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Note: You can explore these ideas with David Peat in person by
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Active Information, Meaning and Form
It is proposed, in the spirit of open speculation, that science
is now ready to accommodate a new principle, that of active
information, that will take its place alongside energy and matter.
Information connects to concepts such as form and meaning which
are currently being debated in a variety of fields from biology
and the neurosciences, to consciousness studies and the nature
of dialogue. It may well provide the integrating factor between
mind and matter.
While the principle of Information has considerable potential
it also raises a variety of questions whose clarification and
resolution may help to increase understanding in other fields.
Alchemical Transformation: Consciousness
and Matter, Form and Information
This talk, given to a meeting sponsored by the Club of Budapest
and organized by Ervin Laszlo, discusses the study of consciousness.
The essay is critical of many current approaches and suggests
that their limitations arise from metaphysical assumptions influencd,
in part, by the noun-based language we speak - languages that
tend to reify concepts and categories, rather than giving attention
to process and flow.
It is suggested that a number of paths be tried and that the
conflicts between them be sustained in a sort of alchemical
tension, rather than too-rapidly resolved. Notions of non-locality,
projective identification, mystical states, sycnhronicities,
active information and the roles of meaning and form are discussed.
The nature of the creative process as it arises out of the body.
Examples range from composers such as Michael Tippet to the physicist
David Bohm and artists Anish Kapoor, Anthony Gormley and Janine
Art & Science: Marriage or Illicit Liaison
This essay, discussing the relationship between art and science,
was written for the catalogue that accompanies "Dark Matter:
A Visual Exploration of the New Physics", an exhibition jointly
held at the Turnpike Gallery, Manchester and the Harris Gallery,
Preston 7 March - 25 April, 1998.
Art and the Environment in Britain
The essay discusses the relationship between artists, the environment
and the environmental movement in Britain. This relationship
emerged out of the long history of British culture and society
with its particular connectedness (both factual and in the realm
of romantic fantasy) to the rural environment following the
land enclosure acts and industrialization. This has led to grass
roots environmental movements that involve quite ordinary people
who would otherwise never think of protesting to their governments.
As for artists themselves, in addition to the official Land
Art of the galleries, individual artists have chosen to leave
the world of galleries and dealers to work in small rural communities,
reviving handicrafts and reintroducing traditional trees and
plants. Others have chosen to work in towns and cities from
within an environmental context.
In many ways it is no longer possible to draw sharp distinctions
between artists who become involve in social issues, and social
activists whose very actions could be considered art works.
Thus, for example, those who block motorway construction by
creating communities in trees and underground tunnels are considered
by some to be engaged in art acts.
Art and the Environment
In 1997 and following the circulation of the essay Art and
the Environment in Britain, a group of artists and environmentalists
met for dinner in London to discuss the how their particular
approach could be made known to artists and environmentalists
in the United States. Their proposals are contained within this
Blackfoot Physics and European Minds
Western science and "European consciousness" is contrasted with
that of Indigenous and traditional peoples. The metaphysics
of the Blackfoot of North America, and their vision of an animate
world, is examined. The essay argues that a similar world view
existed in Europe up to the early middle ages but that the secularization
of space, time and matter paved the way for the development
of "Western science" and its associated technologies and notions
of progress, prediction and control. The essay speculates that
a new science may be possible which combines the current power
of abstraction and analysis with an "impersonal subjectivity".
Future, Vol 29, 563-573, 1997
Book Review: "The Science of Cold Fusion:
Proceedings of the II Annual Conference on Cold Fusion"
A review of "The Science of Cold Fusion: Proceedings of the
II Annual Conference on Cold Fusion" (June 29 - July 4 1991).
The review concludes that while the case for cold fusion, in
its various forms, has not been fully established, evidence
for anomalies phenomena in the solid state is strong. Interest
in cold fusion has also stimulated interesting theoretical work
on coherence in many body couplings.
Caravaggio's Supper: Picture Frames and
the Nature of Human Consciousness
The frame that encloses a painting becomes the starting point
in an exploration of questions of reality and imagination, immanence
and transcendence, as well as the nature of human language and
consciousness. Questions about boundaries, inner and outer,
dualities and differentiation are considered. Paintings by Simoni
Martini, Caravaggio, Seurat, Degas, Rosenquist, as well as Shakespeare's
plays and the films of Goddard, Fellini and Antonioni are a
focus for questions of boundaries and transitions. The essay
also discusses the play between abstract mathematics and the
Catalogue Essays for David Andrew
This essay was written to accompany an exhibition by the painter
David Andrew. As a young man, Cornish born Andrew was taken
under the wing of the Ben Nicholson, maker of reliefs and pioneer
of abstract art in Britain. Later Andrew moved to Queen's University,
Kingston, Canada as head of their art department. After many
years as a print maker Andrew returned to painting and was influenced
by the writings of David Bohm. Andrew had a studio in Ottawa
and for a number of years he and I would discuss his work-in-progress.
We have also been active in an exchange of letters about the
way Andrew works and perceives the world as an artist. At some
point I hope that these letters and our discussions will be
published, either in print on this Web page.
Chaos: The Geometrization of Thought
This talk, an overview given to the Chaos in Psychology Society
at their first meeting in Orilia, Canada , explores the metaphors
of chaos theory and asks to what extent they can be applied
to the study of consciousness and to psychotherapy in general.
Comment on Chaos
This brief paper proposes we adopt a "watchful suspension of
action" in the face of so many of the difficulties that face
us today. In the case of an organization, or government, this
creative suspension allows for a more direct perception of the
whole nature and structure of the institute and the wider context
of a particular problem. In turn this may help to dissolve the
rigidities inherent within an organization.
Creativity Research Journal, vol 1, p 131, (1980)
Containment and Growth
The essay notes the prevailing fashion, though workshops, seminars,
gurus and self-help books, for "personal growth". It cautions
that in many case "growth" is being pursued in the absence of
any deeper context, in particular one shared by society in general.
Traditional peoples, and religious groups, provide a language,
symbols and rituals in which the transcendental and transpersonal
can be pursued in a safe and contained way. But "personal growth",
in our modern, society, has become a fragmented affair that
offers no safe crucible for the experiences of an inner journey.
Occasional Paper: The Fetzer Institute, 1992. Reprinted in
"Common Boundary", August 1993.
Cosmos and Inscape
(In English) "Kosmos und Innenwelt" from "Am Fluss des Heralklit:
Neue kosmologische Perspektiven: Insel Verlsag, 1993
Cosmology is considered, not simply as the story of the material
origin of the cosmos but also as an integration of inner and
outer, objective and subjective, matter and spirit, art and
science, individual and society. A discussion is made of Native
American cosmologies, James Joyce's notion of Epiphanies and
Gerard Manley Hopkins's notion of inscape. The essay also discusses
the notion of time.
Creativity and Education
This talk was given in 1989 Canada to a group of teachers and
parents interested in establishing an alternative form of education.
It asked that since creativity is perfectly natural why is it
that we so often feel our lives are blocked and dull and what
best can we do for our children. The talk stressed that the
way creativity lies in play, whether it is the play of a young
child or a distinguished scientist or artist. It discussed the
dangers of both reward and punishment and how creativity can
become destructive when it is blocked. It suggested that the
most creative, and at the same time most challenging, thing
we can do as parents is to allow the child to develop in her
or her own way and pace while at the same time providing a secure
and stimulating environment.
Creativity: The Meeting of Apollo and
This essay, first given in the form of a talk to a group of
psychotherapists, explores creativity in four areas, as: an
act of renewal, a state of openness, making the new or unexpected
and, finally, as the art of healing. It discusses the difficulties
in containing creative forces, the dangers of psychic inflation,
and our denial of the shadow.
Creativity, it suggests is an aspect of the entire cosmos,
including very matter out of which our bodies are built. Examples
are given, from the lives of artists and composers, of the way
creativity bubbles up out of the body's sensations. The mechanism
called "projective identification" is also discussed.
First given as a talk in Brussels to Institute International
de Psychanalyse et de Psychotherapie Charles Baudoin, in Brussels
November 10, 1996. Later published in French in "Action et Pensee"
No 31, novembre, 1997, Brussels. Later reprinted in "3iem millinaire"
David Bohm, Paul Cezanne and Creativity
This is the text of a talk given at a conference on the work
of David Bohm held in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh.
The conference, organized by InterAlia, brought together a number
of artists and scientists (including Anish Kapoor, Susan Derges,
Basil Hiley, Chris Isham and Leroy Little Bear) to reflect on
Bohm's various contributions.
In my talk I made a connection between Bohm and Cezanne as
two pioneers, each attempting to create new orders of space
Divine Contenders: Wolfgang Pauli and
the Symmetry of the World
Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung explore synchronicity and the symmetry
of the world
Does Spirit Matter?
This essays is based upon notes for a meeting held at the Fetzer
Institute, Kalamazoo. It discusses the way in which Western
science has moved into very subtle areas and asks if an integration
between matter and spirit is possible.
Escher, Maurits Cornelius (1898-1972)
In 1993-94 I acted as a consultant to the National Gallery of
Canada for an exhibition of the work of Escher. Although Escher's
status amongst art critics and curators is somewhat ambiguous,
the work of this Dutch artist work has attracted considerable
public, particularly because of his play with visual and mathematical
paradoxes. Escher's interest in tiling, figure-ground ambiguities
and the illusions of recession in three dimensions are particularly
attractive to scientists and mathematicians. The essay discusses
various aspects of Escher's work and its connection to questions
in science, mathematics, perception and the history of art.
Gentle Action and Global Solutions
The essay begins by looking at our sense of frustration and
desperation at the problems facing society and the environment.
It argues that our current approaches and mechanistic solutions
are not going to work. Drawing upon notions of systems theory,
chaos theory, non-linearity and quantum wholeness it explores
the approach of gentle action and suggests ways in which the
inherent creativity of human beings within organizations can
Gentle Action for a Harmonious World
This essay, written for Edges Magazine, December 1989, introduces
the notion of "Gentle Action". It suggests that while prediction,
control and localized intervention may work well for machines
and relatively mechanical systems it is not applicable when
it comes to human beings and more flexible organizations. Gentle
Action is the notion of a minimal, highly intelligent action
that unfolds out of the entire context of a situation.
Gentle Action: Surviving Chaos and Change
This essay was originally written as a book proposal - that
book that remains to be written. It asks: How can businesses,
institutions and individuals achieve stability in a world of
rapid change and engage in activities that are more appropriate
to the world that surrounds them? In which ways can new organizations
arise so as to be more flexible, sensitive and organic. How
can they provide an environment in which natural creativity
and human talents can flower? In answering these questions the
essay touches on the anxiety inherent in change, the desire
to control and engaging complexity in business and life. It
then contrasts our need to engage in immediate action with gentle
action's notion of creative suspension.
I've Got a Map in My Head
This talk was given at a conference "Patterns in the Universe"
at the Smithsonian Museum, Washington. It contrasts the Western-European
tradition of attempting to understand the world through rational,
scientific means with that of Indigenous Cultures who often
speak of having "A Map in the Head". The nature of this map,
relating to the land, history, songs, stories and rituals, is
explored. While certain elements or resonances of such maps
can also be found in our own literature and science, possibly
they can also point us towards a deeper sense of shared meaning.
Mathematics and the Language of Nature
The essay is a meditation upon Wigner's famous dictum about
"the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics". Why should
pure mathematics, developed for totally abstract reasons, be
so effective in describing the world? The essay asks to what
extent mathematical forms can be taken as actual archetypes
of the world, or reflect the archetypal means by which we experience
the world. It is also suggested that mathematics has some features
of a language and in this sense it's very effectiveness lies
in its influence on the way we express, and by inference, perceive
Meaning and Structure in Biology and
Physics: Some Outstanding Questions
This talk explores the possibility for developing new concepts,
ideas and approaches by means of a dialogue between quantum
theory, biology and cognitive science. The particular topics
discussed are: Symmetry, Structure and Information; An Infinitely
Subtle Order; Determinism and Chance; The Genetic Code; Time;
Consciousness and Artificial Intelligence; Quantum Mechanics
and Consciousness; Language and Vision; Health, Wholeness and
Talks given at Temple University Conference on Basic Issues
in the Overlap and Union of Quantum Theory, Biology and the
Philosophy of Cognition, Bermuda 15-21 April, 1988.
Nature Morte: Inscape, Perception and
An approach to perception is explored in which each object is
experienced as a boundless inscape. This notion of inscape also
calls for a new order to thought and for the integration of
experience in a way that freely embraces ambiguity and paradox.
New Lamps For Old
This essay was written for a catalogue to accompany an exhibition
of works by Todd Watts at the Grey Gallery, New York. Watts
is an artist who works in the photographic medium and explores
the manner in which certain scientific ideas can have visual
correlates. The essay discusses the notion of visual codes in
art in commenting on Watts' images.
New Science, New Vision
This extended essay discusses the methodology and practice of
science in the light of the scientific revolutions and social
changes of this century. The objectivity and goals of present
science are examined and critiqued. The then asks if a science
that includes values, qualities, compassion and a certain level
of subjectivity, is possible. Intimations for such a science
are examined and extrapolated into the fields of physics, biology
Non-Linear Dynamics (Chaos Theory) and
its Implications for Policy Planning
This essay, developed out of a talk given to a conference sponsored
by The Royal Society of Canada, presents a non-technical overview
of chaos theory, self-organization and non-linear systems theory.
The ideas are then applied to policy planning.
Keynote address at The Royal Society of Canada, conference
on "The Cost of Inaction:, Hull, Quebec, 15 January 1988. Expanded
in to a report for the Science Council of Canada, March 1990.
Non-locality: Bell's Theorem, Condensed States and the Form
of the Wave Function
Non-locality in quantum theory is discussed in terms of the
global form of the wave function, and as subtle set of necessary
and sufficient conditions that must be placed on the 2-matrix
or reduced density matrix. In addition to manifesting itself
through Bell's inequalities, non-locality also appears as a
macroscopic coherence length in a condensed system. By examining
the structure of the 2-matrix a connection between these two
forms of non-locality it made.
Non-Locality in Nature and Cognition
An exploration of the meaning of non-locality in physics and
thought. It is suggested that non-local correlations may play
an essential role within the nature. Non-locality is also considered
as an ordering principle within art.
Parallel Lines: Faraday and Pasteur
An exploration of the attitudes towards religion and science
on the part of Faraday and of Pasteur
Photography and Science: Conspirators
This is a chapter written for a new book, Photography's multiple
roles published by The Museum of Contemporary Photography,
Columbia College Chicago. It introduces the historical connection
between photography and science, then moves on to issues of
contemporary photography's ability to illustrate and comment
on the ambiance of our scientific and technological world. The
essay includes illustrations and discussions on the work of
Arthur Siegel, Robert Heinecken, MANUAL, Susan Derges, Arnold
Gilbert, Abelardo Morell, Berenice Abbott, Alice Hargrave, Catherine
Wagner, Lynne Cohen, Catherine Chalmers, Susan Rankaitis, Todd
Watts, Nancy Burson, Partick Nagatani, Barbara Crane, Douglas
Prince, Frank Gohlke and Derek Johnston.
The Role of Language in Science
by Alan Ford and F. David Peat
It is argued that language plays an active role in the development
of scientific ideas. A research project is outlined to investigate
this hypothesis and focus on such questions as the role of mathematics
in science and the status of the genetic code.
Science, Art and the Sacred
These notes were made for a panel appearance at the meeting
"Art meets Science and Spirituality in a changing Economy"
held in Copenhagen in 1996. They discuss the similarities and
differences between art and science in terms of transformation,
time, order and a sense of spirit.
A Science of Harmony and Gentle Action
A talk given at a conference on Frontier Sciences held at Temple
University, Philadelphia in 1989 on the fundamental ways science
may have to change if it is truly to understand the connection
between consciousness and matter. The talk touched on such issues
as meaning, language, synchronicity and non-locality.
Space and the Body
Unedited notes for a talk given to students at the School of
Architecture, Oxford Brooks University on February 1996. The
talk explored notions of space in various cultures as well as
in contemporary science. Two paradigm cases were considered.
In one space, is a given in which the dynamics of nature must
be set. In the other, space is created out of events. These
two approaches also represent extreme positions in which architects
can chose to work - either beginning with an overall spatial
concept into which the building must evolve or allowing events
and relationships to define the space. Clearly it is of advantage
to be able to move creatively between such extremes.
Synchronicity: The Speculum of Inscape
Synchronicity represents a challenge to western science. How
can such a concept, this supposed bridge between matter and
mind, be accommodated? The essence of synchronicity lies in
its associated deep sense of meaning and epiphany. This is something
normally considered to be within the province of science. Rather
than seeing loopholes within our present science, such as the
collapse of the wave function, whereby synchronicity could enter,
what is called for is a radically rethinking of our whole metaphysics
and the language in which it is cast.
"That Obscure Object of Desire"
This essay comments on the sculptures, installations and videos
of Madelon Hooykaas and Elsa Standfield. There work comments
upon our desire to project, categorize, catalogue, isolate and
in this way fragment experience. Several of their pieces ask
us to consider what it would mean if we were to receive and
register sensations in an unfiltered way.
Time, Synchronicity and Evolution
This essay concerns the question of evolution when set beside
notions of time which are not necessarily linear. Evolution
is therefore viewed from the perspective of creative transformation
rather than inevitable progress.
Towards a process Theory of Healing: Energy,
Activity and Global Form
The paper begins with a discussion of the ideas of subtle energy
and its circulation that appear common to many different healing
cultures. These ideas are compared to and contrasted with notions
of energy from within Western physics and it is suggested that
some more subtle views, or paradigms, of energy are required
within Western science. In particular, the implications of a
process and verb-based world view are briefly explored, together
with the possibility of a process-based mathematics. Within
such a descriptive system notions of energy-process would be
The paper then explores the extent to which such notions may
be present, or have the potential for development within modern
physics. These include such approaches as giving subtle forms
to available energy, the activities of information and global
correlations within systems and the notions of coherence whereby
subtle correlations can produce powerful effects. In particular,
the idea of non-logical and global correlation is discussed
in the context of quantum theory and so called Chaos Theory.
Ideas of Gentle Action are also introduced and it is suggested
how, through a field of global meaning (Or nonlocal correlations),
an active form of energy may circulate through the body and
act to renew its functioning and bring the various organs into
active balance. In this view, the various healing arts are designed
to renew and foster the harmonious functioning of mind and body.
Finally, in an appendix to this
paper, a more technical account is presented of the sorts of
nonlocal correlations that exist at the quantum level.
Subtle Connection: Non-Locality, Bell's
Theorem, Coherent States and the Form of the Wave Function
Non-locality in quantum theory is discussed in terms of the
global form of the wave function, and as subtle set of necessary
and sufficient conditions on the 2-matrix or reduced density
matrix. In addition to manifesting itself through the well known
Bell's inequalities non-locality also appears as a macroscopic
coherence length in condensed and coherent systems. By examining
the structure of the 2-matrix, a connection between these two
forms of non-locality is made. It is suggested that subtle enfolded
orders and non-local forms may have a wider implication and
be relevant for a variety of living systems.
Unfolding the Subtle: Matter and Consciousness
The essay is a prelude to the more general discussion of the
mind/body problem within the context of healing. Rather than
beginning from a dualistic position the essay looks at the nature
of our experience of merging horizons with the world. It suggests
that our sense of separateness and isolation from the inscape
of things is to some extent an illusion fostered by the language
we speak and our particular scientific culture. The essay also
suggests that laws of nature can be considered as statements
about nature's tendency to cling to form. In this sense the
order of mind and matter are not so different and it is suggested
that such orders, which range from the subtle to the gross or
concrete, pervade the universe.
Contact F. David Peat
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