Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Andy SmithAndrew P. Smith, who has a background in molecular biology, neuroscience and pharmacology, is author of e-books Worlds within Worlds and the novel Noosphere II, which are both available online. He has recently self-published "The Dimensions of Experience: A Natural History of Consciousness" (Xlibris, 2008).


God in the Vacuum

A Critique of Lexi Neale's Integral Relativity

Andy Smith

We get a sort of intellectual pyramid scheme, where one author or group proposes one theory, some other author cites that as evidence for his own theory...

OK, Integral World class! Everyone who has read and understands Lexi Neale, raise your hand!

… Anyone?… Anyone?

That’s what I thought. He’s dense and difficult to follow—someone here remarked to me that he couldn’t get through more than a few pages of Neale “without going into a coma”—let alone to explain to others. But I'm going to try to do that here, because he’s making extraordinary claims, and such claims demand not only extraordinary evidence (which I will maintain he doesn't have), but also some effort to clarify.

In his recent article “Integral Relativity of Awareness and Energy - The Continuum of Consciousness, Energy, Mind and Matter,” [NeuroQuantology 16, 2018] which seems to be a fairly complete summary of his work to date, he describes his theory in this way:

Integral Relativity is an extension of General and Special Relativity, where the equation of Energy and Mass can be further correlated, via the Observer Effect and its extensions, with the equation of Energy and Awareness.
Lexi Neale
Lexi Neale

Ken Wilber was once described as the “Einstein of consciousness research.” Neale seems to be taking that notion a step further, by claiming that he has a theory analogous to Einstein’s, that actually describes consciousness. To that end, this article is loaded with formulas and equations that very few, if any, readers of this site will understand. I’m not going to pretend I understand them all, either, but then again, I’m not sure Neale himself does. All of them, along with their explanations in the text, appear to have been copied (plagiarized?) from another paper, which I will also discuss in detail. In any case, the math, elegant as it may be, doesn’t provide any evidence for his claims. It would be more accurate to say it’s a way of presenting those claims, of dressing them up so that they appear rigorous and scientific. But are they? That’s what we will consider here.

I think Neale’s work is best introduced in terms of two major concepts: the AQAL cube and the quantum vacuum, also known as the zero point field (ZPF). I will be discussing both in more detail later, but for now, his AQAL cube is an extension of Wilber's well-known AQAL into a third dimension. AQAL can be described as two-dimensional in that it’s based on two axes—subjective/objective and individual/social, which when combined generate the four quadrants, all of which can be depicted in a two-dimensional plane, such as in a diagram on a page. Neale adds a third axis, which he describes as physical vs. non-physical, to generate a cube with eight fundamental perspectives.

What is Non-Material Consciousness that it can be differentiated from Matter/Mind as equally AQAL?… It will be proposed that the Transpersonal, while on the one hand is Subtle as a Level in the AQAL Square, is also an entire Non-Material AQAL dimension in the AQAL Cube.

Neale thus makes an important distinction between consciousness or awareness, on the one hand, which he calls the subtle domain, and what he refers to as concrete mind, on the other (the gross level). In his view, consciousness is non-physical or non-material, and should be viewed as existing in another dimension—actually, as we will see, many more dimensions, than physical matter. Even at this stage, though, he is confusing, because he uses the term “subtle” in two different, and somewhat exclusive ways. First, as I just noted, he says the subtle realm is identical to his non-physical dimensions:

The four lower octants 2,4,6,8 pertain to the Physical Universe (3 & 4 D Concrete Domain), and the four upper octants 1,3,5,7 pertain to the Meta-Physical Universe (5 & nD Subtle Domain).

An Integral Cosmological Template

Source: Neale, L (2018)

But elsewhere he uses subtle to refer only to what he calls 5-dimensional spaces, distinguishing it from the still higher causal that inhabits “nD”, or infinitely-dimensional spaces:

Integral Relativity proposes that modes or lenses of Awareness are differentiated variously as Sensory, Mind, Consciousness, and Witness, each according to the Hilbert Space they occupy as a Spectrum Domain; where Sensory awareness is 3D, Mind is 4D, Consciousness is 5D, and Witness/Knower are nD Hilbert Spaces. So each mode taken by an Observer is differentiated and defined by a correlated experiential injunction of the mode of awareness. 3D and 4D awareness are of the Concrete/Physical Spectrum; 5D awareness is of the Subtle Spectrum; nD awareness is of the Causal Spectrum.

The view of consciousness as non-material is critical to the second important concept in Neale’s work: the quantum vacuum or zero point field (ZPF). This is a difficult idea to understand, just because quantum physics is involved. In classical physics, the zero point field would be understood as a true vacuum, containing no matter and no energy. Quantum systems, however, constantly fluctuate in their energy levels, which implies that there is no continuous state of zero energy. The vacuum is thought of as a field, in which the fluctuations in energy result in quantum particles literally coming into and going out of existence. It is not stable, but in constant flux, almost as if it were alive, or even conscious.

In fact, in Neale’s view, the ZPF is conscious, at least from the point of view of higher dimensions. In support of this, he cites quantum theories of consciousness, particularly that proposed by Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose (1995; 2014), which argue that consciousness may result from quantum wave collapse events taking place in the brain. However, Neale does not equate the ZPF with just a very rudimentary consciousness, as a conventional panpsychist might do (and as Hameroff seems to do), but with the ultimate or causal (in Wilber's terminology) level of consciousness. He does this by taking advantage of the AQAL cube’s distinction between the physical and non-physical aspects of the ZPF. To repeat, while the physical aspects, which are the matter and energy, are familiar to physics, he claims it’s the non-physical aspects that manifest consciousness or awareness. In this way he avoids equating consciousness with what in the conventional scientific view is the lowest and least complex form of matter:

Whereas the Zero Point Field and its pre-quantum Mind correlate provide the ground of physical being, this is NOT the Ground of All Being of spiritual fame. To include the latter we now consider the “big picture” of Integral Relativity – by including the Subtle Energy Spectrum and its Subtle Consciousness correlate.

As we will see, one way he expresses this distinction is to say that a photon, as it exists in an infinitely-dimensional universe, is consciousness.

When the frequency of the 3D photon [i.e., a photon as conventionally observed and understood by physics] increases to an infinite value, it also enters higher dimensions of Hilbert space. Finally, in n- dimensional Hilbert space the energy of photons is transformed into the energy of consciousness

This ultimate or ZPF consciousness in Neale’s view creates the entire rest of the universe. The following passage is taken not from Neale, but from a group on whose work he draws (Sorli et al. 2016), and of which he clearly approves:

The universe is eternally NOW and space plays an active role into evolution of life; it is sending information into 3D quantum vacuum which generates living organisms. Evolution of life cannot be imagined without space and 3D quantum vacuum as originators of life. All over the universe matter has tendency to develop into intelligent and conscious organisms whose evolution tends to rediscover the fundamental 3D quantum vacuum itself.

So both Sorli et al. and Neale adopt Wilber’s view (and that of many older knowledge systems) that the universe began with the highest possible consciousness (God by any other name). This consciousness creates the physical world by a process that Wilber refers to as involution. The physical world, guided by the non-physical consciousness, then evolves back to its original state. Neale, you could say, is trying to flesh out Wilber’s view, providing some details of the process.

This, in the simplest possible terms, is a summary of Neale's work. Keeping this in mind, let’s now try to delve into the details.

The Eight-fold way

Lexi Neale first burst on the scene—at least on the Integral World scene [May 2011]—with his article “The AQAL Cube. A Second Tier Differentiation of Ken Wilber’s AQAL Square.” He boldly described the cube as “the first major development in Integral Theory since Wilber introduced the AQAL Square model in 1995.” (Wilber, while posting some of Neale’s work at his own website, did not agree, calling it an extension of some of his ideas). Both major concepts I just mentioned earlier are made clear in one of the first sentences:

Integral Theory is increasingly coming under fire as not viable for integrating the non-material issues being raised by Transpersonal research at one extreme to Quantum Consciousness research at the other

He goes on to claim that his AQAL cube addresses the first issue:

in transcending and including the AQAL Square, the AQAL Cube differentiates and integrates the non-material dimension of Consciousness that I will attempt to show has always been implicit in the AQAL Model

Wilber's "Eight Primordial Perspectives" (Integral Spirituality, p. 36, 2006).

I pointed out earlier that Wilber's AQAL model is based on two axes, generating four quadrants. Even prior to Neale’s cube, though, Wilber had already presented another axis, inside/outside. The idea is that any entity, or holon, in the four quadrants can be viewed from both the inside or the outside, resulting in eight fundamental perspectives or octants. As an example, Wilber discusses an individual observing his identity:

the experience of an "I" in the UL [upper left] Quadrant. That "I" can be looked at from the inside or the outside. I can experience my own "I" from the inside [Octant 1], in this moment, as the felt experience of being a subject of my present experience, a 1st person having a 1st person experience. If I do so, the results include such things as introspection, meditation, phenomenology, contemplation, and so on (all simply summarized as phenomenology… ) But I can also approach this "I" from the outside [Octant 2], in the stance of an objective or "scientific" observer. I can [do] so in my own awareness (when I try to be "objective" about myself, or try to "see myself as others see me")[1]

Neale argues that this distinction between “I” and “me” reflects a non-material dimension, conscious experience, which he generally refers to as subtle, that needs to be differentiated from the material, which he calls concrete mind. In fact, based on Wilber’s description of the octants as pronouns—I, me, we, us, and so on—Neale provides an alternative naming of his third axis, possessive (corresponding to material, as in an object that is mine) and non-possessive (a felt experience, in Wilber’s terms, that is not “owned” by anyone):

Like the AQAL Square, we have the Subjective/Objective and Individual/Collective axes, now called Subjective/Objective and Singular/Plural; and on the vertical axis we have Possessive (Below) and Non-Possessive (Above). Possessive pertains to our material/physical identity; and Non-Possessive pertains to our non-material/non-physical identity. These are in complete correspondence with Wilber's "Outside" and "Inside" views: The tangible and the intangible.

He goes on to say:

This then begs the question: what brings the third "Inside/Outside" dimension into being, to transform the AQAL Square into the AQAL Cube? The answer suggests an emergent property of Consciousness that can take "Inside" and "Outside" perspectives.

As far as I can tell, he never describes this emergent property further, or says when it emerges. He instead embarks on a discussion of personal pronouns, and how they reflect the way consciousness distinguishes various aspects of self. He argues that the creation of these pronouns in different languages reflects the existence of these various perspectives.

The very way our eight fundamental perspectives are generated as an AQAL Cube, through the biological necessity for an organism to identify itself and its environment, has also predicated our need to identify these fundamental perspectives in language.

He makes the same point in his Integral Relativity paper:

The fact that there are eight First Person, eight Second and Eight Third Person pronouns in every language (some of which conflate or lose one or two) shows how our cultural awareness automatically and inevitably uses the octo-dynamic template as the basis of our perception

In claiming that the eight fundamental perspectives of his AQAL cube reflect and correspond to eight personal pronouns, I think Neale is stretching the truth to fit his theory. Though he never spells out exactly what these pronouns are—rather surprising since he claims they are strong validation of his cube—I think this is what he has in mind:

  • First person singular subjective non-possessive: I (plural: we)
  • First person singular subjective possessive: my (plural: our)
  • First person singular objective non-possessive: me (plural: us)
  • First person singular objective possessive: mine (plural: ours)

I agree that these distinctions are real and useful, but it’s questionable whether they are fundamental. Other first person pronouns could be named, such as the reflexive myself and ourselves, which imply both possessive and non-possessive characteristics. And there are clearly far more than eight third person pronouns, since we distinguish male and female, he and she, as well as non-human or non-living objects, it. Third person pronouns also include demonstrative forms, such as this and that, interrogative forms such as who and which, reciprocal forms such as each, and still others.

In addition, the second and third person pronouns imply somewhat different perspectives from that of the first person pronoun. The pronouns “you” and “he/she/it” are subjects in the sense that they are engaged in some action, but that is not the same sense of subject as is used in AQAL. When we use the term “I” we are implying a subjective experience. When we use the term “you” or “he/she/it” we are not implying such an experience. We are referring to other people or things objectively.

Figure 1. The AQAL Cube Psychograph

In any case, what Neale is leading up to is the complaint that Wilber does not make the same type of interior/exterior distinction in the right hand quadrants as in the left hand ones:

Going back to Wilber's First Person differentiation of an Inner and Outer "I" and an Inner and Outer "We", he does not extend this argument to the First Person Right Hand Quadrants. To continue to Octant 5 [a portion of the AQAL cube corresponding to the upper right quadrant], this is the Distal Self, or the way I formulate my Proximate Self as a Persona in its true etymological sense, as my mask, as how "I" self-identify as "Me". This is the All Level "Me" Inside… And the corresponding behavior of this Persona is "My" personality Outside or how "I" want others to identify with “My"self.

Why doesn’t Wilber make this distinction? Well, he understands interiors and exteriors in the right hand quadrants in a very different way:

The inside of an exterior holon means anything going on inside the boundaries of an (individual or social) holon as seen and described in third-person, exterior, it-language—things like the mitochondria in a cell, the flora and fauna in an ecosystem, the ribonucleic (sic) acid in a nucleus, data bits (or "b/its") in an information network, the planets in a solar system, and so on.

The outside of an exterior holon means anything on the outside of that holon's boundary (or external to its autopoietic regime). Outside an individual mitochondria (sic) is the rest of the cell. Outside of an individual organism is the local ecosystem. Outside of a social holon (in Luhmann's sense) there are other social holons. Outside of a given ecosystem there are other ecosystems, and so on. Those are all the outsides of the exteriors (all of which are described in third-person singular or plural terms and accessed only via third-person perspectives and modes of inquiry).[2]

To Wilber, interiors/exteriors in the right quadrants, which are the objective side of AQAL, are purely empirical. This contrasts with Neale’s view, in which the interiors and exteriors appear considerably less so. To get a better idea of what he means, we can consult an appendix to this article, where Neale elaborates further on these right hand interiors and exteriors:

Octant 5 [the first person singular interior]: Distal Self (Persona) as the "Me" Consciousness. Objectively differentiated from the Proximate Self of Octant 1, the Persona is how the Self sees itself as a Self- image. This is the intentional persona of the Enneagram, the objective evaluator of the Self-system and home of the Self-judging Super-Ego and various inner voices.

This sure sounds subjective to me. Neale may claim that this distal self is not the same as the proximate self, but that difference doesn’t mean that the view isn’t just as subjective. The fact that Neale refers to “inner voices” practically makes it subjective by definition. While Neale may have a different understanding of what objective and subjective mean, in the general usage, which is followed by Wilber, subjective refers to something private and personal, while objective refers to public and shared. The existence of trees, buildings, other organisms and so forth, is something we all share, so these are considered objective phenomena (even if subjectivity enters into our perception of them). A distal self, or any other view of a self by a specific individual, is not public and shared in this sense. Most people I think would regard it as subjective, even if to that particular individual it appears more objective than the proximal self.

I want to note in passing that the entire notion that a phenomenon can be both non-material and objective appears to be novel with Neale. Many philosophers, of course, have postulated that consciousness is non-material—beginning with Descartes. But all of them, as far as I know, assumed that anything non-material is subjective. Neale is proposing that there can be non-material phenomena that are objective. While I disagree with him about this when it comes to the first person, the possibility of third person phenomena is not logically dismissed, though it still sounds dubious to me. To repeat, objective generally refers to shared experiences, and I don’t see how the perception of non-material phenomena can be shared in that way.

Octant 6 [the first person singular exterior]: Behavioral Persona as the "My" Mind. Objectively differentiated from the Material Self of Octant 2, the Behavioral Persona is the objective expression of Mind as our Personality and its Enneatypes. This is the arena of behavioral psychology with the cognitive, affective, psychosexual Lines as applied to personality behavior.

If by behavioral persona Neale means our behavior as observed by others, I would agree that it’s an objective perspective, and basically in agreement with Wilber. While the example from the latter I cited above only described an exterior view of a holon’s structure (the outside of a cell), exteriors in Wilber’s system, at least as interpreted by others, generally include behavior as well. But when Neale mentions behavioral psychology, he certainly implies a lot of subjectivity, and in any case, he apparently regards this exterior only in the form of behavior, not structure. So he clearly has no room in his system for interiors or exteriors in the sense that Wilber defines them.

What does Wilber himself have to say about this? As I noted earlier, he posted some of Neale’s work on his website. After mildly praising it as an extension of his work, but not a new development, he explains:

The reason these types of extensions are not fundamental is that 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-person are not fundamental—what is fundamental is just the inside and outside of the individual and collective—those are the four quadrants. At red altitude, we introduce 1st-person; at amber, 2nd person; at orange, 3rd-person; at green, 4th person; at teal, 5th-person; at turquoise, 6th-person; and at indigo, 7th-person. Those types of things are missed by “cube” approaches, which make 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-person fundamental at every level. At each of those higher levels, what is actually present is simply a variation on the inside and outside of the individual and collective, reflexively applied. Making “1st- , 2nd-, and 3rd- person” actually fundamental misses all of this; nor, in fact, do “1st- , 2nd-, and 3rd- person” go all the way down—only the inside and outside of the individual and collective go all the way down.[3]

I guess I haven't been keeping up with Wilber (well, I know I haven’t been). I wasn’t aware that there were 4th, 5th, etc., person perspectives. How do they work? In any case, there doesn’t seem to have been much useful to emerge from the exchange. Wilber never addresses Neale’s criticism that his inside and outside in the right hand quadrant is not consistent with the way he defines it in the left hand. Neale, on the other hand, has no room in his system to address Wilber’s view of right hand interiors and exteriors. He concludes:

The emerging picture is clear, that the AQAL Square appears to flatland the Material/Physical with the Non-Material in both the Upper Left and Right Quadrants, while at the same time still making that differentiation by proxy.
Wilber never addresses Neale’s criticism that his inside and outside in the right hand quadrant is not consistent with the way he defines it in the left hand. Neale, on the other hand, has no room in his system to address Wilber’s view of right hand interiors and exteriors.

What does Neale mean by this? In the left hand quadrants, Wilber tends to conflate phenomena that have a clear physical basis with consciousness, which he regards as something different. As I’ve pointed out before, an example of such a phenomenon is language, which clearly has a material component. It would be possible for a zombie, with no conscious experience, to listen to and respond to language. In fact, most language processing in the brain goes on unconsciously. We can argue whether an unconscious zombie could actually “understand” language, since it would not have an experience of meaning, but language is not entirely a subjective phenomenon. To put it succinctly, Wilber doesn’t make the distinction between David Chalmers's soft or functional aspects of consciousness, and the hard aspects, i.e., qualia. They seem to be lumped together in the left hand quadrants. I think this is the distinction that Neale is getting at when he says consciousness vs. concrete mind.

The inference is that the view Outside is Mind, and the view Inside is Consciousness; and that Consciousness is the non-material experiencer through Mind as the material inner experience, where material inner experience is the Mind's interpretation of the information available to it as intelligence.

In the right hand quadrant, on the other hand, Wilber’s original four axis diagram depicted only material structures, such as various levels of nervous systems, culminating in the human brain. But Neale points out that Wilber has extended this to what he calls subtle realms, in order to deal with higher states of consciousness. Neale argues that these realms need to be differentiated into gross structures, such as the brain, and subtle energies. Just as our mind is associated with a brain, our consciousness is associated with some form of subtle energy.

the AQAL Cube differentiates Gross structures of increasing complexity (Below, Upper Right, on Octant 6) from corresponding Subtler Energies (Above, Upper Right, on Octant 5). This classification maps Energy Bodies (Octant 5) as used by Consciousness Identity States (Octant 1); and these correlate with the Body/Brain Structures (Octant 6), as used by Mind Structures (Octant 2).

Conventional science, of course, associates both mind and consciousness with the physical brain. So it’s important to emphasize that Neale is challenging this, and arguing that consciousness, in his view a non-material as well as subjective phenomenon, is associated not with the objective and material brain, but with an objective and non-material energy body.

I want to make two comments on Neale’s view of non-material consciousness. First, he supports it with reference to reports that some form of consciousness can survive death. For example, he discusses the case of a young child who claimed to have memories of being an American pilot who was shot down and died during World War II. Apart from aspects of this story that have been challenged by skeptics—not to mention the classical problem that always confronts a dualistic view of consciousness—it seems inconsistent with reincarnation of a non-material consciousness. Memories result from material processes in the brain, so how could this consciousness have any memories of a person who had died?

It seems to me that Neale and others who believe in reincarnation, memories of past lives, and so on, have to go through enormous contortions to address this point. For example, as I will discuss later, Neale, in his Integral Relativity paper, also mentions the work of paranormal researcher, Gary Schwartz, who uses mediums he claims can communicate with the deceased. How do they do this if the deceased consciousness is independent of the brain? Through “high frequency awareness”. Come on. It doesn’t matter how high frequency the consciousness is, if it’s not associated with a human brain, it can’t manifest brain dependent functions like language and memory. If it can—if there can be free-floating consciousnesses that can communicate in language about material events on earth—what’s the purpose of the brain?

Second, because Neale’s AQAL cube differentiates subjective-objective from material-non-material, it follows that both consciousness and mind can have both objective and subjective aspects.

Mind is the First Person AQAL [subjective] experience of material Energy via [objective] material Structure/States; and Consciousness is the First Person [subjective] AQAL experiencer of Energy via [objective] non-material Identity Structure/States.

I have already mentioned an issue raised regarding the objective aspects: the distal self seen as something more objective than the proximate self. Likewise, when Neale shifts to the third person perspective, he defines Octant 5, which is the non-material portion of the right hand quadrant, as prepersonal, ego, integrated and transpersonal, depending on the individual’s level of development. These seem to me more like labels for certain consciousness states than actual structures or bodies in the sense that the material brain is.

There is also an issue raised with regard to the subjective aspects. Neale says:

the AQAL Square gets a little shaky in the Upper Left in trying to differentiate a subjective experiencer-as-Consciousness from the subjective experience-as-Mind.

In the modern scientific view, consciousness has a dual aspect. We generally not only experience an object, or other, that is outside of ourselves; we simultaneously have an experience of an I, or subject, that is having this experience. In other words, most cognitive scientists would argue that there is no such distinction as implied in that passage. All conscious experiences involve both.

Neale may have this in mind when he says that consciousness:

is first fused with the Lower Mind and later differentiated from the Higher Mind, where Mind is the subjective experience of phenomena

I suppose Neale is referring to this differentiation when he claims, as I quoted earlier, that there is “an emergent property of Consciousness that can take "Inside" and "Outside" perspectives.” As I said earlier, though, he never indicates exactly when and where this differentiation takes place. He continues,

When we have Consciousness we are self-aware as the experiencer; when we are unconscious we are aware only of our experience, which is Mind.
The Dimensions of Experience

I would have thought that by definition when we are unconscious, we are not aware of anything, that there is no experience to be conscious of. In any case, as I have discussed in great detail in The Dimensions of Experience, awareness of experience appears to go hand-in-hand with awareness of being something that has that experience. To the extent that lower organisms have awareness of their environment, they almost certainly also have awareness of themselves as separate from that environment. So while we can make a conceptual distinction between an experiencer and what is experienced, in practice, they almost always seem to go together.

There may be—in fact, there certainly is, at lower if not higher levels of existence—a form of consciousness that makes no distinction between the experiencer and the experienced. That is, it does not have this dual experience of both a self and an other. This state, which I refer to as zero-dimensional, is probably approximated by very primitive organisms, as well as by our own species at birth. It may also be a form of higher consciousness that many have experienced, or claim to have experienced. This is very different, though, from having an experience without being aware of being a subject. In the zero-dimensional state, to repeat, there is no distinction between the two.

To summarize, Neale’s AQAL cube generates eight fundamental perspectives. In his paper "Integral Relativity of Awareness and Energy", he elaborates on them:

The Eight Fundamental Perspectives are the basis of the Integral Model where any specified entity, such as a photon, has an interior aspect, an exterior aspect, an individual aspect, a collective aspect, a local aspect and a non-local aspect. [here he uses local vs. non-local rather than physical and non-physical, and in a way different from the way a quantum physicist would use the term]. These six polarities through recombination give eight fundamental perspectives of that photon, or of that organism which must learn to survive through these perspectives.

Neale is clearly enamored with the number eight. Like many New Age authors, he endows this (or some other) number with profound significance. I have already discussed his claim that pronouns developed to express this eight-fold classification. He cites other phenomena that he believes also reflect these fundamental perspectives:

In the Standard Model, a single wave takes subatomic form through four force fields and four fundamental particles; the atomic form expands through shells of eight electrons as the Periodic Table; 4 x 2 amino acid pairs expand as a molecular octo-dynamic code to become a cell’s DNA molecule; the first eight embryonic cells as a blastula differentiate into the eight separate organ systems of the body, and so on.

Every one of these claims is, at best, a stretch, and at worst, outright false:

  1. There are four known fundamental forces of course, but what are the four fundamental particles? They are usually described as fermions and bosons, of which there are several kinds. One can come up with four if one selects some of those kinds, but that is a fairly arbitrary choice. Similarly, Neale refers to Garrett Lisi’s work on E8, which is simply the name given to a kind of algebra, not a system where the number eight is prominent. It is not evidence of a “an octo-dynamic continuum of coded intentional Awareness/Energy”.
  2. The Periodic Table is set up so that a new row begins when a new electron shell is added. But the shells only contain eight electrons for the first two rows. After that, they contain more.
  3. Beyond the fact that DNA is composed of nucleotide base pairs, not amino acid pairs (how could someone with a degree in Zoology not know this? and what kind of peer review process would not notice this?), 4 x 2 = 8 is not a key number. There are four different nucleotide bases, and they do form pairs, but the key number is three, the number of bases in a codon that specify a particular amino acid. There are 43 = 64 possible codons, though since there are only about twenty amino acids, most of the codons are nonsense sequences and don’t appear in coding regions. The number eight is irrelevant; Neale is just focussing on it because his model has eight dimensions, but there is no relationship whatsoever between those dimensions and the fact that there are four different nucleotide bases that pair with each other. In fact, there are only two kinds of pairs, A-G and C-T. No number eight arises.
  4. Similarly, Neale’s claim that the first eight cells formed by a fertilized egg have special significance is bogus. Since cell division results in an progressive increase in the number of cells by a factor of two, there is a stage in which eight cells exist, but there’s nothing special about it. They don’t differentiate into eight separate organ systems. Recent work has shown clearly that there is no distinguishing path leading from a certain early cell in the blastula to a certain cell type or tissue or organ system, of which there are many more than eight in any case.
Examples like these not only show that Neale sometimes misrepresents facts, but tries to find validation for his model in all kinds of phenomena that should not have any relevance to it.

Examples like these not only show that Neale sometimes misrepresents facts, but tries to find validation for his model in all kinds of phenomena that should not have any relevance to it. Even if there is some validity to the model, there is no reason to believe that it implies that the number eight is found in a wide number of phenomena. The fact that there are four fundamental physical forces does not suggest to physicists that everything in nature should reflect the number four. Obviously, the interplay of these forces leads to far more complex outcomes. Even if there are eight fundamental perspectives, how in the world could that result in eight different tissues? Tissues are a material phenomenon, and half of the eight perspectives are non-material. That Neale would be obsessed with this number is just silly.

Quantum Consciousness

The Emperor's New Mind

As I pointed out earlier, Neale believes that a second major failing or inadequacy of Wilber’s AQAL is that it doesn’t address the issues raised by quantum theories of consciousness. These theories, which postulate that consciousness is the result of quantum events in the brain, are held by only a minority of scientists, but they have stimulated enormous interest among many in the spiritual community, particularly the model originally proposed by Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose (1996).

About thirty years ago, Penrose, a physicist, published a book, The Emperor’s New Mind, in which he argued that the human brain operates or can operate by in some cases, by what is called a non-computable process. A computable process is one which involves one or more specific algorithms, or set of instructions, that determine the result. Earlier in this last century, the mathematician Kurt Godel proved that no mathematical system, involving such algorithms, can be both complete and consistent. Penrose maintained that human minds can prove theses that are unprovable by Godel, and therefore we must have access to non-computable processes.

In an attempt to find a basis for this, Penrose proposed the collapse of the quantum wave function, as this is believed to be random, or non-deterministic, and thus non-computable. In addition to many theoretical criticisms that Penrose received from mathematicians and physicists, a more practical problem was that quantum waves could not form in the brain, due to the relatively high temperatures and interference of molecules and other larger forms of matter (“warm, wet and noisy”). At this point, Stuart Hameroff, an anesthesiologist, suggested that quantum events could occur protected from such interference within microtubules, a polymer composed of macromolecules called tubulin, which are a key structural component of the brain. The two scientists then proposed a theory (Hameroff and Penrose 1996; 2014) in which quantum waves were able to perform computations, the results being transmitted by electrical or mechanical changes in the microtubules to other parts of the brain. Quantum collapse, in this view, results in brief instants of consciousness.

This theory, and others in which quantum events are proposed to underlie consciousness, have been heavily criticized by scientists in many different fields, including mathematics, physics, neurobiology and philosophy. For many years, it has been regarded as fringe science, not taken seriously by most of Hameroff’s and Penrose’s peers. On the other hand, some support for it has been provided by recent evidence that relatively long-lasting quantum states may occur in living tissues, including plants (Engel et. al. 2007; Lee et al. 2007) and birds (Pauls et al. 2013). The latter may make use of entanglement between two electrons in order to navigate by the earth's electromagnetic field. Still other studies have reported that microtubules exhibit very high conductivity for certain kinds of electrical currents, which is consistent with (though doesn't prove) quantum interactions (Sahu et al. 2013). In a recent review and summary (Hameroff and Penrose 2014), the model’s authors have provided a large number of details of how consciousness would emerge, and note that it generates many testable predictions, a few of which apparently have been confirmed.

Neale embraces this work eagerly. As we will see later, he uses it to support his view that consciousness is associated with high energy photons. But he takes the idea much further than scientists like Hameroff and Penrose do, and in the process, he has a tendency to play fast and loose with the facts:

In the mentioned Anirban Bandyopadhyay and Stuart Hameroff collaboration (2016), it has been demonstrated how, in the final stages of the above transduction, an encoded photon appropriately transduces its information to a biophoton, via selected Alpha/Beta dimers in the helix of a neuron’s microtubule, which is then brought into correlated 3D activity either via the cell’s DNA, or a larger neuronal network such as the brain itself. In the experiment one can actually see the dimers flashing on and off in the microtubule as the information is decoded/encoded from the photon to the biophoton. Nassim Haramein and William Brown (2017) show that this process is enabled by the coded resonance of the water column within the microtubule itself. Bandyopadhyay (2016) has recorded this symphonic resonance, showing how the biophotons are then converted to phonons, which then resonantly orchestrate the information into the coded assembly of ions and molecules as cellular messengers.
Anirban Bandyopadhyay
Anirban Bandyopadhyay

In the first place, there is no collaboration between Bandyopadhyay—who has published some key work on the properties of microtubules—and Hameroff that I'm aware of. It isn't listed in Neale's references, and I couldn’t find a paper with both their names on it anywhere on the internet. They are very much aware of each other's work, and are supportive of it, but as far as I know, neither researcher has ever mentioned the term biophoton in connection with their studies. Biophotons are relatively weak photons (also referred to as UPE, or ultra weak photon emissions) produced by living tissues, including the brain, and some evidence indicates that they may function as signals to communicate with other tissues (Musumeci et al. 1999; Jaffe 2005; Fels 2009; Sun et al. 2010; Dotta et al. 2012; Mothersill et al. 2013; Salari et al. 2015; Tessaro et al. 2019). But in the Hameroff-Penrose model of consciousness, quantum computations are carried out by electrons, not by photons. So the model does not actually provide direct support for Neale’s view.

That isn't to say photons couldn’t be involved, or that it isn't reasonable to cite the evidence for light-based signaling in the brain. Penrose has in fact suggested that quantum collapse “gives off fundamental units of conscious awareness, just like an electron orbital shift gives off a photon of light.”[4] But the model has been developed based on the properties of electrons in certain portions of tubulin molecules. Hameroff and Penrose don’t cite the literature on biophotons in support for the model, and they have not shown how a photon is “brought into correlated 3D activity either via the cell’s DNA, or a larger neuronal network such as the brain itself”. That description, as applied to quantum events in general, is purely speculative on their part. And they certainly don’t propose that consciousness is associated with photons that have an existence in a higher-dimensional, non-physical world, as we will see that Neale does. It’s perfectly acceptable for Neale to note similarities between his views and the quantum consciousness model, but it’s disingenuous to put words into other researchers’s mouths in order to validate his own ideas.

I likewise don’t understand what Neale is referring to when he says “one can actually see the dimers flashing on and off in the microtubule as the information is decoded/encoded from the photon to the biophoton.” Bandyopadhyay has published a study of microtubule assembly (Sahu et al. 2014), which shows how the dimers associate and form the larger complex, but there is nothing in this work about information being transferred from photons to biophotons. Again, he never seems to mention the term. The Haramein, et al. paper is theoretical. They discuss how ordered water molecules could play a role in quantum processing, they don’t provide evidence that it does, though another study by Bandyopadhyay does provide such evidence (Sahu et al. 2013).

I want to make two other comments on the quantum consciousness theory. First, while Neale, as we will see later, believes that the ultimate consciousness lies in (non- material dimensions of) the ZPF, Hameroff has a more modest view, more consistent with science, and which is akin to panpsychism:

I think a fundamental field of protoconscious experience has been embedded all along—since the big bang—in the Planck scale, and that biology evolved and adapted in order to access it and to maximize the qualities and potentials implicit within it.[5]

He and Penrose contrast this view with both the conventional scientific one, in which consciousness emerges from neuronal activity in the brain, and the spiritual or religious one, in which consciousness is non-material and not governed by laws of the physical world (he does not address non-dual consciousness). In this respect, Hameroff seems to distance himself from many New Age authors who have used his quantum theory as evidence for a higher consciousness, though he has frequently collaborated with such authors (e.g., Deepak Chopra).

The second point follows, that the hard problem of consciousness—how material processes can give rise to our experience of qualia—is addressed by assuming that this “protoconsciousness”, whatever that really means, has always existed, and was presumably amplified as evolution resulted in increasingly more complex brains. So I regard the Hameroff-Penrose view as a form of property dualism. Both matter and consciousness are fundamental aspects of the same phenomena.

Awareness and Energy

The AQAL cube, with its non-material dimensions that represent consciousness, and quantum theories of consciousness, which associate consciousness with quantum events in the brain, set the stage for Neale’s Integral Relativity paper. He postulates four tenets, all of which presuppose a close relationship between awareness or consciousness and energy:

1) The equation of awareness with energy. The two are considered to be basically the same phenomenon, or expression of the same phenomenon, which (according to tenet 3) is information. I think Neale likens the relationship to that of property dualism, where consciousness and matter are proposed to exist together, as two features or qualities of the same underlying phenomenon.

But I find him very confusing. At one point he seems to make a clear distinction between energy and awareness, claiming that there can be energy without awareness, and that energy without “super-positioned Awareness” is entropic. But he also says, “Any energetic phenomenon therefore has its correlate in Awareness from low frequency proto energy/awareness to enlightened high frequency Energy/Awareness as non-dual experience.” So which is it? Can there be energy without awareness, or is energy always correlated with awareness? In Wilberian AQAL terms, to say that energy is always correlated with awareness means that awareness is one aspect of energy, which in turns means that there can be no such thing as energy without awareness. This is also implied by Neale’s AQAL cube; as I just discussed, consciousness or awareness in the non-material portion of the left-hand quadrant is correlated with subtle energies in the non-material portion of the right-hand quadrant.

2) The conservation of awareness, which basically follows from (1), since science understands energy to be conserved. I find this tenet problematic, though, because Neale will later claim (in fact, in the third tenet, see below) that in n- or infinite-dimensional Hilbert spaces, consciousness and information are infinite. If they are infinite, how can one talk about their conservation? Conservation, as in conservation of energy, presupposes a finite amount of whatever is being conserved. If something is infinite, it doesn’t make sense to talk about its being conserved. Perhaps Neale is referring to lower dimensional worlds, where consciousness would be finite. But since he also claims that consciousness in these worlds is created by consciousness in higher dimensional worlds, and ultimately the infinite consciousness, conservation in this context doesn't seem to make sense, either.

3) The continuum of consciousness and energy. This tenet elaborates on (1), in that both energy and awareness are believed to be expressions of information.

Awareness and Energy are two sides of the same coin, where the coin itself is information.

Neale proposes that a kosmic constant governs the relationship of awareness to frequency, just as Planck’s constant expresses the relationship between a photon’s energy and its frequency. In his system, higher states of consciousness are associated with higher frequencies, with the highest or causal consciousness representing a limit manifesting infinite frequency. What he doesn’t emphasize, though it’s implied by his AQAL cube, is that awareness is related to only non-material forms of energy. It appears to have the same relationship to the latter as the concrete mind has to material forms of energy.

4) The integral relativity between observers and observed. Awareness and energy are postulated to operate in multi-dimensional Hilbert spaces, and the experience of an observer and observed are correlated according to the frequency of the space they’re located in. Again, this tenet is presented in a confusing manner. It seems to me that only the location of the observer is relevant, not the location of the observed. The AQAL model that underlies Neale’s theory implies that any observed phenomenon will have many different aspects, that is, exist in many different spaces, so what really matters is the space the observer is located in. That will decide the aspects of the observed object that the observing subject perceives. Neale himself takes this position later, when he eliminates the observed from the relationship:

The Fourth Tenet proposes that the perception of any given phenomenon is relative to the Awareness frequencies of the Observers of that phenomenon.

Whatever one thinks of these postulates, it’s important to understand that Neale has provided no evidence for them, though at various points he claims he has. For example, as proof for the first tenet he notes that a high degree of awareness enables one to order the world, to increase complexity. As a crude example, he notes that a blind person would take an astronomically long time to solve Rubik’s cube, whereas someone with vision can or might solve it in seconds or minutes. Ironically, though, he misses the point that Rubik’s cube could be solved by a zombie that took in visual information unconsciously. Solving this problem does not require consciousness in the sense of experience so much as a certain degree of pattern detection. In Neale’s model, this would be associated with the concrete or local mind, rather than consciousness itself.

Neale’s proof of the second tenet involves life after death experiences, which he argues show that consciousness is not lost upon death. This work is obviously highly controversial. Most scientists don’t accept it. Some of it, such as Gary Schwartz’s studies of deceased individuals who “are able to make temporary high-frequency access to physically interface with the medium’s high frequency awareness” demands that observers suspend all logic and commonsense.

Beyond that, Neale’s second tenet opens up all kinds of difficult issues. For example, if consciousness is a form of energy, and has a physical aspect, why can’t science document the loss of this physical energy when someone dies? Neale apparently believes that the consciousness lives on in a non-physical realm, where it is nothing at all like the consciousness that we humans experience of the material world and ourselves, but if this is the case, this movement out of the physical body should be able to be documented. It’s well established that the loss of physical energy from an object, say in the form of heat, can be quantitated. In fact, as Neale himself notes, the loss of information can also be correlated with heat. Why would it not be the same with consciousness?

Neale doesn’t really offer evidence for the third tenet, except to claim that the alleged causal or primordial degree of consciousness is a manifestation of infinite frequency. This is one of his key claims throughout the paper, as I will discuss later, but it’s pure speculation on his part.

Neale doesn’t really offer evidence for the third tenet, except to claim that the alleged causal or primordial degree of consciousness is a manifestation of infinite frequency. This is one of his key claims throughout the paper, as I will discuss later, but it’s pure speculation on his part.

Likewise, evidence for the fourth tenet rests on speculation that quantum collapse doesn’t actually exist, but is perceived as such by different states of consciousness. This, again, is a conclusion resulting from a premise, not from actual experiment or observation. This is typical of the way Neale proceeds.

To summarize, Neale believes that there is a very close relationship of awareness with energy, and that a higher degree of awareness is associated with more energy. I don’t think anyone would disagree with this. But it doesn’t demonstrate that they are one and the same thing, or expressions of the same thing. In nature, and in our technologically advanced society, we see numerous examples of energy that don’t seem to have any relationship to awareness.

The bottom line, for me, is that to equate energy and awareness, one needs a way of precisely measuring awareness, and we don’t have that. We can talk about states of awareness, with one state being higher or more aware than another, but we can’t quantitate the differences, as we can with energy.

Neale apparently thinks we can, citing as further evidence for his theory some studies by paranormal researcher Dean Radin:

Dean Radin’s double-slit experiments at I.O.N.S. with meditators worldwide, showing Sigma 7 levels of validity in correlating the meditator’s awareness with the behavior of photons…

Let’s examine this study. The double slit experiment is well-known in physics, as it illustrates the so-called quantum measurement problem (QMP). When a beam of light is aimed at a plate with two small openings or slits close together, a series of dark and light bands is observed on a screen behind the plate. The bands are typical of an interference pattern, and indicate that the light passes through both slits in the form of a wave. Different phases of each portion of the waves passing through the slits augment or decrease each other, resulting in the pattern of alternating light and dark bands.

double slit experiment

However, if we examine the interference pattern on the screen—the bands where light intensity is highest—it’s made up of single points, indicating that the bands were made by particles. It seems that the light passed through the slits as both a wave and as particles, or photons. Even more surprising, if we install an instrument at the slits to detect the light as it passes through them, the interference pattern disappears entirely. Each photon passes through just one or the other slit. This is known as the collapse of the wave function. All physicists agree that the collapse results from measurement of the photons—or at the very least, interaction of them with other, larger forms of matter. Some physicists, but certainly not all, also believe that the collapse is dependent on the consciousness of an observer measuring the light.

Dean Radin
Dean Radin

Radin and his collaborators (2012) wanted to test the effect of the observer directly. They instructed individuals to focus their attention on a double slit set up. The idea is that if consciousness alters quantum phenomena, and collapses the wave function, then one would see a decrease in wave behavior (interference pattern on the screen behind the double slits) relative to particle behavior (a cluster of dots behind one or the other of the slits) when individuals intentionally focus their consciousness on the apparatus. In some experiments, the individuals were instructed to focus their attention away from the double slit, the hypothesis being that there would be an increase in wave behavior. There was even an experiment in which the individuals observed data that had actually been recorded three months earlier, and were asked to focus attention (the individuals were not aware that the data were prerecorded, they thought they were viewing the data in real time). This was to test the notion that the time of observation is what matters, and that observation can have this collapse effect retroactively.

As usual in such studies, the effects were very small, though the level of significance claimed was very high—around 6 x 10-6. The authors also claimed that the effects were greater with meditators than non-meditators, and that EEG recordings showed that the effects were correlated with activity in the brain thought to represent attention.

One obvious problem I see with this study, with in fact all studies of meditators, is the assumption that people who claim to meditate are successful, that is, they actually have a higher level of awareness than people who don’t. Since, as I just pointed out, we can't quantitate awareness, we have no way of evaluating the awareness of people who claim they meditate. Experiments like this are basically trying to correlate two unknown variables.

Radin attempted to address this problem with a relatively crude measurement of attention. But meditation is not a process of increasing attention. It’s a process of increasing awareness. The two are very different. Anyone can increase his attention instantaneously, at any time, on anything, just by concentrating on some object. If I say to you, thinking or doing something else, pay attention to me! You can do this immediately, almost effortlessly. In contrast, no one can increase his awareness except through an extremely slow and difficult process that takes years, and which must go on all the time—not, as an extremely common misconception has it, by practicing an hour or two every day.6

But let’s assume that Radin has demonstrated some correlation between attention and the outcome of the double slit experiment. If you accept the high degree of significance of the results, it seems that the meditators are doing something that has an effect on the wave-particle behavior. The assumption is that conscious attention can be directed towards or away from some phenomenon, and that attention will have specific physical effects on that phenomenon. But Radin doesn’t say exactly how this can happen. In the traditional QMP, as I discussed earlier, the effect of consciousness refers to the act of consciously observing the quanta, in the act of measuring them. This is what, in the view of some physicists, collapses the wave function. (Though to repeat, this is a minority view).

But in Radin's study, the subjects weren’t, strictly speaking, observing anything. They were just imagining observing something. Any effect they had on the quantum behavior had to result not from consciousness per se, but from highly specific information in consciousness. In one case, according to Radin’s results, imagining increased collapse, while in another case (when attention was withdrawn from the double slit apparatus), imagining an opposite scenario decreased collapse.

That seems to me to be going far beyond the observer problem. Even assuming Radin’s data demonstrate an effect, they don’t support the notion that conscious measurement collapses the wave function. On the contrary, according to Radin, conscious attention can have an opposite effect. So how do you explain this? Another hypothesis is necessary, as Radin admits:

if some aspect of consciousness is a primordial, self-aware feature of the fabric of reality, and that property is modulated by us through capacities we know as attention and intention, then focusing attention on a double-slit system may in turn affect the interference pattern.

Radin refers to this possibility as consistent with panpsychism. Everything is conscious. We are imbedded in a sort of sea of consciousness, and every time we act intentionally or attentionally, we make waves, so to speak, in this sea, affecting the consciousness of everything else.

But postulating that all forms of existence are conscious (I myself am very sympathetic to this view) is very different from claiming that one form of consciousness can affect another, particularly when the other is a quantum particle that even the most enthusiastic supporters of panpsychism would concede would have an extremely rudimentary form of consciousness. We could model the panpsychist view by saying that the world is like a room in which only human beings are present. Thus everything in this hypothetical room is conscious. But it doesn’t follow that conscious intent or attention on the part of one individual, apart from any known physical interaction, affects the consciousness of another. I might imagine pushing or physically contacting someone on the far side of the room, but that does not result in that person experiencing being pushed.

In most views of panpsychism, everything is like the people in the room, except that some forms of existence have a much lower level of consciousness than others. There is no proposal that all the consciousnesses are interconnected in some way. So not only does Radin have to appeal to panpsychism, but to a form of it that's quite different from what philosophers who defend it would normally understand it as. He’s added an entire new condition or complication in order for his experiment to work. He isn't addressing the QMP problem, but paranormal phenomena that most physicists don’t even believe exist.

So what are we to make of Neale’s assertion that Radin's study “correlat[es] the meditator’s awareness with the behavior of photons”? Neale would have to argue that not only does consciousness affect the behavior of photons, but specific information in consciousness has specific effects on photons. To repeat, in one experiment, collapse increased, while in another it decreased. In other words, Neale has to postulate that consciousness carries information that specifically instructs the photons to behave in one way rather than another. This is quite different from the hypothesis that Radin set out to test, that consciousness itself collapses the wave function, and that consciousness is greater in meditators.

As I will discuss later, Neale believes that consciousness is manifested by photons existing in multi-dimensional (or even infinitely-dimensional) space, and apparently carrying a large (or in the limit infinite) amount of information.

As I will discuss later, Neale believes that consciousness is manifested by photons existing in multi-dimensional (or even infinitely-dimensional) space, and apparently carrying a large (or in the limit infinite) amount of information. He thinks this information is encoded in the photon’s waveform. But even assuming this is so, how does this information get translated into an effect on some lower dimensional photon? What does focussing one's attention on—or away from— the double slit apparatus do to the multi-dimensional photon that allows it to influence the behavior of other photons? Does he think that when we focus our attention on something, we emit photons from the brain, that travel to the object of our attention, and interact with photons there?

As I discussed earlier, there is evidence that some tissues, including the brain, emit very weak, so-called biophotons, and one study claimed this emission increased when the subjects imagined light (Dotta et al. 2012). One might hypothesize that very rarely, these emitted photons could interfere with the results of a double slit experiment. But this would not be proof of either that consciousness is manifested by photons—biophotons, to repeat, are weak, and are emitted by many non-neural tissues that presumably aren’t conscious—nor that the process of imagining something directs the photons to a certain location. Indeed, the rarity of the positive results is consistent with chance encounters, even if Radin does claim a difference between focussing attention on the apparatus, and away from it.

With regard to the last point, all of Radin’s results have happened, it seems, without the person’s actually being aware of having an effect. As far as I know, none of the individual observers in Radin’s study was asked whether s/he could tell that the wave function was or was not being collapsed. It’s rather as though I asked you to throw a ball to hit a target some distance away, and while you could occasionally hit the target more often than would be predicted by chance, you had no awareness of actually throwing the ball, let alone of whether you did hit the target. You were acting—dare I put it this way?—completely unconsciously.

So many paranormal claims seem to me like this—rooted in magical thinking, the stage all children go through (and usually outgrow). That we can have effects on the world simply by thinking or imagining them. That by concentrating on, say, moving some object, we are actually exerting a force over distance that can impact on that object.

Neale also offers as evidence the Global Consciousness Project (GCP), in which several dozen random number generators (RNGs) have been placed at locations around the world, with the intent to demonstrate an effect of certain global events on deviations from the random patterns (Nelson and Bancel 2011). Though I’ve never seen a detailed discussion of exactly why the occurrence of some major global event should have effects on RNGs, the thinking seems to be that there is a global consciousness which becomes much greater or more focussed during a major global event, and that it can have effects on the quantum phenomena that generate the random numbers. Significant effects have been claimed for hundreds of different events, including the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which have been analyzed in detail (Nelson 2002). However, many observers remain unconvinced, and have criticized the statistical methods used, as well as other aspects of the experimental protocol (May and Spottiswoode 2002; Dunning 2007)

Personally, I’m very open to the possibility of a global consciousness. As I have discussed in The Dimensions of Experience, if one believes that our ordinary consciousness emerges from the interactions of billions of neurons in a brain, it's entirely reasonable to postulate still that a higher form of consciousness would emerge from the interactions of the brains themselves. But it doesn't follow that this consciousness would increase during a major global event—and how does one define a global event? by the number of people aware of it? by the intensity or duration of their interest?—or that even if it did, it would have specific effects on physical processes occurring in the planet. It seems more likely that the effects—again, assuming that the correlations are real—could be explained by known physical forces that might increase during a global event, e.g., the use of cell phones or other forms of mass communication. One could even postulate that if it is human mental activity per se that has the effect, it could result from an increase in biophoton emissions, or of some other known physical phenomenon that could, very rarely, have an effect on the RNGs. This kind of result does not demand a non-material consciousness that somehow has effects on physical processes.

Advanced Relativity

Amrit Srecko Šorli
Amrit Srecko Šorli

As I pointed out at the beginning of this article, Neale’s Integral Relativity paper is very heavy on formulas and equations. Essentially all of this math is taken from another paper, “Advanced Relativity: Unification of Space, Matter and Consciousness”, by Sorli, et al. (2016). Neale’s section, Quantum energy and mind in advanced relativity, is taken almost word for word (even at one point retaining an editorial error) from the section Advanced Relativity unifies General Relativity (GR) and Quantum Mechanics (QM) in Sorli et al. His following section, From advanced relativity to integral relativity, takes the math from Sorli’s section N-dimensional Hilbert spaces, consciousness and the De Broglie-Bohm pilot wave model in a 3D quantum vacuum, though most of the explanatory text is Neale’s. So any evaluation of Neale should include discussion of this paper.

Advanced Relativity (AR) challenges Einstein’s Special and General Relativity, by holding a different view of space and time:

Space is not empty and deprived of physical properties; it is characterized by a variable energy density which gives origin to energy, mass and gravity from the micro to the macro scale.

In AR, universal space has its origin in the quantum vacuum, and time is merely the numerical order of changes, i.e. motion.

So space in this view is not inert, but we might say almost alive, and even, as it turns out, conscious. But putting consciousness aside for the moment, and just focussing on the purely physical, matter in this view results from quantum fluctuations:

The appearances of material objects and subatomic particles correspond to changes of the energy density of space, and thus can be considered as the excited states of the same flat- space background, characterized by a lower energy density than the Planck energy density…

each elementary fluctuation of the energy density of space in a given volume produces an oscillation of space at a peculiar frequency. This means that each material object given by mass (2) corresponds to oscillations of the 3D quantum vacuum…

So matter is constantly being created and destroyed (with no net change according to the conservation principle) as a result of random fluctuations emanating from the quantum vacuum or space. Sorli et al. present formulas expressing these creation and destruction events, culminating in a formula that they say expresses the quantum potential of the vacuum:

The quantum potential of the vacuum is the fundamental entity which guides the occurring of the processes of creation or annihilation in space, and makes the 3D quantum vacuum a fundamentally non-local manifold… In the 3D quantum vacuum the duration of the processes, from the creation of a particle or object till its annihilation, has no primary physical reality, but exists only in the sense of numerical order. In other words, the 3D quantum vacuum, as a fundamental medium subtending the observable forms of matter, energy and space-time, is a timeless background. The behaviour of matter in the universe can be seen as an undivided network of RS [reduction-state; i.e., collapse of a wave function to a particle] processes that take place in the 3D timeless quantum vacuum and time exists merely as a mathematical parameter measuring the dynamics of a particle or object…

In synthesis, in the approach of AR, a 3D quantum vacuum consisting of an enormous amount of RS processes of creation/annihilation of particles-antiparticles with opposite orientations of spins and acting as a super-fluid medium is the fundamental background which determines a unifying view of gravity, electromagnetic fields and quantum behaviour of matter as different aspects of the same fluctuations of the quantum vacuum energy density.

The existence of a quantum vacuum or ZPF is well established in physics. But Sorli et al. don’t stop here. Beginning with this physical framework, they attempt, in following sections, to extend their model to biological phenomena and consciousness. The next short section is entirely speculative; there are no equations, nor any evidence for their claim. They note that living processes, unlike purely physical ones, involve a decrease of entropy, an apparent contradiction of the second law of thermodynamics:

a fundamental difference exists between physical order created by physical self-organization and biological organization.

The standard scientific view of this, of course, is that living processes can decrease entropy locally, while not affecting the general increase in entropy. In fact, living things increase overall entropy, as when physiological processes extract energy from nutrients, but emit degraded molecules and heat as waste products. The total entropy of the entire system increases, even as it may decrease within a living cell or organism.

Sorli et al., however, argue that both processes—the physical decay into entropy, and the biological organization into complexity—result from the quantum vacuum, which they regard as “syntropic”. This is a key term, because it implies that the vacuum does not simply create physical matter, as other physicists might agree is conceivable, but contains the potential for development of decreased entropy as matter organizes into greater complexity. In other words, the quantum vacuum is the ultimate creator not simply of physical matter, but of all living things and consciousness. This makes it sound a lot like the ultimate or spiritual consciousness that Wilber and others regard as the driving or purposeful force that guides all evolution. Consider the following passage:

In AR the two main trends of evolution (of matter and life respectively) can be considered parts of one universal process. In AR entropy is valid only for material objects. Space in which material objects exist has no entropy; it does not follow the second law of thermodynamics. Matter is the entropic state of primordial energy of space, which itself is syntropic. In living organisms, the syntropic energy of space is the physical basis for negative entropy (negentropy) of the living organism. Evolution of life is a continuous process of decreasing of entropy, which converges to the non-entropy state of the fundamental 3D quantum vacuum. The evolution of life on Earth is part of a universal process which runs through the entire universe, and is developing towards the syntropic energy of space. Matter has the property of “self- organization” because it exists in space which is syntropic. Physical homogeneity of the universe also implies biological homogeneity. In the entire universe matter has a tendency to develop into intelligent conscious beings.

Note particularly this statement: “Evolution of life is a continuous process of decreasing of entropy, which converges to the non-entropy state of the fundamental 3D quantum vacuum.” Substitute ultimate or spiritual consciousness (which Sorli et al eventually do) for quantum vacuum, and you have Wilber’s notion of involution from an original consciousness creating matter and life, which then returns to the origin via evolution. The idea of space as the ultimate creator—Wilber’s eros, if you like— is in fact made explicit:

The universe is eternally NOW and space plays an active role into evolution of life; it is sending information into 3D quantum vacuum which generates living organisms. Evolution of life cannot be imagined without space and 3D quantum vacuum as originators of life. All over the universe matter has tendency to develop into intelligent and conscious organisms whose evolution tends to rediscover the fundamental 3D quantum vacuum itself.
It’s clearly passages like this that have mainstream scientists dismissing such theories as quackery. In the scientific view, one does not need to postulate any such driving force to account for life.

It’s clearly passages like this that have mainstream scientists dismissing such theories as quackery. In the scientific view, one does not need to postulate any such driving force to account for life. Given the formation of subatomic particles, atomic nuclei, and eventually simple molecules, science has the view that evolution by well known physical processes can account for the emergence of living things.

In fact, one might wonder why AR sees physical matter, which is created by the syntropic quantum vacuum, as exhibiting entropy at all, while living things—which of course are not sharply distinguished from physical matter, but represent a gradual increase in complexity—do not. AR seems to be drawing a clear-cut line between matter and life, whereas it’s pretty common knowledge that there is no sharp boundary between the two. Do simple atoms and molecules count as matter? What about more complex molecules? Neither Sorli nor Neale, as far as I can tell, provide any examples of “negentropic” matter, other than Neale’s photons, which may or may not exist without awareness.

In any case, AR sees the quantum vacuum as the ultimate creator, and from here, it’s only a simple step to accounting for consciousness:

Consciousness is the origin of the observer, which is real and can be described as n-dimensional Hilbert space (where n is cardinal number of natural numbers). In physics we observe a photon in a 3D material world. When the frequency of the 3D photon increases to an infinite value, it also enters higher dimensions of Hilbert space. Finally, in n-dimensional Hilbert space the energy of photons is transformed into the energy of consciousness.

There’s a lot to unpack here, several key concepts that Neale also adopts. First, the notion that consciousness is related directly to photons. Earlier, I discussed quantum theories of consciousness, which provides some support for consciousness being associated with the collapse of the wave function. But what evidence is there that photons are involved?

The idea that consciousness can be associated with photons of infinite frequency is supported by recent experiments, which show that a bio-photon coherent system constitutes an ultra-rapid communication system not only in the brain but also functioning in the whole organism, explaining the amazing concerted actions of complex living organisms…

Consciousness acts via bio-photons on the microtubules of the brain (Sorli, 2014). Information flows from consciousness to three- dimensional living matter composing living organisms, running from n-dimensional Hilbert space via less dimensional Hilbert spaces until it arrives at three-dimensional matter. Each “information jump” to a space with a lower number is accompanied with the lower energy of the “photon, according to equation (25) in which we can see the Planck constant is the constant which bridges different Hilbert spaces.

A photon observed in a 3D world is connected with consciousness via Hilbert spaces… Bio-photons are an “information bridge” between the atomic level and high dimensional Hilbert spaces.

As I mentioned before, there is some very interesting work showing that biophotons emitted by living tissues may be involved in cell communication. But there is no evidence that photons “of infinite frequency” are involved, nor that biophotons—which, to repeat, are very weak or low energy emissions—as “an information bridge”, are associated with consciousness, in microtubules or elsewhere. Sorli et al. are just citing their own theoretical paper.

A second key concept that Sorli et al. present is Hilbert spaces, which are multi-dimensional frameworks analogous to, but extending beyond, our familiar Euclidean three-dimensional world. In Sorli’s AR, and in Neale’s Integral Relativity, it’s claimed that photons can exist in many dimensions beyond three-dimensional space, with higher dimensions corresponding to higher vibrational frequencies, which in turn are associated with greater amounts of information. In the limit, there is a Hilbert n-space of infinite dimensions, and thus infinite frequency (as in the passage just cited) and infinite information, which is the ultimate form of consciousness—the syntropic quantum vacuum—that produces everything else.

These ideas are summarized:

the energy of primordial consciousness in n-dimensional Hilbert space has infinite energy. This “infinite energy” is spiritual energy, the energy of the pure Spirit-Consciousness. The 3D world exists within this pull of infinite Spirit- Consciousness energy. On descending into lower Hilbert spaces this spiritual energy becomes more and more “structured” and “dense” and appears in a 3D world as the photon. Recent discoveries confirm matter is made out of photons (Firstenberg et al., 2013), which means that matter is consciousness in its most dense form…

According to our model everything in the world is ruled by a wave of primordial energy of n- dimensional Hilbert space. Consciousness acts as a wave belonging to a universal n-dimensional Hilbert space and governs the behaviour of particles and material objects via lower dimensional spaces.

Again, Sorli et al., like Neale, are playing fast and loose. The Firstenberg reference they cite does not “confirm matter is made out of photons”. It describes a medium in which photons behave like massive particles that can interact with each other.

Even if we overlook the fabricated evidence, though, there are some aspects to this view that don’t make sense to me. The notion that photons can exist in multi-dimensional Hilbert spaces goes back to Neale’s AQAL cube, in which there is both a non-physical as well as a physical aspect to all forms of existence. He says:

The Eight Fundamental Perspectives are the basis of the Integral Model where any specified entity, such as a photon, has an interior aspect, an exterior aspect, an individual aspect, a collective aspect, a local aspect and a non-local aspect.

As I understand Neale, it’s the non-physical (which here he refers to as non-local) aspect that provides the photon with the ability to exist in higher-dimensional spaces. Thus he says:

we propose that non-physical existence as a correlated 5D Hilbert Space Spectrum of information is also synonymous with the “Subtle existence” of the Ancient Traditions

When the frequency of the 3D photon increases to an infinite value, it also enters higher dimensions of Hilbert space. Finally, in n- dimensional Hilbert space the energy of photons is transformed into the energy of consciousness.

But if a photon has a non-local aspect in which it exists as consciousness, shouldn’t it also be one aspect of any other form of material or biological existence? Can we say that every organism has an existence in higher dimensional space? But if it does, how is its existence related to the existence of a photon? Why should it only be photons that have this existence as consciousness? I find this incredibly confusing, though having dealt for years with the glaring flaws, inconsistencies and factual errors of Wilber’s AQAL model, it doesn’t much surprise me.

A second issue pertains to the experience of higher consciousness, and again, is posed by the quote:

When the frequency of the 3D photon increases to an infinite value, it also enters higher dimensions of Hilbert space. Finally, in n- dimensional Hilbert space the energy of photons is transformed into the energy of consciousness.

How exactly does the photon’s frequency increase to an infinite value? Neale claims that in meditation, the frequency of photons is increased. But how? What is the meditator doing that raises its frequency? Is s/he inputting energy and/or information to it? Where is the energy or information coming from, and how does it impact on the photon? One presumes, from what I quoted earlier, that the syntropic quantum vacuum is the source of this energy, but how does it become this source during the process of meditation? It seems that the meditator somehow contacts the quantum vacuum, but how, and if the quantum vacuum is the ultimate source, what exactly is the role of the meditator? Neale simply says: “Quantum Mind acts via bio-photons on the microtubules of the brain.”

Neale uses the terms “intention” and “attention”, apparently ascribing to the quantum vacuum the ability to make choices about when, where and how to act. So a meditator, it seems, receives the intention from a higher dimensional space, though why this happens to this individual and not some other is not clear.

We have proposed that in nD Hilbert Space the assumed Observer is the Causal Witness; whose existence is the Attention. The Witness in nD Hilbert Space operates at a specified level of Attention, which determines the level of the Observer in the 5D and 4D Spectrum Domains of information. So the lowest level or First Attention, the Witness enables the Mind its self-aware activity in 3D and 4D Hilbert Spaces; the Second Attention of the Witness enables Consciousness its self-aware activity through 5D HS; and at the Third Attention of the Witness, the Witness becomes self- aware of its activity in all Spectrum Domains. These experiential injunctions are being investigated by Radin at IONS, using high-frequency meditators.

We further propose that in 5D Hilbert Space, the Intention of Consciousness-as-Observer, through Extension into lower Hilbert Spaces, creates the variations in the energy density of the 4D quantum vacuum as Mind, per Advanced Relativity, which then leads to 3D microtubule encoding by photons in the neuron (Anirban Bandyopadhyay, 2016). Meijer and Geesink (2017) describes the 4D Mind as the external workspace or mind field of the 3D brain and organism; where the 4D workspace contains nested holographic information screens (event horizons), and is thereby able to simulate 3D awareness in the brain.

Again, Neale cites a study by Bandyopadhyay that he doesn’t list in his references, and which, assuming it exists, I’m pretty sure does not show that consciousness results from “3D microtubule encoding by photons in the neuron”. We get a sort of intellectual pyramid scheme, where one author or group proposes one theory, some other author cites that as evidence for his own theory, which in turn is cited by Neale or someone else as evidence for his theory.

And how is the energy of photons “transformed” into consciousness? Simply by exhibiting a higher frequency? Is the photon still a photon at this point, or not? Does it still have an existence in lower dimensions? This seems to be implied by the claim that biophotons are evidence for their model. Neale says: “A Photon observed in a 3D world is connected with Mind via Hilbert spaces.” Borrowing again from Sorli, et al., Neale presents some formulas that reflect “how elementary particles we experience and live in a 3D space are guided by waves which ultimately originate from higher dimensional spaces”:

According to equation (17), one can say that the non-local action of the quantum potential to guide the occurring of the processes of creation or annihilation in space is determined by the frequency modes, which appear in the wave of the quantum vacuum. In other words, the frequency modes appearing in relations (15) and (16) may be considered the different information channels of the quantum potential of the vacuum, the different levels of energy of consciousness…

In this way, by introducing the frequency modes (15) and (16) which characterize the creation and destruction processes of the 3D quantum vacuum, in terms of Fourier transforms, inside the mathematical formalism of the RS processes of the 3D quantum vacuum given by equations (5)-(12), AR can be extended through levels of Awareness yielding to a real Integral Relativity (IR), which turns out to be a metatheory inclusive of all structures and phenomena. ‘Therefore, by definition, it is inclusive not only of all Energy states but also of all Consciousness states aware of such phenomena. As a result, Integral Relativity must deal with Consciousness and Energy as two sides of the same coin.’

These formulas express the transformation of higher dimensional waves to waves of lesser dimensions. In other words, assuming that consciousness is associated with higher dimensions, these formulas show how it could affect our material existence at lower dimensions. They don’t, I want to emphasize, provide any evidence for such a transformation. That is purely speculative.

Neale seems to be claiming that he is extending Advanced Relativity of Sorli, et al., to his own Integral Relativity, though as I have pointed out all along, he makes use of the same formulas and equations that the other group published. As far as I can see, his novel contribution is mainly the AQAL cube, which allows one to express these n-dimensional Hilbert spaces in relation to Wilber’s AQAL model. In fact, he concludes his article with more discussion of the cube, again emphasizing the point that it’s supported by personal pronouns.


What are we to make of Neale’s project? It’s a very ambitious one, attempting to unify not only Wilber’s AQAL with Hameroff and Penrose’s theory of quantum consciousness, but with the work of two other physicists. One of them, Garrett Lisi, I mentioned briefly as using an E8 algebraic system that Neale has tried, I would say quixotically, to relate to his eight perspectives. The other, Elizabeth Rauscher, has developed an 8-dimension Minkowski space that includes four imaginary, or non-local, dimensions. This might seem to be relevant to the four non-physical or non-local perspectives in Neale’s AQAL cube, but bear in mind that Rauscher’s model is of spatial dimensions, not the sort of dimensions that Neale is proposing.

I will leave it to physicists to judge the validity of the equations and formulas that Neale has taken from Sorli et al., but as I’ve emphasized earlier, they don’t provide any actual proof for his view of consciousness. They are at best a way of describing consciousness in the same kind of terms that energy and other purely physical parameters are described. But concluding that it should be described in this manner I think requires far more evidence than has actually been provided. Dean Radin's “Sigma 7" findings, even if one accepts the statistics, may have other explanations. They certainly don't require a non-material consciousness based on photons vibrating at infinite frequencies.

Neale’s view of consciousness might be characterized as a form of panpsychism, with awareness a non-material aspect that is related, by the AQAL cube, to material phenomena. There is a major difference between this view and most forms of panpsychism, however.

Neale’s view of consciousness might be characterized as a form of panpsychism, with awareness a non-material aspect that is related, by the AQAL cube, to material phenomena. There is a major difference between this view and most forms of panpsychism, however. Panpsychists usually accept the general scientific view of the universe beginning with fundamental particles of matter. In their view, these particles possess a very rudimentary form of consciousness—Hameroff has referred to it as proto-consciousness. Our own much more highly developed consciousness presumably evolved in parallel to the evolution of material and then biological forms of increasingly greater complexity.

Neale, however, believes that the highest form of consciousness—far higher than our own ordinary human consciousness—has always been present, and as I have discussed, that it creates our familiar material world. Because of all the physics, the formulas and equations, many readers may miss the implications of this: Neale’s theory is basically another version of Intelligent Design, a top-down model of the how the universe was created. While traditional physics, with the other sciences, has provided a view in which the universe began from essentially nothing, in Neale’s model, everything is there at the beginning (if that even makes sense in a timeless void), in the quantum vacuum: infinite information, infinite energy, and infinite consciousness. This creates the world as we know it.

The universe is eternally NOW and space plays an active role into evolution of life; it is sending information into 3D quantum vacuum which generates living organisms. Evolution of life cannot be imagined without space and 3D quantum vacuum as originators of life. All over the universe matter has tendency to develop into intelligent and conscious organisms whose evolution tends to rediscover the fundamental 3D quantum vacuum itself.

Like other theories that explain our origins in terms of a higher consciousness or intelligence, Neale would have no answer to the question, where does this infinite energy come from? How was the n-dimensional space created? It’s just there. In the world as we actually observe it, more complex forms of organization only develop over time, and with effort, from less complex forms. In Neale’s universe, all of this complexity comes for free. Instead of being faced with the question, how did something arise from nothing? this theory begs the question that all religions face: how did everything arise from nothing? Most of us don’t regard that as an improvement.

Beyond that, in all quasi-religious models like Sorli’s/Neale’s—and Wilber’s—I’m always left with the question: why? If there is a higher form of consciousness, why does it have to create lower levels of consciousness? What’s the purpose? Indeed, how can we even talk about a purpose in connection with an ultimate form of existence? Shouldn’t it be beyond purpose? Why does it need to create lower worlds, and particularly if they are eventually going to evolve back to the ultimate consciousness, anyway?


[1] Quoted in Neale (2012)

[2] Wilber, K. (2002) Excerpt C: The Ways We Are in This Together, 11/4/2009

[3] "Guest Blog: Introducing The AQAL Cube. Part 2: The AQAL Cube in Integral Practice (by Lexi Neale) ",, 11/14/2009

[4] Quoted in Neale (2012)

[5] Quoted in Neale (2012)

[6] More precisely, we can focus our attention—away from one object or thought, towards another—very quickly. One could argue that our attention is never actually increased, except in a higher state of awareness, when there is, so to speak, more attention to place on a specific object or thought. When the students are exhorted by the teacher to pay attention, they are “paying” to her, at expense of not paying attention to what they were thinking or doing previously. But the point is, most people are in the ordinary state of consciousness, so any electrocortical marker of attention can only be correlated with such focussing or switching of attention, not an actual increase of attention. Using such markers is another example of the flaws in studies of increased awareness, where there is no way to measure independently level of awareness.


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