Reviewed in this essay: Godhead: The Brain’s Big Bang, by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell. HG Publishing, 2011.
For some time, scientists have been marshaling their knowledge and resources in an effort to answer some of the biggest questions about the universe. With each grandiose experiment, however, science seems to be little closer to solving those fundamental mysteries about the origins of the cosmos. Fantastic and ambitious efforts costing billions of dollars, like that involving the Large Hadron Collider, see us trawling the universe in hopes of finding those answers; while highly polemic debates about the origins of life, pitting scientists against the religiously-minded, continue to rage unabated.
In Godhead: The Brain’s Big Bang, psychologists Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell assert that the answers to the mysteries of the universe, though difficult to unlock, are nonetheless within reach. They argue that the current impasse facing science will only be broken when we go beyond the prevailing view that the cosmos is an external entity whose secrets can only yield to detached observation and experimentation. The universe is within us, they say, and there is good reason to believe that humans can work to directly perceive its most fundamental workings.
Griffin and Tyrrell, from Ireland and the UK respectively, are known for their revolutionary work in the field of psychology. Their previous work, Human Givens – a seminal book that takes its title from the name of their approach to psychotherapy – offers a powerful paradigm for understanding mental health, rooted in emotional needs.
In Godhead, the authors go further, drawing together knowledge from several disciplines, including psychology, anthropology, archaeology, ancient wisdom, and quantum mechanics, to put forward highly convincing models – demonstrably consistent with science – to show that the existence, structure and functioning of the universe (of which we only see a miniscule part), is directly related to consciousness. There is a relationship, they assert, between consciousness and matter. Only by cultivating of our own awareness in a certain direction, Griffin and Tyrrell maintain, will we be able to experience the universe as it really is, and thereby penetrate its secrets.
“Consciousness has a vital role to play in the existence of everything and the quality of our relationship with it lies at the heart of physics,” they write.
Citing descriptions in poetry and literature throughout history and in the work of quantum physicists like John Wheeler, Stephen Hawking and Julian Barbour, the authors say that the cosmos exists in a constant state of movement, or oscillation. The universe, the theory goes, is being re-created at every moment. It is a shuttling back and forth between an ultimate state of perfection where all information and matter is integrated (a state of pure consciousness known traditionally in certain cultures as “the Godhead”) and its antithesis: a state of unrestrained energy. The awareness of all beings (most notably humans), which can be either creative or destructive in quality, propels the bi-lateral movement of this oscillation.
Knowledge of this dynamic, the authors say, has been present in human communities since before the dawn of civilization and is evidenced by ancient symbols and stories depicting the oscillation.
Certain humans first acquired the ability to perceive the oscillating universe following “The Brain’s Big Bang” – an evolutionary moment 40,000 years ago in which our Homo sapiens ancestors first acquired the ability to use imagination. The onset of this new mental faculty allowed us to be creative and mystical – to see the bigger picture – but it also introduced mental illness into the human race.
Godhead is a work of extraordinary scope and profound insight. By drawing attention to the little known, but very real linkages between the ancient wisdom traditions and quantum physics, Griffin and Tyrrell attempt to bridge one of the great chasms of our times – the seeming irreconcilability between spirituality and science.
The authors take aim at questions which genius minds have grappled with since the dawn of time, including the perennial conundrum: why do we exist? In doing so they may have solved some of the fundamental riddles which block the way forward for scientists working in physics and biology today, namely: What is the origin of the information that makes matter possible? How did life arise out of inanimate matter? And ultimately, what is consciousness?
Unlike some other works that approach the same, or similar questions, Godhead is neither mired in the indecipherable technical patois of specialist academics, nor blunted by the hollow mystical jargon that nowadays passes for genuine spirituality. The book’s prose is sharp, sober, informed, flowing, elegant and accessible, leading the reader through its great edifice of knowledge – one whose passageways and galleries are all shown to be interlinked.
We learn that areas as seemingly distant as physics and psychology are in fact more connected than we could ever imagine. And this leads to one of the main pillars in Godhead’s great hall of ideas: that the quality of our thoughts, actions and attention has a very real impact on the state of the universe.
Because of the book’s colossal, multidisciplinary reach, it has something for every reader. Godhead has just as much to offer the curious layperson as it does the most learned scientist. Not only will the reader’s knowledge of the external universe be deepened, but also his or her internal universe – whose exploration, the book alleges, is, above all others, the one fundamental task incumbent upon us all.