The Whole Heals / Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios


The Whole Heals / Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios PDF File
The idea of wholeness can be grasped at various levels, e.g. in concepts like the whole orange, the whole school, the whole of humanity, the whole body, the whole created order, and so on. People understand the whole as distinct from the part.
Understood thus, wholistic healing may mean simply treating the whole body rather than just one malfunctioning organ. For others it may mean treating the body and the mind together as constituting a single whole. For yet others wholistic healing may mean taking the social relations of the patient into account, so that the human individual is understood in terms of a unit in a social system, relations within that system being decisive for health or sickness.
To many physicians and surgeons, wholistic healing means something vague, involving the new fads of community medicine and public health, health delivery and preventive medicine on the one hand, and on the other adding on to western Allopathic Medicine, a little of Yoga, Acupuncture, Ayurveda, Tibetan medicine and other therapies regarded as “unscientific.”
My purpose is to suggest a more holistic approach, not only to healing, but also to our understanding of the whole as such.
1. What is healing and health?
The Christian Medical Commission of the World Council of Churches, more than a decade ago recognized the fact that “the causes of ill health have a wide range which include a hostile environment, malnutrition, poverty, ignorance, social deprivation and overly large families.”l
The C.M.C. was set up in 1968, and had been preceded by the first Tuebingen Consultation of 1964 (held at Makerere University in Uganda); the World Council of Churches later published the report of that consultation: The Healing Church, 1965, ed. Frank Davey. The most important single insight of this consultation was that the medical team could not by itself heal; human relations in the community were equally an agent of health and healing: “we know that the healing of bodies apart from life in this fellowship (i.e. the corporate life of the people of God) is as incomplete as launching ships in dry harbours, or sowing seed on stony soil.”2
It also hit upon the fact that Latin salus meant both salvation and healing. The decision was made to explore this connection in greater detail at the Second Tuebingen Consultation (September 1967), which in turn led to the constituting of the Christian Medical Commission. The main achievement of this Commission has been the shift of focus from the hospital to the community, and therefore the emergence of the concept of “comprehensive health care” for a community. The World Health Organisation also popularized this concept and it is now widely accepted but nowhere fully practised; simply because comprehensive health care demands a just, and peaceful society and an ecologically healthy environment; and these cannot be achieved overnight.
The Commission has also made an attempt to newly conceptualize health and healing, despite ‘Bishop David Jenkins’ warning, that:
“We cannot therefore separate our attitude to health from our attitude to life. This is why you cannot, and, indeed, must not define health. Like life it is an open and as yet undefinable, because as yet unfulfilled, possibility.”3
Bishop Jenkins himself, nevertheless, solemnly went on to define health: “Health is what we enjoy when we are on our way to that which God is preparing for us to enjoy and when we are collaborating with Him in that preparation.”
What then is healing and health if health is life itself? What is life? In dealing with that question, we enter into the very depths of the meaning of the whole and of our functioning as human beings within that whole. Both physics and biology have made such giant strides in our century, and we need to examine our conceptions of reality in the light of what these sciences reveal. For the newest insights about wholeness have come from these scientific developments, rather than from any abstract philosophical reasoning.
2. Reality in Modern Physics
The crisis within medical science is only one aspect of the crisis within modern science as a whole, especially in microphysics and microbiology and in the philosophy of science.
And the crisis of modern science rises from the methodology of that science, which was developed arbitrarily – within a framework on Newtonian Mechanics, with causality arbitrarily chosen as the sole principle of explanation, arbitrarily prohibiting teleological explanations (machines have only causal chains, but no purpose of their own, supposedly), and banking on repeatable public experience, or the publicly empirical as criterion of validation; true scientific knowledge was wrongly assumed to be unrelated to the mind of the individual observer, and universal-everlasting without any historical or social-cultural conditioning.
Even in Quantum Theory the attempt has been to explain reality in these mechanical terms. The Copenhagen interpretation modifies the classical mechanical conception of causality by introducing the concept of “statistical causality.” Niels Bohr recognized that light quanta cannot be regarded as particles which would act according to the laws of Newtonian mechanics, or laws of bodies moving in space; but he too could describe light only in mechanical terms as “transmission of energy between material bodies at a distance.”4
The impossibility of applying classical mechanical explanation to the state of a micro-system at a given moment (and to our knowledge of that state), was already recognized more than 60 years ago at the International Physical Congress (Como, Italy, September 1927). Niels Bohr himself advocated the principle of ‘complementarity’ (over against Heisenberg’s ‘indeterminacy’) as a way to explain quantum phenomena in classical mechanical terms. Einstein was not at Como in September 1927, but in October 1927, at the Fifth Solvay (Institut Internationale de Physique, Solvay, Brussels) Conference, he expressed anxiety that the causal-mechanical explanation was being abandoned by scientists.
But Einstein’s anxiety has not stemmed the tide of skepticism about science’s causal explanations and about its privileged access claim to knowledge. Neo-empiricists like Mary Hesse, Ian Hacking and Nancy Cartwright, are abandoning the old ‘naive realism’ (the “in science we know reality as it is” line) and opting for a problem-solving pragmatism which evades the ontological issues. Others would probably call themselves post-empiricists rather than neo-empiricists; among these we count Rorty, Bernstein, Putnam, Habermas and so on. They also do not seek to tackle the metaphysical problem, but would opt for a loose pragmatism.6
Nature does not fit classical physics; it does not fit ordinary rationality either. That is the verdict of modern physics. Our classical notions of space, time, matter, object, subject, cause, effect and even of rationality itself have suddenly become obsolete though we continue to work with these timeworn concepts.
Fritjof Capra, in his The Turning Point7 suggests that the new world view of modern physics has moved away from mechanical to something more organic, holistic, and ecological – the universe “as one indivisible, dynamic whole whose parts are essentially inter-related and can be understood only as patterns of a cosmic process.”8
There are no ‘things’ out there – only ‘probability waves.’ That is not so easy for us to grasp conceptually. There are no things – only relationships. Things do not exist; they happen. And every little event is influenced by and influences, the whole universe. Causality does not require contiguity. Non-local causality connects the whole universe – the whole time-space continuum.
That is madening enough-to hear that there is “no out there”, “no things”, and no mechanical causality. The opposite is what we have been dogmatically taught in the name of science – that there is an objective world out there, that it is composed of “things” arranged in order in space, and that the whole thing is guided by eternal laws of motion, like a machine.
Bergson and Whitehead tried to give us an alternative picture – that the universe is not made up of things arranged in science, but is composed of a series of events in time, constituting a process. They were, as philosophers, more in touch with their contemporary scientific developments – especially the Special Theory of Relativity, which makes space simply three co-ordinates or dimensions of reality as we experience it, but with an additional fourth dimension or co-ordinate called time. Space and time were thus seen to be no longer absolutes, but merely dimensions of our experience of reality – a reality related to the subjectivity of the observer. Relativity theory also taught us that mass is only another mode of energy; that matter as such is only a form of energy, something full of power and movement, not wholly inert or static. Matter and movement are not two separate realities, as Newton thought.
So far, the Special Theory of Relativity (STR) and Quantum Theory (QT) have not yet been satisfactorily reconciled into a General Theory of Relativity, which would give us a general equation for the whole. The Copenhagen interpretation, more popular among scientists, tries to reconcile the anomalies with the aid of notions like ‘statistical causality’, ‘principle of indeterminacy’ and ‘complementarity’ – in order to bring at least partial order into a bewildering experience of reality.
The other attempt is the “Boot-strap” or “S-matrix” hypothesis advanced by Geoffrey Chew in the 1960’s. It is fascinating as an attempt to do the opposite of what the scientific enterprise has been all about. Modern science is founded on the idea that reality is regular, independent of the observer, causally determined and therefore knowable in terms of those regularities and of the principle of causality. The Copenhagen interpretation tries to conserve the foundations of modern science, by drawing limits to indeterminacy and unpredictability by the notion of ‘statistical causality’, with indeterminacy at the individual level and determinacy-predictability at the statistical level.
The S-Matrix theory on the other hand denies all fundamental constants, laws or equations. There is consistency and coherence within the whole system, but no part of it can have laws and equations which govern it, irrespective of its relation to other parts of the system. This makes the S-matrix hypothesis highly suspect in the view of ardent believers in modern science. Accepting it would mean the denial of traditionally believed notions like the ‘laws of nature’ on which the enterprise of modern science is squarely based. But the
S-Martix hypothesis does justice to the observed fact that the observer is inescapably part of what is observed, since every observation system includes the observer as an integral part of it.
No matter whether you are Copenhagenist or Boot-strapist, Physics, wherein once determinancy and strict causality were thought to be self-evident and provable, now reveals that neither determinacy nor causality operates at the strict level, and that the laws of Newtonian mechanics are not so universal or “written into nature.”
This has indeed very big implications for the so-called scientific medicine, and its claims to objectivity in diagnosis and therapy. Before we draw out these implications we should take a quick look at the current situation in Biology.
3. The Picture in Modern Biology
There was a time when biology and even the social sciences used to emulate the mechanical-causal explanations of physics. The theory of evolution was such an effort to explain life in terms of mechanical causality. Darwin’s effort in 1859 was to explain the process of biological evolution as a causal chain in which effect follows cause without a break. “Natural selection” based on “the struggle for survival” and on “the survival of the fittest” became the principle of causal explanation for the origin of the species.
Today biologists are generally reluctant to accept ‘natural selection’ as an adequate explanatory principle for the theory of evolution as such. For one thing we have more information on the genetic factor and the possibilities of genetic mutation, than Darwin and his generation had. The distinction between Creationism and Evolutionism lies in a basic belief that species are or are not mutable. For Darwin, species mutability was, an article of faith, not empirically demonstrable, and he had to argue rather than demonstrate his point in The Origin of Species. For whatever natural selection may be able to achieve in terms of survival of the fittest, if there is no possibility of mutation, the amoebum must remain an amoebum, a very fit amoebum, but nothing more than an amoebum. The possibility of mutation should be the key to the evolution of species, if it has happened, not just natural selection. In fact biologists have begun to argue that ‘natural selection’ is not a necessary condition at all for speciation. A new species emerging by genetic-chromosomal mutation is easier to understand than the idea of natural selection leading to the emergence of a new species.9 After a species has been formed, natural selection may play its role in the survival of fitter specimens within that species. Darwin did not explain what his title stated.
Population genetics and molecular genetics bring us closer to understanding the evolution of a new species; but we still look for a causal explanation for the individual events of genetic revolution which lead to the emergence of one species from another. Most biologists would regard a combination of selection, heredity and variation as a sufficient causal explanation for genetic revolution.10 But the variation aspect needs further clarification of how genotype variation by natural selection and inheritance of acquired characteristics can lead to the emergence of a stable new phenotype or the emergence of one species from another.
Many biologists simply assume that trans-specific change is only the cumulative effect of many generations of intra-specific mutation which we can observe. Only since 1980 there has been a wide recognition of a new perspective – that of “punctuated equillibrium.” This view, of which Stevan J. Gould is the best known proponent, argues that evolution was marked by long periods of stasis interspersed or punctuated by sudden bursts of mutation leading to speciation.”11
Paul Thompson offers us the plausible hypothesis that the Theory of Evolution is not a single consistent theory, but a model which incorporates several theories, or rather “a family of inter-acting models.”12
The fact of the matter, however, is that the theory as it stands at present seems inadequate to explain a number of factors:
(a) evolution from simpler towards more and more complex structures;
(b) evolution of a new species out of an existing one.
(c) the deviation of fossil data from the theoretical picture.
(d) Why evolution stops with humanity and does not create other, superior, species.
In any case the theory of evolution, as we now have it, does not adequately account for the origin of life from non-life, for the special pattern that it has followed, for the emergence of a brain structure and consciousness such as the human, which human ingenuity cannot reproduce.
4. What Heals?
It is a dangerous assumption that we actually understand life in science, that keeps us from using other faculties given to us to understand life sufficiently to be able to deal with it creatively. The scientific understanding of life can help us to complete the picture, but its basic contour escapes the parameters of modern science as they now stand. It is out of a Christian tradition and general observation that I make the following affirmations about life. No claim is made in terms of scientific validity.
1. There is no such thing as ‘nature’; there is only one continuum which includes inorganic matter, life, and consciousness. What is evidently present at the higher levels is already present in an incipient manner or as potential at the lower levels.
2. Life exists in our world only in relation to and dependent upon the two poles of inorganic matter and consciousness i.e. to the whole of existence and never without these; it is an open system which has to draw energy from the inorganic as well as from consciousness.
3. If health is the name for life when it is flourishing, then the healing force is the same as the life-force, and comes from the whole – not from surgical or chemical intervention.
4. The paradigm case for healing is not to be sought in our hospitals and clinics; it is seen in those instances where faith, prayer, touch and word from a caring community have been the major factors in the healing process. Clinical healing is also using the same four factors, though credit may be given only to drugs or surgical intervention.
It is perhaps not wholly correct to say that life is the same as healing. Perhaps we should say that the force that promotes life is the same force which effects healing. In other words life-force and healing power are akin to each other and have the same source.
5. The Four Levels of Reality as We Perceive it
This source is the same source from which the dynamic continuum of reality has its origin and contingent existence. In this continuum we can observe many levels – from our perspective, four levels with four different orders or behaving principles. At the lowest level (again from our perspective) we have what we call inorganic matter-energy – i.e. bundles and packets and waves of high potency energy showing itself off in a myriad forms – the rocks, the oceans, the hundred or more elements and their compounds – forces which we see as light and sound, heat and electricity, magneticism and gravity, and the strong and weak forces that hold matter together or make forms of matter-energy interact with each other, including nuclear power. We call this level inorganic. We once thought that the mechanistic Newtonian paradigm fits this level admirably. We are wiser today. We know that what we call inorganic matter behaves in ways past finding out, especially at the sub­atomic level – not as mass in motion as Newton thought.
Continuous with this inorganic level is the organic level or bio-level. We say continuous because the line of demarcation between a crystal or radioactive element on the one hand and a protein molecule or virus on the other is not so absolute or clear. In general terms, however, we know how to distinguish between organic and inorganic. We would posit the distinguishing feature of life as homoeostasis or the capacity to maintain certain internal constants in the face of a wide range of external pressures, e.g. a constant temperature of the body despite a given range of fluctuations in the environmental temperature. The whole group of biological sciences deals with these phenomena we call life.
We should not be too sanguine about the completeness of our present knowledge of this level. We have seen what difference a little discovery about genes and their structure can make in our over-all perspective. Nor can we quite state the difference between a living being and a corpse. New discoveries are always in order in biology and physics; and we should be quite modest about how much we know.
The third level is where our knowledge is most inadequate – the level of consciousness. Again, there is no clean break between life and consciousness. In fact it seems possible to propose that consciousness exists at the inorganic level also. Otherwise it would be difficult to explain the behaviour of subatomic particles separated from each other and yet behaving in relation to what happens to the other.
In any case, let us say that life has a special kind of consciousness. By consciousness we mean an internal apprehension of external reality and the capacity to make choices in relation to that apprehension. Sickness, we now know, is malfunctioning at all three levels – the chemical or inorganic factors, the biological or organic factors, and the mental or consciousness factors. Medical and surgical therapy usually pays attention to the first and second levels. Today we are moving towards a higher aetiological role for the third level in diagnosis and a larger hiatric role for consciousness factors including psychological process and sociological or communitarian relations.
Consciousness is always so difficult to conceptualize or study ‘objectively’, since its very nature is subjective. The moment we objectify it, we need a subject other than the object to understand it – another consciousness than the one we are studying. We distort consciousness, which is always subject, when we make it an object. We do understand more about brain and neural processes than we did two decades ago. As in the case of genetics, some dramatic progress has been achieved in neurology also, for example in the function of cell membranes. In both genetics and neurology, however, there are huge gaps in our knowledge of the relation between physico-chemical events and psychic events.
There is a fourth level about which we know even less. We could call it the cosmic level or the transcendent level. This is the one least understood or even conceded by modern science – how the configuration of the whole affects each part and each event. Attempts have been made to conceptualise this through pseudo-sciences like astrology. Carl Gustav Jung tried to speak about synchronicity as a scientific principle which shows how the micro reflects the macro at any given moment; the Chinese tradition of I-Ching gave him the lead. Karl Pribram and others have sought to make the Jungian concept more precise but have found very little approval from the scientific community as a whole.

Poetry and art are perhaps better able to cope with this level than science. Religion too deals with this level, through myths, symbols and rituals, and sometimes through concepts like karma, punarjanma (rebirth), the last judgment, creation, incarnation and redemption.
Looking at the whole, scientists observe certain directions in the developmental process, but modern science is still a prisoner of the dogma of its infancy – the ruling out of all teleology or goal- directedness. Today perceptive scientists speak of “stochastic processes” – i.e. processes in which randomness at one level goes with non-randomness at another, showing overall directedness. We cannot understand the process of the evolution of the life species, the evolution of humanity, or evolution of the human brain as strictly the consequences of chance or randomness.
6. Consciousness and Reality have same structure
One of the most perceptive thinkers and scientists of our time, Gregory Bateson, puts it thus:
“In sum, I shall assume that evolutionary change and somatic change (including learning and thought) are fundamentally similar, that both are stochastic in nature, although surely the ideas (injuctions, descriptive propositions, and so on) on which each process works, are of totaly different logical typing from the typing of ideas in the other process.”13
What Bateson tells us is that consciousness as process and the world or evolution as process are both stochastic – “two great stochastic systems that are partly in inter-action and partly isolated from each other … The two fit together into an ongoing bio-sphere that could not endure if either somatic or genetic change were fundamentally different from what it is. The unity of the combined system is neces sary.”14
What exactly is the nature of this “unity of the combined system?” Bateson argues that the two systems jointly constituting it – evolutionary change and human bodily change (genetic or learning) are both mental processes. The cornerstone of his argument in the book is his brilliant listing and expounding of the six “Criteria of Mental Process.”15 They are as follows:
1. A Mind is an aggregate of interacting parts or components.
2. The inter-action between parts of mind is triggered by difference, and difference is a non-substantial phenomenon not located in space and time; difference is related to negentropy and entropy rather than to energy.
3. Mental process requires collateral energy.
4. Mental process requires circular (or more complex) chains of determination.
5. In mental process, the effects of difference are to be regarded as transforms (i.e. coded versions) of events which preceded them. The rules of such transformation must be comparatively stable (i.e. more stable than the content) but are themselves subject to transformation.
6. The description and classification of these processes of transformation disclose a hierarchy of logical type immanent in the phenomena.”16
Bateson’s breath-taking argument is that human thought (consciousness), evolution (world-process), ecology (life-environment), life and learning are possible only in systems which satisfy these criteria and are therefore “mental.”
Greg Bateson is not proclaiming any triumph of idealism over materialism. He is arguing that mental processes are involved both in consciousness and the world, but consciousness and the world are two distinguishable but necessarily interacting systems which form a necessary unity. This means also that ideas like ‘materialism’ and ‘idealism’ do not make sense, since either of these would pre-suppose the primal or primordial being of either matter or mind. In fact the two have never existed in isolation; the one seems to be systemically integral to the other.
“The unity of the combined system” is still a quasi-mechanical concept. We know what ‘system’ means – a whole in which the parts function in relation to each other and in relation to the whole. The most “objective” systems, the ones we know best, are of our own creation, like computers and other programmed electronic systems. Is there not the possibility that we are making the same mistake in positing the “system” as the paradigm for reality, as Newton did in positing the “machine” as the model for understanding and describing reality? You may answer that a “system” is the most complex, centered reality that we have objective knowledge of, and therefore we cannot but choose it as the best paradigm, since by the very structure of our minds we can understand only through paradigms and concepts.
This insistence that reality must by nature be conceptually graspable and propositionally statable has been a prevailing feature of the west for centuries. And western civilisation is still reluctant to acknowledge the evident fact that reality is not conceptually comprehensible, and that while concepts have an important role in helping us deal with reality, it can be only a partial role, to be supplemented by poetry and art, literature and music, dance and drama, ritual and liturgy, symbols and stories, parables and silence, feasts and fasting, myths and images, the look and the sigh, groans and gestures. With all that, however, we do not comprehend reality as a whole conceptually.
May I at this stage point to the case which is narrated by Dr. Larry Dossey in his Space, Time and Medicine?17 This is the case of a wizened old patient at the Dallas Diagnostic Center, who was wasting away: a panoply of two week’s worth of diagnostic tests failed to reveal any organic or functional defect other than that of wasting away and fast approaching death. Fifty pound weight loss in six months and no clinical possibility of arresting the process. The doctors confessed to the patient their inability to do anything clinically. The patient responded that he was dying because he had been “hexed.” The doctor, Jim, turned Shaman, and taking a little piece of the patient’s hair and burning it in the eerie blue flame of a lighted methenamine tablet on a metal ashtray in a dark hospital examination room, the patient watching, “de-hexed” him. The patient recovered and was well!
The account is anecdotal; but it is from an eyewitness and silent accomplice, himself a professional physician of high reputation, whom 1 know personally (i.e. Larry Dossey himself). I see no reason to disbelieve his account. The physician, “Jim”, who performed the ritual of de-hexing, did not believe in magic, nor had done anything of the kind before. Despite his lack of faith in his own magic, it worked.
The whole heals in ways we do not understand. We know from experience that faith, community, ritual, and word are essentials in the healing process.
Life, Consciousness and Healing
Western Medicine is as old as you want to think it is. You can trace it back to Galen (130-200 A.D.) and even to Hippocrates (ca 460-377 B.C.); we have at least inherited writings attributed to them. Asklepius is more difficult to trace as a person,18 but his institution, the Asklepium is known to history and his cult was introduced at Athens in 420 B.C. The serpent was sacred to Asklepius, and is still the symbol of the medical profession.
Current western medicine likes to think of itself as rooted in the Greek tradition. We have no idea of what all sources the Greeks borrowed from. The Egyptian, the Akkadian and the Sumerian civilisations are possible sources. According to Emperor Ashoka’s (ca 304-232 B.C.) Rock Edicts II and XIII, he sent fully equipped medical missions to five city states of Greece, “for relief of suffering of all creatures, man and beast” in the 3rd century B.C. Thus Greece inherited ancient Indian medicine in some form.
Indian and Chinese Systems of medicine are definitely older than the Greek. The Ayurveda system goes back to the Vedic period, and we hear about Jivaka, the physician appointed by Emperor Bimbisara to take care of Gautama the Buddha (ca 560-480 B.C.).
In China the Nei-Ching, the classical system of medicine, was codified only in the reign of the Han dynasty (226 B.C. to 220 A.D.); systems which existed before, seem to have left no written remains.
Western medicine as we know it today does not bear much continuity with any of the ancient systems of healing. Healing was art, not science, practiced by a skilled wise man, a learned man in many things – not just in anatomy, pathology, pharmacology and kindred subjects.
Modern Western medicine has evolved from the following major factors, among others:
(a) The Cartesian (Descartes, 1596-1650) vision of the body as a machine, largely independent of the mind;
(b) William Harvey’s description of the blood circulation system -largely mechanical;
(c) Louis Pasteur’s (1822-1895) discovery of bacteria or microbes as major cause of illness;
(d) The development of anaesthesia and disinfection, making surgery more successful;
(e) Development of new diagnostic techniques, e.g. the stethoscope, sphygmomanometer, and later much more sophisticated devices like X-ray, CAT-scanner, and new electronic devices;
(f) development of molecular and cellular biology, endocrinology, and nutrition theory;
(g) development of vaccination and other immunization technologies;
(h) development of antibiotics;
(i) development of hygiene and sanitation;
The net result of these developments has been, among other things:
(a) concentration on the disease rather than on the patient;
(b) focus on naming the ailment (diagnosis) and then on chemical or surgical intervention to counteract the ailment.
(c) focus on the malfunction of the body as root of disease, without reference to the mind or the social and physical environment, without which the body cannot function.
(d) shift from personal physician to clinic or hospital as primary healing agent, and the marginalisation of the role of human relations in healing;
(e) the technologization of healing and the soaring cost of medical care;
Several factors have today combined to a widespread questioning of the very premises on which western medicine is based, in addition to the cost factor mentioned:
(a) the high incidence of hiatrogenic or hospital-induced illness, up to 20% in the U.S.A. of all hospital cases;19
(b) the perception that most drugs while treating one set of symptoms, create dangerous side effects in other parts of the body;
(c) the fact that antibiotics are deleterious to health, since they kill also beneficial bacteria, and besides lead to new strains of bacteria with increased immunity to antibiotics;
(d) the perception that the present medical care system in many market economy countries helps more the medical practitioners, the manufacturers and traders of pharmaceuticals and the medical insurance companies than the patients;
(e) The fact that western medicine is based on the mechanistic notions of modern science, notions which have been repudiated by science itself.
The mechanistic conception of the body, and the pathology-pharmacology based on it are quite outdated, though still fashionable. We are desperately in need of a new paradigm that helps to understand the body-mind as a single unit, a sub­system of a cosmic network system.
There is such a new paradigm emerging. Its contours are not yet clear. But an indication can be seen in a paper by Dr. Deepak Chopra of the American Association for Ayurvedic Medicine, Stoneham, Massachusetts, U.S.A. He represents the quasiscientific approach of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his “Vedic Science” or “Maharishi Ayurveda.”
Chopra tries to draw a parallel between quantum relations in the universe and mental phenomena – “that mental events are the subjective equivalent of quantum mechanical events.” He posits that each cell is intelligent and that human intelligence is not like a telephone system with its “exchange” in the brain, but more like a “field” which propagates its influence over a large and even unlimited expanse of space and time, and that the body itself is a web of such fields, rather than molecules organized in space. And every particle of living matter is in touch with every other, so that life as a whole is an intricate cosmic system of interacting fields. “The human body”, says Chopra, “is consciousness first and matter second.”20
However that be – and ordinary science has yet to accept the hypotheses of Maharishi science – modern science is coming to a similar conclusion about reality as a whole. David Bohm, the eminent physicist, has developed a “holographic” view of the universe. A hologram is a no-lens photographic product in which each part contains a reproduction of the whole. This technology invented by Dennis Gabor (Nobel Physicist) in the sixties has given us a new model to understand reality, David Bohm thinks, of course mutatis mutandis; except that (a) a hologram is produced by just two coherent light waves colliding, while the universe may be the product of several energy waves colliding and (b) a hologram is static, while reality is dynamic and has to be understood in the rheo-mode or flowing reality mode.
Dr. Chopra is right in proposing a parallelism between mental activity and quantum phenomena. Neurons have between them a synapse of 200 Angstroms; this seems to be experimentally verifiable; quantum phenomena within the atom also operate at jumps of about 200Ao. If there are 15 to 20 billion neurons in our central cortex, and they are firing at the rate of about 20 times a second across a 200 A° gap, this may create enough coherent waves in the brain to operate some kind of a holographic technique of recording and recall. Main stream biologists have yet to accept this theory of holographic record­ing and recall. But the parallels are indeed striking.
Quantum theory (it is a shame to call it mechanics, though our basic categories of understanding are causal-mechanical) does not support our notions of time, space, and causality. Two ‘particles’ totally separated from each other in our terms of space, can immediately influence each other by changing itself. And this without any known message or energy being transmitted from one particle to the other (according to our ordinary conceptions of space, locality and distance), and certainly faster than the speed of light (C or 300,000 km per second), and therefore without any time-lapse. This is called non-local causality.
David Bohm puts it this way: “It follows, then, that the explicate and manifest order of consciousness is not ultimately distinct from that of matter in general. Fundamentally these are essentially different aspects of the one over all order. This explains a basic fact that we have pointed out earlier – that the explicate order of matter in general is also in essence the sensuous explicate order that is presented in consciousness in ordinary experience.”21
Reality as a whole is a projection of several waves of energy of all kinds, both known and unknown – we call them gravitational, electromagnetic, weak, strong, sound, light etc. – producing our perception of reality, which is produced by the same projections in consciousness and in the external world.
How close this perception is to at least three of the traditional Asian religious understandings of reality!
Take, the Hindu notion of maya, particularly the post-Sankara philosophical elucidation of this concept. Briefly stated, the present perception and experience of reality or samsara as a flowing reality, is the joint product of a certain vikshepa or projection of power (maya) by Ultimate Reality (Brahman) and the veil of nescience or avidya brought to perception by the human mind.
In the Buddhist tradition, the conceptual formulation is even closer to modern physics’ perception of reality. The concept of pratitya-samudpada or ‘conditioned co-origination’ holds that our perception of reality is the joint product of the conceptually indescribable reality and our own mental sensory equipment.
In the Chinese tradition also the Ying-Yang dialectic is in some ways parallel to the above. Even more clear are the concepts of tao or order and te or power which together constitute cosmic reality as well as the human reality.
In the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition, this world of ours is a projection of God’s energeia, which is the common ground of all nature including human nature. It is God’s will (power), and wisdom, and word that keeps both the universe and humanity going. I have worked this out in my own study of Gregory of Nyssa.22
The human system is a sub-system of the whole universe, and is integrally related to it. Disturbances in that integral relation constitute disease. Restoration of that relation to the whole is healing, and the whole itself is the healing force – the whole is the energy source from which matter, life and consciousness all originate.
Matter, life and consciousness are the healing agents. Western medicine has concentrated too exclusively on matter, and when it does focus on life, it is only to destroy through antibiotics what is regarded as harmful life. We need a framework for modern medicine in which we see matter, life and consciousness as a single continuum in reality as a whole and in the body.
This means that while pharmacology is not to be abandoned, it is to be recognized as only one element in the healing process. Equally important are life and consciousness as well as the relations of the body-mind whole to the whole of reality. The role of a loving and caring community as a healing force needs very special consideration in the wholistic pattern of health and healing centres tomorrow. Consciousness, and its various levels, including the transcendent and the hypnotic, should also be engineered positively in the interest of healing. Faith healing needs specialized attention.
It is towards such a holistic healing ministry that both medical personnel and the public should now devote most of their interests. This would mean also restructuring society in order to make all social relations holistic and health-producing, and the human environment a livable and sustainable one.
1. McGilvray, James C. The Quest for Health and Wholeness, Tubingen, The German Institute for Medical Mission, 1981
see p. 51.
2. ibid . p. 16.
3. ibid. Foreword p. XII.
4. Niels Bohr, Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge, New York, John Wiley and sons, 1958. p. 4.
5. See Nature: 121, 78 and 580 (1928).
6. For a not too profound discussion of some of these issues see, Joseph Rouse, Knowledge and Power; Towards a Political Philosophy of Science, Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press. 1987.
7. Fontana Paperback, London, 1983.
8. Op. cit. p.66.
9. This point has been convincingly argued in F. J. Ayala, “Beyond Darwinism? The Challenge of Macroevolution to the synthetic Theory of Evolution” in P.D: Asquith and T. Nickles (eds) PSA 1982 vol 2. East Lansing, Mich, 1983 (Philosophy of Science Association), pp 275-292.
10. See e.g. Paul Thompson, The Structure of Biological Theories, SUNY Press, Albany, N.Y. 1989, p.12.
11. See Steven J Gould and N. Eldredge, “Punctuated Equilibria: The Tempo and Mode of Evolution Reconsidered” in Paleobiology 3 (1977): 115-151.
12. Paul Thompson, op cit pp 95 ff.
13. Gregory Bateson. Mind and Nature – A Necessary Unity, Toronto, New York, London, Bantam New Age Books, 1980, p.164.
14. ibid.
15. op, cit ch. IV pp. 99-142.
16. op. cit p. 102.
17. Larry Dossey, M.D. Space, Time and Medicine, New Science Library, Shambhala, Boston and London, 1985. See chapter one, on “Hexes and Molecules” – pp 1-6.
18. Homer refers to him as the “blameless physician, and names his sons Machaon and Podalirus, who were surgeons in the army. Legend had it that Asklepius (Latin Aesculapius) was himself the son of Apollo, and was instructed in medicine by Chiron, wisest of the Centaurs and son of Chronos. See E. J. and L. Edelstein, Asclepios, 1945.
19. Ilich, Ivan, Medical Nemesis, New York, Bantam 1977 p 23, cited by Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point, Fontana Paperback p 149.
20. In M. C. Bhandari, (ed) Inner Realms of Mind, Bharat Nirman, Delhi, 1989 p. 3.
21. D. Bohm, Wholeness and The Implicate Order, Ark Paperback, London et. al., 1980, p. 208.
22. P. Gregorios, Cosmic Man, Paragon, New York, 1988, 274 pps