Enformy and Enformed Gestalts:
A Radical Theory of Consciousness
© 1997 Donald E. Watson
[Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Scientific Exploration, June 4-6, 1997]
Our wish to develop a scientific understanding of consciousness has brought us to a conceptual abyss that we can't span until we develop a new paradigm and new scientific methodologies. Two aspects of contemporary studies of consciousness illustrate this point.
First, it is generally believed that interdisciplinary studies are the best approach to developing a theory of consciousness. But the disjoint, contradictory, ad hoc theories produced by interdisciplinary studies—often wishfully called "pieces of the puzzle"—can never be forged into a coherent theory. That's because consciousness is transdisciplinary, not interdisciplinary. Therefore, individual scientists must use transdisciplinary conceptual tools, and not limit themselves to the tools prescribed by academic disciplines.
Second, attempts for human consciousness to directly study itself suffer from all the absurdities and contradictions inherent in self-reference. Human consciousness can't reduce itself to its own fundamental elements, then reconstruct itself from these elements. We must discover a radical theory of consciousness from a perspective outside of human experience.
This paper introduces a radical theory of consciousness that is transdisciplinary and externally-referenced. It is also extremely parsimonious. One simple concept and a few of its implications explain, not only consciousness, but many other phenomena that are paranormal under the standard paradigm.
Scope of the Theory
The notion of consciousness applies to a vast array of data, ranging from the "self-knowledge" of photons to the mental experience of humans to the intelligence of the cosmos. This does not mean that photons and the cosmos experience mental images and thoughts as humans do; it means that consciousness is poorly defined. Because consciousness has no fixed meaning, it must be defined in context, but even then, we don't achieve clarity. Contemporary authors contextually identify consciousness as an entity, state, function, process, property, or attribute. Some authors—apparently unwittingly—use the term to indicate two or more of these meanings within the same paper. Such evanescence of meaning nullifies the value of consciousness for guiding scientific investigation. The target not only moves, it changes its species.
In this paper, I define consciousness as the set of elements traditionally identified as, or attributed to, consciousness plus all phenomena that are radically-related to these elements, including those listed below. Moreover, because a radical theory of consciousness must explain all phenomena that share a common root, a theory that doesn't explain all of the following doesn't explain any of them.
Phenomena and Noumena of Human Experience:
- Memory, Learning
- Curiosity, Creativity, Intuition
- Social bonding, Collective unconscious
- Altered states, Dissociation
Parapsychological and Psychic Phenomena:
- Telepathy, Remote viewing
- Psychokinesis: micro-, macro-, retro-
- Psychic healing
- Synchronicity phenomena
- Near-death and Out-of-body experiences
- Life per se
- The evolution of species
- Quantum coherence
- "Water memory"
- Homing behavior of pigeons
- Crop circles (non-hoaxed)
What do these phenomena have in common? The answer is so obvious it is hard to see: They are all products of organized systems. Indeed, because a radical theory of consciousness is inherent in a general theory of systems, the term consciousness is redundant.
The topic of organization is transparent; we habitually look through it. We assume that organization is foundational to—not subject to—scientific study. Consider, for example, our standard model of the cosmos: The universe consists of (1) matter, comprising fundamental particles such as quarks, electrons, photons, etc.; (2) the properties of these particles, including charge, polarization, spin, etc.; and (3) two fundamental principles—mass and energy—that determine the behaviors of matter. The work of science, until now, has been to discover and describe patterns of these behaviors. For physics, this entails applying the organization inherent in mathematics to map the organization inherent in matter. The study of consciousness radicalizes this. Now scientists must turn their attention to the far more profound question, "What is the nature of organization itself?" Addressing this question leads directly to topics that are invisible to the standard paradigm, including all of the radically-related phenomena listed above.
A general theory of organization must be founded on an organizing principle. An attractive concept to use for such a principle is the finding of Shannon (1949) that information is isomorphic with entropy—or negentropy (Brillouin, 1950). It is easy to misinterpret the meaning of this finding because negentropy is nonmaterial whereas information is material. Consider, for example, the self-contradiction in Wheeler's "it from bit" hypothesis (1990):
Every it—every particle, every field of force, even the spacetime continuum itself—derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely . . . from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits."
In other words, information pre-exists everything, yet the apparatus that elicits the answers pre-exists information.
In short, neither information nor negentropy can be considered candidates for an organizing principle because they aren't fundamental and they can't organize anything. Indeed, we obtain information from matter that is already organized; i.e., information is an epiphenomenon of organized matter. Hence, an organizing principle must be fundamental to information.
A fundamental, conserved organizing principle has been posited: enformy (Watson, 1993). Enformy is the capacity to organize; that is, as energy sustains work, enformy sustains organization. It opposes the entropy law, and nullifies time's arrow. Thus enformy is conserved in the same sense that the entropy law is conserved: Both are constant tendencies, or propensities. Enformy is expressed as the universal tendency toward organization and complexity—for example, as life per se and the evolution of species. It derandomizes random systems, including electronic and radioactive random number generators and mechanical cascades (Jahn, et al, 1987). In sum, enformy sustains the organization of all systems, whether material, nonmaterial, or abstract—e.g., plants and animals, the self-aware entity, and the laws of physics.
Using the term enformy corrects the profound epistemological mistake of thinking in terms such as psychic energy, bioenergy, and subtle energies. Because the energy concept does not predict the behaviors of organized systems, this conceptualization is a scientific dead-end. To appreciate the predictive value of the enformy concept, one can substitute enformy for every occurrence of the inappropriate "energy" terms, then ask how organization is manifested in the phenomenon at issue. For example, instead of saying "Healing manifests bioenergy," one can say "Healing manifests enformy." The idea occurs automatically that organization (or reorganization) is foundational to healing. Any work, heat, or electromagnetic forces produced in the process is secondary to the operations of enformy—a byproduct of organizing mass, energy, and matter.
The Theory of Enformed Gestalts
The enformy posit is the conceptual foundation for the theory of enformed gestalts—a general theory of organized systems. (In the definitions and descriptions below, bold typeface denotes the first occurrence of terms that were coined to label theory-specific concepts.)
- Enformy organizes coherent material systems by imposing enformation on elements of matter.
- Enformation is nonrandomness—the essence of organization—in any specified frame of reference.
- Enformation is nonmaterial, whereas information is material—nonrandom states of material systems. Hence, enformation is fundamental to information.
- An enformed gestalt is any system that is organized as a whole by enformy. It is the sum of its parts plus a four-dimensional map of the relationships among those parts.
- This map is a coherent, nonmaterial enformation field in spacetime that is sustained by enformy.
- An enformation field is the domain of influence of enformation. It is discontinuous in three-space, but continuous in spacetime.
- Ipseon denotes the nonmaterial, four-dimensional map of a specific enformed gestalt. It is the unique "self" of a holistic entity—an enformy-sustained, coherent enformation field in spacetime. Ipseons therefore comprise "memories," which are detectable, not only in living systems, but in other complex systems such as water (see Schiff, 1995).
- Egon denotes an ipseon that can communicate with humans symbolically in the first person.
It is necessary to distinguish egons from other ipseons for scientific work because egons can self-report what other ipseons can not. For example, the ipseons of photons and pigeons can't communicate with humans symbolically in the first person as humans and other primates can—e.g., the gorilla, Koko (Patterson and Linden, 1981).
Fundamental Properties of Gestalts and Ipseons
Enformed gestalts and ipseons possess fundamental properties that determine their characteristic behaviors and attributes. The key property is conformability: the capacity to conform to (i.e., to be configured by) enformation. The conformability of a living organism defines its complexity, as specified by enformation inhered in its DNA. Complexity can be realized or potential.
An entity's integrity and coherence depend on its ability to conform to its own states and to distinguish itself from its environment. Thus, an ipseon possesses these two fundamental properties:
State-conformance: an ipseon's conforming to its own subsets. It is rudimentary to human perception, cognition, and emotion. That is, an egon "thinks" and "feels" by conforming to enformation inhered in the brain states of the material gestalt(s) with which it is associated.
Self-conformance: an ipseon's conforming to these subsets as "its own." It is rudimentary to human self-awareness. That is, an egon knows that it exists as a real entity, and identifies itself as unique, separate from its environment.
Neither state-conformance nor self-conformance are exclusive to living systems, and neither entails "conscious" knowledge. Hence, applying the concepts of state-conformance and self-conformance eliminates the vague term, awareness, which is often equated to the even more vague term, consciousness. Thinking in terms of state-conformance and self-conformance can therefore preclude asking meaningless questions, for example, "Are photons conscious?" Saying that a photon "knows" its own state of polarization means only that a photon state-conforms and self-conforms to its own polarization state; the statement implies nothing anthropomorphic.
Symbolic Expressions of Enformy
Enformy can't be expressed in traditional mathematical forms. Because enformy sustains the organization of all systems, it is fundamental to the mathematical structures and processes that describe them. Hence, enformy must be expressed in terms that are fundamental to mathematics. In other words, the behavior of enformy is expressed metamathematically. For example, the equation, e=mc2, describes the relationship of energy and mass, and enformy is expressed in the form of the equation itself. Hence, enformy is fundamental, not only to mass and energy, but to their relationship.
Consider the notion that measurement collapses wavefunctions to create "real" particles from probabilities. The phrase "collapse of the wavefunction" is misleading. Wavefunctions do not collapse; enformed gestalts do. And the result of such a "collapse" is either described by a wavefunction or not.
Under the enformy theory, the "collapse" at issue is the fundamental change in an enformed gestalt that occurs with measurement: When an enformed gestalt yields enformation to a measuring instrument, it loses its ipseon and its associated enformy—or subsets of them. This loss decoheres the gestalt from an object in spacetime to an object in three-space. Metamathematically, decoherence changes the type of mathematical form that corresponds to the "collapsed" gestalt—from the quantum statistics of spacetime to the classical statistics of three-space.
Enformy: The Tendency Toward Complexity
As the universal tendency toward complexity, enformy is life itself: It sustains the complexity of living organisms, and compels the evolution of increasingly complex species. Enformy increases complexity by cohering ipseons—or subsets of ipseons—in spacetime. That is, enformy organizes new, more complex ipseons by cohering existing enformation fields in spacetime. These ipseons necessarily pre-exist the material gestalts they enform. Figure 1 illustrates how enformy increases complexity by cohering subsets of two ipseons in three-space with a continuous ipseon in spacetime. The horizontal plane represents three-space at one point in time. Notice that the three-dimensional intersections of the two ipseons are discontinuous in three-space.
Predictions of the Theory
Three aspects of the theory of enformed gestalts predict three categories of observed phenomena. In each category, enformy organizes ipseons to produce their behaviors and the behaviors of their associated material gestalts.
Aspect 1: Enformy coheres subsets of ipseons in spacetime.
This allows elemental ipseons to conform to the enformation field common to all of them, thereby reorganizing them to determine the behaviors of their associated material gestalts. Quantum coherence provides a model of phenomena in this category of predictions.
The reality of the "EPR" phenomenon (Einstein, et al, 1935) was demonstrated in experiments by Alain Aspect et al (1982). Pairs of polarization-correlated photons traveling in opposite directions maintain their correlation even when an orientation is experimentally imposed on one of them. This appears paradoxical if it is assumed that information travels between the photons. That is, because information is mediated by matter, superluminal communication would be paranormal under relativity.
Under the enformy theory, information does not travel between the photons. The coherent two-photon system is an enformed gestalt: Enformy "entangles" the photons' states by cohering their enformation fields. The ipseon of each photon state-conforms to enformation inhered in the enformed gestalt. In this frame of reference, enformation is expressed as conserved symmetry. That is, if the correlation were not conserved, the relationship between the photons' polarizations would be random. Because this system's enformation field is neither time-dependent nor space-dependent, the conformation is atemporal and nonlocal—and the notion of superluminal communication is unnecessary.
The homing behavior of pigeons (Sheldrake, 1995) illustrates this aspect of the enformy theory in living systems. Enformy coheres the ipseons of pigeons and their homes—which comprise the ipseons of other pigeons, associated humans, the loft itself, and its geographic location. The resulting four-dimensional ipseon provides the pigeons with a constant, binary "sense" of direction. That is, at any point in their journey, they state-conform to whether they are flying toward home or not toward home.
The theory also predicts precognition, remote viewing, telepathy, psychokinesis (micro-, macro-, retro-, bio-), psychometry, "water memory," psychic healing, external Qi Gong, crop circles, and synchronicity phenomena. Each of these occur when elemental ipseons conform to the enformation shared by all of the cohered ipseons in spacetime, and this enformation nonlocally and atemporally organizes their individual behaviors and attributes in three-space.
Aspect 2: Ipseons exist independently of the material gestalts they enform.
Because ipseons exist in spacetime, whereas material gestalts are confined to three-space, the empirically observable behaviors of ipseons depend on their influences in organizing material gestalts. That is, the material expressions of ipseons can be observed only partially by the senses. This, in turn, limits the value of the empirical method in studying consciousness. Predictions of this aspect of the theory include near-death experiences (NDEs), out-of-body experiences (OBEs), apparitions ("ghost" phenomena), and reincarnation.
Near-death experiences (Schroeter-Kunhardt, 1993) occur when enformy associated with the near-dead person's egon coheres subsets of that egon with ipseons remote from the person's material body. The egon conforms to enformation inhered in this coherent field, thereby experiencing a sequence of perceptions (typically an OBE, tunnel, light, life review, loved ones), then re-enforms the material gestalt. If re-enforming does not occur, the material gestalt (body) irreversibly loses its associated enformy and egon; it dies. Certain neurophysiological states might correspond to several of the NDE perceptions, but not to all of them—for example, OBEs with verifiable perceptions of remote objects and events.
Three types of reincarnation are predicted by this aspect of the theory: complete, melded, and partial. These types depend on whether ipseons remain intact or fragment into subsets when they dissociate from material gestalts. With respect to humans, egons—whether intact or cohered from subsets of other ipseons—can later enform new material gestalts. These egons ultimately realize the potential complexity of the gestalts (as defined by the complexity inhered in their DNA). By enforming the new material gestalts, egons (1) impose subsets of themselves (specific "memories") on the gestalts; (2) express somatic enformation in them; and (3) cohere with subsets of enformation inherent in the new material gestalt (e.g., inherited mental traits and other characteristics). The products of these events are partially observable by humans because the newly created egons can (1) self-report memories of previous lives and display prior temperaments; (2) express birthmarks on their associated material gestalts resembling the cause of the prior death; and (3) develop new memories from ongoing life experiences (Stevenson, 1987, 1993).
Aspect 3: Egons are ipseons that can report the products of their state-conformance and self-conformance to humans.
Under this aspect of the theory, egons can provide data for an enformy-based theory of human psychology. That is, egons (1) behave concordantly with their conforming to states of their associated material gestalt; and (2) verbally report the products of their own state-conformance and self-conformance. Predictions include the rudiments of human mentality, as well as altered states of consciousness and unusual experiments in nature such as multiple personality disorder. The rudiments of human behavior and mentality include:
- Memory: enformation that is retained as ipseons: coherent, nonmaterial gestalts that are distributed principally—but not exclusively—within the brain.
- Perception: egons conforming to enformation inherent in the sensory apparatus and other systems of the material gestalt.
- Cognition, intuition, creativity, and imagination: a continuous maelstrom of conformations and counter-conformations among subsets of the egon, which create, reinforce, and annihilate one another. This maelstrom is traditionally denoted the "unconscious" mind.
- "Conscious" thought: high-order constructions (synecdoches) of the rudimentary conformations and counter-conformations of the unconscious—e.g., verbal symbols.
- Curiosity: the tendency of enformy to impose enformation on gestalts to realize their potential complexity.
- Social bonding, collective unconscious, telepathy: enformy cohering subsets of enformation of two or more egons.
- Emotion: the egon's conforming to the overall state of organization of the material gestalt. Emotion differs from cognition, which conforms to specific states.
Summary and Conclusion
The enformy posit and the theory of enformed gestalts can be summarized in four statements:
- Enformy, the fundamental, conserved organizing principle, organizes elements of matter into coherent systems: enformed gestalts.
- The spatio-temporal structures of enformed gestalts correspond to nonmaterial, four-dimensional maps: ipseons.
- Ipseons possess two fundamental properties, state-conformance and self-conformance, that produce the elements of consciousness: self-awareness, mental operations and attributes, and other radically-related phenomena.
- The theory applies to all organized systems, living or not.
Although quantum mechanics and parapsychology address phenomena at polar extremes of complexity, it is not paradoxical that they have joined in producing the most prominent examples of enformy-dependent data. The area of commonality reflects two complementary differences between the disciplines: Physicists study low-enformy systems with high-precision measurements, and parapsychologists study high-enformy systems with low-precision measurements. Thus enformy-dependent findings are exposed by their relative prominence in the latter, and by the accuracy of measurements in the former. Indeed, it is because of these disparate sources of data that the enformy concept proves to be as transdisciplinary as energy.
How does one contemplate an idea as simple, yet as profound, as enformy? As the creative principle, enformy organizes everything. As the unifying principle, enformy underpins all we can know about the operations of the cosmos. While it is true that human life and consciousness could not exist without enformy, limiting ourselves to this anthropocentric perspective precludes us from contemplating the broader implications. For example, that enformy is the essence of life—the tendency to increased complexity—implies that it compels life to occur in whatever forms the environment allows. Hence, life on Earth did not occur as an unlikely accident, nor does life occur accidentally elsewhere.
Imagine the applications of enformy-based technologies. The average human is not complex enough to secure the quantities of enformy needed to reliably and consistently perform telepathy, macro-PK or psychic healing. But certain individual humans are capable of these things. Perhaps these extraordinary persons will ultimately prove to be the ancestors of Earth's next complex species—the one that will replace Homo sapiens sapiens.
Imagine, too, also a species of vastly superhuman gestalts who secure thousands of times the enformy humans do. What is their conscious thought like? We can't hope to conceptualize their science and philosophy, yet we can speculate about their technology. They can fabricate objects with psychokinesis, and materialize and dematerialize things by intention alone. They don't require spoken language because they can telepathically communicate concepts in raw or elaborated forms. And they do not need space ships to visit our planet. They can do it clairvoyantly. Perhaps they are doing so now. If so, perhaps they are creating the complex patterns that we identify as "crop circles" by psychokinetically reorganizing the molecular and cellular structure of ensembles of individual plants.
Finally, imagine what we humans would do with such powerful technologies. In fact, we know exactly what we would do—we would use them as weapons to destroy one another. But we would also find ways to counter our destructive impulses. We would enlist Maxwell's demon—which enformy allows to operate—in attempts to habilitate ourselves into a more successful species.
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