I am not going to try to frame scientific explanations about how nonlocality, morphic resonance and synchronicity might work. That is for the sciences to do. What I would like to do is to give some indication of how the philosophical notion of formal causality could shed light on the foundations of these ideas.
First, though, it would be useful to look at where we have been. On a scientific side we saw how Bohm, Sheldrake and Jung, by pursuing their own disciplines, arrived at important philosophical questions and rediscovered the idea of formal causality. Indeed, we could say that they arrived at very similar scientific theories to account for the strange facts that confronted them. Bohm's quantum potential, Sheldrake's morphic resonance, and Jung's synchronicity all share a similar structure. They are not restricted by the normal laws of space, time and efficient causality, but act to bind things together in some more immediate or instantaneous fashion that is based on formal causality.
On the philosophical side, we have tried to recover the notion of formal causality under its various aspects even though that meant tackling the difficult concept of matter. This whole process has been made much more difficult because of the historical situation that a Thomist philosophy of nature finds itself in. Up until the 1960s it was possible for Thomists to discuss their philosophy of nature as part of a living tradition, however inadequate these discussions may have sometimes been. A good example of this kind of discussion can be found in the 1963 conference at Notre Dame at which Norbert Luyten's paper, which we looked at in Chapter 9, was presented. Then for a variety of reasons many Thomists lost living contact with their philosophy, and either abandoned it, or replaced it with history about it. It was as if the creative energy, that had animated someone like Maritain until the end of his life so that he was always applying Thomism in a living way to new fields, dried up. When Notre Dame, for example, held a conference called the "Philosophical Consequences of Quantum Theory: Reflections on Bell's Theorem" which was published in 1989, Thomism as a viable philosophical option or light in which to examine quantum theory was virtually absent. (1)
If William Carlo had lived longer, perhaps this picture would have been less bleak. Carlo had a deep interest in science and his 1969 "Epistemological and Metaphysical Foundation of Albert Einstein" foreshadows many of the themes we have been developing by touching on physical reductionism versus biological emergence with a special look at embryology, and Bohm and microphysics. Perhaps had he lived he would have brought them together with his views on matter and helped breathe some life into a Thomist philosophy of nature. But a Thomist philosophy of nature has the resources to revive. The idea of formal causality, itself, is making a comeback. The theme of the 1995 meeting of the American Catholic Philosophical Association was "The Recovery of Form" and a recent paper by Terence Nichols, "Aquinas' Concept of Substantial Form and Modern Science" touches on many of the themes explored here, especially the idea of virtual presence which he calls subsidiarity. (2)
But enough of this digression. Let's try to summarize our philosophical view of formal causality before going on to apply it to the work of Bohm, Sheldrake and Jung. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to model the relationship between matter and form on that of essence to existence. What are the most fundamental things that can be said about the relationship of essence to existence? Essence cannot be a principle separate from existence. In this sense it does not exist of itself, or put in another way, it is nothing positive in terms of existence. Essence is a certain capacity or potency for existence. It contracts existence, as it were, so that this or that thing can exist. In this sense it can be said to have a positive reality inasmuch as it is the principle by which existence is contracted in this or that particular way, and without which there could not be this or that existent.
Now what would happen if we took this model of the relationship between essence and existence and followed it in talking about the relationship between matter and form? Then we could say matter is not a principle separate from form. In this sense it does not exist of itself, but receives its existence through form. There is nothing positive in matter in terms of form. Matter is a certain capacity or potency for the substantial existence due a form in view of its perfectibility as a substance. It is this or that substantial potency for existence which is an intrinsic aspect of an existing form, a form that can be further perfected in the line of its substantial existence. In this sense we can say that matter is the capacity for existence of the already existing substance. It is this substantial potency for substantial existence of the existing substance that allows and demands that this substance express itself in multiplicity, quantitative dimensions, space, time and efficient causality. It is not matter as a separate principle that allows and demands this, but matter as an intrinsic aspect of the existing substance. Or put in another way, an existing substance which has in the heart of itself a potency to substantial existence must act in this way. In this sense matter is a very positive principle, just like essence is in the preceding model, but only as a potency or capacity to substantial form.
But why is matter like that? Why multiplicity, quantitative dimensions, and all the rest? Why does a material being act in this fashion? It is because only by expressing itself in this way that it can receive existence, or better, receive more existence and be what it is meant to be, and overcome its limitations as far as existence is concerned. The mystery of matter is at once a mystery of weakness and a magnificent overcoming of that weakness by the means of stunning strategies. The first strategy is what I have been calling literal information, the actual form of a material substance, and the interaction between material substances by means of efficient causality by which they alter each other's existence. Another aspect of this literal information is a virtual presence by which lower forms are taken up into a higher one.
But there is another major strategy, as well, that of intentional information, or the communion of form with form by intentional presence or knowledge. And a third that forms a bridge between the first two. This is an intentional action, or Maritain's instrumental causality by which a form becomes intentionally present to a physical motion and guides it to its proper conclusion.
If nonlocality turns out to be a scientific fact, how can we try to understand it from a philosophical point of view? When Bell hesitated to say nonlocality meant speeds higher than the speed of light, his instincts seemed sound. If we look for a solution in that direction, it is as if we are trying to uphold the old supremacy of efficient causality. Bohm's approach is more promising. Let's recall his example of the fish tank which has cameras mounted on two of its sides. If we make the issue how to coordinate the two-dimensional images that appear on our monitors, we are not looking deep enough. The fish that is swimming around is one substantial being; Bohm would say that in relationship to its images it inhabits a higher dimensional space. There is no need to create some elaborate mechanism in order that we can understand the relationship between the two images in terms of efficient causality. That would be like misconstruing the relationship between the body and the soul in the form of some kind of psycho-physical parallelism and then trying to figure out how to coordinate them.
But then how does nonlocality manifest itself? Let's take the case of a particle that seems to know instantly what is happening to its distant partner. Bohm invokes the implicate order, that is, some higher dimensional connection between the two particles, and even though the notion of the implicate order as a philosophical idea leads to many difficulties, it points us in the right direction. There is a connection between the two particles not mediated by space, time and efficient causality. There is a more direct and immediate bond between them, a common background that connects them.
As Bohm, himself, suggested, this has something to do with formal causality. Let's say that this common background is a higher dimensional formal order in relationship to the three-dimensional world of efficient causality. A material being is manifest in space and time in virtue of its matter, that is, its potency to substantial existence, not in virtue of the fact that it is a substantial form. As a form we can say it has a higher dimension of being, as well. The form of a material being is the principle by which it exists. It thus partakes of existence's dynamic character, and shares in the inclination found in all created beings to complete themselves by means of intentional presence. Thus there is a certain immanent dimension to even a material form by which it has a relationship to the source of its existence and t other substantial forms, especially those that possess the same specific nature.
Let's apply this to the nonlocal connection between the two particles and imagine that they both share the same substantial form. This is not particularly farfetched from a scientific perspective because in most of the experiments the particles have been intimately connected before they went off on their separate ways. But does it make any sense philosophically? Can two particles in different locations share the same substantial form? (We could, I think, work out an explanation based on the particles being two different substantial forms but sharing the same nature, but this more radical case illustrates the nature of this higher dimensional formal order better.) At first glance a philosopher of nature would be inclined to deny that the same substantial form can manifest itself in two distinct locations and, indeed, this was the classical position. But Maritain held the opposite opinion which he expressed in a footnote in The Degrees of Knowledge:
"The problem arises whether the substantial unity of a corporeal individual (for example, like a molecule of a gas, or a living organism) necessarily requires continuity in extension, as the ancients believed. In other words, cannot a substantial form inform a whole of discontinuous parts, whether contiguous (as blood plasma is contiguous to the walls of the blood vessels) or, on the atomic scale, separated by inter-atomic or intermolecular interstices (in the case that, contrary to the hypothesis of Gredt, these interstices would not themselves be informed by the substantial form of the individual whole). In my opinion, such a structural discontinuity is compatible with the substantial unity of the individual whole, and I think that, in that case, the Thomistic theory of individuation by materia signata quantitate is verified without special difficulty. The transcendental relation of matter to quantity would then mean, a transcendental relation to a constellation of positions." (3)
Let's try to decipher what he is saying. In the case of the two particles, the substantial form would not inform the space between them, but just the particles in their separate locations. But if this is so, then this literal information is not propagated through space and time, but in some other fashion - our higher formal dimension, if you will.
But to understand materia signata quantitate, or matter signed by quantity, as a way to shed light on a higher dimensional formal order is a much more difficult challenge. Far from a material substance being identified with its extension in three dimensions as a Cartesian world would have it, St. Thomas felt it was possible to distinguish between matter and the quantity by which it appeared in space and time. John of St. Thomas, a contemporary of Descartes, and one of the last great Thomists of that age, graphically expresses that distinction:
"Substance has parts radically, in other words, it has the ability to receive such an arrangement and distinction of parts... substance without quantity does not have parts outside parts... As St. Thomas remarks (Com. on the Sent. ii. dist 3. q. 1. a. 1), to say that substance without quantity is indivisible does not mean that its parts are reduced to a point - point is the principle of quantity it means that substance without quantity totally lacks divisibility. Substance would no longer be capable of motion and it would not exist in a physical place, it would be in the universe as a part of it, not as a thing located in a place." (4)
Using Bohm's language we could say that even a material substance that we encounter in the explicate order has an implicate dimension. A substantial unity could be said to exist in this implicate order, and yet express itself in two distinct physical locations. The two particles share a wholeness derived from this formal order. From an ontological point of view they are one thing. Therefore, what is done to one is immediately known or felt by the other. There is no communication between the two transmitted through space and time, and there is no need for it, for as I have just said, the two explicate particles share an implicate higher dimensional formal unity.
The first foundation, then, of their union is their identical literal information. If we were to hold that the two particles are, in fact, two separate substantial beings of the same nature, then we could turn to intentional information to explain the knowledge they have of each other and to intentional action for a way in which they could influence each other's behavior. It might very well be some combination of these three kinds of formal causality that explains the wholeness that is observed. Let's take the example of radioactive decay. I argued before that each atom that decayed had a cause for that decay. But how does the radioactive material know to decay at a certain rate, or put in another way, how do the individual atoms know when it is their turn to decay? Perhaps they all share a common morphic field or substantial form, or they share in a common field of intentional information which guides each atom by way of instrumental causality. The kind of picture that begins to emerge of the physical universe is that there is a deeper and richer background to the world of visible bodies. Bohm and Hiley have described it in their The Undivided Universe, and the notion of formal causality allows us to look at it from a philosophical point of view.
As we move into the world of living beings the substantial forms we encounter are richer in being. Let's recall the diagram of the cones nested inside each other. As evolution advances virtual presence increases. Higher substantial forms grow stronger by building on lower forms. As they grow stronger they are more themselves, and the intensity of their literal information increases. At the level of literal information, the more they become themselves the less they become others. We could almost say that they have less potency or matter than elementary particles do. They have less malleability to be taken up into virtual presence complexes. But this reduction in potency at the level of literal information is more than offset by an increase in intentional information. The richer the substantial form the more it manifests itself to other beings by way of intentional presence.
Let's take the example of a bee. Each individual bee has a certain entitative form which we initially confront in terms of its outer structure, but which is much richer than that, for it embraces the inner structure which is the principle by which a bee is a bee. The outer form can be represented by the base of the cone while the whole inner volume of the cone is this inner form. There is a within to the bee, an inner world or unconscious, that is much richer and more mysterious than we first realize. The world of the bee has an elaborate social structure, means of communication, and so forth, and to do justice to it we need to draw on the other aspects of formal causality. The question becomes whether the inner volume of the cone, the unconscious of the bee, is limited to that one bee or does it somehow embrace the whole hive? Is the inner form exclusively an entitative form or does it have a social dimension? In Sheldrake's language we could answer that morphic resonance is a direct expression of morphic fields and binds those fields together in wholes or communities. The being of the bee naturally gives rise to its characteristic kinds of action. The unconscious of the bee must in some way be a literal form, but it is a form that radiates or transmits on its own frequency and is present to other similar bee forms. The unconscious of the individual bee is at the same time the collective unconscious of the hive. It is this collective form or active field of information that allows the bees to coordinate their activities and act as a community.
In the case of the two particles, they were bound together by a quantum potential, or formal unity, which did not have to inform the intervening space. Here the notion of a collective unconscious does not demand that each bee share the same physical structure or literal information. The inner structure of one bee is permeable to the inner structure of another by way of intentional information. It receives the form of the other and transmits its own. There is a nonphysical communion of form taking place that gives rise to the collective unconscious. The richer the inner structure of the individual, the richer its collective unconscious or communion with others. We need not restrict this intentional existence to the realm of knowledge, either. Forms received in this intentional way can influence the behavior of the recipient by guiding its behavior. In this way intentional presence spills over into the world of efficient causality by means of intentional action or instrumental causality.
Let's try to explore more thoroughly this mysterious world of formal causality by looking at Jung's synchronicity as expressed in the case of the woman and the scarab-like beetle. The woman, because of her rationalistic cast of mind, had reached a dead-end in her life. The psychic energy that animated her consciousness had drained away, leaving her no way to go forward. But where had this energy gone?
Jung felt that the conscious and unconscious form one energetic system, and that psychic energy, in a way analogous to the energy that physics knows, could not be destroyed, and therefore must have fallen into the unconscious. This he could verify by observing the contents of the unconscious. Some of them had become activated. In this particular case the activation of the unconscious is what produced the dream of the scarab beetle.
We need to look at how this process works in more detail. When the energy falls into the unconscious Jung says that it activates an archetype. Just what does that mean? An archetype is a certain aspect or dimension of the psyche. We could say, as its name implies, that an archetype is a form that exists in the unconscious, but we shouldn't imagine these forms to be floating about in the unconscious as if in some platonic heaven. It would be better to describe the archetypes as formal factors, or formal structural characteristics of the psyche. The psyche or soul is itself a form, or formal principle, with a definite structure, and it is this structure that is expressed in the various archetypes.
Despite some of Jung's earlier statements, he felt that the archetypes as they exist in the unconscious, are not images, but the principles that give rise to images. Jung likens them to the axes or structural principles of crystals that gave rise to a myriad of concrete crystals, each with an analogous structure. The same archetype can give rise to countless images which vary due to the cultural conditioning of a person's imagination but which all express the same fundamental structure. Furthermore, these archetypes from an empirical point of view are not randomly scattered in the psyche, but are interconnected with each other and form one articulated whole.
In any event, in the case we are examining, a particular archetype becomes activated and gives rise to the image of the scarab beetle. This is the same archetype which in ancient times gave rise to the rich symbolism of the Egyptian scarab beetle and the role it played in symbolizing rebirth. It is no accident that it would become activated now in the unconscious of this woman who desperately needs a new beginning. But what does it mean to say that the archetype has become activated? It means that it has increased its energy and power to capture and radiate images that express its core structure, and to create an appropriate emotional mood to go with those images. Or put in the language of formal causality, when the archetype receives psychic energy, its formal nature becomes intensified, and it begins to manifest itself by formal resonance.
We can imagine this resonance radiating out from the archetype, and traveling through the woman's imagination, or deep repository of actual images drawn from her experiences, and as it travels it attracts those images that fit its frequency, or in other words, are expressive of its formal structure. These are the images, together with their attendant moods, that go to make up the dream that is propelled by that same energy into consciousness. Thus, the woman dreams of the scarab beetle, and is apparently moved by this dream, and goes and tells Jung about it. It is Jung's task to help her understand that there is more to her than the ego alone. She is part of a greater self that embraces both ego and unconscious, and the dream provides him with a wonderful opportunity to try to get that message across because it is literally a message originating from that wider and deeper self.
All this is easy enough to understand, but what about the scarab-like beetle that comes tapping at Jung's window as the woman is telling him the dream? Jung, as we saw, shied away from anything that smacked of magical causality, or even any kind of causality at all because he equated causality with efficient causality. We can certainly understand his feelings, especially since he was concerned about the scientific respectability of his psychology. Yet he realized that synchronicity came about from an activation of an archetype, and we saw how he instinctively went about rediscovering the notion of formal causality.
Let's go out on a limb and try to complete that process by trying to come up with some kind of explanation of how the beetle arrives at Jung's window. What is Jung's collective unconscious? Taken as it exists in each of us it is the inner world of the archetypes. Each of us because we have a human psyche or soul or form has the same inner world with its various formal structures or archetypes. We are dealing here with a literal or entitative information by which each of us is constituted in existence by means of the human form. But this human form cannot be reduced to the ego, but is a much deeper and richer reality which Jung describes in terms of the collective unconscious, and Maritain in terms of the spiritual unconscious.
Here we should recall again the diagram of the cones nested inside each other. The collective or spiritual unconscious in a very real way contains and permeates an animal or sensitive unconscious, as well as a vegetative and even an elemental or physical unconscious. The human unconscious can never be understood in isolation from these other dimensions. They gave birth to it and sustain it. Here we are close to Jung's ideas on the unus mundus. In a certain way I am an animal, as the old classical definition of man as a rational animal indicates, but in some way I am also a plant, and the elements, and the subnuclear particles, and a microcosm of the whole universe. The archetypes or formal structures that exist in my unconscious are not mere representations of realities that only exist outside of me, but they are in some very real way formal structures equivalent to the formal structures that constitute those beings independently existing outside the psyche.
But there Is more to the collective unconscious than literal information. What of the intentional information we saw in the example of the bee? The human collective unconscious is collective because literal information gives rise to intentional information, especially at this high level of being. In Jung's language the psyche equals the highest intensity. Therefore, the activation of an archetype in an individual unconscious can also be seen as the transmission or resonance of this formal structure in the intentional order - what Maritain calls a "tendency-existence whereby forms, other than their own, come upon things." (5) Using some poetic license we can imagine a formal structure or archetype sending out a wave on the frequency of its own nature. This formal wave, much like Bohm's quantum potential, or Sheldrake's morphic resonance, does not propagate through space and time by means of efficient causality. It moves through an implicate or formal order.
Let's go back to our example. The archetype is activated in the woman and gives rise to this formal wave that transverses the imagination, clothing itself in images and affects, and then enters consciousness by way of the dream thus created. But if the wave moves in an implicate or formal order, then what is to prevent it from leaving the individual psyche and radiating out into the world at large and penetrating into other human psyches, or even non-human ones? If the human unconscious permeates an animal unconscious, then an activation of an archetype in a human psyche could be the activation of the animal dimension of that psyche. Therefore, the wave that originates from the archetype and which gives rise to the scarab image could resonate with the unconscious of an actual beetle, a beetle, for example, that is flying in the vicinity of Jung's consulting room.
This actual resonance, given off by the archetype, might have even more of a content than the scarab image alone. The activation of the archetype has the purpose of revivifying the life of the woman. It wants to bring her in contact with the psychic reality represented by the scarab beetle. What if this relational intention is somehow embodied in the resonance of the archetype? Then the message the beetle would receive would be one of the importance that it and the woman come together. This intentional presence of the form of the archetype to the beetle could overflow into action in which the form guides the motion of the beetle to the woman so that soon the beetle is tapping at Jung's window.
This has been a long and difficult journey. First we had to grasp something of the daring theories of Bohm, Sheldrake and Jung. And in doing so we found that each of them had rediscovered the fundamental idea of formal causality. Then we faced the even more difficult task of trying to understand matter and form in the philosophy of nature of Thomas Aquinas. And finally, we made some small faltering steps in applying these ideas to nonlocality, morphic resonance, and synchronicity.
But the end of this journey is the beginning of another. Both science and a Thomist philosophy of nature are converging to give us another view of the universe. The old mechanistic view of a world in which innumerable separate objects occasionally interact is giving way to an ever deepening sense of the unity of the universe that has often been hidden from our view. The ultimate mystery of matter is the mystery of that unity. Whether it is Bohm talking about the quantum potential, or Sheldrake speaking of morphic fields and their resonance, or Jung pondering meaningful coincidences and acausal orderedness, or Thomas Aquinas on matter and form, we are faced with a much more cohesive and dynamic view of matter. The objects that fall under our senses are but the visible presences of much wider and deeper formal fields. To return to Maritain's diagram, we tend to see the universe as a series of independent and separate circles represented by the bottom of the cones, but what we do not see are the formal fields represented by the interior volume of those cones. Nor do we see the cones nestled inside each other, or radiating energy and becoming present to each other, or the place where those cones emerge from a common source. It is these interior spaces that we need to explore.
Chapter 1: David Bohm's Interpretation of Quantum Theory
1. Nick Herbert, Quantum Reality, Heinz Pagels, The Cosmic Code, John
Gribben, In Search of Schrödinger's Cat.
Chapter 2: Rupert Sheldrake's Formative Causation
1. A New Science of Life, p. 9.
Chapter 3: C.G. Jung's Synchronicity
1. "Synchronicity," p. 421.
Chapter 4: A Thomist Philosophy of Nature?
1. Maritain, The Philosophy of Nature, p. 79.
Chapter 6: Quantum Theory and the Philosophy of Nature
1. D. Bolton, F.D. Peat, Science, Order & Creativity, p. 3.
Chapter 7: Formative Causation and Formal Causes
1. "Le néo-vitalisme," in Oeuvres Completes, Vol. I, p. 18.
Chapter 8: Synchronicity and Formal Causality
1. "Synchronicity," p. 421.
Chapter 9: The Matter of Matter
1. Metaphysics, Book VII, Chapter 1. In Aristotle, ed. Loomis, p. 24.
Chapter 10: Being and Action
1. Preface to The Ultimate Reducibility, p. i.
Chapter 11: The Human Universe
1. See my Mind Aflame.
Chapter 12: Body, Soul and the Spiritual Unconscious
1. Cf. D.A. Callus, "Forms, Unicity and Plurality," The New Catholic
Chapter 13: Nonlocality, Morphic Resonance, Synchronicity and Formal Causality
1. Cf. Cushing, "Philosophical Consequences" and for a view of tensions
within a Thomist philosophy of nature the exchange between Norbert Luyten and Karl Rahner,
"Das Leib-Seele Problem in Philosophisher Sicht. Anschließend Diskussion mit K.
Rahner" in Luyten, Ordo Rerum. Also Rahner's Hominization and the
remarks of Maritain on Rahner's theory of causality expressed there in "Vers une
idée Thomiste de l'évolution."