In 1993, Karen Harding, a philosopher wrote a paper, Causality then and now: Al-Ghazali and QM. She remarked:

In both cases, and contrary to common sense, objects are viewed as having no inherent properties and no independent existence. In order for an entity to exist it must be brought into being either by God (al-Ghazali) or by an observer (the Copenhagen interpretation).

This doctrine of al-Ghazali is called Occasionalism. It states that actual entities are continuously created, decreated, and recreated by God.

Whitehead admits a similar description of his events. They are actualized and deactualized, that is created and decreated. He also called these 'occasions'.

The family resemblence between his doctrine and that of al-Ghazali and the name he gave to the moment of a creative, actualising act suggests that he might have been influenced by al-Ghazali.

Was he?

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    The continual creation reminds me of a view of God both creating and sustaining reality. The "continuously created" aspect reminds me of "sustaining" reality although that does not seem to need "decreating" it. Jan 18, 2018 at 3:40
  • @Frank Hubeny: I like that idea. It means that there wasn't a special moment of creation - that is at the beginning - but that it happens at all times and everywhere. In a sense, it democratises creation. Jan 18, 2018 at 9:32
  • @Frank Hubeny: For Whitehead, who espouses a similar metaphysics, actual change, that is change we can grasp or measure, occurs when what is potential actualises, or is created in an act of creation. But if we there was no decreation, then everything would become actual and no change would occur. So we need decreation or repotentialisation. Jan 18, 2018 at 9:35
  • One of my problems with "creation", "de-creation", or "sustaining" is that they assume there exists something unconscious that now exists with properties that we can measure, that is, some real object of creation. But according to the Harding quote these objects have "no inherent properties and no independent existence". What we are measuring is not an object (or particle). Jan 18, 2018 at 13:12
  • @Frank Hubeny: Malin says that its only when something is actualised or created that we can measure it. I think the Harding quote is not about actuality but about potentiality, and there, there are no measurements that are possible. I think she might mean that they have 'no inherent properties and no independent existence' because it is the whole and not the part we must take into account. Jan 18, 2018 at 13:56

3 Answers 3


The hypothesis of the soul as the form of the body was postulated almost two and a half millennia ago by Aristotle, and reaffirmed eight centuries ago by Thomas Aquinas. We had to wait a very long time until English biologist Rupert Sheldrake finally identified said form as memory. It is true that the idea of memory as underlying all things may be implicit in St, Augustine’s theory of the Holy Trinity where, in one model, God the Father is seen as memory. Also in the Islamic tradition, in the school of Occasionalism, the philosopher Al-Ghazali thought in terms of memory sustaining the universe and memory being an aspect of the divine being. But these philosophical probes were not developed more elaborately (and doctrinally as in Thomism).

The many corollaries that follow from this identification answer countless questions. Dr. Sheldrake’s remarkable document, “Can Morphic Fields Help Explain Telepathy and the Sense of Being Stared At?” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336281109_Can_Morphic_Fields_Help_Explain_Telepathy_and_the_Sense_of_Being_Stared_At), discusses but one such conclusion. But his hypothesis can be seen to go much further and also answers the ultimate and overarching philosophical questions, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” “Why are we here?” “What is the meaning of life other than a tale told by an idiot?” The answer is logically contained in Sheldrake’s hypothesis of morphic resonance: all life forms, from anaerobic bacteria to humans (and indeed all inanimate matter), are ensouled by memory. What is called “matter” is 99.999999999999% vacuum — nothing at all —, with the tiniest of wavicles held in place by electromagnetic, strong and weak forces. (By contrast with this empty space, compare a highly condensed neutron star, a matchbox of whose substance would weigh about 3 billion tons.) The living individual is at his core a memory. This is easily manifest in the fact that many people, facing what seems to be imminent death (e.g., falling off a cliff, etc.), suddenly “see their entire lives flash before them.” Likewise for those who have had Near-Death Experiences and come back to relate that they too saw their entire existence from conception to the moment in question appear before them. They are seeing, in other words, themselves as composed of memory.

Similarly, the entire transcendent dimension undergirding the whole cosmos, which we may call a cosmic inframind, is an omniscient intelligence of memory. So why does it create the universe and hold it in existence? Because memory itself is largely inactive. Memory can be recalled, but of itself does not do much except guide the forms that recall it. Sheldrake has explained all this in great detail in his many erudite scientific writings, for which materialists and many religious fanatics would be happy to see not only his works, but him himself burned at the stake.

The purpose of physics and all physical existence, that is, is to add to and inform the underlying memory, which physical matter, as a “transceiving” agency, recalls and transmits back to, and thereby forms in return. The cosmic inframind, repository of all memory (cf. untutored autistic savants and Wunderkinder) creates the multiverse in order to learn about itself. The cosmogon, in other words, is self-actualizing. And the gift of life is an extremely rare opportunity to participate in this creation.

  • +1: I enjoyed reading one of Sheldrakes books recently. He quoted Bergson on time as a kind of memory which made a great deal of sense. I first came across Sheldrake as an A-level student in New Scientist where his morphic fields were described as "controversial" but its only recently I've read what he had to say. Aug 20, 2022 at 13:02

Many people, facing what seems to be imminent death (e.g., falling off a cliff, seeing themselves about to die in a car accident, etc.), report that they have suddenly “seen their entire lives flash before them.” Likewise for those who have had Near-Death Experiences and come back to relate that they too saw their entire existence from conception to the moment in question appear before them. In both cases, the people affected are seeing, in other words, themselves as composed of memory. In other words, the soul is the memory of the individual, produced by evolution and personal history, which maintains the existence of a being. One brain researcher, Dr. Paul Pietsch, in his Shuffle Brain: The Quest for the Hologramic Mind (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1981), reports that his research supports the conclusion that memory exists in what he calls “transform space,” a mathematical ethereality. He is in effect saying that memory is a form of hologram.

Some of the most advanced mathematical models of modern physics today propose that the entire cosmos is in fact a hologram. None of these results or models claim that memory (the soul) is identical to the physical structure of the brain or body or universe, but rather that the underlying “differently dimensioned” Prime Cause gives rise to the physics. Rupert Sheldrake, with his hypothesis of morphic resonance, which views biological organisms and physical entities (atoms, galaxies, …) as “tuning into” memories which have congealed into structure- and function-forming habits throughout evolution, has suggested many experiments (See, e.g., his book Seven Experiments That Could Change the World, 2nd ed.) to illustrate and verify this. In some current brain research, it seems that tiny molecular structures called microtubules may act as more highly specialized, transceiving “antennas” to and from such memories. In other words, the universe is self-actualizing its own inner nature. It is learning.


The relationship is that in both cases there was a need to account for how macroscopic physical reality, although apparently very regular and predictable, was not completely a law unto itself.

It sounds like Al-Ghazali wanted to effectively give more power back to God in case it was starting to look like the universe was able to govern itself (and perhaps make miracles problematic).

In the case of QM new scientific phenomena had been observed that contradicted the idea that particles could always be thought of as having precise positions and velocities.

Any similarity in the resulting interpretations of reality is likely to be coincidence. Although it is interesting to speculate about how Al-Ghazali would have reasoned differently about all this if he had known about QM.

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