Tom Floyd's Response to Lane's Critique of Ken Wilber, part three

Author: Thomas C. Floyd
Publisher: The Neural Surfer
Publication date: 1997

E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at

I want to go back to the home base now.


I offer this response to the Wilber v. Feynman article you wrote:

Thanks, David, for stories which provide such wonderful examples of these contrasting world views.

Might not the stopping clock have been indicating prior passages of Feynman's wife's soul into the land of the dead? If Feyneman's view that the touch of a nurse at the time of death is scientific, where are the research data on clock stoppages near death beds? And yet we skeptics confidently presume that the event described by Feynman must only have a physicalistic meaning. A leap of faith, I would say. But at least we don't have far to leap in our flat, little world, do we?

But let's try to get above this squabbling and raise ourselves to a more "mature" and less shallow , or "flat" as Wilber would say, level of interpretation. As much as we skeptics want to believe that there is only one reality--our little, flat, physical one, always kept freshly shaven by Occam's razor--I maintain that we, including Feynman, constantly sit here indulging ourselves in the wonders of that other reality we so strongly want to devalue. There was no science in Feynman's interpretation at all. His mind came to a pseudoscientific conclusion without any review of the literature, physicalistic observations, statistical tests, nor even a funded grant. He used the creative forces of his mind, although blinded by science, to foster an explanation. His wife's memory is flattened to nothing more than just another empty random event of day to day banal existence. But we are being mature about it, right? We've applied the correct interpretation to it, we can go on about our lives to face the other prosaic, hallow, meaningless (go to your thesaurus for more of these) events it has to offer. Does the word existentialism come to mind? Boring black and white movies, remember?

Luckily there is an antidote. And a "mature" one to boot. It comes from the very realm science would like to destroy completely, that "separate" reality that Castenada thrust upon us in the '70s, the reality of "faith that moves mountains" that ancient sages have long espoused, that reality that feeds the placebo effect, one of the most well documented of all unwanted laboratory effects, and that reality which Wilber exercises in the interpretation of his wife's death.

The science of flat happenstance is still there. I think the story now goes a butterfly somewhere in Indonesia flapped its wings, oh, say, 37.8 years ago, and the ripples from that flap were iterated into a wind gust at the time of Wilber's wife's death some years later--after traversing the globe many times and being reenergized by other synergistic events along the way. Move over evolution--there's a new boy in town!

But why hold to randomicity alone? Why even give it any consideration at all? Why not leave so-called scientific (pseudoscientific at best, there are NO DATA--get it!) interpretations in the academic and technical realms where they yield the most value. Why not give an uplifting, spiritual interpretation to a loved one's death? No witches are burned, no Galileos house-arrested, no damages done to science proper. And as for the interpretation that the winds accompanying a death is a "magical", and hence, less mature and more flat than scientific, one, I remind you that Wilber proposes that all lower holons are absorbed into the higher. Magical thinking done in the light of higher levels of consciousness provides a quality that the scientific explanation can never provide--something called beauty. It is, I propose, very "mature" to interpret an event such as a clock stopping at the time of a loved one's death as an indicator of the passage of that very meaningful life from the bounds of this level of existence, particularly if you do so with full knowledge that these events can be interpreted as coincidences for scientific purposes. That little leap out of the bounds of proper scientific interpretation can lend a rapture to the event that the flat interpretation can never. (I see an early, dreary, existential movie, and then I see "Fanny and Alexander".)

In short, science has not come near to providing a satifactory basis for conducting the everyday affairs of us humans--events of love, life and death. When someone explains a significant event in their lives in a poetic way, with spiritual imagery, do not be too harsh. They may even be aware of the flat underlying, arrogant truth. An omnipresent science is as irksome an omnipresent Old Testament deity--who needs either?

Tom Floyd

E-mail The Neural Surfer directly at

I want to go back to the home base now.