Thursday, March 09, 2006

(142) The investigation into the strange case of hylozoism is assisted by Dr Watson´s arrival from Baker Street

(To make the above letter of Dr Lyall Watson´s more legible, please increase screen magnification to 150%!)

At 10.44 a.m. on February 29th 1992, I was flying from London to Glasgow and rereading Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics.

I had reached page 24.

The book is an exploration of parallels between modern physics and mysticism.

The text reads:

The roots of… all Western science, are to be found in… Greek philosophy in the sixth century BC, in a culture where science, philosophy and religion were not separated. The sages of the Milesian school in Ionia were not concerned with such distinctions.
Their aim was to discover the essential nature, or real constitution, of things which they called "physis". The term "physics"… meant therefore, originally, the endeavour of seeing the essential nature of things.

This, of course, is also the central aim of all mystics, and the philosophy of the Milesian school did indeed have a strong mystical flavour. The Milesians were called "hylozoists", or "those who think matter is alive", by the later Greeks, because they saw no distinction between animate and inanimate, spirit and matter…
they saw all forms of existence as… endowed with life and spirituality.
Thus Thales declared all things to be full of Gods

(I might add that I amended my original presentation of this quote in mid-December 1999, and trimmed it down so that it now ends with the declaration of Thales.

The following morning I had an e-mail from the editor of the Fortean Times, Bob Rickard, in which he apologised for having mislaid my text of an article I had written for his magazine about my expedition to Bermuda to try to film a giant octopus [see, e.g. Entries 156-157 and 162-163].

He asked if I might send it again.

His e-mail ended with two quotes, "All things are full of Gods", Thales of Miletus fl.600 BC and "My God it’s full of stars!" Bowman, 2001.

He later explained to me that he had been adding these as an addendum to his e-mails since about August 1999. That was when the expedition was underway.)

Stuart Conquest
was travelling with me.

I glanced across and saw that he had that day’s Daily Telegraph open at a page where a kids’ comic strip was beginning.
It was entitled Sherlock Holmes and The Missing Manuscripts, Part One.

In Frame One,
Dr Watson is at 221b Baker Street, the address he shared with Holmes, reading The Daily Telegraph and ruminating:
" It seemed like the whole of London was celebrating the 80th anniversary of the birth of CHARLES DICKENS, except for my friend SHERLOCK HOLMES…" (John H. Watson MD. 1892)
On the other side of the room Holmes is pouring fluid into a laboratory flask.

(Frame Two)
A young woman bursts in and proclaims
"You must help me Mr Holmes." Holmes responds "Perhaps… but first…"

(Frame Three)
"I perceive you have travelled from Kilburn and are working at Madame Tussaud’s."
The woman is amazed "How on Earth…?"

(Frame Four)
Holmes explains his deductions.
"You have a Kilburn bus ticket in your glove, and the powder on your sleeve is used only in the making of waxworks."
She is impressed.

(Frame Five)
She introduces herself.
"My name is Jane Gatewood. I’m organising a Dickens exhibition at Madame Tussaud’s. I want you to guard the manuscripts on display."

(Frame Six)
The flask that Holmes earlier filled he has placed above a Bunsen flame. It now explodes.
He observes "My experiment seems to be at an end, so lead on Miss Gatewood."

(Frame Seven)
Holmes and Watson are at the Dickens exhibition in Madame Tussaud’s. Watson is peering into a glass cabinet above which it reads "Charles Dickens 1812-1870".
He says "Fascinating! The actual manuscripts for David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol."

(Frame Eight)
There is a waxwork of Dickens by the exhibits. Watson remarks to Holmes that it is very lifelike.
"Indeed Watson. Particularly the shoes." Holmes replies.

(Frame Nine)
Holmes then peers intently at the shoes and sees that they are encrusted with mud.
"Now why would a waxwork have muddy shoes?" he ponders out loud.

(Frame Ten)
The "waxwork" of Charles Dickens shoves Watson aside and grabs the two manuscripts from the display.
"By thunder!" exclaims Watson. "It’s alive."

(Frame Eleven)
The man who had been posing as a waxwork runs off.
Holmes helps Watson to his feet and observes " He’s stolen the manuscripts."

Holmes’s discovery that the waxwork is alive fits well with the idea of hylozoism, i.e. that all things are alive. I personally am prepared to consider hylozoism seriously.

And further to the parallels between modern Western physics, with its basis of testing and experimentation, and the Eastern, more intuitive methods of finding truth, I note that Holmes observes,
"My experiment seems to be at an end, so lead on Miss Gatewood."

The feminine principle is regarded as subtler than the masculine.
Holmes is led off by the young woman, after the failure and end of his experiment, to the start of a new mission, one which might be seen as leading to a new insight on the nature of life.

Madame Tussaud’s is in the adjacent street to Baker Street where Holmes and Watson had set up home at the fictional 221b. Sherlock Holmes of course is the great detective.

To reinforce the links between these first two components of the coincidence, I note the paragraph from page 24 of The Tao of Physics, which precedes the two I gave before.

Capra observes that if physics today is leading us towards a world view that is essentially mystical, then, in a sense, it is returning to its mystical origins of two thousand five hundred years ago.

Western science… increasingly turned away from its mystical origins to… a world view which is in sharp contrast to that of the Far East… finally overcoming this view and coming back to those of the early Greek and the Eastern philosophies. This time, however, it is not only based on intuition, but also on experiments of great precision and sophistication, and on a rigorous and consistent mathematical formalism.
Capra then describes how the rise of Western science culminated in the split of Cartesian dualism, between spirit and matter.

The cartoon strip was episode one of a story entitled The Missing Manuscripts, manuscripts which Sherlock Holmes has been recruited to guard and then goes on to have to recover.
Capra writes of how the discoveries at the cutting face of physics constitute the recovery of a lost knowledge. ... ... ...

That coincidence in itself I found striking, and there things might have remained, but for synchronicity’s self-referring tendency (e.g. the aforementioned R. Rickard e-mail).

On September 4th 1997, I visited the Central Court in London to serve papers on a tenant for non-payment of rent.
I then decided to walk the eight minutes or so to Paddington Street to see if a café there was open, for I knew both the owner and its regular clientele well.
It was closed, so I thought I would ring up a few friends.

It took almost ten minutes to gain access to a phone booth, and then everybody proved to be either out or engaged.
I turned around in annoyance and was just about to quit for the nearest Underground station, Baker Street, when I thought I recognised a man walking by.

I exited the booth and stared intently, not one hundred per cent certain of his identity.
He rounded a corner into Marylebone High Street, and, after I had followed, he then emerged behind me from a Geranium Gifts for the Blind shop.

I knew that I would definitely recognise his voice so I approached and asked if he had change of a pound.
As he rummaged for it I asked, "Are you Dr Watson?" He said that he was.

I was talking to Lyall Watson, best-selling author of Supernature, The Romeo Error and many other parascience books.

I introduced myself and said that I was writing a script for an anti-Darwinian TV series where I wanted to be presented by major scientific figures.

Would he like to be involved?

He asked if I could him show him anything that I had done so far, so I delved in my bag and brought out some scraps of script plus a provisional list of presenters.
"Are you a creationist?" he asked. I said that I was not.

He viewed it for a few seconds and looked up.
"You’re going to attract some big guns against you with this."

I replied that the format we were working on was to have several programmes and then a post-series debate with peeved Darwinists.
Dr Watson thought that last programme unwise, and recommended just making a stink.

I showed him what I had written re Princess Diana in Entry 141.
"You better take that out," he said. I assured him that it would remain.

He said that although he believed in natural selection, he did not think that it was a sufficient explanation of life.
He affirmed that he was a theist, a dualist and a vitalist.

As the conversation progressed over the weak points of neo-Darwinism I think he gathered that I knew something about it and also his previous books.

He also seemed struck by the coincidence, for when I said that I took them very seriously he shouted back, "So do I!".

He even remarked that his agent’s company had a film-making division and that they might be able to do something with the project.

It concluded with him saying that he was interested in seeing more and we exchanged contact addresses.

I understood that he lived on a boat in the Bahamas.

He said that he had arrived in London at 2 a.m. that morning and was staying for two days to see some films. Indeed, when I halted him he was en route to see The Full Monty, before going on to spend one further day in Paris to see some more films.

During the conversation I thought back to the 1992 cartoon coincidence involving the nearby area, and then remembered how I had first addressed him.
Without mentioning the 1992 incident, I remarked on the amusing Holmes – Watson – Baker Street thing, even replying to a point he raised with "Elementary my dear Watson!"

Paddington Street is probably less than three hundred metres long, with Marylebone High Street at one end and Baker Street at the other.
It leads off from Baker Street on the opposite side of the road and three hundred metres further down from the site where both the plaque for the (non-existent) 221b (the only such commemorative plaque to a fictional character in London) and also the Sherlock Holmes memorabilia shops are situated.

(In February 2008 newspapers reported that a survey had shown that 25% of Britons thought Winston Churchill to be a fictional character and 50% thought Sherlock Holmes to be a real one.)

The point where he passed me is almost equidistant between the fictional address of Holmes and Dr Watson and Madame Tussaud’s.

I did not ask Lyall Watson but it seems almost certain that he would have come into Paddington Street from Baker Street.

Over twenty years earlier I had read his book The Romeo Error (published in America as The Biology of Death) in which he queries the idea of lifelessness:

intuition is no substitute for precise, clearly defined, repeatable experiment.
Or is it?…
Death has proven to be impossible to diagnose…
Life and death blend almost imperceptibly into each other and, with life extending its limits all the time, it becomes clear that there are degrees of death and that most (or perhaps even all) of these are reversible…
I believe they are.
I am becoming convinced that it no longer makes biological sense to even try to discriminate between life and death at any level.

This is simple hylozoism.

When we met I had three books with me in my bag, all pertinent to the project upon which I was working; Darwin’s Black Box, by Professor M. Behe, The Facts of Life by R. Milton and Darwin for Beginners, by Dr J. Miller.
The last of these was published in 1982.

I had purchased it the previous December from a street seller in Calcutta, and had leafed through it many times.

But in my blindness I missed one of the most glaring components of this nexus, until I saw it on September 6th 1997.

On its title page Jonathan Miller’s book proclaims:
"The strange case of Charles Darwin and evolution."

All of the books in Icon’s excellent For Beginners series are jokey, in an attempt to make subjects less daunting for the layman.
In this particular one cartoons by Borin van Loon accompany every page of Dr Miller’s text.

The entire book is presented as a spoofy Sherlock Holmes story, with many depictions of Holmes and Watson!

A few days later I was carrying a copy of Watson´s book The Nature Of Things as I stood in line at the Hastings Main Post Office.

Its blurb proclaims -

The Nature Of Things: The Secret Life Of Inanimate Objects
Watson raises intriguing questions about our relationship with inanimate objects--do we invest things with a life of their own?

A lady behind me asked if she could have a look at it as she had read some of his stuff.
I told her that I had recently encountered him in London.

Circa 1989, my wife (whom I first saw in 1989, but to whom I introduced myself in 1994) had been asked by the monthly Woman’s Journal to compose a dedicatory Valentine’s Day poem to the person, living or dead, real or imaginary, whom she would most like to receive it.

She had chosen Sherlock Holmes.

This was the poem:

Valentine to Sherlock Holmes.

At eight I first felt Cupid’s dart.
I’d read The Speckled Band.
Brains, daring, looks – how I admired
Your profile in The Strand.

Man cannot live by crime alone.
Let your last case be mine.
I’m rather like a certain hound-
At night I really shine.

Forget Irene’s violet eyes
And Watson’s gayer charms,
Chuck out your pipes, kick the cocaine,
Seek solace in my arms.

This poem also appears in her 1997 work Memo from a Muse.

A week or two after I met Dr Watson I read this in The Nature of Things:

We are surrounded by ideas which have become flesh… My proposition… is that metaphors are living things. They are slices of truth, evidence of the human ability to visualise the universe as a coherent organism. Proof of our capacity, not just to see one thing in another – as Blake saw the world in a grain of sand – but to change the very nature of things. When a metaphor is accepted as fact it enters mythology, but it can also take on an existence in the real world.
It can become a metaphorm.
Indeed. My Dr Watson made his entrance fthe only appropriate street in the world.

And, as I noted, the only one in London containing a commemorative plaque to a fictional character.

(Also see e.g. Appendix Four, of Part Two: The Narrative, Epilogues and Appendices.)

And here, just as in the given extract from where I was reading in The Tao Of Physics of the attitudes of the sages of the Milesian school of Ionia in 600 BC, it is a belief in hylozoism that stems from an attempt to analyze the Nature of Things.

As in Entry 138, here too synchronicity recruits the services of two of the most renowned detectives to help with supporting the case that we are not merely gene replicators, but housings for spirit.

And it is being emphasised that this is not news.

Capra points out that Western physics finds itself returning to the hylozoistic view of the Milesian school of ancient Ionia.

Holmes and Watson are trying to retrieve The Lost Manuscripts (which have become associated with hylozoism).

And The Last Enemy, an edition of the TV show featuring the detective Inspector Morse (here with a guest appearance from the actor who established himself as another celebrated TV detective) follows an episode broadcast the week before called Ghost in the Machine.

The two episodes are repeats. They were also shown, in the same sequence, eight years earlier.

It was also the intention of Trevor and myself to follow a programme of a series entitled The Ghost in the Machine with one the next week where an Oxford academic would suffer a loss of face.

(Consider also Entry (40a) where there is a search to bring together two sundered parts of a book in order to thereby reconstitute an old, lost spell that brings inanimate objects to life.)

And, even though, as I make clear in Entry 138, I was not personally in favour of promoting dualism per se via our TV critique of neo-Darwinism, the constituents of this cluster are pointing towards dualism or even hylozoism.

If hylozoism is valid then, as Lyall Watson writes, there is no real distinction between life and death.

If it becomes accepted that all is alive then The Last Enemy will be defeated.

On September 11th 1997 I walked into the bar in Paddington Street.
I had not been in for a while and was greeted by the owner, Romolo Mudu, with "Back from the dead. "

In Entry (40a) I wrote of my impression that synchronicity can sometimes go beyond the self-referring tendency which Dr Roderick Main ascribes to it and may become almost fissiparous.

A pair of detectives in a comic strip here in Entry 142.
Another pair on TV in Entry 138.
And then we have the physical encounter between myself and Dr Watson in the most appropriate of locations, as he enters from Baker Street and I was just about to leave for Baker Street station.

The efforts to realise a TV series critical of Darwinism produced coincidences which might yet prompt further exploration of the concept of spirit, even though that was not the reason for attempting to make the programme.

In his letter dated October 17th 1997 (which may be seen at the head of this entry: Increase screen amplification to 150% to render legible) Lyall Watson responded to my draft of the first episode.
He stated that although he remained,

"... intrigued by the possibility of a serious re-evaluation of the Darwinian approach, I fail to be convinced that what you are suggesting is the answer… "

He said that he suspected, as he had in Marylebone High Street, that I might have some hidden religious agenda and,
"I feel no sympathy with the words you put into my mouth in this first draft…"

(Sean Patrick Ryan later observed that in the Talmud pantheon a Golem was a large, male, human figure which could be animated by the insertion into its mouth of a scroll on which specific words were inscribed.
Once activated it then required constant ordering.)

Here is a summation of what I had written for him:

Dr Lyall Watson:

Uniformitarian geologists, including Darwinists, believe that around sixty-five million years ago the super continent they call Pangea broke up. The dinosaurs were dominant, but they then became extinct and the rise of the mammals began. It is believed that the only mammals then were tiny shrew- like creatures and that, due to the drift of the continents, they were separated into quite distinct populations.

But this presents a riddle.
Many of the mammals of Australia are marsupials, i.e. they produce their young in a near embryonic form and then nurture them in a pouch, like a kangaroo or koala. The great majority of mammals in the world are placental, that is, their young gestate inside them and are then born in a much more developed state than a marsupial.

There are many parallel developments of marsupial mammals in Australia with the placental mammals of Eurasia.
This is no mere general similarity but an almost perfect duplication of distinctive species such as cats, rats, wolves, moles, anteaters and so on, with the single difference that the Eurasian species are placental and their Australian counterparts marsupial.

The marsupial wolf of Tasmania is so similar to the placental European wolf that it requires careful expert examination of their skulls to distinguish them.
Also there are Australian marsupial jerboas that are virtual carbon copies of the placental European jerboa, as is the case with the Australian marsupial flying phalanger and the flying squirrel.

And one might also note the porcupines and pigs of South America bearing such strong similarity to those of the Old World although, once again, they are supposed to have evolved quite independently.

How then did it come about that in these distinct environments the same tiny ancestral mammal of sixty-five million years ago produced virtually the same range of large mammals today?

When the same anatomical feature comes about in different species Darwinists term it ´convergence´.

This is what they think has happened in the case of wings, which they believe to have evolved independently on four separate occasions; with birds, bats, insects and flying reptiles.

The Darwinists’ explanation of the enigma of the doppelgangers of Australia is that this (near total!) convergence comes about through the selection of random mutations.

In his book The Meaning of Evolution, Professor George Simpson provided the orthodox interpretation of these facts:
"Tasmanian wolves and true wolves are both running predators, preying on other animals of about the same size and habits. Adaptive similarity involves similarity also of structure and function. The mechanism of such evolution is natural selection."

As Arthur Koestler observed:
"You might just as well say, with the benefit of hindsight, that there is only one way of making a wolf, which is to make it look like a wolf".
Is it really rational to accept that just the chance and necessity of neo- Darwinists’ random mutation coupled with natural selection accounts for the enigma?

Their response to the problem of the marsupials reveals the synthetic theory’s inability to explain a key real life biological problem.

To many commentators the refusal of neo-Darwinists to acknowledge the problem is no less remarkable and mysterious than the facts themselves, because the occurrence in isolated environments of such striking similarities in form is the strongest possible indication that natural selection of genetic mutations by itself could not have been the process that led to them, and also the strongest possible indication of some other important process or processes at work which acted in some way to limit or direct the repertoire of evolution.

The point I had written for him was one to which he himself refers on pages 235 to 236 of his book Dark Nature (Hodder and Stoughton, hdbk. 1995.)

I was surprised by Dr Watson’s disassociation from a viewpoint that he had expressed in a book published just two years previously, and wrote back to ask what had caused his change of mind.

I received no reply.

In conclusion: I note that it was as I came from a court, after serving papers in a (just) case which I would win, that I encounter Dr Watson as he arrives from Baker St.

The book I had with me, Darwin for Beginners, presents an investigation of

The strange case of Charles Darwin and evolution

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