Ronald Grant, initially 1999.
It is referred to in his life story.
There is a territory which impinges on philosophy, morality, ethics, dreams, the “paranormal” and many features of animal behaviour which is always difficult to discus as many listeners have their own strong views. Any suggestion that they could be wrong would be so uncomfortable as to be resisted or rejected at a deep emotional level. So, when it comes to open up the subject I have to find a starting point!
At this moment. 11.30 p.m. on Sunday April 4th 1999, I have the Weekend portion of the Times in front of me and am being asked by the headline “Do you still believe in miracles?” The answer must be a qualified “No”. Qualified by accepting that there are many phenomena which are not explicable today. I do not believe that there are any phenomena which, by definition, are beyond explanation or understanding. There is, in my opinion, a very large area of physics yet to be explored, and through which, without detriment to their value, many “paranormal” events will be understood and religious “truths” verified or rationalised.
The area to be explored is the physics, near and remote, of electrical activity in a conducting medium. Taking, for example, the transmission of an impulse along a nerve fibre: this is not exactly an electrical current, but involves the progressive charge and discharge along a fixed line at a known, not particularly fast, speed. Although the amount will be small, this must have its near and remote electromagnetic effect, as must the comparable effect of everything from the rotating charge and discharge in single cell rotifers to the action required for movement of flagellates. On a larger scale, in human kind, the same basic effect may be produced by the twenty times a second scanning of the body and the variations caused by thought and action. This leads to a clue to the as yet mysterious, but well known effects of one person touching another.
An anecdote to illustrate the sort of effect I mean. Some years ago a patient came to see me, it does not matter what about, and at the conclusion of the consultation I asked her to let me know in a few days if the trouble persisted; She thought I had said that I would come to see her in a few days and although her trouble had gone, she had come a few days later to complain that I had not kept my word. As was my custom, I offered her my hand in normal greeting and invited her to sit down. “Don't touch me” was her quick reaction and she hastened to explain that she had come to complain, was all worked up to make a (not very serious) row and told me she knew that the minute I touched her, her anger would disappear and she would be unable to make her prepared speech. Such effects are commonplace and everyday:... there must be a physical explanation.
Now to approach my subject from what may appear to be a totally irrelevant angle, I observe the behaviour of flocks of birds, shoals of fishes, a flock of sheep in a strange field and, to me, amazingly comparable phenomena in other animals, including, under some circumstances human beings. Consider the overall appearance of a flock of “Russian” starlings. I watched the flight of a flock or group of several thousand a few days ago as they wheeled and circled over the woods opposite my house they didn't crash into each other; the flock as a whole appeared to show amoeboid movement. Even the Red Arrows with their extremely sophisticated intercommunication could not possibly reach the standard of co-ordinated aerobatics shown by those birds. One does not get the same opportunity to watch shoals of fish in this country as one gets in the clear waters of the Persian Gulf; but once again the apparent amoeboid movement of the shoal is as though one is observing a single animal, with an extra dimension added:... When observed from above, the shoal as a whole gets upward and downward vision by a regular pattern of individual fish turning on their sides; The flow round objects considered “to be avoided” is smooth and clear, again demonstrating highly developed intercommunication which could not possibly be achieved by the use of ordinary sight or sound. The movement of a flock of sheep is perhaps more surprising. Most of them spend most of the time grazing, nose in the grass, yet the flock often behaves as though there is some sort of elastic band round them, effectively pulling the more isolated ones towards the centre without any visible or audible signal. There is clearly a channel of communication, rapid if not instant and highly effective, which is as yet unexplained but not, by my definition, inexplicable. These phenomena have been noticed and their importance considered by many previous observers, without any, even tentative, explanation: e.g. Rupert Sheldrake, in “Seven Experiments That Could Change the World”, pp 87-90, "Conclusions to Part 1”.
Before trying to put it all together, one more major factor needs to be brought in; unfortunately one which provokes much hostile argument:... a belief in some sort of being, power, influence, presence or entity greater than self with whom or which one is in constant contact. In fact, that which is normally referred to as “God”. For my purpose all the magic, nonsense, superstition and superstructure created by the priests or their equivalent in other religions needs to be stripped off, so that what remains is that which is common to all religions and systems of morality and should lead to peaceful, harmonious co-existence. It is totally ridiculous to me to see, as I have done, the residents of a small town divided and antagonistic to each other arguing as to whether a particular piece of ritual should be sung, intoned or spoken. The fact that in many parts of the world, two branches of ostensibly the same faith, as Catholics v. Protestants, Sunni v. Shia, should go so far as to kill each other, proves only one thing... They are both wrong!
What then is the nature of this communication? One might postulate some sort of radio signal? Whatever it is, it clearly does not obey any sort of inverse square law. Some sort of pattern recognition seems much more likely as the phenomena are observed more frequently in closely related individuals, especially flocks of birds, shoals of fish, &c. Clearly there is a function of each individual which forms part of an larger entity, the whole constituting more than the sum of the parts in that the whole can function as a single animal. In the human species, we have so many other channels of communication that it is difficult to disentangle; but what I am talking about is found more often in the closely related, especially twins and in descending order, families, closely knit social groups, the extended family, and others who may have shared prolonged social contact and experience. How significant groups are formed is another interesting question; one must not forget the cohesive effect of common ritual, whether it be religious, including all the drum-beating and marching as seen in Northern Ireland, or other sectarian as in the Hitler Youth. This may be compared or contrasted with non-religious groups, anything from bingo and bridge clubs to Rotary and Freemasonry. It is more comfortable to think of those groups bound together by overt benevolence, but much has been written about the extraordinary behaviour of a mob, individuals being amazed (and sometimes ashamed) afterwards by a retrospect of their own behaviour under mob influence.
Here I have to find a name or symbol to designate that activity of a living cell which can be in two way communication with other cells of its type. That it exists cannot be in doubt, as witness the coming together of single-cell organisms to form a complex with much more sophisticated capabilities than the original cell; and so by steps up to the integrated life activity of shoals of fish or flocks of birds to which I have already referred. Shall I call it the “g” and as I have no integral sign on my keyboard, I will use square brackets instead to mean the definite integral of a particular defined group. Thus [g starlings] is that which co-ordinates their flight when behaving as a flock. I can then refer to a definite integral, that is where the limits are stated, and an indefinite integral, which would concern all living cells. It is only a short step, but one which will be vigorously denied by closed minds therefore, to define God as the indefinite integral of “g”, while allowing any group with a common purpose to claim a definite or limited integral of “g” as that power or force which they regard as greater than self. Hence comes the concept of gods of tribes, towns, men, women, Jews, Christians, Moslems and all their sub-divisions or agglomerations. In a similar manner it can be conceived that any group gathered together with benevolent thought and wish, such as a church congregation, can be a force with a beneficial effect on the rest of mankind, provided that all the exclusive and divisive thoughts can be ignored or, at least temporarily, forgotten.
Looking at religion as practised generally, the common denominator is a benevolent attitude to the world in general and to the participating group in particular. All too often this is coupled, mainly by acknowledged leaders, with irrational beliefs and ritual statements, as in the several creeds, wherein heresies are denied and worthy individuals excluded on the ground of trivial distinctions. Nowhere is this more evident, in my limited experience, than in the various branches of the Church of Scotland, where, within a small town, people may divide themselves irreconcilably on the basis of whether a particular bit of ritual should be sung, intoned or spoken. Incidentally, from the ministers of many of these churches, one hears very little of love, forgiveness, benevolence and charity; the sermon is more usually concerned with hell-fire and damnation.
It seems therefore that each religious group is bound together by a common creed and ritual, most of which has been invented by the leaders of that group through the ages, which binds them together and separates them from the rest of humanity, to the disadvantage of both. People might live together more peacefully if the unacceptable items in the creed were abolished: Does anyone really believe in the relatively recently pronounced dogma of virgin birth or the bodily assumption these days? But in so far as these beliefs support a ritual which tends to make members better citizens, one must be careful to create a more acceptable alternative.
God in the image of man or man in the image of God may be considered tautology if one defines God, in my terms, as [g humanity]. I may have to find a different symbol to cover all living things; this would be an indefinite integral, perhaps [G], with obvious implications. Thus I find no difficulty in accepting the god of a tribe, the polytheism of ancient Egypt or the Hindus or even [g men] and [g women] as subdivisions of a whole, when considering their various attributes, but would regard as undesirable anything in their beliefs or practices which put any group at variance with [G].
All that I have offered so far is part of the reason why I accept the heresy of syncretism which is the main reason why some self-professed Christians criticise Freemasonry. That being the principle that all gods of all religions are local interpretations of that which I have attempted to define as [G]. Freemasonry requires that one accepts something greater than self, referred to in ritual as the Great Architect, the Grand Geometrician, the Most High, the Great Overseer of the Universe and a variety of other titles, and accepts, on which to make solemn promises, the V.S.L. or Volume of the Sacred Law, which can be varied according to the beliefs of the candidate. Those who may be doubtful about swearing an oath can likewise be accommodated by affirming.
Although not a religion, Freemasonry offers a system of morality, based in allegory and illustrated by symbols, which is entirely free of all obligation to believe in fairy-stories. The so-called secrets of Freemasonry are quite easily discovered by anyone who knows how to use a library, but I would tend to dissuade anyone considering joining from trying to find out too much in advance, as I am sure it would diminish the impact of the lessons which Freemasonry teaches. I commend it as a sound basis for morality and firmly believe that [g freemasons] is a genuine force for good in today's world.
What I have written so far applies to a dynamic integration of influences acting on individuals at any given moment in time. There is, however, an aspect of this force which is independent of time and much more difficult to understand. Various phrases come to mind; “As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be” “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”: “...then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it”. “No man is an island....”. Is it just wishful thinking that so many people, in many religions, believe that something of them remains after physical death, while others believe that they have some degree of insight into a previous existence.
It would seem that many of the wise men of the past felt that there was some kind of continuum which all human minds shared and which had a quality which was independent of time. This may be scaled up to include all living animals and even possibly plants. I am quite satisfied that some dreams have a prophetic quality, but can see no way of resolving the ancient dilemma of freewill versus predestination.
It is much easier to contemplate a common subconscious in a dynamic form, (as opposed to the Common Subconcious in the Jungian sense), each individual being able to share something with all those facing similar situations (and this may well be the basis of instinct) in the present and past, than to attempt to understand a basis for precognition. Experience suggests that all apparent precognition, apart from hokus-pokus, has a high emotional content, the feelings being foreseen with more accuracy than the details of happenings, although the physical surroundings can be accurate to a surprising degree, even when there is no possibility of the subject having been in that place previously. The lack of significant emotional content appears to me to account for the common failure of attempts at cold verification of precognition.
The idea that the dynamic interpersonal subconcious is the basis of instinct is one which I think deserves further research and perhaps another paper.
Index of works and memories.
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