Scientific Research

The Principle That Makes Homeopathy Scientifically Possible: The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts

When a chemical solution is diluted, we tend to think that it can only have properties we would ascribe to its component molecules as if they behaved the same as little billiard balls, or tiny versions of the ball and stick models we make to represent their internal structure. The idea that some hidden, latent property of atoms and molecules might manifest, simply because they have undergone a special process of dilution, does not occur to the materialist. To put it most simply, the materialist subscribes to a simplistic principle: ‘The whole is equal to the sum of its parts’ – get rid of all the parts, and, ‘Voila!’, there can be no effects.

The ability of the quantum vacuum to induce transitions totally contradicts the materialist outlook, however. No longer is it true that nothing cannot have an effect. No longer can we say with King Lear, ‘Nothing will come of nothing’ [25]. The particular ‘Nothing’ consisting of the vacuum can exert a causative effect. If it can be shown that a ‘quantum nothing’ similar to the vacuum state of the electromagnetic field, but originating in dilution of chemical molecules, can produce changes in the physiology, a scientific theory of homeopathy would have been constructed consistent with what we already know about quantum theory.


‘The whole is equal to the sum of the parts’, is not universally valid. A deeper, more spiritual, principle holds. The old principle breaks down for correlated systems. Cooperative phenomena at phase transitions, such as are utilized in the new theory of homeopathy [16], and stimulated emission of light in lasers, are both due to correlations, which represent an internal ordering of a system’s subsystems. They have information value, but no inherent material energy – they are the domain of the information theorist, rather than the materialist. Nowadays, this is seen as the very nature of quantum physics, for as Stapp emphasises, ‘Information is the currency of quantum theory’ [26].

Correlations’ internal ordering have observable consequences that cannot be predicted from gross knowledge of the system’s composition alone. If it is asked, ‘Why are observations on two such systems different?’ the matter energy content cannot explain it. The information contained in the abstract correlations is outside the materialist domain. Knowledge of the parts is not sufficient to predict all possible observations on the whole system – there is more information I (w) stored in the whole (w) than the sum Si of all the information I(pi) in each of the parts pi :

I(w) >  Si I(pi)   (1)

Such a system is said to be a whole more than the sum of its parts. In contrast classical systems conforming to the materialist idea that the whole is only equal to the sum of its parts satisfy:

I(w) =  Si I(pi)   (2)

The inequality (1) thus offers a quantitative definition, and criterion for the validity in any given system, of a different principle:

The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts

This principle is widely known, and applied in many ways, not just to physical or scientific concepts such as systems. In the humanities where internal ordering principles, balancing interrelationships and harmonies, have central importance, it is a fundamental concept. It is not just at work in the nothing of a quantum vacuum, in human situations it is important because a mere nothing – an idea, information – can motivate everything.

In King Lear, the whole drama emerges from Lear’s reaction to Cordelia’s ‘Nothing’! Shakespeare is in effect illustrating the deep principle whereby the Void is the origin and source of all things, an idea embodied in modern quantum cosmology by the ‘inflationary process’. Conclusive observational evidence now exists for this process [27], which initiates the Big Bang from an unstable pre-physical potentiality – physics shows conclusively that the origin of the universe as a whole is governed by the new principle, not the materialist one.

It applies to all systems of thought summarized by Aldous Huxley in his Perennial Philosophy [28]. Wordsworth alludes to it at the climax of his autobiographical ‘Prelude’, his longest, and arguably his greatest, poem. Reflecting on a full-moon cloudscape seen from above during a night ascent of Mt Snowdon, he locates in the scene ‘the Imagination of the Whole‘ – the cosmic creative intelligence behind the whole creation – describing it as ‘the perfect image of a Mighty Mind, of One that feeds upon infinity‘ [29] – an experience of the total wholeness of all creation, greater than the sum of its parts, thus revealing the truly holistic nature of reality. He tells how this experience of wholeness in the totality brought the final strokes of growth of (the cosmic) Imagination in the poet’s own mind – a true and valid experience of enlightenment, and principle theme of the whole poem.

T.S. Eliot illustrates its role in writing and literature, at the climactic ending of Little Gidding, the final poem in Four Quartets: ‘every phrase and  sentence is right, (where every word is at home, taking its place to support the others … the complete consort dancing together)‘ [30]. Here, Eliot is also writing at a second, symbolic level, in which he uses ‘Word’ and ‘word’ consistently throughout his Quartets to represent the divine and individual soul. Incorporating the allusion to Shiva Nataraja, the passage’s symbolic meaning transmits an image of the wholeness of individual souls (words) rising to perfect wholeness in the divine, the ultimate basis of Wholeness and holism – once again, a realisation of enlightenment expressed in an image of the holistic nature of experience.

The principle’s use is becoming more widespread, it is taught in schools and colleges around the world as one of the 16 principles of the core curriculum of the world’s largest and most successful system of private education, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Consciousness Based System of Education [31]. Sometimes in popular form, it is stated as: ‘A House is More than a Collection of Bricks’. Clearly a mere pile of bricks has little use compared to a house, or even a single wall, in both of which physical organisation creates potential uses and value. Organisation of what would otherwise be just a ‘pile of bricks’ both distinguishes it and makes it useful. Organisation results from information, and encodes it: once again inequality (1) holds. Such a role of spatial organisation in the uses of an object or system is one way the principle applies in classical physical science, and is of great significance, since it is the key to the relationship between structure and function – the way classical science begins to go beyond mere local causality. Similarly, the principle applies to any system with feedback, since the value of the whole is fed back to the parts, probably one reason why Cybernetics, Wiener’s work on regulation and control, made such a huge impact when it appeared [32].

In all these ways, the new principle is of fundamental significance, to the universe as a whole, and everything within it. It is only those systems that do not satisfy it to which materialism applies. However, such systems were the only ones considered in the first centuries of mathematical physics, up to the 1930’s, so a false simplicity, materialism, was assumed to hold universally. In reality, the universe possesses a far richer structure due to the existence of correlations, quantum ones vilified by Einstein [23], and others at a classical macroscopic level. Such internal correlations endow systems with additional, hidden information, which can be denoted by I(C) and the numerical value of which is given by,

I(C)  =  I(w) –  Si I(pi)   (3)

the difference between the information I(w) attributable to the whole system and the sum of the values I(pi) attributable to its subsystems, or parts.

At a macroscopic level correlations result from cooperative phenomena. They exist in all systems exhibiting phase transitions and critical instability points. At a microscopic level they exist in all multi-component quantum systems. This shows that the principle applies to all the theories proposed to explain homeopathy and referred to above [9-16].


We still may ask, how does the validity of the new principle help to explain homeopathy? The answer is: in quantum field theory additional information I(C) hidden in a correlated system can, under the right circumstances, itself take on a quantum field form, endowing it with dynamic organizing power. The new quantum field, the quantised fluctuation field, is like a harmonic of the original field. Because of the details of their mathematical form, quantised fluctuation fields behave very differently from usual quantum fields when diluted. Apparently they are still observably present, even when the field itself has been diluted to zero. They can produce observable transitions, but only in special kinds of detector consisting of systems about to undergo a phase transition near far-from-equilibrium critical instability points. In such a detector, organizing power is supplied by the quantised fluctuation field, but most, if not all, the required energy comes from the dissipative processes required to maintain the system far from equilibrium.

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Alex Hankey

Alex Hankey

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