Background to the ideas in Nature's Holism

"According to the the laws (of physics) we believed at the time . . ." (Hawking, 1988)


What has "REALITY and RATIONALITY" to do with the Holism of Smuts?  Smut's recognises the dilemma in which humanity finds itself today.  Smuts began his book by stating, "Among the great gaps in knowledge those which separate the phenomena of MATTER (physical), LIFE (biological), and MIND (mental or psychical) still remain unbridged." Through this lack of unity between mind, matter and life, we are generating the lack of accord evident in the irrationality of human behaviour. In the few paragraphs included in this chapter, I reveal some contradictions of human behaviour.

First, the OBJECTIVITY of empirical science alone is not enough.  Mathematics or physics alone is not enough to guide humanity. Similarly, the religions of the world can no longer blindly ignore the realities of science, the influence of which pervades every aspect of our lives.  Neither can RELIGION ignore and deny the facts of Evolution, while the acceptance of evolution need not result in the denial of religion.  Science needs to become subject to some form of morality or rationality and to recognise the rights of life. Technology needs to  observe ecological constraints. There is an urgent need to discover a basis for the unity of humanity and this is going to require the union of the relationship between mind, matter and life - between science and religion. In the holistic context there are mutual constraints on all systems and organisms, aligning perpetuity with that of the whole.  Smuts proposes that  "it might be possible to develop concepts moulded more closely to fact and experience, freed of all adventitious and unnecessary elements of separateness and disparity, and forming the cooperative elements and aspects in a wider, truer conception of reality." Smuts said, "To understand nature, we must take one of her own units, and not an abstract one of our own making. We must as it were, take a small sample section of nature which will include as one and indivisible both the element of activity or principle and the element of structure or concreteness in her." It is holism, which Smuts presents as the new interpretation, that allows the union of mind, life and matter. Smuts sees the individual personality as central to this process and as the most recent holistic expression that has emerged through evolution. He says, "To me the holistic aspect of the universe is fundamental, and appears to be the key position both for the science and the philosophy of the future."

From a RELIGIOUS and SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVE truly divine laws guide man to the higher spiritual state for which he is destined (Each religion defines its own type of spirituality).  God revealed these laws to prophets such as Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, sent to guide humanity.  No religion can condone murder as it is against divine moral law, yet no scientist can "prove" this law of nature. Science cannot prove in any empirical manner that murder or rape is wrong, but  moral philosophy can.  Religion is interactive and thus "subjective", so providing constraints that guide the understanding to a pure truth: Appleyard said "that we already live the solution (the material universe is providing constraints holistically), even if we do not know it" (Appleyard, 1992).  Fundamental religions such as Islam are held in scorn for following so called "outdated" divine law, yet Muslims are upholding high moral values. Society persecutes others to the verge of annihilation such as occurred to the Davidian sect led by Koresh in Waco, USA who were burned alive. The Jews in Nazi Germany, the murders of Muslim Bosnians by Serbians in Yugoslavia, or the intolerance between Palestinians and Israeli Jews are all further examples.  More than two thirds of the world's people follow one of four religions: Christianity (1644 million), Islam (860 million), Hinduism (656 million) and Buddhism (310 million). Chinese religions such as Taoism comprise another 188 million (Rubenstein, 1989). Many apparently divinely inspired practises and beliefs such as some of those of fundamental Jews are accepted without reason and yet, objectively, are quite irrational. For an outsider who does not understand the symbolism or the practise, a Jew with a little black box strapped to his head and arm, rocking back and forth and chanting, looks a little crazy as does the Buddhist burning himself to death as an immolation with the firm belief in his immediate reincarnation. Clearly, we need God's Prophet here now to sort out this conflict which occurs in His name, yet many false prophets, risk the divine curse of blasphemy, in claiming to be the Prophet that many religions await.

MATHEMATICS unlike natural selection, does not consider the loss of some randomly generated products (death of unsuited creatures) in the vagaries of the chaotic interactive process of life.  Mathematical postulates are not confronted with a system of limits, instead they are developed from a priori principles; that is principles not subject to sense and thus not subject to the material world.  For many generations, the predictive advantage of mathematics has made science appear superior, even perfect and led to its dominance in influencing our behaviour.  Science and mathematics were considered the only truth, even perfect - as they were predictive and thus "objective". Today we have the sober realisation that this is not so.

Mathematics has recently adopted the speculative approach of physics in its search for new discoveries.  Traditional mathematical norms discouraged speculation, but required that they support any conjecture by a set of rigorously logical deductions or proofs (Horgan, 1993).  Today, the speculative approach leads to the danger of people accepting theories as scientific fact whereas they are merely intuitive reasoning without proof and not objective science!  Even with rigorous proofs, we must concede that mathematics is not perfect. Fundamental assumptions or proofs may be wrong and not perfectly rational. Proof of this lies in the eventual failure of Newtonian Physics as a perfect science. Our worship of the mathematical idol is finally ending.

Physics passed through a crisis and revolution in 1904, as  new discoveries, such as x-rays, electrons, protons and other forms of radiation emanating from atoms, challenged classical Newtonian physics. Albert Einstein resolved this dilemma with the theory of special relativity.  Within 20 years of this, physicists had developed quantum mechanics as a description of the behaviour of atoms.  Today, in the 1990's physics is again in a crisis and apparently "in trouble, deep trouble" as general relativity and quantum theories are in conflict and no conceivable empirical approach can resolve this incompatibility directly (Yang, 1994 ).

A natural elimination similar to the evolutionary process of natural selection, appears to occur at the subatomic level. Short-lived particles (called quarks), that make up matter, are found in the artificial conditions of atomic bombardment within particle accelerators (LEP - large electron-positron collider, Switzerland; Tevatron, Illinois, US; LHC - Large Hadron Collider (to be built), Switzerland).  The very fact of their transience suggests some natural and dynamic process in operation. What determines the "life" or transience of a subatomic particle?  What is the "life" of a transient particle? Scientists' reductionist approach to the discovery of unstable particles may not have much bearing upon the reality of stable systems which comprise the material world.  Detection of these short-lived particles from the violent destruction or bombardment is similar, on the macroscopic scale to blowing up a human with an antitank missile and deciding that humans consist of blood, faeces, bones, guts, a bit of hair, some smoke and a few smaller particles, all of which decay. Cohen and Stewart (1994) wrote, "The universe appears to simplify at non human scales because we possess a very limited  set of techniques for converting its behaviour into human-scale effects, in both space and time." Perhaps the physicist can predict the discovery of these particles - only the top quark of the standard model has not been unambiguously detected (They may have discovered it in May 1994 at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago. They still need confirmation of the sightings.  The bottom quark was found in 1977.  Others are the up, down, charm and strange quarks). This endeavour is leading nowhere.

To detect these particles and confirm what scientists call the grand unification and finally complete unification requires larger and larger energies and much money.  The European Laboratory for particle physics, near Geneva, called CERN, and containing the Large Electron-Positron Collider, is housed in a 27-kilometer tunnel and literally rams electrons and positrons into one another head on!  It achieves energies far beyond where molecules, atoms and even nuclei dissociate, and in the range for the detection of the electroweak particles. Based on current technology, grand unification requires energies requiring an accelerator one trillion kilometres in circumference (one "light month") and complete unification, 100 light years long!  (Horgan, 1994) Recently, U.S. Congress cancelled a $11-billion Superconducting Super Collider 4 years into construction.  Clearly they have attained a limit of nature using this approach of physics (Horgan quoting Georgi, 1994).

The options now open require new technology or approaches such as a technique called plasma beat-wave acceleration or a mathematical or conceptual breakthrough.  Current mathematical theory such as supersymmetrical string theory requires reality to contain up to 26 dimensions, and deals with a microrealm, called the Planck scale, where strings are as small in comparison to a proton as a proton is in comparison to the solar system.  An American physicist summed the state of physics as a science in his advise to students, "If I were a young guy, I'd go into brain science or chaos or computer science."

Some work at CERN has been directed to what determines the structure of created particles. This has led to speculation to what existed before the big bang and so before time. Speculations are on a potentiality within a vacuum of nothingness, from which a minimum of 37 fields determined our present material world of energy and matter. There are also ideas on precursors to these fields.

Now you may ask how this concerns Holism and Smuts. Governments have devoted billions of dollars to this attempt by scientists to find the "Holy Grail" of science in the smallest piece of matter. Such money could have been better used in social causes such as eradicating malaria. People have devoted their lives to this irrefutable science of physics, yet in the end found that the endeavour is as impossible as travelling to the end of the infinite universe. This reductionist endeavour (the attempt to break things into smaller and smaller units of analysis),  with money, time and effort spent, can never reach a solution, while here amongst life is the opportunity to study holistic principles and yet no serious holistic science yet exists. Where does one go to study the science or philosophy of Holism?

OBJECTIVE SCIENCE, through mathematics, has allowed humanity to describe and construct an atomic bomb, but from an interactive or subjective perspective, there is little value in experiencing an atomic explosion. The fact that the Atomic bomb is a totally destructive use of some potentially useful technology shows how science in the hands of those not subject to religious morality can be catastrophic.  Of all people, it was Albert Einstein, a recognised genius, who, under advise from a group of physicists, advised President Roosevelt to develop the nuclear bomb - clearly an irrational opinion!  President Truman was in office when they dropped these bombs.  At the end of the war the Manhattan Project to develop atomic weapons employed 40,000 workers - the biggest engineering task ever undertaken! Bombs developed by scientists at Los Almos, under the leadership of Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, cost of two billion U.S.  dollars. After they dropped them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Einstein said that his signing of the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that they make an atomic bomb, was a great mistake (McNamara, 1986) (film, Day One, from book, Day One: Before Hiroshima and after by Peter Wyden).  He also formed part of a petition to try to stop the dropping of the bombs on Japan.  The same Dr. Oppenheimer admitted that in the future the name of the Los Almos Laboratory would be cursed and that the peoples of this world must unite or they will perish!

  Americans used their soldiers in atomic explosion tests in the Nevada desert in 1952 to learn "objectively" what the short and long term effects of radioactivity would be with no thought for the rights of the individual! Between 1945 and 1963, 250,000 to 500,000 troops took part in tests of atomic weapons (Caufield, 1989). Only in 1988 did US Congress pass a bill that allowed atomic veterans who had contracted cancer caused by radiation to receive health benefits. This is the country that claims to lead in the field of human rights!

  When I was an innocent child of two, in 1962, with no formal religion, no formal culture and yet a strong sense of being, the world was almost drawn into atomic warfare between, the two leading scientific, and reasoning nations of the earth, Russia and America. The issue was the introduction of Soviet missiles into Cuba in October 1962.  On the day of my second birthday, October 25, the world tensed as a soviet tanker ignored a quarantine imposed to prevent the resupply of Cuba, placing President Kennedy in the dilemma of whether to employ the US destroyer present to force the vessel to halt.  He let it pass.  From the perspective of childhood INNOCENCE, the conflict was definitely irrational. Somehow, an adult does not have the right to subject the child to a hell not intended by God. With holism comes a deeper understanding of all life's interdependence, and thus serves as a better guide for human behaviour.

The union of EVOLUTIONARY THEORY and science has had some unfortunate social and religious consequences due to an incomplete understanding by either discipline of the other.  Religious people generally deny the principle of Evolution as undermining all the spiritual and moral values of life.  "Both sides, materialists and spiritualists alike, were under the influence of the hard physical concepts of cause and effect that played such a great part in the science of the nineteenth century.  There could be nothing more in the effect than there was already in the cause. If matter caused the soul, there could be nothing more in the soul than there was already in matter.  In other words, the soul was merely an apparent and not a real advance on matter.  Both sides never questioned and thoroughly believed the abstract validity of this argument.  Therefore those who affirmed the Theory of Evolution logically tended to be materialists (and deny religion), and those who were spiritualists were logically forced to deny Evolution." Today, many people still reject evolution religiously - an irrational stance. Holism offers a union for science and religion if its principles can be incorporated into society.

DEMOCRACY, or government by  the people allows the establishment of social norms, without a religious basis or principles of natural law as a constraint and is having catastrophic consequences. Religious and natural laws often converge on what is moral and right, while democracy cannot uphold such values. Gay Rights is a good example.  Homosexuals try to get us to believe their practises are natural, yet it is no more NORMAL than the foetal deformities and malformations caused by the thalidomide drug in the early 1960's. We cannot justify this act by its presence in some primitive cultures, just as a prevalence of cannibalism in an ancient culture does not give them the right to call for Cannibal Rights.  Holism as a science rejects homosexuality as a social disorder or aberration, on the simple basis that our physical design is unsuited to such acts and the beings involved in such acts are disregarding the basic drive for the perpetuity of the self through offspring. Holism thus uses the principles of perpetuity and compatibility  as a measure and aligns itself with the world's major religions on this issue.

Today we even have the technology to help people attain their full potential. Scientology provides the precise technology to free the being of many social traps. Instead of promoting Gay rights and Gay marriages, society should recognise that the ailment is as treatable as bad eyesight and no less shameful. It is compulsive behaviour, exploiting the being and limiting the full and true development of the personality.  Smuts' alternative to exploitation is: "Learn to be yourself with perfect honesty, integrity and sincerity; let universal holism realise its HIGHEST in you as a FREE whole Personality; and all the rest will be added unto you - peace, joy, blessedness, happiness, goodness and all the other prizes of life. Nay, more: the great evils of life - pain, and suffering, and sorrow - will only in the end serve to accelerate the holistic progress of the Personality, will be assimilated and transformed in the spiritual alchemy of the personality and will feed the flame of the pure and free soul." Scientology has a peaceful technology to help one become a free, whole personality.

Further proof that our social structure is provoking the emergence of abnormal human reactions, responses and decisions is evident in the extreme representation of this condition - the American military.  With the down sizing or drawdown of the American military in the early 90's, domestic violence rose dramatically. Domestic violence involved abuse of spouses and children at double the civilian rate.  Often those in the most responsible and stressful positions were most likely to be involved in abusive episodes (Time No.  21, 1994).  They claim that the stress of the intense competitive atmosphere of the military created this condition. My claim is NOT that holism is a cure-all, but that with its influence the military culture and society, would generate a very different emphasis and culture, reducing violent inclinations.

Holism opens the door to religion. In holism there is the possibility for the unification of the religious, evolutionary, scientific and materialistic approaches to life. It requires a revolutionary change in attitudes from all sides to fit each as part of a whole system. With personality as the ultimate holistic expression, as believed by Smuts, its influence must penetrate our souls and extend to the smallest life form! In the context of this chapter, Smuts made the following observation at the age of 78, "When I look at the world unrest today and the confusion that prevails in science, in philosophy, in religion and in our whole human outlook and set-up, I feel more and more that in the concept of holism we have the key to many a door, and the way to ultimate solutions. Something holistic is at the heart of things and in the nature of this universe, which is not a mere chance or random assemblement of items. The detailed things derive  most of their meaning, significance and functioning from the whole of which they are but parts. They are not mere parts but really members of wholes. Both as a metaphysical and as a scientific concept the whole is basic to an understanding of the world. And in sociology and religion this is more clearly the case. Relativity is only a halfway house to this more fundamental concept" (Smuts, 1952).

Smuts' holism culminated in the personality and his ideas were not perfect. He erred in strongly promoting that external ecological conditions influence genetic variation. This he insisted was the Lamarckian style transmission or inheritance of acquired characteristics. Today there is still no strong evidence for this. Darwinian natural selection is as valid today as when Darwin proposed it. Smuts did not extend this idea of balance and harmony to ecology and nature. Had he done so, he would have been keenly aware of natural systems and our relationship with nature. Seeing personality as the opus of holism and not perceiving our ecological context, he could describe the African Bushman as such:

"As they were racially and physically not very different 15,000 years ago, what has caused the immense difference between the European and Bushman today? We see in one the leading race of the world, while the other, though still living, has become a mere human fossil, verging on extinction. We see the one crowned with all the intellectual and spiritual glory of the race, while the other still occupies the lowest scale in human existence. If race has not made the difference, what has? Of course the question is far too speculative, and our ignorance of all the essential conditions far too profound, to make any attempt at an answer worthwhile!

But two points may, perhaps, be usefully stressed in this connection. In the first place, if environment has any influence on human evolution, we may look to the physical conditions under which the Bushman and his ancestors have lived for this last 8000 years and more as an excuse for his degeneracy. No doubt he has gone backward; his brain capacity is even smaller than that of Fish Hoek man, who, in turn, shows a smaller brain capacity than Boskop Man. The Bushman has been physically dwarfed and shrivelled and mentally stunted by nature. Nobody, who has seen him in his present haunts in the Kalahari, or  who knew him a generation or two ago in other parts of the Union, will deny that he has become a desert animal, carved and moulded by the desert, just as much as the rest of our desert animals or plants. His desert nature is inbred in him, and he is an additional proof of the semi-arid environment which South Africa must have presented for many millennia. And now that desert conditions are being ameliorated by the ironic touch of civilisation, there is nothing left for him but to disappear . . ." (Smuts, 1952). Among the fallacies stated here words such as 'degeneracy', and 'backward' show that Smuts never pondered the compatibility of the Bushman with nature. He never perceived the destructiveness of our culture and pondered its long term consequences. He never saw in this being, a unique personality and culture. As a being the bushman was in many ways superior to the white race. For one, it was a more persistent culture.

Laurens van der Post's tribute to the Bushman was more honourable. He describes him as a gay, gallant, mischievous, and unpredictable character who laughed easily. As a keen hunter, he had an incredibly developed sight and kept no cattle, sheep or goats, nor built a home of any durable kind, nor cultivated the land. Being at home with the whole of nature, encountered and conflicted with the black invaders that came from the north and the white invaders from the south. Both had a keen sense of ownership and depended upon their domestic animals for their livelihood. Their approach was to dominate and change natural ecosystems, the whites more so than the blacks. His wit is well recognised: "On top of his great daring and resource as a hunter, he was also subtle. That was a quality stressed by all those who had known him. He never seems to have attempted to accomplish by force what wit could achieve. The emphasis in his own natural spirit was on skill rather than violence." His reputation was so great that Laurens van der Post's grandfather said, "Yes! he was clever, diabolically clever."

Evidence of the Bushman's command of and harmony with his environment is in the fact that when the white colonists arrived in Africa, it was bursting with life and plenty that we have not witnessed since. Bushmen were  true kings of nature, being absolutely compatible, living with the whole and reducing their influence and impact. Nature was the Bushman's ally and partner, whereas today we take greedily and violently as much as we can, leaving ecosystems devastated and irreparable, agents of a technological apocalypse.


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