It is a basic tenet of systems theory/holism as well as of theosophy that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If, then, our individual minds are subsystems of larger manifestations of mind, how is it that our own minds are self-conscious while the universal mind (on the physical plane) is not? How can a part possess a quality that the whole does not? A logical solution is to regard the material universe as but the outer garment of universal mind. According to theosophy the laws of nature are the wills and energies of higher beings or spiritual intelligences which in their aggregate make up universal mind. It is mind and intelligence which give rise to the order and harmony of the physical universe, and not the patterns of chance, or the decisions of self-organizing matter. Like Capra, the theosophical philosophy rejects the traditional theological idea of a supernatural, extracosmic divine Creator. It would also question Capra’s notion that such an extracosmic God is the self-organizing dynamics of the physical universe. Theosophy, on the other hand, firmly believes in the existence of innumerable superhuman, intracosmic intelligences (or gods), which have already passed through the human stage in past evolutionary cycles, and to which status we shall ourselves one day attain. There are two opposing views of consciousness: the Western scientific view which considers matter as primary and consciousness as a by-product of complex material patterns associated with a certain stage of biological evolution; and the mystical view which sees consciousness as the primary reality and ground of all being. Systems theory accepts the conventional materialist view that consciousness is a manifestation of living systems of a certain complexity, although the biological structures themselves are expressions of “underlying processes that represent the system’s self-organization, and hence its mind. In this sense material structures are no longer considered the primary reality” (Turning Point). This stance reaffirms the dualistic view of mind and matter. Capra clearly believes that matter is primary in the sense that the physical world comes first and life, mind, and consciousness emerge at a later stage. That he chooses to call the self-organizing dynamics of the universe by the name “mind” is beside the point. If consciousness is regarded as the underlying reality, it is impossible to regard it also as a property of matter which emerges at a certain stage of evolution. Systems theory accepts neither the traditional scientific view of evolution as a game of dice, nor the Western religious view of an ordered universe designed by a divine creator. Evolution is presented as basically open and indeterminate, without goal or purpose, yet with a recognizable pattern of development. Chance fluctuations take place, causing a system at a certain moment to become unstable. As it “approaches the critical point, it ‘decides’ itself which way to go, and this decision will determine its evolution”. Capra sees the systems view of the evolutionary process not as a product of blind chance but as an unfolding of order and complexity analogous to a learning process, including both independence from the environment and freedom of choice. However, he fails to explain how supposedly inert matter is able to “decide,” “choose,” and “learn.” This belief that evolution is purposeless and haphazard and yet shows a recognizable pattern is similar to biologist Lyall Watson’s belief that evolution is governed by chance but that chance has “a pattern and a reason of its own”.
While the materialistic and mystical views of mind seem incompatible and irreconcilable, mind/matter dualism may be resolved by seeing spirit and matter as fundamentally one, as different grades of consciousness-life-substance. Science already holds that physical matter and energy are interconvertible, that matter is concentrated energy; and theosophy adds that consciousness is the highest and subtlest form. From this view there is no absolutely dead and unconscious matter in the universe. Everything is a living, evolving, conscious entity, and every entity is composite, consisting of bundles of forces and substances pertaining to different planes, from the astral-physical through the psychomental to divine-spiritual. Obviously the degree of manifested life and consciousness varies widely from one entity to another; but at the heart of every entity is an indwelling spiritual atom or consciousness-center at a particular stage of its evolutionary unfoldment. More complex material forms do not create consciousness, but merely provide a more developed vehicle through which this spiritual monad can express its powers and faculties. Evolution is far from being purposeless and indeterminate: our human monads issued from the divine Source aeons ago as unself-conscious god-sparks and, by taking embodiment and garnering experience in all the kingdoms of nature, we will eventually raise ourselves to the status of self-conscious gods.