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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 Alchemy of Creativity: Art, Consciousness and Embodiment

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 Antoni

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 essay.

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 concrete world.

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 Dionysus

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 and structure.

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 be used.

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 the world.

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 Meaning.

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 Thought

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 and psychology.

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.

Written 6-05-89

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 and Landscape

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 remarkably different.

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.

Technical Appendix:
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.

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