April 15, 2023

1. Connections

I arrived at Harvard as a freshman in September 1979. My parents dropped me off, then went to a hotel for the night. My roommate, whom I knew from my hometown, wasn’t arriving until the next day, so I was on my own the first night. This may have been the first time I was ever on my own — at least, it was the first time I was on my own in a city. I walked into Harvard Square, went to a bookstore, and bought On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. When my roommate arrived the next day, he was surprised that I was reading such a book voluntarily, outside of classes.

We gathered in our room: my roommate and I, my parents, and his parents. His father remarked that I didn’t look happy. I was bent on reading the classics in the hope of attaining wisdom and becoming a philosopher. I wasn’t able to discuss this with my classmates, and I wasn’t able to connect with my professors. Studying the classics was a challenging project; navigating the social environment was equally challenging. My roommate’s father was right: I wasn’t happy.

I had a mission, but it was a difficult mission. It was within my capacity, but just barely. There was no one who understood this mission, no one who shared it or supported it. It might be a long time before I could develop a philosophy, and attain recognition as a philosopher. There was no guarantee that I would ever attain recognition.

In his autobiography, Mill discusses the need for a new philosophy/worldview/religion. He says that the old religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) can no longer convince, inspire, guide. (As Nietzsche said, God is dead.)

I am now convinced [Mill wrote in his autobiography], that no great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible, until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought. The old opinions in religion, morals, and politics, are so much discredited in the more intellectual minds as to have lost the greater part of their efficacy for good, while they have still life enough in them to be a powerful obstacle to the growing up of any better opinions on those subjects. When the philosophic minds of the world can no longer believe its religion, or can only believe it with modifications amounting to an essential change of its character, a transitional period commences, of weak convictions, paralyzed intellects, and growing laxity of principle, which cannot terminate until a renovation has been effected in the basis of their belief leading to the evolution of some faith, whether religious or merely human, which they can really believe: and when things are in this state, all thinking or writing which does not tend to promote such a renovation, is of very little value.

If the need for a new worldview is so urgent, doesn’t that imply that there will be grave consequences if that need isn’t met? I suspect that Mill foresaw, at least dimly, the genocides perpetrated by Hitler, Stalin, the Khmer Rouge, etc. Certainly Nietzsche foresaw genocide, and said that genocide would follow from the death of God, and the collapse of God-based morality. Dostoyevsky also foresaw genocide; Dostoyevsky realized that atheism would lead to the collapse of morality, which in turn would lead to genocide. So Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky reached the same conclusion independently of each other.

Mill realized that the need for a new philosophy/worldview/religion was urgent, but he didn’t try to meet that need. He probably felt that the time wasn’t ripe to build a new philosophy; he didn’t see a way to reach the goal. So he kicked the can down the road, he hoped that it would be possible to build a new philosophy at some point in the future.

The Spanish philosopher Ortega also said we need a new philosophy, but like Mill, Ortega didn’t try to provide that philosophy. Writing in 1930, about sixty years after Mill, Ortega said he was hoping for a time when “a genuine philosophy once more holds sway in Europe — it is the one thing that can save her.”1 Apparently Ortega didn’t feel he was ready to develop the “genuine philosophy” that his time desperately needed, so he kicked the can down the road.

We can’t keep kicking the can down the road. I believe that the time is ripe to develop a new philosophy. The philosophy that I call Connections can meet the need that Mill and Ortega described. Connections is the best candidate, the only candidate, to meet this urgent need. Connections is the most comprehensive philosophy, it’s proven by science, and we can confirm it from our own daily experience.

Our time is a great time for philosophy; our time is what Nietzsche called The Great Noontide. We have tools that earlier philosophers didn’t have, such as:

  1. the psychology of the unconscious, developed by Freud, Jung and others; the psychology of the unconscious makes possible a deeper understanding of human nature
  2. Eastern philosophy; Zen didn’t come to the West until around 1900 (more specifically, the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893); I never heard the word “Zen” when I was at Harvard; the importance of Eastern thought is just now being fully appreciated
  3. quantum physics gives us a deeper understanding of matter, shows the links between the behavior of people and the behavior of matter, and thus enables us to build a comprehensive philosophy

So we have the tools, the time is ripe, let’s not kick the can down the road, let’s get started. Man has no more urgent need than a new, comprehensive, affirmative philosophy.

Ortega said that a genuine philosophy is the one thing that can save Europe, but it’s not only Europe that needs such a philosophy, the whole world needs a philosophy. The Arab world might turn back to the Koran if they don’t find a modern worldview that inspires them. A philosophy from the West can have a worldwide impact, as we see from the example of Marxism. If there’s a spiritual void in the West, that has an impact elsewhere, that can inspire people to turn back to their old ways, their old beliefs, as Osama bin Laden turned back to the Koran. So a Western philosophy can have an impact elsewhere, and a Western spiritual-void can have an impact elsewhere.

Philosophy is important for our domestic situation as well as for the international situation. Americans go on shooting sprees because they don’t see a meaning in life, the world doesn’t make sense to them. A new philosophy is needed to help the individual, wherever he lives, to make sense of life, and to feel at home in the world. Without a philosophy, we’re vulnerable to nihilism, moral anarchy, shooting sprees, radical worldviews, terrorism, and genocide.

Doubtless some people will argue that we shouldn’t build a new philosophy, we should retreat to Christianity. Even deep thinkers like Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn and Chesterton thought that Christianity was still a viable option, still the best option. But Mill and Ortega thought we should move through the current crisis, not retreat; we should move through the desert to the next oasis, not go back to the last oasis. We should build a new philosophy that’s consistent with modern science, consistent with modern psychology, a new philosophy that’s suited for the present and the future.

Several commentators have argued recently that the arts are in the doldrums, because we lack a comprehensive philosophy/worldview. Joseph Bottum wrote,

When other nations speak of Western culture, they typically mean nothing more than movies and pop music. Hard to tell them they’re wrong. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that, outside Hollywood and pop music, we haven’t produced a single major — a single world-historical — work of art since about 1975. Maybe since 1950.

Bottum thinks there’s a failure in “metaphysics,” that is, an inability to make sense of the world as a whole. Art rests on philosophy/religion, art grows out of philosophy/religion. If Western art is bankrupt, that tells the rest of the world that there’s a hole at the center of Western civilization, a hole at the center of the Western soul. If Western art is bankrupt, that prompts the rest of the world to follow anti-Western worldviews, rather than to emulate the West. If Western civilization falls into nihilism, and loses faith in itself, how can the non-Western world have faith in it?

Michael J. Lewis, a professor of art history at Williams College, wrote an essay called “How Art Became Irrelevant.”

Fifty years ago [Lewis writes], educated people could be expected to identify the likes of Saul Bellow, Buckminster Fuller, and Jackson Pollock. [But today] the fine arts and the performing arts have indeed ceased to matter in Western culture, other than in honorific or pecuniary terms, and they no longer shape in meaningful ways our image of ourselves or define our collective values. This collapse in the prestige and consequence of art is the central cultural phenomenon of our day.

Lewis says that to create art that “refracts the world back to people in some meaningful way, and that illuminates human nature with sympathy and insight — it is not necessary to be a religious believer.... But it is necessary to have some sort of larger system of belief.” We need a worldview, a “system of belief,” in order to revive the arts. If we lack a comprehensive philosophy, art will struggle.

The worldview that I call Connections starts with the smallest particles of matter, and then works its way up to man and civilization. If we’re going to build a comprehensive philosophy, what better place to start than with subatomic particles, what better place to start than with the smallest building blocks of matter?

I begin with an experiment in quantum physics, an experiment that I call Paired Particles. Two particles are in close proximity; one might call them twins, or Siamese twins. Scientists say that such particles are “entangled.” When these particles are separated, they remain connected, they remain en rapport, they still respond to each other. As the MIT professor David Kaiser put it, “Entanglement concerns the behavior of tiny particles, such as electrons, that have interacted in the past and then moved apart. Tickle one particle here... and its partner should dance, instantaneously, no matter how far away the second particle has traveled.”

Prior to 2022, Paired Particles might have seemed like an obscure subject, but in 2022, the Nobel Prize was awarded to scientists who worked on Paired Particles. So it’s becoming a better-known subject. Paired Particles (entangled particles) are at the heart of quantum computing.

In the PairedParticles experiment, particles have a deep connectedness, a mysterious connectedness. Scientists have difficulty explaining this connectedness. The particles respond to each other instantly, as if they were one unit. Even if they’re separated by a thousand miles, or a million miles, they act simultaneously; changing the spin of one causes a simultaneous change in the spin of the other.

Einstein had said that nothing is faster than the speed of light, but the communication between particles is simultaneous, it’s beyond fast, beyond the speed of light; it’s as if space had disappeared. The German philosopher Kant said that space, time, and causality were merely categories of the human mind, they didn’t exist in reality, they didn’t exist in what Kant called the “thing-in-itself.” The PairedParticles experiment strengthens Kant’s argument, and calls into question our concept of space.

The PairedParticles experiment also casts doubt on our idea of causality. The particle we change can’t be said to “cause” a change in the other particle because a cause precedes an effect. But in this experiment, there’s no before-and-after, there’s simultaneous change. So this experiment explodes our conception of causality. It replaces causality with what Jung called synchronicity; Jung described synchronicity as “an acausal connecting principle.” The universe is so deeply connected that one object can affect another without a cause. The most basic property of the universe is connectedness, hence it makes sense to call a comprehensive philosophy “Connections.”

Kant said that causality, like space and time, was merely a category of the mind, not part of reality itself. The PairedParticles experiment confirms Kant’s argument. The PairedParticles experiment forces us to re-examine our conceptions of space, time, and causality, it forces us to re-examine our view of the universe. Quantum physics doesn’t give us a new view of reality; rather, it confirms the views of Kant and other thinkers. We don’t need quantum physics to develop our new worldview; rather, we use quantum physics to illustrate, reinforce, and prove our new worldview.

We’re all reluctant to re-examine our fundamental beliefs about reality, so scientists have avoided contemplating the implications of quantum physics. As Bill Bryson put it, quantum physics has shown that “one particle could instantaneously influence another trillions of miles away.... No one, incidentally, has ever explained how the particles achieve this feat. Scientists have dealt with this problem... ‘by not thinking about it.’”

This explains why the Paired Particles experiment, which can probably be traced back more than 100 years, didn’t win the Nobel Prize until 2022; scientists closed their eyes to this experiment because it overturned their worldview, it forced them to re-think their most fundamental ideas about the universe. I’m asking people to think about what they’ve avoided thinking about. The biggest discoveries can be made in the topics that people avert their eyes from, the topics that people find troubling.

William James was receptive to telepathy and other occult phenomena. In 1895, he served as president of the Society for Psychical Research. James noticed that “the very words ‘psychical research’” awaken “loathing” in scientific people. Academics close their minds to revolutionary ideas.

If there is anything which human history demonstrates [James wrote] it is the extreme slowness with which the ordinary academic and critical mind acknowledges facts to exist which present themselves as wild facts, with no stall or pigeon-hole, or as facts which threaten to break up the accepted system.

Quantum computing harnesses the power of entanglement, the power to make space disappear, the power to go beyond fast, beyond the speed of light. Quantum computing helps to make people familiar with entanglement.

Einstein could never accept entanglement, could never accept particle-telepathy. He said, “physics should represent a reality in time and space, free from spooky actions at a distance.... I cannot believe for a single moment [that God] uses ‘telepathic’ methods.’”2 The scientific establishment tried to ignore particle-telepathy, tried to “sweep it under the rug.” Mainstream journals wouldn’t publish anything that mentioned particle-telepathy or action-at-a-distance.

So in 1975, a group of young rebels in San Francisco formed the “Fundamental Fysiks Group,” typed their own newsletter, and printed it with a copy machine. They called their newsletter Epistemological Letters. Some scientists who later became well-known first published in Epistemological Letters — scientists like John Bell, who developed Bell’s Theorem.

One member of the Fundamental Fysiks Group was Fritjof Capra. In 1975, Capra published The Tao of Physics, which brought quantum connectedness to a wider audience. Another book in the same vein is Gary Zukav’s Dancing Wu Li Masters, published in 1979. Both these books struck a chord with the public and were translated into numerous foreign languages. A new worldview was bubbling up.

If two entangled particles are in Boston, and one is sent to Seattle, the particles maintain their rapport, their instantaneous rapport. If the spin of the Boston particle is changed, the spin of the Seattle particle changes simultaneously. Likewise, if two twins, two entangled people, are in Boston, and one is sent to Seattle, the twins maintain their rapport, their instantaneousness rapport, their telepathic bond. So there’s a close parallel between particle behavior and human behavior. Telepathy between people can be demonstrated from your own experience, or demonstrated by experiment, but academics avoid conducting such experiments, preferring to avert their eyes from action-at-a-distance, avert their eyes from telepathy.

The Rhine Center at Duke conducted telepathy experiments, but Duke was so troubled by the subject that finally it cut its ties to the Rhine Center. An institute at Princeton called PEAR (Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research) conducted such experiments, but Princeton shut it down. Arthur Koestler wanted to create an institute to conduct such experiments, and left money in his will for the purpose, but Oxford and Cambridge declined the money, horrified by the subject; finally the Koestler Institute was established in Edinburgh. These examples show that academia has a deep dislike for telepathy and the occult. Perhaps this very dislike is an indication that revolutionary discoveries can be made in this field.

Though academia tries to suppress this field, a few institutes survive, and many experiments have been conducted, over the course of many years. To learn more about these experiments, consider the writings of Dean Radin, who works at IONS (Institute of Noetic Sciences) in Petaluma, California.

While academics are horrified by this subject, novelists are fascinated by it. In his novel Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger describes a teenager, Holden Caulfield, in a Manhattan hotel, feeling lonely. Holden is tempted to call his sister, Phoebe. “I thought of maybe hanging up if my parents answered, but that wouldn’t’ve worked.... They’d know it was me. My mother always knows it’s me. She’s psychic.” Holden also has a telepathic bond with his brother, Allie.

I started playing golf when I was only ten years old [Holden says]. I remember once, the summer I was around twelve, teeing off and all, and having a hunch that if I turned around all of a sudden, I’d see Allie. So I did, and sure enough, he was sitting on his bike outside the fence.

The German novelist Heinrich Mann had a telepathic bond with his sister, Carla. When Carla committed suicide, Heinrich heard her call him, though she was in Germany and he was in Italy. “I was strolling,” said Mann, “all was still; then I was called; from the house, I thought. So little prepared was I, that in the first moment it did not occur to me: no one here calls me by my given name.”

Such telepathic communication is more likely when people’s emotions are aroused, as at the time of death. I heard my father call my name twice when he was dying. So I prefer to study such phenomena in the context of real life, real emotion, rather than in a laboratory setting. One can study such phenomena in one’s own experience, in literary works, and in historical works.

J. B. Rhine noticed that, in a laboratory, people eventually become bored with the experiment, and the effect wears off. Rhine was one of the first to observe what’s now called “the replication crisis,” that is, difficulty replicating the results of experiments.

Jung, who was a psycho-therapist, had a telepathic bond with a patient. Jung said,

The relationship between doctor and patient, especially when a transference on the part of the patient occurs, or a more or less unconscious identification of doctor and patient, can lead to parapsychological phenomena. I have frequently run into this.

One such case which was particularly impressive was that of a patient whom I had pulled out of a psychogenic depression.... I had arranged with him that he was to get in touch with me at once if he observed his spirits sinking. He neglected to do so.... I had been awakened by a feeling of dull pain, as though something had struck my forehead and then the back of my skull. The following day I received a telegram saying that my patient had committed suicide. He had shot himself. Later, I learned that the bullet had come to rest in the back wall of the skull.

This experience was a genuine synchronistic phenomenon such as is quite often observed in connection with an archetypal situation — in this case, death. By means of a relativization of time and space in the unconscious it could well be that I had perceived something which in reality had taken place elsewhere. The collective unconscious is common to all; it is the foundation of what the ancients called the “sympathy of all things.”

Goethe thought that a telepathic bond occurred between people who were physically close, perhaps in the same room, even if they had no prior relationship.

In particular cases [Goethe said] we can put out the feelers of our soul beyond its bodily limits [and] a presentiment, nay, an actual insight into the immediate future, is accorded to it.... We are all groping among mysteries and wonders. Besides, one soul may have a decided influence upon another, merely by means of its silent presence, of which I could relate many instances. It has often happened to me that, when I have been walking with an acquaintance, and have had a living image of something in my mind, he has at once begun to speak of that very thing.

I have also known a man who, without saying a word, could suddenly silence a party engaged in cheerful conversation, by the mere power of his mind. Nay, he could also introduce a tone which would make everybody feel uncomfortable. [Goethe is probably speaking of himself here.] We have all something of electrical and magnetic forces within us, and we put forth, like the magnet itself, an attractive or repulsive power, accordingly as we come in contact with something similar or dissimilar. It is possible, nay, even probable, that if a young girl were, without knowing it, to find herself in a dark chamber with a man who designed to murder her, she would have an uneasy sense of his unknown presence, and that an anguish would come over her, which would drive her from the room to the rest of the household.

Imaginative writers are fascinated at how thoughts are communicated telepathically. Ibsen, for example, had a keen interest in telepathy and other occult phenomena. One of Ibsen’s characters says, “If I happen to look at her when her back is turned, I can tell that she feels it.... She believed I had said to her what I had only wished and willed — silently — inwardly — to myself.” Dostoyevsky was also fascinated by telepathy, by the power of the mind; one of his characters says, “I did not speak of it directly.... I spoke almost without words. And I am an old hand at speaking without words. I have spent all my life speaking without words. I have lived through whole tragedies without uttering a word.”

Perhaps the most common kind of telepathy is a physical attraction that communicates itself to the other person. James Joyce describes such an attraction in his Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man. His protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, wakes up in an inspired mood. He thinks of poetry and of his girlfriend. But his inspiration gradually passes away. Then he wonders what his girlfriend is doing:

While his soul had passed from ecstasy to languor where had she been? Might it be, in the mysterious ways of spiritual life, that her soul at those same moments had been conscious of his homage? It might be. A glow of desire kindled again his soul.... Conscious of his desire she was waking from odorous sleep.

D. H. Lawrence carried this a step further. When Lawrence was about 18, he asked his girlfriend, Jessie, if she were thinking of him at certain times: “[Lawrence] asked me once [Jessie later wrote] if I was acutely aware of him sometimes, and added: ‘Because at times I am most acutely aware of you, and I wondered if you were aware of me at the same time. It might be telepathy, you know.’”

How did I become interested in telepathy and other psychic phenomena? When I was an undergrad, I had the same experience that Joyce and Lawrence had, I noticed that feelings of attraction are communicated telepathically. I call this “Cafeteria Telepathy.” Doubtless it’s a common experience, perhaps a universal experience.

Your own experience can teach you the deepest truths. A philosophy scholar learns from books, a real philosopher from life itself. As an undergrad, I learned the deepest truths, not from big libraries and powerful telescopes, but from the cafeteria. In the French philosopher La Rochefoucauld, I found an aphorism that seemed to sum up Cafeteria Telepathy: “There is no disguise which can hide love for long where it exists, or fake it where it does not” (Il n’y a point de déguisement qui puisse longtemps cacher l’amour où il est, ni le feindre où il n’est pas).2B

So I became interested in psychic phenomena as an undergrad, and I found it discussed in the classics — indeed, every great writer seemed to be interested in the subject. I asked about five professors — some from Harvard, some from Smith College — what they thought about this subject. All of them gave me the same answer: “Not interested.” Clearly the subject that fascinated those who wrote the classics was of no interest to those who made a living by studying the classics.

As I became older, I realized that telepathic communication between people was very similar to the communication between subatomic particles. What I had learned in the cafeteria were not only the deepest truths about human nature, but the deepest truths about the universe. The universe was profoundly inter-connected, as we see in the experiments of quantum physics.

Feelings of hostility are communicated as often as feelings of attraction. The American philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote,

The capacity for transcending the senses — for telepathic transmission and for sensing the unseen — is an animal characteristic.... A misunderstanding takes place not when people fail to understand each other, but when they sense what is going on in each other’s mind and do not like it.... Sometimes it seems that people hear best what we do not say.

Notice that phrase “animal characteristic.” People who spend time with animals often notice telepathic communication between man and animal. Rupert Sheldrake studied this subject, and wrote a book called Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home. Sheldrake’s work, like all work in this field, is controversial. In 2013, Sheldrake gave a TED Talk that aroused such fierce opposition that the TED administrators removed it from their website.

So a telepathic bond can exist between two people, between a person and an animal, between two inanimate objects (two particles), probably between a person and a plant, and probably between a person and an inanimate object. All these types of telepathy have been tested, but the establishment ignores the tests, and tries to close the institutes that conduct the tests.

A telepathic bond can exist between mother and child, brother and sister, doctor and patient, people attracted to each other, people quarreling with each other, or just people who are physically close (in the same room). The likelihood of a telepathic bond is greater between people who were once close, people who were in the same body, as an infant in the mother’s womb, or twins in the mother’s womb. Likewise, particles that were once close, once entangled, have a telepathic bond even after they’re sent far away from each other.

James Frazer, who studied the primitive mind and wrote a famous book called The Golden Bough, said that one of the basic principles of magic is that “things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed.... Things act on each other at a distance through a secret sympathy.” So the basic principle of magic is the same as the basic principle of the PairedParticles experiment, and the same as the basic principle of human telepathy. We live in a connected universe, a magical universe. Primitive man was right. We can build a comprehensive philosophy that combines anthropology, physics, and psychology.

So we’re led to connectedness by various fields. Quantum physics isn’t necessary for an understanding of connectedness; quantum physics is merely useful for illustrating and confirming connectedness. The idea of connectedness is so important, so fundamental, so far-reaching, that primitive man couldn’t miss it, primitive man had a firm grasp of it.

Primitive man learned about connectedness from his experience; connectedness is embedded in human experience, and anyone who observes their own experience will discover connectedness. Connectedness is the most ancient idea, and the most universal idea. But since it clashes with the Western/scientific/rational worldview, connectedness is a revolutionary idea in our time. So connectedness is the most ancient idea, and also the most revolutionary idea.

I’m bringing together quantum physics, psychic phenomena, imaginative literature, and anthropology. Science often brings together different topics; as Arthur Koestler said, “Scientific discovery consists in seeing an analogy that no one has seen before [as when] William Harvey perceived in the exposed heart of a fish a messy kind of mechanical pump.... [Creativity means] the bringing together of previously separate areas of knowledge and experience.”

I don’t claim originality, however; I don’t claim that I’m the first to compare quantum physics and psychic phenomena. I’m packaging this insight in a new way, but the insight itself isn’t new. Likewise, when Thoreau urged us to appreciate the present moment, his argument wasn’t new, but he was packaging it in a new way, so it seemed like an original argument.

If the idea of Connections is ancient, how did we lose it? Why does it need to be rediscovered now? Certain types of Greek thought — such as Socratic reasoning, Aristotelian logic, and atomic science — prompted people to forget the non-rational, the mystical, the intuitive. Surely these Greek schools had some value, but when they were young, they aroused enthusiasm, they were overrated, they prompted people to “throw the baby out with the bath-water.”

The idea of Connections was gradually restored in late antiquity, in the Middle Ages, and in the Renaissance. The alchemists and the Hermetic philosophers were receptive to Connections. The historian Frances Yates has described the Hermetic worldview that was popular during the Renaissance. The Hermetic worldview saw the universe as an organic whole, an inter-connected whole; it wasn’t impressed with Aristotle or with atomism.

After the Renaissance, rational-scientific thinking flourished in the work of people like Newton; this period played a key role in the downfall of the ancient idea of Connections. I would say that Newtonian thinking has value, but its value was overrated, and much that was valuable in the connected worldview was too-hastily discarded — again, the baby was thrown out with the bath-water. The historian Marjorie Nicolson has described how the Newtonian worldview overthrew the hermetic/connected worldview. I would argue that, in our time, we’re reversing this process, we’re moving from a Newtonian world of separate objects to an inter-connected world; or perhaps I should say, we’re reaching a higher synthesis that respects both the connected and the Newtonian perspectives.

* * * * *

How is it possible that people and particles behave in a similar way? After all, particles are so small that no one has ever seen one with the naked eye. Furthermore, particles are inanimate matter, so how could they possibly behave like people?

For one thing, people are made up of particles, our bodies are built of particles, we are particles. For another thing, we’re descended from particles, we’re descended from matter. Our ancestry can be traced back to earlier life forms, and all the way back to the first spark of life. That first spark of life doubtless came from matter.

So if we consider that people are made of particles, and descended from particles, is it surprising that our behavior has something in common with the behavior of particles? If connectedness is the basic principle of matter and the universe, is it surprising that it’s also the basic principle of human nature? Aren’t humans part of the universe? Didn’t we emerge from the universe?

The universe is one, everything is dancing to the same tune; as the Hermetic philosophy put it, “As above, so below.” An expanded version of this quote is, “As above, so below; as within, so without; as the universe, so the soul.” We can modify this to, “As particles behave, so people behave.” Or we can go further and say, “As particles behave, so people and animals and plants behave.” Or we can say, “As matter behaves, so living organisms behave.”

Perhaps we shouldn’t draw a sharp line between matter and living things. After all, living things are descended from matter. Perhaps we should see the world as one; the alchemists spoke of unus mundus, one world.

Quantum physics has helped us to link man and matter, and to overthrow the old notions of time, space, and causality. But even before the development of quantum physics, several thinkers realized that psychic phenomena could revolutionize the Western/rational view of the world. William James said that, if we admit the truth of psychic phenomena, “they must make a great revolution in our conception of the physical universe.”

Jung thought that we still don’t know the boundaries of psychic power; the psyche seems to be able to jump over space and time. “Nobody can say where man ends,” said Jung. “That’s the beauty of it, you know; it’s very interesting. The unconscious of man can reach God knows where. There we are going to make discoveries.” This psychic power is possessed by all people without exception.

In the early 1800s, psychic experiments fell under the heading of Mesmerism, also known as Animal Magnetism. Schopenhauer said,

Considered [from] the philosophical point of view, animal magnetism is the most significant and pregnant of all the discoveries that have ever been made, although for the time being it propounds rather than solves riddles. It is really practical metaphysics. [A] time will come when philosophy, animal magnetism, and natural science... will shed so bright a light on one another that truths will be discovered at which we could not otherwise hope to arrive.3

Notice that phrase “a time will come.” Clearly that time is now. In this essay, I’m doing what Schopenhauer predicted, I’m combining philosophy, psychic phenomena, and science. Notice, too, the phrase “practical metaphysics.” In Schopenhauer’s day, the master of metaphysics was Kant. As I said above, Kant argued that space, time, and causality are merely categories of the mind, they don’t exist in reality itself. Psychic phenomena are “practical metaphysics” insofar as they show space disappearing (in telepathy), time disappearing (in anticipations of the future), and causality disappearing (in simultaneous events, synchronicity).

Edgar Allan Poe shared Schopenhauer’s view that mesmerism (animal magnetism) opened up important new fields. In a story called “Ragged Mountains,” Poe says, “the soul of the man of today is upon the verge of some stupendous psychal discoveries.”

These stupendous discoveries are more than a description of reality; they involve “should” as well as “is,” they’re normative as well as descriptive. Since the power of the mind is almost limitless, we should “think positive,” take a positive attitude toward our own life, toward other people, and toward the world in general. Darwin, who speculated on the origin of morality, believed that regulating one’s thoughts was a stage in the history of morality — the highest stage, higher than regulating only actions: “The highest possible stage in moral culture,” wrote Darwin, “is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.”

So the idea that I’m describing here, the idea that I call Connections, has a link to morality (positive thinking). It also has a link to religion. A connected universe prompts religious emotions, though it doesn’t depend on traditional religion or monotheism. Should we describe the idea of a connected universe as a new religion? Romain Rolland described religious experience as “the oceanic feeling of limitless extension and oneness with the universe.” Surely this feeling of oneness with the universe is encouraged by the idea that the universe is deeply inter-connected, mysteriously inter-connected.

So the emphasis on connections fosters religious emotion, without insisting that God is behind these connections. One might say that the worldview I’m proposing uses the word “universe” in lieu of the word “God.” The traditional mystic might feel an ecstatic oneness with God, while today’s mystic might feel an ecstatic oneness with the universe.

Traditional religion says that the world is more than matter; likewise, the worldview I’m describing says the world is more than matter. Traditional religion says there’s some sort of afterlife; my worldview, while not positively stating that there is an afterlife, doesn’t rule out the possibility of an afterlife. So in many ways, the worldview I’m describing, the worldview I call “Connections,” overlaps with traditional religion.

When you read an account of a mystical experience, the person having the experience often feels that the world is one, the world is inter-connected, and the person often feels that this vision of unity is true and real — more true than his everyday view of the world.4 The philosophy of Connections would say that the mystical vision is true, the world is inter-connected. The mystical vision is often accompanied by a feeling of ecstasy. This shows that a connected worldview is more positive, more upbeat, than a mechanical worldview. What could be more valuable for mankind than an upbeat philosophy that’s also true, an upbeat philosophy that’s consistent with science, with psychology, with literature?

I said above that art needs philosophy; the foundation of art is some sort of worldview or belief-system. We can turn this around and say that philosophy needs art. Philosophy builds the frame of a house, art fills in the frame, and makes it livable. The theory that I call Connections needs artists to embody it in films, novels, etc. It also needs practical philosophers to show how it can be expressed in daily life. Once these tasks are done, Connections can have a positive impact, and meet the need that Mill thought was so urgent — the need for a new, affirmative philosophy that people can really believe in.

2. Jane Goodall

I found a one-hour film about Jane Goodall, who’s famous for her work with chimpanzees. The film depicts her first visit to Gombe Park in Tanzania in 1960, and her later discoveries about chimp behavior. The video quality is somewhat rough, but on the whole, it’s a good film. Goodall is now almost 90, but still active in conservation.

Goodall’s interest in chimps has a long history: as a child, she received a chimp doll from her mother, and she had a keen interest in stories about the African jungle, especially the Tarzan stories. Did these early experiences steer her toward her later career? Or did they anticipate her later career? Was she fated to be a chimp researcher even before she had these experiences? Did these experiences resonate with her because she sensed that her destiny was in the African jungle? What was cause and what was effect?

People of the Forest (1988) is a film by Jane Goodall’s husband, Hugo van Lawick. It’s as good as the other film, telling some of the same stories from a different perspective; it’s also available on Youtube.

The correspondences between chimp behavior and human behavior are astonishing. If these correspondences had been known in Darwin’s day, they would have strengthened his argument that man is related to primates. It’s unlikely that a book can show these correspondences as well as a film can. Our word “chimpanzee” suggests something entirely different from man. The natives of Tanzania use a different term, a term that suggests a relationship between people and chimps; they call chimps “people of the forest.”

© L. James Hammond 2023
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1. The Revolt of the Masses, Ch. 13 back
2. See the earlier issues here and here. back
2B. I have two main theories, which I call Connections and Cycles. My college experience led me to Connections, my high-school experience led me to Cycles. During my high-school years, I had oscillating moods, which led me to take an interest in opposites, in what Hegel called The Dialectic; this interest in opposites led to my theory of history, my theory of decadence and renaissance; I call this theory of history “Cycles.” So both my chief theories, Connections and Cycles, grew out of my own experience. back
3. Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. I, “Essay on Spirit Seeing” (for more info, see Wikipedia’s article; apparently there’s no complete translation of Parerga and Paralipomena on Project Gutenberg or Hathi Trust) back
4. Arthur Koestler had a mystical experience when he was imprisoned in Spain. He described it as, “the unity and interlocking of everything that exists, an inter-dependence like that of gravitational fields.... The ‘I’ ceases to exist because it has, by a kind of mental osmosis, established communication with, and been dissolved in, the universal pool. It is this process of dissolution and limitless expansion which is sensed as the ‘oceanic feeling’.... When I say ‘the I had ceased to exist,’ I refer to a concrete experience that is verbally as incommunicable as the feeling aroused by a piano concerto, yet just as real — only much more real. In fact, its primary mark is the sensation that this state is more real than any other one has experienced before — that for the first time the veil has fallen and one is in touch with ‘real reality,’ the hidden order of things.”

Religion is about wholeness, seeing the world as an organic whole. In his book The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade says, “The profane world is formed of a juxtaposition of phenomena, while an intuitive total apprehension of reality characterizes the sacred. The latter calls for the perception of the world as a meaningful whole, each of its parts partaking in and of the whole.... Wholeness characterizes the sacred world.” back