This topic occurred to me at a point when there was the rather frequent comparison of homeopathy to allopathy in terms of whether or not homeopathy was scientific medicine and I realized that the whole discussion was upside down. It is actually homeopathy that is closest to being scientific and almost all other forms of medicine are not (though there would be strenuous objections to that statement).
What do I mean by this? I am looking at this from the larger perspective of medicine as a component of the field of science, and this, also, from the idea that all of science is advancing and learning more about the nature of reality (or the reality of nature?). From this perspective then, what is learned in all fields of science will apply also to the science that medicine is based on. When looked at this way, I want to show you that medicine is no longer an active participant in the progress of science but has stayed back, stuck, in the paradigm of a century ago. This would not matter except that the ideas, actions, and standards of this backward “science” are based on concepts that have been shown to be incorrect and, therefore, only incorrectness can come from that position.
We will do this by considering the paradigm of medicine as it is now, basically its continuation of the model of reality based on the physics of over 100 years ago, and then look at what has been learned in physics since that time. We will see that these later developments have resulted in discarding of the model that medicine uses. Then I would like to take the implications of modern physics and its implication of consciousness in what happens and relate that, first, to metaphysical healing and then to homeopathy (full circle).
A major organization of physics, into what is now called Classical Physics, is usually connected with Isaac Newton (born Christmas day, 1642) and rightly so since he was such a major figure at the time. We all know about the idea that a falling apple gave Newton the idea of gravity, that there was a force responsible for that fall — even that it was the same force that moves the moon around the earth. Much of what is profound and exciting for the concepts emerging from that time are ones, like that of gravity, of synthesis of phenomena in which disparate properties of nature were seen to be different expressions of the same thing. A good example is finding that static electricity and lightning were the same substance in different forms, even that electricity and the actions of magnets were related in the same way.
Newton’s idea of how the universe was set up is the basic paradigm that allopathic medicine still lives and breathes in.
“Isaac Newton invented physics, and all of science depends on physics. Newton certainly built upon the work of others, but it was the publication of his three laws of motion and theory of gravity, almost 300 years ago, that set science off on the road that has led to space flight, lasers, atomic energy, genetic engineering, an understanding of chemistry, and all the rest. For 200 years, Newtonian physics (which is now called ‘classical’ physics) reigned supreme; in the 20th century revolutionary new insights took physics far beyond Newton, but without those two centuries of scientific growth those new insights might never have been achieved.”1
With this tremendous work in physics a world view emerged which has powered science even up to the present day. The implications of the “new” physics of the last century, the developments in physics after the Classical Model was established, have yet to be completely understood and accepted by many of the related sciences (including medicine, which is our focus). This world view, often called “materialism”, consists of five central theses:2
Matter is the fundamental constituent of the natural world.
Forces act on matter.
The fundamental material particles or “atoms” — together with the fundamental physical forces, whatever they turn out to be — determine the motion of all objects in nature. Thus materialism entails determinism.
All more complex objects that we encounter in the natural world are aggregates of these fundamental particles, and their motions and behaviors can ultimately be understood in terms of the fundamental physical forces acting on them. Nothing exists that is not the product of these same particles and forces. In particular, there are no uniquely biological forces (vitalism or “entelechies”), no conscious forces (dualism) and no divine forces (what came to be known as supernaturalism). Thus materialism implied the exclusion of dualism, downward causation and divine activity.
Materialism is an ontological3 position, as it specifies what kinds of things do and do not exist. But it can also become a thesis concerning what may and may not count as a scientific explanation. When combined with a commitment to scientific reduction, for example, it entails that all scientific explanations should ultimately be reducible to the explanations of fundamental physics. Any other science, say biology or psychology, is incomplete until we discover the laws that link its phenomena with physics. In its reductionistic form — which historically has been its most typical form — materialism thus excludes interpretations of science that allow for “top-down” causation, also known as “strong emergence”. Materialists may be divided on whether, and if so how soon, these reductions will actually be accomplished. Still it is an entailment of materialism in most of its modern forms that an omniscient knower would be able to reduce all higher-order phenomena to the locations and momentums of fundamental particles.
We can see from this way of viewing reality, if this is considered the scientific paradigm, that homeopathy will not be accepted as scientific. Homeopathy differs with this model in radical ways, as the homeopathic view of reality is quite the opposite in some ways.
Matter is secondary to what is fundamental, that being a “dynamic” as Hahnemann put it, or what is usually called “vital force” or “life force”. This force is fundamental, and organizes the material world which is then a derivative of the action of this force.
Forces do act on matter, but the forces of physics are those acting on the material level while the fundamental force that homeopathy refers to exists outside the time-space continuum and is prior to both physical objects and the forces between them.
The Vital Force is prior to physical objects, the brain, and consciousness — indeed is the source of their construction. So the homeopathic model very much uses the idea of “downward causation”.
The model of homeopathy predicts that there will be emergence into manifestation of a variety of forms that come from an informational level (that of the vital force) that is not directly accessible to us (since consciousness is derivative).
We can see that this homeopathic view is very much different from the materialist model that dominated science for so long (and still is the dominant model in medicine).
How Physics Has Changed
“Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.”
– Niels Bohr.
The materialistic model we have just explored (above) has changed. In fact the last 100 years of developments in physics have completely changed this model, reversing or negating almost all of it. We can start the beginning of what has come to be called Quantum Mechanics (post-classical physics) with the work of Max Planck — often called “the reluctant revolutionary”. He was reluctant in that he was not anticipating his findings that became this new wave of physics, in fact never liked them and felt resistance to them.
His work was with the radiation of light from heated objects and he struggled with the disconnect between theory and actual fact. Theory predicted that as an object was heated the amount of radiation given off would rise to infinity whereas the actual observation fell quite short of that (and we all know that the hottest object finally gives off white light as its maximum radiation). Planck finally solved the problem with a successful formula that described the energy given off occurring in discrete units, little “packets” that were to be called “quanta” the latin word for quantity. Thus was born an entirely new view of energy as it was gradually learned that all energy appears to be this way — rather than a continuous gradation, to occur in “pieces” if you will.
The problem that Planck had with this conclusion, even though it fit the observed facts perfectly, is that the implications of this work — and the eventual new view of reality that emerged from it — was in disagreement with his personal view.
“It is of paramount importance that the outside world is something independent of man, something absolute, and the quest for the laws which apply to this absolute appeared to me the most sublime scientific pursuit in life.”4
This was, in a way, the beginning of new investigations into the nature of energy, especially of light, electromagnetic energies, especially electrons.
The Double-Slit Experiments
I want to jump ahead to the most important and relevant experiments for our purpose in this presentation, that of the double-slit experiments with light and other forms of energy. In the early part of the last century there was a controversy about the nature of light — is light in the form of waves or in the form of particles? Newton had decided that light was a series of particles because of the way they bounced off things and because of light refraction. The Dutch physicist Christaan Huygens (born 1629) thought that light occurred in waves and had explanation and evidence for this. Nonetheless, in the 18th century, very few people took the wave theory of light seriously. Out of this undecided question came the crucial work of the Englishman Thomas Young,5 just at the beginning of the 19th century and then that of the Frenchman Augustin Fresnel soon after. To decide the issue, Young set up an experiment that shone light through a diaphragm with a slit in it. If it was a wave then it would go through the hole and propagate as do waves in water. If light is a particle, then it will go through more like small pebbles being shot through the hole. What Young observed was a pattern like the pebbles (with some allowance for bouncing off the edges, as in this figure.
This figure shows how the light photons (if particles) could hit the edge of the opening and be deflected. This would seem to settle the question, wouldn’t it? Light is transmitted as particles. But wait, see what happens when there are TWO slits in the diaphragm.
Instead of the expected two areas of light photons “landing” there is a much wider distribution over the screen in the back of the diaphragm. It creates an interference pattern of alternating dark and light bands, like this:
This figure shows how the recording screen shows alternating dark and light bands. The alternating dark and light bands are there because the light is being transmitted as waves and they are interfering with each other. So very strangely, if there is one hole open, the light is transmitted as a particle, if two holes then as waves.
This was not expected and more experiments were tried in an attempt to understand this. The most significant, I think, is the firing of single photons at the two slits, one at a time. Physicists were able to develop equipment that would shoot one photon at a time at the diaphragms. These single photons hit the screen and left a little dot of “light” on the screen but as this is continued, with millions and millions of single photons one after the other, eventually the same pattern of alternating light and dark bands is established on the screen. How can this be? The realization, as a solution to this puzzle, is that a single photon is not traveling as an object but as a “probability” of manifesting. Therefore, a single photon travels through both holes at the same time — and interferes with itself!
Jumping forward to the understanding of the nature of light (and all other elementary forms of matter — electrons, protons, neutrons, atoms) they are now no longer thought to be objects like we experience in the world about us. They come from another dimension, outside of time and space (the “quantum vacuum”). They are not objects and do not exist in the usual sense we mean the word.
Here are some quotes from physicists that at least give you a feeling for how really different the current concepts about material reality are.
“If I say they behave like particles I give the wrong impression; also if I say they behave like waves. They behave in their own inimitable way, which technically could be called a quantum mechanical way. They behave in a way that is like nothing that you have ever seen before.”
“If we ask, for instance, whether the position of the electron remains the same, we must say ‘no’; if we ask whether the position of the electron changes with time, we must say ‘no’; if we ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say ‘no’; if we ask whether it is in motion, we must say ‘no’.”
“I don’t like it, and I’m sorry I ever had anything to do with it.”
The Importance of Consciousness
Out tale has become odd enough, but there is more. It was found that, in this setup of firing individual photons through the two slits —
“if we set up a system to monitor which of the two slits the photons are going through, we always see individual photons passing through just one slit or the other — and in that case we do not get an interference pattern on the far screen. The behavior of the photons at the slits is changed by how we choose to look at them.”9
This, as you can imagine, was completely baffling. How can it matter if the process if observed or not? Most physicists have shied away from the implications because it means the consciousness of the observer is a factor in what happens and this is anathema to most scientists.
A more sophisticated and clever experiment was done in an attempt to nail down exactly what was happening in this strange process.
The Delayed-Choice Experiment
John Wheeler10 proposed setting up the experiment so that the monitoring of the nature of the light (or electron) could be done between the two slits and the screen — therefore after the “particle” had “made up its mind” which to be — wave or particle. So the experiment was done with and without the detector on, even randomly turning it on at variable times in the path of the particle. The important part of this experiment is that the monitoring was done after the photon or electron has already gone through the two slits.
“With the detectors switched on, the light behaved like photons, with each photon traveling by one or the other path, and no interference…
“With the detectors switched off, the light behaved like waves, even when a stream of individual photons was fired (through the apparatus) with light seeming to follow both channels and definitely producing interference. The behavior of the photons (at the place of origin, where they start from) is changed by how we are going to look at them, even when we have not yet made up our own minds about how we are going to look at them!”11 That is, that we will later turn on the monitors, after the light has gone through the two holes, somehow influences in what form they start out in.
There is much more that could be shown about these experiments but there is enough here to establish the idea that the mind or consciousness of the observer is essential in determining how the experiment turns out.
Does Any of This Apply to Our World?
One objection that is raised is that this is all fine and good for the mystery of very small objects like electrons and light, but it has nothing to do with the objects of everyday life. Many physicists, in fact, take this position and simply relegate quantum weirdness into its own category. But what cannot be avoided is the realization that all of our world experiences are made up of exactly these particles and energies moving about. The same experiment has been done with the various subatomic particles and even atoms themselves — and they all behave the same way.
The movement of electrons is the basis for all the activity of our bodies: digestion, growth, movement of muscles, nerve impulses, formation of molecules. Since the atomic nuclei are stable and unchanging, it is the electrons and their configurations that are responsible for the actions in chemistry and also for all the physiological activities in our bodies. These then are the same electrons that have this same strange behavior we are describing above — some sort of fundamental substratum that does not actually “exist” in the usual sense until we perceive it.
“There is a romantic alternative [to the idea that the division between the quantum world and the everyday world is a matter of size]. It accepts that there is a division, whether sharp or smooth … . between’ ‘quantum’ and ‘classical’. But instead of putting this division somewhere between small and big, it puts it between ‘matter’ (so to speak) and ‘mind’. When we try to complete as far as possible the quantum theoretic account of the electron gun, we include first the scintillation screen, and then the photographic film, and then the developing chemicals, and then the eye of the experimenter … and then (why not?) her brain. For the brain is made of atoms, of electrons and nuclei, and so why should we hesitate to apply wave mechanics .. . at least if we were smart enough to do the calculations for such a complicated assembly of atoms? But beyond the brain is … the mind. Surely the mind is not material? Surely here at last we come to something which is distinctly different from the glass screen, and the gelatin film.”13
Thus physics, in investigating the root, fundamental reality of matter — brings us all the way back to the mind.
The Strange World of Quantum Physics
“Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world.”
Without being aware of it and without being rigorously systematic about it, we exclude the Subject of Cognizance from the domain of nature that we endeavor to understand. We step with our own person back into the part of an onlooker who does not belong to the world, which by this process becomes an objective world.
– Erwin Schrödinger.
Relativity and quantum theory have shown that it has no meaning to divide the observing apparatus from what is observed.
The concept of consciousness in fact demands a cut between subject and object, the existence of which is a logical necessity, which the position of the cut is to a certain extent arbitrary.
The physical world is entirely abstract and without “actuality” apart from its linkage to consciousness.
The Common Approach To Reality
I want to turn to consideration of the idea that the progression of physics is uncovering a reality that has been approached from a different direction for many centuries — that of metaphysics.18 That there is a relationship in some way between the mind and the “outer” world is an idea that has been around for a long time. Here are a few comparative quotes so you can see how both physicists and explorers of consciousness have come to similar conclusions.
“The general notions about human understanding…which are illustrated by discoveries in atomic physics are not in the nature of things wholly unfamiliar, wholly unheard of, or new. Even in our own culture they have a history, and in Buddhist and Hindu thought a more considerable and central place. What we shall find is an exemplification, and encouragement, and a refinement of old wisdom.”
– J. Robert Oppenheimer.
“It is difficult for the matter-of-fact physicist to accept the view that the substratum of everything is of mental character. But no one can deny that mind is the first and most direct thing in our experience, and all else is remote inference.”
– Sir Arthur Eddington.
“The external world is only a manifestation of the activities of the mind itself, and…the mind grasps it as an external world simply because of its habit of discrimination and false reasoning.”
“The external world of physics has thus become a world of shadows. In removing out illusions we have removed the substance, for indeed we have seen that substance is one of the greatest of our illusions.”
– Sir Arthur Eddington.
“Although not really existing, things still appear. From their own side, however (such things) are void by nature. These void appearances do not actually exist…”
– Lengthen Babjampa.
“All such (Ideas) as causation, succession, atoms, primary elements…are all figments of the imagination and manifestations of the mind.”
“Relativity and quantum theory have shown that it has no meaning to divide the observing apparatus from what is observed.”
– David Bohm.
“There is neither seer nor seeing nor seen. There is but one reality — changeless, formless and absolute. How can it be divided?”
“The objective world rises from the mind itself.”
“The physical world is entirely abstract and without ‘actuality’ apart from its linkage to consciousness.”
– Sir Arthur Eddington.
As we know, there have emerged many forms of “healing” of disease from the metaphysical investigations and experience. For purposes of our discussion I want to present an example on one such healing, because I think it relates to this topic of the significance of the state of mind of the practitioner to the outcome of the process.
First I will make two broad divisions in what is often called “spiritual healing.”
One body of techniques acts in some way on the recipient to counteract, negate, neutralize, or repel, what is considered to be the thing that is causing the problem. The problem cause can range from being an organism (bacteria, virus, worms, etc.) to a noxious energy, harmful electro-magnetic field, evil spirit, hex or something on this level of more subtle effects.
The other body of approaches is smaller in number but there are many forms of this through the ages. This form does not treat the sick individual but starts from the assumption that they are already perfect as they are and the apparent problem is a misperception — almost in the sense of a bad dream. The idea that the perception of the observer (not the patient) is an important component is not new. Here, as a demonstration this in one of the most ancient texts is the same idea — in somewhat obscure language at first read.
Tao Te Ching
When all the world recognizes beauty as beauty,
this in itself is ugliness.
When all the world recognizes good as good,
this in itself is evil.
Indeed, the hidden and the manifest give birth to each other.
– Translation by John C. H. Wu
When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.
Being and non-being create each other.
– Translation by Stephen Mitchell.
An Example of Metaphysical Healing
One of the most accessible and contemporary examples of the second category of metaphysical healing come from Christian Science and I am going to present an example case of this. Christian Science is not unique in this regard but is useful because of the detailed working out of the “method” and also because there is a large repository of cases that have been published and with considerable detail as to the case and its progression.
This one is a case of a young man shot with a gun and expected to die. The following affidavit was presented in connection with a legislative hearing on a bill which would have affected the practice of Christian Science healing:
AFFIDAVIT Commonwealth of Massachusetts, } County of Suffolk.
Joseph C. Mann, being duly sworn, on his oath states:
“In November, 1886, I was accidentally shot with a thirty-two calibre revolver, the ball entering the left breast near the nipple. I immediately became unconscious, was carried into the house and laid on the nearest bed.
On our doctor’s arrival the family were informed that I had received a fatal wound; indeed so serious did he consider the case that he felt unwilling to father its responsibility alone. Accordingly three more well known and eminent physicians were summoned post haste. One of these was known in the city whence he came as a skilful surgeon. All four are to-day in the field of practice and their standing is considered as good as any in the medical profession, and in the community in which they live they are known as honest men. They examined the wound closely and carefully and concluded it would be useless to probe for the ball for if they should attempt this, or in any way stir me, I would die on their hands.
They further concluded, that judging from the excessive bleeding, both internally and externally, and the peculiar color of the blood, the ball had touched the heart, and was probably lodged in the pericardium. The doctors informed the family that they were unable to stop the flow of blood, and should they attempt this from without, I would still bleed inwardly, and thus bleed to death.
After a few hours they held a council in an adjoining room, and then told the family there was no hope, saying to the father: “Mr. Mann, we are sorry, but we can do nothing for your son.” In his sorrow and desperation the father implored them to spare nothing that money might afford, send for any other help that might bring hope; but they said it would be useless. With this verdict the three departed. While our family physician still lingered he kept the family informed that I was gradually dying; the body was growing cold, and before he left the house the eyes were becoming set and the death perspiration stood on the forehead. As he went out he said to our grieving friends that death was so near, the pulse was scarcely perceptible. All human help had now left, and the last hope of the family went out with it. So sure were the doctors of my death that they themselves told our friends and relatives, by the way, that they would never see me again alive. Telegrams were written and held ready to spread the news that I was dead.
In this last moment, Christian Science was providentially brought to our door. The family had never heard of this (to them) new method of healing and refused to admit the Scientist; for, as they said, they wanted no one to experiment on the dying whom the doctors had given up as hopeless. They were assured, however, that the patient should not be touched or given medicine; and that “man’s extremity has been (is) God’s opportunity.”
Within about fifteen minutes after (the practitioner) had been admitted into our house I began suddenly to grow warm again under its treatment. My breath was again revived and normal. I became conscious, opened my eyes and knew I should not die, but would live.
That same evening I sat up in bed and ate a little steak and toast. The excruciating pain I had felt during intervals of consciousness while dying, was all gone and I was steadily and rapidly growing strong and well. Notwithstanding the great loss of blood, I was strong enough the next day to have my blood-saturated garments (which had dried during the night and had to be removed by cutting) exchanged for clean ones.
Beyond washing the wound and body to cleanse them from the blood, no attention was given them. The doctors on hearing that I had not died, predicted that gangrene and other evils would yet set in, especially on account of the excessive internal bleeding, and this would certainly produce death. I however continued to improve. The same power that had brought me to this point of recovery, forestalled also the bad results which the M. D.’s expected.
The second day I was out of bed and dressed the greater part of the time; and the third day found me up bright and early and about with the family as though the accident had never occurred. That our mourning had been turned into joy is true, indeed; and to prove to my many visitors that I was really healed and quite like myself again in so short a time, I took my part with the family in singing our familiar church hymns; all were agreed that my voice was strong and sound. Relatives who had come to attend the funeral rejoiced with me instead.
The wound healed inwardly and outwardly without any apparent inflammation, swelling, or suppuration; and meanwhile, from the fourth day on, I walked out to visit friends, rode with the family in carriage and sleigh over rough roads, and in all kinds of weather without sustaining the slightest ill effect therefrom. Christian Science not only perfectly healed me after the medical doctors had failed and had given me up, but through what understanding I have gained, I have ever since been kept well. When I was first healed I experienced a little soreness during the first few weeks of my being about, but this soon entirely disappeared, and not a sensation from the wound have I felt since.
In the village which bears witness to my healing, is the home of my father, John F. Mann, where he has resided for upwards of forty years. I have no doubt that he, or any honest man, who was a citizen of Broad Brook, town of East Windsor, Hartford Co., Conn., where my healing occurred, will give his testimony to any reader who might wish further evidence than my statement of it. Any who would personally inquire into this case are kindly invited to call on me at 4I8 Columbus avenue, Boston, Mass.”
Joseph C. Mann.
Subscribed and sworn to before me this 27th day of February, A.D. 1894. ( Seal) Walter L. Church, Notary Public.
The above affidavit is quoted in the reminiscences of Calvin C. Hill as published in We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Third Series ( The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1953).. Mr. Hill, a close friend of Joseph Mann, added the following details from his own personal knowledge (pp. 3 5-37) :
“At the time of the healing related in the foregoing affidavit, Mr. Mann was twenty-two years of age. When the physicians gave their verdict that death was inevitable, the grief of the family was intensified by the fact that it was a brother-in-law who had accidentally shot him when the two young men were target-practicing with thirty-two calibre revolvers.
When life returned the joy of the family was correspondingly great, and their gratitude for healing in Christian Science was profound. It turned three brothers and two sisters to active interest in Christian Science. The first thing Joseph Mann said when he returned to consciousness was, “Is this something I can learn, and do for others?” He immediately began to study the Christian Science textbook, and many, upon hearing of his healing, went to him for help! and he healed them:
When Mrs. Eddy was informed of his healing work she invited him to attend her class, which he did in 1888. Shortly after, he established his practice in Boston, and his sister Pauline joined him to keep his home. Ten years later, hearing of Mrs. Eddy’s need for an overseer on her Pleasant View estate, he volunteered his services and left a growing practice in order to help her. In this same year Mrs. Eddy invited him to be a member of her last class, the well-known “class of seventy.” One day, when Mrs. Eddy was having a conversation with Joseph Mann, she questioned him in detail about his remarkable experience and especially about the regeneration which took place in him while he stood in the vestibule of death, a change which had come of an experience almost equal to his having died and then been resurrected. Mrs. Eddy summarized the incident conclusively, I was told, in these words: “Joseph, you have had a wonderful experience; you were thrown violently out of the house, and picked yourself up on the outside; go not back into it.”