CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Spirituality, Technology, and Free Will

Presidential elections represent "duality:" the either/or; one vote for, attaching positive projections onto the favored candidate and splitting negative projections off onto the disfavored. A mass pscychology takes hold: one becomes identified with, absorbed into, a larger energy field--this group or "party" or that one.

For a long time, I resisted voting, mindful of all the judgement our society heaps upon the act of voting, the choices made therein, the decision to vote or not and for whom. This election, I made a different choice, and did so because a colleague and friend who passed on quite suddenly had spent the last week of his life helping to campaign for a particular candidate. Having migrated to another plane of existence, he could not make his vote in the physical body. My vote was an offering to that soul.

At the polls, I hesitated, mindful of the weight of choice, desiring to practice detachment and surrender--acting from a place of non-action, the reaching without grasping of which the Tao Te Ching speaks. I paused and tried to hold unity consciousness, a moment of prayer admist the duality, a moment of holding the energy, not for this candidate or the other, not for the one who would receive my darkened oval (and why is the oval darkened, anyway), but for humanity: whomever is chosen for the difficult burden, I asked, may that individual receive divine wisdom, divine guidance. And may those who voted for the other candidate be comforted.

It was not easy to depolarize personally in a magnetic field where electrons are programmed to sit as far away from one another as possible while still orbiting the same nucleus. Yet that was my effort.

I then took the "T" to Copley Square in Boston for the time where John Kerry was scheduled to make his appearance.

At the Square, I could not tell whether I was among Democrats or Republicans; more overwhelming was the presence of cellphones (and incessant conversations through electronic and other human interfaces) from and to people physically "not there;" and cigarette smoke; and politicians; and soldiers, police vehicles, satellite dishes, vans stuffed with television screens; hawkers of buttons, flags, caps, memorabilia; crowds wandering to and from, people pressing front and rear.

For a moment, the face and music of John Cougar Mellencamp filled the screen. And I felt the presence of love. I had never paid attention to his music, never followed his career. Yet the voice had clarity, the face held wisdom. And then again the endless of procession of people, cutting through the field of sight and sound.

A woman who introduced herself as Jody came up to me and started chatting. She broke through, grabbing my arm with a comment about how she had voted for the other candidate, but here she was. Her eyes were sparkling but her breath was boozy. She leaned into me a few times and I sat on the railing looking toward Copley Square. "Stay out of trouble," I advised her, softly but with an eye to her lurching forward. She offered me a badge that allowed her into the "blue" area, one she had inveigled from a press agent somewhere. "Half these badges are faked," she urged. "No, thank you," I said. I did not want to wear a false identity on election night, just to go and schmooze with honchos.

She was clearly disappointed, but then an old friend of John Kerry's, who apparently had met Jody earlier at the bar, came up and started chatting to her. As they spoke, I considered returning home where, I figured, sitting cross-legged in meditation, I probably could channel better energy than the souped-up and smokey yet somehow captivating Copley atmosphere. "88 to 66" (electoral votes), Jody suddenly said; "it's just like the Red Sox." She had a point. She went on about a long relationship that had failed her. I stayed with her a moment longer, then she ducked back into the Copley Fairmont to spend time with the Mayor of Cambridge.

The crowd was cheering--Kerry had won Pennsylvania; then it was back to the band. Matter was solid here. I had spent the day reading Hacking Matter: Levitating Chairs, Quantum Mirages, and the Infinite Wierdness of Programmable Atoms, by Wil McCarthy (NY: Basic Books, 2003). The book describes "quantum dots," a technological breakthrough that allows the creation of "programmable matter." Nano-strips of electrons can be forced into the mesoscale of matter in which neither classical physics nor quantum physics fully apply; electrons behave as if they are orbiting a nuclear even though they are not (and indeed try to stay as far away from each other as possible in their trapped state); and a lot of interesting (and unresearched) properties arise that can potentially transform one form of matter into another by the flick of a switch. The far, far future is already here.

Back to Copley: people on cellphones, communicating, communicating. More present to those on the other end of the signal than to humans in their physical space. What does it portend, apart from whomever wins this election? I keep meditating on the advent of the cellphone, for some reason--as it gets tinier and tinier until it ultimately becomes implanted into the human wrist and ear. So much transformation occurs, if one can even use that word (which is usually reserved for psychological and spiritual breakthrough) independent of politics; the life changes, information flows through different channels, we evolve, sometimes, not by spirit but by the power of the machine, newer and subtler and faster, until--like quantum physics where something behaves as both a wave and a particle--the tools we use shape our behaviors, simultaneously displacing and distancing us from an essential perception of who we are, yet paradoxically, also offering opportunities for clearer perception of our essence and relationships. It's all about wisdom, free will, choice and responsibility, after all.

Maybe we have to choose the right candidate, some would argue--many of my friends "felt an energy shift" with one or the other. Then again, our choices not only include candidates, but also reach into many other arenas, and sometimes the mass psychology consumes energies and attention and diverts these from the darkened oval of our mundane biological and spiritual life.

Let's go back in time. Many parents in the 1950's equated Elvis Presley with the Devil: yet the revolution he engendered also pried open old restrictions, liberating eros and allowing fresh energy to freely flow.

Now Elvis is a long way from Mellencamp, but there is a connection: in energetic terms, eros equates with freedom. That was a key insight of psychologist Wilhelm Reich. In prescient works, Reich lauded liberation of eros (not just the erotic) as a flow of psychospiritual energy within the human being; he described a universal cosmic and biological energy that he called the "orgone," considered repression of this energy the impetus behind the "mass psychology of fascism"--crowd psychology.

Despite his insights, Reich ultimately was prosecuted by the federal Food and Drug Administration--and became one of the first martyrs for what would later be called complementary and alternative medicine. He was imprisoned; the sentencing judge ordered his books and research burned and his equipment destroyed. (Reich died in prison in 1957).

Reich's investigations into psychoanalysis, sexuality, character defenses, energy medicine, and even weather modification, have had widespread influence. Reich would have seen Elvis's pelvis as catalizing movement of previously contracted musculature (which Reich called "body armor" or "character armor"), thereby freeing trapped electrons in the collective psyche. According to Reich, if such influences threatened old structures, they also liberated pent-up creative energies.

And here at Copley all this "orgone energy" was evident: the excitement; dressed-up people; a vortex of hope and possibility. And within all that movement, physical and virtual, were people hopping here and there, hoping for a better view; electrons and silicon chips and wireless signals scrambling frantically for more, and more, and more, information transfers across the ethers.

I was standing in the heart of the campaign, at least one campaign, representing one half of the country: Kerry country at Copley Square. The energy was flowing, and yet, most people around were only half-there, the other half of them virtually somewhere else. With cellphones, one can behave as if under quantum physics, being both here and there at the same time, so that we can describe someone's energetic presence as more under probability theory (like an electron, say). Or perhaps we are becoming quantum dots--evolving through interface with our technology into new hybrids not seen before (like the "artificial atoms" the quantum dot can create). Where were my fellow humans? They were seemingly united by "Kerry/Edwards" banners but also seemingly disconnected, absorbed in the stream of telephone conversations, physical bodies there with most of the attention on the other end of the line.

Is there really anything wrong, though, with multi-tasking, especially in the face of an event that seems to have so much influence on the course of our survival as a species, and at the least, our path as such?

I have been strongly influenced by a spiritual path that emphasizes meditation on the "blue pearl" as a form of the divine; in mystical tradition, the blue pearl appears as a shimmering, luminescent dot that can expand into the personal form of God. Seeing this blue pearl one begins to realize the transcendent tranquility of universal consciousness.

I read in Hacking Matter that quantum dots can have properties that will make them blink in and out of visibile existence like the Blue Pearl. God, then, perhaps is technologically realizable - a being who expands and contracts form in the physical world like a quantum dot's alchemy of matter at the flip of intention -- again technology both distancing us from inner experience (as the quantum dot is part of "materials science"--the materialistic conception) and, paradoxically, affording us opportunity to delve deeper spiritually by understanding the technological, scientific basis for spiritual understanding.

Now these are admittedly, perhaps, odd neural connections for election night 2004--an effort toward unity consciousness at the polls; a meditation on orgone energy; notions of Elvis Presley mingling with quantum dots, the Blue Pearl, legal boundaries and prosecution of CAM innovators; the perils and peregrinations of the cellphone, hand strapped to the ear in a new and different form of character armor (and a friend, holding a Blackberry, alert with Pavlovian response to its buzzing demand for instantaneous response); yet, underlying the day's contemplation is the quest to permeate material reality with spiritual realization.

Because that, I believe, is the hope, the dream, and the promise of every presidential candidate: to manifest on the material plane the deepest spiritual aspirations of the collective. If any one candidate could hold the love energy that Mellencamp's song emanated, that would be powerful: expression of the yearning for a place in which all the archetypes of a lightened oval (office) could come to fruition.

In its new five-year strategic plan, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has included a focus on research of legal and ethical issues in complementary and integrative medicine. NCCAM also has renewed its call for research into energy medicine. Future innovative thinkers who break ground like Reich--provided they stay within the bounds of current and emerging law--well may be able to shine light on energetic perpections, finding mechanistic explanations and tracing clinical pathways toward integration.

And, as quantum dot and other technologies bring scientific discoveries that expand our awareness of the malleability of matter, healthcare may find the gap shrinking between belief in spiritual energy and understanding of life in the mesosphere and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, may the next leader of this country--of each country--find the wisdom to hear the still, small voice, the intuitive vein of wisdom, the inner cellphone to the all-that-is, the place where personal knowing is connected to the infinite, and where duality yields to the consciousness of our essential unity.

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Michael H. Cohen, Esq.; 468 North Camden Dr. | Beverly Hills, California 90210 | 310-844-3173