The Intuitive-Connections Network

Current Update as of June 11, 2006 

Inspired by The Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies

Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.

Menu Learn how to Use Intuitive Guidance! Get Connected with Intuition

The Integral Vision of Reality

An excerpt from:

The Integral Vision of Reality


The Integral Vision of Reality

(Inner Traditions)

     After our explorations of the big questions of universe, life, and consciousness, and the existential questions of morality, reincarnation, and immortality, it is time to get down to the most fundamental question of all. What is the real nature of the world we live in? If we do not create our reality but just experience it, there should be “something there” even when we do not experience it.

This something is the reality of the world. It is not an entirely independent reality, for the very fact of our experiencing it enters into it. Our experience of the world interacts with the world, but it does not create it. We can disagree with the radical interpretations of quantum physics and agree with the realism of Einstein: the fact that I see a mouse when I look at it does not mean that there is no mouse when I do not look at it.

     But just what is the reality that underlies our experience of the world? The reality of a reenchanted cosmos must be a different reality from the reality of a materialistic and mechanistic universe. There, reality is basically matter moving about in space and time. What is reality in avant-garde science’s current concept of the world?

     The first thing we should note is that our experience of the world does not give us reality in its total and pristine purity. Reality may be like a precious diamond: it may have many facets. In human experience we get only one facet—the humanly experience-able facet.

It may be that there is an absolute, transcendent reality that is deeper or higher than this facet. But whether there is such a reality or not, it is beyond the reach of science, for in the final count science must be based on experience. If so, we should rephrase our query to: What is the scientifically knowable facet of reality?

     Even if science cannot grasp a transcendent ultimate reality, there is more to the humanly accessible facet than what we can see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. Scientists, like everyone else, inspect the world with their eyes and ears but, unlike other people, they also inspect it through instruments that extend the power of their senses.

They measure and record what they experience and compute the results—but they do not reduce everything to it, because what scientists experience at any one time is not always and necessarily consistent with what they have experienced at other times. Sometimes, as in reading the results of new experiments, it may even be contradictory. Then scientists are puzzled, but they do not give up.

They create theories that account for the surprising features of experience by going beyond the directly experience-able domain, postulating such seemingly esoteric entities as quarks and black holes, and such abstruse forces as probability waves and quantum gravity.

The non-experienced and non-experience-able domains of the world are held to be just as real as those that are experienced, for they render the sphere of experience consistent and coherent.

     Belief in the consistency and coherence of the world is a fundamental pillar of science. Scientists can accept that nature has indeterminate and even chaotic aspects, but cannot accept that it is entirely incoherent and haphazard.

     Combining the immediately sensed domains of reality with the domains one assumes lie beyond is a tried and tested way of proceeding, for the world of direct experience is not a humanly meaningful world. Animals live in such a world, but humans have gone beyond it from the very beginning of history.

In times past we populated the sky above and the earth below with gods and devils, angels and demons, and in modern times we are populating it with microparticles and supergalactic clusters, with multi-dimensional space-time and a plethora of fields and forces that cannot be visualized.

     Science’s “leap beyond” the directly experience-able domain of reality is carefully reasoned and thoroughly tested. Even then, science’s concept of reality is not necessarily the final and ultimate truth, for every scientific theory must remain open to correction and even substitution.

In fact, scientific theories are constantly tested for coherence and consistency both with experience, and with previous knowledge about experience. For this reason, even if the reality disclosed at the leading edge of contemporary science is not the last word, it is likely to be a good approximation. It merits being known—and debated and pondered, for science’s new vision of reality is an integral vision, pregnant with meaning for our life and times.

The Concept of Physical Reality

     We begin with science’s concept of physical reality. Like all theories of science, this concept is open to revision. Yet the current concept may not actually be in need of revision—at least in regard to what it is not. We can affirm with a high degree of confidence that physical reality is not confined to matter in space and time.

Ours is not a materialistic universe where matter moves about in neutral space, governed by simple rules of cause and effect as in a machine. Instead, our best insight is that this is an evolving, instantly and enduringly interconnected fundamentally integral universe, embedded in a dynamic and physically real cosmic medium.

The fundamental element of this integral universe is “physical space-time,” more exactly, the physical vacuum that extends throughout space and time.

     The realization that the vacuum that subtends all things in the universe is the fundamental medium of physical reality may be the “bright new idea” that physicists believe is required to get them out of their current impasse—the impasse of trying to evolve so-called “string theory” into the master theory known as the Theory of Everything.

The “ToE” is expected to give a single, unified explanation—at best a simple and basic equation, similar in scope to Einstein’s E=mc2—of all the laws and constants of physical nature, including the way space and time are generated.

     In string theory (which is the theory physicists look to for creating a ToE), vibrating strings replace the concept of particles. Strings vibrate at different frequencies, and each frequency defines a corresponding kind of particle: one “note” on the string makes for an electron, another for a neutron, still others make for bosons and gravitons, the particles that carry the forces of nature.

     The impasse physicists face now is a kind of embarrassment of riches: there are far too many solutions to the equations of string theory—perhaps of the order of 10500! Worse than that, each solution describes a different universe: a universe with different laws and properties.

In some light could only travel short distances, in others there would be many more quarks than the six our universe seems to have, in yet others space would have nine dimensions, and in still others the whole universe would be reduced to microscopic dimensions.

One way out of this quandary is to assume that all possible universes co-exist, although we apprehend only one among them. Another way is to assume that our own universe has all these almost infinite number of faces, even if we experience just one.

     But string theory faces a problem that is still more vexing: it requires space and time to contain the strings, but it cannot show how the strings would generate space and time. Space and time must preexist independently, and if string theory does not account for space-time, it is not a true ToE.

It turns out that another revolutionary theory can do better in this regard: the theory of “loop quantum gravity.” Here space and time are woven from a network of nodes and links that connect all points, even distant ones.

These links explain how space-time is generated, and also account for “action-at-a-distance,” that is, for the entanglement that underlies nonlocality.Despite the great expectations attached to it, string theory is not the final word: it requires further theories or assumptions if it is to make sense of physical reality.

     The new fundamental idea that more and more physicists now believe is needed to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the nature of physical reality is before our eyes, and it is not actually new. It is to consider space as the fundamental medium of the cosmos.

The great pioneers of modern physics have already entertained this notion. In the nineteenth century William Clifford, the creator of the modern Clifford algebras, affirmed that small portions of space are analogous to little hills on a surface which is, on average, flat; the ordinary laws of geometry do not hold for them.

The property of space to be curved or distorted is continually being passed on from one portion of space to another after the manner of a wave. This variation in the curvature of space is what really happens when matter moves. Thus in the physical world nothing else takes place but this wavelike variation.

     Half a century later, in a paper entitled “The Concept of Space,” Einstein wrote, “We have now come to the conclusion that space is the primary thing and matter only secondary; we may say that space, in revenge for its former inferior position, is now eating up matter.”

A few years following the publication of Einstein’s thought, Schrödinger restated the basic insight. “What we observe as material bodies and forces,” he noted, “are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of space.”

     Can the structure of space have “shapes and variations”? It can, for we now know that space is neither empty nor flat. In the second half of the twentieth century empirical evidence became available, which shows that space is a superdense field of turbulent virtual energies (or, in a more technical formulation, that it is a field of action-quanta that generates energy).

It is filled with, and for all intents and purposes is, the “quantum vacuum.” Thus today we can say, as Clifford, Einstein, and Schrödinger would no doubt say if they were alive, that “material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of the quantum vacuum.”

     We can further agree with Clifford that the “shapes and variations in the vacuum” are waves. There are propagating waves in the vacuum, such as the photons that carry light and the bosons that carry force; and there are standing waves that make up the vast variety of the seemingly solid entities we call matter.

Space itself—more exactly, the vacuum that fills space—is not merely a backdrop or container for the motion of matter, but the very “stuff” or substance from which the matter that populates space and time emerged, and through which it continually interacts.

     New evidence is forthcoming that the vacuum is a complex, extremely dense, and strongly interacting field. In experiments already noted in chapter 2, physicists at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory discovered the “gluon-field” that binds quarks and endows them with additional mass.

They accelerated beams of gold nuclei around a two-and-a-half-mile track and achieved temperatures of 100 billion electronvolts—300 million times higher than the surface of the Sun. (This is believed to have been the temperature of the universe in the first ten milliseconds after the Big Bang.) The scientists found that the gluon-field is extremely dense—thirty to fifty times denser than predicted.

The quarks in this field exhibit highly synchronized group behavior and interact strongly with each other and the surrounding gluons. This must have made the early vacuum more like a liquid than a gas. It appears that at the birth of our universe the vacuum was ten to twenty times more liquid than water is today.

     It is significant that the vacuum proves to be a dense field with the properties of a liquid even at temperatures 300 million times higher than the surface of the Sun.

This suggests that, at the extremely cold background temperature that now reigns in the cosmos, the vacuum field has the properties of a superfluid—a medium in which particles, atoms, and other objects move as fish through water, with subtle and hardly evident effect.

Even more importantly, the new finding suggests that when particles, atoms, and other things move in this superfluid medium, their movement makes waves, much as movement in an ordinary fluid.

     If the vacuum is the fundamental medium of the cosmos, and if it is superfluid and all things in it produce waves, we should expect that of the two aspects that define particles, namely the corpuscular and the wave aspect, it is the wave aspect that is fundamental. We have reason to believe that this is the case.

     An ingenious experiment by Shahriar Afshar, a young Iranian-American physicist, demonstrates that even when the corpuscular aspect of a particle is observed, the wave aspect is still there (since the interference patterns that build up on the screen in the classical “split-beam experiment” do not disappear when the photons—seemingly discrete entities—pass the slits one by one).

Bohr’s celebrated “complementary principle” does not hold: although both the corpuscular and the wave aspects of particles can be observed, it is not true that they are never present at the same time.

The wave aspect is present even when the experiment is set up so the corpuscular aspect can be observed, whereas the corpuscular aspect is not present when the wave aspect is queried.

     Clifford, Einstein, and Schrödinger were right. In the words of former MIT physicist Milo Wolf, the wave medium, that is, the cosmic vacuum in which the waves appear, is the single source of matter and natural law in the universe.

Wolf’s conclusion: “Since the waves of each particle are intermingled with the waves of other matter and all contribute to the density of the medium, it follows that every charged particle is part of the universe and the universe is part of each charged particle.”

     Why is it, then, that we see solid material bodies when they are actually waves in the vacuum? The answer is: because vacuum-waves are like “solitons” (so-called solitary waves)—they appear to be discrete and detached bodies, yet they are waves in the medium in which they appear.

     The soliton phenomenon was first reported to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1845. J. Scott Russell recounted riding beside a narrow channel of water and observing a wave rolling with great speed, “assuming the form of a large solitary elevation, a rounded, smooth, and well defined heap of water, which continued its course along the channel apparently without change of form or diminution of speed.”

Since then solitons have been observed under diverse conditions. They behave like discrete material objects: they move along defined trajectories, and if they meet each other they deflect one another.

Solitons appear not only in water, but as impulses in the nervous system, in complex electrical circuits, in tidal bores, in atmospheric pressure waves, and in heat conduction in solids. They appear in superfluid mediums. Thus they appear in the quantum vacuum, a superfluid cosmic medium.

     The solitons that appear in the vacuum are the matter and force particles of the observable universe. When the particles are in their virginal state—not observed and not interfered with—they are in a sense everywhere in the vacuum: they are “distributed,” like information in a hologram.

But when they are observed and interacted with, they lose their distributed wave aspect and become seemingly discrete material bodies. The particles assume the form of classical objects; quantum physicists say that their wave function collapses.

     Although what we perceive with our senses is solid matter moving about in empty space, physical reality is different. In the final count the material universe, including particles, stars, planets, rocks, and living organisms, is not material: all these matter-like things are complex waves in the quantum vacuum.

     In light of the latest findings, we can specify the pertinent features of the vacuum, the space-filling medium that is the fundamental element of physical reality. This medium:

—fills all of space and endures through all of time;
—is superdense, filled with fluctuating zero-point energies;
—is superfluid, so that particles and the objects built of particles move through it without evident friction;
—is the originating ground of the particles that make up the manifest universe;
—is the receptacle of the particles when they “evaporate” in black holes.

The cosmic vacuum is responsible for:

—the gravitational attraction among particles and objects built of particles;
—the electrical and magnetic waves associated with charged particles;
—the short-range attractive and repulsive forces in the atomic nucleus;
—and the interfering waves that quasi-instantaneously and enduringly connect particles, atoms, and all things throughout a region of the universe.

     Zero-point energies, the G-field, the EM-field, the nuclear fields, and the A-field are specific manifestations of the “unified vacuum.”

Although Grand Unified and Super-Grand Unified Theories are still in development, we can already affirm that the unified vacuum fills all of space, that it is superdense and superfluid, that it brings forth the particles that furnish local universes and receives them back at the end of their evolutionary cycle, and that it generates the force-fields of gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong and the weak nuclear interactions, as well as the holographic field that instantly and enduringly interconnects particles and atoms, and all things built of them, in space and time.

Science’s emerging vision of reality is the vision of a reality that is interconnected and whole—it is an integral vision of reality.

The Nature of Spiritual Reality

     Science’s concept of physical reality is not final: like all theories in the empirical sciences, it is subject to revision and improvement. Although this vision is integral, it is not complete, for the natural sciences do not deal with all aspects and dimensions of reality, not even of humanly experienced reality. In addition to the physical aspect or dimension of reality, human experience testifies that reality also has another aspect: a spiritual dimension.

     Is the exploration of the spiritual dimension of reality scientific, or is this endeavor mystical, esoteric, religious, or just imaginary? Although mainstream scientists would contest it, the investigation of the spiritual aspect or dimension of reality is also within the scope of science, because—just like reality’s physical dimension—it, too, reposes on the testimony of human experience.

The experiential evidence for reality’s spiritual dimension is not the experience of supernatural entities; the evidence is more modest but also much closer at hand: it is our own consciousness.

     Science’s concept of physical reality, we have seen, extends beyond immediate sensory experience to include elements that render this experience coherent and consistent. This is true also of explorations of spiritual reality. The difference between science’s concept of physical reality and explorations of spiritual reality is not in the conceptual superstructure through which we seek to comprehend the world, but in the starting point.

Science’s concept of physical reality takes off from the content and reference of sensory perception; it takes the world we perceive as a physically real domain situated beyond our perception of it. Explorations of spiritual reality, on the other hand, take off not from the content and reference of perception, but from the very fact of perception. We take off from the givenness of conscious experience—in one word, from consciousness.

     Can we derive a concept of the nature of spiritual reality from the fact that we have consciousness? Consciousness, after all, is “private”: it is “my” consciousness; it is only experienced by me.

If we take this restriction seriously, the whole world becomes an element of “my” consciousness. But this position, while logical, is not satisfactory to everyone.*

*The position that the entire world can be considered an element of conscious experience is eloquently argued by physicist-philosopher Peter Russell in part three, below.

     It is reasonable to hold that science’s concept of physical reality is too important to be dismissed as a projection of “my” consciousness. If so, we should view physical reality as an aspect or dimension of the real world, the same as spiritual reality. They are two aspects or dimensions of one and the same reality.

     On this assumption we get a logical and coherent account of the nature of spiritual reality. Other things exist in the world beside my own consciousness, and these other things also possess consciousness, although they could possess consciousness of a more rudimentary (or perhaps a more advanced) form. In an impartial view reality is not just physical: it is psychophysical.

     What is the origin of the consciousness that resides in some form in all things in the psychophysical cosmos? If the spiritual dimension of reality is a dimension of the same reality as the physical dimension, the answer to this question is evident. Consciousness has the same origin as the things that make up physical reality: its origin lies in the quantum vacuum.

The vacuum is not only the originating ground and ultimate destination of the particles, atoms, and the complex entities that, consisting of ensembles of particles and atoms, make up the physical reality of the universe; it is also the originating ground of the consciousness associated with particles and systems of particles throughout the cosmos—of the universal consciousness that is the fundamental feature of the spiritual dimension of reality.

     Do we have evidence for this claim? Can we tell that the vacuum is not only a superdense virtual energy field from which spring the wave-packets that appear as matter, but is also the seat of the consciousness that infuses my body and brain the same as the rest of the universe?

     Clearly, there is no way we could tell by reference to everyday sensory experience, or even by observations and experiments based on direct experience. Consciousness cannot ordinarily be observed in anyone but ourselves.

But there is a more speculative yet entirely meaningful approach we can take: we can envisage a thought experiment. It is based on the finding of transpersonal psychologists that in altered states of consciousness we can enter the consciousness of other people, even of animals and nonliving things.

According to Grof, in altered states of consciousness we can experience fusion and identification with practically any aspect of the world.

     The thought experiment we envisage is to enter a profoundly altered state of consciousness and attempt to identify ourselves with the quantum vacuum. Assuming that we succeed, would we experience a physical field of fluctuating energies? Or would we experience something like a cosmic field of consciousness?

     We cannot exclude the latter possibility. Grof and other transpersonal consciousness researchers claim that in deeply altered states people experience a form of consciousness that appears to be that of the universe itself. This most remarkable of altered-state experiences surfaces in individuals who are committed to the quest of apprehending the ultimate grounds of existence.

When the seekers come close to attaining their goal, their descriptions of what they regard as the supreme principle of existence are strikingly similar. They describe what they experience as an immense and unfathomable field of consciousness endowed with infinite intelligence and creative power.

The field of cosmic consciousness they experience is a cosmic emptiness—a void. Yet, paradoxically, it is also an essential fullness. Although it does not feature anything in a concretely manifest form, it contains all of existence in potential. The void they experience is a fullness; the vacuum is a plenum.

It is the ultimate source of existence, the cradle of all being. It is pregnant with the possibility of everything there is. The phenomenal world is its creation: the realization and concretization of its inherent potential.

     People who practice yoga and other forms of deep meditation report the same kind of experience. This was the basis in the Indian Vedic tradition for the affirmation that consciousness is not an emergent property that comes into existence through material structures such as the brain and the nervous system, but a vast field that constitutes the primary reality of the universe.

In meditation, when the gross layers of the mind are stripped away, this field is experienced as unbounded and undivided by objects and individual experiences. Underlying the diversified and localized gross layers of ordinary consciousness there is a unified, nonlocalized, and subtle layer: “pure consciousness.”

     There is a noteworthy parallel here between insights that have been present to the human mind for thousands of years and the implications of the latest findings of the sciences. In regard to the physical dimension of reality, the coincidence concerns an element of ancient Hindu philosophy.

In his already cited Raja Yoga, Swami Vivekananda made clear that the Hindu seers considered Akasha the basic reality of the cosmos. “When there was neither aught nor naught, when darkness was covering darkness, what existed then?” asked Vivekananda, and answered, “Then Akasha existed without motion...

At the end of a cycle the energies now displayed in the universe quieted down and became potential. At the beginning of the next cycle they start up, strike upon the Akasha, and out of the Akasha evolve these various forms...”

     The latest cosmologies re-discover the cyclically self-renewing universe, a cosmos that takes off from, and returns to, an enduring fundamental medium. The ancient Hindu cosmology can be restated in contemporary scientific terms simply by substituting “quantum vacuum” for “Akasha.”

“When there was neither aught nor naught, when darkness was covering darkness, what existed then? Then the quantum vacuum existed without [manifest] motion...

At the end of a cycle the energies now displayed in the universe quieted down and became potential. At the beginning of the next cycle they start up, strike upon the vacuum, and out of the vacuum evolve these various forms...”

     As we move from the physical dimension of reality to its spiritual dimension, the parallel between ancient insight and science’s new vision of reality continues to hold true. According to many traditional cosmologies, in the course of time the universe’s undifferentiated, all-encompassing consciousness separates off from its primordial unity and becomes localized in particular structures of matter.

In the new scientific context we can say that the proto-consciousness of the vacuum becomes localized and articulated as the particles that emerge in it join together in atoms and molecules.

On life-bearing planets the cosmic proto-consciousness becomes further articulated as complex molecules form living cells, and then single- and multi-cellular organisms. It achieves the articulation of human consciousness when it is associated with the supercomplex brain of the human organism.

     Human consciousness is a high-level articulation of the consciousness that stems from, and is rooted in, the quantum vacuum: the superfluid universal field that is the fundamental element of the integral reality of the psychophysical cosmos.

*Copyright © 2006 Ervin Laszlo. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Inner Traditions.

To order this book from, click here!

Google Search Our Pages or the Internet Here

Search WWW Search

Please Visit Our Sponsors
Atlantic University
Association for Research and Enlightenment
The Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies

Web Design by HENRY REED and MARIO HADAM. All Rights Reserved.

Atlantic University Association for Research & Enlightenment The Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies