by Ervin Laszlo
Connecting to the spontaneous experience that occasionally—and for sensitive people more and more—informs and inspires our consciousness is a perennial quest. It is the source of genuine spirituality, and of religion based on spirituality. Today this quest has acquired a new dimension. Reconnecting to our spiritual experience is not only meaningful and important in itself; it has become a precondition of our survival.
At the dawn of the third decade of the 21st century, the existence of humankind has become highly perilous. We are cutting down our forests, exhausting our fresh water aquifers, and losing our vital top soils. We are stripping the life from our oceans and replacing it with hundreds of millions of tons of plastic waste. We are flooding our environment with toxic industrial chemicals. Our pollution is driving climate change that causes heat waves, droughts, and wild fires that shred the fabric of life on the continents. And we are bringing new generations into the world, millions who require access to the resources of a dignified existence. The scope and breadth of the threats to life are increasing day after day. This is not a sustainable mode of development.
We are in the final stages of the Industrial Age. Much has happened over the 200 years or so since it began. In that time, we have gone from dirty coal to clean, cheap and efficient solar power; from traveling New York to London under sail in five weeks to the same trip by air in five hours. We have gone from snail mail to instant global intercommunication. From the beginnings of the industrial age to the arrival of the solar age, our journey has been accelerating more and more. We have grown from a world economy valued at less than US$200 billion annually, to an economy that now exceeds US$80 trillion a year. In the same period, our population grew from less than one billion to 7.7 billion. With each passing year we are adding 75 million humans to the populaton of the planet. We can no longer ensure a reliable supply of vital resources to all the people who come into this world.
We need to shift to a different mode of development. This calls for finding better ways of thinking and living. Reconnecting with our spiritual experience is an important and practicable way of meeting this challenge. It has the potential to set our feet on a better path. In conjunction with effective ways to revise and restructure our societies and economies, it constitutes a practicable way forward. Entering on that path could be our salvation.
The Nature of Spiritual Experience
We need to tap the subtle inner resources that are available to us. We can tap these resources by recognizing, and following, our own spiritual experience. We need to reassess the nature of this experience. It does not come to us as exceptionally and rarely as most people think: it comes to many and perhaps all of us, if only we allow it to come. We have been suppressing the spiritual experience from our consciousness because it is anomalous for the commonsense concept of the world—it does not fit the Newtonian-Darwinian concept of life and reality. We place our spiritual experience on a back burner, if we recognize it at all. In most cases we dismiss it as esoteric and imaginary.
Einstein recognized the role of spirituality in life and in science. He called the insight that emerges in spiritual experience Einfall, a “falling in.” The classical Greeks called it gnosis: deep knowing. But for mainstream Western civilization, this experience is illusory. The empiricist philosophy that dominates thinking in the Western world maintains that everything that is in the mind must have first been in the eye. There are no spontaneous intuitions, direct insights.
This was not always the dominant belief. Poets, prophets, artists and scientists knew and valued the spiritual experience when it came their way. Sensitive and insightful individuals know and value it today. They realize that this experience produces masterpieces in art and breakthroughs in science. In our perilous time, it offers precious guideposts for thinking and acting.
The spiritual experience cannot be made to happen: when it comes, it comes spontaneously. But the conditions under which it tends to come can be curated. We can enter the meditative, deeper, slightly altered state of consciousness in which the spiritual experience is likely to surface. And we can take the insight it conveys seriously, apprehending to what it points, remembering it, and learning from it. We can become more spiritual people. In our day, being spiritual is just as important as being intellectually learned, or skilled in one or another of the social, business, and practical arts.
A genuine spiritual experience is a window on reality. The information to which it points is as real as the information conveyed by sensory experience—and it may be more fundamental and meaningful. It constitutes access to a domain of reality foreclosed to experience transmitted by eye and ear.
The Nature of Reality
We can access aspects and dimensions of reality through the spiritual experience because reality is not what we have thought it was—it is not a material domain radically distinct from the domain of mind, spirit and consciousness. The world is not unidimensional. It is deep and complex. We live in a dynamic, and as it seems purposive, universe. Through the spiritual experience we can reconnect to the deep dimension of this universe.
Getting to know the fundamental nature of the universe is part of today’s basic literacy. The following offers a brief overview.
The world we observe and inhabit was born in the wake of the cosmic singularity known as the Big Bang. It is believed to have occurred about 113.8 billion years ago and produced a singularity that proved to be the womb of all things that exist in space and time. The particles created in the wake of this cosmic event began to assume form and structure when the fireball cooled sufficiently for quasi-stable entities to form. They are the basic furnishings of the universe: leptons (electrons, muons, tau particles, and neutrinos), mesons (pions), and hadrons (baryons including electrons and neutrons).
The systems of particles and atoms that emerged in the cooling spacetime of the universe cohered into more and more complex systems in the course of time: molecules and crystals, macromolecules and living cells. Some of the cells cohered into living single-cellular and then multicellular organisms, and these cohered in turn into ecologies and societies of organisms. Simultaneously with this evolution, on the astronomical level, due to the force of gravitation, masses of particles have been condensing into stars with planets, some of which formed solar systems. These cohered in turn into nebular and galactic systems. The totality of these systems constitutes the metagalaxy: the observable universe.
The processes of evolution proved to be universal, not limited to particular regions of space and time. Organic molecules and protocells, essential components of living organisms, have been found in more and more places in the universe, emerging under more and more diverse conditions.
Knowing these facts is important, because they tell us that we live in a meaningful, purpose-driven universe and not in a random, chance-dominated world. In possession of the basic parameters of evolution, we obtain credible answers to the question regarding the meaning of the processes that brought us forth, as they brought forth other complex and coherent systems in space and time.
Complex and coherent systems, such as cells and organisms, and societies and ecologies of organisms, could not have come about through chance interactions among their constituent elements in the known time-frame. These systems are far too complex to have been produced by random processes. The analysis of even relatively simple systems, such as single-celled organisms and colonial and simple multicellular organisms reveals that producing them by a casual mixing of their elements would have taken longer than the age of the universe. To use a simile suggested by mathematical physicist Fred Hoyle, the probability that a living organism would come about through the random mixing of its genetic components is similar to the probability that a hurricane blowing through a scrapyard produces a working airplane.
Thirteen point eight billion years for the evolution of physical systems, and four billion years for the appearance of living systems on this planet (and very likely on others as well), are not sufficient to account for the presence of stars and galaxies in cosmic space, and for the web of life in the biosphere of the Earth.
If random processes cannot account for the existence of complex and coherent systems, the question is, what is responsible for their presence? We need to face the possibility that, contrary to a dominant myth of modern science, evolution is not a fortuitous process; it appears to be governed by something other than blind chance. This “something” could be (but need not necessarily be) an extraneous “transcendental” will or force. It could also be the ensemble of laws and regularities that are intrinsic to the evolutionary process. This assumption is more consistent with the philosophy of natural science than the assumption of supernatural will or design. The laws and regularities that reign in the universe could include, in addition to the four universal laws presently known to science (the laws of gravitation, of electromagnetism, and of the strong and weak nuclear interactions) a fifth law, field or force. The “fifth force” would account for some otherwise puzzling observations, including the presence of complex and coherent systems in the universe.
The logical and minimally speculative assumption is that the “fifth force” is an attractor. (Attractors are hypothetical entities postulated by systems scientists to account for the evolution of the phase-space of complex dynamic systems.) The attractor in question would be a fifth force, complementing and completing the action of the four known forces. Given that it produces a tendency—a tropism—toward the creation of coherent whole-systems in space and time, we call it the “holotropic attractor.”
Investigators have been giving various names to the force field—or attractor—that accounts for the facts of evolution. Henri Bergson called it élan vital, and Hans Driesch claimed that it is a counter-entropic drive called entelechy, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Erich Jantsch postulated a dynamic tendency they called syntony, and several investigators named it syntropy. For Eastern thinkers the fifth force is prana, and for Rudolf Steiner it is an etheric force. Newton himself recognized the need for such a force and sought to incorporate it in his theory. The mechanistic laws, he said, are not full descriptions of reality; they need to be completed with an “enlivening and ensouling” spirit—a “spirit of vegetation.”
Regardless of under what label we apprehend it, we need to recognize that such a force exists in the universe. It complements the known forces of nature and accounts for the presence of the complex and coherent systems that we find in the universe.
Accessing Reality through the Spiritual Experience
The holotropic attractor is a subtle but fundamental force in space and time. It produces complex and coherent systems such as living organisms, including human beings. It is likely to leave its trace in our consciousness.
The concept of reality emerging in the new sciences supports this possibility. According to the new quantum-physics concept, it is not matter but vibration that is the basic foundation, the constituent element, of reality. The particles, atoms, molecules, cells and organisms that evolve in space and time are not material entities, but clusters of vibration in a universal field. We need to recognize that these vibrations may occur in diverse domains of frequency. The living body vibrates in one domain, and phenomena of consciousness are likely to be vibrations in a different (“deeper” or “higher”) domain.
We normally apprehend vibrations in the domain of our physical-biological body: these constitute our sensory experience of the world. But it appears that we can also apprehend vibrations in other domains of frequency: our brain and consciousness seems capable of decoding vibrations beyond the frequency needed to ensure our physical-biological existence. The phenomena that come to light when we apprehend the higher or deeper domains appear “transcendental” —they are beyond the bounds of our sense-perceived world. But they are just as real as the world of seemingly solid material bodies.
In the nonordinary states of consciousness typical of the spiritual experience, we access frequency domains that convey phenomena beyond the range of the bodily senses. In these domains the subtle influences—forces, fields, “attractors”— that govern the processes of evolution become comparatively transparent. This accounts for the reported nature of spiritual experience. In this experience, sages and prophets, and sensitive and insightful people in all ages and walks of life venture beyond the world of sensory experience and apprehend a trace of the force that creates complex and coherent systems in the universe. This apprehension appears to us as a spontaneous tendency toward bonding and binding, toward union and communion, in us and with us and throughout the world. Its culminating expression is a deep and authentic feeling of unconditional love for others, for nature, and for all things throughout space and time.
Consciously cultivating the tropism of the holotropic attractor is a wise option. In these critical times, when our very survival is at stake, “becoming holotropic” is an imperative of human survival.
Reconnecting ourselves to our spiritual experience is the inner path to human salvation. It returns us to what we truly are: an organic and conscious part of the great symphony of evolution in the universe —a symphony of which the recurring theme is wholeness and coherence in body and mind, and in the spirit that makes us one with the cosmos.
* For more on the spiritual experience and its meaning for our time, see Ervin Laszlo et al, Reconnecting to the Source. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2020.
** A fifth law, field or force is in active research in the avant-garde laboratories of physicists. See for example the recent report that it has been experimentally identified by a team of Hungarian physicists.
Below are exclusive, insightful comments on Ervin’s article from three of the well-known writers and public figures that contributed their own spiritual experiences to the book.
Scientist, chimpanzee intelligence researcher
Ervin Laszlo writes that connecting to the spontaneous experiences that occasionally inform our consciousness is a perennial quest: it is the source of genuine spirituality, and of religion based on spirituality. Today, he tells us, this quest has acquired a new dimension. Reconnecting to our spiritual experience is not only meaningful and important in itself; it has become a precondition of our survival.
This is a significant statement made by a highly respected philosopher of science, and it is worth deeply pondering its meaning and asking whether it resonates with your own beliefs. We know from Laszlo’s writings that he has persistently searched for meaning in life, and as a starting point he has connected with his own inner self, listened to the voice of nature and only then began to explore the bigger picture and try to answer some of the most difficult questions asked by the philosopher—is there a meaning to a human life, and if so, what is that meaning? Is there consciousness that exists beyond our brief time on Planet Earth. And how do we know?
My own spiritual experiences have had a profound effect on my life. From an early age I believed in a Spiritual Power—a Power that has many names in different belief systems. Because I was brought up as a Christian I called this Power God. My belief in this Power has been reinforced by moments of awareness particularly during my long years in the rainforest. Alone in this environment, understanding how every species, no matter how small, has a role to play, I felt very much connected to the forest world and experienced flashes of intuition, of insight, when I became one with a spiritual reality greater than the physical world around me. I have had similar moments of spiritual awareness in the atmosphere of very old churches or cathedrals. These experiences have led me to believe that my life has meaning, that I came into this world with a mission, and that death is not the end.
As I ponder the exact meaning of Laszlo’s statement it seems to me that he is suggesting that we need to reconnect not only with our own spiritual self, our true nature, but also to reconnect to all people and living beings on the planet. To create a world where we see each person, each animal, each tree as part of a glorious whole. Sadly, modern humans have mostly turned their backs on the belief systems of most indigenous people—a belief that we are part of the natural world, that we are one with nature, part of the great and wondrous tapestry of life on earth. And in so doing we come to believe that we are separate from the natural world. In fact we are part of it and depend on it to sustain our lives. Yet we have exploited the finite resources of the planet in some places faster than nature can restore them. And this has not only led us to the 6th great extinction of plants and animals, but threatens our own continued existence. No wonder so many young people have lost hope, and become apathetic, depressed or violent.
It is a sad reality that in today’s society, millions of peoples have either never experienced moments of spiritual awareness, or have closed their minds to such experiences. They are either too caught up in trying to survive in a hostile or materialistic and unsustainable lifestyle, or have made a deliberate decision to reject such experiences as non-scientific, not acceptable to mainstream thinking. In this sterile world Laszlo’s call for us to reconnect to our spiritual experience is timely indeed.
In essence, Laszlo seeks to satisfy the young generation’s growing need to find meaning and hope in life as they grow up in a world that older generations have been exploiting for generations so that their futures have been compromised. We all need hope during these dark times. We need to be able to envision a different kind of world and reconnecting with our spiritual nature will help us find a way that enables us to move towards solutions to the crises that loom on the horizon.
Mystic, activist, spiritual leader
In his important article, Reconnecting to our Spiritual Experience: the Inner Path to our Salvation, Ervin Laszlo warns us that humanity is in an extremely perilous condition. We have been living irresponsibly, and are at risk of losing our very existence. We have been damaging and polluting the environment, and pouring enormous energy into the development of nuclear weapons. As a result, Earth could be destroyed in a moment in a large-scale natural disaster or a nuclear war. How did these fearsome conditions come about, and what can we do to change them? The answer, Laszlo points out, is in reconnecting to our own deep spiritual nature.
Many wise philosophers have been telling us that the root cause of our ills stems from a mistaken way of thinking. What exactly does this mean? To me, it means that we have been thinking of ourselves mainly as physical beings, while denying our spiritual nature. Because we think that we exist as physical bodies and nothing more, we place first importance on protecting our bodies from harm and prolonging our physical existence. Our spiritual nature, if considered at all, is treated as a secondary aspect of our physical being—something not to be taken seriously. To us, the only things that matter are the phenomena that appear in the tangible world—things that can be seen, or heard, or touched, or measured.
Yet where has this approach led us? Has it brought us a sense of happiness and fulfillment? Far from it. Rather than living each day in a spirit of joyful cooperation, with our hearts filled with bright hope and happy anticipation, we have isolated ourselves from others and viewed them as rivals or enemies. Our thoughts are flooded with suspicion, fear and greed, leading to an endless cycle of war, poverty, starvation, and environmental destruction. Unless we wake up soon and pay attention to our spiritual nature, there will be no future for humanity on Earth.
As Dr. Laszlo suggests, we human beings need to shift to a different mode of existence. We need to find better ways of thinking and living. How can we do this at the most fundamental level? In my view, we can do it by unleashing the creative power of our positive vibrations. In the everyday context, we call these vibrations “words.”
Each word we speak holds its own vibration. When we speak the same kind of words again and again, those words band together in fields that surround each person, each group, and each nation. When the energy of those fields builds up to form a critical mass, it overflows and manifests in a variety of conditions.
From day to day, the words we choose and the words we use are creating a world beyond our imagination. Words are life. Words are light. Words are power. Words are energy. Words are truth. Words can enliven and words can also kill. Words can give hope, or plunge us into despair. People use words to build peace, and use words to make war.
Words can create walls between cultures, religions, and nations. And words can also build bridges. The existence of an individual, a family, a community, a country, and our planet is being led to good or to evil through the power of the words we speak.
The words we speak are responsible for everything that happens in this world. We, therefore, must be responsible for the words we speak.
On behalf of future generations, I hope that each of us will do all we can to speak only bright, light-filled words, so that one day, our descendants will be born into a world filled with light. There is no time to lose. Starting at this very moment, I hope all of us will take a close look at the words we have been using and make constant efforts to fill them with brightness.
No one is going to change our lives for us. No one is going to change the world for us. It is time for each of us to recognize the prodigious, creative power that is unleashed by each word we speak, and to consciously speak only words filled with gratitude, encouragement, and good intention. From this moment forward, let us choose words that resonate with love and forgiveness for ourselves and others. We can certainly do it if we take just one step forward. One step at a time, one word at a time, we can uproot the germs of tragedy and of isolation in our consciousness and convert them into waves of happiness and conciliation.
For the sake of ourselves, for the sake of Mother Earth, and for the sake of future generations, let us use words that contribute to the positive evolution of humankind on Earth. Let us reconnect to the spirituality of the words we speak, through the spiritual experience now given fresh credibility by this article, and by all the books, of Dr. Ervin Laszlo.
Science and spirituality make uncomfortable bedfellows according to some mainstream schools of thought and for some any intimacy between the two is regarded as illicit. From this perspective scientific and spiritual exploration must be conducted under starkly different rules and represent what we are told are incompatible methodologies. They may both seek to understand the nature of Reality but science relies on reaching objective and independently verifiable results, drawing conclusions from observations and developing theories that are consonant with universal laws. Spirituality, from this viewpoint, relies on subjective and personal direct experience which transcends the material plane and the laws that govern it and accesses insight and deep knowing by honing culturally transmitted technologies for refining consciousness. But this separation and even divorce between science and spirituality leads to a fragmented worldview and to the polarization of meaning.
But we are not destined to live in a world unable to integrate spiritual and scientific paradigms. Thanks to the genius of systems thinkers and cosmologists like Ervin Laszlo and the work of integral philosophers, practitioners and physicists, there is a map that harmonizes subjective and objective approaches while avoiding a gooey stew of platitudes and simplistic formulas.
In this integral mapping, science sees that subject-objective interrelatedness is not only to be tolerated—it is part of the grand design. Scientific observation, for example, operates in a delineated field of awareness and influences what is observed as numerous quantum field experiments have demonstrated. We are entangled in the narratives we create and, yes, this applies to scientists and to us all.
Similarly spirituality has increasingly faced the reality that it cannot simply cut itself off from material existence in a one-sided quest to experience the reality of the transcendent, infinite and eternal. There is a growing understanding that spirituality must engage in the story of our evolutionary emergence and illuminate, not obscure, the relationship between the part and the whole; between the eternal and the lived moment. It turns out we need to experience Reality to know it in its fullness. Thus experience, as also Laszlo’s work tells us, is central.
In fact great mystics say that the Absolute created a universe so that it could know its values and principles—its essential qualities—by experiencing them in the cauldron of time and space and in the testing laboratory of evolutionary process. It is one thing to be the latent power of all possibilities, it is another to actualize the possible under fierce and chaotic conditions. In Hinduism this descent of the Absolute indivisible unity into the conditions of relativity and duality is referred to as “leela” or divine play.
We are invited into this God-game to play our part consciously and conscientiously as Truth embodied and Beauty revealed. The manifest world acts as a mirror to reflect back to us how accurately and faithfully we reveal the infinite in the finite. “All the world’s a stage”—that is the world is a location for the enactment of meaning—where the universal is revealed in the particular. When the universal is obscured it is known as “maya,” or illusion. All of us must shed dense illusion or learn the hard way by experiencing suffering. In science, an example of this obscuration was the creation of the atomic bomb which was an act of consummate arrogance.
Our challenge in shedding illusion is that we get trapped in entanglements that are created by the way our awareness is conditioned by illusory values. What we resonate with acts as a nonlocal field of attraction that fixates our attention. These entanglements create psychic wounding perpetuated by the suffering that results from disobeying the fundamental laws of the universe. When we resonate with higher frequencies that are more selfless and universal, we heal and synchronize with evolutionary purpose.
It must be the goal of all human beings—artists, scientists and spiritual seekers alike—to discover these fundamental laws of the universe and align with them as they are revealed and applied, in cosmology, morality, psychology, semiotics, ecology, systems theory, physics, astrophysics, biology, medicine, healing, self-realization and all aspects of social, physical and spiritual reality.
It is profoundly exciting that Laszlo and others are pointing at the pivotal role played by spiritual experience in shifting collective paradigms from illusory to real values. I call this work conscious activism or consciousness activism. This approach moves us away from elitism in both science and spirituality, and re-sacralizes individual experience.
For the whole is in the part. The universe reveals itself in each one of us, as Laszlo’s work assures us. There is no periphery: the center is everywhere. And all shall be transformed because everything and everyone is connected.
Find out more:
Ervin Laszlo is President of the Laszlo Institute of New Paradigm Research, Founder and President of The Club of Budapest, Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, Member of the Hungarian Academy of Science and of the International Academy of Philosophy of Science, Senator of the International Medici Academy, and Editor of the periodical World Futures: The Journal of New Paradigm Research. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and 2007. He is the author of more than sixty books translated into twenty-six languages, including Information Medicine: A New Paradigm for the Health Sciences, co-authored with Pier Mario Biava (2019), and The Tuscany Dialogues: The Earth, Our Future, and the Scope of Human Consciousness, with Michael Tobias (2019).
Bookshelf: Reconnecting to the Source