naturalist hypothesis about the "Stuff if the Universe" states that
all existing systems and beings in the universe are built up of "ordinary
matter", and that the "mind", i.e. conscious and other "animated" phenomena
could be considered as a kind of biological software. In the past centuries,
however, those undeniable "mental" phenomena seemed too complex to be explanable
by "simple" materialistic processes, and a second nature, "mind", with
all kinds of variants from souls to paranormal beings, was hypothesized,
already in ancient Egyptian times and probably long before (animism). Since
psychoanalysis and computer times, the need for such a supranatural hypothesis
Still, an important
question remains unsolved. From an evolutionary standpoint, one could presume
that the transition from "dead" photons and atoms to intelligent and conscious
beings probably is progressive. But nothing of this presumed intelligence
seems observable in systems and beings before the animal state. So, some
authors including Teilhard, Bohm and Chaisson, suggest less observable
but probably still unidentified realities as the Within, Energies and/or the mystical concept Information, so new "evidence" seemed
to become available to support a new kind of supranatural substance.
Could we think of
some integrative approach, respecting the elements brought in by these
outstanding authors, but without leaving the enriched naturalist hypothesis?
Let's first have a look to some modern theories, suggesting
some kind of supranatural substance.
20th Century Theories
In 1900, the German
physicist Max Planck had originated the theory of quantum mechanics, a
"theory of energy as emanated in discrete packets called quanta." And "Einstein
took up Planck's ideas... [and] going a step further assumed that light
was itself quantized."  and  Later David Bohm, also one of the world's
premier theoretical physicists, described this "immense background of energy"
as the plenum of the universe. For him, the energy of this ground was likened
to be one whole and unbroken movement, which --within his theory of the
Implicate Order-- he called the "holomovement."
It was Albert Einstein,
the physicist best known for his work on Relativity, who altered our notions
about energy. His effort changed our perceptions of space, time, motion,
matter and energy. His formula that energy equals mass times the speed
of light squared impacted upon old concepts and made us come to realize
that we were dealing with a far more mysterious, far more multifaceted
universe than we had previously supposed.
Teilhard de Chardin
And it was the paleontologist
and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who described this cosmic
energy almost in the mode of poetry:
discovery of the sideral world, so vast that it seems to do away with all
proportion between our own being and the dimensions of the cosmos around
us, only one reality seems to survive and be capable of succeeding and
spanning the infinitesimal and the immense: energy...that floating universal
entity from which all emerges and into which all falls back as into an
ocean; energy... the new spirit; energy...the new god."  Teilhard was one of
the first to consider that this underlying cosmic plenum, this energy world,
though never apart from our universal reality, is a special realm. For
Teilhard this energetic plenum that not only undergirds but penetrates
matter is somehow that which also *informs* the explicate level of creation.
Teilhard refers to
this energy world as the "Within in the heart of things." The exterior
world is underlined with an interior one! He links this Within with enfoldment.
He stresses that the very individualization of the earth suggests that
"a certain mass of elementary consciousness was originally imprisoned in
the matter of the earth." Teilhard is alluding to a kind of embedded cosmic
intelligence or encoded information.
evidently did not seem too "far out" for physicist David Bohm, who died
recently. Following a venerable career at the University of California
(Berkeley), at Princton's Institute of Advanced Study, at Israel's Technion,
Bohm moved on to become the Chair of Theoretical Physics at Birkbeck College
of the University of London. During his later years he linked a formidable
knowledge of the history and philosophy of science to his keen experience
as a physicist.
But let us return
to Bohm's theoretical support to Teilhard's idea of an elemental consciousness,
of a kind of cosmic intelligence or information embedded within the energy
that underlies and moves through matter.
Referring to quantum
theory, Bohm's basic assumption is that "elementary particles are actually
systems of extremely complicated internal structure, acting essentially
as amplifiers of information contained in a quantum wave." As a
conseqence, he evolved a new and controversial theory of the universe--a
new model of reality that Bohm calls the "Implicate Order," which
is his term for this mysterious "Within," this plenum, this special
realm that underlies all of the universe. And for Bohm, it is this special
realm --this Implicate Order-- that acts upon us, informs us who live in
the explicate world.
For Bohm everything
that is and will be in this cosmos is enfolded within the Implicate Order.
There is a special cosmic movement that carries forth the process of enfoldment
and unfoldment (into the explicate order). This process of cosmic movement,
in endless feedback cycles, creates an infinite variety of manifest forms
And Teilhard put
it similarly: "In the world, nothing could ever burst forth as final across
the different thresholds successively traversed by evolution which has
not already existed in an obscure and primordial way." 
By its energetic
self-creativity, the Universe created its many varieties of macrosystems.
Eric Chaisson puts forth this story nicely. An astrophysicist currently
on faculty at Tufts University, Chaisson previously served as senior scientist
and division head at the Space Telescope Science Institute of Johns Hopkins
University and was also affiliated with the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical
Earlier the state
of disorder, chaos, in the Universe allowed for a maximum entropy and equilibrium
was destroyed because of the then de-coupling of energy and matter. But
eventually the very expansion of the Universe resulted in a transfer from
the Energy Era into the Matter Era, a time when it became manifest in galaxies,
stars, planets. Chaisson believes this cosmic evolution into the Matter
Era was a result of information that drives order from chaos.
that this information behind manifestation in the Universe has barely begun
to be deciphered. But, he states that
now identify the essence of the development of natural macroscopic systems
--ordered physical structures able to assimilate and maintain information
by means of local reductions in entropy-- in a Universe that was previously
unstructured in the extreme."  Moving from a thermodynamic
equilibrium towards an increasing "negentropy" (information), the Universe
began to give rise to complexity --albeit in a gross fashion during the
Matter Era-- according to Chaisson. Now it is this negentropy (information)
that led the way towards generating considerable amounts of order into
the Life Era. For Chaisson this negentropy was necessary to "justify the
emergence of structures as complex as a single cell, let alone the neural
architecture of the human brain." 
It is out of this
new reign of the Life Era that Mind has emerged. Chaisson is not just considering
Mind anthropocentrically, but rather that special ability that came forth
through the evolutionary changes that produced "particles, galaxies, stars,
planets, biochemicals, lives, and cultures."
Another way of illustrating
this great cosmic progression of energetic information into Matter and
Life is to follow the rungs of our great universal ladder, beginning with...
Plasma unto Energy Particle, to Star, to Element, to Compound, to Crystal,
to Informational Molecule, to Cellular Organism, to Multicellular Organism,
to Ecosystem, to Learning, to Self, to Sentience, to Experience, to Mind,
to Thought, to Person, to Society, to Culture, to World History.
In a nutshell, it would seem that our's is an informed, evolving universe! The magic component
in this story, whether it's about us or whether about the whole universe,
But how does such
information reach us? There's the idea of cognitive maps, which
philosophers and psychologists consider. Such cognitive maps boil down
to our viewpoints, our worldviews (paradigms), essentially to a blueprint
of our understanding and relationship with this special realm, this Plenum
of the Universe.
Down through our
own line of history, we have had our prophets and avatars who have intuited
these imaginal seeds of information. They have helped us to define and
refine our cognitive maps. And Jesus, too, can be counted as a carrier
of this great unfolding blueprint that serves to help us more effectively
to live with one another, to understand our role and place, to grasp better
our cosmic home, and to relate with this majestic Plenum, this Special
Presence, this energy.
to make an integration
I think that, since
Einstein, there is no longer a need to separate matter from energy. Even
the mathematical relation (E = m.c2 ) suggests their intimate
relationship, and one could consider both as two observable aspects of
one reality. Most probably, as with many "objective" images we have about
reality, these two manifestations are only different in our imagination,
but not so in reality. Perhaps energy could be defined as matter
in action, and matter as energy at rest. One can, if
one prefers, take each of both terms as "fundamental" and declare that
everything is energy, matter being nothing more than something that emerged
or condensed from energy. Impressed by the relentless activities and processes
in the universe and in our daily life, to state that energy is more fundamental
than matter seems obvious. Matter apparently only suggests eternal and
unchanging, frozen and dead things. But I think that neither concept should
prevail above the other: both are useful manifestations of the ultimate
stuff, that we can't yet properly conceptualize.
Energy and information
implies energetic processes. But one should differentiate between macro-energy and micro-energy. The transfer of macro-energy changes something
in the structure of the receiving system, and most often also in
the active system: a glass breaks, a house collides, a sacrificed animal
dies. One can also speak about a macro-effector macro-impulse.
On the other hand, a micro-effect doesn't change something significantly
in the structure of the receiving system, and passes as the wind blowing
against a strong tree or a voice yelling in the desert, unless the receiving
system contains an intelligent subsystem which is sensible for (that
kind of) micro-impulses, and which starts interpretation processes that
can eventually start up some macro-energetic reaction.
When one speaks about
energy as a kind of information, this will always be a kind of micro-energy,
although, of course, an intelligent system also can interpret the meaning
of macro-events, and even conscious intentions, if any, lying behind these
But a micro-effect
is useless and ineffective if there is no intelligent subsystem that can
interpret it. Moreover, the meaning of that micro-energetic signal entirely depends from this interpretative subsystem. There is no information
as such: no information without interpreter, is one of the fundamental
laws of communication. So it seems, at this point, senseless to speak about
information isolated from intelligence.
But there is another,
very important way by which experience, information and consciousness can
be transfered: structuration. Let's take an example. When you look
to the inventive structure of a boat, the shape of her hull, the form of
rudder and helm, the position and dimensions of the sail, the function
of strings and ropes, everything is cleverly organized to ineract with
the forces of nature, sometimes using them, sometimes protecting the boat
and her crew against some dangerous forces of nature. One could say that
the boat, on herself, doesn't have any intelligence, information or programme.
But its whole structure reflects generations and centuries of experience.
Although we can't see any intelligence, let alone any consciousness, the
whole structure reflects a long experience, reflects even a certain intelligence,
at least traces of it.
The structure of
a boat, a tool, an atom, a molecule, etc., enable, enhance or prevent some
events. There is nothing central or organizing in such a "tool", but its
very structure directs possibilities and impossibilities. The structure is comparable with a kind of code, regulating the functioning. It is a
kind of memory of the past experiences, recalling what functions and what
Of course, these
"intelligent structures" develop from an interaction of trial and error.
One should tend to think that coincidence, trial and error, i.e. the laws
of nature in general fix what happens and what can't happen. But this is
too simple as a conclusion: the laws of nature didn't change with the emergence
of atoms or boats. But there was an often important change in reality
with th eemergemce of those "intelligent" structures, that undeniably created
enormous new possibilities.
So we may conclude
that it is a kind of "intelligence", hidden in these structures. I'm not
suggesting a kind of soul matter, but just the observable result and the
effective accumulation of a long experience and many trials and errors
--the way intelligence emerges...
One could thus conceive
that the most primitive form of "organization", the fore-runner of
regulation, is to be found in the very structure of inanimate systems
and organisms. Electrons, protons, atoms etc. can't just arrive at each
possible location: their possibilities are in fact rather narrow and limited,
and these restrictions and possibilities are entirely arranged by an interaction
of gravity, electromagnetic charge, spatial limitations, all due to the
very structure of this system. Although, at this level, there is no intelligence
nor consciousness about the "activities" of the systems which are organized
by these structural limitations and possibilities, one can't say that there
is no organizating principle, or no fruit of experience.
My suggestion is
that structure, rather than information, is the most primitive form
of regulation in universe, the fore-runner of centralized organization
(in living systems) and consciousness (in men and noosphere).
From coded structures
to structured codes
The next step in
the regulation of evolutionary processes by accumulation of experiences,
is the elaboration of DNA and its counterpart RNA. In the beginning, those
chemical products only have a facilitating, "catalysing" effect: they perform
by structurally enabling and enhancing structural changes. In viruses
we see this well illustrated. Finally, a virus is just a little bit of
DNA/RNA, able to direct some favourable environments towards one simple
thing: the reproduction of the virus, i.e. reproducing structures that
eventually will reproduce structures. More elaborate forms of living, the
eobionts and the nucleate cell, refine this process to enable the system
to produce by itself, to a high degree, the substances necessary for continuing
existence in less favourable environments, and to reproduce itself as a
whole. DNA is now confined to the kernel of the nucleus, in what eventually
will be genes and chromosomes, whose role is more that of a code, of a
kind of information: this is the transition form structural organization
to coded, informative organization.
Being and Doing:
the emergence of activity
Up to the level of
the virus, in natural systems there's no difference between being and doing. A system either is passive, at most passively moving,
or does something with its whole structure. With the emergence of eobionts,
bacteries, at evolutionary level 7, we can make a distinction between being
and doing, between structure and activity. Activity can be defined
as reversible structural changes, letting the active organism unchanged,
but performing changes in the environment. Structure will continue to evolve,
but progressively activity becomes the most important evolutionary factor.
One can state that, at level 9 (the current Noospheric level), structual
changes (in man) are no longer of any importance: evolution proceeds purely
by changing activities, and by psychological changes underlying those activity
History as accumulated
With the development
of metazoa, at evolutionary level 8, nature introduces a new, important
strategy to accumulate its structural experiences: history. When
new organisms are developing, it is not the newest structure that is immediately
built up, but the developmental history is restarted at an accelerated
speed. Hence the old biological law that ontogenesis (the development
of the inidividual) retakes phylogenesis (the development of the
evolutionary line form scratch). New experiential codes apparently are
added to the existing genetical code: the number of chromosomes constantly
increases from primitive to human beings.
via intelligence to consciousness
At the beginning,
activity, as structure itself, is regulated by structural codes: instincts are neurological patterns, installed by chromosomial programmes. The have
the simple form S -> R: if observable situation S occurs, reaction
R automatically is elicited. Some of these patterns include the exchange
of signals between animals, also called communication, allowing them to
start useful actions at a more appropriate moment.
The next step is
the emergence of learnability: new S-R-connections can be added
to the behavioural program during life, but not transfered to other animals
or generations (but for a little amount of copying by social and rearing
interaction). This learnability is enhanced by some phenomena, including
associability and an experimental reflex. Associability enables
the transfer of learned skills to situations not exactly the same. The
reflex (or undirected activity) is a reflex in animals to try undirectedly
a number of reactions, especially in dangerous or highly motivating situations.
This strongly enhances the probability that they will "discover" new effective
tricks and skills.
There are also Rupert
Sheldrake's Morphogenetic Fields,
but I don't know of any neurological pattern sensitive to it.
The next step is
the extension of learnability by the elaboration of an ever increasing
number of generalized, and then abstract hypotheses about our environment,
and eventually life and cosmos in general. An animal just disposes of a
collection of data and suppositions about things to happen around it. Homo
starts by developing an insight about the mechanisms that provoke those
events (that's consciousness), and about unrealized possibilities
yet to realize (that's creativity).
The last boost, so
far, for the development of intelligence and consciousness, is language.
Although by this tool, signals can be exchanged as with animals, data (about unobserved parts of reality) as well as (generalized and abstract)
knowledge can be communicated. Moreover, language probably enables
maximizing our abstracting and intelligent capacities.
This step is highly
enabled by the development of a frontal lobe in the brain of primates
and, most spectacularly in man (the most apparent difference between our
species, Homo Cro-Magnon, and our closest predecessor, Homo Neanderthal,
is our forehead with the frontal lobe behind). Although the strict funcationality
of secondary and tertiary brain cortex regions is not yet exactly determined,
one of the most important functions of this typically human device, is
the prediction of possibilities and the evaluation of the
long term effects of behaviour, so that intelligent choices can be made,
and insight ( consciousness) no longer depends on coincidental experience,
but can be developed by purely mental activity.
The emergence of
abstract thinking and human communication is the very driving factor and
means for the emergence of the Noosphere.
The question "how
does consciousness emerge" is, in my feeling, a bad question, because
it is an anthropomorphism. We don't ask about the food and the sexual life
of atoms! Consciousness is only the very last stage in the development
of a much more fundamental phenomenon, regulation or organization,
and we don't have to look to conscious equivalents in pre-human systems,
animate nor inanimate. Moreover, the development of consciousness is probably
still in its early stages.
Brian Swimme & Thomas Berry, THE UNIVERSE STORY, Harper Collins, 1992,
Heinz R. Pagels, THE COSMIC CODE: QUANTUM PHYSICS AS THE LANGUAGE OF NATURE,
Bantam Books, 1963, p. 50.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, THE PHENOMENON OF MAN, Harper & Row, 1965,
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, THE PHENOMENON OF MAN, Harper & Row, 1965,
Eric Chaisson, THE LIFE ERA: COSMIC SELECTION AND CONSCIOUS EVOLUTION,
W.W. Norton & Company, 1987, p. 167.
Eric Chaisson, THE LIFE ERA: COSMIC SELECTION AND CONSCIOUS EVOLUTION,
W.W. Norton & Company, 1987, p. 167.