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Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything [Paperback]

Ervin Laszlo

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Synopsis

Mystics and sages have long maintained that there exists an interconnecting cosmic field at the roots of reality that conserves and conveys information, a field known as the Akashic record. Recent discoveries in the new field of vacuum physics now show that the Akashic field is real and has its equivalent in the zero-point field that underlies space itself. This field consists of a subtle sea of fluctuating energies from which all things arise: atoms and galaxies, stars and planets, living beings and even consciousness. This zero-point Akashic field - or "A-field" - is not only the original source of all things that arise in time and space; it is, also, the constant and enduring memory of the universe. It holds the record of all that ever happened in life, on Earth and in the cosmos and relates it to all that is yet to happen. Scientist and philosopher Ervin Laszlo conveys the essential element of this vision of the "informed universe" in language that is accessible and clear. The informed universe lends credence to our deepest intuitions of the oneness of life and the whole of creation.

We discover that, as philosopher William James stated, "we are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep."


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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
122 of 130 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Protoscience or science fiction? Intriguing either way 21 Jun 2005
By Todd I. Stark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When I was in college, I picked up Ervin Laszlo's "Introduction to Systems Philosophy," and it was one of the most fascinating things I'd ever read. He was not addressing repeatable experiments to verify predictions of specific experimental phenomena. He was trying to come to realistic grips with something we all experience though we had no scientific models at the time to cover it. He was trying to describe how wholes relate to interacting parts.

Whether a result of his observations or just cultural evolution, it is now relatively commonplace to accept, under the banner of various different terms and theories, that complex systems have their own properties distinct from those of their individual parts. The simple rules followed by individual ants lead to something unexpectedly interesting when there are hundreds of thousands of them forming colonies.

I think it is in this spirit that Laszlo's recent work should be first considered. He isn't trying to come up with a way to predict particular experimental phenomena, as far as I can tell, he is trying to capture larger patterns of empirical evidence with greater generalities. His respect for science and mathematics and his undeniable brilliance distinguish this effort from most of what you might find in the "Speculation" or "Metaphysics" section of the local bookstore.

The general notion that Eastern and Western cosmologies contain different perhaps complementary visions is hardly revolutionary any longer, nor can it be credited (entirely) with any particular scientific progress, unless you are going to say that new metaphors are all there is to building new theories. That would ignore the equally great significance of the epistemic values and social processes unique to the scientific tradition, as well as the unique aspects of Eastern cosmology, which are not just or primarily some sort of "New Physics."

His brilliance and credentials don't seem to protect Laszlo in many reviewer's minds from guilt by association with the many books that have made silly attempts to describe Eastern cosmologies in Western terms and vice versa. This is a shame.

Nor do they protect him from legitimate criticism that this is not quite science. It is probably better called protoscience, or science-philosophy.

While Laszlo is careful with evidence and analysis once he has granted the existence of phenomena based on experience, he has somewhat different criteria in selecting the legitimate domain of phenomena than most physicists would share, and very different than most psychologists would share. Psychologists spend a lot of time trying to understand perceptual and cognitive illusions and distortions that can lead to experience being misinterpreted.

The skeptic would probably say that some of what Laszlo is using as the base for his theories is better explained in psychological terms rather than physical terms. However that would miss the underlying point that looking through a different lens makes different evidence look valuable, and leads to different modes of explanation.

Looking through a different lens does not eliminate the need for explaining all of the relevant phenomena, but it can sometimes make different phenomena seem relevant. Like many intellectuals before him, Laszlo is looking at both physical and human phenomena through an "interconnectivity" lens and seeing something different from mainstream science. And he is careful enough and clever enough that if the human phenomena he assumes are real ... are really real ... then his theory is something much more interesting than just idle speculation.

Yes, this might be "mind candy" in a sense, since it is as much speculation and philosophy as science, but it is intellectual mind candy that follows most of the rules that make for good theory, if his assumptions and evidential base are valid. And that makes it a fascinating read for many of us, even if it strays from mainstream science.
348 of 394 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very nice mind candy 25 Feb 2005
By grouper52 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is an interesting little bit of mind candy I saw in a metaphysical bookstore while on a trip. It made the wait in the airport and the flight home go very quickly, and it really is rather entertaining and thought provoking.

This is an ambitious undertaking, trying in one fell swoop to present, as the author says, "An Integral Theory of Everything". What Laszlo does here is present a number of anomalies from the fields of physics (cosmology and quantum physics), biology and "consciousness research", and then he tries to explain all these anomalies with the theory of an "Akashic Field" in which this and perhaps infinite other universes are embedded. This Akashic Field contains and is the source for not only all matter and energy, but for consciousness as well. Heady stuff, but it is not a rigorously "hard science" presentation, rather one that is approachable even by people with little exposure to scientific thought. And yet he then makes it even more approachable: he nicely divides the book into chapters of varying scientific difficulty, so that the true novice can still read the book and follow the essence of his argument merely by skipping the slightly more rigorous sections and chapters. It is a thoughtful touch that he pulls off quite nicely.

I've had more than a passing interest in this field for several decades now. I trained as a biologist and microbiologist who ultimately went into psychiatry after med school, with an initial interest and emphasis on Transpersonal Psychology and "consciousness research", even training for three years with Stan Grof, whose work is mentioned in the book. I'm also an amateur astronomer with some education in physics, and probably would have gone into physics if my math skills were better when I went back to school after a six year hiatus. I've also practiced Eastern religions for twenty years, and am familiar with the teachings about things "Akashic". So, many of the things discussed in the book are quite familiar to me.

This background has not only made the book a bit more interesting to me than it might be to others, but it has also put me in a position to be a bit more critical of some of its claims. Here are my criticisms of this otherwise highly entertaining book.

First, I'm afraid the reviewer here that has been flamed so badly as "not helpful" for criticizing some of the science behind Laszlo's claims is largely correct; it is often not very rigorous science at all.

Lazlo also seems to have fallen prey to the annoying push by those in this field to become "The Great Prophet of the New Paradigm". Ever since this "new paradigm" and "paradigm shift" stuff came out of Kuhn's writings in 1962, every narcissistic scientific rebel wants to be the special new savior who overthrows the existing order and leads us to some utopian scientific promised land. It is certainly possible that someone eventually will, but somehow I doubt it's going to be these folks who have written in this field for decades.

Reading this book I also found myself annoyed by another tendency I have noticed in those who are attracted to this field; the desire to avoid the acknowledgement of God, and the active avoidance of the use of that term even when appropriate. It is sad to watch the New Age mental gymnastics that the author goes through when finally, through his own search and reasoning, he finds himself up against the Ultimate Mystery, merely one more theoretical level removed from the mystery people have referred to as "God" for millennia. His explanation for what almost anyone else would call "God" is, of course, the "Akashic Field", sort of a cosmic "Gaia Hypothesis" on steroids. A belief in both science AND God is not only possible, but pretty common: and yet not for these folks. It's as if people in this field will simply do anything to avoid saying the word "God", and it seems to keep things on a far less profound level in the process. Hence my response that this is merely very nice "mind candy". When you are staring IT in the face, why not just humble yourself and speak of God?

I'm reminded of a great quote from Robert Jastrow's "God and the Astronomers":

"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries".

Or, as Neem Karoli Baba said, "It is better to see God in everything than to try to figure it out".

Flame away!
64 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Beyond Mind Candy 28 Feb 2005
By Paul S. Triolo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Laszlo has done an amazing job of pulling together the pieces of what in the end is a pretty well thought out "theory of everything." His language is precise and lucid, and makes sense of a great body of scientific research, unexplained phenomena, and things that are for many intuitive insights. A key element, which Laszlo touches tangentially on in the course of the book, is the relationship of elements of his central thesis to ancient wisdom traditions, etc. I was struck by the fact that much of the conclusions that Laszlo comes to from a "scientific" approach have long been part and parcel of, for example, Buddhist thought and cosmology. Indeed, almost every conclusion that Laszlo comes to has a counterpart in Buddhist philosophy, from reincarnation to impermanence. For the practicing Buddhist, most of the book is quite readily accessible, and criticism directed at the book by those with a scientific bent suffers from the usual symptoms. Scientists want "proof" and "repeatability" before they can accept anything, they want years of study and peer review, and articles published in Nature, etc. The problem with this approach is that it dismisses other types of equally valid experiences, and ones which many scientists are typically manifestly unqualified to assess. Buddhist monks trained for years in the rigors of mind training, meditation, and the cultivation of mindfulness and insight, are capable of directly experiencing the type of reality that Laszlo describes...let these critical scientists duplicate this rigorous training process before rendering judgement on such matters. And scientists should also show a little humility, if one had polled the scientific community a two hundred years ago, the accepted wisdom on a host of matters at that time, would now appear quite laughable, but would have been as staunchly defended as some paradigms today...bravo to Laszlo for being such a visionary....
110 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Integrates advanced ideas in consciousness & cosmology 15 Nov 2004
By Jed Shlackman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ervin Laszlo is a highly honored and respected scholar. His new book examines the most advanced ideas in physics, cosmology, metaphysics, and consciousness research. This is a book that is highly readable and suitable for the layperson. Ancient wisdom and modern research in physics and consciousness are brought together as the author seeks to help us recognize the underlying coherence and integration of Creation. Non-local consciousness is found to be intrinsic to the nature of reality, allowing us to understand many phenomena that challenge the common illusion of linear, material existence. This is not a lengthy or overly technical book - it focuses more on examining concepts and piecing them together to form a deeper, more encompassing view of Life and Creation. I highly recommend this book as an introduction or summary of what the most aware thinkers of our world have to teach us.
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent summary of the overlaps between science and mysticism 27 Mar 2006
By Daniel J. Benor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ervin Laszlo is a brilliant French former professor of philosophy, systems theory and futures studies, who holds the highest degree awarded by the Sorbonne (State Doctorate) and four Honorary PhDs. In this book he presents a wholistic view of the world from the vantage points of quantum physics and systems theory.

He does not hesitate to question the commonly held beliefs within quantum physics, pointing out facts that do not fit within currently popular theories explaining the universe.

In a clear and succinct summary, he points out the unlikelihood of chance coincidence alone providing an explanation for the development of the universe as we know it. There is an extremely minute possibility that the `fine-tuning' of the properties of subatomic particles, the forces that govern interactions of these particles, and the timing of the big bang, and the conditions on earth that permit life to exist could have occurred by random combinations of factors.

Coming from the opposite direction, Laszlo suggests that living organisms have similarities with quantum systems.

Laszlo argues that all matter is conscious, on the one hand, and on the other, that we are hard put to define exactly what consciousness is. He marshals cogent arguments to support his argument that the entire universe is conscious, interconnected through a universal field. He cites scientist after scientist who postulate theories that can explain a universal, collective consciousness which has been called in mystical tradition the akashic field, and which he calls the A-field.

This book is an excellent summary of the overlaps between science and mysticism, with materials that will interest those familiar with this field of discussion as well as newcomers to these explorations.
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