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Reparsing Nature at Foundations of Mind II

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Cynthia Sue Larson, Seán Ó Nualláin, Beverly Rubik, and Maria Syldona at the Foundations of Mind reception

The Foundations of Mind II conference may be over, but the conversation is heating up.

The Foundations of Mind II conference took place at UC Berkeley this month, featuring presentations by Fritjof Capra, Stuart Kauffman, Henry Stapp, Bob Doyle, Howard Pattee, Jacob Needleman, Walter Freeman, Stuart Hameroff, Jonathan Schooler, Glenn Aparicio Parry, Beverly Rubik, Acacio de Barros, Carlos Montemayor, Len Talmy, Bob Petr, Judy Gardiner, Julia Bystrova, Maria Syldona, Leanne Whitney, Tania Re, Wolfgang Baer, Markate Daly, Justin Riddle, Seán Ó Nualláin, and many more. With three information-rich days of conference proceedings, and ongoing conversations that ran long into most nights, this year’s conference was a veritable feast of interdisciplinary ideas, wisdom and information from around the world.

Videos from the conference presentations will be available through the Foundations of Mind website, and papers will be published in the future, too. People registered through Foundations of Mind are joining in several threads of on-going conversations begun at the conference, and moving forward to explore topics of the quantum paradigm, consciousness, biosemiotics, and higher education.

Cynthia Sue Larson and Fritjof Capra

A Systems View of Life

Fritjof Capra talked about moving from a mechanistic to a systemic network view of life, in which there is a more unified view of mind, matter, and life. “Evolution is no longer seen as a competitive struggle, but a cooperative dance.” Capra described the theory of autopoiesis, which defines biological life as a pattern of self organization within a boundary of its own making. With this definition, Capra pointed out, “plants have consciousness, too!” The Santiago Theory of cognition is a non-representational (non-symbolic) theory that identifies cognition–the process of knowing–with the process of life. Life and cognition are inseparably connected, and perception and behavior do not require a brain or nervous system. The Santiago Theory overcomes the Cartesian division of mind and matter, so that mind is not a ‘thing,’ but instead represents the self-organizing process aspect of life, and matter represents the complementary aspect of structure.

Stuart Kauffman

Biology and Evolution

Stuart Kauffman pointed out that there is no propositional system to determine the number of uses for a screwdriver. The number is necessarily infinite, since new functions can exist that could not be determined in advance. Functions are important to us, so we have hearts that pump blood, yet biological systems cannot be reduced to physics. Kauffman stated, “What’s propagating is not DNA or genes–it’s functional sufficiencies.” The key point is that new actuals constantly arise that enable–rather than cause–new possibilities. Once a swim bladder develops in a given animal, for example, a new function–buoyancy–begins to exist. And once that swim bladder exists, it’s possible for bacteria to live in that swim bladder. Here we see that reductionism must fail, since biological evolution creates new actuals that nobody can foresee, which were all enabled by what came before.

Gurdjieff View of Consciousness

Jacob Needleman described how George Ivanovich Gurdjieff spoke of consciousness as being pure presence, with many levels. Only when all three minds (mental, feelings, and instinctive)–all three centers of perception–work together can real consciousness begin. Gurdjieff describes the “many I’s” present in each of us, but for most people experiencing this, it comes as a tremendous shock to the ego. Needleman pointed out that, “Man is here for some reason, and everything serves a purpose. What does mankind serve on Earth?” Gurdjieff explained that a transmitting station operates through man’s consciousness, which Earth needs: “Awakened man can change the world.”

Living the Quantum Paradigm

Sky Nelson and Jim Johnston kicked off the conference with dialogue about how it feels to experience synchronicity, love, and connectedness while living in keeping with the quantum paradigm–as physicists themselves. Judy Gardiner talked about dreams and dream symbols, Shiva Meucci summarized key points of focus in consciousness and physics, Cynthia Sue Larson presented the paper, “Quantum Logic is Primary in the Natural World,” Leanne Whitney delved into Patanjali’s concepts of the purusa ontic reality, Jim Johnston talked about quantum dynamic variables, Maria Syldona provided an experience of consciousness from Kashmir Shaivism, and Julia Bystrova presented a poetic transdisciplinary perspective.

A Veritable Smorgasbord of World Views

Walter Freeman

Leonard Talmy provided insights into how language structures concepts; Seán Ó Nualláin talked about education, mindfulness and high performance; Justin Riddle led an exploration into the fractal cognitive triad; Jonathan Schooler invited us to ponder how an additional subjective dimension of time might provide a meta-perspective bridging science and experience; and J. Acacio de Barros investigated quantum mechanics by encouraging us to more thoroughly contemplate who has a mind.

Henry Stapp discussed the quantum zeno effect, and the intriguing way that if you keep asking the same question repeatedly and rapidly enough, it stays in the “yes” answer mode. Walter Freeman discussed four steps by which animals create knowledge and meaning from microscopic sensory information. Beverly Rubik described the importance of the biofield hypothesis for appreciating how consciousness is the conductor for the energetic ‘symphony.’ Howard Pattee pointed out that we can’t have just one model that handles everything–we need complementary models. Bob Doyle described the temporal sequence to free will, starting first with “free,” followed by “will.”

Stuart Hameroff

Sebastian Benthall talked with Seán Ó Nualláin about ideas for improving higher education, and the notion of one magisterium. Glenn Aparicio Parry discussed the value of considering original thinking–that which was there first–from an indigenous perspective, in terms of accessing the full continuum of consciousness. Markate Daly described how three moral qualities of trust, reciprocity and care contribute to provide social order. Petr Bob asked whether the non-classical mind exists, pointing out that the binding problem anticipated by Descartes still exists. Wolfgang Baer reviewed the compatibility of physical assumptions with the foundations of mind. Frank Heile presented a three agent theory to explain religion, spirituality, and enlightenment. Jeffery Martin talked about the wonders of transformative technology. Karla Galdamez described experimental apparatus for measuring wave function collapse.

Stuart Hameroff discussed the “quantum pleasure principle,” in which consciousness creates a flow of time. Juan Acosta-Urquidi discussed positive neurophenomenology affects from medicinal qualities of plants. Tania Re described a bridge between anthropology, medicine and physics in the way cultures access different state of consciousness for healing. Yoshio Nakamura shared research findings about mindfulness meditation and nondual awareness. Jerry Gin presented biogeometry tools, materials and ideas. Sperry Andrews discussed humanity’s capacity to share a common sense. Rodney Albert Ferguson brought joyful levity to a spirited discussion about how alive, conscious, and free we truly are.


Cynthia Sue Larson is the best-selling author of six books, including Quantum Jumps. Cynthia has a degree in Physics from UC Berkeley, and discusses consciousness and quantum physics on numerous shows including the History Channel, Coast to Coast AM, the BBC and One World with Deepak Chopra. You can subscribe to Cynthia’s free monthly ezine at:


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