Home Forums Deep Time Journey Forum Is the universe a "living system"? Reply To: Is the universe a "living system"?

Stephan Martin

Duane, thanks for your courage in sharing your personal direct experience of a living universe. I know many others who have had experiences in this direction, including myself and other scientists. For a while, the psychologist Charles Tart was keeping an archive of scientists’ transcendent experiences, and he feels that this type of data from scientifically trained individuals are especially important since part of scientific training is to maintain a healthy skepticism towards the data and resist premature interpretation. Accumulating similar experiences from large numbers of individuals is important to help avoid the “messiah effect” and to begin to see common overlaps between experiences. One area where these experiences overlap is the widespread experience and agreement among these individuals that the universe is infused with both consciousness and aliveness. 

This is also the widespread view of many indigenous peoples that I have spoken with around the world – that everything that exists is alive in some way, including the universe as a whole. It might not be too big a leap to suggest that many of the ancient cultures of the world believed (and perhaps experienced) the world as a living being. Certainly it was the case for many of the ancient Greeks such as Plato who thought it obvious that the world was alive, since how could something which was not alive give rise to individuals who were clearly alive?

However, these data are qualitative in that they come from the direct subjective experiences of individuals, and can’t be measured quantitatively via instruments, which makes them much less convincing to contemporary science.  

So there might be different aspects to the living universe, some of which can be measured quantatively in biological systems, such as metabolism, etc.. and some which can only be experienced through more qualitative approaches to knowing.  To mix qualitative and quantitative data can lead to great confusion, which is partly what may be happening in this dialog. Also, after reflecting on Ursula’s definition of metabolism as a specific set of reactions and energy transfers limited to a particular set of biological systems, I tend to agree with her.  Trying to fit galactic activity into the biological idea of metabolism may miss what may be really going on at the galactic scale, which could be an entirely different type of energy exchange and perhaps aliveness of an entirely different order and character.

There’s more to say about the qualitative perception of aliveness, and I think many people have the sense or intuition of this aliveness, but it gets filtered out through our common worldview. I can give some examples next time, but I’m prepping for a public talk tomorrow, so I’ll finish this post up here.