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Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything.

SCIENCE AND THE AKASHIC FIELD: An Integral Theory of Everything by Ervin Laszlo. Updated 2d ed. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2007. 194 pages. Paperback; 14.95. ISBN: 1594771812.

Over the last four decades, Ervin Laszlo has led the vanguard of work on systems theory and futures theory. His commitment to uncover the connections between the various systems that constitute our world--from the micro- (subatomic) to the macro- (cosmic) domains--has led him inexorably to the search for what in this book is subtitled "an integral theory of everything" (ITOE). With mixed reports coming from (on the one side) cosmologists, many of whom are skeptical about theory-of-everything TOE) projects, and (on the other side) string theorists, the currently more optimistic bunch about the success of TOE research, what might a systems and futures theorist contribute to the discussion?

One major idea "in-forms" Laszlo's version of TOE, which, as already indicated, he calls "integral": the notion of the coherence of nature at and between its many levels such that what emerges is a thoroughly interconnected world. This is "in-formation": "a subtle, quasi-instant, non-evanescent and non-energetic connection between things at different locations in space and events at different points in time" (p. 68) that is seen in nonlocality at the quantum level (among other quantum phenomena); feedback loops (within organisms, between organisms, and between organisms and their environments) at the level of evolutionary biology; transpersonal, psi, and synchronicity phenomena at the level of consciousness; and the fine-tuning constants at the level of cosmology, among other evidence that Laszlo summarizes in this volume. This interconnectivity is possible, he suggests, because each of these domains is "linked" via the Akashicor A-field (from the Sanskrit Akasha, which refers originally to what embraced the five fundamental elements of the world), the cosmic plenum from which all things have emerged and into which all things will ultimately re-converge.

This second edition of Science and the Akashic Field updates the science published in the first version (2004), and presents (what Laszlo believes is) a more mature statement of the ITOE. It does present some viable alternatives to some scientific problems--e.g., that since random and chance mutations cannot by themselves account for the emergence of complexity that we have observed within the time constraints of our cosmos, there must be other factors at work, with the result that an organism integrated with its milieu is "designed for evolution" (p. 90). However, Laszlo's ITOE probably goes too far too fast for most scientists--e.g., that it leads to what a previous generation of speculative cosmologists has called the "oscillating" or cyclic universe. But Laszlo goes further and says that our universe is part of a larger "metaverse," with the many (even infinite number of) "universes" successively emerging. With bold optimism, he suggests that each world is more complex than the previous version precisely because of the "in-formation" bequeathed to the new one through its process of coming into being via the quantum vacuum (or plenum).

Last but not least, as befitting an ITOE, Laszlo proffers answers to the "big questions" of whence (we come from), what (we are), and whither (we are headed), and in doing so not only steps beyond science into metaphysics, but even beyond classical metaphysics and traditional religion into what can only be called a scientifically repacked mythology. While he makes religious arguments--he prefers to present a poem of the Akashic vision--in the end, his proposals will probably be seen by Christians (and Christians who are scientists) to be too easily compatible with some versions of contemporary Hindu or Buddhist cosmologies (e.g., like that of the current Dalai Lama).

To be fair, this book is said to be a more accessible version of previous academic works such as The Interconnected Universe: Conceptual Foundations of Transdisciplinary Unified Theory (World Scientific, 1995); The Creative Cosmos: A Unified Science of Matter, Life and Mind (Floris, 1996); and, especially, The Connectivity Hypothesis: Foundations of an Integral Science of Quantum, Cosmos, Life, and Consciousness (SUNY Press, 2003): readers may have to consult the science of those volumes in order to draw final conclusions about Laszlo's hypothesis. But while there is no denying Laszlo's overall contributions, it may turn out that his more recent proposals are neither serious science nor viable theology. Only time will tell if Ervin Laszlo is a prophet or an unsuccessful reformer of an ancient Eastern cosmology.

Reviewed by Amos Yong, Professor of Theology, Regent University School of Divinity, Virginia Beach, VA 23464.
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Author:Yong, Amos
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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