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The Roots of Consciousness
Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD




We are living at a unique historical moment, a time when the old divisions between matter and spirit are giving way to a new, unified vision.  It is my pleasure to share with you several avenues for understanding and participating in this exciting awakening of consciousness.

        Jeffrey Mishlove, Ph.D., is an accomplished radio and television interviewer, and one of the most erudite and articulate personalities in the media. He is host of the weekly, national public television interview series Thinking Allowed which is also carried on the Wisdom Television network.  In this capacity, he has interviewed hundreds of leading thinkers in the areas of philosophy, psychology, health, science and spirituality.
         Dr. Mishlove is the author of an encyclopedic volume of consciousness studies, The Roots of Consciousness.  He holds the only doctoral diploma in "Parapsychology" to be awarded by an accredited American university (University of California, Berkeley). A revision of his doctoral dissertation, Psi Development Systems, was released in 1988 as a Ballantine paperback. This book evaluates methods purported to train psychic abilities.  His newest book, The PK Man, presents a case study of unusual psychokinetic abilities.
        Jeffrey Mishlove is currently director of the Intuition Network, an organization dedicated to helping create a world in which all people are encouraged to cultivate their inner, intuitive resources. He is also a past vice-president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, and a past-president of the California Society for Psychical Study.  In 2001, Jeffrey received the Pathfinder Award from the Association for Humanistic Psychology for his outstanding contributions to the exploration and expansion of human consciousness.  He also serves as program dean of the University of Philosophical Research.

Intuition Network Biography
Jeffrey Mishlove, Ph.D., President


Jeffrey Mishlove, Ph.D., president of the Intuition Network, has been a writer, television host and producer, psychotherapist and researcher of extraordinary human capacities. 

His newest book is called The PK Man: A True Story of Mind Over Matter.

Since 1988, Jeffrey's weekly television program, ThinkingAllowed, has been shown on public television stations throughout the United States. During this period he has conducted hundreds of interviews with leading figures in psychology, philosophy, science, health and spirituality.  In March 1999, Jeffrey began his new Virtual U, daily program with Wisdom Radio

Jeffrey holds a unique doctoral diploma in "Parapsychology" from the University of California at Berkeley. Awarded in 1980, it remains the only doctoral diploma in parapsychology ever awarded by an accredited, American university.  He currently serves as Dean of Programs for the newly created University of Philosophical Research affiliated with the Philosophical Research Society.

Jeffrey is author of three books. The Roots of Consciousness: Psychic Exploration Through History, Science and Experience was originally published in 1975 by Random House. Since then it has been widely used as a college text for introductory courses in consciousness exploration. A second, revised edition was published in 1993 by Council Oak Books of Tulsa, OK. A third edition is scheduled for publication in 1997 by Marlow Publishing Company of New York. His second book, Psi Development Systems, based on his doctoral dissertation was released in 1983 as a Ballantine paperback. It is an evaluation of ancient and modern methods for training extrasensory abilities. His third book, Thinking Allowed, released last year by Council Oak Books, is a collection of thirty-two interviews from his television series. 

This is Jeffrey Mishlove's doctoral diploma in "Parapsychology" from the University of California, Berkeley.  To our knowledge, he possesses the only doctoral degree in "Parapsychology" ever awarded by an accredited, American university.  Of course, there have been many other American doctoral dissertations on parapsychological themes.  However, those degrees were awarded in disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, education or anthropology.  His degree was through the interdisciplinary, individual doctoral program that, unfortunately, is not available to students any longer at Berkeley.  Most of his work in parapsychology was through individual study.  In addition, he took all of the statistics and methodology courses normally required for doctoral students in psychology.   He began this program in 1973, after receiving his Master of Criminology degree from UC Berkeley.   His B.A. degree was in psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

His dissertation committee at Berkeley included the following professors:

C. West Churchman, Faculty Advisor, Business Administration (systems theory specialist)
Diane C. Clemens, History (specialist in U.S-Soviet diplomatic relations)
James Harder, Hydraulic Engineering (UFO researcher)
Michael Scriven, Dissertation Chairman, Philosophy and Education (specialist in the philosophy of science and in educational evaluation)
Charles T. Tart, Psychology (transpersonal psychologist and parapsychologist)

At the time he received this degree, he was deeply engaged in my investigation of the Ted Owens case.  However, he was generally discouraged by his faculty members from emphasizing this work.  So, Ted Owens received only a passing mention in his doctoral dissertation -- which was later published as a book called Psi Development Systems.

To those who might claim that major universities do not acknowledge parapsychology as a legitimate, academic discipline -- this degree stands as a clear example of the contrary.  An additional note regarding the legitimacy of parapsychology as a science is the fact that, since 1969, the Parapsychological Association has been an affiliate organization of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.



Acknowledgments and Permissions
Introduction to Revised Edition

  • We Are All Ourselves

Introduction to the Original Edition

Shamanistic Traditions
Ancient Mesopotamia

  • Dream Portents

Ancient India

  • The Language of Consciousness

  • The Discipline of Yoga

Ancient China

  • Taoism

Ancient Greece

  • Mystery Traditions

  • Oracles

  • Pythagoras

  • Democritus

  • Socrates

  • Plato

  • Aristotle

  • Neoplatonism

Ancient Rome

  • Appolonius of Tyana

Ancient Hebrews and Early Christians

  • Prophecy

  • The Teachings of Jesus

  • Christian Saints

  • The Monastic Tradition

Islamic Exploration of Consciousness

  • Theories of Occult Radiation

Medieval and Renaissance Exploration of Consciousness

  • Maimonides

  • Albertus Magnus

  • Cornelius Agrippa

  • Paracelsus

  • John Dee

  • The Rosicrucians

The Age of Enlightenment

  • Descartes and Mind-Body Dualism

  • Leibnitz and Monadology

  • Idealism

  • Sir Isaac Newton



  • Ptolmaic Astrology

  • Kepler and Astrology

  • Astrology in Contemporary Times

  • Astro-Biology

  • Chronotopology

  • Arthur M. Young's "Geometry of Meaning"

  • Concluding Thoughts on Astrology

Astral Projection and Out-Of-Body Experiences

  • Ramacharaka's Theosophical Perspective

  • An Accidental Projection

  • OBE In A Dream

  • Conscious Astral Projection

  • Sylvan Muldoon's Method 

  • Robert Monroe's Method

  • Robert Crookall's Observations

  • Contemporary Perspectives About OBEs


  • Healing Temples

  • An Inner Healing Advisor

  • Mesmerism

  • Animal Magnetism

  • Holistic Faith Healing

  • Radionics

  • Edgar Cayce

  • Psychic Surgery

  • Delusion and Fraud

  • Healing at Lourdes

  • Mental Imagery

  • Omega Seminar Techniques

  • A Case Study

  • Ramacharaka's Healing Exercise

  • Deep Healing

Spiritual Anatomy

  • Thoughtforms

  • The Aura

  • Experimental Tests

  • The Vital Body

  • The Chakras

  • Chinese Acupuncture

  • Wilhelm Reich and Orgone Energy

  • The Soviet Concept of Biological Plasma

  • Kirlian Photography

  • Kirlian Photography Anecdotes

  • The Phantom Leaf Effect

  • Kurt Lewin's Field Theory

Communication with Higher Intelligence

  • Angels and Guardian Spirits

  • The Glance of the Master

  • Cabala

  • Emmanuel Swedenborg

  • Gustav Theodor Fechner and Psychophysics

  • The Theosophical Society

  • A Course in Miracles

  • The Invisible College

Other Worlds

  • Swedenborg

  • From India to the Planet Mars

  • The Fatima Appearances

  • UFOs As Apparitions

  • Carl Jung's Interpretation of UFOs

  • Uri Geller and UFOs

  • UFO Research Today

  • The Stella Lansing Case 

  • Automobile Teleportation

  • The Strange Case of Dr. X

  • Biological Effects of UFO Contact

  • The Betty and Barney Hill Case

  • Robert Monroe UFO Encounter

  • UFO Contactee Cults

  • Ray Stanford UFO Research

  • Earth's Ambassador

  • Close Encounters

  • Jacques Vallee's Analysis

Life Within Death -- Death Within Life

 Survival of Consciousness After Death

 Ancient Egypt

 The Tibetan Book of the Dead

 The Visions of Gustav Theodore Fechner

 Spiritualism

 The Spiritism of Allan Kardec

 Founding of the Society for Psychical Research

 Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death

 The Watseka Wonder

 Apparitions and Hauntings

 Near Death Experiences

 Mediumship

 Mrs. Piper

 Cross-Correspondences

 The "Marjory" Mediumship

 Reincarnation

 Xenoglossy

Unusual Powers of Mind Over Matter

  • D. D. Home -- The Greatest Medium Who Ever Lived

  • Sir William Crookes' Researches

  • Marthe Beraud

  • Paraffin Hands

  • Eusapia Palladino

  • Psychic Photography

  • Nina Kulagina

  • Uri Geller 

  • Poltergeist Cases

  • Matthew Manning

  • Philip the Ghost

  • Ted Owens -- The "PK Man"

  • Lightning Striking

  • Weather Control


Psionics -- Practical Application of Psychic Awareness

  • Harmful Purposes

  • National Security Applications 

  • Ancient History and Folklore

  • The World Wars

  • Eastern Europe 

  • United States 

  • Accident prevention

  • Dowsing

  • Treasure Hunting

  • Accuracy of Information Transmission

  • Psychic Archeology

  • Psychic Police Work

  • Journalism and Investigative Reporting

  • History

  • Precognition in Business Management

  • Public Safety 

  • Communication

  • Creativity in Art, Literature and Music

  • Agriculture and pest control 

  • Athletics and Sports 

  • Finding Lost Objects

  • Scientific Discovery

  • Weather Prediction and Control

  • Animal Training and Interspecies Communication

  • Intuitive Consensus

The Problem of Consciousness
To Err is Human

  • The Psychology of Cognitive Biases

  • The Illusion of Self-Awareness

  • The Illusion of Control

  • The Need to be Consistent

  • The Sleeper Effect

  • The Effect of Formal Research 

Extrasensory Perception (ESP)

  • Introduction

  • J. B. Rhine's Early Research at Duke University

  • Criticisms of ESP Research

  • Unconscious ESP

  • Dream Telepathy

  • Hypnosis and ESP

  • Exceptional ESP Laboratory Performers

  • Pavel Stepanek

  • Bill Delmore 

  • Uri Geller

  • Ganzfeld Research

  • The Experimenter Effect

  • The Sheep-Goat Effect

  • Psi-Missing

  • ESP and Personality Traits

  • Extraversion/Introversion. 

  • Effects of Different ESP Targets

  • Psi Mediated Instrumental Response

  • Stanford's Conformance Behavior Model

  • Precognition


  • Rhine's Early Studies

  • PK With Random Number Generators (RNGs)

  • Chinese Reports of Psychokinesis Associated with ESP 

  • PK Metal-Bending

  • Bio-PK

Psionics -- Practical Application of Psychic Awareness

  • Casino Gambling Simulation 

  • Possible Psi Healing

  • Bernard Grad's Research at McGill University

  • Conceptual Replications of Grad's Research

  • The Transpersonal Imagery Effect

Proper Scientific Controls for ESP Experimentation

  • Randomization

  • Sensory Leakage 

  • Subject Cheating

  • Recording Errors

  • Classification and Scoring Errors

  • Statistical Violations

  • Reporting Failures

  • Experimenter Fraud

Evaluating Psi Research

The Biological Perspective

  • The Nervous System

  • The Endocrine System

  • The Temporal Lobe Factor in Psychic Experience

  • The Ecology of Consciousness

  • Challenges to the Biological Identity Model 

Consciousness and the New Physics

  • Space-Time According to Einstein

  • Folded Space 

  • Multidimensional Spacetime 

  • The EPR Effect and Bell's Theorem

  • The Implicate Order

  • Observational Theories

  • Unified Field Theory and Consciousness

  • Evaluating Implications of the New Physics 

The Reflexive Universe

Consciousness as Reflection Space

The Thinking Allowed and InnerWork Video Collections
About the Author

The Roots of Consciousness


To my beloved wife, Janelle M. Barlow,
My parents, Rose and Hyman Mishlove,
My stepson, Lewis J. Barlow, a source of pride and joy,
With whom I have shared
Many moments of precious awareness.


This book only exists as a product of the entire community of individuals who have inspired me and whose names can generally be found in the footnotes and text. For each I have a unique feeling of gratitude and appreciation.

I would particularly like to acknowledge Arthur Bloch, James P. Driscoll, Gertrude Schmeidler, and Saul-Paul Sirag, -- for their friendship and criticism. Additionally, special assistance has been received from John Beloff, Adrian Boshier, William Braud, Stephen Braude, Irvin Child, Henry Dakin, Douglas Dean, Brenda Dunne, Jule Eisenbud, Martin Gardner, Patric Geisler, Barnard Grad, Keith Harary, James Harder, David Hoffman, Albert Krueger, Angela Longo, Ted Mann, James McClenon, Rammurti Mishra, Robert Morris, Thelma Moss, Carroll Nash, A. R. G. Owen, Ted Owens, John Palmer, Harold Puthoff, Dean Radin, K. Ramakrishna Rao, Kathlyn Rhea, William Roll, Milan Ryzl, Jack Sarfatti, Helmut Schmidt, Berthold Schwarz, Ray Stanford, Charles Tart, William Tiller, Jessica Utts, Larissa Vilenskaya, Graham Watkins, Rhea White and Arthur Young and the S. F. Theosophical Library for the generosity of their time and resources.

Additionally, I am beholden to over a hundred other individuals who have freely revealed to me many of their deepest thoughts in the course of the Thinking Allowed and InnerWork video interviews which serve as a general background to the revised edition.

Introduction to the Second Edition

The Roots of Consciousness is a look at the history, folklore and science that shapes our understanding of psychic capacities. The original edition was published in 1975, while I was still a graduate student at U.C., Berkeley, working in an individual, interdisciplinary doctoral program in parapsychology. It is, in part, a personal book containing descriptions of significant events in my own life. It is also personal because in the field of consciousness exploration there are so many competing interpretations that any telling of the story -- even in strictly scientific terms -- contains many individual choices.

I might have, for example, written an account from the perspective of a proponent for a particular viewpoint regarding the existence or non-existence of psychic functioning. In so doing, my goal would not be to sift through competing claims to arrive at a balanced and truthful account. Rather I would be interested in persuading you that my version of reality is superior to those of my opponents.

If I were a skeptical debunker I would rail against magical thinking and would argue that every purported psychic event is the result of human error, folly or fraud. 

This view, which is not uncomon in academic circles, has an ancient history and a marvelously fascinating folklore whose heroes are enlightened philosophers -- people who have struggled mightily to break free from the shackles of superstition. By popping the illusory bubbles of myth and magic, such heroes can presumably guide humankind toward an age of rational enlightenment. Within the perspective of this folklore, anyone attesting to such events as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition or psychokinesis is to be considered either suffering pitiable delusion or perpetrating contemptible fraud. 

While I doubt that all "skeptics" will feel comfortable with this book, I have become convinced, over the past fifteen years since I wrote the original edition, that the point of view debunkers represent deserves greater respect. True, debunkers often argue from a materialistic, positivistic or scientistic ideology. Their thinking is as colored by their worldview that of other ideologues or "true believers. (The mechanisms by which this can occur are detailed explicitly in Section III.) However, thoughtless dismissal of either true believers or true skeptics sometimes results from a protective reaction which generally serves no other purpose than to protect our own views from too sharp an outside challenge. As the original edition of The Roots of Consciousness was widely used as a college text, I am grateful for the opportunity to inject more critical thinking into the revised edition.

On the other hand, an exploration of consciousness might hardly be thought of as complete without an enumeration of the many inner realms of the mind explored by cultists and occultists, mystics and metaphysicians, witches and warlocks, poets and prophets, seers and saints, spirits and spiritualists, scientists and pseudoscientists of all stripes. Were I to write from the perspective of a New Age proponent, I would not fail to sympathetically treat such important terrain in the geography of consciousness as human beings who are the embodiment of dieties, the hierarchy of spiritual beings and planes of non-human existence, the healing power of crystals and pyramids, the worldwide confluence of prophecies regarding the future of the human race. In so doing, I would find no need to refer respectfully to the arguments of those who challenge my perspective.

Time and space do not permit me to enumerate all the the many threads and nuances implicit in the two possible scenarios presented above. Nor do I wish simply to elaborate on all the possibilities. We all possess different genetic patterns, fingerprints and personal histories. Similarly, each of us is the creator of our own unique perspective about the power and creativity of our thoughts and desires. While I have sought to present a balanced viewpoint, I realize that many other knowledgable persons hold perspectives about consciousness quite different from my own -- that they also believe to be appropriately balanced!

An author's goal of objectivity suggests that we can be neutral judges, evaluating the world around us as if we were not ourselves part of it, as if we were not players with a stake in the world game. To the degree that I subscribe to this goal (which, I hope, is substantial), I see myself as an impartial observer, accurately and fairly setting down the perspectives of believers and their critics. Yet, consciousness is a unique topic in that it is subjective, that it is direct, that we are it. Thus, while subscribing to the goal of objectivity, I wish to challenge the "myth of objectivity" which holds that we can accurately and fairly describe the world about us without reference to our own selves, our beliefs and attitudes. 

Our idealized image of objectivity (especially in science) receives its most severe challenge from neither mystics nor psychics -- but from the growing critical literature within the philosophy and sociology of science itself. For an overview, I recommend Michael J. Mahoney's book, Scientist as Subject: The Psychological Imperative. Dr. Mahoney persuasively argues that the "storybook image" of the scientist -- to which most scientists apparently subscribe -- is, in fact, continually contradicted by the empirical evidence. The actual behavior of scientists suggests an image that, in practice, overlaps much more with occultism -- in both the positive and negative senses in which this might be taken. 

Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch, in Frames of Meaning, specifically claim that "radical cultural discontinuities" exist within the scientific community itself. Such cultural differences, they maintain, make it impossible to rationally settle the dispute as to the existence of human psychic abilities. The eminent philosopher of science, Paul Feyerabend, in Science in a Free Society, goes even further and argues that major advances in science necessarily require the violation of normal scientific rules and standards.

In describing the history, folklore and science of consciousness, I will not pretend to be simply a disinterested observer and student of consciousness, but a participant as well. My entire slant is colored by my own experiences. Let me clearly warn you that, while I have done my best to honestly and accurately present all the following material, I had better -- due to the possibility of numerous cognitive pitfalls (to be detailed in Section III) -- make no further clai` that I have demonstrated the truth of any particular version of reality. The purpose of this revised edition of The Roots of Consciousness is simply to provide an entry into the language, concepts and assumptions implicit in a sophisticated worldview that allows for the possibility of psychic functioning. I am more interested in readers understanding and appreciating this worldview than in accepting or following it as "the truth."

One stylistic model which I am setting for myself (and which I hope to attain from time to time) has been called meaningful thinking by Sigmund Koch in his presidential address to the Divisions of General Psychology and of Philosophical Psychology. Koch describes meaningful thinking in terms which may seem more familiar to mystics, poets and occultists than to scientists and scholars:

In meaningful thinking, the mind caresses, flows joyously into, over, around, the relational matrix defined by the problem, the object. There is a merging of person and object or problem. Only the problem or object, it terms and relations, exist. And these are real in the fullest, most vivid, electric, undeniable way. It is a fair descriptive generalization to say that meaningful thinking is ontologistic in some primitive, accepting, artless, unselfconscious sense. 

We Are All Ourselves...

"Why am I me?" The chills and sensations of first being conscious of myself being conscious of myself are still vivid in my memory. I was a ten year old child then, sitting alone in my parents' bedroom, touching my own solid consciousness and wondering at it. I was stepping through the looking-glass seeing myself being myself seeing myself being myself...tasting infinity in a small body.

I could be anybody. But I happen to be me. Why not someone else? And if I were someone else, could I not still be me?

What does it mean to be an individual being? How is it possible that I exist? How is it I am able to sense myself? What is the self I sense I am?

How is it I am able to be conscious? What does it mean to exercise consciousness? 

Does conscious awareness naturally emerge from the complex structure of physical atoms, molecules, cells and organs, that compose my body? Does consciousness reside somehow or emerge from the higher structure of my brain and nervous system? And, if so, how does that occur? What is it about the structure of my nervous system that allows me to discover myself as a human being? How can a brain formulate questions? Are thoughts and questions even things in the same sense that neurons and brains are things?

As conscious beings, do we possess spirits and souls? Are we sparks of the divine fire?

How close are we to understanding the origins of the universe, of life, of consciousness? Is it possible to answer questions such as ... Who are we? What does it mean to be human? What is the ultimate nature of matter? Of mind?

In our time, the spiritual and material views seem quite divergent. In a way they both ring true. They each speak to part of our awareness. And, for many if not most people, they each, by themselves, leave us unsatisfied.

We have myths and stories. We have world views, paradigms, constructs and hypotheses. We have competing dogmas, theologies and sciences. Do we have understanding? Can an integration of our scientific knowledge with the spiritual insights of humanity bring greater harmony to human civilization?

We go about our business. We build cities and industries. We engage in buying and selling. We have families and raise children. We affiliate with religious teachings or other traditions.

We sometimes avoid confronting the deep issues of being because there we feel insecure, even helpless. And like a mirror of our inner being, our society reflects our tension.

Yet the mystery of being continues to rear its head. It will not go away. As we face ecological disaster, nuclear war, widespread drug addiction, widespread inhumanity, we are forced to notice the consequences of our lives in ever greater detail. Are not these horrendous situations the products of human consciousness and behavior? Can we any longer continue to address the major political, technological and social issues of our time without also examining the roots of our consciousness and our behavior? 

Can we reconcile our spiritual and material natures? Can we discover a cultural unity underlying the diverse dogmas, religions, and political systems on our planet?

This book suggests we have that potential. It details the the progress of some who have dared to probe the roots of being. Let us now begin the journey of discovery together.


. Paradoxically, one might also say that the reverse is true: the only thing that we know objectively and directly is our own consciousness. The rest is all secondary. The great physicist, Sir Arthur Eddington, put it this way: Primarily the sphere of objective law is the interplay of thoughts, emotions, memories and volitions in consciousness. The resolution of this paradox, that consciousness might be both objective and subjective, will be the focus of a detailed discussion in the Appendix.

. Michael J. Mahoney, Scientist as Subject: The Psychological Imperative. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1976.

. Harry M. Pinch, & Trevor C. Collins, Frames of Meaning. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982.

. Paul Feyerabend, Science in A Free Society. London: NLB, 1978

. Sigmund Koch, "The Nature and Limits of Psychological Knowledge. Lessons of a Century Qua 'Science,'" American Psychologist, 36(3), March 1981, p. 260.

Introduction to the Original Edition

The title for The Roots of Consciousness was inspired by a statement by cosmologist Arthur M. Young who cautioned against seeking only the flowers of consciousness. Although flowers provide moments of pleasure and delight, they are forgotten after they wilt and die.

The flowers of consciousness are the exquisitely intriguing foliage blooming in psychology's borderland -- telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis, astral projection and other potential powers seemingly latent within us. These things may seem strange to western humanity's current ways of thinking -- or even non-existent. However, it is my intention in this book to explore the possibility that they are rooted in the essential core of our existence, in our cultural history and in our scientific knowledge.

For me, the exploration of consciousness really has its origins in sparks of wonderment at my own existence which recur many times in different ways. These are the simplest experiences underlying the science of consciousness -- a newly emerging discipline which, like music, art, medicine or physical education, involves intense personal commitment as well as objective understanding.

One of the profoundest speculations on the origins of consciousness occurs in a hymn from the Rig Veda, written over 3,000 years ago, in which the sages search their hearts for the personal, social and cosmic origins of being:

Neither not being nor being was there at that time; there was no air-filled space nor was there sky which is beyond it. What enveloped all? Under whose protection? What was the unfathomable deep water?

Neither was death there, nor even immortality at that time; there was no distinguishing mark of day and night. That One breathed without wind in its own special manner. Other than It, indeed, and beyond, there did not exist anything whatsoever.

In the beginning there was darkness concealed in darkness; all this was an indistinguishable flood of water. That which, possessing life-force, was enclosed by the vacuum, the One, was born from the power of heat from its austerity.

Upon It rose up, in the beginning, desire, which was the mind's first seed. Having sought in their hearts, the wise ones discovered, through deliberation, the bond of being and non-being.

Right across was their dividing line extended. Did the below exist then, was there the above? There were the seed planters, there were the great forces of expansion. Below there was self-impulse, above active imparting.

Who knows it for certain; who can proclaim it here; namely, out of what it was born and wherefrom this creation issued? The gods appeared only later-after the creation of the world. Who knows, then, out of what it has evolved?

Wherefrom this creation has issued, whether He has made it or whether He has not -- He who is the superintendent of this world in the highest heaven--He alone knows, or, perhaps, even He does not know.

Let us examine the fundamental origins of being. There is the void, the absolute, darkness concealed in darkness, the unknown, that which is beyond. About the unknown void little can be said, although we say that this void permeates everything -- including the most solid-appearing objects. 

From this, according to the myth, through the power of heat was born the One. Regarding heat, the origin of the One, physics can shed some light. Heat is transmitted by particle-waves called photons in the infra-red area of the electromagnetic spectrum. All electromagnetic interactions from radio waves and light to cosmic rays are mediated by photons. This idea perhaps correlates with other creation myths, including the version in Genesis, which states that light was the first manifestation from the void. Photons are the basic quantum unit of the action of electromagnetic radiation. They have no mass and no charge. They travel through space at 186,000 miles per second with no loss in energy until they collide with other particles. 

Imagine that you are a photon travelling through space at the speed of light. If you were to look at your watch, you would, according to the theory of relativity discover that time was standing still. Hence you could travel to the very edges of the known universe without aging a single day, although, to an observer on earth, it would take you three billion years to get there. Thus photons, tiny particle-waves with no mass, no charge, no time, neither matter nor anti-matter, but with a unit spin, constitute one of the basic units of action in physics. 

In the seventeenth century, the principle of least action was discovered to be true of light -- and subsequently found to apply to almost all physical phenomena. This principle states that light always follows the path that gets it to its destination in the shortest possible time. Photons are also subject to Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty or indeterminacy. This means that it is impossible to predict the destination of any given photon, and has led physicists to describe these wave-particles as "packets of uncertainty." Any given uncertainty packet is theoretically located everywhere in the universe, with the probability densities being greater for some particular space-time coordinates. 

This idea of unpredictability represents a breakdown of the nineteenth century notion of a mechanical determinism governing all of nature -- including human consciousness. Now scientists are beginning to see that the process of observation itself influences the universe. Because this is problematic in the context of current theories, physicists are beginning to search for a new understanding. 

Photons, like all known physical phenomena, pulsate or vibrate. Planck's law states that the photon's energy is directly proportional to the frequency of its vibration. The constant of proportionality between the energy of photons and the frequency of vibration is known as Planck's Constant, or h, which is a very important unit in describing wholeness as well as indeterminacy in physics. It, like the other constants in physics, is suggestive of the Pythagorean notion that the underpinnings of the physical universe are mathematical in nature. 

A photon, when it is annihilated, is able to create particles of matter and anti-matter which have both mass, charge, and time, such as electrons and positrons, or protons and anti-protons. It is tempting to suggest that these particles with their charges represent the principle of desire or attraction, which in the Vedic myth arose from the One.

Protons and electrons, of course, are attracted to each other and form the basic constituents of atoms and molecules. Electrons have a negative charge and protons, which are much heavier, have a positive charge. Positrons and anti-protons are particles of what is called anti-matter. In an atom of anti-matter, the light weight positrons orbit around a nucleus that contains negatively charged anti-protons. When particles of matter and anti-matter come into contact with each other, they are annihilated and photons are produced. Physicists suggest that particles of anti-matter move backward through time -- like a movie played backward.

As the extreme energy of the photons becomes somewhat solidified in the form of the mass of protons and electrons and their anti-matter counterparts, the amount of free energy these particles possess is accordingly reduced. Also the amount of indeterminacy, or unpredictability of these particles, while still great, is less that of the photon. According to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the product of uncertainty of the position and momentum of these particles is equal to or greater than Planck's Constant, h. In other words, the more certain you are of the position of a particle, the less certain you can be of its momentum, and vice-versa.

Of course, protons and electrons combine to form atoms which have even greater mass and less indeterminacy. There are 106 known different kinds of atoms whose identity is determined by the number of charged particles that have come together. These atoms compose the elements of the periodic table that combine chemically into molocules to form all of the substances we experience in our day-to-day living. The indeterminacy atoms and molecules exhibit is limited to the amounts of energy they can absorb and release and the times at which they release and absorb this energy, which is in the form of photons. This indeterminacy though very small is real. Consequently scientists no longer believe atoms and molocules generally behave exactly like the predictable billiard balls of nineteenth century physics. 

The particles, atoms and molecules of the universe combine to form the stars and the planets and newly discovered fantastic structures in outer-space whose origins and properties are still mysterious to us. The expansion of the universe, the nature of the black holes, and the nature of quasars all imply notions of time, space and matter foreign to the rules of classical Newtonian physics that generally apply in daily life. 

The small amount of uncertainty that remains in molocules may play an important role in the curious growth properties polymers display. These long molecular chains --such as rubber, cellulose and nylon -- seem to anticipate the growth of cellular life itself. Functional polymers such as proteins are the primary constituents of animal life; and the proteins actin and myosin, the primary ingredients of muscle tissue, exhibit properties of animal mobility. 

Perhaps the most important molecule of all is deoxyribosenucleic acid or DNA. These complex molecules contain in their double-helix structure the information necessary for living cells to grow and function. Some scientists say these molecules contain within their structure all of the information necessary for the complete development of an organism, such as the human being. This has yet to be proven; however a single DNA molecule can store much more information than is contained in this book. When cells divide, DNA molecules also divide in two and are able to reproduce themselves. DNA molecules are able to transcribe the information they contain onto other molecules of ribonucleic acid or RNA. 

Certain very complex molecules of DNA or RNA combined with protein, called viruses, actually seem to be alive and can reproduce themselves when they are inside of another living organism. However these viruses are quite inert in the free state.

influenza virus

Although science has not yet filled in all of the links in the process of evolution, one can sense a naturalness in the emergence of cellular life from a sea of complex molecules. Unicellular organisms constitute the majority of living creatures on earth. 

single-celled organism

Microscopic structures within these cells, called organelles, perform the digestive, respiratory, metabolic and reproductive functions of the organism. While the cells are said to be alive (although this is perhaps questionable in the case of the virus), the organelles themselves are not.

When similar kinds of cells group together, colonies are formed -- such as fungi or algae or sponges. Several different types of cells coming together lead to the formation of different tissues within each organism. In more complex creatures, these tissues have joined further into units called organs. The most complex organisms contain not only many tissues and organs, but groups of organs may also form one or more structural organizations called organ systems.

Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. This means the growth of any individual organism, from conception, follows the same pattern of development as the evolution of that species. Thus when you were an embryo you passed through all the stages of growth in a nine month period that led to humanity's three billion year evolution from a single-celled organism.

the growth of a human embryo
ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny

Beyond organisms of all kinds, higher levels of life may be distinguished in the form of social groupings such as families, hives, tribes, societies, populations, species, and local communities. The sum of all living communities represents the ecological system of the planet -- which in turn interacts with the solar system, galaxy and, indeed, the known universe.

Human cultural history goes back about five thousand years; however the existence of the homo sapiens species can be traced back at least 500,000 years. Thus in some sense it can be said that humanity has evolved through qualitative changes of consciousness during the life of our species. Human beings seem to exhibit free will, a phenomenon reminiscent of the unpredictability photons and sub-atomic wave-particles display. 

From the evolution of the universe we have just briefly traced, there seems to emerge patterns, pulsations, vibrations and cycles. The loss of uncertainty, the entrapment of spirit in matter as we descend from the photon to the molecule, seems to be balanced by the increased freedom, the rise of matter into spirit, as we ascent through the plant, animal and human kingdoms. The orchestration of the universe is a most complex and subtle symphony. This book, this moment, is a small part of the harmony of the universe as it comes to understand itself. 


. Rig Veda 10.129 in W. T. de Bary (ed.), Sources of Indian Tradition, Vol. 1. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961. 

. Arthur M. Young, The Reflexive Universe. New York: Delacorte, 1975. Young's theory, which is outlined in more detail in Section IV, suggest a mathematical process linking science and mythology.

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