Origin and Physics of the Sentient Universe

© 2002 John Hammelton - Sedona Astrological Center


Dear Fellow Astrologer,

Like many of you, I have come to believe astrology by virtue of working with it. Those that criticize have not had that experience; nonetheless, it's a problem for astrology and astrologers. I learned early on that the scientific community had no appreciation for astrology other than as an antiquated superstition. They believe we are out to bilk a gullible public; we're nothing more than charlatans. On the other hand, Western theologians are quick to denounce astrology as blasphemous, and astrologers as servants of Satan. If you have ever listened to a sermon by a preacher ranting and raving about the occult, you'll know what I mean. They'll even discourage you to study philosophy because it may lead you to question your faith. Even among certain groups of neither persuasion that I occasionally mingle with, I dared not admit to being an astrologer, because I knew I'd lose my credibility. It usually comes across as raised eyebrows; a long silence, then a change of subjects.

If this isn't bad enough, astrologers have made it even worse; they squabble among themselves over petty differences while the truth of astrology itself is ignored. At seminars and conventions, I became like Socrates, stopping the citizens of Athens to question their beliefs. I asked astrologers why and how it worked; what were the underlying principles. Their responses were appalling. They really had no idea. But most of them simply stated they didn't know, but it worked, and that was good enough for them--end of discussion.

During my schooling in philosophy I searched high and low for some fundamental reason why astrology should work. Finally I discovered the system of Plotinus, a third century AD philosopher often referred to as the father of Neo-Platonism. Over the years I've worked to put together a conceptual foundation for astrological thought entitled the Philosophy of Astrology. I somewhat expected the astrological community to accept this as a defense for their beliefs. Rather than try to exploit it financially, I put it up on the Internet for all to think about. After many years, to my consternation, astrologers have shown no interest at all. I soon realized that due to preconceptions and biases it was too much of a stretch to make astrologers comfortable. No one has argued against it, but no one has accepted it either.

If I still have your attention, then I humbly ask for a little more. With recent satellite studies of the heavens, and new theories about the origin of the universe, I think I can give a scientific explanation that supports a Philosophy of Astrology. If the explanation that follows is found to be credible, then my interpretation of Plotinus' metaphysical description of the solar system stands on firm ground, and the implications have to be accepted. Those of you that have an interest, and desire to take astrology out of the world of superstition, and make it worthy of greater respect are encouraged to consider what I'm saying. I would greatly appreciate any response. Thanks...

Origin and Physics of the Sentient Universe

Mysticism is very subjective, seldom taking the physical world into account, only going so far as to affirm that we exist, although quite often in a profound way. One important qualification can be added: as Descartes stated; "I think, therefore I am." Within the whole of reality, within the vast domains of philosophy and science, can there be anything more vital and important? When it comes to each of us as unique individuals, I think not. Yet human experience begs the question: is there any intrinsic relationship between the existence of mind and the universe itself? Scientists have come up with very convincing theories, backed by calculations, that describe the origin and possible fate of the universe. Unfortunately, you and I, and mankind as a whole, seem to come out of these theories as some sort of accident, rather than with any kind of intent. 'We have no cosmic purpose, we should find meaning within our lives, and be content with that,' they tell us. I beg to differ. My own mystic intuition leads me to believe that mind was present at the formation of the universe, and more importantly, the reason for the existence of the universe--nothing less.

It is easy to say that, but much more difficult to explain. The explanation rests within philosophy and scientific theory; philosophy describes the metaphysical reality, and science describes its physical structure. Since mind plays the primary role in this essay, and because mind manifests in several ways, it is necessary to find definitions specific to its nature. Mind simply defined means: psyche, anima, Nous, intellect, thought, conscience, soul, spirit, quintessence, sentience, and aether. Mind, or henceforth M-theory, is divided into three categories, or states, or functions; they are: mind-flux, or M-flux, mind-field, or M-field, and mind-factor, or M-factor. M-flux refers to primordial mind, to mind without content; mind as an ontological foundation or function. M-field refers to stellar entities, often referred to as solar logos, the sun; the life source of any planet. M-factor pertains to living organisms, most likely from the level of fungi to human beings, and is not unique to the planet Earth. Mind is a form of mass/energy; we'll call this the M-force.

The latest and most convincing theory about the formation of the universe comes from inflation theory. Alan Guth at MIT worked out the basic idea. Physicists predicted as early as 1922 and confirmed in the 1960s that the universe came from a tiny point that exploded into a fireball of extreme heat and density. This tiny point became known as a singularity, it is believed that at the time of the singularity all the known forces of the universe were unified. The four forces are gravity, electro-magnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Fairly recently all of these forces, except gravity, have been unified in what is now called a grand unified theory or GUT. Understanding gravity at the atomic level has been elusive; gravity at the cosmic plane is well known having been described by Newton several centuries ago. At the level of stars and galaxies, gravity is a powerful force pervading the universe, but is almost undetectable at sub-atomic levels. A theory of quantum gravity will have to be understood before all four forces of nature can be unified. Nonetheless, gravity was essential to the beginning of the universe.

Prior to Guth's inflationary theory scientists knew little about how the Big Bang, as it is called, came into being. Inflation theory solved many riddles about the beginning of creation that have come to be accepted by most physicists and cosmologists today. Within a second of this explosive period the universe expanded by 25 orders of magnitude. This means that the universe expanded from a point a billionth the size of a proton, which is one of the building blocks of matter, to the size of a marble. It then slowed and cooled over time to the size it is today, which is still expanding. This is equivalent to a pearl exploding to the size of the Milky Way. The power of this fireball is unimaginable, evolving into a boiling stew or quark soup; within that fraction of a second the forces of raw energy began splitting apart. (That fraction of a second has been calculated to between ten to the minus 37th second, and ten to the minus 34th second. This is a decimal point followed by 33 zeros and a one).

Guth surmises that the whole universe may be a "free lunch." [1] This is not an easy concept to explain. One reason is that it comes out of the weird world of quantum mechanics. Quantum theory holds that in any physical system probability rules over absolutes. It is impossible to predict the properties of an atom, although one can predict the properties of atoms in general. Now think of a pure vacuum; it seems counter-intuitive, and even contradictory to say that something can come out of nothing. If something can come out of a vacuum, then it's not a vacuum by definition. Right? Wrong! Due to quantum uncertainties something can come out of nothing. It is scientifically possible that a particle can materialize out of a vacuum and disappear back into it. Physicists call it a vacuum fluctuation. Even empty space contains a slight energy field. It tends to answer the age-old philosophical question of why there isn't just nothing. Out of this primordial vacuum came a hot plasmic stew from which bubbled sub-atomic particles that existed for the briefest of moments. Inflation theorists call this eruption a false vacuum. Since the universe is still expanding from the initial Big Bang, the false vacuum is considered to have a repulsive gravitational field. As the expansion doubled exponentially, so too did the energy of gravity, and hence the doubling of matter, such as particles of electrons, positrons, and neutrinos. To explain the emergence of matter, cosmologists say that some state of the false vacuum decayed; this is an important aspect of creation. Einstein recognized this possibility when he perceived that energy and matter are essentially equivalent--as in E=mc2. After about 300,000 years, the universe cooled sufficiently to allow simple atoms to form like hydrogen, helium, and lithium. The dense fog that existed before dissipated, and the universe became very dark; there were as yet no stars.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to go back and incorporate M-theory into the scenario being created in this essay. My purpose is to present the latest ideas and theories in physics and cosmology that are consistent with M-theory. It is my firm belief that any theory that purportedly attempts to explain everything can't be complete unless it includes the very consciousness that formulates it. The only thing known about gravity has been its attractive force; now inflation theory requires it to have a repulsive force too. I think it has one more property that will unify all the known forces, as we shall see. It should be emphasized that this is a theory without much evidence to back it up; other than it makes sense, and brings metaphysics and physics together for the first time.

As I stated at the beginning of my discussion, M-flux was present at the beginning of creation, and may have been a random, spontaneous, free lunch, but I think there was meaning and purpose behind it. While maybe not planned in any conscious sense, there is possibly an autonomic reaction that occurs in other places as well where there is no space or time. M-flux is not a thing with properties that can be detected in a machine, because it is all around us; it is a force associated with gravity, and is not separate from the energy that holds it, although it may well be the source of the energy itself. From within, its power manifests both as a repulsive force driving the expansion, and the attractive force of matter. The brief period before inflation has been referred to as the era of quantum gravity. As I mentioned earlier, quantum gravity is unknown, but has to be assumed for the sake of theory, once its nature is discerned it should fit in with the other three known forces; this will be a rare moment for science. The repulsive gravitational field, or M-force, or false vacuum, had the power to explode from an incredibly dense point into a universe. With the doubling of energy and its subsequent decay into particles of simple matter, we might think of this as the first act of creation. Matter and energy separated out of the M-force to become opposing entities. After the inflationary period ended the M-force returned to a less energetic state, or M-flux, now governed by the classic laws of big bang theory, or Newtonian physics.

About eighty-five years ago Albert Einstein observed the universe as it appeared, unmoving and static with stars and galaxies fixed in their positions. But he also realized that the gravitational attraction between these bodies would slowly pull them together, although that did not seem to be happening. So he introduced a few calculations into his General Theory of Relativity that created an opposing force to counter gravity. He called it Lambda, and it later became known as the Cosmological Constant. In 1929 Edwin Hubble using the new 100-inch telescope on Mt. Wilson discovered that the stars and galaxies were actually moving away from each other, and that the universe was expanding. Einstein quickly dropped Lambda. Soon new ideas arose concerning the shape of the universe and the geometries that determine it. Einstein's theory of relativity entailed a non Euclidean geometry that resulted in a closed universe because space bends in on itself; it has a finite volume and the shape of a sphere. A spaceship traveling in a straight line will eventually return to where it started. In a closed universe gravity will overcome the expansion and begin to contract; all the stars and galaxies will be pulled back into what's called a Big Crunch. In another cosmological model, a universe with very little mass will lack enough gravitational force to stop the expansion, so space is open, or infinite in volume, and the universe will expand forever. There is a third model that is precisely the borderline between a closed and an open universe. It is the exact point between eternal expansion and eventual collapse; cosmologists say that it has reached critical mass density. Amazingly enough the universe is at that point today; amazing because theorists are at a loss to explain why those values are so precise, and because there is no necessity, we're aware of, that they should be. When in perfect balance scientists say that Omega equals one; if less than one, an open universe results; if more, a closed universe. A universe in which Omega equals one is said to be flat. (Referring to its Euclidean geometry). According to relativity, and the conservation of energy laws, energy is negative, and matter is positive, so in a flat universe the negative energy of all the gravity in the universe is perfectly counterbalanced by the positive energy of all matter in the universe. Precise measurements of the energy left over from the Big Bang, called the cosmic background radiation, confirm that Omega equals one.

While you may think this is all very interesting, it is crucial to understanding how the M-flux, or in more popular terms, dark matter, came to be identified, and why its role is so important today. When astronomers attempt to tally up all the matter in the universe they come up 90 to 99 percent short of what should be there. It's interesting to wonder what astronomers are thinking when they look through their telescopes knowing that maybe they're only seeing one percent of what's out there. The M-flux, or dark matter, exists throughout the universe, but remains elusive until it reveals itself through its gravity. This is most apparent where gravity is the strongest, and that's around galaxies and clusters of galaxies. As galaxies bunch within huge clumps of dark matter, the light coming from behind these galaxies bends to reveal the outline of this invisible stuff. Supercomputer simulations predict that bright galaxies will group tightly together under powerful gravitational forces within huge concentrations of dark matter. It is almost as if a parent were gathering its children unto itself. One more thing needs to be said before we move on. Recent studies have surprised the scientific community with the realization that the expansion of the universe is not slowing down as expected, in fact, it's accelerating. Some unknown and unseen force, now being called dark energy, is behind this discovery. I've already discussed the repulsive force behind inflation, and believe it works just as well to explain the acceleration. If energy and mass are equivalent, then enough gravity will preserve the balance required to keep Omega at one. Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University theorizes that the delicate balance between energy and matter would be suspicious if there were no communication between the two. He proposes that repulsive energy senses the presence of matter and changes its strength and distribution to maintain a balance of densities. [2] I believe this is consistent with M-theory.

The early universe was smooth and uniform, and very nearly without structure or features. The gravity of M-flux, or dark matter, evenly and smoothly distributed throughout space, remained quietly still for millions of years. Eventually slight perturbations of gravity began to grow from tiny primordial fluxuations. These became the seeds of later galaxy formation once stars began forming. The M-flux slowly clumped and formed halos around regions that had grown to slightly higher concentrations of gaseous matter. As the halos grew more massive, they pulled in and confined small amounts of hydrogen and helium gas; exactly what the first stars were made from. [3] This happened rapidly enough that the material did not fragment, but instead grew into massive hot stars. Light flooded through the universe, ending the cosmic dark ages. Soon numerous other stars flashed into existence. These first stars differed from many stars that exist today because they lacked any heavy elements such as iron and gold, but within their hot cores, under intense pressure and heat, the simple atoms were crushed into more complex heavy elements. These first stars being as heavy and massive as they were tended to have short lives, and ended by exploding their outer shells into space. Such stars are called supernovas. Future generations of stars, such as our sun, could now form from this new material. Without heavy metals, life could not have evolved on Earth. We, quite literally, along with our cars and televisions, are the products of stellar forces, not only physically but as sentient beings as well. In my nomenclature this is the transition from negative M-flux to positive M-field. In terms of physics the negative false vacuum decayed into matter that accreted into stars with an attractive gravitational force. In terms of Plotinus' dialectic, the One went out of itself into its otherness; unity now became multiplicity.

The M-flux, as defined, may have had nothing more than a vague intent, such as maybe an egg having the intent of becoming a chicken. With the intent now further realized in the M-field, the means took shape with the power and the material to act. The star was born with an objective, that objective contained a plan; from universal M-flux to particular M-field, M-factor now became possible. In plain terms, life emerging from the cosmos is much more than an accident. A single mushroom produces millions of spores, but only a few, if even those, ever produce mushrooms. Stars spawn life, but only a few ever do so; conditions are rather exacting. When an astronomer observes the heavens she sees stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies. This arrangement enhances the possibility for life. It took billions of years for stars to form life-supporting planets, and those planets must be at the right distance from the star, in what's called the habitable zone. The star must also be in the right place within the galaxy; too close to the center and too far from the outer edge make life impossible. I would expect that life throughout the universe might not look or be anything like what the Earth holds, but I'll let science fiction writers work on that. Our star is more than a burning ball of gas. The M-field of the Sun turns to Earth and through heat and light the M-factor emerges into living organisms of matter, energy and sentience; giving back to the cosmos what it has taken in; never cut off from its source; returning to itself what it has always been in eternal perpetuation, in living legacy to be born again.

What I've said so far may sound reasonable, but if it's true, then it has profound implications. My theory puts mind at the beginning of creation. Cosmologists put mind at the end of creation. My theory is based on Platonic philosophy, but the scientific view is consistent with Genesis, which tells how God made everything first, then added Adam and Eve; finally He gave them choice, or sentience. Oddly enough, science doesn't need God since everything can pretty well be explained without Him; my theory is mystical, but doesn't need Genesis, yet somehow requires a god-like something that gives rise to the Idea of creation. My theory presumes that the Big Bang could have just to as easily erupted from something prior, rather than nothing, suggesting an infinite and eternal source. Big Bang theory postulates a beginning of time and space giving it a sense of temporality and finiteness. Let me ask this, as others have: where do the laws of physics come from? Alan Guth says: "We are a long way from being able to answer that one." [4] In my theory the laws of physics have always been there. Scientists have discovered them, not invented them.

The Big Bang occurred about thirteen thousand million years ago. Life on Earth began between one and two thousand million years ago. Humans diverged from primates about seven or eight million years ago. The development of human intelligence has taken thousands of years, but it has only been since the early Greeks that mathematics became a tool for explanation. In the last few decades alone the leap in knowledge has been phenomenal. Scientists that pool their intellectual brilliance should be the first to recognize what power the mind has. I think it would be natural for them to feel that if there were something God-like about creation, the closest thing in the universe that even comes close to the ideal of God is the human species. (I know: humans don't often live up to that ideal, but nevertheless, the statement may be true.) In fact, scientists feel just the opposite; they seem to be ashamed that sentience should hold any place of value in the scheme of things. They confuse intellect with ego, and call it human chauvinism. You can't have science without mind, but it has no status other than as a simple tool, and worse yet, falls into the black pit of mysticism. OK, that's not a problem, since mysticism can't be left out of any final theory.

The M-factor, sentient life, rests on three pillars: mind, matter, and energy. Like the universe, they are in perfect balance, proportion, and unity. One way to diagram the three M's: flux, field, and factor is to imagine a circle, or draw a circle on paper, then imagine another circle, or draw it, and superimpose that one on the other, but only partially, say about a fourth or third. You now have three spaces; one has been formed in the middle by over-lapping the two circles. Now think of a third circle or draw it, and superimpose it over the other two in the same proportion as the first two. The three circles now overlap, creating a single space in the center. All three circles share this same space. (It's called a Venn diagram). In one circle you could write M-factor, in the second circle M-flux, and in the third circle, M-field. The point here is to illustrate that while basically of the same "stuff," they are three distinct entities with overlapping dimensions. But the main point is that they are never cut off from each other, or spatially separate; there is always a place of unity. They share the same eternal moment in time and space. To make it a little more proportional draw the flux circle large; the field circle smaller, and the factor circle even smaller. This illustration might serve many explanatory purposes; remember when you were a kid, your parents told you: "Be good, cause God knows what you're thinkin'." It could also explain how prayers work. But probably the most important thing of all is that it opens the way to an eternal heaven; yes, life after death. When the scientist excludes mysticism from his mind, no matter how brilliant a theorist he or she might be, they shut off a good portion of their psyche. For them, mind is a product of the brain that perishes with death.

The M-factor might be thought of as consisting of waves, maybe gravity waves. Since the M-factor includes all life of varying complexity, it seems natural that different life forms would emit different wavelengths. It allows each species to communicate, in terms of interaction, at its own specific frequency. Because human beings live at frequencies that are very close to the same so-called bandwidth, there is an innate potential for the frequency to become variable, and interface directly between individuals. Most of us are not aware of this; it only becomes apparent when psychic episodes occur. Like it or not, telepathy, clairvoyance, and other forms of ESP are a fact. From stars to life the M-factor interfaces with them all, but at frequencies that don't usually connect. A mother suddenly becomes intensely aware of an immediate danger to her child a thousand miles away. We know who's on the phone a second before it rings: life-wave frequencies connecting. The history of mysticism tells even more: Plotinus' ascent into the One; Saint Teresa, or Saint John of the Cross lifting to divine union with the Father; the Hindu merging with the Absolute; the mushroom tripper experiencing cosmic consciousness. The Godhead is open to all, because we're not cutoff from it. One condition that all mystics have understood from the beginning is that wavelengths interfacing with higher levels of consciousness require a high level of moral consciousness to open a channel. To paraphrase Plotinus: " . . . cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast; never cease until you shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine." [5] As mankind becomes ever more intimately connected to technology and sense experience, so do the deeper intuitive reservoirs of awareness begin to dry up. The Goodness we should be seeing today in the world is over-shadowed by dark clouds; we need to look further about us for the light.

The M-factor, or psyche, doesn't seem to fit within the classic laws of physics, but a theory of quantum gravity just might, even though physicists haven't been able to come up with it, yet. In one famous scientific experiment researchers aim a beam of light through two parallel slits allowing photons to pass through either one or the other, recording the photons as they impinge on a photographic plate. If an experimenter observes the photons passing through the slits, then the photons arrive at the plate as particles. If the researcher does not observe the experiment, then the photons arrive at the plate as a wave, which records as a band of light and dark shades rather than as a cluster of dots. This phenomenon remains unexplained. Standard quantum theory holds that sub-atomic particles don't have any properties, such as spin and velocity, until they are observed. In another famous experiment an electron and its opposite, a positron, are allowed to collide and annihilate each other producing two photons that scatter in different directions. The first photon doesn't have any properties until noted by an observer, which causes the photon to take on a certain spin. What's strange is how the second photon, that no matter how far apart, and despite no connection whatsoever, takes on the opposite spin. When scientists try to explain these phenomena, they come up with vague and bizarre notions. The great physicist John Wheeler says: "The process whereby the macroscopic world reacts to a quantum event--the process that makes physical reality--can, in my view, be accomplished with inanimate matter. Following Niels Bohr, I like to call this process 'registration' rather than observation (which too strongly suggests human involvement)." [6] Andrei Linde, another great physicist, says: "I can't imagine a theory of everything that ignores consciousness," and "In the absence of observers, our universe is dead." [7] He adds in a letter: "When I talk about conscious observers, I do not necessarily mean human beings." [8] What these two very distinguished gentlemen seem to be saying is that the researchers that set up the experiments mentioned above, and then observed the results, are not 'necessarily' human. It's interesting to see how far scientists will go to avoid implicating mysticism in any description of reality; might as well throw the baby out with the bathwater.

It's also interesting to contemplate how scientists are going to shun this paper, and outright reject what I've said as ridiculous, while at the same time, theologians will claim that my ideas are just as ridiculous, and even go so far as to call them blasphemous, and Satanic. These two sides are so far apart that any chance of reconciling both science and religion looks virtually impossible. What's even more certain is that when I go on to explain how astrology comes to bring these two diverse positions together they will mutually denounce me as totally off my rocker. Nonetheless, there has to be a way of showing how a spiritual universe works in terms of how a physical universe works. Yes, they are opposite sides of the same thing, as the two sides of a coin; yin and yang, positive and negative, thesis-antithesis, good and evil, love and hate, life and death; this is what reality is all about.

Life emerged out of the creative forces born from the caldron of stellar fire as an Idea, and an Ideal. From this point of light, distinction appeared in octaves of power stepped down to mighty Beings we see as planets. Creation became manifest in the Earth, as the Idea unfolded into reality. To continue on with what has been started here go to: www.soultrek.com.

Article by John Hammelton. Reprinted by permission.

References and Notes:

Guth, Alan. The Inflationary Universe. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1997.
Kraus, Lawrence. Quintessence. New York: Basic Books, 2000.
Plotinus. The Enneads. Trans. by Stephen Mackenna. New York: Pantheon Books, n.d.
Rubin, Vera. Bright Galaxies Dark Matter. New York: American Institute of Physics, 1996.
1. Guth, Alan. Inflationary Universe. p. 15.
2. Wright, Karen. "The Very Dark Universe." Discover, March 1991, p.76.
3. Cowen, Ron. "Cosmic Dawn." Science News. June 8 2002. p. 362-4.
4. Lemley, Brad. "Guth's Grand Guess." Discover, April 2002, p. 38.
5. Plotinus. The Enneads. 1.6.9.
6. Discover. "Letters." August, 2002, p. 8.
7. Folger, Tim. "Does the Universe Exist if We're Not Looking" Discover, June 2002. p. 48.
8. Discover. "Letters." August, 2002, p. 8.

Special thanks to Dr. Gary Bowman of the Physics and Astronomy Dept. at Northern Arizona University for his helpful suggestions and comments.

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