Physical science studies the ‘hardware’ component of nature; mystics contemplate the ‘software’ component. It is now necessary to integrate the two worldviews.
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Since the Industrial Revolution, the peoples from Western civilizations had developed a more mechanistic point of view of the world. As our knowledge of physics and chemistry grew; and with the advent of the steam engine, we started to see the universe and all life in it as a big mechanical machine constructed from chemical elements. Our knowledge has kept on increasing with discoveries about electricity, electronics, information and communication science, computer science and nanotechnology, and especially quantum theory, and holography. We had a whole paradigm shift, and have since developed tools like general systems theory, cybernetics, and chaos theory that are directing our approach to these new, technological developments. The mechanistic worldview of Isaac Newton and Rene Descartes has become utterly, untenable and we have to reconsider our world perspective and probably develop a more holistic view of our world and belief systems.
Foreword by Dr Charles Muller, MA (Wales), PhD (Lond), DLitt (OFS), DEd (SA)
This book should begin with a warning – in fact, it might be more apt to call this Foreword a Warning. I challenge anyone reading this book to remain unchanged and untouched regarding his or her belief system – what he/she believes about reality, himself/herself, and indeed God and the meaning of life. In this respect, you might say that this book could change your life. Some might say that it is a mine that will explode the fabric of your perception of life and reality. So beware! This book, in short, is mind-blowing. Dr Maartens assembles and parades the great thinkers of science, physics especially, of religion, and especially mystics, to show that what you thought were safe to believe, is not. Do you have faith in God, a belief in evolution, or confidence that the earth on which you tread daily is secure, hard, and solid? Well, prepare to have such perceptions shattered! Life itself – this world and this universe, might just be a hologram, or virtual reality!
Dr Maartens’ arguments will lead you into wondering what exactly constitutes consciousness. What happens to consciousnesses when a cell divides? Dr Maartens says he really believes that the soul has consciousness – that it possesses mind! Throughout the book he uses a fascinating computer analogy (illustrated by means of tables) to draw comparisons between the way a computer “lives” and the way forms of unconscious and conscious life live and function. He postulates, for example, what a plant (e.g. a pine tree) would look like compared to a personal computer (PC) and concludes that a plant definitely has a soul, or psyche (albeit a very poor one), though it has no (conscious) mind. (Plants then are mindless souls!) Yet he argues very succinctly that a living plant has consciousness (as well as emotions) and it can become unconscious – although it cannot think (because it has no mind)!
The author’s exploration of the thinking and research of Eugène Marais, a South African lawyer and naturalist who has almost been forgotten these days, is commendable. Marais’ fascinating findings about the hive mentality, or the hive mind (one might say the hive consciousness) in an ant colony are very relevant today, where human society often takes the form of a mindless following of a dictator – like the robotic Borg androids in StarTrek! Marais concluded that all members of an ant colony form what is essentially a single living organism. “The termitary itself is the body. The various castes in the society have the functions of the body’s organs, with fungus gardens contributing the digestive tract, soldiers and workers the cells of the bloodstream, the queen the brain as well as the reproductive organs, and even the sexual flight executing the function of sperm and eggs.” This in effect is a manifestation of a frightening kind of group consciousness where individual identity and awareness is lost or absorbed into the group.
The author disagrees with Barbara Brown’s assumption in Supermind (1983) that memory is exclusively part of mind. “I think that memory may be part of an organism’s hardware as well as software, i.e. part of its body and also part of the soul.” Thus, he expands on the computer model, or analogy, concluding that the ‘firmware’ (subconscious mind) component of an organism’s ‘software’, is the place where ‘nature’ stores all her archetypal life forms and keeps all her secrets of the different life processes.
The book is a veritable tour de force of scientific, philosophical, religious, and psychological thinking about the way the human brain operates, leading to a clearer concept or understanding of what distinguishes man from the animals. His use of the computer model for this purpose is brilliant, suggesting that the ‘neocortex’, the most developed part of the brain, is the highest level, in man, which embodies the ‘operating system’ as well as the ‘software’ that activates the ‘soul’ of man, his consciousness and self-awareness.
If the author’s hardware-software model is applied, organ transplants might be seen to have as much impact on the human soul as a change in a computer’s video card or even motherboard has on the software on a personal computer! However, what will the impact be on the memories of the cells, tissue, and organs concerned? “If you change the video card on a computer, you will need new drivers to work with the computer’s BIOS!” Fascinating stuff! The computer analogy, the author admits, is a simplification, but it is certainly illuminating in providing a means to advance the argument from the concrete (something we can understand and relate to in everyday life) to the abstract and the metaphysical.
Dr Maartens certainly leaves no stone unturned in his exploration of scientific and metaphysical thinking to get at a better understanding of life and the soul. He touches on Charles F Haanel who in The Master Key puts forward the idea that human consciousness and Universal Mind are connected, and moves on to suggest how this Universal Mind forms part of the noösphere of Teilhard de Chardin, part of the biosphere of our planet where intelligent life exists.
Most people will have heard of the ‘mitochondrial Eve’ hypothesis, the finding that all modern humans can be traced back to a single woman ancestor. The author’s presentation of the theory is both fascinating and succinct. The mitochondrial Eve data does not force the belief that there was only a single woman ancestor from whom we all descended – in other words, it does not prove the creation myth in the Bible – but – a very important ‘but’ – it is most definitely consistent with it.
Just what is the origin of life itself? The astronomer Hoyle came up with a theory that life on earth was seeded by colliding comets. Another theory of Hoyle’s, developed later, postulates that life continually reaches earth directly from outer space, riding on light beams! Francis Crick embraces an origins view called ‘Directed Panspermia’, in which it is assumed that life was originally sent to earth from outer space! According to Crick, life evolved from non-life on some other planet, starting with the spontaneous generation of bacteria, and proceeding all the way to highly intelligent beings.
Dr Maartens’ book is certainly encyclopaedic in its range – in its far-reaching, exhaustive and thoroughgoing exploration of theories and speculations (and findings) about life and its meaning. One is almost tempted to say that Ken Wilber’s title A Brief History of Everything would be appropriate for this book! The title is certainly apposite when Dr Maartens argues that the “Tree of Life still provides the best two-dimensional model of all, to describe the relationships amid all the different concepts” that he can muster. “All the different sources (holography, systems theory, computer science, Qabalah, Du Quette, Pirsig, Bateson, Schumacher, Mathers, Holmes, Haanel, Atkinson, Shastri, Bohm, Grof, Aspect, Pirsig, MacLean, and Freud,) are integrated into one Tree of Life of the human soul.” And the author goes on to invent a new concept – Inergy, which is simply intelligent energy, or Energy + Intelligence (Information) – no doubt the chief ingredient of the noösphere, for spirit is inergy! After all, as Haanel maintained, “The Universal Mind is the totality of all mind which is in existence. Spirit is Mind, because spirit is intelligent. We as spirit and spiritual beings can surely tap into this Universal Mind, controlling our destiny by programming our subconscious mind.”
It reminds us, Dr Maartens says, of the Vedic and Buddhist notions that we, and all we can observe, are no more than ‘mind-stuff’. It reminds us of Jung’s conclusion that at the most fundamental levels psyche and matter are the same, that psyche and soma are indissolubly welded in our psychophysical selves.
At one point, Dr Maartens quotes Paul Erdos who said, “A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems.” It occurred to me that one will need an inordinate amount of coffee to digest the wide scope of the metaphysics of this book – for it cannot be read and digested in one sitting; indeed, it will take many sittings, many cups of coffee, to absorb the fascinating revelations and theories and analogies about the meaning of life. In a sense, one might say that Willie Maartens’ book is a device for turning coffee into metaphysics, into a higher and far-reaching grasp of the mystery as well as the vast implications of life. One can only be enriched by the experience for it will lead to a better understanding of the meaning of life that takes into account everything from the amoeba to the crucifixion and spiritual energy (and ‘inergy’)!
Now for something completely different ….
No, I will leave it to you, the reader, to discover the wide and diverse range (though cogently connected) thinking of this inspired author!
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