Essays by Mary Carroll Nelson

Can We Believe In Holism and Be a Partisan Too?

I have long pondered the conundrum that I espouse holism as a philosophical worldview, but at the same time, I hold partisan opinions on many issues. Do these two positions negate one another?

Looking back, I realize that I believed in a holistic worldview before the word had entered my vocabulary. I have always responded with interest to an ideal of Oneness. My relevant bibliography is too long to review, but I will mention a few of the brilliant minds that I have relied upon. Teilhard de Chardin, both priest and archaeologist, combined evolution with spirituality in his inspired book The Phenomenon of Man, published only after his death. Chardin’s thoughts soared beyond the confines of Church dogma as he posited a continuous rise of the human psyche toward spirituality at the Omega Point. Omega Point could be a synonym for Oneness.

Chardin gave me an opening into the pursuit of knowledge from other scientists. Fritjof Capra, in The Tao of Physics combined the ideal of Oneness in Eastern religions with the newly defined world of Quantum Physics. He had the grace to explain theories in words that a non–scientist could follow. I picked up, from a lecture I attended in San Diego, his carefully worded suggestion that there seems to be a possibility that intention might play a role in the actions of photons at the quantum level. I was led to read some of the work by David Bohm. In his Wholeness and the Implicate Order, he states that one of the features of quantum theory is this: "Two entities, such as electrons, which initially combine to form a molecule and then separate, show a peculiar non–local relationship, which had best be described as a noncausal connection of elements that are far apart (as demonstrated in the experiment of Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen)." (p.175)

Philosopher–scientists are linking their understanding of the quantum with other fields of interest. Among these synthesizers is Doctor Larry Dossey, who says, in Healing Words, that the power of prayer to heal relies upon the concept of nonlocality. He writes,
"If prayer does not go anywhere, then it may simultaneously be present everywhere, enveloping sender, object, and the Almighty all at once. Physicists have a word to describe a world in which information is not sent, but that exists everywhere all at once: nonlocal. Although this kind of world may sound like science fiction, a reality of this sort has been proved to exist in modern physics, our most accurate science." (p. 84) The idea of nonlocality strengthened my belief in holism.

Although I read David Bohm’s own explanation of his theory which he called a holographic paradigm, it was Anna F. Lemkow who made the application of holism accessible to me. She summarizes the Perennial Philosophy in her book, The Wholeness Principle, Dynamics of Unity Within Science, Religion & Society, in a series of paragraphs dealing with Ultimate Reality, the universe, the physical cosmos, all the way down to humanity and understanding. (pp. 38–40) Here are some of the summations in her book regarding the Perennial Philosophy, a synopsis of ancient lore that is shared widely:
"Concerning ultimate Reality: All existence is rooted in, pervaded and transcended by the boundless, ineffable Oneness.
Concerning the universe: It issues from and is both pervaded and transcended by the ineffable Oneness. Thus the universe must be a unity. But it is also multi–dimensional, and so organized that each dimension or level of being produces the next, less inclusive level, from the most unitive to the most particular. The universe is thus a dynamic, living whole of which consciousness is the primary datum, and form but secondary…
Concerning man: Man is divine in his innermost nature…man’s potentialities are limitless…
Concerning the individual and society: The two are dynamically linked together by and subject to one and the same cosmic law, the law of balance and harmony, which is also the law of morality whereby we reap as we sow…
Concerning the countless dualities of existence: The numerous pairs of opposites that abound are mutually defining polarities. They point beyond themselves to the all–embracing unity…"

Lemkow’s research and deep philosophical guidance were amplified by the words of shamans I had the good fortune to meet. Miguel Angel Ruiz had his own way of explaining the very same notions as Lemkow. He teaches "a key idea that is known to native people of wisdom throughout the world far back in time:
the universe is a living, highly intelligent being…the sun is a living being…

"Every planet is an organ in the solar being. Together, the sun and all the planets are one being. Each unit from an electron to a galaxy is a single being united into larger beings. Our universe is a being made up of the whole system of smaller beings. There are many universes and together they constitute a gigantic being." (See Beyond Fear, The Teachings of Don Miguel Ruiz, recorded by Mary Carroll Nelson, p. 27)

Theoretical physics uses a different language to state similar concepts. Michael Talbot provides an introduction to frontier physics in his book, The Holographic Universe. He cites major thinkers in quantum physics, especially the late David Bohm: "He says that everything in the universe is part of a continuum. Despite the apparent separateness of things at the explicate level, everything is a seamless extension of everything else, and ultimately even the implicate and explicate orders blend into each other…Bohm cautions that this does not mean the universe is a giant undifferentiated mass. Things can be part of an undivided whole and still possess their unique qualities.

"…Bohm believes that our almost universal tendency to fragment the world and ignore the dynamic interconnectedness of all things is responsible for many of our problems, not only in science but in our lives and society as well…our current way of fragmenting the world into parts not only doesn’t work, but may even lead to our extinction." (pp. 48–49)

Here lies the answer to my conundrum. The great wholeness of everything that is does not mean that the individual parts of this Oneness are reduced to sameness. Everything and everyone retains distinct integrity. We belong to the whole and we are different and unique within that whole. Hence, we can be partisans and holistic, too.

Mary Carroll Nelson


Essays Listed by Name:

What Lies Beyond? The Art of Layering Art Today, Art History Tomorrow
Can We Believe In Holism and Be a Partisan Too? Words in Their Time Synchronicity and Holism
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