Peter B Todd...

"The Search for a Theology that speaks to Today's People" by Peter B Todd

Today's commentary by Peter B. Todd is, in part, a response to ideas presented in Fr Eugene Stockton's essay from last Monday [LINK]. Be warned this is a pretty heavy conversation about concepts that require a bit of concentration. These commentaries are preparatory to a series of videotaped conversations between four writers, Eugene Stockton, David Tacey, Peter Todd, and Kevin Treston who have been exploring fresh ways of thinking and talking about the Numinous and Theology/Spirituality today. We will be recording those conversations on Sunday, 17th November here in the Blue Mountains, and we are extending an invitation to readers of Catholica who would like to be part of the studio audience for the recording (Click the banner at the bottom of this commentary if you'd like to be involved). By way of introduction to today's essay, the editor of Catholica, Brian Coyne, provides a short introduction as to why the concepts being discussed by these writers are important.

Why what is being discussed in these commentaries is important...

by Brian Coyne

Most of us alive today were brought up in a mindframe which suggested that God was very remote from all of us. He existed somewhere "up there" in heaven — some "supernatural domain" very remote from us and planet earth and, like supplicant beggars, we couldn't do much except try and obey his laws and get our priests to offer up sacrifices on altars so that this "remote God" would send rain and sunshine in the right measures to make our crops grow and give us pleasant weather. Just as the insights of modern science have radically changed how we grow our crops far more efficiently than ever in the past, so also the insights of modern science, and what we're learning of our own psychology, minds and emotions, are forcing us to revise the picture we have had of our relationship to this Spirit or Mystery — the Divine or Numinous — that resides at the heart of Creation and the lives of each one of us. God might not be quite so remote as what our grandparents and great grandparents might have thought. Nobody yet knows the definitive answers to the ideas that Eugene Stockton, David Tacey, Peter Todd, and Kevin Treston are writing about — and there are subtle differences of opinion between them as to how we interpret, or make sense of the evidence that we are beginning to discern.

The contentious issue at the heart of the differences in outlook being discussed by Eugene and Peter in this present series of introductory commentaries boil down to some shifting perceptions as to how this Divine Mystery or Presence or God communicates with humankind. Is there for example some "noosphere of knowledge or wisdom" surrounding the earth like the invisible atmosphere that we breathe that we tap into and which helps guide us in our thinking and behaviour? Or is that all hooey and way off track and there is no such thing as a noosphere or a collective unconscious and basically all of our minds are quite separate and individual and if there is some "collective wisdom" the only place it is stored is in the seven billion or so individual minds that make up human society? Is there some force field, to be likened in some way to the invisible electromagnetic forces that connect our radio and television sets to transmitters far away in the landscape, or our gps devices to satellites in the sky, that serve as a medium of communication between the Numinous and Us? The answers to these questions could profoundly alter the ways in which, for example, we pray — or just think about our relationship with this great Mystery we try to compress into the word "God".

The relationship between mind and matter,
between the Numinous and our Everyday Reality

by Peter B. Todd

I have really enjoyed reading Eugene's essay titled, "The Word and the Idea of a Universal Consciousness" which is exquisitely written and perceptive with respect to some crucial philosophical and epistemological issues relevant to both traditional theology and to the paradigm shift which is necessary. Because of scientific revolutions and since traditional credal assertions such as those expressed in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds need to be replaced by a language for  the numinous suitable for the third millennium.

The problem with the great creeds is the same as that which exists for the scripture and that is literal or concrete interpretation rather than as rich sources of myth and metaphor and archetypal wisdom about the role of humanity in cosmic evolution. Julian Huxley, and Teilhard believe that this role is one of directing the cosmic evolutionary process.

Attached to this email is my detailed response to Eugene's arguments, specifically excerpts taken from my recent essay titled "The Entangled State of God and Humanity".

These excerpts in reply might be excellent grist for the mill as a posting on Catholica as well as being relevant to the upcoming videotaped conversation and debate.

They attempt to clarify the nature of the mind-matter relationship and the notion of a continuing incarnation of God evolving in ways consistent with Eugene's central ideas and Teilhard's Christogenesis culminating in his God-Omega point. There are areas both of strong agreement and of significant disagreement in our positions especially about the nature of reflective consciousness in the contributions of Jung, Pauli, Bohm, Pribram and Teilhard!

Eugene writes,

"In the Word we can recognise Teilhard's circling noosphere, Bohm's implicate order, Hillman's anima mundi, Pribram's holographic expression of finite minds and Pauli's U-field"' This a beautifully poetic statement. However, it contains an implicit conflation of reflective consciousness with those dimensions of extended mind which are devoid of consciousness, including Pauli's U-field and Bohm's implicate order. Pauli referred to the U-field or unconscious psyche as the psychological analogy of the field concept in quantum physics while Bohm's implicate order and active quantum information precede the emergence of consciousness "as a late born offspring of the unconscious soul" as Jung put it.

As Pribram expressed it, consciousness is the beginning of all knowing, referring approvingly to the Freudian unconscious as a source of images and symbols which become known by entering consciousness in the form of dream images and symbols which is also the position of Jung and Pauli. In fact, Pauli wrote specifically that the unconscious archetypes (as cosmic ordering and regulating principles) are verifiable both in the external phenomenal world and in the internal world of the psyche – a point elaborated at length in my book.

Actually Brian, I agree with your proposal that the "Word" can be construed as a metaphor of "all the laws including the laws of science that explain how the cosmos works …. It encompasses the laws of mathematics [for instance those of Dirac, Schrodinger and Einstein in physics], biology,chemistry, biology, neurology and genetics." Some of the scientists mentioned in my book including McFadden, Matsuno, Popp and Davies have suggested that the genetic code might need to be replaced by a quantum code in understanding prodigiously rapid, adaptive mutations!

In summary, I agree with many of Eugene's proposals. However, I do think that he erroneously conflates extended mind (especially the unconscious) with consciousness while imputing unverifiability to some of the most sophisticated concepts in quantum physics and archetypal psychology. If the archetypes are cosmic, ordering and regulating principles, then they will be manifest, for instance in mathematical laws which describe empirical realities.

The Psychophysical Problem...

Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung
Wolfgang Pauli [1875-1961 Wikipedia]
and Carl Jung {1875-1961 Wikipedia]

Physicist Wolfgang Pauli who collaborated with Carl Jung regarded the anomaly of mind and consciousness as troublesome because scientific theories, like mathematics were products of the psyche with a great deal of unconscious preparation. Pauli noted that repression of the psyche had been one-sided and dangerous creating a materialistic culture in which the influence of religion was continuously diminished and a very strict separation between science and religion was characteristic.[1] Pauli regarded the nature of the mind-brain-consciousness relationship or psycho-physical problem as one of the most challenging of our time, given its epistemological [Wikipedia] significance in both science and religion.

Wholeness could only be restored to a science in which the personal equation or consciousness of the observer was to be integrated into the understanding of nature. The term "personal equation" was coined in the collaboration between Jung and Pauli. According to Pauli, and as noted by the late high energy physicist Kalervo Laurikainen,

"the most important lesson that quantum mechanics has given us is that we must include the observer in our picture of the world. This was the original spirit in the Copenhagen philosophy (in quantum physics) and exactly in this point Pauli represented this philosophy in the most consistent way".[2]

The myth of the detached observer is a relic of classical, Newtonian mechanics prior to the quantum revolution. Paradoxically, no science would exist in the absence of the consciousness of the human observer nor would mathematics which is a psychological process "describing relationships organising matter" as noted by Karl Pribram.[3] Pribram, a neuroscientist perhaps best known for his work on the holographic brain, also rejects the notion that consciousness is an epiphenomenal by-product [Wikipedia] of brain processes remarking that "conscious attention shapes subsequent behaviour".[4]

Complementarity Between Mind and Matter...

The published thought of both Carl Jung and Teilhard de Chardin converge with respect to the existence of a relationship of complementarity between mind and matter. In Jungian depth psychology, symbols represent unconscious archetypes which are timeless, cosmic ordering and regulating principles. In particular, Jung's archetype of the Self or Imago Dei (God-image) is distinctly numinous in character and associated with religious or mystical feelings. This archetype can be understood as corresponding to Teilhard's notion of the God-Omega Point in cosmology and evolution. In Jungian archetypal psychology, the unconscious not only transcends space-time it is also co-extensive with the cosmos itself as was Teilhard's notions of complexity-consciousness, noosphere and the Omega point as the culmination of hominisation [Wikipedia] and cultural evolution. Teilhard wrote,

"In Omega we have the principle we needed to explain the persistent march of things towards greater consciousness .... By its radial nucleus it finds its shape and its natural consistency in gravitating against the tide of probability towards a divine focus of mind which draws it onward. Thus something in the cosmos escapes from entropy and does so more and more"[5].

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ [1881-1955]
WikipediaPierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ [1881-1955]

Pauli, together with Jung wanted spirit (psyche) to be acknowledged as a basic element of the world along with matter so that the universe would be perceived as an organism rather than a clock, a vision of cosmogenesis [Wikipedia] similar to that of Teilhard's noogenesis [Wikipedia] that implies evolving toward a divine focus of mind. Both Pauli and Jung were mystically inclined with a sense of psychic and physical codes implicit in cosmology and evolution. As I point out in my paper published in Teilhard Studies, they had concluded that a relationship of complementarity exists between mind and matter which is analogous to the wave particle duality in quantum physics. This was the epistemological model of a dual-aspect monism having metaphysical implications. One observer described these connotations commenting that "metaphysics taken seriously in the sense of Pauli and Jung refers to a reality more substantial, more material as it were than anything that physics and psychology would characterise as real".[6]

This form of extraphysical reality was designated by a mode of cognition expressed through archetypal symbols indicating an objective order in the cosmos of which humans are part but which also transcends humanity[7].

The U-Field of Wolfgang Pauli...

For Pauli, archetypes combine sensory stimuli forming certain outlines and in this way a picture of the world is formed corresponding to the properties of the human psyche. With his concept of the U-field, Pauli regarded the unconscious as the psychological analogy of the physical field except that the U-field was not spatiotemporally bound — an idea consistent with the notion of the unconscious archetypes as timeless, cosmic, ordering and regulating principles. For Pauli this seemed to express a deeper similarity rather than a superficial analogy. The Jungian unconscious refers to "an invisible reality mediating a connection between spatially and temporally distant phenomena".[8] Thus, Pauli regarded the archetypes as verifiable in the external phenomenal world and in the internal world of the psyche. In a letter to Jung, Pauli wrote "like all ideas, the unconscious is simultaneous in man and in nature; the ideas have no location, not even in heaven. Consciousness, on the other hand was supposed to be only a late-born offspring of the unconscious soul".

One archetype that was particularly meaningful to Pauli was the coniunctio oppositorum, the union of opposites or wholeness reflected in non-local effects, interconnectedness and holism associated with both the quantum situation and the unconscious psyche. Pauli's cosmic ordering and regulating principles were not bound or confined by space and time. They were as universal, timeless or eternal as those which, like the archetypes of God and the Self, belonged to Jung's collective unconscious, particularly when identified with either the external cosmos or the cosmos within. Although a "late born offspring of the unconscious soul", consciousness is still the mirror in which the very existence of the universe is revealed as are the archetypal symbols of the collective unconscious. Such concepts resonate with Teilhard's notions of the noosphere and Omega point at which the numinous dimension implicit in his evolutionary process consummates itself. For both Jung and Pauli, psyche [Wikipedia] and physis [Wikipedia], like mind and matter and science and religion exist in a relationship of complementarity rather than being irreconcilable opposite or mutually antagonistic as I have argued in my book The Individuation of God: Integrating Science and Religion.

The Implicate Order of Bohm...

David Bohm [1917-1992]
WikipediaDavid Bohm [1917-1992]

In his later published work, physicist David Bohm evolved a concept of Mind which was co-extensive with the universe, one that closely resembled formulations by other physicists, psychologists and such religious thinkers as Teilhard de Chardin. Among Bohm's contributions to the exploration of reality was an understanding of consciousness as a coherent whole. In his book Wholeness and the Implicate Order [1980], Bohm writes "The vast unconscious background of explicit consciousness and ultimately unknowable depths of inwardness are analogous to the sea of energy which fills the sensible perceived empty space" [p.267]. In his final work, The Undivided Universe [2002], Bohm expressed the insight that "active information served as the bridge between the mental and the physical" [p.386]. Bohm's notion of extended mind included the idea of active quantum information devoid of consciousness, thereby avoiding the criticism of panpsychism and the conflation of mind with consciousness. Jung and Pauli likewise avoided the conflation of mind with reflective consciousness in their treatment of the unconscious (U-field).

Bohm's concept of active information as a bridge between mind and matter is remarkably similar to the notion of the unconscious archetypes as cosmic ordering and regulating principles. These insights provide the basis for the epistemological position of a relationship of complementarity between mind and matter. Bohm clearly adopted a dual-aspect monist notion of the mental and the physical being complementary though irreducible to one another. His dual aspect concept of mind represents a rejection of a purely monist materialist explanation of the nature of reality.

More controversially perhaps, Bohm like Teilhard proposed human participation in "a greater collective mind in principle capable of going indefinitely beyond even the human species as a whole". Such collective mind is analogous to Jung's view of the unconscious psyche and the archetypes. Bohm summarised his position concerning the role of the human observer in this way:

"There is no need to regard the observer as basically separate from what he sees nor to reduce him to an epiphenomenon of the objective process. More broadly one could say that through the human being, the universe has created a mirror to observe itself". [Ibid, p389]

Peter Todd. Submitted to Catholica 22 Oct 2013.

An invitation to be part of a very special conversation: Catholica and the Blue Mountain Education & Research Trust presents a conversation with four leading writers exploring changing perceptions of faith and belief in our world today.

[1] Laurikainen, K.V. Beyond the Atom: The Philosophical Thought of Wolfgang Pauli, Springer-Verlag, 1988
[2] ibid. p163
[3] Consciousness Reassessed, Mind and Matter, 2, 1 (2004): 14
[4] ibid. p27
[5] The Phenomenon of Man. p271
[6] Atmanspacher, Editorial, Mind and Matter,9, 1 (2011): p4
[7] K. von Meyenn, "Dreams and Fantasies of a Quantum Physicist", Mind and Matter 9, 1 (2011): p11
[8] ibid. von Meyenn (2011)

Peter B ToddPeter B Todd has been a research psychologist at the Neuropsychiatric Institute Sydney, a member of the Biopsychosocial AIDS Project at the University of California, a consultant in the department of immunology at St. Vincent's Hospital, and a research coordinator at the Albion Street AIDS Clinic Sydney. His papers have appeared in the British Journal of Medical Psychology, the Griffith Review, and the interdisciplinary journal Mind and Matter. His most recent book, The Individuation of God: Integrating Science and Religion, was published in November 2012 (Wilmette IL: Chiron Publications). He is currently a psychoanalytic psychologist in private practice in Sydney, Australia.

What are your thoughts on this commentary?
You can contribute to the discussion in our forum.

©2013Peter B Todd

Share |

[Index of this series of Commentaries]

You might also be interested in these titles...

Gandanguurra: The Language of the Mountain People and Beyond by Jim Barrett

I am often asked: "How did I come to be interested in writing a book on an Aboriginal language?" It really started almost 70 years ago when I took up bushwalking in the Blue Mountains, and a very special area there was the Burragorang Valley and its hinterland only about 15 km southwest of Katoomba. The Burragorang was first settled by non-Aborigines in the 1820s, almost primarily by ex-convicts. In more recent times (the 1990s) I began writing books about the history of the Blue Mountains including the Burragorang Valley. Two very important books (in 1994 and 1995) were "Life in the Burragorang" and "Place Names of the Blue Mountains and Burragorang Valley". During the two years of writing these two books I began to realise that in the 1800s another significant group also had formed a strong presence in the Burragorang, namely: descendants of the Gandanguurra people.
[More information]

This site was developed and is maintained by
Vias Tuas Communications
Click HERE to email the Webmaster