The following is excerpted from The Basic Code of the
Universe: The Science of the Invisible in Physics, Medicine and Spirituality, published by Inner Traditions.
Mechanistic thought conceptualized solid particles moving in a
vacuum. Then came field physics, and prevailing notions were shattered once
again. In the mid-nineteenth century, Michael Faraday introduced the idea of a field
as "a space around a source of electromagnetic energy." Opposing the concept of
"full and void" from atomism, Faraday suggested the idea of "matter and force
diffused in space," according to precise lines of force. His was a nonmaterial
vision of physical phenomena! It is with Faraday that fields became defined as
physical dimensions in zones of temporal space. In the following century,
Einstein extended the field principle with the inclusion of gravity: the
universe is thus considered held in a single gravitational field that curves in
proximity to matter.
Of the four elements of Pannaria, the field is the least studied but
the most interesting. Mass could be matter combined with energy, which is an
expression of the field. In that case mass would be the formation through which
the senses perceive the field, the reality that the "veil of Maya" hides, as
some insightful sages of India, along with some Western philosophers, have put
it. Plato contrasted the truth (alètheia) with fiction,
opinion, illusion (doxa). The senses fall
under the category of doxa, projection, the shadow of
the alètheia. The senses enable us to perceive only impressions, while the
truth of the universe is unknowable. "Nature loves to hide" (?????
?????????? ?????), writes Heraclitus of Ephesus.* But a philosopher
must try to reach it somehow, because truth is very sublime.
Plato used the "myth of the cave," in which he describes a scene of
slaves chained in a cave, who are forced to watch a strange "film" of speaking
shadows on a wall. They believe what they see is real until one slave escapes
and discovers an unexpected world: what the prisoners think are people are only
the shadows of statues of humans and animals being carried on the shoulders of
real men and women passing by; the slaves were hearing only their voices.5
The freed slave met the other side of things. Centuries later, the
neo-Platonist Giordano Bruno of the Renaissance wrote De
Umbris Idearum (The Shadows of Ideas), and indeed Platonic thought
has also been revalued by some quantum physicists. The physical bodies that we
can touch, see, and hear are only the shadows in the cave. Their fields, though
they elude our senses, are in fact the true reality of the bodies. A researcher
has to leave the cave in order to explore the other side of things.
Every physical body can be seen as an event that is constantly
changing on the world stage, and the director of the changes is precisely the
field, which the ancient sages identified with fire, a great natural alchemist.
The quantum field is everywhere. The particles are not corpuscular, but local
condensations of the field. Solid? No. They are quanta, but they are packets of
energy of the field's vibrations. The protons are vibrations in the field of
the protons, electrons in that of the electrons, and so on. It is revolutionary
in the history of human thinking to imagine that the world is not built with
solid bricks, but rather with vibration, energy. Matter is a particular vibration
of its own field, which overturns everything so far studied in school.
Since our childhood we have wanted to humanize the world, and we
imagine even the microscopic driving energies of life as solid objects. But
things are not like that. The Italian doctor and physicist Massimo Corbucci
writes that the atom is an abyss filled with electrons and the particles of the
nucleus.6 The harder you search the abyss, the more you realize that
mass itself does not exist. What exists is a game of attraction and repulsion
(therefore a balance) between different polarities of charge, between
The field is pulsation in the emptiness, that is, vibrating
emptiness, a pulsating vacuum. The particles that make up mass might actually
be disturbances of the field, ripples in the vacuum. We
are not far from the discourse of the strings. Now consider that the first
description of matter, as being like "the crest of a wave, curling like the
sea," was written as early as the hermetic treatises of the second century
C.E.! It is only these disturbances that are perceived by the senses, which
then turn them into perceptions-visual, tactile, auditory-namely feelings from
forms, bodies, heat, sound, light.
What appear to us as particles are probably field fluctuations, in
which some of a field's regions oppose one another (for example, the protons
and the electrons). In physics' "double slit" experiment, an electron sent
toward a plate with two parallel slits close to each other passes through both
simultaneously, suggesting that the electron is traveling more like a wave than
a particle. Actually, an electron can be in either wave or particle form, a
variation of field fluctuation.
During our journey, we will discover further that the fields of
physical bodies have extraordinary properties, that they are "organized masses"
and that to date nobody has been able to uncover what organizes them and how.
The physical, chemical, and biological sciences continue to largely ignore
these questions. In fact, the field may not only be the result of what happens
to mass, but rather the director of what happens to mass. To begin to
understand how this can be, we are aided by the concept of morphogenetic
which offer us insight into fields with organizing disposition.
The existence of morphogenetic fields was postulated by a group of
botanical embryologists in the past century in order to explain the growth
processes of plants and animals, and the differentiation of their individual
parts. According to their concept, the morphogenetic field may have
informational characteristics that contribute to invisible planning, which
gives form to the organisms as they develop. They may also help explain the
ordering functions responsible for group actions and behaviors in many animal
species. The raw building material remains the same; what changes is the design
itself: it is this that "decides" shape, proportions, and limits with respect
to growth. Only the morphogenetic field can explain why a person's arms and
legs are different, despite the fact that they contain the same proteins
encoded in the same genes.
One of the first to describe ordering fields was Harold Saxton Burr,
who taught anatomy and neuroanatomy at the Yale School of Medicine. For at
least two decades, Burr conducted research into the shapes of plants and
animals, and also on hypothetical living fields that he called vital
fields (V-fields). Each organism follows a pattern of planned
growth, led by its electromagnetic field. Burr discovered, for example, that
the electric field of a sprout has the shape of the adult plant. In an unfertilized
egg, he discovered an electrical axis corresponding to the future orientation
of the adult brain, serving as a guide to place the cell in the right place.7
According to Richard Gerber, "It is highly likely that the spatial organization
of cells is intended to be a three-dimensional map of the finished version:
this map or matrix is a function of the energy field that accompanies the
Burr was convinced that the fields could dominate and control the
growth and development of every living form. He writes, "The molecules and cells of the human body are constantly being demolished and
rebuilt with fresh substances from the food we eat. But thanks to the
controlling V-field, new molecules and cells are rebuilt as before and are
arranged in the same way as the old ones. When we meet a friend whom we haven't
seen for six months, there is not one molecule in his face that is the same as
it was at the last meeting. But, thanks to the controlling field, the new
molecules are placed exactly in the old familiar layout and so we can recognize
Biologists are struggling to explain how our bodies maintain their
shape despite the continuous replacement of substances. The particle affects
the field, but it in turn is conditioned, points out Burr. "The design and the
organization of each biological system are determined by a complex electrodynamic
field which dictates the behavior and the ordering of components. It has
correlations with growth and development, degeneration and regeneration and
orientation of the component parts of the entire system. It can control the
movement and the position of all particles within the entire system . . . Science
believes that the electrical variations in living systems are the consequence
of their biological activity, but I believe that there is a primary electrical
field in the living system that is responsible."10
When Burr talks about forces, he imagines "superregulatory systems"
governing physiology. According to him the condition of the mind influences the
state of the field. These words sound like Buddha's: we become what we think.
For Burr life does not happen by chance, but is rather the result of an organization
delivered through electrodynamic fields that rule the positions and movements
of all particles: "Vital fields impose a plan and organization of the material
components, throughout the constant changing of all the living forms, forcing
an acorn to grow until it becomes an oak, and only an oak. . . . Vital fields
are influenced by larger fields in which our world is included (solar spots,
for example), subject to a higher authority that forces them to change in
The experiments conducted by our research group (see chapters 5 and
6) also suggest the existence of informed structures,
which are able to build and organize physical bodies and put them in
communication. But these structures are invisible, not perceivable with the
naked eye or with equipment. And there we run into the limitation of current
science, which is almost
a certainty of knowledge. Almost because the senses
are subjective and fail to capture dimensions different from our own: parallel
universes are perhaps only one step away from us, but they may as well not
exist. What exists for us is all that exists, at least as far as
the logic of senses. Reality for us is all that we imagine.
Imagination draws the limits of our world. Ancients depicted
the earth as flat, as was suggested by the senses. Today we can think of the
earth in its roundness because we have seen the curvature of Earth from space.
However, it is with difficulty that we imagine the solar system, especially the
farthest planets. The galaxy is unimaginable, even more so, the universe.
Distant galaxies are billions of light years away from our understanding. How
can we imagine billions and billions of miles? Consider how the ancients
thought of a fixed Earth at the center of rotating spheres. It took Galileo's
telescope, the Copernican revolution, and satellites to replace this picture of
reality. And we still don't know if our new images are the right ones . . . but
this is another matter.
Under the microscopic lens, we have the same dilemma. Where does the
world end? In quarks?* Beyond? The limit has been moved so many times! Research
into the components of matter has involved generations of physicists who always
review the previous theories. At the beginning of the nineteenth century,
experiments carried out by Dalton suggested that everything was made up of atoms and
nothing else. But before the century ended, Thomson discovered the electron; from there
on, during the early twentieth century, physicists described all the components
of the atom. The particles seemed to be the new frontier, but then came Paul
Dirac, who proposed the idea of antimatter. He was mocked for thirty years
until antiparticles were discovered, and the scientific community tried to
correct its mistake and the insult it caused by awarding Dirac the Nobel Prize.
Fortunately for him, Dirac was still alive. Then quarks were discovered, and
once again the frontier was moved forward. Physicists constantly change the
image of the universe, and sometimes they discard it completely to start all
The progression of numbers is an example of how the world has only
limited representation on the mental screen. If I read 0.1, it is easy to
imagine a tenth part of something, one of ten slices of a cake. But with
0.0000001 the mental effort is enormous. Imagine if there are tens of zeros
after the decimal point! The most famous irrational number is ?, academically
approximated to 3.14: an understandable number that in reality would be
3.14159265358979323846. I wonder how many people even read all the numbers one
by one; this confirms how useless it is to try to imagine something beyond our
We are dealing with a world of representations suggested by the
senses and the imagination, not a sound foundation on which to base dogmas and
doctrines. Nothing is certain. Objective reality is unattainable. What shall we
do? Stop searching and abandon this powerful passion? No. We should extend the
research field to regions forbidden to the senses, into the void, and redefine
what our senses declare to be "empty."
Teaser image by arenamontanus, courtesy of Creative Commons license.