independent realities. They are extensions of matter emerging
out of the physical order when that order has reached a certain
complexity, and they are as dependent upon it as electricity
is, for example, upon its conductor. Hence, mind is merely brain
operating as a refined electro-chemical machine. Lord Adrian
in England, (3)
in some introductory remarks to an issue of Science Journal
devoted to the study of the brain, writing under the title
"The Brain as Physics," set this forth very succinctly
by saying, "Our final aim is to bring human behaviour within
the framework of the physical sciences." As J. R. Smythies
During the last one hundred
years or so, the rival theory (to Cartesian dualism) of
psycho-physical monism has gradually become the dominant theory
in Western science and philosophy. In this theory man consists
solely of a physical organism, and it holds that every aspect
of his experience, life and behaviour, can be explained and accounted
for fully on the supposition that the brain operated solely as
a physical mechanism. All thoughts, all feeling, all perception
and the control of behaviour are mediated by the complex electro-chemical
events in the brain and the Cartesian mind simply does
Over a hundred
years ago, Spencer had suggested that the brain was more like
a heat engine and that mental activity was "nothing more
3. Adrian, Lord, "The Brain as Physics,"
Science Journal, vol.3, no.5, May, 1967, p.3.
4. Smythies, J. R. S., "Aspects of Consciousness,"
in Beyond Reductionism, edited by A. Koestler and J. Smythies,
Hutchinson, London, 1969, p.235.
than converted heat."
(5) Quite recently
Seymour S. Kety, (6)
without agreeing with Spencer's view, nevertheless was able to
tell us the actual heat output, or its electrical equivalent
in watts, of this mental machine under various conditions of
operation. However, while he accepted as an operating principle
this purely mechanistic view of consciousness as originally set
forth so lucidly by Claude Bernard, he admitted that acceptance
of it is an act of faith, a faith which has not yet been converted
into fact by demonstration. Wilder Penfield, (7) one of the world's most renowned neurosurgeons, in
a paper entitled "The Physiological Basis of Mind,"
which formed his address at the symposium on Man's Civilization:
Control of the Mind given at the University of California
School of Medicine in San Francisco, had this among his closing
remarks which he set forth in lucid terms what the ordinary layman
could understand in large measure, the view that the universe
was not as material as it seemed to be. This is how he stated
the case in 1931:
In conclusion, it must be said
that there is as yet no scientific proof that the brain can
control the mind or fully explain it. The assumptions of materialism
have never been substantiated.
current opinion insists upon reducing consciousness to the terms
of electro-chemistry, it is only by faith that the basic
assumption can be made that mind has emerged out of matter as
a natural consequence of the potentialities of matter. Like life,
they argue, consciousness is physical in origin. Neither
life nor consciousness have independent existence but are co-terminous
with matter and will vanish completely when matter is dissolved
as such. The idea of spiritual life without bodily existence
is considered absurd. Neither angels nor demons nor deities are
anything more than creations of mind, and mind itself is dependent
upon the existence of organized matter at a certain level of
complexity. Such creations exist only by the permission therefore
of the material world, and will disappear when it does. Where
matter came from or will go to is not certain, but the basis
of all reality is material, not spiritual. Such is current orthodoxy
in the scientific community, and it is considered fully justified
because as an operating principle for research it has worked
with astounding success.
Nevertheless, there is growing
dissatisfaction with this view. And as I read the literature,
the number of competent observers who are beginning to express
this dissatisfaction is slowly increasing. Perhaps Sir James
Jeans contributed significantly to this change in the climate
of opinion when he wrote his famous little book The Mysterious
5. Spencer, Herbert: quoted by J. Fisher,
"A Criticism of Prof. Ferrier's The Organ of Mind,"
Transactions of the Victoria Institute, vol.14, 1881, p.149.
6. Kety, Seymour, "A Biologist Examines Mind and Behaviour,"
Science, vol.132, 1960, p.1861-1870.
7. Penfield, Wilder, A Second Career, Little & Brown,
Toronto, 1963, p.151.
which he set forth in
lucid terms what the ordinary layman could understand in large
measure, the view that the universe was not as material as it
seemed to be This is how he stated his case in 1931: (8)
To sum up the main results of
this and the preceding chapter, the tendency of modern physics
is to resolve the whole material universe into waves, and nothing
but waves. These waves are of two kinds: bottled-up waves, which
we call matter, and un-bottled waves, which we call radiation
He had gone
even further when he gave his Rede Lecture at Cambridge: (9)
Today, there is a wide measure
of agreement, which on the physical side of science approaches
almost to unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading
towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look
more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer
looks like an accidental intruder into the realm of matter; we
are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the
creator . . . the mind in which the atoms (out of which our individual
minds have grown) exist as thoughts.
So here we have
a switch: atoms come out of mind, not mind out of atoms. Indeed,
atoms partake of the nature of thought itself. For all that,
it is not at all certain to me that Jeans was really thinking
of this originating Mind as being a personal Creator in the Christian
sense. Thus when brain finally appears on the scene with its
tremendously complex network of atoms, mind did not automatically
emerge out of these atoms, but these atoms were so designed as
to be a suitable vehicle for the housing of consciousness. The
troublesome problem for the scientist, even one entirely sympathetic
to Jeans' view, still remains as to how consciousness or mindedness
actually becomes resident in this housing, suitable as it is.
Nor are we any nearer to understanding how mindedness can operate
within these atoms to effect purposeful movements of other parts
of the body.
Without trying to define mindedness
with any precision, I would say with Stanley Cobb (10) that consciousness is
a simpler phenomenon, at a lower level of experience. I think
consciousness is largely involuntary. We may, in fact, deliberately
will to block out our consciousness -- of some distracting sound,
for example. So for the present purposes of this Paper, what
I am thinking of when I speak of mindedness is
8. Jeans, Sir James, The Mysterious Universe,
Cambridge, 1931, p.77.
9. Jeans, Sir James, reported in The Times, London, Nov.
10. Cobb, Stanley, "Awareness, Attention and Physiology
of the Brain Stem," in Experiments in Psychopathology,
edited by Hock and Zubim, Greene & Stratton, New York, 1957,
is deliberate," whether it is consciousness of(not or)
something in the environment or something within oneself.
We really need another word to
describe the responsiveness of one thing to another, a responsiveness
which is more than merely the result of physics and chemistry
(as in plant tropisms) or electromagnetic forces (as between
metals for example). Perhaps the word "awareness" would
be a useful possibility. I do not believe the Paper will suffer
very much if these three terms ‹ "mindedness,"
"consciousness," and "awareness" ‹ are
used without precise definition but in a context which will make
their meaning pretty well self-evident to common sense. Russell
was quite correct, I think, when he said, "To be perfectly
intelligible, one must be inaccurate; to be perfectly accurate,
one must be unintelligible." (11)
And so it seems to me that in this
search for understanding it may be proper to turn the question
entirely around and ask, Could it actually be that mind is not
an emergent out of matter but matter an emergent out of mind?
If matter is bottled-up energy, perhaps the energy is strictly
one aspect of mental activity, not out of created mind such as
ours but out of the mind of the Creator, the product of a pure
non-material mental creative process, as some of the ancient
sages held. Mind or Will or some non-physical spiritual reality
was then the source of all that has since materialized. Matter,
at base, is spiritually originated. The idea has already been
hinted at by a number of scientists. Sir Richard Tute in 1946
said, perhaps with a little more assurance than was warranted
at the time: (12)
The modern scientist recognizes
that physical reality is produced by super-physical agencies,
which must be so designated because they can never be observed.
. . .
Modern scientists as a class avoid
making this admission. It would be tantamount to an admission
that the reality of the cosmos is spiritual and, for people who
have only very recently disengaged themselves from material prepossessions,
this hesitation is understandable.
It is encouraging
to find that Tute's remarks were not the result of a momentary
reaction to the horrors of World War II, to which scientific
materialism had contributed in no small measure, for in recent
years there have been even more pointed admissions made by highly
competent scientists in the same vein. In a remarkable dialogue
with a correspondent at the University of Maryland (United States),
Carl F. von
11. Russell, Bertrand: quoted by Jonathan
Cape, in Book Reviews, New Scientist, Jan. 8, 1970, p.70.
12. Tute, Sir Richard, "Science and World Community,"
under comments and criticisms, Sciientific Monthly, Oct.,
Weizsacker of the University
of Hamburg (Germany), made the following observation: (13)
The concept of the particle
(of the atom) is itself just a description of a connection which
exists between phenomena, and, if I may jump from a very cautious
and skilled language into strict metaphysical expression, I
see no reason why what we call matter should not be "spirit."
If I put it in terms of traditional
metaphysics, matter is spirit as far as spirit is not known to
I believe what
Weizsacker is saying is that matter is spirit in a special form,
not in the form of pure spirit, but in a kind of congealed
or bottled-up form. There is pure spirit which is non-material.
God is pure spirit, so are angels. It is clear that pure spirit
can become material by surrendering some element of its absolute
nature. This happened when the Word who was God became Flesh
without ceasing to be God; yet in some way surrendering just
that component of pure spirit which gave truth to His observation
that though He and the Father were one (John 10:30), His Father
was greater than He (John 14:28).
It is also clear from Hebrews 11:3
that "the things which are seen," that is to say the
components of the material universe, "were not made of things
which do appear." From which we may safely assume that God
who is pure spirit originated out of His consciousness the physical
components of which the substance of the universe is constructed.
We have, then, first of all consciousness, independent
of matter, and then we have matter created in some way out of
The remarkable thing is that modern
research, which owes nothing of its surmisings to Scripture,
has nevertheless been tending towards a similar view, even to
the extent of countenancing the idea that atoms themselves might
have some kind of awareness. In reviewing Jacques Monod's book,
Chance and Necessity, Theodosius Dobzhansky made this
[Monod] ignores the panpsychism of philosophers
like A. N. Whitehead and C. Hartshorn and of biologists like
B. Rensch and L. C. Birch, who ascribe some rudimentary forms
of life, sensation, and even volition [my emphasis] to
entities such as molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles.
indeed, referred to this as a kind of "vitalism made to
stand on its head." But I think it is significant that this
list of names includes some outstanding figures in the scientific
13. Weizsacker, Carl F. von: quoted by W.
H. Thorpe in the closing remarks of the symposium Beyond Reductionism,
14. Dobzhansky, Theodosius, in Book Reviews, Science, vol.175,
Bernard Rensch, whose
research and writings are voluminous and known internationally,
published in 1959 a book entitled Evolution Above the Species
In this he expresses particular interest
in the relation between evolutionary processes in the emergence
of living forms and the phenomenon of subjective self-consciousness,
which he assumes has arisen by the same evolutionary processes.
The question that really always has to be faced in making the
assumption that consciousness has arisen out of matter is, At
precisely what point in the great chain of being did consciousness
first emerge? Rensch finds himself driven to attribute a capacity
for sensation to the lowest organized creatures which have shown
evidence of learning, that is, coelenterates and possibly even
protozoa. He is driven in the end to the position taken by A.
N. Whitehead, though he does not actually mention him, that something
which belongs in the same realm of reality as consciousness has
to be attributed to all existing things, including the inanimate,
i.e., including pure non-living matter.
I have said that he seems to be
driven to this conclusion because there really is no alternative.
Either one assumes that consciousness is electro-chemical and
nothing more and therefore has always been resident in matter,
or that it is an addendum injected into the material world from
some other order of reality, and this view is not acceptable
to the majority of scientists. Edmund W. Sinnott feels that it
makes more sense, indeed, to attribute consciousness even where
there is no experimental evidence of it, i.e., below levels of
organization where we feel safe in attributing consciousness,
than to search for some crucial point in time or in the evolutionary
scale in which it was introduced suddenly. He would at least
equate consciousness with all living matter. In a book titled
significantly Cell and Psyche, he wrote: (16)
Biological organization (concerned
with organic development and physiological activity) and psychical
activity (concerned with behaviour and thus leading to mind)
are fundamentally the same thing [his emphasis].
In recent years
much more attention has been drawn in the public mind to research
in the origin of life than to the origin of consciousness, yet
the two problems are of a similar kind and may very well demand
that we depart from current physicalistic predispositions. Cyril
Ponnamperuma has taken the position that life must be considered
an inevitable process and "bound to appear" in the
15. Rensch, Bernard: quoted by C. H. Waddington,
in a book review, Discovery, Oct., 1960, p.453.
16. Sinnott, Edmund, Cell and Psyche: the Biology of Purpose,
University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1950, pp.48-50.
whenever conditions are
He has been prepared to accept the view that "au
fond" there is no difference between a living organism
and lifeless matter. And he would say also that consciousness,
by the very principle of continuity, must also be a feature
of every aggregate of material particles; for if this were not
the case, consciousness would have to arise as a discontinuity,
and there should then be a sharp dividing line separating conscious
from non-conscious matter. To the pure physicalist, such a dividing
line is inconceivable. It introduces a discontinuity by creating
two distinct orders of reality (essentially matter and mind),
and this is totally unallowable. The creation of matter is problem
enough but has to be allowed though inconceivable, the
only alternative being that matter is eternal, which is equally
inconceivable. If consciousness is an addendum that also required
creation, we are introducing yet another "inconceivable,"
which the physicalists are determined to avoid.
Ponnamperuma's article stimulated
subsequent correspondence . . . notably a letter from D. F. Lawden
of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. (18) Lawden's objection to
the idea of originating consciousness out of a system of particles
is that while it might explain behaviour per se, it could
hardly explain how behaviour could become conscious of itself.
It could not, in short, explain self-consciousness. The point
is well taken and suggests that we do indeed have real problems
with any view that tries to make consciousness a mere derivative
of matter. J. B. S. Haldane, believing that "the cooperation
of some thousands of millions of cells in our brain can produce
our consciousness," (19) necessarily had to attribute consciousness to inert
matter, the inert matter of which the brain cells are ultimately
composed. He said (20)
We do not find obvious evidence
of life or mind in so-called inert matter, and we naturally study
them most easily where they are most completely manifested; but
if the scientific point of view is correct, we shall ultimately
find them, at least in rudimentary form, all through the universe.
Such are the
unproved assumptions which have to be made by every investigator
who is completely logical and accepts the thesis that consciousness
is in some way coincident with matter. But if the premise is
17. Ponnamperuma, Cyril, "Chemical Evolution
and the Origin of Life," Nature, vol.201, 1964, p.337.
18. Lawden, D. F., in Letters to the Editor, under Biology, Nature,
vol.202, 1964, p.412.
19. Haldane, J. B. S., "Essay on Science and Ethics,"
in The Inequality of Man, Chatto, London, 1932, p.113.
turned around and matter
is taken as a form of congealed consciousness, a direct creation
out of the mind of God, then mind is not an epiphenomenon of
matter but matter is an epiphenomenon of mind. The brain
as a physical organ is not the originator of consciousness, will,
or volition as commonly held, but merely a specialized housing
of consciousness in a concentrated form, an important locus of
involvement but by no means the only seat of it. Every cell in
the body should be expected to have, or to be, a locus
of consciousness, for every cell would in fact be an expression
of it. Such a view of the organization of the body, not merely
a human body but any living body, might account for some of the
extraordinary things which single cells are capable of doing
when they are treated in a suitable way.
Such an explanation is not scientific,
if by scientific one means predicated on a purely mechanical
model, but it would not be irrational. And it is satisfying to
this extent, that it gives a reasonable explanation (granted
the premise) of a great deal that can only be currently "explained"
in mechanistic terms by stretching the use of those terms entirely
unreasonably. Thus it is customary to say, for example, that
in the embryo cells in some particular area set up for themselves
a field which mysteriously organizes them or enables them
to organize themselves into some particular structure. But what
does the word "field" actually explain? It only covers
our ignorance of what is really happening. At the present moment
we are entitled to exercise our imaginations a little and escape
from the current straitjacket which views the material world
as the ultimate reality.
I do not see my view as equivalent
to the panpsychism of Carlyle or Fechner, because while they
viewed all aggregates of matter as being possessed of
some kind of animus much as primitive people always have,
they did not see matter as an expression of mindedness. Mind
was still, for them, secondary to matter, an epiphenomenon of
it, not it of mind. On the contrary, what I am arguing is that
the basic reality is spiritual (of which mindedness is merely
one mode) and that matter is a kind of secondary congealing of
it, in which the true identity of mindedness is by no means lost
but only apportioned appropriately depending upon its organization.
Inanimate matter would then still
be mindedness objectified, but objectified in such a way that
our research tools are not designed to elucidate. When plant
life was created, mindedness could be displayed more completely
than it could in inanimate matter. When animal life was created,
mindedness was provided with an even more liberating mode of
expression. When man was created, liberation went one step further,
appearing not merely as consciousness, but as
At the time of the Incarnation we meet with the epitome of pure
spirit objectified within the material order. We reach here the
apex of matter as an expression of spirit: and yet not quite
the apex, for time and space still served as boundaries and therefore
to some small extent as limitations of spirit. In the resurrection
of the Lord Jesus Christ, consciousness was set perfectly free
while yet still being engaged in some mysterious way within the
created order of things (Luke 24: 39), as the Lord Jesus Christ
expressed Himself in a glorified body no longer
bound by space and time.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
Previous Chapter Next
There is a very real sense in which
it is the material order that is mystical, and not the spiritual
order, as we so commonly view it. The real mystery is how the
spiritual can be materialized. The mystical union of which we
speak, that binds the saints into a Body, is mystery because
our material existence seems to render us so discrete and individual
that any true union is hard to conceive except with those who
are near to us physically or geographically. What the scientific
community sees as a mystery is how such a spiritual non-material
phenomenon as mindedness or consciousness can emerge from matter.
But what Scripture sees as the real mystery, the great mystery
(1 Timothy 3:16), is how pure spirit can become materialized,
as happened when God was manifested in the flesh. And this is
really the secret also of what happened when God created the
universe in the first place.
In the next Chapter let us see
how this has made possible the building of more complex centres
of consciousness by combining millions of smaller fragments into
a larger whole.