Around the turn of the 20th century, the Vitalists were finally outmaneuvered. They were scientist of the tradition that held that there is a medium, infinitely fine, motionless and mass-free, that permeates all that exists materially, and that also is the specific life force. Their opponents were the Mechanists, scientists of the opposing tradition that held that there is no such medium or force, that interstellar space is empty except for sparse atoms and molecules, and that everything functions through lifeless physical mechanisms, including living organisms. The two camps, relying on concepts that shifted somewhat over time, had been arguing for centuries.
The contest between these two broad ways of viewing the universe hinged on whether or not a primordial cosmologic medium, referred to as the Ether, actually exists. As a result of experiments with light in the late 19th century, it was widely accepted that it had finally been proven that there was no such medium. An account of the arguments for and against the existence of the Ether is outside our scope, but the truth is that it was never demonstrated that the Ether doesn’t exist.[i]
As a matter of fact, the continuum that came to be called the Ether in western physics had been studied in many traditions, as far back as the earliest science we know of. In India its ancient names are Prana, Atman, and Brahma, and in China it is Qi. In the 18th and 19th centuries in the West, it was Animal Magnetism, Vital Spirit, and Od, and in the 20th century, Morphogenetic Field, Orgone, and Field of Life, among others. We will refer to it simply as the Field. It is manifest in phenomena that have been confirmed and documented, yet are kept beyond the pale of conventional science. They include:
Healing with Prayer Praying can influence the course of an illness, even over long distances, and without the patient knowing that anything is being attempted.
Energy Healing Hands-on and hands-near techniques involving intention to heal can influence the course of an illness.
Shamanic Healing Appealing to ancestral and communal spirits in ritual can resolve illness.
Psycho-kinesis Objects can be move and shaped by intention.
Electronic Anomalies Computer applications that generate strings of random digits can be influenced by intention to raise or lower the frequency of appearance of selected numbers.
Biological Anomalies The electrical resistance of the leaves of a plant can be influenced by thought.
Clairvoyance People can know about distant events in real time.
Precognition People can know about events yet to occur, while awake or in dreams.
Localization Dowsers locate missing things and people on maps. Pets cross wide expanses of unfamiliar terrain to find their owners.
Extra-sensory Perception People can identify something that is blocked from their eyes, such as a picture or playing card.
Animal Communication Slime molds, masses of thousands of undifferentiated identical cells, navigate mazes efficiently in search of food. Flocks of birds and schools of fish coordinate their movements with a speed that could not be attained solely by individual members receiving and processing visual clues from neighbors.
Between individuals the transmission of information, feelings, and attitudes by purely nonverbal means is something about which conventional disciplines have a good deal to say. The biological and psychological processes that transmit affects, emotions, and threat responses through facial expression, tone of voice, posture, pheromones, etc., in parallel with verbal communication, are described in a robust literature. Of interest regarding transmission between generations, psychologists elucidate the ways feelings and attitudes are communicated from adults to children. The ways beliefs, stories, assumptions, and states of mind are spread in societies are explored by philosophers, sociologists, cultural anthropologists, and literary commentators.
The phenomena of the Field lie beyond the generally accepted means of transmission between minds. Awareness of the functioning of the Field helps one to appreciate how effortless, immediate, and efficient the contact between minds can be. It provides the most basic of all means of connection. Transmission through the Field is instantaneous. It is followed and paralleled by sight, hearing, and touch. It joins individual minds within a universal mind. And since lifetimes overlap, the Field possesses a record of all the experience of the species. Carl Jung referred to this aspect of the Field as the Collective Unconscious.
People everywhere sense that all human minds are in some form of contact, and that there is a subtle reality behind the idea we are all one. Appreciating that the Field functions in this way makes it easier to see how the trauma state, affects, and scripts are as contagious as they apparently are. As in the fable of the blind men and the elephant, in our divided realms of thought the Field has different names, each referring to certain of its aspects: in physics, it is the Ether; in psychology, the Collective Unconscious; in biology, the Morphogentic Field, Animal Magnetism, and others; in religion, Holy Spirit, the Infinite Intelligence, and others. Open minds and open hearts will be needed to bring these separated concepts together in an understanding that The One is multifaceted.
[i] The experiments were performed in 1887 by a physicist and a chemist, Michelson and Morley. They never claimed that their work disproved the existence of the Ether. In fact, 20 years of experimental work by Dayton Miller, an esteemed physicist, some of it done in collaboration with Morley and published in peer-reviewed journals through the mid 1930’s, consistently yielded positive results for the existence of the Ether. That work was so important that Albert Einstein wrote in private letters that if Miller’s work was free of fundamental errors, his own theories of Relativity would collapse. Yet the earlier studies, less precise and elegant than Miller’s, and misrepresented in discussions in the journals, was seized upon by those eager for proof that the space of the Universe is empty and dead. This is no insignificant matter. For one thing, the supposed non-existence of the Ether leads directly to the utterly counter-intuitive Big Bang Theory. When mainstream science returns to an honest reconsideration of the primary cosmic medium, the Big Bang will wind up with a good deal else in the dustbin of intellectual history. To illustrate why this will take time: a small number of prominent astronomers offered alternatives to the Big Bang. Their cogent arguments were dismissed. The last of them, Halton Arp, died in 2013, having endured shunning by his profession during his final decades of life.