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The Underlying Intelligence - Mind Beyond Matter [Mar. 27th, 2010|02:17 pm]
from the keyboard of geoff goodfellow
Todd F. Eklof (11-02-03):
It was about twenty years ago when astronomers began noticing
various objects in space aren’t behaving themselves. That is,
they don’t seem to be obeying the laws of physics. Because of
these laws, governing gravitational pull and separation,
physicists are able to determine precisely how much matter must
exist to hold a galaxy together. The only problem is, in
practically all systems, their figures don’t add up. When they
actually observe these galaxies they can’t find most of the
matter their calculations say should be there. These ubiquitous
discrepancies seem to leave us with two possibilities, either the
universe contains a lot more matter than can be observed, "dark
matter," as it is referred to, or our understanding of the laws
of physics is incorrect. In either case, it would seem, their is
much more to knowing how the universe works than meets the eye.

If we head the other direction, from the farthest reaches of
space into the infinite depth of our own molecular makeup, we are
presented with a similar scientific conundrum. Ever since the
1950’s, with the discovery of DNA, scientists have been working
to understand the laws governing genetics. In this quest, which
has in recent years led to the mapping of the entire human
genome, many geneticists have classified 98 percent of our DNA as
junk. This junk DNA doesn’t produce the proteins that are
considered essential in programming our cellular makeup. But in a
recent article in Scientific America on the subject, John
Mattick, director of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at
the University of Queensland, has stated, "what was damned as
junk because it was not understood may, in fact, turn our to be
the very basis of human complexity."1 In this article, entitled
The Unseen Genome: Gems among the Junk, we learn of entire
litters of mice that have died after having their useless junk
DNA tampered with, and of cellular programming that occurs
without proteins.

As fascinating as these problems are, the point here is rather
obvious, considering 95 percent of the universe is comprised of
dark matter and 98 percent of our DNA is classified as junk
because we don’t understand its function, there is much about the
universe, both on the macrocosmic and microcosmic level, that we
don’t comprehend. Yet most of the time we go about our lives as
if our understanding of the world is nearly complete, as if their
is little more to it than our redundant thoughts and behavior
permit. It’s as if we’re in a dark room with a narrow beam of
light. Whatever we shine the light on we take as reality, but the
rest of it, lying out there in the darkness, either doesn’t exist
or serves no purpose. Every now and then we hear something in the
darkness, some faint sound, a distant echo suggesting there might
actually be something else out there, something more to the
universe than our narrow vision allows, but we have learned to
distrust, even to fear, the mysterious sounds emanating from the
darkness, and easily dismiss those who do listen as crackpots and
charlatans, when, like DNA and dark matter, most of reality
likely exists in the shadows of what we don’t understand.
Our narrow beam of light, for example, indicates human
beings are the most advanced beings that have ever lived. Our
large cerebral cortex makes us much more intelligent than any
other creature on earth. In many cases, the other beings we share
the earth with are little more than biological automatons,
governed, not by thought, but by pure instinct, entirely
incapable of reasoning or understanding. Our paradigm suggests
genuine intelligence originates and ends with human beings.

More often than not, however, is seems our superior intelligence
has merely made us better at killing each other and destroying
our environment than any of the dumb animals we share the planet
with. Indeed, if we turn off our light for a few moments and stop
ignoring the voices in the darkness, begin taking seriously the
things we can’t explain, we might begin to appreciate our world
in a broader light.

Once such voice is calling to us from a far away zoo in
Warwickshire, England. It’s the voice of a female bonobo, a pygmy
chimpanzee, who seems to be delighting in poking zoo visitors
with a bamboo stick she’s managed to obtain. Fortunately one of
her keepers, Betty Walsh, has brought a bag containing four cakes
to work with her. Betty had planned to share the cakes with here
colleagues at tea time, but decides to attempt trading one of the
cakes for the stick. But when the bonobo saw that she had four
cakes, the "dumb animal," broke the stick into four pieces in order
to get all of them. "It was more than clever," Betty recounted,
"She worked it out in a split second."2

This is just one of the incredible stories biologist Rupert Sheldrake
tells in his book, Dogs that Know When Their Owners are Coming
Home: And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals
. In his research,
Sheldrake discovered many cat owners complain that their pets
manage to disappear whenever their scheduled for a veterinary
appointment. As one person explained, "The cat always knows hours
ahead of time when I’m going to take him to the vet, long before
I actually fetch his basket from the attic. I try to act as
natural as possible so he won’t notice, but he can always see
through me at any time and will yowl to go out."3 To better
understand just how widespread this phenomenon is, Sheldrake and
his team once surveyed all the veterinary clinics listed in the
North London Yellow Pages. It turned out that 64 of the 65
clinics they called reported frequent appointment cancellations
for this very reason.

Most of us are aware of the mysterious homing ability found in
many animals, and we’ve all heard the incredible stories of dogs
and cats that make their way home after traveling long
distances. Like the story of a collie named Bobby, lost in
Indiana while his family was moving across country to their new
home in Oregon. A year later the dog show up at their new home
after traversing more than 2000 miles. Since Bobby had never been
to the home in Oregon before, it’s difficult to comprehend how he
knew which route to take. Some might explain it as the dog’s
ability to pick of the scent of his owners, but following the
scent of their rubber tires for 2000 miles seems remarkable, even
for the sharpest of bloodhounds. Nor can scent explain the case
of Troubles, a scout dog that had been taken by helicopter to a
Vietnam war zone with his handler, William Richardson. When
Richardson was wounded and airlifted to safety, Troubles got left
behind. Three weeks later, the tired and starving dog show up at
headquarters ten miles away. He wouldn’t let anyone get near him
but searched the tents until he found Richardson’s belongings,
then curled up and went to sleep.4 Since Richardson had been
airlifted away, there was no scent on the ground for Troubles to

Nowadays, more and more animals are also being used to warn
epileptics in advance of a seizure so they can lay down and
prepare themselves. Chad, a Golden Retriever who won the 1997
British Therapy Dog of the Year Award, for example, actually goes
to the mother of a young boy who suffers from the condition and
warns her when he is about to have a seizure. Another person, who
has as many as twelve seizures a week was unable to leave her
home until she got her helper dog. "He can sense, up to fifty
minutes before, that I am going to have an attack and taps me
twice with his paw, giving me time to get somewhere safe." She
explains, "He can also press a button on my phone and bark when
it is answered, to get help, and, if he thinks I’m going to have
an attack while I’m in the bath, he’ll pull the plug out."5 Other
animals have also proven capable of predicting seizures, even
something as unlikely as a pet rabbit.

Many of these stories seem to indicate the possibility that
animals may have telepathic powers, that they are somehow
connected with people and places they bond with through some
force transcending the limitations of their bodies. This seems to
be the only way to explain the result of one laboratory
experiment involving some chicks that had bonded with a small
robot that randomly moved about. The chicks followed the robot
around the room as if it were their mother. The robot was then
placed in a room with an empty cage and researchers were able to
trace its random movements across the floor. As expected the
robot ended up eventually moving all over the room. When the day
old imprinted chicks were placed in the cage, however, something
extraordinary happened. The tracings show that the robot stayed
mostly near the cage, and never ventured to the farther half of
the room at all. The same researchers also placed a group of
non-imprinted chicks in a dark room with the robot after putting
a lighted candle on it. These chicks were also able to somehow
keep the robot near them during the day so they could receive
more light.6

So how is it possible for day old chicks to remote control a
robot, for rabbits to predict epileptic seizures, or for a dog to
travel 2000 miles to a home it has never been before? Could
these examples point to an intelligence beyond the confines of
our skulls? Could it be that intelligence is something that
transcends both mind and body, and exists out there somewhere,
in the ether, in the darkness, just waiting for us to tap into it
like our animal companions? Perhaps there is in reality only
one universal Mind and to tap into it we must first go out of our
minds. As the physicist Erwin Schrodinger once said, "Mind is by
its very nature a singular tantum. I should say: the overall number
of minds is just one."

Schrodinger went on to conclude that it is meaningless to "divide
or multiply consciousness" because, "In all the world, there is
no kind of framework with which we can find consciousness in the
plural."8 Perhaps this is similar to what Einstein meant when he
remarked, "I feel such a sense of solidarity with all living
things that it does not matter to me where the individual begins
and ends."9

In this world view, beyond the detached, mechanistic,
schizophrenic vision provided by our narrow beam of light, there
is only one mind, a singularity of intelligence, beyond time and
space, beyond beginning and end, in which all creatures are
capable of sharing. And lest we mistakenly limit this to just
animals, we should also consider the intelligence of plants,
that, through co-evolution with animals, have developed colorful
flowers, pleasant fragrances, savory tastes and consciousness
expanding compounds in order to communicate their presence to
us. In a recent and fascinating interview, Dr. Yoshiuki Miwa, a
robotics expert studying the bio-information systems of plants in
order to make more life like robots, has concluded, "From a
macroscopic viewpoint, a forest as a whole forms a brain."10
Dr. Miwa came to recognize the intelligence in Forests by
inserting electrodes into trees in order to detect subtle changes
in them, similar to monitoring electrocardiograms and brain
waves. "I have the feeling that a forest itself has a network,
similar to that found in a brain," he concludes, but "Through
what kind of medium is such grouping being carried out? And
through that medium, what kind of information relating to the
life activities of trees is being shared?"11 Miwa’s research
indicates the medium through which plants and trees share
intelligence involves electrical fields. If this is the case,
perhaps this is the same kind of invisible energy that mediates
all intelligence, from the inexplicable homing and precognitive
abilities of some animals, to the ability of chicks to remote
control a robot.

I’d like to conclude by asking you to consider another voice
calling to us from the mysterious darkness, the voice of Eliot
Cowan, a shaman who has created a healing system he calls
plant spirit medicine. Cowan claims he has no especially
mystical abilities and grew up in an average middle class
household, a child allergic to pollen and prone to staying
indoors. While studying anthropology in college, however, he
developed the urge to learn more about the world in which he
lived. So he left school and moved to a farm in Vermont where he
began learning about and experimenting with plan medicines. One
day, needing fence posts, he wondered into a cedar grove with a
saw and machete, instead of a noisy gas-fueled chainsaw. Before
tearing into the trees, however, he asked himself, "If I were
growing here in this bog, how would I want it to be done?"12 He
decided that he would select a trunk from each clump of trees
that was crowding the others, cut it, removes its limbs, then
pile the brush atop the stump so as not to harm the other trees
and clutter the meadow with brush piles. "I will leave the grove
healthier and more beautiful than when I found it."13 Cowan’s
approach took much longer than it should have, but he didn’t seem
to mind.

Nearly twenty years later, while on a shamanic journey to the
Sierra foothills of Northern California, Cowan had a dream in
which he encountered a female spirit who told him she was the
mother of all the creatures in the forest. "The cedars are
pleased with you," she told him, "and we’ll help you because of
your kindness to us long ago."

Cowan was confused and asked, "What kindness?"

"It was my cousin," the spirit replied, "the northern white
cedar, don’t you recall?"14 That’s when, for the first time,
Cowan remembered his forgotten experience in the grove 18 years
earlier. Since then Cowan has come to conclude that in many cases
we don’t even need to ingest plants to be healed and enlightened
by them, we simply need to be close to them. "I think it’s
important for people to know," he says, "and to be able to
experience that every plant is a miracle, magic. And if you
approach it right, every plant is psychoactive. Spirit isn’t
limited by molecules."15

Science tells us the Universe if full of mostly stuff we can’t
see, dark matter, and our bodies are made of mostly stuff we
don’t understand, junk DNA. But our lack of experience or
understanding doesn’t mean these aren’t real or serve no
purpose. As Einstein said, "Out yonder there is a huge world,
which exists independently of us human beings and which stands
before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially
accessible to our inspection and thinking."16 Perhaps the
peculiar intelligence expressed by plants and animals is
accessible to us mere humans too, if we stop focusing so hard on
our narrow vision of reality, close our eyes, and listen.
1 Gibbs, W. Wayt, The Unseen Genome: Gems Among the Junk, Scientific America,
November 2003, p.53.
2 Sheldrake, Rupert, Dogs that Know When Their Owners are Coming Home: And Other Unexplained Powers
of Animals
, Three Rivers Press, New York, NY, 1999, p.131.
3 Ibid., p.121.
4 Ibid., p.173.
5 Ibid., p.235.
6 Ibid. p.271ff.
7 Schrodinger, Erwin, What is Life? And Mind and Matter, Cambridge University Press,
London, 1969, p.145.
8 Schrodinger, Erwin, My View of the World, Ox Bow Press, Woodbridge, CT, 1983,
p.31ff. (original English translated Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964).
9 Born, Max, The Born-Einstein Letters, Walker, New York, NY, 1971, p.151.
10 http://www.natureinterface.com/e/ni05/P012-016/
11 Ibid.
12 Hammond, Holly, Plant Spirit Medicine, Yoga Journal, Issue 131, December 1996,
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid., p.80.
15 Ibid., p.82.
16 Schilpp, Paul A., ed., Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, Open Court Publishing,
La Salle, IL, 1949, p.5.