AvdM: Not only does it sound spooky and rather depressing, it clashes with our daily experience! After all, we are with seven billion out there!
AV: I know. You shouldn’t take it too literally. What it means is that everything we see is colored by our own symbolic interpretation, very much in the same way as when we see a rainbow when there is light and water in the sky at a certain angle.
AvdM: But if we weren’t trained to see it that way, we would still see the same phenomenon, wouldn’t we?
AV: How can we know? We can only be ourselves. We don’t know how the tree or the earthworm ‘experiences’ the rainbow. Our symbols are drawn from our sensory input and the way our brain works, both are typical for a human being. We know that certain animals perceive the world very differently than we do, because they have different senses; they see, hear or taste more, different or less than we do. Whose reality is the real one then: theirs or ours? If we live in the same place: does it look, feel, smell according to the bat, the buttercup, the fly or according to us?
AV: In the movie Technocalyps16, a six-hour movie on the
16 Technocalyps, by Frank Theys, Ennergy Collection
current situation and the future of various scientific disciplines, there was an amazing sequence. A cat got electrodes connected to its brain and eyes and what it saw was projected on a screen; it was as if we could look through the cat’s eyes. What we saw was unbelievable: it seemed that the cat perceived a human being with a cat’s head!
AvdM: This is too weird for words.
AV: I agree but just for a second we might play with the idea that we see what we see because that is the way our antenna -I mean our brain- works. From all the interference patterns that are broadcast we only catch what is on ‘our wavelength.’
AvdM: Are you trying to divert attention from this thorny question: empiricism or phenomenology?
AV: No, I was preparing the terrain. The best way to picture the solution is with Ken Wilber’s scheme.
It’s worth reading his extensive oeuvre in which he compares Western and Eastern science, philosophy, religion, psychology and a few more disciplines and how he draws out a general theory out of his enormous erudition.
He works with the idea of holons, which is another word for phenomena with particular characteristics. With the aid of a scheme, divided into “quadrants”, Wilber is able to show how phenomena all share different aspects and he also defines a few characteristics that apply to all.17 The horizontal axis divides an upper individual and a lower collective aspect and the vertical axis divides the left subjective side and the right objective side. This gives four aspects to each and every phenomenon. Now you see the right upper aspect is objective/individual and the right lower objective/collective. The left upper is subjective/individual and the left lower is subjective/collective.
17 Ken Wilber:, A Brief History of Everything
AvdM: I’m following…
AV: The objective aspect is what can be observed from the outside. We can look at an object and measure it or exam-ine its behavior. Since we share enough common ground in our inner maps, we will all observe more or less the same. The objective/collective -he calls ‘its’-, refers to the place and function of the ‘it’ in a system, noting the location and function of the thing in a system. Also, these systems can be objectively observed and studied. The left side is con-cerned with the subjective part.
AvdM: That is where our inner maps differ.
AV: Not radically because we are similar in our differences but yes, by definition the left upper is individual and thus unique. That’s the quarter Ken Wilber calls ‘I’: my personal experience of the phenomenon. It’s the area of art because that is “the most individual expression of the most indi-vidual feeling”, as a famous definition of art goes. The left lower is the ‘we’: the area where the subject communicates with other subjects. In order to be able to even be aware of one’s most individual feelings and to be able to give expres-sion to them, one must be part of the collective-subjective field. That is how we acquire language and symbols.
AvdM: What you just explained as education: to become a hu-man among humans.
AV: That is what I meant. The left lower quadrant is where the social structure resides and thus where morality comes into play. If we are to live and respect other people’s sub-jectivity and individuality we will have to agree on how to get along with each other.
AvdM: If we have art in the upper left and morals in the lower left, what do we have in the right side then?
AV: Didn’t I say? There you can fill in ‘justness’ or truth. It is the claim of science to be just and true. The problem is that by doing so they denied the value or necessity of integrating the other quadrants. Since the Enlightenment these different areas have been separated and Ken Wilber explains why this was a required step to proceed. Before the Enlightenment these were merged and couldn’t evolve because morals or religions, for instance, forbade scientific progress because it clashed with their world-view. But in separating them, they threw away the subjective side as unscientific. Subjectivity was proclaimed the domain of art and ethics and completely separated from the scientific endeavor.
AvdM: And what is wrong with that? Art isn’t scientific after all.
AV: It is wrong because the conviction that one can be completely objective is a belief that has proven to be a mis-take as we just discussed. Plus, leaving out the subjectivity of any observation means leaving out the sense, the mean-ing, the purpose, the beauty, the reason, the symbolism,the passion of a thing.
AvdM: And the result is… flatland! Now I’m with you.
AV: A world where an unmoved and unmovable objective, interchangeable observer describes what he sees and what he does, devoid of any meaning, leaves us with only quan-tity and no quality.
AvdM: And that is why we are sad.
AV: The majority of people in the West take on this world-view because it seems to be scientific and because it is in contrast with the primitive, ignorant, animistic, underde-veloped or dupable. But flatland is not a place worth living. Is it a surprise then that most people are depressed in this empty, meaningless life? This idea that we are mere walk-ing DNA-bags trying to proliferate, who feels satisfaction and happiness from that?
AvdM: Maybe that is why trying to give a meaning to this madness is coming in through the backdoor in the form of New Age or renewed religiousness?
AV: Sure. I’m an optimist and therefore don’t believe it will ever be possible to extinguish the urge for meaning and beauty in a person. Unfortunately, the majority of the population seems to be convinced that this will come about when they consume a lot. Only when a certain level of wealth is acquired one seems to realize this doesn’t make as happy as the advertisement promised.
AvdM: If I go back to the empiricist clash with the phenom-enologist, I think I can put them on the scheme: the first one on the right side, the second on the left.
AV: That is precisely where I was heading! Since every phe-nomenon has the four aspects, leaving one or more out always goes at the expense of accuracy. In other words, the empiricist shouldn’t forget that what he observes is only part of the truth.
AvdM: And the phenomenologist just the same! I’m relieved!
AV: Indeed! The radical point of view is doing injustice to the truth. They are both aspects of one and the same thing. I’ll give you a comparison: If you make a physical exami-nation of the brain, you can scan it or slice it up in parts. Then you can observe it under the microscope, add sub-stances to see how it reacts and in the end you can know everything about the appearance and the behavior of the brain. But you won’t know any thought of this brain. In order to know that, you will have to ask the owner. He is the only one who can, through dialogue, give you sense and meaning.
AV: I see. It’s like examining a book scientifically: all you will find is paper and ink. To know the story you will have to read it and understand the meaning.
AV: That is another good example. The right side says how it looks like and what it does and the left side says what it means and both are true. There is an objective aspect to all phenomena: all books are made from paper and ink and it takes a functional brain to produce any thought at all.
AvdM: I was just thinking that you maneuvered yourself into the same position as the scientist who is trying to be clever by always concluding it is and/and instead of or/or.
AV: There’s a little nuance though. In the former example the question was: which of the two, nature or nurture, is decisive? They can’t both be decisive at the same time. It’s clear they both have an influence but that is not the ques-tion; that is the starting point from which the question arises. As to the question whether empiricism or phenom-enology reflects reality, the answer is that the radical point of view excludes part of a reality where they both have their place.
AvdM: I see. Can we come to another conclusion now?
AV: Yes, conclusions we can draw from all this is that the unity between object and subject is shown in this way; ob-served phenomena have intertwined characteristics, half of them due to subjectivity. In our homeopathic setting it is good to remember we all have an inner map, constituted of symbols, the majority similar because we are educated that way and a little bit different, which makes each of us unique. This means there is no such thing as ‘the real-ity’, let alone that the homeopath would be the one who is able to discern what is real or true while his patient is not. And if we try to define what a delusion’ or a ‘distorted perception of reality’ is, we should realize that it’s a relative concept.
AvdM: But we shouldn’t philosophy it all away either; in these concepts there is enough room to define ‘normality’ within a particular frame and context.
AV: You are right.
AvdM: And what about the ‘Nature over nurture’ statement?
AV: To me it seems that ‘nature’ comes first and thus is the determining factor. It might only be my conviction, which results from 25 years of homeopathic practice and extensive study of psychology, while others maybe claim that nurture is the determining factor in who we become. But over and again we can perceive patients who seem to have an individual outlook on the inner and outer world. No matter where they were born and regardless of their circumstances, a repetitive, all pervasive, individual way of experiencing reality is what they tell us. It doesn’t be-long to the personality. Psychology can explain most of the personality make up by upbringing and early childhood experiences but not all of it. What is not explained is the vital sensation as we call it, which is beyond the personality and is one of the influences that is overlooked in psychol-ogy or psychoanalysis. We will talk about this in length when we discuss case-taking.
AvdM: But the conclusion stays ‘Nature over nurture’?
AV: It sure does.
AvdM: So far we’ve drawn a few conclusions. We had: reality is a hologram, our brain is a holographic antenna, object and subject are one, we all have an inner map of reality. Anything else?
AV: Maybe we can add that everything has an outside and an inside?
AvdM: But these are two aspects of the same phenomenon as we can see in Ken Wilber’s scheme.
AV: Exactly. One more premise we should add is ‘Mind over Matter’. We haven’t discussed this yet but I think it is sufficiently demonstrated18 by several Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Randomized Clinical Trials that the human mind can influence matter, for instance a random calculating computer, or the cure of hospital patients can be influenced by a group of people praying for them.
AvdM: I read all this and it is unbelievable, even the results of the computer could be influenced by the human mind! In the book we mentioned before ‘Molecules of Emotions’ by Candace Pert19 the writer explains scientifically why we feel the way we feel. She shows how the emotions influence the hormonal and immune system.
AV: And while most people would accept this, because they have their own experience to confirm it, they will hesitate to accept the results of equally scientific research demonstrating the influence of the human mind over the computer, wouldn’t they?.
AvdM: It’s odd, because making your plants grow better by talking nicely to them, encouraging and praising them is more widely accepted20. And in fact it is similar, isn’t it?
18 Lynn McTaggart, The Field
19 Candice Pert, Molecules of Emotions
AV: We usually have less difficulty accepting that living creatures are influenced by each other but influencing a machine by your mind is a bridge too far for most.
AvdM: Why is that, do you think?
AV: Because of our inner map of how the world looks, as we discussed. But this map obviously is always adjusted as we travel on during our lifetime. We explore new ter-ritories, we discover new things and we learn more about reality.
AvdM: Therefore the map of an adult or a child who are in the same place and situation will be very different. And the map of a youngster and a mature person will again have distinctive features.
AV: That’s right. And even the map of two persons of the same age and place will differ, as they have had other ex-periences and another ‘brain’ to process these. Now what happens if new information comes in and we can’t fit it anywhere on our inner map…
AvdM: … because it doesn’t have enough common ground with what we already know to be communicated…
AV: That is a very important issue and I’m glad you’ve come up with it. What we do then is indeed to delete, distort or generalize. I’ll go into that briefly because it is of major importance in case-taking. These findings are used in NLP trainings and actually an NLP master made this clear to me. When we can’t find any common ground for the new information and the knowledge we already have on our map, we tend to disregard it, not even hear it or forget it right away. It is deleted, not there and not even re-membered. Or we can make the information more familiar to our knowledge on the map by changing it, adjusting it,comparing it to what we know and by doing this distort-ing it into something it is not. For instance the assertion: ‘homeopathy is plant medicine’. Another possibility is that we generalize it, and store it in a bigger category where it doesn’t belong. We then make homeopathy a form of psychotherapy where the patient improves because he is lis-tened to. Or we attribute the results of homeopathy to the placebo effect. While both of those aspects -being listened to and placebo effect- are part of a lot of treatments, the fundamental law, which explains homeopathy, is not. But of course deleting, distorting and generalizing are not lim-ited to homeopathy, it’s applied in every field. This could explain the findings of scientific research are not all accept-ed by the people who claim to “only believe in science”.
20 Peter Tomkins and Christopher Bird, The Secret Life of Plants
AvdM: I see. I mentioned you have on your mouse pad a draw-ing of Garfield saying: “I love my computer but my computer hates me.” Is that reflecting what we just discussed?
AV: Well, let’s say… this was a present from somebody who knows me well…
AvdM: If our inner map is made up of the convictions we just discussed, what kind of homeopathy will be the result?
AV: Probably there are still many variations possible. But if one is convinced that it’s ‘Nature over nurture’, we will perceive our patients the way they are without blaming the circumstances or their parents.