Syntropy
Spirit - at the core of our lives, at the core of Nature, at the core of the Universe.

And, I would also suggest, at the core of science.
 

Extract from ‘Journey into the Future’

(an unpublished novel by Guy Dauncey)

*

There's one thing about George which I don't think I've yet told you. You remember how he used to be a leading biologist, always going off on trips into the field, loving nature, and generally exploring every mountain and valley he could find ? He was a scientist, through and through, but a scientist who kept alive his sense of awe and spiritual wonder at the miracles and mysteries of nature. And then he had his accident, when he fell and broke his spine, cutting the nerves to his legs.

In the days immediately following the accident, George was in Victoria General Hospital, drugged both against pain and infection. He had suffered severe concussion, too, and for several days he drifted in and out of consciousness, and there was a time when when the medical staff thought they would lose him. It was on one of these occasions, as George told me several years later, that he found himself one night suddenly leaving his body, as if in a silent but utterly peaceful rush of wind. From then on, it was all more or less according to the book. George had studied many accounts of near-death experiences, especially in the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and he said that it felt like very familiar territory as he saw his body lying there in tbe bed below, and the cards beside his bed. Looking upwards, he encountered a rushing dark tunnel, and at the end, a gleaming light which pulled him upwards. Forever the scientist, he looked around very carefully, and even paused, to examine the sides of the tunnel, something he had always been curious about, since no-one had ever written about them. It started off seeming to be a solid black, but as he looked, holding his focus carefully on a single area, the darkness seemed to grow deeper, and in the depth, he saw a spiral pattern in which a thousand events from his life were being simultaneously replayed, some spiraling upwards, some spiraling downwards. He said that he felt he was just on the verge of understanding something very profound when suddenly his gaze was pulled away, and he was rushing up to the top of the tunnel, where he found himself standing in this incredibly bright, sparkling meadow, surrounded by flowers that he knew - but each of them was like a flower of light, not of actual substance. Then a presence spoke to him, from nowhere, and he knew that he had a choice, either to stay, or to return. He knew inside that he wanted to return, back to the farm, back to Carl and Maria, but the feeling of love he encountered in that presence was so immense, so total, and so unconditionally loving that he longed to stay, and live forever in this place.

When he finally left the spinal injuries unit, George started reading. For the first time in ages, he had time on his hands, and some huge questions to explore. What was this spiritual world, that he had so dramatically encountered ? How did that world and this relate ? And why did he so often feel that same inner peace, that sense of love, when he was ssurrounded by flowers ?

One morning, about a year after his accident, he was sitting on the porch one early morning, enjoying a cup of coffee, feeling happy and relaxed. His eyes took in the summer splendour - the soft rolling ease of the meadow, the raspberries waving in the breeze, the hum of the bees around the fennel plants. Then somehow, as if he was in a trance, every leaf came slowly alive, sparkling with light. He was entranced, and as he looked, he saw that the edge of every leaf had a fringe of glowing light that seemed to radiate inwards to the plant - or was it outwards ? The experience lasted a few minutes, then faded away.

In the following weeks, George read everything he could about the aura, the subtle energy the Chinese call ch'i, and about a technique called Kirlian photography, which appeared to photograph the aura of a plant, or the human body. The amount of literature on the subject was enormous. Most of it was descriptive, but when an author became more adventurous, he or she would have a go at inventing a new theory to explain it all. Five years ago, he would have called it wacko, and joked to his scientific colleagues about it, calling it pseudo-science. Now, he was reading in a new light - literally.

The question that was never addressed, however, was the evolutionary one. If all matter was pervaded with spirit, and if spirit had the ability to communicate with matter in a seemingly extradimensional way, was this a new phenomenon, which had only recently started happening - or had this happened throughout evolution ? His instincts as a scientist told him that it must be an inherent quality of matter, not a recent development. In evolutionary time those leaves were how old - 500 million years ? Two thousand million ? And if they flickered, might not that flickering belong to all matter ? The leaves were descended from the earliest blue-green algae, which had emerged from the ocean 2 billion years ago. Did the algae too possess that light ? Going further back, did life itself ? Did matter ? When he read about pieces of rock that had been photographed.....******

Turning the evolutionary clock the other way, what did this mean for species that had emerged since the leaves - including humans ? Were we infused with this flickering light too, throughout the cells of our bodies ? Traditional Chinese medicine certainly thought so : acupuncture was based on this very premise. But for George, everything now went a whole lot further. When he left his body that night in the hospital, what was it that left ? His more sceptical colleagues would say he had simply dreamt, or imagined it. Dreams can be awfully vivid, after all. But George knew this was a different league from dreams. He had never looked down on his body in a dream - or heard the conversations of the night nurses. He knew that whatever had left his body was its very essence, leaving only the shell behind.

In his spiritual self, he was content with the experience. He had few questions, no scepticisms. The experience belonged in a place beyond those kind of questions. But his scientific self kept pushing at the door, demanding to be let in. What does it mean, if I, as a biological species descended from and related to a billion other biological species, can leave my body, and travel to a realm of light ? What did that mean for evolution, and the origins of life ? Or, going much further back in time, what did it mean for the original Big Bang ? And even if there wasn't a big bang, but some continual kind of cosmic creation at the beginning of time, what did it mean for that ? Was all matter, of every kind, enfused with this same quality of light ? Was the big bang itself, perhaps, the actual process of infusion, when light poured into whatever was lightless and sent it rushing on its journey through the cosmos and its eventual unfolding into this daisy, that butterfly - that smile on my daughter's face ?

In evolution, whatever biologists said about change being a random process of mutations and natural selection, based on the survival of the fittest, there was an undeniable build-up of complexity, which was never reversed. Evolution moved forwards, from atom to molecule, from single-celled to multi-celled, from the elementary nervous system of a plankton to the 20 billion-celled complexity of the human brain. The process was anti-entropic : it defied the supposedly inevitable breakdown that was engraved in stone in the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This thought itself was a product of evolution - and the music that Schubert had composed that Dawn was practising on the piano upstairs. Was it simply organized atoms that wrote that Impromptu ? Yes, if you took genetic theory literally. But that was equivalent to the Ptolemaic insistence that the stars were permanently fixed in the firmament. So where did poetry, love and imagination come from ? If they were not were just organized atoms, what else were they ? Almost all modern biologists avoided the questions by ignoring them. Scientifically speaking, under the current evolutionary theory, human beings stopped evolving 100,000 years ago. Our brains have shown no increase in size or capacity since then, so what evidence is there we are still evolving ? By neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, if evolution is to happen, the individuals of a species have to suffer a massive rate of death before they breed, and a mutant variety has to have a trick up its sleeve which enables it to survive and pass on its mutant genes : then, and only then can evolution happen. Once a species finds a way to defeat early death, so that they consistently pass on their genes, according to the theory, the opportunities for further evolution disappear. As long as the old genes are being passed on successfully, new genes may arise by chance, but they have no possible chance to take over the species. By this logic, humans are no longer evolving.

So according to the standard theory of evolution, which guides all science, and informs all chemistry and biology, we are no longer evolving : the billion-year process that made us what we are has stopped. No wonder many Christians reject the theory in favour of the Biblical story. At least that contains an active spiritual component.

And yet ..... all our civilization, all our history....every development and change that humans have created over the past 100,000 years...if this is not evolution, what is it ? What motivates it ? And why, it must be asked, do humans always push their hopes and dreams in the direction of an ideal, for justice, for peace, for beauty ? Why should we bother ? What drives us ?

Now that he was temporarily out of his professional career, George lived with a much more acute awareness of the growing crisis in the world. And now that he knew that every tree, every flower and every sheep in the field was permeated with light, with being, George the scientist could no longer ignore these questions. He read, he thought, he kept notes in his journal. The calm of their Cowichan Valley farm was the most peaceful he could wish for; the shaded porch of their old Victorian house the most tranquil he could wish for. For hours every day, while Maria and the girls were busy around the farm, and Carl was away at school, he would immerse himself in reading. Over the last 40 years, he discovered, an entire stream of research had been conducted into the nature of consciousness, and the relationship of consciousness to healing, energy, even to prayer. All his reading, all his thoughts, guided him in one direction : to the realization that the process of evolution was pushed, informed and guided not only to greater physical complexity, but also to greater psychic complexity. With each increase in complexity, the 'within-ness' of life seemed also to grow richer. Our human struggle to understand our life, to improve it, to reach for new frontiers - all this seemed surely to be an expression of evolution at work, pushing us to overcome limits, to reach greater wholeness. The stupidity, evil and cruelty that humans displayed so constantly was not so much an evidence of inherent directionless in the human species, as it was of our loss of direction, of our failure to understand the laws that governed evolution.

While George spent his summer days reading, thinking, and pondering great thoughts in the shade of the porch, Maria was out in the fields among the beans, her hands buried in the strawberry beds, her mind juggling the competing demands of the crops, the watering, the orders that had to be filled. She loved the work, even when her body ached at the end of the day, but she never grudged George his time of thinking, his flying to distant places in the universe. Her Austro-German upbringing taught her to be wary of idealism, however, and constantly at watch for the sinister shape of the shadow emerging from the mud of the human soul; but it also offered her the traditions of Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven and Mozart. Her own soul ran deep, but she preferred not to speak of it. Her Catholic faith gave her an outlet for a very private love; to talk of it to others, she always felt, would weaken or threaten it. Alone in the semi-darkness of a church, she could indulge it. Her one sadness about living in Canada was the lack of the great old European churches, where the depth of time and accumulated sorrow provided a glorious haven for the soul. But with the glory of the country fields, the sparkling rivers and the green forested mountains all around her, who could complain ?

*

I was there when Maria came back from the Farmers Market just a week before Christmas in 2005, carrying a copy of Time Magazine, her face flushed with excitement. As I recall it, the conversation went something like this :

"George ! George ! Have you seen this ?"

"What's that ? Something up ?", his voice came from somewhere in the house.

"This - look ! It's Time Magazine. Have you seen it ? Where are you, for heavens sake ?"

"I'm here, I'm here", he said, emerging from the bathroom. "What is it ?"

"Time Magazine ! It's on the front page ! All this stuff you've been talking about ! Take a look. It's amazing ! They're saying......"

"Wait a moment, please. Let me see."

On the cover, set against the background of the universe, was a spiral diagram showing a swirl of great thinkers and scientists, growing smaller as they disappeared into the past. At the centre of the spiral was a human heart set, within the infinity symbol, surrounded by the photos of the five people who had been involved, led by the renowned Franco-Pakistani neurologist, Jean Marc Kharoun. At the top of the page were the words 'Syntropy : A New Evolutionary Force', and at the bottom, the words :

'The implications of this discovery for science, and indeed for the whole cosmological foundation on which science has been based since the 17th century, are nothing short of stupendous. We have entered a new era of human knowledge and discovery.'

George opened the magazine, and turned to eight pages which focussed on the story. For the next hour, he was engrossed. Finally, he put the magazine down and wheeled himself onto the porch, where Dawn, Khalil, Maria and myself were enjoying a coffee, after eating lunch. George had missed lunch entirely.

"So, what does it say ? It is the same stuff you've been working on ?" Maria asked.

"Yes - it's incredible ! Basically, they are reporting on a major paper that has just been published in three scientific journals, simultaneously, which is itself unheard of. The five authors have been working together over the past few years on a series of experiments. The experiments are the smaller part of the story : they are around the immune system, and the comparative effects of attitude, diet, self-esteem, stress, healing, deep meditation and prayer. They've been doing their work with humans, with rats, and with cell-cultures. They are showing beyond any reasonable doubt that there is evidence for the mind's role in influencing cell-division and cellular strength, and that spiritual healing and prayer have a specific, measurable effect on the human immune system."

"We knew that," Maria said. "So what's new ?"

"Well, first of all, we may have known that, but most people don't. Anyway, let me get on with the story. The research is good, but as you say, it's not new : there has been research showing similar results over the past ten or fifteen years. What makes the story is that Jean-Marc and his team have had the courage to step back and see how their findings fit into the larger picture - evolution itself. And basically, they have found they don't. There is no place for attitudinal change as a parameter of cellular change within orthodox evolutionary theory. So taking the Anthropic Principle, which says there is no way evolution could have arrived at our present situation by chance alone, they have turned the whole of science on its head by showing that given the evidence, there must have been a mental or spiritual force at work throughout evolution. The burden of proof, they are saying, is now on the Darwinians to prove that the world is a solely material place, not vice-versa. The name they give to this force is syntropy, contrasting it directly with entropy. Whereas entropy is the inherent tendency of all living matter to collapse, they say, syntropy is the inherent tendency of the spirit within all living matter to reach towards wholeness."

"The incredible thing is that in the very week when these five published their paper in Nature, a Greek scientist living in New York, called Elizabeth Mitchell, published a paper in the Scientific American proposing almost exactly the same thing. She calls it the 'chi-anthropic principle', combining the Chinese principle of 'chi', meaning the life force within matter, with the anthropic principle. Apparently, there's been no communication between them, and they just happened to publish at the same time.

"That's amazing", Maria said. "If they are going to rewrite evolutionary theory to include spiritual life, won't they have to rewrite the whole of physics, chemistry, biology, and everything else ?"

"Yes ! Just listen to these reviews their papers have been getting :

'This would seem to prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that consciousness has a real and active role in biological processes that were previously thought to be self-governing.' New York Times

'If this is true, we will have to rewrite every book of science.' Nature.

'The challenge facing young scientists today is stupendous : it involves the re-thinking and re-formulation of every known theory, law and principle in the scientific cosmology. Nothing - and everything - should be seen as sacred : the sacred itself must now be included in the scientific endeavour.' New Scientist

"So !" Maria laughed. "This is wonderful good news. Maybe now they will take our spiritual life more seriously, and stop messing around with so many chemicals and drugs in their attempt to make better food. Don't they know that Nature makes the best food ? Now maybe there will be papers written on the spiritual power of compost. That is so good !"

"But according to this, the church doesn't think it's good at all."

"Which church ? Who doesn't think it's good ?"

"Well, none of them, apparently. This is a review that has been specially written for Time magazine by the editors of Christianity Today."

"This work demonstrates the enormous dangers of meddling in the works of God. The leaders of the scientific community must take great care that they do not unwittingly endorse every crackpot piece of new age nonsense, before they find themselves giving their blessing to works of healing that come from elsewhere than the Lord, and his one and only chosen Son, Jesus. The time has come for all responsible Christians to stand up and say 'Enough !'. We should render unto God that which is God's. Science has no business meddling in the affairs of the human spirit."

Christianity Today

"They sound like they are still living in the seventeenth century", Maria said.

"Quite so. But that would fit with that letter you received last year sent out by a fundamentalist Christian gardener, attacking organic farming as being Nature worship, and a terrible pagan influence."

"But he's crazy. You should hear him go on. He thinks that talking to the plants is a kind of devil worship. I've no idea what he's doing being a gardener at all."

"Well, it takes all types; and don't mock him - I hear that he grows very good crops. I expect he prays for them. According to the new theory, that would be an excellent way to grow food."

"So George, this must be very exciting for you. All your work has been vindicated !"

"Yes ! This is so big, it will have a thousand effects. From this moment forth, all human history will be different ! It is like when we saw Earth from Space for the first time : it changed our whole way of thinking about Earth, which now see as our home. This is like seeing our true origins for the first time. It will change the entire way we think about ourselves, and our future. It will bring the future back to life again ! If evolution contains a spiritual process built right into the nature of matter, then we ourselves contain the same process. Along with everything else, it must affect the way we perceive the future. How can we be cynical, or negative, if science says we contain a spiritual force which has been responsible for the whole of evolution, for over 15 thousand billion years ? That's quite a fuel. Oh - my mind is bubbling ! I need to move. I think I'll go for a roll up the road to get some air."

That was how syntropy arrived at Stable Farm. That week, in households across the world, Time Magazine was read by some five million people - and as word of the story spread, the magazine was forced to issue a reprint, just of the story, and then another. All told, I think they printed some twenty million copies.

During Christmas week, there was a big radio documentary on the breakthrough, and for a short while, newspapers provided serious coverage of the new theory. Then one of the scientists made the mistake of appearing as a guest on a late night chat-show, where he had to endure the host jesting that the syntropic principle seemed to be pandering to the new age public. The mass media wrapped it up as the latest sensation, like the wristwatch that doubled as a cellular phone (and gave you bone-marrow cancer of the wrist). They knew they had to cover the story, but they completely failed to grasp what it was all about.

On Christmas Day, when the Pope did his usual Vatican appearance, he made an extraordinary statement in which he said that while this new syntropic principle might seem to provide important scientific validation of the role of prayer, the Holy Father could not allow the promulgation of any theory which tried to take away from God the prime role in Creation, or which suggested that ordinary mortals might share the spark of divinity.

"The divinity is only within God, his only beloved Son Jesus, and Mary, the Mother of Jesus - and with the appointed saints and apostles - not within every child of God. That is the role of our glorious mother church, to raise our children to salvation through the knowledge of God. The scientists should study the realms of matter, and the measurable world. It is not their role to enter into the realm of the unmeasurable. That is sacred, not to be played with. I declare this new theory of syntropy a heresy, at variance with the written doctrines of the Holy Catholic Church."

 

'This would seem to prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that consciousness has a real and active role in biological processes that were previously thought to be self-governing.' New York Times

'If this is true, we will have to rewrite every book of science.' Nature.

'The challenge facing young scientists today is stupendous : it involves the re-thinking and re-formulation of every known theory, law and principle in the scientific cosmology. Nothing - and everything - should be seen as sacred : the sacred itself must now be included in the scientific endeavour.' New Scientist

"So !" Maria laughed. "This is wonderful good news. Maybe now they will take our spiritual life more seriously, and stop messing around with so many chemicals and drugs in their attempt to make better food. Don't they know that Nature makes the best food ? Now maybe there will be papers written on the spiritual power of compost. That is so good !"

"But according to this, the church doesn't think it's good at all."

"Which church ? Who doesn't think it's good ?"

"Well, none of them, apparently. This is a review that has been specially written for Time magazine by the editors of Christianity Today."

"This work demonstrates the enormous dangers of meddling in the works of God. The leaders of the scientific community must take great care that they do not unwittingly endorse every crackpot piece of new age nonsense, before they find themselves giving their blessing to works of healing that come from elsewhere than the Lord, and his one and only chosen Son, Jesus. The time has come for all responsible Christians to stand up and say 'Enough !'. We should render unto God that which is God's. Science has no business meddling in the affairs of the human spirit."

Christianity Today

 

About the author

Guy Dauncey is an author, organizer and sustainable communities consultant who specializes in developing a positive vision of an environmentally sustainable future, and translating that vision into action. He is the author of Stormy Weather : 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change (New Society Publishers, July 2001), and ‘A Sustainable Energy Plan for the US’ (Earth Island Journal, August 2003). He is also the publisher of EcoNews (a monthly newsletter), co-founder of the Victoria Car-Share Cooperative, and a consultant in ecovillage and green building development. He lives in Victoria, on the west coast of Canada.

His website is www.earthfuture.com.