Organic and Mechanical
(Organicism and Mechanism)
"You are not an island, you are organically one with this universe" (Osho 1974, p. 280).
Contents: Introduction - Mechanism - Reductionism - Conventional Medicine – A Joke - Organicism – Three Bodies and Energies - Alternative Medicine - Is Alternative Medicine Scientific? - The many Faces of Science - Beauty - Goodness - Truth - Dancing Meditation – Summary - References - Quotes
Organicism and mechanism, or simply the organic and mechanical view, have a long history. Apart from some mechanistically oriented Greek philosophers, the organic view was common until the Renaissance. Subsequently, mechanism became predominant, especially since the so-called Age of Enlightenment (Age of Reason). Newton’s mechanistic physics became the foundation of mechanism. Surprisingly, modern physics has turned more holistic, whereas the life sciences (including medicine) to a great extent are still anchored in and promote mechanistic thinking (see, for example, Capra 1996, Capra and Luisi 2014). However, organicist approaches have existed in the life sciences for a long time. For example, Goethe, the German poet and scientist, upheld an organic and holistic scientific outlook contrary to Newton’s mechanistic view. Today Goethe’s way of doing science is still practiced besides other holistic approaches (see, for example, Bortoft 1996). The Scientific and Medical Network among other organizations promotes holism and organicism and a general openness, but mechanistic science continues to dominate our mainstream culture, often in a rather dogmatic way that to most people is not obvious because of widespread indoctrination and conditioning (brainwashing) as pointed out by Sheldrake (2012) and others.
The development of mechanistic science made possible the invention and construction of a plethora of machines ranging from very simple devices to highly complex computers and robots. These machines obviously have made life easier in many ways, but they also have dehumanized life and pose a considerable thread for the future of humankind. The increasing use of robots may eventually lead to large-scale unemployment. And some well-informed scientists such as Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates think that the artificial intelligence (AI) of robots of the future pose an existential problem for humankind because, as Stephen Hawking pointed out in a 2014 interview with the BBC, “humans, limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded by AI." Therefore, Hawking concluded that artificial intelligence (AI) “could spell the end of the human race." In his book How to Create a Mind, Kurzweil envisaged that we will have intelligent robots with a mind, emotions, and morality by the 2030s. Many informed people, including Stephen Hawking find such a prospect potentially more dangerous than nuclear weapons. Harari (2014, 2015) pointed out that besides the development of super intelligent computers and robots, the mechanistic research programme of the digital information age may also lead to genetic engineering of humans and the creation of cyborgs (the combination of organic human bodies with non-organic devices such as artificial eyes and nano-robots). With this prospect, will the future be human? Humans, including their brains, appear to be not digital or not only digital.
Mechanism is not only threatening our future; for centuries it has already degraded our view of the universe and living beings. According to mechanism, a living system such as an organism is a machine or has to be understood in terms of the machine metaphor. Since a machine consists of material components, mechanism implies materialism. An organism’s material components are organs, cells and molecules. Nowadays the life sciences place enormous emphasis on cells and molecules, especially DNA, the molecule of the genetic material (see Chapter 10). Because of this emphasis, modern biology and medicine that is based on biology have become biochemistry to a great extent, which implies reductionism.
Reductionism, like mechanism, has different meanings (Sattler 1986: 216-226 and 243-245). In biology and medicine reductionism often means reducing an organism to physics and chemistry. That is, an organism should be understood in terms of the laws of physics and chemistry. Thus, molecules have become extremely important and biology has become molecular biology to a great extent.
However, an organism is more than the sum of its parts, that is, more than the sum of its molecules. It has emergent properties, which are not found in its molecules. For example, a human being can think and feel in a way molecules cannot. Therefore, a detailed knowledge of molecules alone will not lead to a complete understanding of an organism. Yet in mainstream biology the belief in reductionism remains deeply entrenched. Nobel Laureate Francis Crick, who together with James Watson elucidated the structure and function of DNA, said, “ ‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules” (quoted in Marshall and Zohar 1997: 120-121). He concluded: Explain these nerve cells with their associated molecules and we will explain away the mystery of consciousness. To a great extent this attitude and belief also prevails in conventional medicine that is based on biology.
Conventional medicine, that is, mainstream medicine, treats disease predominantly through a mechanistic approach. Therefore, seeing a medical doctor or entering a hospital in many ways is comparable to seeing a mechanic or bringing one’s car to a garage. If the car does not work properly, the mechanic checks which component is defective and then either repairs this component or replaces it. For example, if the muffler has rusted, it is replaced by new one. Similarly, if a patient sees a conventional doctor, he checks which part of the patient’s organism is not working properly, and then either tries to repair it or replaces it. For example, if the kidney does not function, it may be replaced by a well functioning kidney from a donor.
Although this materialistic, mechanistic approach works to some extent, it has many shortcomings as is well known. First of all, although there are compassionate doctors, the patient doesn’t feel well being treated like a machine. Second, since the organism functions as an integrated whole, treating it like a mechanism of material components may create many problems. It is well known that repairing or replacing an organ may affect other organs and the whole organism in a negative way. For example, a patient may be cured from a heart disease just to end up with a disease of the kidneys or other organs. For this reason many people, especially elderly people who have totally succumbed to conventional medicine, may have to swallow a large number of pills every day: one for the heart, one for this bad side effect, another one for that negative side effect, and so on.
I am not saying that conventional medicine is all bad and should be avoided under all circumstances. There are situations where it may be called for. For example, after an accident, the technology of modern medicine may be very helpful. Therefore, conventional medicine has a role to play in health care. The problem is, however, that in the treatment of disease, conventional medicine has, to some extent, become itself a disease. It has become a disease because it often suppresses alternative holistic medicine that could be more appropriate for a profound healing of the patient. Consequently we find an imbalance between conventional and alternative medicine, mechanism and organicism, the outer and inner circles of the mandala of this book. For better social and individual health, we need more balance (see Toward better health and more sanity in our lives and society).
Osho (1999: 344) told the following joke:
Sally Goldberg goes to the doctor to ask for some help in losing weight before her wedding day.
He prescribes a course of slimming pills for her.
A few days later she returns to his office.
“These pills have awful side effect,” she says worriedly. They make me feel terribly passionate and I get carried away. Last night I actually bit off my boyfriend’s ear.”
“Don’t worry,” says the doctor, “an ear is only about sixty calories.”
Before I can turn to alternative medicine, we have to look at organicism in general. Organicism, as the name indicates, upholds the organic. So what is organic? It seems difficult to define. I grasp it more intuitively. I can see it in a dancer who moves organically, not like a robot. I can see it in the movements of the clouds or the play of the waves in the sea. I can see and feel it everywhere in the living world, but not in mechanisms and machines that we have built.
If the organic has to be defined, I think it may be best defined by the concepts of the inner circle (which represents holism) of the mandala of this book. As has been pointed out by many organicists, the organic exhibits wholeness, sometimes referred to as organic wholeness. In this wholeness "every part implies every other. As a consequence the alteration or removal of a part affects the organic whole" (Sattler 1986, p. 246). Furthermore, in organic wholeness we may find continuity as, for example, the continuity between my arm and trunk, which permits movement in an integrated fashion. What we call organic may also exhibit polar organization in which the poles are fully integrated with each other, thus forming a whole, an organic whole. The integration also includes the environment, which forms the context for the organism. The organism has an openness to this context, it is not closed, and the organism cooperates with its environment as its parts cooperate with each other in a harmonious fashion. This cooperation occurs in a fluid way. Thus an organic whole has a flow to it. And as it flows, it changes and thus creates a great variety of expressions in a flexible way. All this does not happen simplistically, but in a more complex way like the whole web of life, with manifold interactions integrated with each other. Finally, the organic whole is not necessarily caught in a subject-object division, but may exhibit self-reference (see Chapter 12). Above all the organic has a mysterious quality that cannot be expressed in words. In this sense it can open the door to the unnamable, which is represented by the empty centre in the mandala of this book. However, the unnamable and the mystery of the mandala as a whole are beyond concepts and language and in this sense are also beyond the concepts of the organic and the mechanical.
Three Bodies and Energies
Different views of the body that can also be seen as energy illustrate different aspects or levels of organicism and holism (see also Body, Speech, and Mind and Toward better Health and more Sanity in our Lives and Society). In our culture we tend to see the body only as the physical body, which may be understood as a mechanism or more or less organically and holistically. However, in some spiritual traditions such as Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism additional bodies are known. For example, a subtle body and its corresponding subtle energy are seen as extending beyond the physical body and can be perceived as auras also by some people in our Western culture. There is some scientific evidence for the existence of subtle energy or energies (see, for example, Tiller 1997, 2007).
In addition to the subtle body and its corresponding subtle energy a very subtle (or causal) body is also known in some spiritual traditions. In Tibetan Buddhism this body has been referred to as the body of light or clear light. In it we “recognize that space is light, that light is space, and that light and space are energy – there is no separation. This recognition of no separation appears as clear light. Clear light is not white, yellow, blue, red, or green. It is pure awareness. The moment you realize that light, you are liberated” (Wangyal Rinpoche 2011: 43).
According to Greene (2009), all bodies and their corresponding energies form a continuum of energy frequencies. Divisions within this continuum may appear more or less arbitrary and therefore also more than three bodies have been distinguished and different names may have been given to them. Greene (2009) distinguished the physical, vital, emotional, and universal body and their corresponding energies. The universal body corresponds to the body of light. The vital and emotional bodies make up the subtle body. In some modalities of alternative holistic medicine the great importance of these bodies for health and healing is recognized (see Toward better health and more sanity in our lives and society).
It seems difficult to make general pronouncements about as vast and diverse a field as alternative medicine. Nonetheless, one could probably say that all or most of the therapies in the field of alternative medicine are more organic than mainstream medicine. Organic in this context refers especially to integration and wholeness, and for this reason alternative therapies are often called holistic. Since different alternative therapies appear holistic to various degrees and in different ways, we may distinguish the following three levels of holistic medicine (Sattler 2001):
1. The body of the patient is recognized as a physical whole.
2. The patient is seen as a body-mind-soul being.
3. The patient is seen as fully integrated with his or her environment, which may comprise the whole universe including the healer.
To 1. Even in mainstream medicine some holistic tendencies exist. Therefore, mainstream medicine and alternative medicine are not always clearly separate, but rather form a continuum. Typically they are, however, strikingly different even at this lowest level of holism. Let me illustrate this by the treatment of myopia. If you see an ophthalmologist who practices conventional medicine, he or she may only examine your eyes and then prescribe glasses. In other words, (s)he treats you as if your eyes exist in isolation from the rest of you body. Not so an alternative healer. An alternative healer might examine your whole body and look, for example, for tensions in your head and neck. She then might prescribe exercises that involve not only your eyes, but also other parts of your body or your whole body. And if you do these exercises for some time, your myopia may improve or even be cured so that you don’t have to wear glasses any more. Mainstream medicine still has a long way to go to reach such integrated treatment, but progress in this direction is being made.
To 2. The integration of body-mind-soul is also recognized to a limited extent in mainstream medicine. However, it seems that there is more talk about psycho-somatic medicine than is actually practiced. In any case, many modalities of alternative medicine tend to place much more emphasis on the body-mind-soul integration than conventional medicine. For example, laughter therapy involves the whole person and may have remarkable results (see Laughter) .
To 3. The most inclusive holism seems almost completely absent in mainstream medicine but is implied in some alternative therapies such as Reiki and spiritual healing. In Reiki the healer is a channel through which universal energy is directed to the patient. Thus, the universe, the healer and the patient form an inseparable whole.
Is Alternative Medicine Scientific?
People often ask whether alternative holistic medicine is scientific. Since it spans such a wide range of different therapies, it is not easy to give a general answer. What does it mean anyway to say that something is scientific? It is generally acknowledged that conventional medicine is scientific. To many this means that medical knowledge has been proven. In contrast, alternative medical knowledge is widely considered unproven and this seems one reason why it is considered unscientific and therefore not sufficiently respected.
It seems indeed correct that alternative medical knowledge is unproven. However, contrary to a widespread misconception, conventional medical knowledge seems also unproven. In fact, all scientific knowledge appears unproven. Proof cannot exist in empirical sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, and medicine. Empirical science can only provide evidence. Since scientific knowledge appears open-ended, it cannot be definitive, final, or absolute. Any theory that appears to be “proven” today may be overturned some time in the future by new contradictory evidence. And we have no way of knowing how future observations and experiments will turn out. Will they be in agreement with our “proven” theory or will they contradict our “proven” theory? And if more and more contradictory evidence should accumulate in the future, our “proven” theory will have to be modified or even be discarded. This is how science progresses. Some theories may be rather persistent, which does not mean that they have been proven. Other theories may be more short-lived. We cannot tell what will happen to any particular theory because we don’t know the outcome of future experiments and observations. Let me illustrate this by a simple example. Let us assume that a new medicinal drug was tested for negative side effects. Following strict scientific procedure, it was administered to a group of people and their response was compared to a control group who was given a placebo. The result of the experiment was that the drug does not have negative side effects. This seems rare, if it happens at all, but let us assume that this was the result of the experiment. Now, does this result prove that this drug has no negative side effects? No. Why not? Because we cannot know how future experiments with different groups of people will turn out. Will they confirm the result of the original experiment, or will they contradict it? Therefore, no final, absolute conclusion can be drawn. No proof in this absolute sense is possible. Even if the result of the original experiment would be replicated many times, we still don’t know what the next experiment will tell us. And we don't know what the result would be if we used a different methodology. Hence, science requires open-mindedness and being prepared for the unexpected. For, as Samuel Beckett wrote in his novel “The Unnamable”, the unexpected is always upon us.
Although science cannot provide proof, it can establish compelling evidence. We have such evidence not only in conventional medicine, but also in alternative medicine. The question is whether the evidence available in various therapies of alternative medicine is sufficient to render it scientific. To answer this question we have to probe more deeply into the question: What is considered scientific?
The Many Faces of Science
Since science has become so important and all-pervasive in our society, one would think that most people and especially scientist and philosophers of science know what science is. But ask scientists or philosophers to give you a definition or characterization of science and you may get very different answers. I’ll give you a limited sample of the range of answers that you may get (for a more comprehensive presentation see Science: its Power and Limitations).
Besides the widespread notion that science provides proof, another common idea is that science ultimately explains everything in terms of material entities such as molecules, atoms and subatomic particles, which implies that it has to be materialist. On this view, mind also has to be reduced to these entities. As I pointed out already, this view disregards emergence, a fundamental insight of organicism and holism. Emergence can be illustrated at all levels of organization, even in inorganic matter. For example, hydrogen and oxygen are gases with certain properties. When they combine to form water, new properties emerge, which do not occur in hydrogen and oxygen. Similarly, chimpanzees can jump from one tree to another. Their cells alone cannot do that. The whole organism has properties that are not found in its constituent cells. Therefore, to understand the whole organism, it is not sufficient to study only its cells and molecules. This applies also to the mind. It may be interesting to establish correlations between cellular and molecular processes in the brain and the mind. However, mind is more than just the physical components of the brain. As I pointed out already, organicists and holists say that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, the “more” being the emergent properties.
In many therapies of alternative medicine the emphasis is on emergent properties. For example, in herbal medicine herbal extracts or powders are administered. Since these extracts are more than just a purified chemical compound, they may have healing properties that are absent in individual compounds. Contrary to a widespread bias in our society where purified chemical drugs are often considered the best and scientific, administering a natural part of a plant does not make it less scientific because the efficacy of these medicines can be and has been investigated using the same sophisticated methods that are used for the testing of synthetic chemical drugs (see, for example Mowrey 1986).
In many alternative therapies the emphasis is also on the body-mind-soul. This does not necessarily render them unscientific because at this level again objective scientific methods may be used. However, the approach may also be more intuitive and subjective in which case it would be more appropriate to refer to healing arts.
Another definition of science is that it is predictive. On this view, a conjecture is considered scientific, if it yields predictions. Although useful, this view of science can be rather restrictive because it declares all explanations that lack predictive power unscientific. However, the advantage of this view is that it is not necessarily reductionist and materialistic. As long as we can make predictions anything appears acceptable, be it material or non-material. A number of alternative therapies are predictive, at least to some extent. For example, a doctor who practices traditional Chinese medicine, by taking the pulses, can diagnose Yin-Yang imbalances and can predict which treatments will positively affect these problems. Where the predictive power of alternative therapies is limited, keep in mind that the predictive power of conventional medicine can also be limited. One reason for limited predictive power of both conventional and alternative therapies is the variability and uniqueness of organisms (see Chapter 9).
A general tendency in Western science is the insistence that only objective sense data are permitted. That is, only observations of the world external to the observer that can be shared with other observers are considered valid. This excludes internal subjective observations of the observer. However, radical empiricists claim that both external (objective) and internal (subjective) observations should be admitted in science. They point out that if we exclude internal observations - as it is commonly done in mainstream science - we impoverish the observational basis of science so much that we deprive ourselves of too many valuable insights. As I discussed in Chapter 4, Wilber (2001) advocated a “broad science” that also includes internal subjective observations, and he showed how such a broad science can follow the same methodology as the common narrow mainstream science. Others also proposed an "extended science" that transcends the narrowness of ordinary mainstream science (see, for example, the conclusions of an article on The Challenge of Consciousness Research by Brian D. Josephson and Beverly A. Rubik).
In many alternative therapies internal subjective observations play a role. For example, a Body Talk practitioner diagnoses internal states of the patient through a kinesiological method and than provides a treatment based on this subjective experience. In principle, another Body Talk practitioner could diagnose the same patient and compare his or her diagnosis and intended treatment with that of the first practitioner. If they came to the same conclusion, this would constitute intersubjectivity, that is, objectivity as understood in narrow science. Wilber (2001) calls this communal checking. Although impractical and maybe unnecessary in the above example, it seems possible in principle.
If internal subjective observations are permitted, then two further views of science can be distinguished: 1. Science based on observations (external and internal) made in an ordinary state of consciousness, and 2. Science based on observations (external and internal) made in a non-ordinary, altered state of consciousness. Since altered states may include mystical states, this view of science opens the door to the scientific study of aspects of mysticism. I say aspects of mysticism because mysticism, being beyond concepts, cannot be fully understood by a conceptual scientific approach.
There is no agreement among scientists and philosophers whether it may be possible and/or desirable to clearly demarcate science from art and spirituality, or whether it may be better to integrate science, art and spirituality. Mae-Wan Ho, an exceptional biologist, favours such an integration and refers to it as “participatory ‘indigenous western science’ ” (Ho 1994b: 5). “Participatory” means “the knower places her undivided being - body and mind, intellect and feeling - squarely within the known, which is all of nature” (ibid.). “Indigenous” considers knowledge an “unfragmented whole - encompassing science, humanities and art, ethics and religion (ibid.). In this sense, Ho (1993, 1994a,b) outlined a participatory indigenous science. If science is seen so broadly, then even spiritual healing, including shamanic healing, can be considered scientific, which would render practically all alternative holistic medicine scientific.
Participatory indigenous science also includes Wilber’s (2001, 2007) “Big Three” I referred to in the Introduction of this book. They are art, culture and science, or self, morals and nature, or (according to Plato) beauty, goodness and truth. Let us look at the latter three.
We may find beauty in an organic whole. Think of the beautiful movements of a dancer. Think of the beauty of a flower. This beauty is beyond the conceptual reach of philosophers and scientists, although it has inspired some of them. And to some extent beauty may be reflected in science such as, for example, the beauty of fractals (Peitgen and Richter 1986). However, beauty may appear most profoundly in the arts.
Kahil Gibran thus spoke about beauty in The Prophet:
And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted
…beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.
In our society and doctrinal religions goodness usually means being good to others and oneself. Such goodness is based on a division between self and other. Since this division does not ultimately exist, ethics based on it, is not totally natural; it often appears forced and thus may lack spontaneity, playfulness and joy.
If, however, we realize that the individual self is one with the universal Self, then the fundamental division between self and other disappears: self and other become so completely entangled that any act against others becomes an act against oneself. Thus, the awareness of mutual entanglement, of the “organic oneness of all being” (Ho 1994b: 7) becomes the guide to ethical conduct. Ho referred to such ethic as “naturalistic ethic of universal mutual entanglement” (ibid.).
According to Wilber (1998:104), “truth usually refers to objective empirical facts.” This means relative truth that more appropriately may be called correctness. Many people think that science can provide relative truth or correctness. But as I pointed out above, since science cannot prove anything, it cannot even provide relative truth in a definitive way. All theories remain questionable, some more, others less. And since facts are theory-laden, that is, somewhat dependent on theories (see, for example, Sattler 1986, Chapter 3 and Science: its Power and Limitations), they too are questionable to some extent; although more solid than theories, they are not completely beyond any doubt.
Since both theories and facts are articulated through concepts, and since concepts fragment reality, both theories and facts represent reality in a fragmented way, not as it is independently of our conceptual investigation. Therefore theories and facts cannot reach Truth. Truth in an ultimate sense is that which is. It cannot be captured through concepts and language. And therefore it cannot even be talked about. It can only be in silence...It seems significant that when Pontius Pilatus asked Jesus “What is Truth?," Jesus remained silent. Fundamentalists, who think that Truth can be literally stated, should remember this
The Buddha often remained silent. On one occasion, instead of giving a sermon, he just held a flower in his hand, silently. It is reported that only one of his disciples, Mahakasyap, understood. He laughed and became the first master of a tradition that later became known as Zen. In Zen it is acknowledged that Truth cannot be talked about. One can only be it as one becomes enlightened. This is also understood in Daoism. As stated in the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching) whose first chapter I quoted in the Introduction of this book, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao [Truth]” (Lin Yutang’s (1948) translation). According to an alternative translation of this line "Existence is beyond the power of words" (Bynner 1944/1972, p. 31). Similarly, Hermann Hesse (1957) wrote in Siddhartha: “Everything that is thought and expressed in words is onesided, only half the truth; it lacks totality, completeness, unity” (see also Korzybski and his Structural Differential that demonstrates that whatever we say something is, it is not).
To be silent, it is not sufficient to stop talking. One also has to stop thinking, one has to come to a state of no-mind (see Chapter 1). This cannot be forced or willed. It has to happen spontaneously. Nonetheless, various meditation techniques such as, for example, dancing meditation can be helpful to provide the space in which it may happen.
Choose music that you like for dancing, or use the New Earth CD entitled Osho Nataraj Meditation that was specially prepared for dancing meditation with music composed and recorded by Deuter under Osho’s guidance. Thus, with eyes closed or open, dance spontaneously for 20, 30, 40 minutes or whatever time feels good for you. Be totally in the dancing! Then, when the music stops, with eyes closed, lie down immediately in total silence for 15 or 20 minutes or whatever time feels good for you. Afterwards dance once more for five minutes (Osho 1992: 57).
To make dancing a meditation, we have to dissolve totally in the dance so that the dancer becomes the dance. When the dancer as a doer is gone, then the separateness, the ego also disappears. As long as we feel as a dancer who is doing the dancing, a separation remains, a separation between the dancer and the dance, the doer and the doing. Dancing then is at best an enjoyable exercise. This feels good too. It invigorates: it nourishes our health. But it is not yet a meditation. How do we make it a meditation? Before the music begins, we stand totally relaxed, breathing naturally. Then, when the music begins, we don’t think how we should move. We don’t do anything intentionally. Meditative dancing is a non-doing. Non-doing, of course does not mean that there is no movement. It means that a doer does not intentionally direct the movement. This happens when the doer has disappeared in the doing, when the dancer has disappeared in the dancing. So how can the dancer disappear? We just stand there, with eyes closed, listening to the music as it begins, being totally open to the music. Then, sooner or later, it may happen: we will be moved by the music; it will not be our doing. This way the movement becomes a spontaneous happening. Nothing planned; nothing forced; nothing controlled. Just natural flowing with the music. Being danced. Being playful, not serious. Being totally in it, totally.
One could say that meditative dancing is organic. However, when we are danced, we don’t think, not even of the organic. Therefore, concepts and thought are transcended as the ego or separate self, a product of the thinking mind, is also transcended (see also Emilie Conrad 2007) .
The development of mechanistic science has made possible the invention and construction of a plethora of machines ranging from very simple devices to highly complex computers and robots. These machines have made life easier in many ways, but they have also dehumanized life and pose a considerable thread for the future of humankind. Some well-informed scientists even think that the artificial intelligence (AI) of robots of the future could lead to the demise of humankind.
Life has also been dehumanized when it is seen mechanistically as it is the case in mainstream biology and conventional medicine. According to this view, a living organism, including humans, is a machine or has to be understood in terms of the machine metaphor. Since a machine consists of material components, mechanism implies materialism. An organism’s material components include organs, cells and molecules. Nowadays the life sciences place enormous emphasis on cells and molecules, especially DNA, the molecule of the genetic material. Because of this emphasis, modern biology and medicine that is based on biology have become biochemistry to a great extent. The aim is to understand living systems in terms of their molecular components. However, such understanding appears very limited because it disregards the emergence of novel properties at supra-molecular levels of organization. For example, a human being can think, but cells such as neurons and their associated molecules cannot. Therefore, as long as we investigate only cells and molecules our understanding will remain very limited. With regard to medicine, this means that our success in healing will also be very limited as long as we operate only within the mechanistic materialistic worldview that still dominates in conventional medicine. However, alternative medicines, although not sufficiently recognized by the conservative medical establishment and governments, have much to offer because they tend to follow a more organic and holistic view and therefore can often cure where conventional medicine fails. They may involve the whole continuum ranging from the physical body to the subtle and very subtle bodies and their equivalent energies. One common objection to alternative medicines is that they are not scientific. This objection does not appear valid. Some alternative medicines such as herbal medicine often use the same methodology as conventional medicine. Other alternative medicines can be considered scientific in a different sense since science can be defined and understood in many different ways. In other words: science has many different faces. Conventional medicine represents only one of them. Furthermore, art and morals (ethics) also play an important role in healing. “The Big Three” dimensions in Ken Wilber’s AQAL map are art, culture, and science. Culture includes morals (ethics). Plato referred to beauty, goodness, and truth. Science can offer at best questionable unproven relative truth. Absolute truth, if we want to refer to it, transcends science, logic, and language. In the mandala of this book it is represented by the empty centre of the mandala, the unnamable, and by the mandala as a whole that integrates and transcends the namable and unnamable. We may get a taste of it through meditation such as dancing meditation that concludes this 5th chapter of Wholeness, Fragmentation, and the Unnamable: Holism, Materialism, and Mysticism – A Mandala.
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"In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the ...notion of an organic, living and spiritual universe was replaced by that of the world as a machine, and the world machine became the dominant metaphor of the modern era" (Fritjof Capra).
“If the universe means a vast machine to us, our whole being will unfold that meaning in the individual, in human relationships, and in society as a whole” (David Bohm).
"According to the systems view, the essential properties of an organism, or living system, are properties of the whole, which none of the parts have" (Fritjof Capra).
"The recent explosion of interest in alternative care – including such disciplines as psychoneuroimmunology – has made is quite clear that the person’s interior states (emotions, psychological attitude, imagery, and intentions) play a crucial role in both the cause and the cure of even physical illness" (Ken Wilber).
Latest update of this chapter on May 21, 2018.