Rediscovering the Integral Cosmos

Physics, Metaphysics, and Vertical Causality

Jean Borella and Wolfgang Smith, Bruno Bérard (introduction)

US translation of Physique et métaphysique by John Champoux

When a physicist who becomes a metaphysician, and a metaphysician who studies physics, join together to deal philosophically with science (quantum physics and cosmogenesis in particular), explosive results might well be expected—and this pivotal text does not disappoint.

Whether we follow the one or the other we return to a Weltanschauung that can finally account for the world in all its dimentions, and, especially, find its meaning, a meaning weakened by several centuries of mechanical determinism, scientism—the positing of (experimental) science as sole source of knowledge—or, even “scientificism” if you will, taken as designating a dogmatically atheistic, scientistic materialism. (Bruno Bérard, out of the Foreword).


  1. Introduction by Bruno BÉRARD
  2. First part. Physics and vertical causality by Wolfgang SMITH

    1. Preface
    2. Chapter I The Origin of Quantum Theory
    3. Chapter II The Quantum Enigma
    4. Chapter III Finding the Hidden Key
    5. Chapter IV Three Vertical Powers of the Soul
    6. Chapter V The War on Design
    7. Chapter VI The Emergence of the Tripartite Cosmos
    8. Chapter VII The Primacy of Vertical Causality
    9. Postscript
  3. Second part. Is science through with God? by Jean BORELLA

    1. Preface
    2. Chapter I How Science Became Atheistic
    3. Chapter II Scientific Physics and Philosophical Fiction
    4. Chapter III The Question of Being and Creation Ex Nihilo
    5. Chapter IV The Being of “There is”
    6. Chapter V Laplacian Determinism and Newtonian Platonism
    7. Chapter VI There Was a Small Ship…
    8. Chapter VII No Freedom for the Friends of Free Will
    9. Chapter VIII Meaning Has Disappeared
    10. Chapter IX Why Is Science Officially Atheistic?
    11. Chapter X Idealist Blocking and the Realism of Substantial Form
    12. Chapter XI The God of Reason and the Grace of Faith
    13. Conclusion


Following Galileo, Descartes and Newton, Western civilization succumbed to the spell of what I have termed horizontal causation. From the publication of Newton’s Principia in 1687 to the discovery of quantum physics in the early twentieth century, scientists assumed without question that, at bottom, the universe constitutes but a gigantic “clockwork,” in which the disposition of the parts determines—with mathematical precision!—the movement of the whole. And even in the face of quantum facts, the paradigm was not actually discarded, but merely modified. Fundamentally the universe, to this day, is still conceived as a “clockwork”, howbeit one that no longer functions with one-hundred percent precision: one might say that in addition to rigid cogwheels, it now comprises some “wobbly” components which in effect play the role of “dice”. The large picture, therefore, has scarcely changed at all: now as before, Nature is perceived, on scientific authority, to be indeed “a dull affair”: merely “the hurrying of material, endlessly, meaninglessly” as Whitehead lamented long ago1.

However, with the rediscovery of what we have termed “vertical causation” or VC, the picture has radically changed. Let us recollect, first of all, how this finding came about: vertical causality made its appearance precisely in our consideration of the so-called “quantum measurement problem”.2 Having ascertained that the measuring instrument cannot be a physical object, that it must be corporeal, it follows that the so-called “collapse of the wave-function” cannotbe ascribed to physical—or what I term horizontal—causation, inasmuch as a transition between two distinct ontological domains is perforce instantaneous. And this in turn entails the recognition of a hitherto unrecognized and unsuspected kind of causality: a mode that differs categorically from physical causation by virtue of the fact that it acts—not by way of a temporal chain of events—but indeed instantaneously. [Smith, “The War on Design”, pp. 53-54]


  1. Science and the Modern World (Macmillan 1953), p. 54.[]
  2. The Quantum Enigma (Angelico Press, 2005), pp. 109-125.[]

Notice of publication

When a metaphysician has some skill in physics or, more generally, in (positive) science, or when a scientist has some skill in metaphysics, we are already guaranteed to hear a discourse that leaves its part to the ‘natural world’. It is because physics comes first, then follows metaphysics, for those who seek to see further or beyond. Thus, the founder of science, Aristotle, whatever his incomprehension of his master’s doctrine of Ideas (Plato was for nineteen years), had his physics followed by his metaphysics, to which the first refers necessarily.

For example, the scientific question of the finitude or the infinitude of the universe seems to arise only from the descriptive theories which concern themselves with it. This question only arises, in fact, scientifically; metaphysically, the cause is understood: in short, neither the beginning nor the end of space is part of it, by definition, just as the beginning and end of time are not part of time. What limits one thing is of a different nature: ‘the sea does not limit the sea’. Besides,


whether space is infinite or not, only a finite and calculable volume is accessible to observations. The sky background radiation marks a horizon, an ultimate wall against which any observation will forever come up. Because, in its primordial phase, the universe gives nothing to see: neither the light, nor the stars nor any other celestial body were yet formed! (Jean-Pierre Luminet).


Isn’t that why any cosmology can only be ‘a probable myth’ (ton eikota mython, Plato, Timaeus, 29d)? Or, as astrophysicist James Jeans (1877-1946) put it more recently: The universe is beginning to look more like a great thought than a great machine.

This is why, in any case, it seemed essential to bring together in this book the two approaches: that of a physicist and mathematician, Wolfgang Smith, led to think, through the understanding of these disciplines themselves, metaphysically, and that of a metaphysician, Jean Borella, who thinks about the world and man, with the necessary distance imposed by the postulates of modern scientific thought.

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