The Fundamental Nature of Science and Religion – Part II

see Part I

Table of Contents – PART II – (PRE)HISTORY
The Alchemist and the Spirit of Nature
The importance of personal character and moral standards in the search for truth
For thy honor and thy glory and maintenance of thy truth
The book of nature … is written by the finger of God
Religion – Theology – Monasticism – University – Science
The Spirit of science
Increased individuality and brotherhood
The Silk Roads – an emergent socio-physical network
Ancient knowledge of exothermic reactants to keep and transport the perpetual fire?
Universal standard conduct
Notes – Part II
Bibliography – Part II

The Alchemist and the Spirit of Nature
Durkheim suggested that “between the magician and the individuals who consult him, there are no durable ties that make them members of a single moral body … the magician has a clientele [who] may have no mutual relations, and may even be unknown to one another. [The relations between a client and magician are] transient, analogous to those of a sick man with his doctor … Magic societies … encompass only the magicians [whereas] a Church is not simply a priestly brotherhood; it is a moral community made up of all the faithful, both laity and priests.” And centrally, “to practice his art, the magician has no need whatever to congregate with his peers. He is more often a loner. In general, far from seeking company, he flees it. He stands aloof even from his colleagues.” This describes very well the character of a number of men viewed in modernity as being possessed of genius. Examples may be made of Einstein, Dirac, Tesla and Newton.

According to White (1997) [8], “biographers … have produced inaccurate and sometimes totally false accounts of [Newton’s life].” Society has selectively and to some extent unknowingly upheld and propagated beliefs about Newton, elevating him above or beyond mundane aspects of the human condition. He was the “pure, distilled essence of scientific inquiry – genius unsullied.” Even in modernity Newton is cloaked by a myth of omnipotence and perceived as a kind of mythical ancestor. His humanness completely overwhelmed, Newton was and still is akin to a “demigod, almost immortal and utterly without fault.”

Even as a child, Isaac is reported to have been “detached from the world, and for long periods … secluded from the everyday current of affairs.” During adulthood he is reported to have believed in a heresy of Christianity – Arianism, a word which itself probably had a double and half-hidden Aryan meaning for Newton – spending the majority of his life in intense studies of alchemy and biblical chronology. In retrospect, society has valued and propagated only those aspects and works of Newton which conform to our modern understanding of science. For Newton, an erudite, neurotic and obsessive, driven mystic, the ‘science’ he performed appears to have been an offshoot from his greater study of whole nature, which comprised what during his time were referred to as natural philosophy and natural theology. It is perhaps surprising, but important to note that this pair of subjects were apprehended as a single, holistic study of natural creation – the study of nature and natural phenomena was simultaneously a study of divine creation.

Though the title of his book refers to Newton as a sorcerer (a word linked to oracular prophesy and wizardry), White told that Newton was what we now call a polymath – “a genius who sought knowledge in everything he came across.” The eminent philosopher and economist J.M. Keynes, who in 1936 purchased a collection of Newton’s original papers, previously deemed “unfit for reading” (see NOTE C), may have been closer to the truth about Newton – writing that “Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind which looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000 years ago.”

Francis Bacon was among other things, an essayist and moral philosopher, propagating the methods by which science should be conducted. He “criticized the blind pursuit of Aristotelian philosophy, and the rote-learning system of the universities.” Bacon formulated the inductive experimental method and argued that “scientific discipline should be guided and inspired by religious motivations.” Scientific ideas, he opined, “should not be driven solely by deductive reasoning” – strangely, this concept was to become the driving force behind the scientific revolution. Puritanism offered Newton a world with strict emotional and sensual limits – an inner world revolving about god and knowledge. He upheld the principles of hard work and dedication to learning as the highest hopes of humanity, and believed that “the acquisition of knowledge and the unraveling of nature’s truths were to the greater glory of god.”

“Amicus Plato, amicus Aristoteles magis amica veritas”
(I am a friend of Plato, I am a friend of Aristotle but truth is my greater friend).
– Isaac Newton

The natural philosopher and mystic Henry More was a leading member of the Cambridge Platonists – dualists, holding the belief that the mind is ontologically prior to matter and that the truths of the mind are superior to sense-knowledge. The pre-Newtonian Platonists at Cambridge accepted post-Galilean science, supporting an atomistic theory of matter and rejecting mechanistic natural philosophy in favor of the view that spirit is the fundamental causal principle in the operations of nature. Plato himself held and taught the notion of spirit, as an essence within all things, a divine extension – a force at work in nature, guiding matter. [9]

Appropriately, the Cambridge Platonists believed that the universe is permeated by spirit, which More termed ‘the spirit of nature’ – “a force mediating between the control of all actions, all purpose, all outcomes, and the mundane, mechanical world in which we live.” More is said to have greatly influenced Newton’s spiritual view of the universe, and his pursuit of knowledge as a means of exulting god and upholding the scholastic edict: “understand so that you may believe, believe so that you may understand.” In astonishing similarity to the opinions of the sociologist A. Comte and theoretical biologist R. Rosen, Newton wrote: “The nature of things is more securely and naturally deduced from their operations one upon another than upon the senses.”

Newton was a sympathizer of the Rosicrucian movement, which had ties to Hermeticism and ultimately, it would seem, to the Zurvanist heresy of Zoroastrianism. The Rosicrucians, like the alchemists, “believed that secret ancient knowledge could be tapped only by the virtuous, and that the mystical knowledge, the priscia sapientia, was fundamental to human enlightenment” – a set of beliefs that Newton held dear.

Newton proposed that more may be going on than we are able to apprehend from sensual information, saying “scientists cannot simply trust what they observe with their senses.” His fascination with alchemy, and particularly the alchemical understanding of an active principle – also called the multiplicative or reproductive principle, the vegetative principle (vegetation), spun by Newton himself as “vegetable action” – seems to have been a major influence in the development of his ideas about gravity. It also seems clear that he was interested in the synthesis of all knowledge. Indeed, White has called him “a devout seeker of some form of unified theory of the principles of the universe” – holding the belief that the prisca scipentia had once been possessed by humankind; thus posing that the first religion was the most rational of all others, until the nations corrupted it. “For there is no way (without revelation) to come to the knowledge of a deity but by the frame of nature” – it was this ‘frame of nature’ and ‘first religion’ which Newton was driven to rediscover.

In his imaginative formulations of gravitation, Newton placed importance upon the ancient alchemical concept of an active principle, which is documented, if not rooted, in the Hermetic tradition. It is said that some alchemists held the iconoclastic belief that matter and spirit are interchangeable, and imagined a “universal spirit” – a concept that is fascinatingly similar in meaning to relativity theory, which states that matter and energy are equivalent and interchangeable.

More depicted of a “spirit of nature”, which could act upon matter without interacting with it – another concept with surprising similarity to the modern theoretical conception of dark energy. More described the ‘spirit of nature’ as being of “great influence and activity in the nascency and coalescence of things”, thus attributing a single force or active principle to a diverse collection of phenomena. A core tenet of More’s thesis seems to have been that life itself is created and sustained by this mysterious, singular power – a spirit – which in some way acts upon matter. Not unlike More’s concept, which was surely derived from the Aristotelian conception of the anima, the active principle intuited by alchemists and the ancient thinkers preceding them, was also supposed as a spirit at work in nature. Newton wrote of “vegetable action” or vegetation, as being the active principle responsible for and allowing the changes to material in his crucible, as well as among his furnace flames.

Mazdaism, the Magi priestly caste and Zoroastrianism, revealed by the prophet Zoroaster approximately 1500 B.C., appear to have stemmed from the Aryan (“noble”) nation, rooted in prehistory, of which the Median empire, from approximately 1100 B.C., is reported as the earliest attempt to found a great conquering monarchy on the Levant of the Middle East [10, 11]. Pre-historic (pre-Vedic) Aryans were animists, totemic nomads who worshiped the many spirits dwelling in stones, animals, rivers, trees, mountains, stars, etc. They lived upon a “sea of grass” – the levant of the eastern Mediterranean – and began to migrate from central Asia around 1500 B.C., to the east, likely across the Eurasian steppe, and to the south-east, giving rise to the Vedas compiled in India sometime between 1500 and 1000 B.C. [12]. Vedic literature reflects the worldview of the Brahman but the concept of a hereditary priestly order – a priestly caste – must have been introduced to the Indus culture by the Aryan nation, which is said to have comprised six castes, one of which were the priestly caste called Magi (singular: Maguš, Magus and Mage; from which are derived the words magic, magicianmagistrate and magister).

Xenophon (ca. 370 B.C.) related that the Magi “were priests at the court of the Persian kings, [entrusted with] the ceremonies of libations, incantations, and sacrifices. The kings also followed their instructions in religious matters. [The Magi were] tutors and teachers of the sons of the Persian kings and took part in the coronation ceremonies of each new king” [12].

Faravahar – ”Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds”

The Magi were not kings, but knowledgeable and respected men who collected, held and transferred knowledge via long-standing oratory traditions predating the earliest forms of writing. They were “a profoundly conservative class of hereditary priests who believed in the efficacy of the oral word as a union of sound and sense. All the forms of writing that they came across, from the Sumerian cuneiform to the alphabet of the Aramaic, were not thought to be adequate to represent the sounds of the [Aryan] language … several centuries were to pass before the Avestan language – based on Aramaic, but with an alphabet of 44 characters [was] carefully designed to render the sounds of the ancient holy tongue.” [13]

Reading the first chapter of the Yasna (Zoroastrian holy scripture) [14], it is clear that the Magi were not worshiping fire, though the Atar (holy fire) was sacred. The Magi fire-keepers (athravan) revered fire as the symbol (totem) of the one true and wise god – “Ahura Mazda”. Fire was kept in perpetuity atop a hill or mound, in order to worship Mazda under the open sky. The construction of altars and temples was a later development, possibly derived from the Babylonians.

Common householders would visit the fire temple (atashgah) in order to light their home hearths. Unlike a monarch who would mediate between clans and tribes, a Maguš would come to know and understood the lives of individual local community households and their members, allowing for the development of their knowledgeable activities into that of physicians and general problem solvers. A role that was greatly facilitated by their immersion into the quest for knowledge and goodness, with the motto “Good thoughts, good words, good deeds.” – it might be said that the Magi held (in memory), developed (via oratory tradition) and enacted a pre-Aristotelian political epistemy – “Indeed, the Magi were renowned for their wisdom beyond the borders of Iran, and were unsurpassed in their knowledge of philosophy, history, geography, plants, medicine and the heavens. The efficacy of their beliefs and faith was demonstrated in their actions. Their high moral standing, wisdom, ability to heal the sick, and their years of learning made them legendary throughout the Middle East. [15]

Alchemy – “the dark art” – seems to have been a development of the Magian knowledge that took place in ancient Egypt. Albeit sharing several aspects, most alchemists and alchemical practices appear to have been distortions of the Magian moral. Whether intentionally or not, alchemy, and from it modern magic, was to become a form of social engineering, essentially a conn, with practitioners conning themselves as well as their patrons.

The distortion and fragmentation of the Magian moral must have occurred very early during the history of the Indus culture, with ideas and practices diverging and diversifying throughout the Aryan migrations, as well as those of the Romani people who seem to have emigrated from the Indian subcontinent and from Egypt (the term Gypsy is derived from the now obsolete Gyptian, which meant Egyptian; ”from Egypt”). Even now, many Indian and Romani cultures are rife with cunning schemes of various sorts, directed at extracting value from virtually nothing, or from substances of low value. Perhaps similar may be said of modern corporations? However, for the Magi and for Newton, money or gold for their own sake were not as important as the unearthing of universal truth. Newton was convinced the ancients had once held the key (“Clavis”) to all knowledge and that this had been dissipated into the arcane philosophies. One might interpret this as saying that Newton apprehended a distorted, fragmented and kaleidoscopic view of a putative key to the prisca sapientia.

Multiplication – the core concept of alchemy. The word alchemy is itself derived from the ancient Egyptian word khem (“black”) and kemet (“black land” or “the land of the black soil”), from which is also derived the concept of the “dark art” and possibly also of “black magic” – alchemical knowledge has always been hidden.

Kemet represents the dark and fertile, nitrate rich soil of the Nile delta.

The Spirit of Science
In his presidential address to the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), Lefkowitz (1988) [16] emphasized “lineages of moral force” (soft kin selection) as driving the continuation of science. Lefkowitz related the five constitutional objectives of the ASCI, the last of these – “the diffusion of a scientific spirit among [the Society’s] members” – he believed was the most important, and suggested that the ASCI founders thought so too, as they listed “only two obligations of membership: to attend the annual meeting at least every other year and to further the objectives of the society in the diffusion of the scientific spirit, particularly among his or her students and professional associates.” His address was intended to discuss “the highest ideals of the scientific spirit to which we all aspire by considering … what is the scientific spirit? How do we get it? How do we foster it and keep it alive? And how do we diffuse it to our students and colleagues?”

He sensed “a confusion about the nature and importance of what constitutes the scientific method and what constitutes the true spirit of science”, and described the former as “the practical aspects of how to pursue valid scientific questions according to a relatively well-defined set of rules of investigation.” However, the spirit of science was apprehended by Lefkowitz as “a much broader, all-encompassing approach to science”, and as concerning “an attitude or approach to scientific investigations that inspires, pervades, and permeates the entire enterprise.”

Three elements of the spirit of science – enthusiasm, creativity, integrity:
Enthusiasm – Of the various misconceptions people have about scientists, a popular one is that of a rather dull lot: dry, pedantic, aloof, and largely devoid of temperament or emotion. Quite a contrast with popular stereotypes of … artists of various kinds who may be perceived as much livelier, more colorful, and certainly more high spirited. However, science derives from much the same source as art. Simply stated, “it is a keenly felt sense of wonder and curiosity that translates into a genuine enthusiasm for even the faintest glimpses of new understanding – the word enthusiasm is derived from the Greek and literally means a god within.”

Creativity – The spontaneously occurring intuitive flashes of insight or knowledge, that we all experience from time to time, are independent of any obvious reasoning or learning process. The cultivation of our intuitive nature and of a receptivity or openness to the occasional gifts of discovery that go under the heading of serendipity or luck. “Scientists are often unfairly stereotyped as polar opposites of those in the creative arts. Whereas they are thought to highly prize intuition, scientists presumably have little use for it and rely only on the rigorous application of the scientific method and cool, clear-headed logic … Intuitions can importantly contribute to our science. When it comes to making creative scientific discoveries, imagination is perhaps more important than knowledge.”

“Most of our institutions, granting agencies, educational processes, and the like are highly skewed toward the rational ideal and the role of intuition is rarely even acknowledged. But an easy and comfortable relationship with those irrational or creative intuitions that we all occasionally have can greatly expand our scientific horizons. We need to acknowledge them as they occur and shape our daily practice of science. We need to encourage their expression … It is, in fact, from the fresh minds of our least experienced students and fellows, those unencumbered by the dogmas and paradigms of particular fields, that the most innovative and intuitive ideas are likely to spring, for it is they who are most likely to question assumptions that we have long ago accepted.” In regard to serendipity, Lefkowitz told that “the ‘failed’ experiment or the completely unexpected finding, viewed in the right light, often provides the key clue to an important discovery. But how often is it just cast aside because it doesn’t agree with our expectations, or isn’t what we think we wanted?” – “A frequently exercised sense of humor favors the kind of wild, occasionally illogical or offbeat leaps that are part and parcel of the creative process. Seeing a joke often requires shifting one’s frame of reference, which is also an important aspect of intuition. Playfulness and a sense of not taking ourselves too seriously also favor a certain freedom of the imagination that encourages conceptual innovation.”

Integrity – “If intuition and serendipity are the sparks that ignite the fire of scientific discovery, and enthusiasm fans the blaze, then it is integrity that provides the bricks that keep the fire from burning out of control and focus the resultant energy in a productive manner. By integrity, most of us mean an unswerving commitment to what we perceive as true and right [moral], and to a set of consistent, personally realized principles of action.”

How do we get the scientific spirit in the first place, and how do we keep it alive?
Attributes of the scientific spirit, such as the “feeling of expectancy and optimism in the lab or exhilaration when playing out some intuitive or imaginative scientific fantasy, [as well as the taking of] difficult scientific decisions about authorship, inclusion of data, or whether to persist with a refractory problem, [and] the integrated functioning of the scientific method and spirit in the day-to-day practice of science” – are all transferred socially, in many cases passed from mentor to student, or via wider collaborative lineages. With respect to the latter, Lefkowitz pointed out that “many members of [the ASCI] spent fellowships in laboratories of other members, who in turn were students or fellows with other members.”

“Evidence of such lineages, which can be found throughout our scientific program, highlights the role of traditions in keeping the scientific spirit alive.”
– Lefkowitz (1988)

Traditions provide an anchor of stability and a touchstone for important values. What goes on in meeting rooms defines just a part of what is meaningful at our gatherings – we share much more than just our latest scientific findings. “For it is in the innumerable encounters of old friends and colleagues … that perhaps something even more important transpires. It is a subtle process of reaffirmation and rededication to a shared commitment to the pursuit of lofty goals, in the true spirit of science … These elements are not unique in their relevance to the scientific process. In this sense, the spirit of science is very much part of the spirit of life. If we allow it to pervade all aspects of our personal and professional activities we can reap rich rewards, not the least of which is sharing the experience and the approach with those around us.”

With respect to the defining criteria of the spirit of science, Goran (1972) [17] reported that the Educational Policies Commission specified “longing to know and to understand, questioning of all things, search for data and their meaning, demand for verification, respect for logic, consideration of premises, and consideration of consequences.” In context of how to acquire the spirit of science, and specifically, how to pass the moral of science to students and thus to the next generation, Goran told that “no one really expects philosophers, scientists and commissions to concern themselves with the mundane.”

“The brotherly spirit of science … unites into one family all its votaries of whatever grade, and however widely dispersed…”
– Thomas Jefferson, (1802) [18]

Goran identified various means by which the spirit of science may be passed from generation to generation, he hypothesized a distant future in which genetic engineering might facilitate spiritual transfer – an idea that is laden with the mishaps of the eugenics movement during the early 20th century. Another supposed easy solution to the problem of acquiring the spirit of science was to ensure that “individuals have physical, psychic, political, economic, and social well-being”. The meanings here seem similar to the caste system of the Magi and later Indian culture, and to Aristotelian political epistemy.

As an immediate solution to the problem of how to acquire and transfer the scientific spirit, Goran proposed the complete immersion of society into the sciences, and control of college curricula. He told that “inculcation, brain washing, massive repetition, and the use of reward and punishment have been available to early 20th century educators”, and suggested that the natural sciences and mathematics should form the foundation of all higher education, and that all the professions should stem from a scientific background. He added however, that “science curricula are not designed to promote the spirit of science; they emphasize hard core scientific material and spurn the associated material of scientific attitude.”

Goran asked, how do educators compete with indoctrination by parents, society, and self-pressures, that social polish, aggressiveness, deceit, and chicanery are all that one needs for success? He proposed “demonstrations and living examples of the effectiveness of the scientific spirit for daily living”, commenting that “the mass media … need to be brought into the educational enterprise to show the scientific spirit … It is important to be wary of the specialist … who insists that the spirit of science is had by doing science [and] to avoid those who see the educational experience as nothing more than analyzing data, developing empirical laws, hypothesizing theories to account for these laws, and modifying the theories as new evidence becomes available. Science is too important to be left to those scientists. Left to them, [laboratory experience would become] a replica of the manipulations done by a great majority of neophyte science students. They confuse the ceremonials of acquiring [and] using glassware with the real work of testing ideas.”

“Laboratory experiences must be planned to encompass … objectives related to acquiring the scientific spirit.”
– Goran (1972)

Increased Individuality and Brotherhood
Corey et al (1966) [19], reported that no current society is “composed predominately of individuals who are guided in most of their behavior by scientific modes of thought or action. Other bases, conscious or unconscious, seem to guide most persons” – “[people] have been attracted to science and technology for the resulting benefits in power, prestige, standard of living, education, and health. Science and technology can provide those benefits; but the spirit underlying science and technology promises two less tangible but equally profound benefits: increased individuality and increased brotherhood of men.”

“The promise of increased individuality derives from the very essence of the spirit of science. This spirit can enable each person to free himself from blind obedience to the dictates of his emotions, of propaganda, of group pressures, of the authority of others. It can enable him to be aware of the influences which play on him. It can enable him to sift through the forces which act upon him and, to some degree, to determine and to become his own ideal self.”

“The deeper workings of the spirit of science are creating, even where this end is not consciously sought, a general commonalty of values, a sort of spiritual unity among men.”
– The National Education Association (1966)

“Spiritual unity among nations and men has long been a prime goal among thinkers and dreamers. In the past, this goal has usually been sought through some community of values peculiar to a small group, but hopefully to be universalized. Characteristically, each community of values was founded upon a belief in a religious revelation or philosophical orientation which also was peculiar to a minority of mankind. The pursuit of unity along these lines has been perpetually frustrated, in part by the absence of a universally accepted system of values which transcended religious, philosophical, and cultural limitations.” The National Education Association portrayed science as a relatively new contender in the struggle for human spiritual unity. However, as has been the case with totemic spirits throughout human history, and pre-history, the spirit of science is held sacred by a “particular small group” – a tribe; a totmeic kinship. It is both fascinating and telling that the NEA nominated the spirit of science as the long sought “universally accepted system of values” And further suggested that the spirit of science will succeed where other spiritual systems have failed, to “produce a new kind of community among the world’s peoples [and] a deeper feeling of mankind’s oneness.”

A beautiful example may be made of the Human Genome Project (HGP), which is itself represented by a particular small group – a sub-kinship (sub-tribe) identifying with its own totem – a sub-totem within the science tribe. The HGP has rendered much technical knowledge and a specific genomic data set representing hard kinship, but little understanding about what it is to be human, and no clear understanding about how to ethically make use of our collective genomic data set. Furthermore, the HGP has confirmed both, Darwinian theory and so-called primitive understandings – humans and kangaroos are kin – not in a metaphorical sense, but in accordance with the science of comparative genomics – quantitative genetic kinship analyses.

Wakefield & Marshall Graves (2003) [20], have revealed that “the kangaroo genome is a treasure trove of comparative genomics data. [90% of the human genome is contained in the introns of overlapping genes.] The analysis of individual genes, and of gene arrangement, has … contributed significantly to our understanding of human biology”. Oddly, similar language is not used with respect to kangaroos, though the Leaps and bounds study also contributed significantly to our understanding of marsupial biology, specifically that of the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii). Paradoxically, what has been shown by this study, and many like it, is that ‘the oneness of humankind’ (i.e. humanity) in a very real sense stretches far beyond what it is to be human. Molecular biology has enabled direct comparisons between various genetic kinships, as well as allowing precise quantification of specific kinships – for example, the human genome is reported to be 15% homologous to the rice genome, and 65% homologous to the Fugu genome [21].

I am not convinced that primitive peoples experienced a less profound feeling of humanity due to a lack of knowledge about their physical genome, or to a lack of scientific knowledge. All humans are equivalently human, and so must have equivalently human sensations. Similarly, neither the social minority comprising modern global culture, nor the vast majority of the peoples of the world can be assumed to sense humanity more profoundly than pre-scientific peoples, as a result of the HGP and comparative genomics. Indeed, with specific regard to the kangaroo totem, it seems that the modern western scientific spirit echoes and confirms the ancient aboriginal totemic spirit. The feeling of humanness aroused by modern genetics is one of universal kinship among all lifeforms on Earth. The modern scientifically endorsed feeling, to the extent that it exists, is not different from the primitive totemically endorsed feeling. Modern scientific knowledge, to the extent that it is understood, differs in rational quantity, not irrational quality, of kinship.

For thy honor and thy glory and maintenance of thy truth
White (1997) told that “the spiritual element of the experiment was in fact the key to the true alchemists philosophy”, suggesting that “for many alchemists, it was the practical process [the rite] that was in fact allegory and their search was really for the elixir or philosopher’s stone within them: that by conducting a seemingly mundane set of tasks, they were following a path to enlightenment – allowing themselves to be transmuted into ‘gold’. This is why the alchemist placed such importance on purity of spirit.”

Carl Jung is credited with having driven this idea into nineteenth century thinking. Fascinated by the psychology of alchemy, he came to the conclusion that alchemical emblems bore a close relationship to dream imagery – an observation which lead him to the concept of a collective unconscious. At a deep level, or perhaps at an emergent supervening level, the psyche of an individual merges with the collective psyche of humankind, thus all individuals share a common heritage of symbols and images, which Jung called ‘archetypes’. He argued that alchemists were inadvertently tapping into the collective unconscious, and this idea lead him to believe that they were following a spiritual path to enlightenment when they were actually liberating their subconscious, or superconscious, by use of ritual.

To the alchemists, the most important aspect of the art was the participation of the individual practitioner. There was an absolute and firm belief that the emotional and spiritual, moral state of the individual, was intimately involved with the outcome of the experiment. White tells that “it is this concept, more than any other, which distinguishes alchemy from the orthodox chemistry that superseded it”, pushing the subject beyond the bounds of science, into the modern understanding of magic. To be a successful alchemist, it was believed, one had to be pure of spirit, in order to receive understanding by divine transmission. In comparison, chemistry was considered a rather vulgar and gross, even unsuitable pursuit. Alchemists considered themselves to be superior to chemists, as alchemy required a spiritual interaction between experiment and experimenter.

Interestingly, since quantum physics does seem to recognize, if not fully accept, the intimate involvement of the experimenter and/or observer, I have to wonder why we continue to choose to call quantum physics ‘science’, rather than ‘magic’? White also points this out, but is very careful to make clear that quantum theory is a precise, mathematical science based upon fundamental concepts, rigorous consistency and cohesive relation to other sciences. That quantum mechanical experiments are repeatable, and that though the language of science may be indecipherable to the uninitiated, it is common, strict, consistent and communicable. Physicists, White tells, do not hide behind a facade of mystical code, and they work independently of religious feeling or emotional character.

I would argue against the latter – physicists are after all human. They may not exactly hide behind a facade, but then what they do is not deemed illegal or heretical, and surely is not punishable by death. Further, I very much doubt that upon reflection, a deep sense of mysticism and wonder escapes any quantum physicist, indeed any scientist. And to assume that any human can leave their emotional character at the threshold of the laboratory, is utter nonsense; presumably, the same may be said for religious feeling – one cannot simply leave feeling at the door. These aspects are part of the individual human personality who believes and carries them, and they surely do influence, whether consciously or not, their every thought and act.

Newton, in any case, stated the importance of virtue and purpose in his work, as “for thy honor and thy glory and maintenance of thy truth…”, thus displaying a profound veneration of god and creation. In his unique manner, Newton was correlating traditional wisdom with his own findings. White gives as a specific example of this, a paper titled Clavis (‘The Key’), in which Newton mixed alchemical works with his own experiments. Always critical, Newton was able to sort out the good quality information from the bad, all the while gaining an instinctive awareness of possible forces at work in the universe, for which conventional mechanics, at that time dominated by Descarte’s notion of matter and spirit, had no explanation.

Newton had come to understand that the religious edifices of ancient civilizations were more than mere places of worship. His intuition was that the ancients had not expended such enormous effort simply to preserve their culture and worldview, but that their temples and monuments were earthly representations of the universe. For example, the dimensions and geometry of king Solomon’s temple, of which Newton drafted a floor-plan based upon scriptural texts, represent the time-scales and pronouncements of great biblical prophets. In such exercises, which, along with alchemical studies, took up the majority of his working life, Newton was attempting to produce a biblical chronology, of both, past and future events. Additionally, the configuration of Solomon’s temple influenced the development of Newton’s imagination of gravitation – the heart of the temple was a prytaneum, housing the sacred and perpetual fire (sun), around which disciples (orbiting bodies) assembled.

The book of nature … is written by the finger of God
Hutchinson (1996) [22] told that as with Newton, religious faith strongly influenced the practice of science by Faraday. Both, through the philosophical framework in which he approached the study of nature, and the social (ethical) principles which he believed should underlie the pursuit of the scientific enterprise. Like Newton, Faraday believed that scientific researches revealed an essential nature, which pointed to its creator: “for the book of nature, which we have to read is written by the finger of God.”

That Nature is driven by consistent and simple laws, was not only a conclusion that Faraday drew from his scientific work but a metaphysical presupposition that directed his research. Like Newton, he sought the unifying laws relating the forces of nature. “Faraday was not so naive as to be oblivious to the factional interests that so readily govern the practice of science – and of religion … He saw factionalism, patronage, and politics within science as essentially an aberration, to be avoided whenever possible. His ideal of the pursuit of science was that scientists were to be members of a true fraternity, and if differences of scientific opinion should arise, they were to be resolved in a spirit of friendship and brotherhood.”

Despite his self-avowed separation of religious and scientific vocations, there was no absolute barrier for Faraday, between the religious and scientific facets of his character. “While rejecting natural theology as a route to spiritual truth, he nevertheless saw the hand of God in nature and allowed his spiritual perception of the lawful, intelligent, creation to guide his deepest and most influential theorizing. Within the restraining structure imposed by the experimental facts of creation and the teachings of scripture he permitted his active imagination and his joyful heart their productive freedoms. And in his scientific endeavors as much as his spiritual service he understood and lived out the importance of personal character and moral standards in the search for truth.”

Religion – Theology – Monasticism – University – Science

A scribe, possibly 15th century

Developing from the monastic schools, the medieval universities “coincided with the widespread reintroduction of Aristotle from Byzantine and Arab scholars.“ In fact, the European university put Aristotelian and other natural science texts at the center of its curriculum, with the result that the “medieval university laid far greater emphasis on science than does its modern counterpart and descendent.” Although it has been assumed that the universities went into decline during the Renaissance due to a reduced emphasis upon scholastic and Aristotelian curriculum, in favor of the cultural studies of Renaissance humanism, the continued importance of the European universities had been established. Focused on scientific and philosophical texts, they played a crucial role in the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries. “Copernicus, Galileo, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, and Newton were all extraordinary products of the apparently procrustean and allegedly Scholastic universities of Europe… Sociological and historical accounts of the role of the university as an institutional locus for science and as an incubator of scientific thought and arguments have been vastly understated.” [23]

The Silk Roads – an emergent socio-physical network
Though he was motivated by the radical belief that alchemical wisdom extended to ancient times, Newton understood that the body of alchemical knowledge known in Europe during his lifetime was called Hermeticism, and that it was believed to have been given to humanity by superhuman agency – by Hermes – the messenger, the god of travelers and adventurers, of boundaries, of wide interests, of cunning and clever tricksters, the patron of thieves – and by Hermes Trismegistus – “Hermes Thrice-great”. It was said of the latter that he saw the totality of things, having seen he understood, and having understood he had the power to reveal. What he knew he wrote down, and what he wrote he hid away, so that each generation had to seek for themselves. Thence the secret society and encoded knowledge of the hermetically sealed culture associated with the European understanding of alchemy.

Map of Silk Roads

White has suggested that most of the texts and techniques used by the alchemists in Europe did not predate the Old Testament, but originated in Alexandria around 200 to 300 A.D. This form of the arts, known as Hellenic alchemy, resulted from the cross-fertilization of ancient Greek, Syrian, Persian and Egyptian cultures, which are said to have co-habited the cultural milieu of Alexandria – a centralized, sedentary multi-cultural hub of the ancient world, located adjacent to the Levant on the eastern Mediterranean. Though it was and is still known for the ancient library of Alexandria, the city certainly was not the only cultural crucible of the ancient world. It is important to note the presence of nomadic tribes, greatly predating the first sedentary civilizations. Christian (2000) [24] tells of migratory peoples who lived on the Levant of the eastern Mediterranean, throughout northern Africa, and across the Eurasian steppe. The nomadic pastoralists (connectors), along with the sedentary agrarians (attractors) of the Oxus civilization that would develop, comprised a set of geographical and “trans-ecological” co-cultures, through which emerged the set of routes mapped as the Silk Roads.

Christian told that “the many trans-ecological exchanges mediated by the Silk Roads linked all regions of the Afro-Eurasian landmass, from its agrarian civilizations to its many stateless communities of woodland foragers and steppe pastoralists, into a single system of exchanges that is several millennia old … the entire Afro-Eurasian region belonged to a single world-system from perhaps as early as 2000 B.C.E.” Furthermore, he opined that “the plural form is important because the Silk Roads consisted of a constantly shifting network of pathways for types of exchanges. Silk was one of the most important goods carried on the Silk Roads because it combined great beauty, light weight, and high value. But they also carried many other goods, including ceramics, glass, precious metals, gems, and livestock. Material goods … were just one element in the varied traffic of the Silk Roads … [which] also transported disease vectors, languages, technologies, styles, religions, and genes.” Arguably, disease vectors and genes may be categorized as materials, albeit information-laden.

The Silk Roads are defined as “the long- and middle-distance land routes by which goods, ideas, and people were exchanged between major regions of Afro-Eurasia.” Christian emphasized regions rather than civilizations, and exchanges rather that trade:
Region “holds open the possibility that exchanges with or between nonagrarian communities may have been as significant as exchanges between the major agrarian civilizations” – Exchange suggests that a “variety of exchanges that took place along the Silk Roads.”

Conventional chronologies report trade between major agrarian civilizations, which Christian termed “trans-civilizational exchanges”, telling that these “flourished particularly during three or four main periods: at the end of the first millennium B.C.E. and again early in the first millennium C.E.; between the sixth and eighth centuries C.E.; and in the era of the Mongol empire … Though standard accounts concede that there may have been sporadic exchanges along the Silk Roads before the end of the first millennium B.C.E., they insist that the Silk Roads proper flourished for the first time only in the last century B.C.E.”

“According to Dio Cassius, Romans saw high-quality silk for the first time in 53 B.C.E., in the terrifying form of the Parthian banners unfurled before the Roman defeat at the battle of Carrhae. From this time on, it is possible to trace in the written sources several arterial routes leading from China to the West. They passed through modern Xinjiang (by at least three major routes), through central Asia, then either through Afghanistan to Kashmir and northern India, or to the Mediterranean, which they reached by sea from India, or by land through Iran, through the Caucasus, or even by routes passing north of the Caspian and Black Seas … Between about 200 B.C. and the beginning of the common era, regular overland trade came into existence across central Asia from China to the eastern Mediterranean.”

”The importance of the Silk Roads waxed and waned, partly as a function of the degree of stability to be found in the borderlands between the steppes and the agrarian civilizations of China, India, Iran, and Mesopotamia, and partly as a result of economic and political conditions in the major regions of agrarian civilization. When agrarian civilizations or pastoralist empires dominated large sections of the Silk Roads, merchants traveled more freely, protection costs were lower, and traffic was brisk”.

“There is plenty of written and archeological evidence about the many trans-ecological routes that crossed the arterial trans-civilizational routes from China to the Mediterranean and linked regions of pastoralism with regions of agriculture. This evidence shows that the transverse routes were not just tacked onto the arterial routes. They were older than the arterial routes, and were always integral to the functioning of the Silk Roads. Evidence for the significance and extent of such trans-ecological exchanges is abundant for all periods of Silk Roads history, and reaches deep into prehistory.”

“Archeological evidence from the steppelands of Inner Eurasia shows that widespread systems of exchange were very old indeed in this region. The reason is simple. The Inner Eurasian steppelands were occupied, probably since the fourth millennium B.C.E., and certainly by 3000 B.C.E., by communities practicing extensive and mobile forms of horse pastoralism, which ensured that contacts and influence would extend over large areas. Indeed, emergence of mobile pastoralist lifeways should probably be regarded as the real explanation for the origin of the trans-Eurasian network of exchanges that the Silk Roads came to symbolize.”

“Indo-European languages [spread] from somewhere north of the Pontic steppes to Xinjiang, by 2000 B.C.E. In the second millennium B.C.E. Indo-European languages spread, also, into Persia, Mesopotamia, and northern India. Languages were spread mainly by migrations of pastoralist peoples. Before the first millennium the current of these movements was from west to east. But counter-currents became increasingly important from 1000 B.C.E., and by 1 B.C.E. westward movements dominated large-scale migrations within the Inner Eurasian steppes … By 2000 B.C.E., then, and perhaps even earlier, languages, genes, technologies, styles, and lifeways were being exchanged through the steppes of Inner Eurasia with an intensity unmatched in the less mobile communities of Eurasia’s agrarian civilizations … Goods were probably transported between Mesopotamia and central Asia during the third millennium … China had contact with the Tarim basin from as early as the second millennium B.C.E.”

The Oxus civilization comprised well-fortified urban centers called “qala”, and likely depended on “systems of middle- and long-distance trade” though which ideas and even religious notions were exchanged with the steppes. The use of … substances similar to Vedic ‘soma’ or Zoroastrian ‘haoma’ in the temples of the Oxus qala can … be interpreted as evidence of shamanistic influences from the steppes.”

The Haoma plant is reported to be a possibly extinct member of the Ephedra genus, and is said to have been the base of the baresman bundle – a tied bundle of twigs and leaves comprising various medicinal plants. The baresman bundle may be the origin of the magician’s wand, which in modernity has been understood as a kind of personal amulet. This totemic form of the Magian barseman bundle, likely emerged in Indian Zoroastrianism where metal rods were used during the practice of rites, due to the lack of endemic Ephedra.

“Steppe invasions of India in the second millennium [B.C.E.] were merely the precursor to invasions of Iran at the beginning of the first millennium [B.C.E.]. By the eighth century [B.C.E.] Assyria was subjected to periodic invasions from the steppes, and eventually dynasties of invaders established the local ruling elites that were to create the Median and Persian empires.”

As a result, “Afro-Eurasian societies shared … elements of the secondary products revolution and the technologies associated with it, including livestock power in agriculture, for transportation, and in use of hides and wool. In later periods new technologies, use of compound bows and crossbows, the use of armor in cavalry warfare, the stirrup, and techniques of siege warfare, as well as gunpowder, printing, and papermaking, all diffused throughout Afro-Eurasia. Different parts of Afro-Eurasia also shared religious motifs, including elements of shamanism, which can be detected within Zoroastrianism, Daoism, Sufism, Manicheism, Buddhism, and within some forms of Christianity … [and] there were also more direct exchanges of religions, including Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Nestorianism, Manicheism, and Islam.”

There is a rather beautiful metaphor to be found in the emergent topologies of slime molds and the Silk roads. Not only does the Silk roads map appear somewhat recognizable with respect to a growth of slime mold, but both topologies develop and grow principally as a result of local economy – both developmental topologies (complex and dynamic organismal states) may be said to ‘eat’, to trade and consume, to diversify, to transport and exchange necessary and valuable materials and information.

Ancient knowledge of exothermic reactants to keep and transport the perpetual fire?
Generations of European alchemists refined equipment, developed and improved distillation techniques based upon the methods practiced and documented by the Magi of Alexandria. The alchemists’ laboratory fire was never allowed to extinguish – likely a vestige of the habit of keeping a perpetual fire, ascribed to Zoroastrianism and the Magi. After distillation, alchemical texts called for an oxidizing agent (potassium nitrate) to be combined with sulfur from the metal ore and carbon from the organic acid, to produce a volatile concoction. The myth of the mad scientist who blows up the laboratory may well originate with these ancient protocols. It did not come as a surprise to learn that Newton’s first laboratory, located in his rooms at Trinity College, suffered an “uncontrolled fire.”

The earliest reports of gunpowder are said to have been made during the 10th and 11th centuries, in China. However, K. Chase (2003) [25] (NOTE D) is said to have reported a Chinese alchemical text, dated 492 A.D., with reference to gunpowder – which is within the 226-651 A.D. range documented as the first royal sanction of the Zurvanist Magi [26], allowing some 500 years (approximately 10 generations of Magi) before the delivery of orated Magian knowledge to China in the 10th century A.D. Chase further noted that “saltpeter burnt with a purple flame, providing a practical and reliable means of distinguishing it from other inorganic salts, thus enabling alchemists to evaluate and compare purification techniques.”

Researching the history and possible origin of gunpowder, Ling (1974) [27] reported that Robert Norton (ca. 1635) fixed an earlier “date for the invention of gunpowder in China as the year A.D. 85”, that the invention was “attributed to an enchanter”, and that “a miraculous story is connected with it.” Ling commented that “the whole statement lacks basis, and need not be further dealt with.” He placed a greater weight of truth upon a book by Ko Hung – better known by his sobriquet Pao P’u Tzu – of the Chin Dynasty (265-3I7 A.D., early to mid-way between the 226-651 A.D. range documented as the first royal sanction of the Zurvanist Magi). According to Pao P’u Tzu, “saltpetre and sulphur played a part in Taoist Alchemy.” Ling also mentioned the T’ai P’ing Kuang Chi, which relates that “the T’ang emperor Tang Wu-Tsung who so highly favored Taoism, wanting silver for some alchemical purpose, set many labourers to dig for it in the mountain. When the search proved unsuccessful, an old man appeared and offered his help. During the night a thunderclap was heard, whereupon the mountain broke open, and the silver could be won.” Another story relates the alchemical practices of a Taoist monk, and the production of “purple flames, which became the cause of a terrible fire.”

Ling told that “reports of explosions occur quite frequently in early Taoist books”, and that a text named Wu Ching Tsung Yao, written in the year 1040 A.D., was the first to document protocols for the production and use of gunpowder. “The publication was meant to serve military purposes, and not only points out a detailed and perfected method for preparing and keeping gunpowder, but also explains its use for different kinds of arms. It is surely necessary to suppose that a considerable period of experimentation, communication and trials had taken place beforehand, and thus the invention of gunpowder and its qualities must be fixed at a somewhat earlier date than the [10th century compilation of the Wu Ching Tsung Yao].” Apparently, all the constituents of gunpowder were known in China by the first century B.C. and the Taoist alchemists of the third century A.D. knew the explosive properties of “the mixture.”

The “Wu Yuan ascribes to the time of the emperor Yang Ti (A.D. 605-6I6) of the Sui Dynasty the invention of the Huo Yao Tsa Hsi or “fire drug play” – a kind of theatrical performance. Ling reported that emperor Yang Ti “spent a large amount of money on all kinds of amusements. At the New Year festival “Fire Mountains” were burnt, and it is quite plausible that fireworks in the modern sense were invented [or presented] to satisfy the extravagance of this emperor.” A poem written by Yang Ti himself, contains the following passage:

“Trees of lamps shine with a thousand lights, flames and sparks shoot forth from the seven branches”, Ling notes that the character ‘hua’ appears, as well as ‘kai’ meaning “spark” and “to break out” respectively, indicative of a sparkling fire. Another poetic expression – “Flames of fire move round the wheel” – alludes to a firework, perhaps like the present-day Catherine wheel.

Ling concluded that “fireworks in China … made their first appearance during the seventh century A.D.”, and reported that ’huo yao’ (“fire-drug“) is the name eventually given to gunpowder.

Greek Fire – also known as Wet Fire or Sea Fire – which did not contain potassium nitrate, was “applied in warfare during the early European middle ages, especially in the two sieges of Constantinople (668-675 A.D. and 716-718 A.D.)” Greek Fire is said to have consisted of a mixture of sulfur, naphtha, and quick-lime, and that the heat of quenching the quick-lime presumably raised the temperature of the mixture sufficiently to ignite the naphtha. Also, “inflammable compositions of destructive power and liquid fires have been known in the Near East since the time of the Assyrians.”

That various forms of chemical fire have been used in war is not surprising. Perhaps more interesting, is the suggestion that various compositions of thermochemical reactants were used during migration, in order to transport the perpetual fire. Here then is a putative link between the knowledge and practice of chemical fires, a fire-keeping epistemy known in Europe as “Gunpowder” and “Fireworks”, in ancient times as “Greek fire”, and the ancient totemic perpetual fire of the Levant, aspects of which existed well before the 25th century B.C., and were to give rise to the ritualistic keepers of knowledge and fire – the Aryan Magi.

2500 – 2000 BC – Mesopotamia
Assyirian knowledge of inflammable compositions & liquid fire

1500 BC – Levant & Eurasian Steppe
Eastward Aryan migration via the Eurasian Steppe – Zoroaster

1500 – 1000 BC – India

1100 BC – Levant
Median Empire

500 BC – China
Taoism (Laozi)

250 BC – Egypt
Ancient library of Alexandria

50 BC – China
Constituents of Gunpowder known – Gunpowder itself unknown

250 AD – China
Taoist alchemical knowledge – explosive properties of mixture

226 AD – Levant
Zurvanist magi – first royal decree

265 AD – China
Taoist alchemy – use of sulfur and potassium nitrate (saltpetre)

492 AD – China
Alchemical text – reference to Gunpowder

605 AD – China
Fire drug play

668 AD – Turkey
Greek fire use in sieges of Constantinople

1040 AD – China
First protocol for the production and military use of Gunpowder

Universal standard conduct
In striking agreement with the mechanisms of cellular communication (e.g. bacterial quorum sensing), of which Malinowski could not have been aware, he told that public display of “dogma and collective enunciation of moral truths” are necessary for three reasons:

i) Co-operation is needed for performance of rites that create “the atmosphere of homogeneous belief” (analogs of this milieu are: intercellular medium, worldview, mysticism, morale). “In this collective action, those who at the moment least need the comfort of belief, the affirmation of the truth, help along those who are in need of it. The evil, disintegrating forces of destiny [entropic forcing] are thus distributed by a system of mutual insurance – religion standardizes the right way of thinking and acting [morale] and society takes up the verdict and repeats it in unison.”

ii) “Public performance of religious dogma is indispensable for the maintenance of morals.” Moral valuation (signal-reception-response, regulation and feedback) and the carriers of morale (signals, messaging molecules) are universal (horizontal as well as vertical, and possibly a-causal information transfer). “The endurance of social ties, the mutuality of services and obligations, the possibility of co-operation, are based in any society on … a universal standard of conduct.”

iii) Transmission (signaling, reception, feedback) and conservation of tradition (knowledge, intercellular medium) necessarily entail collective performance.

“It is essential to every religion that its dogma should be considered and treated as absolutely inalterable and inviolable.” This is surely true of cellular signaling, in which unregulated corruption of signals, carrier molecules or their receptors, quickly leads to increased systemic entropy. Fascinatingly, extant scientific theories are often viewed as “inviolable”, particularly in cases where a theory has outlasted several generations of humans – until of course, the theory is altered or outright de-valued, from which time on the old theoretic edifice and/or its components are seen as incorrect corruptions; a new edifice and components are developed and eventually accepted universally within the current knowledge medium.

“The believer must be firmly convinced that what he is led to accept as truth is held in safe keeping, handed on exactly as it has been received, placed above any possibility of falsification or alteration. Every religion must have its tangible, reliable safeguards by which the authenticity of its tradition is guaranteed.” The validity of falsification continues to be an issue of debate among philosophers of science. Unfalsifiable theories, set beyond the scope of empirical observation, certainly do exist in science, as do inductive (intuitive) modes of thought – imagined experiments – so called, “thought experiments”. [28,29,30]

Likely unaware of Newton’s mindset and the supreme importance alchemists placed on spiritual purity, Malinowski confirmed “the extreme importance of the authenticity of holy writings” and “the supreme concern about the purity of the text and the truth of interpretation.” Reminiscent of the oral transmission of knowledge conducted by prehistoric Magi, Malinowski reported that “native races have to rely on human memory … without books or inscriptions, without bodies of theologians, they are not less concerned about the purity of their texts, not less well safeguarded against alteration and misstatement. There is only one factor which can prevent the constant breaking of the sacred thread: the participation of a number of people in the safekeeping of tradition. The public enactment of myth among certain tribes, the official recitals of sacred stories on certain occasions, the embodiment of parts of belief in sacred ceremonies, the guardianship of parts of tradition given to special bodies of men: secret societies, totemic clans, highest-age grades … we find the conviction that only by an absolutely unmodified immaculate transmission does magic retain its efficiency. The slightest alteration from the original pattern would be fatal. There is, then, the idea that between the object and its magic there exists an essential nexus. Magic is the quality of the thing, or rather, of the relation between man and the thing, for though never man-made it is always made for man. In all tradition, in all mythology, magic is always found in the possession of man and through the knowledge of man or man-like being. It implies the performing magician quite as much the thing to be charmed and the means of charming. It is part of the original endowment of primeval humanity … of the people of the magical Golden Age all the world over.”

Absolutely pure transmission of the original pattern, and relation between man (the practitioner) and the thing or process, is essential. This mirrors what has been learned of Newton’s alchemy – the spirit of the practitioner must be pure in order to render truth and goodness from alchemical practices.

“Magic is akin to science in that it always has a definite aim intimately associated with human instincts, needs, and pursuits. The magic art is directed towards the attainment of practical aims. Like the other arts and crafts, it is also governed by a theory, by a system of principles which dictate the manner in which the act has to be performed in order to be effective … [and like science, magic is a] specific art for specific ends … handed over in direct filiation from generation to generation. Hence it remains from the earliest times in the hands of specialists, and the first profession of mankind is that of a wizard or witch. Religion, on the other hand, in primitive conditions is an affair of all, in which everyone takes an active and equivalent part. Every member of the tribe has to go through initiation, and then himself initiates others.”

“The elemental categories in which we think – time, space, number, cause, class, person, totality – have their origins in religious life.”
– Durkheim

The seemingly disparate paths of meaning presented in this essay are difficult to connect into a body of conclusive knowledge, from which we may derive clear and concise scientific statements. Any scientific concluding statements, would necessarily take into account empirical and theoretical observations. The former have been supplied to this study by ethnographic and archeological reporters. The latter (theoretic), which necessitates unempirical imaginings – insights – anschauung, as well as empiricism, has been argued by all referenced contributors. Nevertheless, the core question and subject of this essay hang as loosely upon the hinges of science, as do Big Bang theory, dark matter and dark energy theory – Quintescence – and what has come to be called Social science. It is both fascinating and beautiful to observe that the Nudge theory has been decorated and recognized by a true totem of modern science – the Nobel prize. The name “Nudge theory”, itself a nudge, is fitting and comical – a more correct terminology to describe this body of knowledge might be Social Influence theory.

From the materials presented, we can infer that human nature is built upon and part of the organismal biosphere and the physical codes of biology, which stand upon the laws of nature, which we (post)modern humans assume as representing or at least reflecting aspects and forms of natural forcing. The word force is important, suggesting that nothing ever stands still – the whole system (universe) is at all times and locations in a dynamic state. Electromagnetic, entropic and gravitational forces are assumed to be ubiquitous universal flow(s) of force – either mass-energy or scientifically unknown.

It is very curious indeed that even though languages continually develop and adapt, while many of us no longer believe in ghosts, spirits and deities, we nevertheless speak of them. “Ghost in the Shell” and “Spirit of Science” are modern usages, as are the more frequently expressed “thank God!”, “god-damn it!” and more recently as the acronym “OMG” – (Oh my god!). What do we mean by use of these terms and phrases? The former two examples, of Ghost and Spirit refer to a science fiction imagining of a human consciousness (mind) technologically embedded within an artificial machine system (body), and to traditional kinship lineages of knowledge, respectively. By the latter – calls to deities – do we refer fundamentally to nature or to a supposed supernatural realm? A reasoned argument has been rendered for the assumption of the inexistence of supernature, thus defining the supernatural concept as a misnomer, and categorizing it as an emergent property of human social nature – kin with magic, religion and science – the idea of supernature is a natural nudge.

Human nature is adaptive, both influenced by the physical-social (sociophysical) environment, and influencing the sociophysical environment. Social engineering is a modern term used to describe intended influences (manipulations) of human social behaviors – social forcing – thus altering, if not directing the mindful focus (attention) of human perceptions, for the ultimate purpose of collective enactment of social and physical phenomena. Our current understandings of social engineering and magic share a negative connotation, as should Nudge theory – all are forms of anthropic social forcing, and thus represent an identical meaning – the causal, albeit probabilistic manipulation of a population of human minds. Social engineering is a craft (a science, body of knowledge) – it may be used to promote good, and indeed promotes itself as a common good.

It is conceivable that Magian knowledge and acts (good thoughts, good words, good acts) incorporated some understanding of what we now name Social engineering. The Magi were magistrates (city managers) and magisters (learned masters), as well as religious (pre- and post-Zoroastrians), by and from whom were derived many of the myths of classical antiquity, nearly all of the religious doctrines and ideologies extant in the world, as well as the mysterious beliefs and practices of alchemy (natural philosophy in combination with natural theology), which have propagated (vegetated) and developed into the modern sciences.

May we thus assume to construct, by social engineering, a DIY (“do it yourself”) god or religion? Likely not, at least Comte failed in doing so. Durkheim would have agreed, with the proviso of an anthropic moral collective – a Church. Malinowski argued that religious feeling can emerge individually, during the performance of mundane tasks – religious feeling perhaps, though it seems likely that anthropic gods and religions require a DIO (“do it ourselves”) mind-frame – worldview, indoctrination, mysticism.

Attempts to construct Artificial Intelligence and Synthetic Biology seem fitting examples of modern attempts at the task of deiogenesis (god-making) and moralogenesis (worldview-making), though these activities have so far produced neither artificial intelligences nor purely synthetic cells – let alone collectives (ecosystems) of either. Does the social engineering of a god and/or religion necessarily involve some unknown, or once known but now forgotten (prisca sapientia) property or force? Ancient magic and the Magian tradition, referred to one whole rationally intuitive and empirically observable natural force. Is this force recognized in modernity empirically, as the separate forces of electromagnetism, entropy, gravitation, and unempirically, as the big bang, dark matter, dark energy (Quintessence)? Are these aspects of what was once collectively named mana by primitive peoples, vegetation in classical history, and multiplication in alchemical texts?

A timeline for a multigenerational and multicultural, anthropo-sociophysical set of connections (Silk roads network, complex system) has been derived from reports of historical and archeological studies, theoretically allowing an ancient human knowledge-set to propagate, disperse and adapt. The fields of deep ecology, plant intelligence and comparative genetics, recognize that ancient knowledge systems (organismal intelligences) predate the evolution of Homo sapiens.

The question “where does magic come from?” implies a dynamic stable state – a force – a constant flow of magic, mana, vegetation, entropy-gravitation-electromagnetism… – but renders no definition of the materials, energies or signals this proposed flow might be comprised of, nor why such a flow appears or appeared to exist at all, even though magical thinking is both specialized and ubiquitous in primitive as well as advanced human cultures. Is there some unseen or un-seeable, but nevertheless necessarily real and naturally influential universal vegetative force? One chapel of modern physics uses the term Quintessence in reference to the seemingly mysterious natural force, which has been intuitively recognized and theoretically created to explain the physical necessity of an unobserved and mysterious 98% of the universe – comprising and driving the theoretical expansion of an assumed vast majority of the universe – cosmological dark matter and dark energy.

Are the calls of the Deep ecology movement, for a new religion recognizing the spirit of nature, relevant? It seems ever clearer that the industrialization and exponential growth of the human population on Earth, leading from sedentary agrarianism some 10,000 years ago, is reaching climax and will likely settle into a dynamic stationary phase, near the theoretical carrying capacity of the planet. Whether or not human cultures deeply recognize a spirit of nature, the human population is necessarily faced with either colonization/dispersal (aspects of vegetation), or extinction. Let us favor the former, positive multiplicative principle, recognize that all is force, and that forces dyne as lineages of flux.

Notes – Part II
C) “The appraisers, Comyns and Ward, felt that only the papers later published as Newton’s Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended were fit to be published, and they valued the work at £250. Between 20 and 26 May 1727, Thomas Pellet drew up an inventory listing 81 items of which he considered only five fit to be printed, namely no. 33 (’de Motu Corporum or the liber secundus, in 56 half sheets in folio’); no. 38 (‘31 half sheets in folio being paradoxical questions concerning Athanasius’); no. 61 (‘an imperfect mathematical tract’); no. 80 (‘an abstract of the Chronology being 12 half sheets in folio & the Chronology being 92 half sheets in folio’), and no. 81 (‘40 half sheets in folio being the History of the Prophecies in 10 chapters & part of the 11th unfinished’).

As is evident from a number of manuscripts adorned with Conduitt’s notes and corrections – for example the manuscript of ‘An historical account of two notable corruptions of Scripture in a Letter to a Friend’ (New College, Oxford, Ms. 361.4) – White tells that Conduitt took a serious scholarly interest in the papers, and saw towards the possibility of publication. Given Newton’s unique eminence, as well as his known religiosity, a substantial number of contemporaries (with varying degrees of knowledge of their real content) continued to speculate about the theological views expressed in his manuscript legacy. In 1740 Conduitt’s collection came into the possession of the Portsmouth. In 1755, a batch of theological and chronological papers was sent to Arthur Ashley Sykes, who compiled a ‘digest’ of them, directing that the executor “should lay all the Tracts relating to Divinity before Dr Sykes … all of them I ordain shall be printed and published, so they be done with care and exactness”. Except for the ‘Two notable corruptions’ manuscript, however – a version of which had appeared in 1754 – Sykes considered almost none of the papers suitable for publication. The papers passed to the Reverend Jeffrey Ekins, whose family in turn passed them on to New College, Oxford in 1872.

Aside from well-founded rumors of his unorthodox theological interests, and the publication of theological material, a number of Newton’s philosophical, optical and mathematical papers, as well as a large number of his letters, had for some time been circulating among the cognoscenti, though the alchemical material remained almost wholly unknown except to a very few intimates, such as John Locke and Fatio de Duillier. In particular, the mathematician William Jones (who had published a collection of Newton’s mathematical works) had access to many of Newton’s papers as well as to the transcripts made by John Collins of Newton’s early work. In light of the ‘Queries’ to the successive editions of Opticks, natural philosophers were keen to divine Newton’s private views on the nature of matter, the aether and the cause of gravitation. Significant material appeared in Birch’s edition of Bayle’s Dictionary in the late 1730s, in his first edition of the Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle in 1744, in his History of the Royal Society in 1757, and in Four Letters from Sir Isaac Newton to Doctor Bentley containing some arguments in proof of a Deity (London, 1756), which for the first time printed the now famous correspondence of the early 1690s concerning gravitation and natural theology.

In response to this fascination with things Newtonian, Bishop Samuel Horsley edited a supposedly Complete Works (1779-85), reported to have “conveyed the most influential impression of Newton’s astonishingly broad intellectual achievements”. In preparation for this a manuscript catalogue was prepared of Newton’s papers, “marking certain items with a star”, to indicate fitness for publication. In particular, Horsley seems to have shied away from publishing Newton’s alchemical interests and sensored texts (such as the ‘third letter’ to Locke which supplemented the ‘Two notable corruptions’) which betrayed the heretical nature of many of Newton’s religious beliefs. Nevertheless, despite the somewhat wishful thinking of the title,

the work largely satisfied the demands of his readership and prompted Edward Gibbon, for instance, to seek out various manuscripts relating to early Church history in preparation for his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”
R. Iliffe, “The Newton Project”, (2017), available:

D) I have been unable to independently confirm this source:
K. Chase, “Firearms: A Global History to 1700”, (2003), Cambridge University Press,

Bibliography – Part II
8) M. White, “Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer”, (1997), Basic Books

9) S. Hutton, “The Cambridge Platonists”, (2001), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,



12) K. Shroff, “ZOROASTRIANISM UNDER THE ACHAEMENIDS”, (2015), The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies,

13) M. Dandamayev, “Magi”, (2012), Encyclopædia Iranica,

14) J. Peterson, “AVESTA: YASNA: Sacred liturgy and Gathas/Hymns of Zarathustra”, (1995), Avesta,

15) K. Eduljee, “Zoroastrian Priesthood”, (2015), ZOROASTRIAN HERITAGE,

16) R. J. Lefkowitz, “The Spirit of Science”, (1988), Presidential Address to the American Society for Clinical Investigation, Duke University Medical Center,

17) M. Goran, “How to Acquire the Spirit of Science”, (1972), Improving College and University Teaching, Vol. 20, No. 4, p. 322-324, abstract available

18) T. Jefferson, “To the National Institute of France”, (1802),

19) A. Corey etal, “Education and the spirit of Science”, (1966), National Education Association – Washington DC, p. 11,

20) M.J. Wakefield & J.A. Marshall Graves, “The kangaroo genome – Leaps and bounds in comparative genomics”, (2003), EMBO reports, Vol. 4(2), p. 143-174, available:,

21) D. Gilbert etal, “Homologous Genes Summary Table”, (2005), Indiana University Biology Department,

22) I. H. Hutchinson, “Michael Faraday: Scientist and Nonconformist”, (1996), The Faith of Great Scientists, MIT,

23) Medieval university,

24) D. Christian,“Silk Roads or Steppe Roads? The Silk Roads in World History”, (2000), Journal of World History, Vol. 11, No. 1, p. 1-26, abstract available:

25) K. Chase, “Firearms: A Global History to 1700”, (2003), Cambridge University Press.

26) Zurvanism – Origins and background,

27) W. Ling, “On the Invention and Use of Gunpowder and Firearms in China”, (1947), Isis, Vol. 37, No. 3/4, p. 160-178, preview available:

28) L. Wallach & M. Wallach, “Some Theories are Unfalsifiable”, (2010), Theory and Psychology, Vol 20, issue 5, abstract available:

29) X. Oriols, “Can decoherence make quantum theories unfalsifiable? Understanding the quantum-to-classical transition without it”, (2016), Journal of Physics: Conference Series 701, PDF available:

30) B. Shea, “Karl Popper: Philosophy of Science: 3. Criticisms of Falsification”, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ISSN 2161-0002, Maguš would come to know


The Fundamental Nature of Science and Religion – Part I

Introductory note
Ethnography of Primitive peoples
The Duality of Initiation
Metaphysics – Logos of the vegetative principle
The Root Brain de-brained
Deep Ecology
A new ethics, a new metaphysics, a new religion
Collective States of Subjectivity: Church, Totem, Rite, Belief and Spirit
Duality of the Sacred and the Mundane
Notes – Part I
Bibliography – Part I

Introductory note
Theories of Quantum mechanics (QM) and what one might term Social mechanics (SM), point in uncomfortably disparate directions. QM teaches that macro-phenomena (a rock, tea cup, tree, star…) are bound by fundamental causal rules, and that micro-phenomena (individual physical particles: fermion, boson, hadron) can become completely disconnected from the chain of causality. SM teaches the inverse; that micro-phenomena (individual actors) are bound by and represent fundamental causal rules, while macro-phenomena (emergent social properties, such as intelligence, mind, religion, science, patterns of political voting, segregation/clustering, the common good) are somehow disconnected from the causal chain. This represents a beautiful conceptual symmetry, but why and how, and where and when may non-causal events and properties be observed?

Causality is observable only within our ‘human scale’ of events, which includes for example the star gazing aspects of astronomy or the cell watching aspects of microbiology. However, at the boundaries of observation – the boundaries of the ‘human scale’ – causality appears to evaporate. The word ‘anthropocentric’ and the phrase ‘anthropic principle’ are often used to describe the concept of a human scale – the human perspective and scope, beyond which causality appears either to dissolve into complexity, or to disjunct from empirical reality. Holding this in mind, I find it very strange indeed that we can nevertheless identify as ‘necessarily real’ various a-causal phenomena, such as “spooky action at a distance” (quantum entanglement), the big bang and black holes (quantum singularities) dark matter and energy – and equally, the feelings and awareness of self, mind, the bizarre similarity between the lifecycles of individuals, civilizations and species, the persistent socio-cohesive power of the various religions, spiritual and tribal rites, ethics and morals.

At best, the subject matter of the current thesis is iconoclastic, representing factual (causal) and controversial, perhaps even a-causal histories. At worst, the reader will apprehend certain presented arguments and interpretations as unacceptable. I do not presume to convince, but to present the arguments and opinions rendered by a handful of respected peers who have preceded us.

Some of the meanings expressed sit as uncomfortably within the postmodern worldview as they would have within the modern one. I certainly have experienced difficulties and challenges, both intellectual and moral, while studying the ethnographies, histories and theoretical constructs that inform and comprise the subject matter of this essay. The difficulties and discomforts which I have experienced, may have resulted from the assumed near-absolute certainty and cultural flatness in which we, in our systemized and machine-mediated postmodern culture, now live. It has become apparent that regardless of the assumed level of certainty we feel, or think we have achieved, no such level of definition of certainty exists in the reality that we perceive, nor in any reality that we create – bar one – the internal mental dynamic state of individual knowledge (cognition). An individual mind may feel certain of some variable x, whereas a collective of minds comes to consensus, rendering precision of x but not certainty of it.

The ambiguities which appear to be, or perhaps are, endemic to the subjects and materials presented, do not entirely confound precision in the task of finding a common moral ground between Science and Religion. As in the sciences and religions, precision has been endowed to this project by necessary cut-offs of the definitional phase spaces used. Examples of this are the definitions of religion and primitive peoples, rendered by Durkheim in 1912, which we shall assume for the purposes of this essay:

“A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things set apart and forbidden – beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them.”

Primitive peoples are assumed to have been nomadic tribal cultures of hunter-gatherer-gardeners, composed of extended familial groupings (clans), with no written language and only a rudimentary level of technological sophistication – living prior to the cultural and environmental influences that were imposed upon them through contact and colonization by sedentary agrarian civilizations with greater technological sophistication and written language.

David Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist, greatly influenced by the positivist philosophy and scientific approach to the study of society (ethnography), which had been founded by Auguste Comte a lifetime before him. Among Durkheim’s published social analyses is one titled The Elementary Forms of Religious Life [1], in which the religious practices and beliefs of aboriginal Australian and American peoples are discussed. Elementary Forms has lent valuable defining criteria to the task of identifying the nature of religion.

In our time, systems, beliefs, practices, unifications (categorizations) and communities all seem quite familiar and scientific ideas, whereas morality (the good and true path) and sacredness (the state of being set apart, forbidden) seem rather more distant and less relevant to science.

The practice of science, as defined by modern scientific method, has been well documented and propagated, and is commonly understood as an aspect of modern global human culture. Can anything meaningful be said of morality or of sacredness in the sciences? In order to create a background context, we shall begin our exploration with the ethnography of primitive humans, and unexpectedly, magic.

Ethnography of Primitive peoples
Redfield described the work of Bronislaw Malinowski (1948) [2] as a process of “look at the people, then look back at the books, and then look again at the people”, and told that Malinowski did not look at the people to find what the books told him he should find. The human reality upon which he periodically refocused, could not be fully represented by any single theory, though he has been described as a proponent of psychological functionalism – arguing that social and cultural institutions serve basic human needs. Malinowski took account of the views rendered by Tylor, Frazer, Marett, and Durkheim, to discover religion emerging more multidimensionally than in any single account – “religion is not only people explaining and projecting their dreams; it is not only a sort of spiritual electric – mana –; it is not solely to be recognized in social communion.”

“Religion and magic are ways men must have, being men, to make the world acceptable, manageable, and right.”
– Malinowski (1948)

Translating this into postmodernism, I would add science (however primitive), replace the word ”men” with people, and strengthen the idea of a “right” world with a moral one, thus rendering: Religion, science and magic are ways humans must have, being human, to make the world acceptable, manageable and moral.

Of the three domains, even assuming some naivety about religion, what we now understand as magic, seems the least necessary for an acceptable, manageable and moral world. However, what we now understand as magic is more-or-less complex trickery (change blindness), whereas in antiquity it seems to have been apprehended more earnestly, as a combination of what we now understand as science and religion – an holistic knowledge comprising natural philosophy, various arts and natural theology – in a word perhaps, alchemy.

Malinowski marked that “when the sociologist approaches the study of magic [they find] an entirely sober, prosaic, even clumsy art, enacted for purely practical reasons, governed by crude and shallow beliefs, carried out in a simple and monotonous technique … strictly limited in its means of action, circumscribed in its beliefs, stunted in its fundamental assumptions.” He noted also that “magic never originated, it never has been made or invented. All magic simply was from the beginning an essential adjunct of all such things and processes as vitally interest man and yet elude his normal rational efforts.”

“In Central Australia, all magic existed and has been inherited from the alcheringa times, when it came about like everything else. In Melanesia all magic comes from a time when humanity lived underground and when magic was a natural knowledge of ancestral man. In higher societies magic is often derived from spirits and demons, but even these, as a rule, originally received and did not invent it. Thus the belief in the primeval natural existence of magic is universal.”

Interestingly, “magic tends to become specialized, exclusive, departmental and hereditary. In totemism each species naturally becomes the responsibility and privilege of a clan; and each clan reveres its head specialist as the chief magician of its totem. Totemism is essentially a cooperative system, a number of practical, specialized cults, each with its own social basis but all having one common end: “the supply of the tribe with abundance” – A set of diverse and diversifying, specialized actors creating abundance is familiar terminology, expressed in a previous essay titled The Common Good, as the best manner to achieve and maintain common goods.

Science may be described in a very similar manner, as specialized, exclusive, departmental and hereditary. The latter is no longer commonly recognized, but surely has remained a key aspect of modern social mechanics. After all, it is a special and distinct privilege, still largely propagated by familial lineages, to be schooled and educated by elite institutions of indoctrination, such as the University of Oxford, the California Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Princeton University, Imperial College London, and ETH Zurich.

In critique of Durkheim, who suggested that religious feeling (“effervescence”) occurs exclusively as a consequence of collectivity, Malinowski pointed-out that “the heightening of emotions and the lifting of the individual out of himself are by no means restricted to gatherings and to crowd phenomena. The lover near his sweetheart, the daring adventurer conquering his fears in the face of real danger, the hunter at grips with a wild animal, the craftsman achieving a masterpiece, whether he be savage or civilized, will under such conditions feel altered, uplifted, endowed with higher forces. And there can be no doubt that from many of these solitary experiences where man feels the forebodings of death, the pangs of anxiety, the exaltation of bliss, there flows a great deal of religious inspiration.”

Implicit here is not only the concept of collectivity vs individuality, but also the ontological relationship between supervenience and top-down causation. Religions and sciences may be said to emerge from innate characteristics through social (inter)actions, while religious and scientific morals – good and true ways – are embedded within individual (inter)actors, by their initiation into the worldview (indoctrination, mysticism) in which they live.

“There are no peoples however primitive without religion and magic … Nor are there … any savage races lacking either in the scientific attitude or in science, though this lack has been frequently attributed to them. In every primitive community, studied by trustworthy and competent observers, there have been found two clearly distinguishable domains, the Sacred and the Profane; in other words, the domain of Magic and Religion, and that of Science.”

With this Malinowski seems to have meant that the domains of Magic and Religion are sacred, whereas the domain of Science is profane. He was clear about the fact that the primitive Melanesians whom he observed, understood that magic alone would not raise their garden crops nor provide a school of fish to net, that without mundane observations and profane manual labors, gardens do not bear fruit and fish are not caught. Furthermore, while Durkheim proposed that sacrament is necessarily based upon mundane empirical observations and acts, as well as social cohesion, and that magic relies on neither, Malinowski opined that magic is an art (craft) the purpose of which is to apply supernatural forces to the natural environment. Both Durkheim and Malinowski told that primitive peoples are capable of and make regular natural use of scientific mental modeling – a cycling of practical (empirical) trial and error, due to need or curiosity, then inference, usually followed by communication, before beginning another round of empiricism.

“On the one hand there are the traditional acts and observances [rites], regarded by the natives as sacred, carried out with reverence and awe, hedged around with prohibitions and special rules of behavior. Such acts and observances are always associated with beliefs in supernatural forces, especially those of magic, or with ideas about beings, spirits, ghosts, dead ancestors, or gods. On the other hand, a moment’s reflection is sufficient to show that no art or craft however primitive could have been invented or maintained, no organized form of hunting, fishing, tilling, or search for food could be carried out without the careful observation of natural process and a firm belief in its regularity, without the power of reasoning and without confidence in the power of reason; that is, without the rudiments of science.”

The word ‘supernatural’ refers to a property belonging to a realm that is supervenient on nature – that is to say, supernature is dependent upon but separate from and not reduceable to natural phenomena, and thus is not necessarily causally
connected to nature. The logic of causal (non)connection between fundamental and emergent properties is argued well by Humphreys (1997) [3].

Supernature is understood as unobservable, because any presupposed object or force occupying a supernatural realm may not be accessible to natural empirical investigation due to its possible causal disconnection from natural phenomena – simultaneously and necessarily negating the possibility of subsequent physical confirmation or Popperian falsification. This allows for a clear distinction between the supernatural and imaginary (abstract) realms, as the latter, whether mathematical or not, and whether communicated or not, does exist within the natural setting of one or more minds, which supervene on physical and material forms of organismal intelligence (brains).

An argument that is often expressed in attempts to formulate a fundamental distinction between the sciences and religions is that Science necessarily observes nature empirically, and thus understands nature as a set of real, physical phenomena, whereas Religion accepts as real that which is not necessarily empirically observable. Herein however, lies a problem – Science does not always directly observe the natural phenomena or processes which it attempts to describe, and thus confirm or negate as part of the scientific system of beliefs. Similarly, albeit inversely, religious apprehensions are necessarily the results of empirical observations, or equally real and natural abstracted imaginings (insights). The supernatural can thus comprise neither, natural phenomena, such as electrons, cells and stars, nor forms of abstract existence, such as ideas, concepts and schemes (see NOTE A).

Malinowski reported that Sir James Frazer (1890) [4] had outlined the three main problems of primitive religion with which modern anthropology is concerned – “magic and its relation to religion and science; totemism and the sociological
aspect of early faith; the cults of fertility and vegetation.”

“Frazer’s Golden Bough, the great codex of primitive magic, shows clearly that animism is not the only, nor even the dominating belief in primitive culture. Early man seeks above all to control the course of nature for practical ends, and he does it directly, by rite and spell, compelling wind and weather, animals and crops to obey his will. Only much later, finding the limitations of his magical might, does he in fear or hope, in supplication or defiance, appeal to higher beings; that is, to demons, ancestor-spirits or gods. It is in this distinction between direct control on the one hand and propitiation of superior powers on the other that Sir James Frazer sees the difference between religion and magic. Magic, based on man’s confidence that he can dominate nature directly, if only he knows the laws which govern it magically, is in this akin to science. Religion, the confession of human impotence in certain matters, lifts man above the magical level, and later on maintains its independence side by side with science, to which magic has to succumb.”

“This theory of magic and religion has been the starting-point of most modern studies of the twin subjects. Professor Preuss [et al] have independently set forth certain views, partly in criticism of Frazer, partly following up the lines of his inquiry. These writers point out that similar as they appear, science and magic differ yet radically. Science is born of experience, magic made by tradition. Science is guided by reason and corrected by observation, magic, impervious to both, lives in an atmosphere of mysticism [from Ancient Greek μύστης, mústēs, “one who has been initiated”]. Science is open to all, a common good of the whole community, magic is occult, taught through mysterious initiations, handed on in a hereditary or at least in very exclusive filiation. While science is based on the conception of natural forces, magic springs from the idea of a certain mystic, impersonal power, which is believed in by most primitive peoples. This power, called mana by some Melanesians, arungquiltha by certain Australian tribes, wakan, orenda, manitu by various American Indians, and nameless elsewhere, is stated to be a well-nigh universal idea found wherever magic flourishes. According to the writers just mentioned we can find among the most primitive peoples and throughout the lower savagery a belief in a supernatural, impersonal force, moving all those agencies which are relevant to the savage and causing all the really important events in the domain of the sacred. Thus mana, not animism, is the essence of “pre-animistic religion,” and it is also the essence of magic, which is thus radically different from science.”

The natural, all-pervading force – mana, arungquiltha, wakan, orenda, manitu – is Hollywood famous, and perhaps analogous to the Tao. Animism is a belief focused upon individual agents rather than a flow throughout nature, though entropy, gravity and electromagnetism surely do flow through and animate all things, whether living or not; both individuals and complex collective aggregates, whether comprising a speck of dust, grain of sand, mountain range, or galactic cluster.

One achievement of modern anthropology that Malinowski did not find cause to question is “the recognition that magic and religion are not merely a doctrine or a philosophy, not merely an intellectual body of opinion, but a special mode of behavior, a pragmatic attitude built up of reason, feeling, and will alike. It is a mode of action as well as a system of belief, and a sociological phenomenon as well as a personal experience.” – the dynamic and ever-nascent complex state of consensual, individual subjective reality, emerging from a collective of human social interactions – strongly embedded within the natural environment.

The view taken by Levy-Bruhl in Primitive Mentality (1923), suggests that primitive minds have no “sober moods”, but are completely immersed in their current mysticism. Thus, primitive minds live as a society of recognized initiates, individuals or groups that are embedded within the flow of a current worldview. “They are incapable of dispassionate and consistent observation, devoid of the power of abstraction, hampered by a decided aversion towards reasoning, they are unable to draw any benefit from experience, to construct or comprehend even the most elementary laws of nature. For minds thus orientated there is no fact purely physical, nor can there exist for them any clear idea of substance and attribute, cause and effect, identity and contradiction. Their outlook is that of confused superstition, pre-logical, made of mystic participations and exclusions.”

Scathing though this passage is, it has a fascinating, if unfortunate resonance with the common 21st century worldview – aptly termed postmodernism. Critically, postmodernism is a recognition of current modernity only in the sense that it is not the state of modernity that came before it. Our current age is thus laden with a sense of intrinsic change and fungibility – simply, albeit poignantly – a world in transition. The spirit of transition does not provide any clear and unambiguous knowledge of what or where to, or even why we are transiting – the only clear truth experienced by the majority of individuals appears to be one of necessarily ultra-rapid, or better immediate, machine-mediated transfer. Thus, thinking time (Nous Kairos) is not generally apprehended in postmodernity, but skipped or scrubbed – philosophy is viewed as an unproductive “waste of time”.

Architect Thomas Rau (2013) – more eloquently in his native Dutch (2015) – describes our current worldview as one of evolution, and of linear development in technologies and economies, not for the purpose of creating solutions, but problems – “New”, he observes, has come to mean “not quite broken yet”, as a result of planned obsolescence – the engineering of lifespans into products. He proposes a circular economy of raw materials, in which mineral element ores are first mined for use in the production of product-service values, then re-extracted (“de-mounted”) from these product-services to enable reuse (“re-mounting”) into new product-service values.

It should be appreciated that although Rau’s proposition is timely, fitting well within the ethos of postmodernity, it is neither a solution nor destination. The acceptance and implementation of his proposal could act only to propagate the postmodern sense of change and fungibility – the confused outlook, superstition (belief in the existence of a ‘state beyond the current state’) and mysticism of the 21st century. Thus by Levy-Bruhl’s definition, the postmodern mind may be judged as nearly so primitive as the primitive mind, and indeed one should not find this overly surprising, as human minds, whether primitive or postmodern, share a fundamentally human nature.

Malinowski also reported the critical views of J. L. Myers (c. 1911) and A. A. Goldenweiser (c. 1930) – primitive knowledge is distinct, accurate, and based upon observation. Primitive discoveries, inventions and improvements, “which could hardly be attributed to any pre-empirical or pre-logical mind – affirm that “it would be unwise to ascribe to the primitive mechanic merely a passive part in the origination of inventions. Many a happy thought must have crossed his mind, nor was he wholly unfamiliar with the thrill that comes from an idea effective in action.” Here we see the savage endowed with an attitude of mind wholly akin to that of a modern man of science! … The use of leaves, notched sticks, and similar aids to memory is well known and seems to be almost universal. All such ‘diagrams’ are means of reducing a complex and unwieldy bit of reality to a simple and handy form. They give man a relatively easy mental control over it. As such are they not – in a very rudimentary form no doubt – fundamentally akin to developed scientific formulas and models, which are also simple and handy paraphrases of a complex or abstract reality, giving the civilized physicist mental control over it?”

“Can we regard primitive knowledge, which … is both empirical and rational, as a rudimentary stage of science, or is it not at all related to it? If by science be understood a body of rules and conceptions, based on experience and derived from it by logical inference, embodied in material achievements and in a fixed form of tradition and carried on by some sort of social organization – then there is no doubt that even the lowest savage communities have the beginnings of science, however rudimentary. Most epistemologists would not, however, be satisfied with such a minimum definition of science, for it might apply to the rules of an art or craft as well. They would maintain that the rules of science must be laid down explicitly, open to control by experiment and critique by reason. They must not only be rules of practical behavior, but theoretical laws of knowledge. Even accepting this stricture, however, there is hardly any doubt that many of the principles of savage knowledge are scientific in this sense.”

The Duality of Initiation
In his attempt to gain a clearer understanding of whether the primitive mind has “one domain of reality or two”, Malinowski found a “profane world of practical activities and rational outlook” along-side, but distinct from “the sacred region of cult and belief.”

With regard to initiation, Malinowski reported two consequent sets of rites:
i) The physical ordeal – a protracted period of seclusion sometimes accompanied by fasting and various forms of preparation (perhaps painted skin markings, certain clothes or other artifacts), followed by submission to an act of bodily mutilation, such as a small incision, the knocking out of a tooth, circumcision, or penile subincision.
ii) A less dramatic, but in reality more important, psychological aspect of initiation then begins – “the systematic instruction of the youth in sacred myth and tradition, the gradual unveiling of tribal mysteries and the exhibition of sacred objects.” It is by the latter process that individuals become initiates – indoctrinated into a particular mysticism – and learn to apprehend the world though a particular cultural lens (worldview).

Mysticisms are no less mystical for the modern and postmodern mind, than for the ancient and primitive one. Take as example the Nudge theory – a development of the behavioral and social sciences. “Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”

“Initiation is a typically religious act … the ceremony and its purpose are one … the function of such acts in society [is to] create mental habits and social usages of inestimable value to the group … initiation brings the novice into relationship with higher powers and personalities, such as the Guardian Spirits and Tutelary Divinities.”
– Malinowski (1948)

“Of all qualities, truth to tradition is the most important. A society that makes its tradition sacred gains an inestimable, irrational advantage of power and permanence. Beliefs and practices that put a halo of sanctity around tradition, marking it as supernatural, will have a ‘survival value’ for the type of civilization in which they have evolved.” Yet, as stated earlier, supernature cannot in principle exist because human conceptions or apprehensions of supernatural agency necessarily exist as aspects of natural, organic, physical phenomena (i.e. organismal entropy-reducing systems), and as social behaviors emerging from collectives of such phenomena. Sanctity and sacredness, though apparently causally disconnected from our human scale of observation, serve and impress us as values of morale and survival – development, propagation, dispersal, multiplication – vegetation.

Metaphysics – Logos of the Vegetative Principle
“Propagation and nutrition stand first and foremost among the vital concerns of man.”
– Malinowski (1948)

Nutrition (growth) stands before propagation – that is to say, one cannot propagate without first having grown – the principles of growth and reproduction (multiplication, vegetation) are intertwined, holding true for all known life-systems, and might also be argued for mountains, rivers, stars, black holes, galaxies… The vegetative principle is intimately paired with individuality and sociality – the former (individual growth and propagation) is necessary for the latter (emergent sociality and culture).

Sequential physical phenomenology of the vegetative principle:
As a necessary and direct physical consequence of the localized entropy-reducing processes mediated by biological materials, organismal foraging (behavior) must emerge. Thus, behaviors are fundamentally and necessarily, dynamic embodiments (organismal developments, vegetations) of a physical and functional coupling between the sensory mechanisms of an organism (empirical perceptions) and response mechanisms (metabolic switch, motility, etc.). Furthermore, fundamental behavioral mechanisms are both, mediated and modulated by direct transfer, from the environment to the organism, of energy-laden environmental materials – signals (see NOTE B).

Social foraging (sociality) is necessarily dependent upon organismal behaviors, but reaches beyond these – by downward causation, to fortify the founding biological process of localized entropy-reduction, and by supervenience, rendering a (non)causal superposition of a physical and abstract social reality.

Critically, the mechanisms of social foraging (communicative signaling, signal interpretation and signal-based action) do not necessarily transfer energy-laden environmental materials directly to the organism, but instead comprise an understanding (a collective strategic knowledge) of both, energy-laden materials and signal-laden materials/properties – among phototrophs, shading by other organisms is a signal-laden property – a limited common good (see: The Common Good I and II

Knowledge is thus dependent upon (re)active and (co)operative individual organisms, within an energy/signal-laden physical material matrix – the social environment. A complex thus comprised exists as a distributed body of knowledge – that is to say, knowledge is an organismal abstraction (pattern, or map) composed of physical and material signals that represent the state of the environment. And naturally, how to make (entropy-reduce) the best of it.

Sociality and knowledge, though not completely identical, are intimately and physically – not necessarily completely materially – coupled, emerging as the effect of physically mediated abstract symbolism. We may thus confirm biosemiosis as deeply rooted in the evolutionary scheme of life-systems.

Proposed here, is that one developmental form (dynamic embodiment, vegetation) of this fundamental sociophysical mechanism, has in modernity come to be called Science, and that this same sociophysical mechanism has progressed through what were once called natural philosophy and natural theology – together alchemy. Scientific behavior did not spontaneously emerge via the scientific revolution during the Enlightenment – only our modern understanding of Science did.

The Root Brain de-brained
Durkheim suggested that reason alone does not negate the idea that inanimate bodies (plants, ponds, rivers, mountains, stars, galaxies, etc.) may be animated by some undefined natural force, as animal bodies are, even though modern scientific understanding has not easily accommodated this idea.

The development of molecular biology, has greatly increased the scope and depth of knowledge of biological processes, and is now beginning to allow an understanding of plant bodies as sensing, (re)active and social – animated. Fascinatingly, this has allowed for observations of assumed intelligent behaviors among plants. Over a century after Darwin proposed the root brain hypothesis, Trewavas (2003) [5] reported a study conducted in 1974 by David Stenhouse, in which a tentative definition of animal intelligence was stated as:
Adaptively variable behavior within the lifetime of an individual – with greater adaptive variability (behavioral diversification) associated with greater intelligence.

Trewavas related the long-standing opinion that behavior equates with movement, and since plants move at rates that are for the most part imperceptible to humans, the plant Kingdom has, from the time of Aristotle, been relegated to “unintelligent vegetation”. However, as a result of the continuous changeability and uncertainty of environmental nutritive conditions, the development of sessile organisms is necessarily plastic throughout individual lifetimes. Plasticity is by all accounts reported as being adaptive and variable between environmental conditions, thus leading to the conclusion that sessile life systems must incorporate computational elements. Trewavas argues that as all plants exhibit adaptive plasticity within individual lifetimes, they must all exhibit intelligent behavior, in accordance with the definition given by Stenhouse. As examples, Trewavas relates the finding of signal transduction within plant tissues as well as between plants, and of the close similarity and often completely identical messaging molecules found in plants and animals. Of particular interest was the recognition that complex macromolecular assemblages are transported between plant cells, as this function has the capacity to transfer very complex and subtle differences of message, as was exposed for astroglial syncytia and slime molds in earlier chapters, titled Insanity of Genius and Anatomy of Genius.

Two forms of memory have been recognized in plants; the storage of information from previous signaling paired with an information retrieval capacity, and the ability to interact with and modify a current signal pathway. Furthermore, as individual organisms live in varied niches within their fundamental habitat, each individual must be capable of recognizing very subtle variations of the niche in which it is situated, from the fundamental habitat, and to specifically adapt to these. This capability represents physiological plasticity, which must be conducted under tight regulatory feedback systems, if healthy development (fitness) of the individual is to ensue.

Trewavas concluded by posing a question which shows how little we understand about the nature of vegetation, as well as what we think we mean by use of the word ‘intelligence’:
“If we accept that plants are capable of intelligent behavior, then how is this intelligence accomplished without a brain?”
He has suggested that intelligent behavior is an emergent property, resulting from the interactions of individual cells living as part of a larger cellular collective.

Deep Ecology
In a paper titled Deep Ecology versus Ecofeminism, Robert Sessions (1991) [6] told that Arne Næss coined the label “deep ecology” in The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movements (1973), and that Næss is seen as the seminal thinker of the deep ecology movement.

Four fundamental characteristics of deep ecology:
i) The well-being and flourishing of human and non-human life on Earth have value in themselves. These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purpose.
ii) Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.
iii) Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.
iv) The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of non-human life requires such a decrease.

“Naess and the many deep ecologists who agree with him begin by asserting the fundamental equality and inherent value of all beings and then draw inferences for human action from their original anti-anthropomorphism.”
– Bourdeau (2014)

However, Auguste Comte must be credited as the first modern academic to express “a deep awareness of what man and animals have in common”, and that “cooperation between men is continuous with phenomena of which biology gives further examples.”

The Western (now Global) anthropocentric attitude:
i) Non-human nature has no value in itself.
ii) Humans (and/or God, if theistic) create value.
iii) Humans have the right (business would say obligation) to do as they please in the non-human world as long as they do not harm other human interests.

Diverse specific alternatives to anthropocentrism are offered by deep ecologists, though the general consensus appears to be the proposition of a higher unity in the diversity of the world. In a similar vein of thinking, ecofeminist K. Warren (1987) has suggested that traditional male-identified beliefs, values and attitudes, render assumptions of status and prestige; that a patriarchal conceptual framework is characterized by value-hierarchies, and hence a domination logic that legitimizes inequality. Further, she suggested that before the greater/lesser metaphor, one would have seen only that there exists diversity; “everything is interconnected with everything else; all parts of an ecosystem have equal value; there is no free lunch; ‘nature knows best’; healthy, balanced ecosystems must maintain diversity; there is unity in diversity.”

“Women are identified with nature and the realm of the physical; men are identified with the human and the realm of the mental”.
– Karen Warren (1990)

Warren exposed the parallel conceptualizations of the domination of women by men and the domination of nature by humans, posing that:
i) Humans, not nature, possess the capacity to consciously and radically change the environment in which they live.
ii) The capacity and execution of conscious and radical change to the environment in which one lives is morally superior to a lack of such capacity and/or execution.
iii) If x is morally superior to y, then x is morally justified in subordinating y. Thus, humans are assumed to be morally justified in subordinating nature.

The parallel conceptualization of domination is rendered by replacing the words ‘humans’ with ‘men’ and ‘nature’ with ‘women’. Furthermore, Warren proposed that the second and third premises of the argument are normative value assumptions; without them normative arguments for domination of women/nature fail. In this light, ecological and feminist perspectives are equivalent, anyone taking an anti-feminist stand simultaneously takes an anti-naturist stand.

Sessions (1991) told that the core of deep ecology calls for a new (or the return to an old) sensibility. Modem humans have lost touch with nature and thus with their own natures – we no longer feel the rhythms of nature within ourselves, we have split ourselves from the world (dualism), and we live at a distance – alienated from what is natural – leaving us fearful, insecure and able to deal with the world only on our own terms – with control. We have become insensitive to ourselves and others by losing our natural sensibilities. Deep ecologists look to holistic traditions for suggestions about how to experience the world.

“Multi-faceted high level self-realization is more easily reached through a spartan life-style than through the material standard of average citizens of industrial states.”
– Arne Næss (1986)

In conclusion, Sessions suggested that spotted owls and aquifers are not our relatives in the same way as other humans can be. Our task is no less than to change our cultural morals, to exchange our dominant worldview for one in which our relationships with the elements and inhabitants of the nonhuman, as well as the human world, are comprehended as egalitarian – equal but different.

In review of the deep ecology movement, George Sessions (1987) [7] told that “Saint Francis was an isolated thinker, urging a return to an animistic ecological egalitarianism in the thirteenth century. As a result of the rise of the scientific/technological worldview, and the modern version of the human domination of the Earth, a countercultural surge of nature-oriented thought developed in the eighteenth century.” And that in the seventeenth century, during the rise of modern science, Spinoza argued against Hobbes’ self-centered materialism and submission to Leviathan (authoritarian, centralized governance) and also argued against Descartes’ mind-body dualism; instead arguing for the establishment of an holistic non-anthropocentric pantheism. In so doing Spinoza influenced “Goethe and other writers of the European Romantic movement, now understood as a nature-oriented, countercultural force aligned against the rise of the narrowly scientific industrial society.”

In the late 1940’s Aldo Leopold recognized the science of ecology as “the outstanding discovery of the twentieth century”. However, it was not until the rise of the Age of Ecology, in the 1960’s, that a wider public perception of ecology and environmentalism emerged. “It is generally acknowledged that Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring [1962] ushered in what can appropriately be called the Age of Ecology. Her attack on pesticides coincided with increasing public awareness of the extent of pollution and the overall environmental destruction that had taken place since the Second World War. Carson’s indictment of pesticide use confirmed growing doubts concerning the technological ability of humans to manage the resources of the planet successfully.” She also challenged anthropocentrism: “The ‘control of nature’ is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man.” The Age of Ecology has allowed for “a religious and philosophical revolution of the first magnitude.” Sessions told of G. Tyler Miller, and of Warwick Fox, who observed that “the ecological revolution will be the most all-encompassing revolution in the history of mankind”, and that “deep ecologists were contributing to a ‘paradigm shift’ of comparable significance to that associated with Copernicus.”

“Deep ecology represents a philosophical challenge to the metaphysical and ethical anthropocentrism that has dominated Western culture, as a result of classical Greek humanism and Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions.”
– Sessions (1987)

In The Quiet Crisis (1963) Stuart Udall pointed to the changing attitudes of the 1960’s, towards the nature religions and “land wisdom” of the American Indians: “Today the conservation movement finds itself turning back to ancient Indian land ideas, to the Indian understanding that we are not outside of nature, but of it … we are recovering a sense of reverence for the land.” By the early 1980’s, many academics had come to consensus regarding the spiritual-ecological way of life, practiced by primal societies throughout the world. The general agreement was that an “ecocentric” religious approach, in which everything is respected in its own right, seems to account for tens of thousands of years of cultural success, and that the histories, worldviews and practices of ancient human cultures can provide moderns with good quality understandings of the human/Nature relationship.

Further, Sessions told that in The Arrogance of Humanism David Ehrenfeld argued that “exclusive emphasis upon reason has divorced us from the crucial survival functions of instinct, emotion, and intuition”, and promoted “ecocentric and religious reasons for protecting ecological diversity”. Personally, I do not feel divorced from instinct, emotion, or intuition, though I would admit that these unmeasurable, unquantifiable, aspects of human nature are undervalued in our modern worldview. As will be clear for anyone who has experienced a regular, normal school or work environment. Culturally valued behaviors in modernity are machine-like: consistency, predictability, capacity, efficiency – all are quantifiable, and generally represented probabilistically, as statistical percentages of a norm.

Apparently, John Stuart Mill foresaw a stationary state of population and economy. As the interrelated global economies falter and begin to flatten there is talk of “growthless economics”, and of course the human population on Earth is also approaching environmental, and possibly psychological psycho-social limiting factors.

A new Ethics, a new Metaphysics, a new Religion
Passmore thought the two models of the human-nature relationship – Platonic “stewardship” and Aristotelean “man perfecting nature” – were converging. He endorsed them as the West’s unique contribution to a sound contemporary approach to nature. However, Passmore later backed away from that narrow anthropocentrism, saying “We do need a new metaphysics which is genuinely not anthropocentric … The working out of such a metaphysics is … the most important task which lies ahead of philosophy.”

Arne Næss argued that “the emergence of ecologists from their former relative obscurity marks a turning point in our scientific communities. But their message is twisted and misused.” The shallow movement is a short-term, pragmatic reform approach, in his view, concerned mainly with the symptoms of environmental disease such as pollution and resource depletion. Its objective, Næss claimed, was anthropocentric and parochial – “the health and affluence of people in the developed countries.” The long-range “deep” movement was proposing a major realignment in our thinking about humans and nature consistent with an ecological perspective. Næss claimed that the experiences of ecologists and others associated with wild nature gave rise during the 1960s to scientific conclusions and intuitions that were amazingly similar. These included the awareness of the internal interrelatedness of ecosystems; ecological egalitarianism (all species have an equal right to live and blossom); the principles of diversity and symbiosis; an anti-social-class position; the appreciation of ecological complexity leading to the awareness of the “human ignorance of biospherical relationships – [The ecological field worker] acquires a deep-seated respect, or even veneration, for ways and forms of life, the principles of local autonomy and decentralization.”

Næss described ecological egalitarianism as “an intuition experienced by those in the deep ecology movement, not an ethical theory to be defended by rational argument.”

“Fritjof Capra has pointed to the patriarchal dominance over both women and nature in Western culture since Biblical times. The masculine emphasis upon scientific method and rational analytical thinking, he claimed, “has led to attitudes that are profoundly antiecological.” Rational thinking is linear, whereas “ecological awareness arises from an intuition of nonlinear thinking … The environmental crisis, therefore, is a result of overemphasizing our masculine side and neglecting the feminine (intuitive wisdom … ecological awareness, nurturing, and caring).”

“Modern Western ethics assumes the classical idea of discrete atomistic individuals. And the positivist fact-value distinction, also typical of modern Western ethics, is based upon the subject-object distinction. The new physics undermines both those views … Quantum theory negates the subject-object, fact-value dichotomies to which modern value theory has dutifully conformed.” – “A sound contemporary cosmology failed to develop after the seventeenth century scientific revolution, according to Stephen Toulmin. Instead, Descartes and his successors “set humanity over against nature, and converted the natural world itself into a mere thing or object.” The new physics, Toulmin believes, provides a new opportunity to develop a sound cosmology, which goes beyond fact/value, subject/object distinctions. The new cosmology and theology of nature, he argues, is already developing based on the popular movements of “green philosophy” and “white philosophy,” an integration of ecology with spiritual psychology. Using John Muir and limnologist Evelyn Hutchinson as examples, Toulmin claims that ecology as pure science and ecology as social philosophy can be abstracted and separated, but no sharp divisions can be drawn in the real world. Pointing to the distinction between anthropocentric and nonanthropocentric environmental approaches, he argues that the cosmology and natural religion of the future will be essentially along deep ecological lines.”

“What has been called the New Age/Aquarian Conspiracy movement is largely inspired by the writings of R. Buckminster Fuller and Pierrede Chardin. Both are highly anthropocentric and have an unquestioned faith in high technology and a belief that the destiny of humans is to manage the evolutionary processes of the Earth. Jeremy Rifkin claims that some New Age planners want to eliminate evolutionary processes in order to bring about Algeny – the genetic manipulation and development of all life on Earth. While lip service is paid to ecological ideals, New Age ideology is in many ways antiecological. The New Age version of stewardship sees humans acting as copilots of Spaceship Earth, making management decisions from information gathered through vast computer communication systems.”

Berman distinguished between two types of holism – a sensuous, situational, living approach to process, and an abstract form characteristic of many philosophical spokesmen for “the New Age.” The latter, now in a more appealing form, is the last phase of classical science. “The real issue,” according to Berman, is not mechanism versus holism, but “whether the philosophical system is embodied or disembodied.” Thus, Berman also acknowledged holism and questioned the validity of the Descartesean breakage. In Anatomy of Genius, I have argued in similar fashion, against the substance dualism and “nonphysical substance” (mind/body problem), of Descartes, favoring instead holism and animism.

Collective States of Subjectivity: Church, Totem, Rite, Belief and Spirit
Durkheim taught that religions exist because humans live as social collectives in anthropogenic states. This is a very wide filter setting indeed, arguably including all instituted human activities – all emergent phenomena of human social interactions. And indeed, Durkheim seems to have intended this meaning, identifying any moral community as a Church and recognizing that there are many and varied Churches.

“A group comprised of individuals who have mutually recognized and recognizable identities, which set them in a common and shared, human, cognitive and normative setting.” In Kantian terms, a church or moral community is a collective weltanschauung (worldview), examples of which may be made of nations, families and/or households, corporations, academies, scientific and religious disciplines, etc. The domestic cult comprises a family; the corporate cult comprises a corporation (a corporate culture). These “private religions” or “small Churches” are “special forms of a broader religion … chapels in a larger Church.” This definition of moral community lends itself well to the sciences; Physicists, for example, are not biologists, each scientific discipline comprises a group of individuals who are mutually recognized and recognizable – as physicists (the chapel of Physics), or as biologists (the chapel of Biology) – collected together, the various scientific disciplines may be said to comprise the moral community of science (the Church of Science).

It should be plain to see that scientific moral communities, as well as religions ones, set things apart (categorize) – electrons are not atoms, insects are not organs, stars are not galaxies, and disciplines differ (physics is not chemistry, chemistry is not biology, etc.). The sciences surely do create, and as conservatively as possible, hold beliefs and enact practices that unite all the individuals who adhere to them into a single moral community called Science.

Malinowski agreed with Durkheim’s concept of totemism, as developing reverence and a sense of gratefulness for the animals and plants upon which a human population depends. Simultaneously, the killing and slaughter of individuals of these same revered species is necessary for human survival. They told that “we find a moral value and a biological significance in totemism, in a system of beliefs, practices, and social arrangements.”

i) The outward and visible form of the totemic principle – the worldly expression of the spirit of something. Modern science refers to ‘outward and visible forms’ as empirically observable phenomena, and as we shall see later, there appears also to be a ‘spirit of science’, which expresses the totemic principle of science through scientific theories, laws of nature and what might be termed lineages of vegetative propagation.
ii) The symbol of a particular society – “a mark that is borne by everything that in any way belongs to the clan”.

i) A negative rite (differentiation) is characterized by setting a person and/or object apart from mundane everyday activities and use, through various socially recognized and respected procedures.
ii) A positive rite (integration) is characterized by the bringing together of sanctified people and/or objects, through various socially recognized and respected procedures.

Durkheim chose to observe religious ideas as “done” – performed or enacted as a set of rites. Critically, without the ritual acts associated with the definition of the religious idea, there is no possibility of a shared, collective understanding of the idea. Precisely the same may be said of scientific ideas, which do not exist as aspects of science without being enacted and communicated. Formal symbolisms, such as languages, mathematics or diagrammatic schematic representations, though not necessarily conveying scientific or religious ideas, are not purely abstract – devoid of action – as may be evidenced by any attempt to communicate an idea without some form of action.

Spirits, theories and laws may seem rather more abstract than physical manipulation of material symbols, though all are forms of abstraction. The symbol of a particular society may be an image or sculpture of a Kangaroo, described by Durkheim in the case of the Kangaroo clan, or it may be the letterhead or coat of arms of a particular department or university, or it may be a corporate logo, a family name, etc.

Aboriginal totemic representations, including that of the Kangaroo

Dominus illuminatio mea – The Lord is my light – the motto of the University of Oxford appears (left) on the University’s coat of arms; Trinity college Cambridge (right), named after the holy trinity – “College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity within the Town and University of Cambridge of King Henry the Eighth’s foundation”

Referring to subjectivity, Durkheim asked “what is more open to derailment, from one moment to the next, whimsically or in the cold light of observable fact? – what is more fleeting and difficult to observe than subjective experience/belief? Yet no sane person – not even a scientist – would with honesty and conviction tell that the subjective experiences and beliefs – realized by them – are not real”. In his search for a scientific understanding of religion, he asked – by what method(s) may science observe the objects of religion, and thus understand them as real? A fascinating question leading from this is whether or not, or perhaps better, to what extent the performance of the methods (rites) of fundamental particle physics realizes the nature that is empirically observed?

“To leave belief unexamined is to gain a mentally incompetent human” – “Without human imagining beyond reality as the senses show it, science would be impossible.”
– Durkheim

Duality of the Sacred and the Mundane
The idea that correctly performed rites produce desired results, automatically – without divine intervention – is widespread among cults. Explaining the primary importance of the physical aspects of ceremonies that nearly all cults recognize. “Religious formalism … arises from the fact that, having in and of themselves the source of their efficacy, the formulas to be pronounced and the movements to be executed would lose efficacy if they were not exactly the same as those that had already proved successful.” – This statement is highly reminiscent of the formalism intrinsic to modern scientific methodology. A specific experimental protocol is strictly adhered to precisely because it has proven effective. A scientific discipline may thus be identified as a cult that propagates a certain core set of unchanging rites. Of course, this is not to say that the cults do not develop over time, or that specific rites associated with them are not adapted to changing environmental conditions – the conditions may change, the truth does not – both Religion and Science are complex, adaptive systems of social behavior.

As we shall see during an exposé of pre-scientific, classical and ancient worldviews, what we now distinguish as religion and science were once held to be one and the same pursuit, one and the same knowledge, and both as well as their off-shoots have been suggested as political corruptions of a single, ancient, orally transferred knowledge predating written language – the prisca sapientia.

Durkheim taught that rites do not necessitate gods, indeed, some rites are understood to derive gods – “Not all religious virtues emanate from divine personalities … thus religion is broader than the idea of gods or spirits and so cannot be defined exclusively in those terms.” Regarding the sacred and the profane, both Durkheim and Malinowski spoke of the fundamental duality of the two realms – “the sacred and the profane are always and everywhere conceived by the human intellect as separate genera … while the forms of the contrast are variable, the fact of it is universal.”

The duality of sacredness and profaneness is universally considered to be absolute, thus belonging fully to one is to have fully left the other. From thence, said Durkheim, comes monasticism. “The mind experiences deep repugnance about mingling, even simple contact, between the corresponding things, because the notion of the sacred is always and everywhere separate from the notion of the profane in man’s mind, and because we imagine a kind of logical void between them.”

The mètre des Archives. This object, the useful purpose of which was never mundane, profane measurement, may in Durkheimian terms be understood as a sacred scientific object.

“When a certain number of sacred things have relations of coordination and subordination with one another, so as to form a system that has a certain coherence and does not belong to any other system of the same sort, then the beliefs and rites, taken together, constitute a religion.” Thus, religion may be understood as emerging from a complex interaction of sacred things. The mètre des Archives was an aspect of precisely this kind of complex system, it’s length value equaling 1/10,000,000 of one half of a planetary meridian, the latter (fraction and meridian) are themselves sacred – set apart and untouchable.

Even though nothing in sense experience seems likely to have suggested the idea of a radical duality, asked Durkheim, why is the essential nature of sacred things different from the essential nature of profane things? – what lead us to perceive the world as two heterogeneous worlds? The reader will surely be aware that fundamental duality may be demonstrated physically, by observation of quanta, and even by conglomerates of material at the microscopic scale. This apparent fact is deeply mysterious and not easily understood – in fact, not understood – in the context of modern science. Perhaps we envision reality as fundamentally dual as a result of our neural architecture? The left and right hemispheres of our brains are each essentially different, albeit interconnected, processors. Perhaps then, the universe is fundamentally one whole system, and duality is perceptually apparent as a result of the structural duality of our brains? With this idea in mind, we may pose an interesting question:
Do biological systems such as bacteria, fungi, plants, insects, even entire forests – all of which may be defined as acting socially and intelligently without brains – perceive reality as dual or singular?

Notes – Part I
A) It seems prudent to put the issue of supernature out of our path of investigation as definitively as possible. To this end, it should be said that we cannot even imagine a supernatural phenomenon, because any such imagination would necessarily occur within the physical and thus natural frame of a mind, or minds – thus, any presumed supernatural subject being imagined is necessarily part of material reality, and so must be natural. Subjects, whether observed empirically or unempirically (via imagination) are real, physically-mediated natural phenomena, upon which we may individually and/or collectively reflect and act.

B) In the case of primary producers, specifically phototrophs, though photons may be formalized within the bounds of theoretical physics as material (massive), it may be easier to understand that photons are physically and causally linked to energetic exchanges occurring within the materials of the photosynthetic apparatus.

Bibliography – Part I
1) E. Durkheim, “The Elementary Forms of Religious Life” (1912), translated by K. Fields (1995), The Free Press – Simon & Schuster Inc.,

2) B. Malinowski (edited by R. Redfield), “Magic Science and Religion and Other Essays”, (1948), The Free Press, PDF available:

3) P. Humphreys, “How Properties Emerge”, (1997), Philosophy of Science 64, p. 1-17, Word doc. available,

4) Sir J. Frazer, The Golden Bough, (1854-1941), PDF available via The Project Gutenberg:

5) A. Trewavas, “Aspects of Plant Intelligence”, (2003), Annals of Botany, vol. 92, p. 1-20, PDF available:

6) R. Sessions, “Deep Ecology versus Ecofeminism”, (1991), Hypatia, Vol. 6, No. 1, p. 90-107,

7) G. Sessions, “The Deep Ecology Movement: A Review”, (1987), Environmental Review, Vol. 11, No. 2, p.105-125,

Sociophysics – The last science

‘Truth’ is context-dependent
In context of my studies to date, and in particular my newfound understanding of the common good, I have experienced a surprising insight. I can best describe the occurrence as a spontaneous emergence, in my mind, of a conception of sociophysical phenomena. I was not yet aware of sociophysics and thought that I had coined the term to help define a path of study. Simply, I wanted a word to help me focus more closely upon the physical phenomena that emerge from social interactions. Searching for the literature of sociophysics, I was initially surprised to find a sparse population of recent mathematical probabilistic treatments and models, stemming from quantum physics early in the twentieth century, game theory in the mid-twentieth century, and analyses of computer modeling of adaptive networks early in our twenty-first century. My search soon led me near to the origin of the sociophysical concept – an absolute origin escapes me, though sociophysics seems closely tied to Aristotelian animism. Nevertheless, I now realize that sociophysics has presented itself in a variety of apparitions to many a kindred spirit. If it is a science, then it is the strangest, vaguest, and widest of them – indeed, it has been called “the science that comes after all the others” – and fascinatingly, the men who have studied it knowingly, were and for the greatest part still are outcast by orthodoxy. I certainly am no stranger to their ranks, perhaps that is part of the reason why I feel a sense of familiarity and belonging among the concepts exposed in the current exploration of ‘the last science’.

Previously, I have argued that abstract modeling (theorizing) simplifies reality, allowing only fractionated (quantized), and thus unreal understandings. Historically, fractionation (specialization; division of labor) has been the cost of good quality knowledge. In The Common Good: Part I, I have introduced Robert Rosen, a theoretical biologist who suggested that studies of biology would bring new knowledge to physics, and would change our understanding of science in a broad manner. The study and modeling of complex systems appears to drive in this direction; by my intuitive reckoning, increasingly complex modeling (interaction of theories) approaches ever closer to a good quality representation of reality, and thus a truer understanding of reality. It is for this reason that I have chosen to focus the current exploration upon the histories [NOTE A] of understanding and modeling of social interaction, which shall lead us to an integrated understanding of the current state of the art.

Two classes
Abstract: The abstract form of sociophysics is fundamentally dependent upon human knowledge, which has been composed of necessarily subjective experiences (observations) of an assumed objective reality. It is a science stemming from and attempting to formalize intuitive understandings of social phenomena, by use of mathematical tools developed and used in statistical physics.

Real: We must assume that in reality the physical phenomena that emerge from social interaction are independent of human knowledge; that they occur regardless of observation. Sociophysical phenomena are synergistic (non-additive effects resulting from individual acts) manifestations of the dynamic, physical interaction, consequence and feedback, occurring among networked actors. Examples of phenomena that emerge from social interaction include: ant and termite colonies, bacterial colonies, cities, brains, genetic networks, mycelial networks, glial networks, multicellular organisms, ecosystems, physical and abstracted knowledge, road systems, postal systems, the world wide web (internet).

A true false start: true within context of the me-generation; false within a deeper historical context
Galam (2004) tells us that during the late 1970’s statistical physics was gripped by the theory of phase transitions.(1) In 1982, despite the scandal of a university faculty’s retraction of researchers’ academic freedom due to political fears of institutional disrepute, S. Galam et al managed to publish a set of assumed “founding papers” on Sociophysics.(2) In reference to the first in the set, Galam himself comments that “in addition to modeling the process of strike in big companies using an Ising ferromagnetic model in an external reversing uniform field, the paper contains a call to the creation of Sociophysics. It is a manifesto about its goals, its limits and its danger. As such, it is the founding paper of Sociophysics although it is not the first contribution per se to it.” During the following decade, Galam published a series of papers on Sociophysics, to which he received no feedback. He tells of other physicists “turning exotic” during the mid-nineties, developing the closely related Econophysics, the purpose of which was to analyze financial data. Econophysics quickly gave rise to the so called “quants” of Wall Street – young physicists who were employed by investment bankers to develop algorithms allowing for the trading of complex derivatives, the abuse of which, by the pathological social milieu of the international finance trade, was responsible for the global economic crisis of 2008. Fully fifteen years after his initial publications and the assumed inception of the science of Sociophysics, Galam claimed some gratification in the recognition that a “few additional physicists at last started to join along it”. I deeply sympathize with his statement: “I was very happy to realize I was not crazy, or at least not the only one.” Nevertheless, Galam was and remains incorrect in regard to his position in the history of sociophysics; a history that began centuries before the me-generation.

Reading Galam’s personal testimony, I felt a crystallization of my intuition that the institutionalized position of a careering academic scientist makes for a very poor springboard from which to develop novel ideas and concepts, even if, as in Galam’s case, the ideology is not actually novel. Indeed, I myself have felt, and seen in colleagues, active restraint from pursuing interesting, albeit unorthodox ideas while bound by the rites of the ivory tower. Shameful though this situation is, it certainly is not a modern problem.

Halley, Quetelet and Comte
In his review of the sociophysics literature, Stauffer (2012) reports that the idea of applying knowledge of physical phenomena to studies of social behavior reaches at least two millennia into the past, naming a Sicilian, Empedokles, as the first to suggest that people behave like fluids: some people mix easily like water and wine, while others, like water and oil, do not mix.(3) Vague and philosophical, I hesitate to categorize this conception as sociophysics, though admittedly it does attempt at least metaphorically to fuse social and physical phenomena. Rather more accurate examples of sociophysics were Halley’s calculations of celestial mechanics and annuity rates, Quetelet’s Physique Sociale, and Comte’s Sociophysics. Let us now step through these chronologically.

Edmund Halley

In 1682 Edmund Halley had computed an elliptical orbit for an object visible to the naked eye; a conglomerate of rock and ice, now known as Halley’s comet. He reasoned that it was the same comet as the one reported 75 years earlier, in 1607.(4) He communicated his opinion and calculations to Sir Isaac Newton, who disagreed on account of both the geometry of the object’s orbit and it’s reoccurrence. Nevertheless confident of his theory, Halley predicted that the object would reappear after his death, in 1759; he was proven correct by the comet’s timely visit. Since then, the orbital path followed by Halley’s comet has been confirmed as elliptical, passing beyond Neptune before returning to the vicinity of Earth and Sun with an average periodicity of 75 to 76 years, with variational extremes of 74 and 79 years due to the gravitational perturbations of giants Jupiter and Saturn.

Astronomy, massive bodies and gravitation are relevant to our exploration of sociophysics for three reasons to be expounded later. For the time being, it is important to point-out a fact about Halley that is much less recognized, though possibly more easily recognized as relevant to our current exploration.

In 1693 Halley constructed a mortality table from individual dates of birth and death; data collected by the German city of Breslau. Based upon this tabulation Halley went on to calculate annuity rates for three individuals. In his application of probability theory to social reality – now known as the actuarial profession – it seems Halley had been preceded, in 1671, by a Dutchman, Johannes de Wit. Though again, to his credit, Halley was the first man to correctly calculate annuity rates, based upon correct probabilistic principles.

Adolphe Quetelet

Adolphe Quetelet was a Belgian astronomer and teacher of mathematics, a student of meteorology, and of probability theory; the latter leading to his study of social statistics in 1830. Stigler (1986) tells us that astronomers had used the ‘law of error’ derived from probability theory to gain more accurate measurements of physical phenomena.(5) Quetelet argued that probabilistic theory could be applied to human beings, so rendering the average physical and intellectual features of a population, by sampling “the facts of life”. A graphical plot of sampled quantities renders a normal distribution and the Gaussian bell-shaped curve, hence the “average man” is determined at the normal position. In theory, individual characteristics may then be gauged against an average, “normal character”. Quetelet also suggested the identification of patterns common to both, normal and abnormal behaviors, thus Quetelet’s “social mechanics” assumed a mapping of human physical and moral characteristics, allowing him to formulate the argument that probability influences the course of human affairs, and thus that the human capacity for free-will – or at least the capacity to act upon free-will – is reduced, while social determinism is increased. Quetelet believed that statistical quantities of measured physical and mental characteristics were not just abstract ideas, but real properties representative of a particular people, a nation or ‘race’. In 1835, he published A Treatise on Man, and the Development of His Faculties, and so endowed to the culture of nineteenth century Europe a worldview of racial differences, of an “average man” for each subspecies of Homo sapiens, and hence scientific justification (logical soundness) for slavery and apartheid. Furthermore, Quetelet’s “average man” was presented as an ideal type, with deviations from the norm identified as errors.

Auguste Comte

Between 1830 and 1842 Auguste Comte formulated his Course of Positive Philosophy (CPP). From within our modern ‘global’ cultural milieu it is difficult to appreciate how widely accepted (‘globalized’) the ideology of positive philosophy was two hundred years ago, during the height of Eurocentric colonial culture, as positivism has received virtually no notice since the re-organizational events [NOTE B] imposed upon the politico-economic and cultural affairs of Europe after the Russian revolution and first world war.(6) The eclipse of positivistic ideology began with neo-positivism in philosophy of science, which lead to post-positivism. Strangely, it appears that the two later schools (neo- and post-positivism) have forgotten both, positive philosophy itself and the man who initiated and defended it, and even coined the term positivism [NOTE C]. However, Bourdeau (2014) tells that Comtean studies have seen “a strong revival” in the past decade, with agreement between modern philosophers of science and sociologists upon the ideologies propagated over 170 years ago. Points which were well established in positivism, but subsequently forgotten, have re-emerged in the modern philosophical milieu.

Re-emergent ‘truths’:
i) Scientific justification (logical soundness) is context-dependent.
ii) Science has a social dimension; science is necessarily a social activity with vertical (inter-generational) as well as horizontal (intra-generational) connections and thus also epistemic influences. Simply, science is a human activity, and humans are social animals.
iii) Positive philosophy is not philosophy of science, but philosophy of social interaction; Aristotelian political philosophy. Also, positivism does not separate philosophy of science from political philosophy.
iv) Cooperative wholeness; unity of acts and thoughts; unity of genes and memes; unity of dynamism and state.

“Being deeply aware of what man and animals have in common, Comte […] saw cooperation between men as continuous with phenomena of which biology gives us further examples.”
– Bourdeau (2014)

Comte made the purpose of CPP clear: “Now that the human mind has grasped celestial and terrestrial physics, – mechanical and chemical; organic physics, both vegetable and animal, – there remains one science, to fill up the series of sciences of observation, – Social physics. This is what men have now most need of: and this it is the principal aim of the current work to establish”.(7) He continued, saying that “it would be absurd to pretend to offer this new science at once in a complete state. [Nevertheless, Sociophysics will possess the same characteristic of positivity exposed in all other sciences.] This once done, the philosophical system of the moderns will in fact be complete, as there will be no phenomenon which does not naturally enter into some one of the five great categories. All our fundamental conceptions having become homogeneous, the Positive state will be fully established. It can never again change its character, though it will be forever in course of development by additions of new knowledge.”

In 1832 Comte was named tutor of analysis and mechanics at École Polytechnique. However, during the following decade he experienced two unsuccessful candidacies for professorship; he began to see ties severed between himself and the academic establishment after releasing a preface to CPP. In 1843 he published Elementary Treatise on Analytic Geometry, then in 1844 Discourse on the Positive Spirit, as a preface to Philosophical Treatise on Popular Astronomy (also 1844). By this time he was at odds with the academic establishment – essentially Comte had dropped-out of university. The reason for this does not seem to have been due to a lack of curiosity, neither to a lack of capacity, nor imagination, nor vision, nor even a simple lack of effort. Indeed, the situation resonates strongly with Einstein’s early academic situation, with Dirac’s late academic situation, and with Binet’s life-long academic situation. Galam’s experiences during the early 1980’s reverberate the same, unfortunate, if not pathological phenomenon of academic institution – interesting and curious, broad-reaching minds are generally met with hostile opposition from a fearful and mediocre orthodoxy.

Comte’s second great work – often referred to in the literature as Comte’s second career, was written between 1851 and 1854. It was regarded by Comte himself as his seminal work, and was titled First System of Positive Polity (FSPP). Its goal was a politico-economic reorganization of society, in accordance with scientific methods (techniques for investigating phenomena based upon gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence, subject to inductive and deductive logical reasoning and argument), with the purpose of increasing the wellbeing of humankind – i.e. adaptation of political life based upon political episteme with the purpose of increasing the common good. This is precisely the Aristotelean argument (see The Common Good: Part I, under the heading Politikos). Though the sciences (epistemes) collectively played a central role in FSPP, positivism is not just science. Rather, with FSPP Comte placed the whole of positive philosophy under the ‘continuous dominance of the heart’, with the motto ‘Love as principle, order as basis, progress as end’. Bourdeau (2014) ensures us that this emphasis “was in fact well motivated and […] characteristic of the very dynamics of Comte’s thought”, though it seems as anathema to the current worldview as it did for Comte’s contemporaries, who “judged severely” – admirers of CPP turned against Comte, and publicly accused him of insanity.

Much like Nikola Tesla, Comte is reported to have composed, argued, and archived for periods of decades, periodically ‘observing the function of’ his systematic works, all in his mind. His death, in 1857, came too early for him to draft works that he had announced 35 years prior:
Treatise of Universal Education – intended for publishing in 1858;
System of Positive Industry, or Treatise on the Total Action of Humanity on the Planet – planned for 1861;
Treatise of First Philosophy – planned for 1867.

Polyhistornauts predicted
“Early academics did not create regular divisions of intellectual labour. Rather, each student cultivated an holistic understanding of the sciences. As knowledge accrued however, science bifurcated, and students devoted themselves to a single branch of the tree of human knowledge. As a result of these divisions of labor – the focused concentration of whole minds upon a single department – science has made prodigious advances in modernity, and the perfection of this division is one of the most important characteristics of Positive philosophy. However, while admitting the merits of specialization, we cannot be blind to the eminent disadvantages which emerge from the limitation of minds to particular study”.(7)

In surprising harmony with my own thoughts and words, Comte opined “it is inevitable that each [specialist] should be possessed with exclusive notions, and be therefore incapable of the general superiority of ancient students, who actually owed that general superiority to the inferiority of their knowledge. We must consider whether the evil [of specialization] can be avoided without losing the good of the modern arrangement; for the evil is becoming urgent. […] The divisions which we establish between the sciences are, though not arbitrary, essentially artificial. The subject of our researches is one: we divide it for our convenience, in order to deal the more easily with its difficulties. But it sometimes happens – and especially with the most important doctrines of each science – that we need what we cannot obtain under the present isolation of the sciences, – a combination of several special points of view; and for want of this, very important problems wait for their solution much longer than they otherwise need to”.(7)

Comte thus proposed “a new class of students, whose business it shall be to take the respective sciences as they are, determine the spirit of each, ascertain their relations and mutual connection, and reduce their respective principles to the smallest number of general principles.”

While reading this passage I was struck by the obvious similarity of its meaning to my own situation. I remain dumbfounded and humbled by the scale of foresight, so lucidly expressed by this great mind. For Comte had not simply suggested multi-disciplinary study, but a viewing though, and faithful acceptance of the general meanings rendered by the various scientific disciplines, together allowing for an intuitive, ‘heartfelt’ condensation of human knowledge.

Five fundamental sciences:
1) Mathematics
2) Astronomy
3) Physics
4) Chemistry
5) Biology

Sociology, then, is the sixth and final science. Each of these may be seen as a node in the network of human knowledge. Sociology, according to Comte, is the body of knowledge which will eventually allow for the networking of all human epistemes into a great unified field of human ideas.

Generalization: uneasy unification
Generalizing the laws of “active forces” (energy) and of statistical mechanics, Comte suggested that the same principle of interaction is true for celestial bodies and for molecules. Specifically, the center of gravity of either a planet or a molecule is focused upon a geometrical point, and though massive bodies may interact with each other dynamically, thus affecting each others relative position and velocity, the center of gravity of each is conserved as a point-state.

“Newton showed that the mutual action of the bodies of any system, whether of attraction, impulsion, or any notion other, – regard being had to the constant equality between action and reaction, – cannot in any way affect the state of the center of gravity; so that if there were no accelerating forces besides, and if the exterior forces of the system were deduced to instantaneous forces, the center of gravity would remain immovable, or would move uniformly in a right line. D’Lambert generalized this property, and exhibited it in such a form that every case in which the motion of the center of gravity has to be considered may be treated as that of a singular molecule. It is seldom that we form an idea of the entire theoretical generality of such great results as those of rational Mechanics. We think of them as relating to inorganic bodies, or as otherwise circumscribed, but we cannot too carefully remember that they apply to all phenomena whatever; and in virtue of this universality alone is the basis of all real science.”
– It should not escape the reader’s attention that in this passage Comte has effectively, albeit figuratively, plotted a graph of dynamically interacting point-states. The interactivity and cooperativity of massive bodies within a solar system or chemical reactants within a flask, both represent physically complex systems of dynamic social interaction – i.e. both are sociophysical systems. Implicit in this epistemological condensation is the fact that sociophysical systems are not necessarily alive, or biotic, or even organic.

After the completion of FSPP and his complete break with orthodox academia, Comte is said to have “overcome modern prejudices”, allowing him to “unhesitatingly rank art above science”.(6) Like Comte, I take the Aristotelian view that the arts are combinations of knowledge and skill; habitus and praxis; theory and method. Thus in a very real and practical sense the sciences are arts, from which it logically follows that Art ranks above Science. A rather more difficult pill to swallow, has been Comte’s Religion of Humanity, which he founded in 1849. Like Bourdeau (2014), I believe “this aspect of Comte’s thought deserves better than the discredit into which it has fallen”. My personal stance is due specifically to a previous uncomfortable encounter with an article on the topic of common goods, which was published by The Journal of Religious Ethics under the auspices of the United Nations(8). I had hesitated to include the paper and its contents in my previous work, due simply to fear – a fear reprimand by my peers, and a personal fear of straying from the “scientifically correct and peer reviewed path of learning”. As will become obvious, I have since realized that exclusion of study materials on the basis of fear alone is unreasonable, and that I should, and shall, attempt a rather more inclusive, better rounded education; critical thinking and good quality arguments remain of utmost importance.

“Reforms of society must be made in a determined order: one has to change ideas, then morals, and only then institutions.”
– Comte (cca. 1840)

The Religion of Humanity was defined with neither God(s) nor supernatural forces – as a “state of complete harmony peculiar to human life […] when all the parts of Life are ordered in their natural relations to each other […] a consensus, analogous to what health is for the body”. Personally, I understand this concept as the Tao, and more recently as deep ecology; inclusive of humanity but not exclusive to it. For Comte however, worship, doctrine and moral fortitude were oriented solely toward humanity, which he believed “must be loved, known, and served”.

Three components associated with the positivist religion:
i) Worship – acts; praxis; methods.
ii) Doctrine – knowledge; habitus; theories.
iii) Discipline (moral fortitude) – self-imposed boundaries, simultaneously conforming to, affirming, and defining the system of belief.

Two existential functions of the positivist religion:
i) Moral function – via which religion governs an individual.
ii) Political function – via which religion unites a population.

Ghetto magnetism
In this section we begin to explore the modern science of macro-scale physical phenomena, which result from micro-scale social interactions. The reader may find it useful to refer to the appended glossary of terms [NOTE D].

During the birthing period of quantum mechanical theory, “the concept of a microscopic magnetic model consisting of elementary [atomic] magnetic moments, which are only able to take two positions “up” and “down” was created by Wilhelm Lenz”.(9) Lenz proposed that spontaneous magnetization in a ferromagnetic solid may be explained by interactions between the potential energies of neighboring atoms. Between 1922 and 1924, Ernst Ising, a student of Lenz, studied the Lenz model of ferromagnetism, as a one-dimensional chain of magnetic moments; each atom’s field interacting with its closest neighbors. Ising’s name seems to have become attached to the Lenz model by accident, in a 1936 publication, titled On Ising’s Model of Ferromagnetism.

Ernst Ising

Three energetic components of the Ising model:
i) Interaction between neighboring magnetic moments (atomic spins).
ii) Entropic forcing (temperature).
iii) Action of an externally applied magnetic field, affecting all individual spins.

Social interaction between neighboring atoms induces parallel alignment of their magnetic momenta, resulting in a more favorable energetic situation (lower entropy) when neighbors are self-similar; both +1, or both −1. Conversely, a less favorable situation results from opposing momenta (+1 next to −1).(10)

Example of a the Ising model on a two dimensional (10 x 10) lattice. Each arrow represents a spin, which represents a magnetic moment that points either up (-1, black) or down (+1, red). The model is initially configured as a ‘random’ distribution of spin vectors.

The same initial ‘random’ distribution of magnetic moments, showing ‘unfavorable’ alignments (circled in green).

Clusters of spins begin to form (positive clusters circled in green, negative clusters circled in yellow) as a result of neighbor interaction, temperature, and the action of an externally applied magnetic field. As a result of entropy-reducing vector flipping, new ‘unfavorable’ spin alignments arise (circled in light blue), which will also tend to flip polarity.

In sociology, the term tipping point(11) refers to a rapid and dramatic change in group behavior – i.e. the adoption by the general population of a behavior that was rare prior to the change. The term originated in physics, where it refers to the addition of a small weight to a balanced object (a system previously in equilibrium), causing the object to topple or break, thus affecting a large scale change in the object’s stable state (a change of the system’s equilibrium); a change of stable state is also known as a phase transition.

The relation between cause and effect is usually abrupt in complex systems. A small change in the neighborhood of a subsystem can trigger a large-scale, or even global reaction. “The [network] topology itself may reorganize when it is not compatible with the state of the nodes”
– Juan Carlos González Avella (2010)

In relation to social phenomena, Morton Grodzins is credited with having first used the term tipping point during his 1957 study of racial integration in American neighborhoods.(11) Grodzins learned that the immigration of “black” households into a previously “white” neighborhood was generally tolerated by inhabitants as long as the ratio of black to white households remained low. If the ratio continued to rise, a critical point was reached, resulting in the en masse emigration of the remaining white households, due to their perception that “one too many” black households populated the neighborhood. Grodzins dubbed this critical point the tipping point; sociologist Mark Granovetter labeled the same phenomenon the threshold model of collective behavior.

Between 1969 and 1972, economist Thomas Schelling published articles on the topic of racial dynamics, specifically segregation. Expanding upon the work of Grodzins, Schelling suggested the emergence of “a general theory of tipping”. It is said that Schelling used coins on a graph paper lattice to demonstrate his theory, placing ‘pennies’ (copper-alloy one cent pieces, representing African-American households) and ‘dimes’ (nickel-alloy ten cent pieces – representing Caucasian households) in a random distribution, while leaving some free places on the lattice. He then moved the pieces one by one, based upon whether or not an individual ‘household’ was in a “happy situation” – i.e. a Moore neighborhood, in which the nearest eight neighbors are self-similar.(12) At random, one self-dissimilar ‘household’ was moved to a Moore neighborhood, over time rendering a complete segregation of households, even with low valuation of individual neighbor preferences. In 1978 Schelling published a book titled Micromotives and Macrobehavior, in which he helped to explain variation in normative differences, tending over time to display a self-sustaining momentum of segregation. In 2005, aged 84, Schelling was awarded a share in the 2005 Nobel prize in economics, for analyses of game theory, leading to increased understandings of conflict and cooperation.(13)

Thomas Schelling

“People get separated along many lines and in many ways. There is segregation by sex, age, income, language, religion, color, taste, accidents of historical location. Some segregation results from the practices of organizations; some is deliberately organized; and some results from the interplay of individual choices that discriminate. Some of it results from specialized communication systems, like different languages. And some segregation is a corollary of other modes of segregation: residence is correlated with job location and transport”.(14)
– Schelling (1971)

Under the heading Linear Distribution, in Schelling’s 1971 publication on the subject of social segregation, we find a direct analog to the original one-dimensional Lenz-Ising model. Schelling seems to have either appropriated the concept, citing neither Lenz nor Ising, or to have designed the model independently. His involvement in American foreign policy, national security, nuclear strategy, and arms control(13) certainly would have granted Schelling access to knowledge of theoretical works, including the so called Monte Carlo methods, undertaken at Los Alamos during and after the second world war.(15) However, for the purpose of our current exploration it is irrelevant how exactly Schelling arrived at his understanding, and indeed, as I have mentioned previously, sociophysics has emerged in a variety of apparitions, to studious individuals with widely differing perspectives.

“The line of stars and zeros […] corresponds to the odd and even digits in a column of random numbers. […] We interpret these stars and zeros to be people spread out in a line, each concerned about whether his neighbors are stars or zeros. […] Suppose, now, that everybody wants at least half his neighbors to be like himself, and that everyone defines ‘his neighborhood’ to include the four nearest neighbors on either side of him. […] I have put a dot over each individual whose neighborhood does not meet his demands. […] A dissatisfied member moves to the nearest point at which half his neighbors will be like himself at the time he arrives there. […] Two things happen as they move. Some who were content will become discontent, because like members move out of their neighborhoods or opposite members move in. And some who were discontent become content, as opposite neighbors move away or like neighbors move close. The rule will be that any originally discontented member who is content when his turn comes will not move after all, and anyone who becomes discontent in the process will have his turn after the 26 original discontents have had their innings.”
– Schelling (1971)

Under the heading Area Distribution, Schelling (1971) introduces a two dimensional (13 x 16) lattice, commenting that “patterning – departure from randomness – will prove to be characteristic of integration, as well as of segregation, if the integration results from choice and not chance.” Clearly, Shelling’s model of social segregation bares great similarity to Ising’s ferromagnetic model.

Stauffer (2012) reminds us that the formation of urban ghettos is a well known phenomenon, and suggests that New York’s Harlem is the most famous black district,(3) with a history stretching well over a hundred years. From 1658, Harlem was a Dutch settlement (or ghetto) named after the capitol of north Holland. African-Americans began to immigrate during the ‘great migration’, from about 1905, when former slaves from rural southern United States migrated to mid-western, north-eastern and western regions of the US. Harlem identified as a ‘black’ district in a Manhattan borough, during the early 1920s.

Indirectly, Stauffer poses an interesting question: Why is it that we spontaneously self-organize into groups of self-similar individuals? – or in the specific case of “ghetto formation” – Why is it that we like to live in communities of like-minded, ethnically and culturally similar individuals? The simplest and clearest answer to this question is surely that we are social animals, and that it is easier to socialize with self-similar individuals, than with strangers. However, stemming from this is the truly fascinating question: If it is true that we like to live in communities of self-similar individuals, then why do we not like to live in communities of self-similar individuals when forced to do so? As an example of the latter, Stauffer reminds us of the uprising, in 1943, of the Warsaw Ghetto, which did not self-assemble but was formed under command of Nazi Germany. Again, the simplest and clearest answer must be that we are social animals, though I cannot think of good reason in support of this example, other than revolutionary pressure due to innate principles of self-regulation and self-organization. Regardless, it would be nice to assume that precisely this kind of ambiguity, apparently intrinsic to sociology, has been at root of the epistemological rift between physics and sociology, as the result of a long-standing ideological tradition in physics of determinism. In reality, a deeper and rather more vexing explanation haunts us; it has become obvious that the ambiguity of social interaction is not restricted to messy life systems, but governs inorganic physical phenomena also.

Statistical physics, borne of quantum theory, has put a definitive end to physical determinism. The renormalization technique, ushered in during the mid-1970’s, seems to have been an attempt to conserve physical determinism, at least tentatively. However, renormalization is a theoretical hack – an attempt to abstractly force fundamentally complex, infinite, random, and thus fundamentally indeterminate phenomena to appear as if they were simple, precisely calculable, determinable facts. Physically, experimentally, reality is not clear. In fact, reality is fundamentally uncertain, and so remains non-understood; mysterious. Stauffer confirms the validity of Comte’s thoughts, suggesting that “cooperation of physicists with sociologists could have pushed research progress by many years”.

State of the Art
“The concept of Complex Systems has evolved from Chaos, Statistical Physics and other disciplines, and it has become a new paradigm for the search of mechanisms and an unified interpretation of the processes of emergence of structures, organization and functionality in a variety of natural and artificial phenomena in different contexts. The study of Complex Systems has become a problem of enormous common interest for scientists and professionals from various fields, including the Social Sciences, leading to an intense process of interdisciplinary and unusual collaborations that extend and overlap the frontiers of traditional Science. The use of concepts and techniques emerging from the study of Complex Systems and Statistical Physics has proven capable of contributing to the understanding of problems beyond the traditional boundaries of Physics.”
– Juan Carlos González Avella (2010)

In an interdisciplinary review of the literature defining adaptive co-evolutionary networks (AcENs), Gross & Blasius (2007) have listed five dynamical phenomena common to AcENs:
i) emergence of classes of nodes from an initially heterogeneous population
ii) spontaneous division of labor – in my opinion the same as (i)
iii) robust self-organization
iv) formation of complex topologies
v) complex system-level dynamics (complex mutual dynamics in state and topology)

We are to understand that the mechanisms giving rise to these emergent phenomena themselves emerge from the dynamical interplay between state and topology. Divisions of labor, for example, spontaneously emerge (self-organize) as a result of information feedback within an AcEN(16) This fact bolsters an argument that I have made previously, for a strong similarity between the epiphenomena of bacteria, gregarious insects and humans, in their respective cultures. Also supported by studies of AcENs, is my hitherto intuitive understanding that a diverse set of actors is fundamental to the production of common goods. In fact, it is now clear that cultural diversity is so fundamental to the dynamics of social phenomena, that divisions of labor necessarily and spontaneously emerge from an initially homogeneous population, due to random variations of nodal state (entropic forcing), degree and homophily.

Gross & Blasius (2007) have reported that self-organization is observed in Boolean and in biological networks, occurring within a narrow region of transition between an area of chaotic dynamics and a area of stationary dynamics. Metaphorically, one might say that between the vast and chaotic field of the unknown and the relatively large steady state of knowledge, lies a narrow field – a phase space of self-organizing possibility – i.e. intuition. Not at all surprisingly, life systems, like all complex adaptive systems, necessarily occupy this theoretically defined phase space. Further, Gross & Blasius talk of the “ubiquity of adaptive networks across disciplines”, specifying technical distribution networks such as power grids, postal networks and the internet; biological distribution networks such as the vascular systems of animals, plants and fungi; neural or genetic information networks; immune system networks; social networks such as opinion propagation/formation, the social media and market-based socio-economics; ecological networks (food webs), and of course biological evolution offers an historical depth of literature on the subject of AcENs. The authors mention that examples are also reported from chemistry and physics, but do not provide examples. Based upon our current exploration it seems fair to suggest at least the following: astronomical gravitational networks, molecular chemical reactant networks, geological networks (the interactive cycling of carbon, water, nitrogen, minerals, etc…), and of course quantum mechanical networks.

For me personally, the most difficult to fathom of these examples has been the astronomical gravitational network. However, I am now able to imagine the gravitational interaction of massive bodies at their various scales – planets, moons and comets within a solar system; solar systems within a galaxy; galaxies within local groups; local groups within clusters, etc – as nodes, with gravitation comprising the set of edges (connections) between massive bodies.

Network geometry is obvious in models of Universal mass distribution.

Tabulated nomenclature of static and dynamic elements, for a selection of epistemes.

Metaphysics actor action
Graph theory node edge
Complex systems theory vertex link
Quantum theory particle wave
Electro dynamics theory field vector
Economic theory agent behavior
Astrophysics massive body gravitation
Chemistry reactant reaction
Molecular biology – central doctrine DNA transcription
Molecular biology – central doctrine mRNA translation
Biology organism survival
Evolutionary theory species adaptation

According to J. Avella (2010), the modeling of network dynamics has revealed a complex relationship between actor heterogeneity and the emergence of diverse cultural groups.(19) Network structure and cultural traits co-evolve, rendering qualitatively distinct network regions or phases. Put in more familiar terms: patterns of social interaction and processes of social influence change or differ in tandem, also network patterns and processes feedback upon each other. Thus social interactions exist as a dynamic flux in which distinct channels of interactivity form, sever, and re-form. From the collective interaction of agents, emerge temporary, sequential, non-equilibria – known as network states. The formation of network states is controlled by early-forming actors, whereas the later formation and continued rapid reformation of cultural domains, comprises the geometry – or ‘architecture’ – of a mature network; a network who’s dynamics have reached a dynamic steady state.

Furthermore, the ordered state of a finite system under the action of small perturbations is not a fixed, homogeneous configuration, but rather a dynamic and diversified, chaotic steady state. During the long term, such a system sequentially “visits” a series of monocultural configurations; one might imagine a systemic analogue to serial monogamy. Slow forming monocultures emerge under stable environmental conditions (low entropic forcing). Under less stable environmental conditions (high entropic forcing), monocultural domains undergo fragmentation and are replaced by a variety of rapidly forming and re-forming cultural domains, thus rendering a dynamic steady state. The relation between cause and effect is usually abrupt in complex systems. Indeed, “the [network] topology itself may reorganize when it is not compatible with the state of the nodes.”

Avella tells of a study by Y. Shibanai et al, published in 2001, analysing the effects of global mass media upon social networks. Shibanai et al assumed global mass media messages as an external field of influence – analogous to the external magnetic field in the Ising model – with which network actors (individual, and/or groups of nodes in a network) interact. The external field was interpreted “as a kind of global information feedback acting on the system”. Two mechanisms of interactive affect upon society by global media were identified:
i) The influential power of the global media message field is equal to that of real (local) neighbors.
ii) Neighbourly influence is filtered by feedback of global information, but effected only if and/or when an individual network node is aligned with a global media message.
Shibanai et al concluded that “global information feedback facilitates the maintenance of cultural diversity” – i.e. The propagation of messages promoting a state of global order and cultural unity, simultaneously enables and maintains a dynamic steady state of global disorder and multiculturalism.

Generally, considerations of equilibrium assume that the application of a field enhances order in a system. However, this is not always the case. To the contrary, Avella (2010) tells us that “an ordered state different from the one imposed by the external field is possible, when long-range interactions are considered” and fascinatingly, that “a spatially nonuniform field of interaction may actually produce less disorder in the [social] system than a uniform field.”

“While trends toward globalization provide more means of contact between more people, these same venues for interaction also demonstrate the strong tendency of people to self-organize into culturally defined groups, which can ultimately help to preserve overall diversity.”
– J. Avella (2010)

Respectfully, I urge the reader to allow themselves a few moments of meditation upon this rather subversive finding.

A dynamic steady state exists in a network until a process of social influence such as an external environmental perturbation or an internal social perturbation, exceeds some threshold (tipping point), as a result of which the current network steady state is eroded and reformation of ongoing network dynamics occurs, rendering a new dynamic steady state. Put another way: above some threshold, a given perturbation causes an abrupt change in social interactions, leading to a new (though ultimately temporary) dynamic steady state. Co-evolution implies that the processes of social influence change as the result of multilateral feedback mechanisms between social interactions, environmental forcing, and/or the eccentric actions of some individual or group.

Three distinct phases of complex (adaptive, co-evolutionary) networks:
Phase I) A large component of the network remains connected and co-evolutionary dynamics lead to a dominant monocultural state.
Phase II) Fragmentation of the monocultural state begins, as various cultural groups form in the dynamic network. However, these smaller groups remain stable in the presence of ongoing stochastic shocks; peripheral actors are either absorbed into a social group or are forced out. “Social niches are not produced through competition or selection pressure but through the mechanisms of homophily and influence in a co-evolutionary process.[…] Thus, even in the absence of selection pressures, a population can self-organize into stable social niches that define its diverse cultural possibilities.”
Phase III) Fragmentation of cultural domains leads to high levels of heterogeneity. Avella (2010) teaches that the very high levels of heterogeneity observed in network models are “empirically unrealistic in most cases; however, they warn of a danger that comes with increasing options for social and cultural differentiation, particularly when the population is small or there is modest cultural complexity. Unlike cultural drift, which causes cultural groups to disappear through growing cultural consensus, a sudden flood of cultural options can also cause cultural groups to disappear; but instead of being due to too few options limiting diversity, it is due to excessive cultural options creating the emergence of highly idiosyncratic individuals who cannot form group identifications or long-term social ties.”

Confirming what we have learned from Ising and Schelling, Avella tells that “[actors] have a preference for interacting with others who share similar traits and practices”, and this fact “naturally diversifies the population into emergent social clusters.” However, we have also learned that a highly idiosyncratic actor, who is either unrecognized or even disconnected from a local area network, may still play an influential role upon the greater network (society). Thus, highly idiosyncratic individuals, devoid of group identifications and/or long-term social ties, rather than posing a danger, may be potentially highly relevant to social processes, if only in the sense that collective idiosyncrasy exists as a reservoir of unused or even unknown options and opportunities – a pool of potential, perhaps similar to that of genomic mutants; a diverse set of resources from which may emerge novel solutions to challenges and previously un-encountered situations.

Indeed, precisely this scenario appears to have been the case at the emergence of life on Earth (see: LUCA and the progenotes, in Part II: Empirical observations and meta-analyses, of The Common Good), during which the progenote population represented a collective, albeit semi-disconnected, network of highly idiosyncratic individuals with no strong group identification or long-term social ties. Also learned in Empirical observations and meta-analyses, a local area network catastrophe is catastrophic only for a highly adapted (specialized) monoculture, and may be problematic for small ‘satellite’ cultural groups that are to a lesser extent adapted to the current network topology. However, highly idiosyncratic, even disenfranchised actors in the current dynamic, network steady state, may experience homophilic pressure and thus social connectivity in the dynamic steady state which emerges from a phase transition of the network topology.

Avella (2010) has confirmed that cultural heterogeneity (multicultural dynamics, and even outright anarchy) is a deep aspect of reality. Anarchy and chaos appear to be near the source, or indeed to be the source of physical and social order. That is to say a variety of ordered states spontaneously emerge from anarchical, chaotic systems. “Social diversity can be maintained even in highly connected environments” – i.e. Even under intense pressure to conform, diversification and hence diversity, emerge and persist.

Vinkovic & Kirman (2006), remind us that the purpose of the Schelling model is “to study the collective behavior of a large number of particles”,(16) and that the model illustrates the emergence of aggregate phenomena that are not predictable from the behaviors of individual actors. In economics theory individual agents make decisions based upon a “utility function” (personal preference), an idea that can be interpreted in physical terms, as: particle interactions are driven by changes of internal energy. A direct analogy is made between the interactions of life systems (humans, insects, fungi, plants, bacteria, etc…) and physical systems (gases, liquids, solids, colloids, solutions, etc…) by treating particles as agents. “In the Schelling model utility depends on the number of like and unlike neighbors. In the particle analogue the internal energy depends on the local concentration […] of like or unlike particles. This analogue is a typical model description of microphysical interactions in dynamical physical systems […]. Interactions between particles are governed by potential energies, which result in inter-particle forces driving particles’ dynamics.”

It is understood then, that from the collective behaviour of individual agents, emerge clusters of self-similar agents. Fascinatingly, Vinkovic & Kirman report finding that aggregates of empty space play a “role” in the dynamics of agent clustering; stressing the importance of the number of empty spaces in the initial, random, configuration of an experimental lattice. Specifically, “an increase in the volume of empty space results in more irregular cluster shapes and slower evolution because empty space behaves like a boundary layer”. Clearly, in their analytical study, the authors assume that aggregates of empty space express a “behavior”, thus implying that “empty space” has some capacity to act; specifically, stabilizing nearby clusters by preventing them from direct contact with each other. Simply, we are to acknowledge the collective agency of aggregations of agentless locations on the lattice; the collective action of actorless, “free” space.

Plots of an agent based (Schelling) model.
The two dimensional experimental lattice is composed of (100 x 100) = 10000 cells. Each cell is either empty (white) or is occupied by one agent (red or blue). Numbers of empty cells in initial random configurations are shown.
Increased cluster size correlates with decreased value of x. Increased sizes of empty space clusters are shown (circled in green) for both initial configurations.
– graph adapted from Vinkovic & Kirman (2006)

I have managed to find only a tiny scattering of scientific works attributing some significance to empty space. One example is from the statistical analysis of graphical data plots; Forina et al (2003), have introduced an empty space index, the purpose of which is to quantify the fraction of information space on a given graph, that does not hold any “experimental objects”.(17) However, the authors are careful to point out that the empty space index cannot be confused with a clustering index. Another, perhaps more commonly known example stems from astronomy; voids.

Like Serge Galam, Stephen Wolfram is also a self-proclaimed hobbyist exploring sociophysics. In his philosophical treatment of space-time(18) Wolfram (2015) suggests that “maybe in some sense everything in the universe is just made of space.” Wolfram speaks of what I choose to call aether (see: A Spot of Bother and Aether), saying:
“As it happens, nearly 100 years [before Special Relativity, people] still thought that space was filled with a fluid-like ether. (Ironically enough, in modern times we’re back to thinking of space as filled with a background Higgs field, vacuum fluctuations in quantum fields, and so on.)”

It must be stressed that the epistemic condensation of sociology and physics may be ascribed to any of the periodic elements; to the sub-atomic scale as well as the astronomic scale; to mathematical and theoretical, albeit complex, models of reality; and of course to life systems.

We have viewed through empirically observable phenomena, at some aspect of reality that is more fundamental than those which we have observed.

Critically, this cannot be science, as the absolute boundary of the scientific method, and thus science itself, is empiricism (sensual observation and manipulation). Any thing that we think we see and do beyond or through what we actually observe and affect, is not science. We are left with only one logical possibility: that our newfound knowledge of reality is metaphysical. Ultimately we must categorize it as Art.

A) There are at least three separate histories of sociophysics; one stemming from philosophy, one from quantum physics, and one from sociology.
B) In the vocabulary of complex systems modeling and co-evolutionary adaptive networks theory one may rightly define such reorganizational events as a change of topological dynamics.
C) As well as positivism, Comte coined the words sociology and altruism.(6)
D) Glossary of terms relevant to network models:
Node: The node is the principal unit of a network. A network consists of a number of nodes connected by links. Depending on context, nodes are sometimes also called vertices, agents, actors, or attractors.
Link: A link is a connection between two nodes in a network. Depending on context, links are also called edges, connections, actions or interactions.
Degree: The degree of a node is the number of nodes to which it is connected; i.e. degree = links/node. The mean degree of the network is the mean of the individual degrees of all nodes in the network.
Neighbors: Two nodes are said to be neighbors if they are connected by a link.
Dynamics: Depending on context, dynamics refers to a temporal change of either the state or the topology of a network.
Evolution: Depending on context, evolution refers to a temporal change of either the state or the topology of a network.
Frozen node: A node is said to be frozen if its state does not change in the long-term behavior of the network. In certain systems the state of frozen nodes can change nevertheless on an even longer topological time scale.
Topology: Refers to a specific pattern of connections between the nodes in a network.
State: Depending on context, state refers to either the state of a networked node or the state of the network as a whole – including the nodes and the topology.
Small-world: Refers to a network state in which distant, indirectly connected, nodes are linked via a short average path length.
Scale-free: Refers to a network state in which the distribution of node degrees follows a power law.
Homophily: Refers to spontaneous attraction between self-similar nodes; literally self love.

1) S. Galam, “Sociophysics: a personal testimony”, (2004), Laboratoire des Milieux Désordonnés et Hétérogènes, arXiv,
2) S. Galam, Y. Gefen and Y. Shapir, “Sociophysics: A mean behavior model for the process of strike”, (1982), Journal of Mathematical Sociology, 9, p. 1-13.
3) D. Stauffer, “A Biased Review of Sociophysics”, (2012), Institute for Theoretical Physics, Cologne University, arXiv,
5) S. Stigler, “Adolphe Quetelet (1796-1874)”, (1986) Encyclopedia of Statistical Sciences, John Wiley & Sons,
6) M. Bourdeau, “Auguste Comte”, (2014), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
7) H. Martineau, “The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte”, (1896), Batoche Books (2000),
8) J. O’Connor, “MAKING A CASE FOR THE COMMON GOOD IN A GLOBAL ECONOMY: The United Nations Human Development Reports [1990-2001]”, (2002), The Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 30, No. 1, p. 155-173,
9) S. Kobe, “Ernst Ising 1900-1998”, (2000), Technische Universität Dresden, Institut für Theoretische Physik,
10) J. Selinger, “Ising Model for Ferromagnetism”, Chapter 2 of Introduction to the Theory of Soft Matter: From Ideal Gasses to Liquid Crystals, (2016),
11) “Tipping point”,
12) D. Vinkovic and A. Kirman, “A physical analogue of the Schelling model”, (2006), Proceedings of the National Academy of Science,
13) “Thomas Schelling”,
14) T. Schelling, “DYNAMIC MODELS OF SEGREGATION”, (1971), Journal of Mathematical Sociology, Vol. 1, p. 143-186,
15) “Monte Carlo method”,
16) T. Gross & B. Blasius, “Adaptive coevolutionary networks: a review”, (2007), Journal of The Royal Society,
17) M. Forina, S. Lanteri, C. Casolino, “Cluster analysis: Significance, empty space, clustering tendency, non-uniformity. II – Empty space index”, (2003),
18) S. Wolfram, “What Is Spacetime, Really?”, (2015),
19) J. Avella, “Coevolution and local versus global interactions in collective dynamics of opinion formation, cultural dissemination and social learning”, (2010), Institute of Interdisciplinary Physics and Complex Systems,

The Church of Reason

Too Much Credit?
In modern developed cultures, the words “beyond human knowledge” conjure all manner of nasty connotations and categorizations, such as “aberrant”, “pointless”, “why bother”, “just do the math and you’ll get the right answer”, “not normal”, “unscientific”, etc…

Perhaps we give science a little too much credit? Please do not misunderstand, I am not suggesting that science is not a valuable tool, only that people (including scientists) have a tendency to believe, and thus also tend to hold science in good faith. Big Bang theory is a fine example of this phenomenon. Nobody can honestly say that they understand it, but mostly it fits reasonably well the knowledge we have acquired via observation and measurement, about the physical universe. In some cases it fits extremely well. Where it did not fit well, we tailored it so that it does fit, quite well. So now, we modern rational folk can look-on admiringly at our intelligent accomplishment. It’s not perfect, but it is really very good! It must be good, after all it is high science.

Our knowledge of physical reality, of psychology, of mind, even of life, contains huge gaps and has very fuzzy boundaries. Indeed, what we think we know about these subjects is riddled with inconsistencies of logic, ambiguities, assumptions, outright errors (known and unknown), and vast regions of philosophical difficulty. Ironically, the fact that we can identify very fuzzy boundaries may be a sign that we are close to seeing the TRUTH. Or it may not be, there’s simply no way to tell.

A clear and fundamental example of what we think we know is the boundary separating objective facts from subjective experiences. Another example, though much better hidden under the auspices of science, is the standardized value of an electron which is defined theoretically by renormalization(1). Briefly, as I understand it, renormalization involves truncating the infinite but real electromagnetic cloud of high energies associated with an electron at extremely short distances, so that in calculations a finite albeit arbitrary value may be used. This renormalized value comprises a consolidation of measured mass and charge values for the electron. In effect, cleverly hiding from view an infinite nuisance.
The Feynman diagram on the left shows an electron-photon interaction. On the right, the same interaction comprises more complicated interactions, including an infinite loop.
– image by Matt McIrvin

Very few people bother to question the validity of renormalization in physics, or of Big Bang theory(2), though the former was meant only as a temporary solution to keep infinite values from popping up to make a mess of the mathematics, and the latter as a joke(3).
Fred Hoyle coined the term big bang during a BBC radio interview in 1949, he meant it sarcastically. “[to assume that the universe had a beginning is pseudoscientific, resembling arguments for a creator] it’s an irrational process, and can’t be described in scientific terms”(4).

A quarter of a century later, in 1975, Paul Dirac whom you may remember from an earlier episode, criticized renormalization, saying “Most physicists are very satisfied with the situation. They say: ‘Quantum electrodynamics is a good theory and we do not have to worry about it any more.’ I must say that I am very dissatisfied with the situation, because this so-called ‘good theory’ does involve neglecting infinities which appear in its equations, neglecting them in an arbitrary way. This is just not sensible mathematics. Sensible mathematics involves neglecting a quantity when it is small – not neglecting it just because it is infinitely great and you do not want it!”.(5)
– Oh! I just really like this guy! Too bad he is dead.

Thinking critically about the intractable conditions at the boundary of human knowledge has historically been politically problematic, sometimes just unacceptable, but on occasion deadly. By the 1970’s good science had become almost entirely lost to the politics of research funding, the marketing of science(6) and various problems of the peer review process(7).

Both Big Bang theory and renormalization are examples of the many unquestioned, or forgotten, assumptions upon which scientific knowledge of physical reality is based. Consequently, our knowledge does not conform with physical reality, but with a model of reality. Currently that is the Standard Model of particle physics(8).

What is Science?
If you are a physicist, or a scientist in any other field, you may buck and snort in contempt at what I am about to say; I urge you to think critically.
Big bang theory is not a scientific theory, nor is it a scientific hypothesis. There is a very simple reason for this: scientific theories and the hypotheses which build them must be empirically testable. The same is true for string theory(9) in all it’s various flavors, none are empirically testable. These examples represent extrapolations of scientific knowledge, but are in no way themselves scientific. The indoctrinated may attempt a defense by saying something like modern science studies many phenomena that are not obvious or visible. Flatly, this is incorrect. If the subject of study is not obviously measurable (with a reasonable margin of error), then it can not be studied scientifically. Clearly then, big bang and string “theories” are pseudoscientific.

We may correctly categorize them as philosophy and as creation myths. They are plausible stories told by the priests of the high order of the Church of Reason(10), “creation myths speak to deeply meaningful questions held by the society that shares them, revealing of their central worldview and the framework for the self-identity of the culture and individual in a universal context”(11). The authority of the high priests of the Church of Reason is respected and their stories are believed, generally. But critically, no one, not even the high priests themselves, holds any physically verifiable knowledge about the stories.
The products of the Church of Reason (good or bad) are theories; tentative explanations which may never be interpreted as truths. Presumably, truth exists only in the domain of God, whatever that is(12). Down here we are left to guess, measure and argue.

Value judgments ranging from negativism pessimism and skepticism, to devotion optimism and positivism, are forms of bias. Bias does not play a roll in the execution of scientific methodology, though people do tend to drag it along. It is precisely bias that leads to the negative connotations and categorizations (skepticism) of criticisms directed at the stories produced by the Church of Reason, and God forbid criticism of the Church itself!

Two good reasons why criticism may appear to be skepticism
1) Objectively, the environment (world) is generally antagonistic, if not outright hostile to the set of intricate networks of complex highly specific electro-chemical interactions which we call life. The ultimate antagonist being entropy. In order to reduce environmental entropy, and so allow for a local environment that is more conducive to directed self-organization, life invariably exists in association with one or more physical boundaries, which are each composed of a variety of selective semi-permiable materials. In the parlance of Star Trek, and also in fact, life may be defined as: a low-entropy improbability bubble in space-time.
– life is fundamentally a doubtful prospect.

2) Subjectively, more people are less critical about more. It would seem that we generally use our brains less now than we did pre WWII, and specifically since about the mid-1950’s when lifestyle and consumerism became central themes in our popular culture. We now consume agents of instant gratification rather than think about what it means to do so, and what consequences may emerge as a result. As a contemporary meme, analysis is nearly as ugly as criticism, the former having a scientific flavor, while the latter seems more connected to the arts. Unfortunately, both analysis and criticism are commonly mistaken for skepticism, or pessimism, or even hostility.
– has doubtfulness become impolite? – politically incorrect?

An Aside
When we hear about development and progress, precisely what is it that is supposed to be developing and progressing? More importantly, what meanings do we hang onto the words development and progress? Equally importantly, what is wrong with the state of affairs as they are now, that urges us to strive for development and progress?

A very interesting and telling example is the progress and development of medicines for incurable diseases. Recently I was granted the privilege of hearing presentations given at a joint congress of medical and microbiological associations.

Several talks were given regarding novel treatments for various cancers. One of these was particularly interesting and quite elegant. Briefly, the self-destruct mechanism in cancer cells has failed, so an artificial molecule is engineered to specifically target and tag the cancer cells, which are then visible to, and attacked by, killer cells of the host’s immune system. Apparently there were good experimental results with mice.

One single talk was given regarding antibiotics, and it described a development in informatics. Upon enquiry, I learned that the markets for novel antibiotics are not large enough for large institutions and corporations to risk the necessary cost of investment. Some say that we are in transition to a “post-antibiotic era”(13).

The distribution of resources and funds for research in these two fields is vastly disproportionate to common sense. Why does our system of development and progress find great new ways to treat cancer in mice, while ignoring our near-future antibiotic crisis?