Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Cover: Space Telegraph Science Institute
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 3/20/2004
Summary: The first 100 pages are mind-altering. A must read.
One of the worst stunts you can pull in a book review is to say that one part of a book is superlative and the other part lousy. Even worst than that is to recommend buying the book. Lynne McTaggart’s THE FIELD fits this situation to a “t”. (If you want only the facts on the Zero-Point Field, you should go to the internet and read Bernhard Haisch’s article in From Science & Spirit Magazine, or an equally excellent article by Dr. H. E. Puthoff, “Quantum Vacuum Fluctuations: A New Rosetta Stone of Physics?” Both gentlemen are sources in McTaggart’s book).
The first 100 of the 271 pages in this book are a work of pure craftsmanship, showing a command of subject that truly makes it entertaining and informative. The secret to reading those first 100 pages is to not let your perspective get collared by what the author is pushing in the remaining 171 pages. Think physics.
Starting with former Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, McTaggart opens up the world of perception-what we see or think we see and the effects of environment upon that perception. It is a not so subtle introduction to quantum physics in which the issue of being an observer and measuring what is observed disintegrates into an incredible world of fuzzy probabilities. It is impossible to observe and objectively quantify at the same time. Astronaut Mitchell, for example, underwent a transformation from solitary scientific observer into the realm of fuzziness during his trip to the moon in 1971. McTaggart describes it as a feeling of connectedness, “as if all the planets and all the people of all time were attached by some invisible web”. It is one way to introduce the concept of the Zero Point Field.
In brief, the Zero Point Field is thought to be “the energy present in the emptiest state of space at the lowest possible energy, out of which no more energy could be removed”. It is Einstein’s energy equals mass times the speed of light (E = mc) where mass is the same as energy. Zero point energy is forever present even in a void. Everything we perceive as matter, even what we perceive as thought, is merely the coalescence of Zero point energy into a larger domain of harmonious energy resulting in mass. It is a nice, neat theory that could explain the workings of electro-magnetic energy, the weak and strong forces of particles and the jewel of physics, gravity.
The exciting thing about the Zero Point Field is not the answers its provides, but the questions it allows to be raised. McTaggart presents those questions through snippets of research being conducted by a number scientists. She eventually jumps onto this track of how complex biological systems might be relying upon the Zero Point Field as the basis for communicating the processes of life. In looking at the work of French scientist Jacques Benveniste and his “memory of water”, she examines the possible scientific basis of homeopathy and homeopathic medicine. It is an excellent presentation, though Benveniste’s research is eventually shot down by his peers. This, by the way, is the high point of McTaggart’s presentation of possible consequences emanating from the Zero Point Field-that matter, water in this instance, can retain”“memory” of manipulation of Zero point energy. (These non-scientific inferences concerning the Zero Point Field, or Higgs field vacuum expectation value, or Higgs field as it is known in some circles, makes two assumptions: first, that the field exists, and second that it acts upon all particles, though not equally).
Imagine for a moment that the universe, at the very beginning of time, is one expansive flat energy plane. We currently have no way of defining this energy because we have never seen or measured the particle from which it is made. We do however have a way of measuring its effects. According to the inferences, the formation of a hydrogen element is the result of energy manipulation in the Zero Point Field. What causes the manipulation? It is an unknown. One of the characteristics of the Zero Point Field is that all parts of it (a hydrogen atom created in one place) is linked to every other part. Does the manipulation of one part of the Zero Point Field to create a hydrogen atom have a corresponding effect in some other pat of the Zero Point Field? Is the totality of the field decreased by the creation of that one hydrogen atom?
McTaggart presents a very strong case that our consciousness is a product of the Zero Point Field. How do thoughts instantaneously fly through our heads? The mechanics of chemical exchanges in the brain does not explain it. There is a something that ties the physical universe together. It is highly speculative to suggest that there is also something that ties human thought–all 6 billion plus pulsating heads–together as well. Speculative though it is, it does make logical and “gut” sense.
The author goes into great detail to explain “mind” experiments with random number generators, and random event generators in an attempt to justify the statement that “pure energy as it exists at the quantum level does not have time or space, but exists as a vast continuum of fluctuating charge”. Interesting stuff. From this it is a quick hop and jump to assume that the mind can influence the physical world. Okay. But unfortunately, knowing that 72 per cent of Princeton graduation days within a thirty-year period were sunny while the surrounding towns had only 67 percent of sunny days adds absolutely nothing to the assumption. Practically the last third of McTaggart’s book is filled with these “statistical” vignettes describing the effects of mind over matter. News flash: using statistics to describe any characteristic of thought is like using a sludge hammer to describe the function of a safety pin. Think about it.
Despite the shortcomings in the final section of The Field, it is a book definitely worth reading. The author makes the rather radical leap from physics to new age science with a fairly big safety net. The safety net being the ignorance of science in the realm of human thought.