THE LIGHT OF LIFE
The opening verses of Genesis tell us that light was God's first work of creation. From that light, in six days, all of creation followed: the heavens, the earth, grass, fruit, birds, animals, and finally human beings. Science, too, has a creation account and it is remarkably similar, although modern cosmology has updated the "six days' to a more precise time scale: a great explosion of light began space-time 15 billion years ago in a Big Bang of electronuclear force; the first living cell on Earth evolved some 12 billion years later; and the first human, Homo erectus, appeared in China 1.8 million years before the present. Whether one prefers the biblical or the scientific version, it would appear that there exists a power in nature capable of taking the raw material of unbounded light and eventually coming up with us. If this is true, we might consider ourselves beings of light in a very literal way, as science is more and more discovering. Let's look at some of the modern discoveries of the light of the living body.
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Mechanistic biologists operate their craft under the assumption that both animate and inanimate matter will someday be completely explained by the known laws of chemistry and physics. Their approach denies any fundamental distinction between living and non-living systems other than the degree of complexity. They seek to define both life and consciousness as byproducts of highly organized matter.|
On the other hand, many people who are not mechanistic biologists still insist on asking the question, "What is animating the living body?" These people find it more appropriate to view consciousness and life as spiritual, immaterial and fundamentally independent of matter. According to this view, life energy is not the result of organized matter, but in fact the organizing agent mind is the maker.
The clash of viewpoints outlined above is known in science as the debate between mechanism versus vitalism. Mechanists do not believe in, nor do they seek to discover, a non-material essence of life. Vitalists, however, attempt to define the soul or spirit in a scientifically valid manner, proposing a large variety of names for the animating factor life-energy, vital force, elan vital, bioplasm, orgone, odic force, to name a few. This energy is presumably restored to the body by the state of consciousness known as sleep, a universal but still completely unexplained phenomenon. The theories of vitalism run parallel to many schools of spirituality. In Taoism, the life energy is known as chi. It flows through the body along the acupuncture meridians. In Yoga, life energy is called prana. It pervades the entire physical body, constituting a second body known as the etheric body. This energy is a condensed form of the still more subtle energy of the soul pure consciousness.
In the science of the early 20th century, mechanism had won a clear victory over vitalism. All the known data concerning life processes supported the view that life is a purely chemical phenomenon. A theory did exist within biology proposing electricity as the life-force, but the notion of bioelectricity was thought to be thoroughly disproved by experiment and it was generally considered a naive myth. But then, in the early 1960's, the idea that electricity played some role in living things gained new and convincing evidence, thanks to the salamander.
The salamander is a scaleless lizardlike animal with a peculiar talent called regeneration. If it loses a limb or its tail, it will simply grow a new one. This presented a great unsolved mystery for biologists. In 1960, a medical researcher named Dr. Robert Becker proposed to study regeneration in relation to electricity, citing new experiments measuring a current of electricity at the point of injury. He submitted his research proposal for funding and received this response: "We have a very grave basic concern over your proposal. This notion that electricity has anything to do with living things was totally discredited some time ago. It has absolutely no validity, and the new scientific evidence you're citing is worthless. The whole idea was based on its appeal to quacks and the gullible public." (Robert Becker and Gary Selden, The Body Electric (New York: William Morrow, 1985) p. 70.)
Dr. Becker did finally receive funding for his project and began his experiments with salamanders and electricity. The results confirmed the importance of electromagnetism to life. Dr.<Becker, as an orthopedist, later went on to successfully heal severe bone fractures with electric therapy. He then turned his attention to other aspects of bioelectricity and was able to detect electrical charges at some of the traditional acupuncture points.
The 1960's produced only a handful of published papers on bioelectricity; the data was slow to accumulate. The electromagnetic fields of the living body escaped detection, owing to their weakness and the overpowering constant presence of the earth's own electromagnetism. There simply were no instruments capable of making the measurement. But in 1964, a Nobel Prize went to the inventor of an electronic device which made it possible to build a field detector a thousand times more sensitive than any known before. This instrument is called a superconducting quantum interference device, or SQUID for short. Using this device and a shield to eliminate the interference of the earth's own electromagnetic fields, the fields of the heart, lungs, brain, etc., were finally precisely measured.
A few years later, it was discovered that all living things emit actual light. Researchers in Germany and China detected the emission of coherent light from living cells. Their work was reported in Cell Biophysics and Brain Mind Bulletin: "The cells of living things give off coherent light 'biophotons' . . . . This light is different from what is known as bioluminescence, which we see in fireflies. Biophoton radiation ranges from infrared to ultraviolet. Growing cells radiate more intensely than fully developed ones. Dying cells also show intense photon emission."
(Brain Mind Bulletin, v.10, no.14, August 19, 1985, p.1.)
As science's instruments become increasingly refined, the life energy of the body is better understood. Today, some age-old vitalist theories have gained new credence. The fact that energy fields surround the body gives new support for the formerly ridiculed notion of the human aura. Clairvoyants have long claimed the ability to visualize an aura of light around living things. One modern-day seer has worked to define the aura in ways compatible with modern scientific understanding. She is Barbara Ann Brennan, a scientist and practicing healer. She worked for NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center following the completion of her MS in Atmospheric Physics. She developed an interest in healing and psychotherapy and it was in the psychotherapeutic setting that she began to visualize auras, a lost talent she regained from her childhood. Brennan's scientific term for the aura is the "Human Energy Field," or HEF. "When I, as an adult, again began to see the life-energy fields, I became skeptical and confused. Of course, as a scientist I knew about energy fields, but they were impersonal and defined by mathematical formulae. Were they really there? Did they have meaning? Was I fabricating my experiences? Was it wishful thinking, or was I experiencing another dimension of reality that had meaning, was orderly and was very helpful in understanding my present life circumstances and, in fact, life as a whole?
"There are many systems that people have created from their observations to define the auric field. All these systems divide the aura into layers and define the layers by locations, color, brightness, form, density, fluidity and function. I have observed seven layers during my work as a counselor and a healer. At first I could only see the lower layers, which are the most dense and the easiest to see. The longer I worked, the more layers I could perceive. The higher the layer, the more expanded my consciousness needed to be to perceive it. My observations of the aura revealed to me an interesting dualistic field pattern. Every other layer of the field is highly structured, like standing waves of light patterns, while the layers in between appear to be composed of colored fluids on constant motion. These fluids flow through the form set by the shimmering standing light waves. The direction of flow is somewhat governed by the standing light form, since the fluid flows along the standing lines of light. The standing forms of light are themselves scintillating, as if they are composed of strings of many tiny, rapidly blinking lights, each blinking at a different rate. These standing light lines appear to have tiny charges moving along them.
What I observed correlated with the many esoteric books written on the subject of the aura and energy fields. If we define the Human Energy Field as all fields or emanations from the human body, we can see that many well-known components of the HEF have been measured in the laboratory. These are the electrostatic, magnetic, electromagnetic, sonic, thermal and visual components of the HEF. All these measurements are consistent with normal physiological processes of the body and go beyond them to provide a vehicle for psychosomatic functioning. These studies show that the ordinary model of the body consisting of systems (like the digestive system) is insufficient. An additional model based on the concept of an organizing energy field needs to be developed."
(Barbara Ann Brennan, Hands of Light, copyright 1987 Barbara Ann Brennan (New York: Bantam Books, div. Of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 1988) pp.34, 37, 41, 42.)
The increasing understandings of the Human Energy Field may some day have a great impact on the healing arts, not only through auric healers, but in mainstream, allopathic medicine as well. Man-made electromagnetic fields are increasingly bombarding the environment. The effects of these fields are not clearly understood and may prove harmful. New studies show that there may indeed be cause for alarm. As reported in World Research News: "500,000 persons who are regularly exposed to strong electromagnetic fields had been examined in the state of Washington. 60% of them showed a higher rate of leukemia and 75% a higher rate of lymph gland cancer in comparison to a control group without such exposure." (World Research News (Sherman Oaks, CA: World Research Foundation, 3rd and 4th quarter, 1990) p.7.) But conversely, the healing potential of electromagnetism is also being explored. For example, light of a particular wavelength has been demonstrated to selectively kill cancer cells while remaining safe for normal tissue. Researchers at the Institute for Biophysics in Beijing, China successfully treated twenty-five cases of cancer (carcinomas of the oral cavity, skin, and cervix) using light therapy of a specific wavelength and density. They reported their findings in the scientific journal Cancer. (Xu Yelin, et al, "The Selective Killing Effect of Special Wavelength Light in the Treatment of Human Superficial Cancer," Cancer, June 1, 1990, vol.65, no.11, pp.2482-2487)
The important role of light in bodily processes is matched by its effects on the mind. Brain wave activity is now easily measured by EEG and this activity has been shown to be highly sensitive to light stimulation. The effects of light on a person's state of mind have been experienced from time immemorial as people have gazed into the flickering light of a fire. Science has taken this simple age-old technique of quieting the mind and brought it into the lab. Soon after EEG instruments first recorded the electrical activity of the brain in the 1920's, it was discovered that brain wave frequency is altered by light stimulation. This effect is known as entrainment if a rhythmic flickering of light is flashed into a subject's eyes, the person's brain wave activity automatically resonates to that frequency. Brain waves are divided into four major rhythms: Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta. Beta waves are associated with normal waking consciousness. Alpha and Theta are increasingly relaxed states, and Delta waves indicate deep sleep. By flashing a light into a subject's eyes at the Theta frequency, that person's brain waves will soon drop to the same rate, thus producing states of deep reverie and meditation-like trances.
A current researcher of entrainment instruments described his own personal experience with one such device: "I turned the frequency dial downward, which caused the lights to flash more slowly, and watched the digits decrease through the teens and stop at 5 cycles per second the slow theta waves that accompany deep reverie, meditation, and mental imagery. The brightness of the flashing lights increased. . . .I knew the tiny flashing lights were plain white, and yet the visions that appeared to me were vivid, spectacular, of bright primary colors jagged alien landscapes, narrowing tunnels of swooping looping light, swirling multi-colored checkerboards, a realistic view across the gray surface of a pond being stippled into fragmental light patterns by a gentle rainfall, sleek fish moving below the surface. I felt my attention drawn irresistibly inward. My tension was melting away. I was aware there were people in the room, but it was of no interest they were in another world, far away. I experimented with different frequencies and patterns of stimulation, and with each twist of the dials the visions would change. I noticed that some visions would call up vivid memories. I dialed back to the pond, and suddenly I was a kid again, stalking frogs, feeling the sun hot on the back of my neck, smelling the green algae and mud of the pond."
(Michael Hutchinson, Megabrain (New York: William Morrow, 1986), p.26.)
The effects of light on body and mind continue to pose a great and wonderful mystery. But there are indications that someday these forces will be within our understanding and control. The seemingly superhuman powers attained by some accomplished yogis attest to the fact that there is much still to learn about the human body and its potential. By bringing yogis and their powers under scientific scrutiny, important knowledge will surely be gained. One modern yogi, Swami Rama from Rishikesh, India, has demonstrated his powers for studies conducted at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas. He is able to self-regulate bodily-functions beyond normal control by manipulating the "prana," as he calls it, the life-energy. In 1971, an experiment was conducted in which the yogi was able to stop the beating of his heart. Elmer Green, the conductor of the experiment describes the event:
Our study in 1971 of Swami Rama, a yogi from Rishikesh, India, produced a few self-regulation events in the lab which Rama said represented energy control. Before he put his heart into a state of atrial flutter Rama turned to Alyce, on her way to the lab's control room, and said, "When my heart stops, call over the intercom and say, 'That's all.' " When I asked why he wanted that, he said, "Since I am not prepared in the usual way for this experiment (having not fasted for three days), I do not want to do it too long. . . .I do not want to take a chance on damaging my subtle heart."
It took further discussion over a period of days to define "subtle heart," but in the swami's mind (as in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras) the human is an energy structure of which the "densest part" is the physical body. As the physical magnet is the densest section of a magnetic field, so the structure of the physical heart is the densest section of a subtle (energy structure) heart.
When I asked Swami how he managed to put his heart into the peculiar non-pumping state of atrial flutter, he said that a large energy center in the middle of his chest (the "heart chakra in the subtle body") was connected by a little line of "light" (prana) to a small energy center (chakra) associated with the right ear. In a state of meditation he "looked" inside himself, and when he saw the line of light he made it become "very bright," and then the heart "stopped."
A few months later, at a meeting of neurologists for whom I was speaking on biofeedback and yoga, I was pressed by one questioner to explain how the Swami did that "trick." As a psycho-social experiment, I decided to give the Swami's own explanation. After that there was a long silence. Then one of the physicians stood up and gave a neurological interpretation. There is a loop of the vagus nerve (which controls the heart) very close to the right ear; the Swami obviously had learned a way to manipulate it. "Isn't it interesting," the doctor said, "the Swami has developed a metaphor (a visualization, please note) which when thought about is able to manipulate the vagus nerve!"
I did not say it, but I thought, "Who really has the metaphor, the doctor or the Swami?" Are we in fact looking at a many-dimensioned cosmos of energy fields with our space-time brains, and seeing a three-dimensional slice which we call physical matter?
(Stanislov Grof, Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science (New York: State University of New York Press, copyright 1984) pp.249, 250.)
Today, science has peeked beyond the material solid appearance of things. We know ourselves as children of light, no longer by virtue of spiritual understanding alone, but through scientific endeavor. The goal of science and religion is the same, the discovery of truth. As each system proceeds in this pursuit, they surely must come together. So, too, must body and spirit harmonize. Enlightenment is not a spiritual victory gained at the expense of the physical body; rather, body, mind, and spirit are one. We end this chapter with the words of one of today's spiritual sages, Da Love Ananda, who teaches that inherent in the body are all the functions necessary for expanded consciousness and knowledge of the inner light.
The structure of the manifest, mortal, and always changing body-mind is demonstrated as a range of functional possibility extended between two extremes the higher brain and the lower body. This range between extremes or polar opposites corresponds to the subtler energy structure that envelopes the soul in its association with the phenomenal realms. Thus, both the soul in its subtle energy field and the extended or Radiated body-mind that expresses the soul and its energy field are structures in a bipolar form, with subtler processes apparent above, and grosser processes apparent below.
The soul is only temporarily, and without ultimate necessity, associated with particular psycho-physical states the result of tendencies acquired through past associations with conditional states of experience that are less than Perfect Contemplation of the Divine Condition.
For this reason, the soul, which is Pure Consciousness and Eternal Life, identifies with the "I," the self-reference of the psycho-physical being. And the embodied or self-limited existence of the soul thus becomes a struggle of experience, and possible growth, by virtue of fixed and automatic association with the born body-mind.
The "Kingdom of God" is a matter of the literal Translation of the whole bodily being of the individual into the unqualified and All-Pervading Light of the World. That Light is not in objective or subjective relationship to us. It is the Light or Radiance we intuit to be the Condition of our very existence and consciousness. We must each become a living, single, or whole body sacrifice, through love and esoteric practice, into the Radiance wherein we have arisen.
The Light of God and the Light of the soul are One. It is Perfect Radiance, or White Brightness. All manifest forms are parts of a universe or total spectrum of modifications or solidifications of the range of possibility inherent in Original Light, or Radiance. Thus, the soul in its casing of spectral energies is expressed as a range of colors, from red and golden yellow at its lowest point or pole to violet and blue at its highest point or pole.
The Enlightenment of the whole and entire body-mind is a matter of the Transcendental Infusion of the body-mind with the unqualified Radiance of the Heart. This is done by a process in which that Radiance first pervades the entire brain, to its extreme, and then, via the brain, invades all the rest of the extended body-mind. The Current of Radiance is permitted to pervade and "unlock" every cell of the body and to dissolve every thought or image that makes the mind. And the life-Current is established in perfect polarization, toe to crown, so that the mechanical motions toward psycho-physical experience are dissolved in the Divine Radiance, prior to all independent experience.
The Heart, or Awakened Consciousness, prior to the reflexive gestures of attention, self, and experience, is the Truth of the body-mind of Man. And when Man Awakens to the Truth of the Heart, then even the World, the Totality of Experience, Dissolves in Truth. Thus, in the Way of Radical Intuition, the Heart is Awake, with "open eyes." The Heart does not turn in on Itself or away as Itself. Rather, It is Awake as Itself, and totally Aware. (Da Avabhasa, aka Da Love Ananda, The Enlightenment of the Whole Body, copyright 1978
The Free Daist Communion (Lower Lake, CA: The Dawn Horse Press, 1978), pp.460, 490, 514.)
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