The scientific search for order is one specialized expression of an earlier and more general “religious” search for unity. No psychological need for a transcendental harmonizing principle will remain when man has once seen with compelling clarity the actual ordered unity of this natural universe, comprehending all its extraordinary variety and regions of apparent chaos. We are approaching a comprehensive unified view of the totality of experience, and to contribute my bit to it is my struggle and pleasure. We cannot today anticipate its full quality or all its characteristic details, but this unified philosophical view must come, and I have had a glimpse of it, seen from my own standpoint.

from The Universe of Experience (1974)

Portrait of Lancelot Law Whyte

Lancelot Law Whyte

Philosopher and Theoretical Physicist
November 4, 1896 – September 14, 1972

Lancelot Law Whyte was a Scottish philosopher, theoretical physicist, historian of science, and financier. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and received his education at Bedales School in England. He was a soldier during the First World War, returning to enter Trinity College, Cambridge and studying physics under Ernest Rutherford. Subsequently, he studied at Göttingen University in Germany. Whyte’s interest developed as much along lines of human evolution and philosophy as that of theoretical physics. To earn a living, White entered industry and banking in Britain, but he returned to Germany for a year, where he met Albert Einstein. Back in Britain, in 1935 Whyte met Frank Whittle, one of the pioneers of the turbojet engine, and became a backer of the development of this invention, the eventual result being the British Air Ministry’s initial commitment to the development of turbojet-powered planes, nearly five years later.

Whyte devoted a great part of his life to the “unitary principle,” in which asymmetry decreases and gives place to symmetry. It was an idea of a pervasive unity, a tendency towards order, which came to him in 1925. According to him, the principle accounted for the existence of form and order in the inorganic world, in organic nature, and in man’s mind, operating not in terms of struggle and competition, but on a system’s capacity for coordinated activity.

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Cover image for Accent on Form

Accent on Form

According to Whyte, the next major advance in science will consist in the use of formal principles, meaning concerned with spatial form, as contrasted with individual constituent parts. This theme is developed in a crescendo from atoms to the creative power of the human intellect with disarming eloquence and elegance, with frequent taunts agsint the neglect of formal and formative principles in present-day science.

Cover image for The Next Development in Man

The Next Development in Man

This searching examination of human development provides new perspectives on the moral, political, scientific, emotional, and intellectual divisions of our time. A physicist by profession, Whyte looked beyond the boundaries of specialization for creative ways to approach the basic problem facing modern Western civilization: Why are we so competent technically and yet unable to order our own affairs, socially and personally? He takes the reader with him on a journey that is nothing less than a new interpretation of the general development of human consciousness.

Cover image for The Unitary Principle in Physics and Biology

The Unitary Principle in Physics and Biology

An attempt to offer a new foundation establishing unity and order in knowledge so far as science is concerned. Whyte suggests that this new foundation is to be based on describing process from a new standpoint: the Unitary Principle.

Cover image for The Universe of Experience

The Universe of Experience

A Worldview Beyond Science and Religion

Modern experience forces philosophy and social thought to confront the basic problems of value. Is this life worth caring about? How can we find a way between the deceit of fanatical belief and despair? In the view of Lancelot Law Whyte, the essential challenge to mankind today is an underlying nihilism promoting violence and frustrating sane policies on major social issues. Avoiding the seductive trap of utopianism, Whyte approaches this challenge by defining the terms of a potentially worldwide consensus of heart, mind, and will.

Mentioned in 11 documents

Alan Watts

Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown

Over the course of nineteen essays, Alan Watts ruminates on the philosophy of nature, ecology, aesthetics, religion, and metaphysics. Assembled in the form of a mountain journal, written during a retreat in the foothills of Mount Tamalpais in California, Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown is Watts’ meditation on the art of feeling out and following the watercourse way of nature, known in Chinese as the Tao. Embracing a form of contemplative meditation that allows us to stop analyzing our experiences and start living into them, the book explores themes such as the natural world, established religion, race relations, karma and reincarnation, astrology and tantric yoga, the nature of ecstasy, and much more.

Erich Jantsch and Conrad Hal Waddington

Evolution and Consciousness

Evolution and Consciousness is one of the first, still rare, truly transdisciplinary books: it deals with a totality, not a sector of it. Therefore, it defies any disciplinary labeling. It is a scientific book, yet also deals with topics until now reserved for books of mysticism and poetry. It bridges the gap between science and other forms of knowledge. It deals not just with scientific questions, but with existential questions which concern all mankind, such as the meaning of life and the evolutionary significance of human design and action. It challenges the whole dominant Western world view: process thinking instead of structural thinking, dynamic instead of static, evolution instead of permanency.

Terence McKenna

History Ends in Green

The coming together of dream, film, and psychedelics in the twentieth century set the stage for the archaic revival. McKenna gives us a look through the window of our potential as humans. He helps put the hysteria of our time into perspective and gives a path that could help us to deal with this strange and wonderful world we live in. A must-listen seminar for those interested in human potential.

Terence McKenna, Rupert Sheldrake and Ralph Abraham

Metamorphosis

Join McKenna, Sheldrake, and Abraham on an imaginative journey into nature's creativity. Surfing the chaotic waters of psychedelic states, they catch glimpses of the Gaian mind behind Earth's being. Here, in imaginal realms beyond rationale, novelty is born. By relinquishing egoic control and surrendering to an unknowable creative force, we tap into the divine imagination—the eternal wellspring of nature's endless becomings. Immersing ourselves in this flow, we reunite with the cosmic creative essence.

Terence McKenna

Our Cyberspiritual Future

Terence McKenna holds court on our civilization's journey toward the eschaton at this weekend Esalen gathering. With humor and eloquence he riffs on topics from psychedelic states and alien intelligences to time travel and VR. McKenna argues we're evolving toward an unimaginable state of accelerating novelty, propelled by advancing technology. A mind-expanding ride for the open-minded psychonaut or armchair traveler, guided by one of the twentieth century's most eclectic thinkers.

Alan Watts

Parallel Thinking

What a tickling trickster the universe is! As Watts wanders down philosophical byways, tales emerge of those healed by harmonizing body and world. Yet we teach children to twist themselves to fit odd ideals. Tension tunnels through society, our “civilizing” ways quite uncouth! Might we reconsider, relax our willful ways? Observantly ambling amidst being's little blooms, we rediscover unity in the unruly diversity—finding wisdom whispering within, inviting us to dance delightfully with life’s flowing forms.

Ludwig von Bertalanffy

Robots, Men, and Minds

Based on lectures delivered as The Inaugural Lectures in The Heinz Werner Lecture Series at Clark University (Worcester, Mass.) in January 1966, the book introduces new conceptions of humans and their world. After discussing the advantages and drawbacks of humanity's propensity for the symbolic construction of reality, it focuses on the systems approach to an understanding of the species. The author warns against the common error of identifying cybernetics with general systems theory. No matter how complex the cybernetic system, it "can always be resolved into feedback circuits" and thought of in terms of "linear causality." The regulative behavior of general systems is determined by goal-directed, dynamic interaction between many forces and variables in an open system. Bertalanffy points out that "no comprehensive theory of systems exists today." As a model, however, the approach has many advantages, such as obviating the need for the "ghost in the machine" and suggesting some solutions to the mind-body problem.

Alan Watts

The Joyous Cosmology

The Joyous Cosmology is Alan Watts’ exploration of the insight that the consciousness-changing drugs LSD, mescaline and psilocybin can facilitate when accompanied with sustained philosophical reflection by a person who is in search, not of kicks, but of understanding. More than an artifact, it is both a riveting memoir of Alan’s personal experiments and a profound meditation on our perennial questions about the nature of existence and the existence of the sacred.

Alan Watts

The Two Hands of God

Watts takes readers on a fascinating journey through the mythology of China, Egypt, India, the Middle East, and medieval Europe. His theme is the human experience of polarity, a condition in which opposing qualities define and complement each other. Light cannot exist without darkness, good cannot exist without evil, and male cannot exist without female. Chinese philosophy expresses this idea of universal polarity with the concepts of yin and yang, while other cultures express it through the symbolic language of myth, literature, and art. Watts illustrates the way great sages and artists across time have seen beyond the apparent duality of the universe to find a deeper unity that transcends and embraces everything.

Alan Watts

The Wisdom of Insecurity

This 1951 classic explores how our modern pursuit of security through money, status, and technology leads to anxiety. Watts artfully weaves Eastern philosophy and Christian mysticism to argue that seeking permanence in an impermanent world is futile. Rather, we must embrace the present moment and recognize the illusion of the ego. Watts writes breezily with penetrating insight about how relaxing our grip on life's impermanence paradoxically allows us to live fully. Though challenging at times, ultimately Watts' message brings great comfort in understanding the futility of chasing security. Give it a read and you may just find the wisdom that insecurity brings!

Alan Watts

Unpreachable Religion

Floating through this serene lecture, Alan Watts gently guides us to ponder our culture's materialistic illusion. In calm wisdom, he unveils our preoccupation with purpose over presence and the separation from our sensual nature. Watts lovingly calls us home to the sacred play inherent in life, no longer exiled from the body's temple. By joining life's mystical dance arising through us, we are caressed again by joy's timeless hands.