by Elisabet Sahtouris, Ph.D.
Seattle, November 4th and 5th,
What a fascinating and bold exercise it
is to stand at this historic millennial juncture looking back into
our past as we attempt to look forward another thousand years – and
in that broad timeframe to address the question of "How Evolution
Works" as though we few people in this workshop had answers that
would hold up into the distant human future, should that itself
become a reality.
Our present scientific understanding of Earth's evolution is far
from complete and may be subject to change in even its essential
fundamentals, as I will propose after reviewing our present "state
of the art," if I may use that phrase for our current scientific
understanding. Thus, it is not to be taken as dogma. Like the planet
itself, our understanding of its evolution will continue to evolve.
It is virtually impossible to know just how we will understand
evolution in another century, let alone another millennium.
Our actual observations of material reality will probably hold up,
but they will certainly be augmented in quantity, accuracy and
precision. Year by year, we extend our vision with ever more
powerful telescopes and microscopes, scanners, counters and dating
techniques, explorations of rainforest canopies, ocean depths,
deserts and deep polar ice.
We continue to count more species at the
same time that we see farther into the vast reaches of outer space
macrocosms and deeper into the inner reaches of quantum and
molecular microcosms. The more we see, the more the way in which we
interpret what we see changes accordingly. In short, our current
evolution story is itself evolving with breathtaking speed, and will
surely continue evolving for a long time to come.
It is from the leading edge trends in evolutionary science that we
can make our best predictions of how this story will evolve.
such trends are evident at present:
a systems or ecological
the DNA revolution
the new emphasis on our
the new understanding of
life's creativity in response to crisis
I will discuss each of these in as much
detail as this short time permits, and then turn briefly to new
developments in physics and astronomy, because these sciences
provide the larger contextual framework for biology.
As the data and theories of physics and
astronomy change, we biologists are required to revise and adjust
our understanding of the biological world in order to keep our
overall scientific worldview internally consistent.
Ecological or systems thinking involves a shift away from tracing
the evolution of individual species' lineages against environmental
Increasingly, we see evolution systemically and
ecologically – as the simultaneous and intertwined co-evolution of
all Earth species at once. This way of seeing evolution brings it
into new focus, resolving environments into ecosystems – complex
webs of co-evolving, interdependent species, each of which helps
shape every other, and is shaped by the others.
As figure and ground merge, the old view
of, for example, rabbits in habitats becomes a view of 'rhabitats.'
Even our most basic distinctions between geology and biology – the
designated domains of non-life and life, inanimate and animate – are
blurring into geobiology or biogeology. We see how Earth's changes
over time determine and are determined by its 'biomass' of creature
life. We amass evidence that the Earth's rocky crust (the
lithosphere), soils, waters (the hydrosphere) and atmosphere are
permeated, altered, produced and even chemically regulated by living
creatures (the biosphere), especially microbes. It become apparent
that even Earth's temperature is held constant by its life forms
despite the ever-increasing heat of its Sun star.
For half of Earth's life – its first few billion years – bacteria
pioneered all later lifestyles of larger creatures as they created a
wholly new kind of atmosphere and rearranged the planet's crust,
building continental shelves and sorting its thoroughly blended
substances into the pure veins of copper, silver and other metals we
humans mine today.
Most scientists today recognize that Earth's lithosphere,
hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere are dynamically interdependent
systems – self-organizing and inseparably interconnected. Some
scientists now follow British atmospheric scientist James Lovelock's
concept of the Earth as a living planet1,2
– a concept of nature that was informally common to most of Earth's
The concept of a live Earth still
remains controversial, and how this controversy is resolved will
depend largely on how scientists agree to define life – a matter
itself still unresolved. Should the definition of life as
autopoiesis – literally, self creation – become the dominant
definition, it is not difficult to show, as this author has done
elsewhere, that Earth fits that definition.3,4
The Russian geologist Vladimir Vernadsky viewed life as "a
disperse of rock."
Vernadsky saw life as a geochemical
process that transforms rock into highly active living matter.5,6
In this view life is thus a kind of planetary metabolic activity,
‘packaging’ crustal components into cells, speeding up its chemical
changes with enzymes, turning cosmic radiation into bioenergy. Life
is literally rock rearranging itself with the help of energy from
the core of the planet, solar energy and the energy of weather, such
as the lightning produced by air and water cycles.
As rock, solid or eroded into sand and dust, transforms
metabolically into ever-evolving creatures, they in turn break up
more crust, consuming and moving its components around. Eventually
living cells are produced and later they, and the multicelled
creatures into which they evolve, are reduced back into soil and
sediments, finally completing the geobiological cycle as they return
To illustrate this process with an explosively visible example,
Vernadsky pointed out that a locust plague of a single day has been
estimated to fill six thousand cubic kilometers of space and weigh
forty-five million tons!
This can be seen as forty-five million tons
of soil converted into the same amount of plant matter and then
suddenly into the same amount of animal (insect) matter, which is
shortly afterwards converted back into soil. Most biogeological
activity goes on less dramatically, but it is interesting to
consider that the same molecules and atoms may be found over time in
rock, soil, plant, animal, microbe, etc.
Certainly Vernadsky’s crustal metabolism view of life fits well with
the great planetary cycles we have described and helps us take a
more non-linear and holistic view of evolution.
G. E. Hutchinson at Yale University promoted Vernadsky's view
that life is a geochemical process of the Earth, and in 1937 – ten
years after the publication of Vernadsky’s book
The Biosphere – british geochemist
V. M. Goldschmidt wrote about the influence of
the biosphere on geology. As Canadian environmental chemist
William Fyfe pointed out in 1994, the scale of this influence is
only now being appreciated.7
Fyfe tells us, as did Vernadsky and Lovelock, that many ore deposits
clearly show the important role of microorganisms. Many veins of
ores exist because microorganisms coaxed minerals out of water. They
also ingested minerals and left them behind as they died in huge
numbers within colonies.
Thus living beings rearrange and
concentrate minerals over geologic time, as mentioned earlier.
In Fyfe’s words,
"For many elements... there is a
good chance that they have spent part of their lifetime on the
planet inside a living cell."
Colonies of microbes are found down to a
depth of 4.2 kilometers inside the Earth’s crust.
"As deep scientific drilling is
developed, a host of observations show the products from the
deep biosphere. Indeed, if there is a cavity of appropriate size
with sufficient water life will be present... We must understand
the deep biosphere if we are to correctly describe the carbon,
nitrogen, and sulfur dynamics of Earth."8
In seeing the billions of years of
Earth’s evolution as a single process we begin to comprehend its
larger patterns, such as that of interwoven species co-evolving with
each other, demonstrating a pattern of maturation from young
acquisitive and competitive species that multiply as rapidly as
possible and take over all the resources and territory they can to
mature cooperative species sharing resources and contributing to
each others' livelihoods in more stable ecosystems such as
rainforests or prairies.
Seeing living systems as embedded within each other, as by Arthur
Koestler's model of holons (individual living entities)
within holarchies (nested and non-hierarchical
embeddedness)6, reveals other patterns, especially patterns of
embedded cooperation such as bacterial colonies living within larger
organisms, which in turn may dwell in even larger organisms, while
those dwell within complex ecosystems.
Perhaps the most striking case of embeddedness is our own
nucleated cells, which – like those of all other creatures larger
than bacteria, from protists and polyps to pine trees and panthers –
house the modern descendants of those ancient bacteria which came
together to form the first nucleated cells, or
protists, as cooperative ventures. One might say that in forming
these first protists, our remote bacterial ancestors formed
the first multi-creatured cells, which later went on to form
Popular science essayist and former head
of Yale Medical School, Lewis Thomas, has even suggested that
bacteria may thus have invented us as big taxis to get around in
The discovery of DNA structure in the 1950s has since engendered
vast amounts of information about its role in individuals and in
evolution, as well as the whole field of genetic engineering.
notably, our view of DNA as a fixed 'blueprint' in each creature,
altered only by accidents in the course of evolution, is changing
We are still in early stages of an
exciting new view of DNA: as a complex self-organizing system in
communication with other such systems, notably the cell membrane,
such that DNA responds with apparent intelligence to information
about events outside its cell and even outside the multicelled
organism in which it resides.
Let us recall that Einstein’s worldview was shaken when quantum
physicists suggested that electrons intentionally leap orbits.10
Microbiologists are similarly shaken when they see apparently
intentional activity in molecular DNA. Discoveries of genomic
changes in response to an organism's environment are changing our
story of how evolution proceeds in very significant ways.
coming to light is that life forms, beginning with the archeobacteria from which all other organisms evolved, are capable
of self-improvement through environmental challenge.
Genomic changes in response to an organism's environment have
actually been known since the 1950s, but they challenged the
accepted theories of the time, so it has taken half a century to
amass sufficient data to warrant changing our scientific picture of
Barbara McClintock, who did much of her work on corn plants,
pioneered the research showing that DNA sequences move about to new
locations and that this genetic activity increases when the plants
are stressed. She also found closed-loop molecular bits of
self-reproducing DNA called plasmids moving about among the normal
DNA and exchanged from cell to cell.11,12
Plasmids were invented by ancient bacteria and persist in
multicelled creatures. They are used a great deal in genetic
engineering as they can be inserted into new genomes.
McClintock's work on transposable genetic elements was verified and
elaborated by many researchers until it became clear that DNA
reorganizes itself and trades genes with other cells, even with
other creatures.13 The
trading process sometimes involves virus-like elements known as
transposons. Some are retrotransposons and retroviruses
that transcribe their RNA into DNA – opposite to the usual order and
not thought possible before their discovery. Some theorists now
believe that bacteria may have invented viruses as well as plasmids.
1993 Nobel Laureate biologists Phillip Sharp and Richard Roberts
discovered that RNA is arranged in modules that can be reshuffled by
‘spliceosomes,’ referred to as a cells 'editors.'14
Other researchers have shown that bacteria naturally retool
themselves genetically and can correct defects created by human
genetic engineers.15 (Recall
that ancient bacteria had already evolved the ability to repair
genes damaged by UV radiation.)
Further research shows that bacteria not only alter genomes very
specifically in response to specific environmental pressures, but
also transfer the mutations to other bacteria.16,17
Many of these genetic transfers appear to be evolutionarily related
to ‘free-living' viruses, according to Temin and Engels in England.18
Retroviruses are known to infect across species and enter the host’s
We are still in early stages of understanding the extent to which
DNA is freely traded in the world of microbes to benefit both
individuals and their communities. And we are just beginning to see
these processes of genetic alteration at cellular levels as
intelligent responses to changing environmental conditions in
multicelled creatures. We know viruses and plasmids carry bits of
DNA from whales to seagulls, from monkeys to cats, and so on, but it
remains to be understood whether all this transfer is random or
Most research in this area of gene transfer among species is still
confined to microbes in which these matters are easier to study. As
yet we know relatively little about the extent to which DNA trading
occurs in creatures larger than microbes, or to what extent it
facilitates specific responses to environmental conditions. For that
matter, we still do not know what the vast proportion of
multicellular creature DNA does at all.
Depending on the particular plant or animal species, only 1% to 5%
of DNA codes for proteins. Of the remaining 95 to 99%, 20-30% is
made of repeating elements called LINEs (long interspersed nuclear
elements) and SINEs (short interspersed nuclear elements) which move
from one location to another or even trade places neatly, without
revealing exactly why they do so.19
The rest remains utter mystery.
much-discussed human genome project is only concerned with mapping
the small protein-coding portion of DNA. So our stories are far from
complete, but it seems reasonable to hazard the guess that nature
would not have evolved an evolutionary strategy as sophisticated as
gene trading to facilitate evolution billions of years ago only to
abandon it in evolving larger creatures.
British researcher Jeffrey Pollard reports the rapid restructuring
of genomes in response to stress in many different species from
microbes to plants and animals, with the changes passed on to
This can bring about, as Pollard says,
"dramatic alterations of
developmental plans independent of natural selection," which
itself may "play a minor role in evolutionary change, perhaps
honing up the fit between the organism and its environment."20
This growing body of evidence suggests
that evolution may proceed much faster under stress than was thought
possible. It also reveals how the world wide web of DNA information
exchange invented by Archean bacteria still functions today, not
only among bacteria as always, but also within multicelled creatures
and among species.
As microbiologist Lynn Margulis puts it:
"Evolution is no linear family tree,
but change in the single multidimensional being that has grown
to cover the entire surface of Earth."21,22
on our microbial ancestry
Margulis has contributed enormously to our evolving story of the
microbial world that was Earth for the first three-fourths of its
entire evolution up to the present, and to the understanding that
multicelled creatures – fungi, plants and animals – have the
descendants of ancient bacteria providing the energy in each and
every one of their – and our – cells.
Despite her comment that life is a
single multidimensional being, and not a linear family tree, it is
her work that caused a most dramatic change in the way we picture
that old 'tree of evolution' we all know from our schoolbooks.
Suddenly and dramatically, a brand-new version of this familiar
picture was launched into the public eye by an early 1998 article in
National Geographic magazine.23
Animals, fungi and plants were no longer
the main branches of the tree; rather, all three were relegated to
the mere tip of a single branch on a tree composed of a myriad kinds
of microbes – creatures too small to see with the naked eye.
Before our new wave of knowledge about our single-celled ancestors –
bacteria and protists, or nucleated cells – the bulk of evolution
was as murky a prehistory as the three million years of human
existence prior to what we call the Stone Age. Now, quite suddenly,
we are unveiling a surprisingly cosmopolitan ancient (and modern) microworld. Discovering the urban lifestyles of bacteria with all
their technologies – from skyscrapers to compass and electric motor,
from solar energy devices to polyester, and even to a world wide web
of information exchange – is an amazing journey.
Over the billions of years that the archae – our name for ancient
bacteria – were inventing diverse lifestyles such as fermentation,
photosynthesis and respiration, they were also rearranging the
planet's crust, creating a new atmosphere and exchanging bits of DNA
information among themselves. We can say they were the first to
invent a world wide web of information exchange. The importance this
astoundingly flexible gene pool cannot be underestimated. It is
still as active among bacteria today as in Archean times and
accounts, for example, to their rapid resistance to our antibiotics.
Information exchange gives bacteria close relationships that
facilitate cooperation in communal living. We have known of their
communal lives for some time, but only now are we able to
investigate their amazing urban complexes in real detail. Bacteria
discovered the advantages of communal living eons ago and evolved
sophisticated urban lives and cityscapes.
We can see these huge urban complexes
today, though with the naked eye they appear only as slimy films in
the kitchen drain, thick muddy microbial mats or giant fossilized
communities called stromatolites – rocky domes of layered ancient
seashore communities that trapped sand and other particles. Living
slime cities persist on their surfaces.4,21,22
Stromatolites are found in many locations, some pushed under the
surface into fossilized banded rock formations, again reminding us
of Vernadsky’s definition of life as a transform of rock that goes
back again to rock. Other stromatolites are still growing themselves
on the surface in shallow waters and on seashores. Other communal
life experiments have less rigid forms than stromatolites. Some
bacteria create communities that look and sometimes act remarkably
like later multicelled plants; others adopt free-swimming
One way or another, they all maintain
community through their exchanges of resources and information.
Bacteria living on top of microbial mats or stromatolites are burned
to death by ultraviolet light, but the dead cells make good filters,
absorbing the burning rays while letting the rest of the light reach
those that need it below. In other community situations, some
individuals commit suicide so that others may live – a process
called apoptosis, also found later in evolution as the embryological
process of 'programmed death' in which certain cells must die for multicelled creatures to 'sculpt' their forms.4
Bacterial cityscapes exist today wherever they can take hold – in
wetlands, in dank closets, in the stomachs of cows, in kitchen
drains. Scientists call them biofilms or mucilages, as they look
like slimy brown or greenish patches to the unaided human eye. Only
now can we discover their inner structure and functions with the
newest microscopy techniques that magnify them sufficiently without
destroying them (for example, confocal scanning laser microscopy).
Looking closely for the first time at intact bacterial microcities,
scientists are amazed to see them packed as tightly as our own urban
centers, but with a decidedly futuristic look. Towers of spheres and
cone- or mushroom-shaped skyscrapers soar 100 to 200 micrometers
upward from a base of dense sticky sugars, other big molecules and
water, all collectively produced by the bacterial inhabitants.
In these cities, different strains of
bacteria with different enzymes help each other exploit food
supplies that no one strain can break down alone.
All of them together build the city's infrastructure. The cities are
laced with intricate channels connecting the buildings to circulate
water, nutrients, enzymes, oxygen and recyclable wastes. Their
diverse inhabitants live in different micro-neighborhoods and glide,
motor or swim along roadways and canals. The more food is available,
the denser the populations become.
Researcher Bill Keevil in England,
making videos of these cityscapes, says of one,
"It looks like Manhattan when you
fly over it." 25,26
Microbiologist Bill Costerton in Montana
"All of a sudden, instead of
individual organisms, you have communication, cell cooperation,
cell specialization, and a basic circulatory system, as in
plants or animals….It's a big intellectual break."26
Researchers are coming to see colonial
bacteria or even all bacteria now as multicelled creatures.27
Most astonishing to investigators, communal bacteria turn on a
different set of genes than their genetically identical relatives
roaming independently outside of biofilms.
This gives the urban
dwellers a very different biochemical makeup. A special bacterial
chemical, homoserine lactone, signals incoming bacteria to turn into
city dwellers. All bacteria constantly discharge low levels of this
chemical. Large concentrations of it in urban environments trigger
the urbanizing genetic changes, no matter what strain the bacteria
(Note that bacteria are classified by
strains and not by species because speciation is impossible in
creatures that constantly exchange and revise their DNA.)
These changes include those that make bacteria most resistant to
antibiotics. Costerton estimates that more than 99 percent of all
bacteria live in biofilm communities, and finds that such
communities, pooling their resources, can be up to 1,500 times more
resistant to antibiotics than a single colony.25
Under today’s siege by antibiotics, bacteria respond with ever-new
Our fifth generation of antibiotics
failed in 1996.
In Tel-Aviv, Eshel Ben-Jacob also finds bacteria trading genes and
discovers complex interactions between individuals and their
communities. The genomes of individuals – defined as their full set
of structural and regulatory genes – can and do alter their patterns
in the interests of the bacterial community as a whole. He observes
that bacteria signal each other chemically, calculate their own
numbers in relation to food supplies, make decisions on how to
behave accordingly to maximize community wellbeing and collectively
change their environments to their communal benefit.
Bacterial communities thus create complex genetic and behavioral
patterns specific to different environmental conditions. The genomes
of individual bacteria alter their composition, arrangement and the
pattern of which genes are turned on in response to changes in the
environment or communal circumstances. This important information is
coming from various research laboratories.
Both Ben-Jacob and Costerton see
individual bacteria gaining the benefits of group living by putting
group interests ahead of their own. Ben-Jacob concludes that
colonies form a kind of supermind genomic web of intelligent
Such webs are capable of creative
responses to the environment that bring about "cooperative
self-improvement or cooperative evolution."29
Evolution, in fact, can be seen as a story of crises and solutions,
stability out of instability, ever new levels of order emerging from
ever new chaos.
Tracing its story we encounter fascinating events
that can help us understand the crises we face today. We discover
that we are not the first global polluters, nor the first species to
evolve from competition over resources to cooperative sharing. From
the experience of our Earth in evolution we can actually gain hope,
courage and even practical solutions.3,30
Within the great process and pattern of evolution we see the
holistic, cooperative, energy efficient, recycling ecosystems that
nature has evolved with apparent intelligence, trial and error over
billions of years: rain forests, savannas, deserts, river basins,
coral reefs. In these living systems we can find inspiration and
models for a new kind of human invention: the ecologically
sustainable human communities we must develop to survive as a
healthy species in this new millennium.
Already in ancient times, food shortages, global atmospheric
pollution and destructive ultraviolet radiation were challenges that
led to the invention of new DNA genes and new lifestyles. Later
evolved animals and plants faced repeated massive extinctions, the
survivors of each such crisis retooling, evolving into new forms and
functions. It begins to look as though crises afford life unusual
evolutionary opportunities to create novel solutions.
These emerging themes – the geobiological systems view, the DNA
revolution, our microbial ancestry and the creativity of life in
response to crisis – are leading us to a new story of evolution.
Darwin will always be credited as
the great pioneer of evolution
biology, but Lamarck will also be vindicated for his ideas on the
reorganization of species through the inheritance of acquired
The central theme of our changing story
is that life is too intelligent to proceed by accident. We can now
see clearly that the accidents we thought were the basis for
evolution are rather recognized and repaired as they occur, while
DNA is altered in intelligent response to the organism's needs.
We see this in the urban complexes of
bacteria that simulate later multi-celled creatures, we see it in
the multi-creatured cells that we ourselves are made of.
to discover far more of how this process works in multi-celled
creatures – to build on the half-century of that evidence pioneered
by Barbara McClintock.
If biological evolution is revealing itself to our scientific
scrutiny as a holistic and intelligent learning process, what of the
universe in which it is embedded?
Western science is but a few centuries old – a very new endeavor on
the scale of evolution itself, which is counted in billions of
years. The concept of biological evolution and the pursuit of its
nature came into this science and into the public eye only little
more than a single century ago.
Yet in that brief moment we came very
far: from the first voyages of the Beagle to identify and catalog a
handful of our planet's still countless species in a framework of
the first modern theory of their emergence over time to the temporal
mapping of an amazing diversity of life, most of it far too small to
see with the naked eye, and to the unraveling of the DNA common to
them all, the understanding that it is freely traded in a great
world wide web, and the capability of shuffling genes among species
ourselves, for our own human purposes.
Does this indicate that we now know how evolution works?
Consider that it is now less than two
years ago that we officially revised the entire tree of evolution,
displacing the visible species that had made up the bulk of this
tree to the tip of a single branch on a new tree made largely of
microbes. Consider that the truly detailed study of these microbes
and their worlds has only become technologically possible in the
past decade and that our newly observable information about them is
dramatically changing our views of how DNA works.
And consider that the sciences of
astronomy and physics, within whose frameworks biological theories
exist, are in complex transitions of their own, in both observation
Is it possible to know how biological evolution works without
knowing how the physical universe in which it is embedded works?
we believe, as the physicists tell us, that everything in the
universe is inseparably interconnected at the most fundamental
levels of reality, then I think we can agree that there must be a
consistency in the realities of our biological and physical worlds.
In fact, our separation of these worlds has been no more than an
artificial convenience of western science – a division of
disciplines and labor for studying various aspects and levels of our
observable universe and planet. Such divisions for the sake of
convention should not blind us to the search for consistency
throughout the entire system we call our universe.
Unfortunately, there has been a serious disconnect, or lack of
communication, between biology and physics, such that mainstream
biology still works with rather Newtonian models while physics has
gone on through almost a century of relativity theory, quantum
theory and explorations of superstrings, multiple dimensions beyond
the usual four, zero-point energy, non-locality, consciousness and
other adventures in understanding reality.
Micro and macro biologists argue that it is a question of levels –
that physics deals with a quantum world the laws and nature of which
are unique to its scale, while biology must look to its own unique
But when physicists tell us that
non-locality, for example, is a basic property of the universe –
that we live in a universe that knows itself because every point in
it is ever in informational touch with every other, no matter how
Can biology ignore this?
Or must we then assume that
every cell in our bodies, for example, is in informational
touch with every other – that a change in DNA within one
cell is known by all others – not through chemical or
electromagnetic information exchange, but by virtue of the
basic property of our entire universe?
Do we now have a physical basis
for the "wisdom of the body" so long ago named by the great
physiologist John Cannon?
Can we now explain why a human
with multiple personality disorder can instantly change
their physiologies from diabetic to non-diabetic, allergic
to non-allergic in an instant?
If an electron can choose to
jump orbits, why can't a cell or an entire organism choose
its actions as well?
What we are being forced into is a deep
reassessment of the state of our knowledge about universal physical
reality, or, more simply, "reality."
Since the advent of quantum
theory, some physicists have been exploring the concept that reality
is the collapse of wave functions by consciousness; that without
conscious observers there is no reality.
Does this mean that there can be no
universe without humans? Or does it imply that the universe itself
is fundamentally conscious – a learning universe that originates in
some simple awareness of itself through non-locality and then ever
evolves more complex local consciousnesses within itself until it
can look clearly at itself from within?
This is what some physicists who center
the process on ourselves call
the anthropic principle.31
Western science is committed to the concept of a permanent knowable
reality that is understandable through reason, just as western
religions believe a similarly knowable reality to be accessible
Eastern philosophy, which is an integral
spiritual science with a far longer history than western science,
has seen reality very differently – as rooted in consciousness,
illusory, fluctuating or cyclic, at once impermanent and eternal,
but still comprehensible, with an internal order.
One of its tenets, as quoted by Swami Muktananda, is that,
"Universal Consciousness creates
this universe in total freedom."32
Muktananda goes on to say:
Contemporary scientists are becoming
aware that the basis of the universe is energy.
discovering what the ancient sages of India have known for
millennia: that it is consciousness which forms the ground, or
canvas, on which the material universe is drawn. In fact, the
entire world is the play of this energy.
Within its own being,
by its own free will, it manifests this universe of diversities
and becomes all the forms and shapes we see around us. This
energy pervades every particle of the universe, from the supreme
principle to the tiniest insect, and performs infinite
functions… Just as this energy pervades the universe, it
permeates the human body, filling it from head to toe… this
conscious energy powers our bodies.33
The simple fact most basic to all human
experience – including that of all scientists for all of our lives –
has been swept under the rug by science until now.
That fact is that
all human experience takes place in our consciousness and in a
single eternal present moment. Neither science nor any other human
endeavor has ever discovered a way of getting outside this richly
patterned moment of consciousness in which we spin out our
histories, our cosmic and biological evolution.
Eastern philosophy and the rigorous science of internal exploration
through meditation – as arduous a training as any western Ph.D.
program – have long explored the consciousness western science is
just discovering at the heart of the universe in poking its probes
into and through the zero point energy field.
The great human endeavors of East and West have been coming together
in understanding during the past half decade. Science and
spirituality were separated by historical events into competitive
endeavors, just as species are separated into competitive players
during their immature phases. But human endeavors can mature like
As humanity matures over the next millennium, I believe science will
define spirituality from its own perspective while religions
incorporate scientific stories of evolution, and that ultimately
they will see themselves clearly as aspects of the same whole, the
same participatory universe in which all is interconnected.
This, in turn, will restore our view of
nature as sacred, rather than as the object of our conquest and
destruction, and promote our maturation into a cooperative and
benign species of beings knowing ourselves as spirit become Earth
matter without losing consciousness of our eternal selves.
Lovelock, James. 1995. Gaia: A
New Look at Life on Earth. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
Lovelock, James. 1988.
of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth. New York: W.W.
Harman, Willis and Sahtouris,
Elisabet. 1998. Biology Revisioned. North Atlantic Books:
Sahtouris, Elisabet, with Swimme,
Brian and Liebes, Sid. 1998. A Walk Through Time: From
Stardust to Us. Wiley: New York.
Lapo, A.V. 1982. Traces of
Bygone Biospheres. Mir Publishers: Moscow.
Vernadsky, Vladimir. 1986. The
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