The Traditional View

Energy is the ability to do work.

Energy can be converted from one form to another and is used during processes of change.

Energy can be lost or gained during processes of change; it is used, transferred or exchanged as one thing acts on another.

Nature is dependent upon cause and effect.  The universe and everything in it is a big machine with no other purpose than the purpose we, as human beings, give to, or see in, it.

The Alternative View

New, yet age old, is the idea that energy is a phenomenon, a thing which has the inherent ability to change.  The phenomenon of energy is what everything is composed of, all that we can and can't see, along with all that we have yet to see.  Espousing this alternative to the traditional view of energy can lead us to new insights.  We can come to know what the mystics have forever known: that all is essentially one....  The One is always transforming, always becoming.  The One is actualizing potentials and it is doing so purposefully.

  Take a tree.  Why does it come to be?  Does it ever die?  What is its purpose?

Excerpt from book:

The Science Times recently ran an article about redwoods and fog. Journalist Carol Yoon reported research findings which indicate that redwood trees transform fog into ground water and maybe stream water as well. The idea of fog contributing to our water source and plant life has been intuitively understood by ecologists for a long time. Apparently the amount of ground water that the redwoods transform from fog is so immense that the rest of the forest thrives because of it.

To put it all into an Aristotelian context, the material cause of the redwood is the seed from which it grows. The redwood seed will always actualize into a redwood, i.e. it will never become an oak—the formal cause. The efficient cause is the parent redwood and the final cause, is the new redwood tree that comes to be. But there are other questions we can ask about the redwood tree. For instance, why does it often grow so much larger than other trees? There seems to be a relation between the size of the redwood and its ability to transform fog water.

Scientists hypothesize that the redwood is the tallest tree on earth because it is able to take fog and transform it into a great deal of ground water for its own growth and development. But then again, perhaps the redwood grows so tall so that it can transform more fog into ground water and stream water in order for other forest life to maintain well-being. It would appear that the larger the redwood, the more fog it can transform into ground water. So, it’s possible that the redwood’s ultimate purpose is to grow as large as it does so that it can transform more fog into water in order for other things to be able to actualize their potentials. And, perhaps stretching this a bit, maybe the ultimate final cause for fog is just so that redwoods and other plant life can transform it into ground water to begin with. Will we ever really know? One thing is for sure, the redwood tree has a purpose, the fog has a purpose, and together they are actualizing potentials.

The Beginning of the Universe          

It is fair to say that nowhere does it become more apparent than in the proposed theory of the origin of the universe, fittingly called "the big bang," that the becoming of it all is a result of one phenomenon, one thing—energy. Throughout the ages many theories have been proposed for the becoming of it all; however, with the advancement of science the big bang theory has been pretty much elevated to the status of the explanation for the origin of the universe. It is a partial one at best, for it does not completely eradicate the mystery underlying the becoming of it all. Of course, this mystery is linked irrevocably with that of the energy enigma (Todaro-Franceschi, 1999).

Thought-provoking Questions:  

The Universe                    

Has the universe been finely tuned for life; is it purposeful?  Or has it all come about by mechanistic processes; is it purposeless, a random chance act that has snowballed through cause and effect processes into what we see (and don't see) today?



Does lightning "transfer" energy (conduct electricity) from one place to another? Or is it a visual expression of energy transforming itself from one form to another?

Split Photons                                                                                      

Photons (light particles), when split and sent in opposite directions seem to know what each other is doing and act accordingly.  Without any kind of energy transfer or exchange they act as if they were still one.  How is this possible?

Human Beings                                                                               

How is it that many mothers intuitively know when their offspring are in trouble?  How can a stranger pray for someone who is ill a great distance away and the person heals?  Why do some individuals with a poor prognosis spontaneously heal, while others with a good prognosis die?  Does death mean the absence of human energy or is it simply energy transforming from one state of being to another?


A butterfly is a good example of energy transformation.  Did you know that butterflies, and moths for that matter, undergo complete metamorphosis?  This means that they change from one thing into another thing; they are continually transforming.  A typical life cycle consists of four stages going from egg, to larva--caterpillar, to pupa--cocoon, to adult--the pretty flying insect we commonly refer to as a butterfly.  The adult butterfly takes off to flutter and fly about, often assisting in plant reproduction by carrying pollen from flower to flower.  And of course the metamorphosis cycle goes on and on.  So, does a butterfly ever stand still?  Does a butterfly ever die? 

The eggs, which transform into caterpillars, later cocoons, and finally butterflies, are ALWAYS becoming butterflies if they become anything at all.  A butterfly egg hasn't ever    transformed into a bee and its unlikely that it ever will.  Why is that so?  Aristotle would have said it is related to final cause, a "that for the sake of which" a thing becomes (or tends to become) what it does.  It doesn't mean that a butterfly egg will always become a butterfly--it might never "become" at all.  But if it does become something, it will become what it is meant to be--a butterfly. 

What is really amazing about this is that the egg transforms into a caterpillar and then into a butterfly—almost all the time. Its pretty predictable, but I don’t mean that it is causal. We could call this an example of a reproducible synchronicity (See Synchronicity Page).  A butterfly creatively becomes, what its meant to become—and it does it in a similar if not exact fashion every time. Surely the changes are purposeful.


A meteorologist named Edward Lorenz (one of the developers of chaos theory) presented a paper in 1972 entitled, "Does the flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?"  What Lorenz was getting at is the idea of "sensitive dependence on initial conditions."  Things may look chaotic, unpredictable and random, but in essence there is a pattern--there is an orderliness to the disorderliness although perhaps we may not always be aware of it.  

Now, if we were to take the question seriously, I see several ways to answer it .  

1) A butterfly flapping its wings can/may cause a tornado to occur (cause & effect).

2)  A butterfly (a manifestation of energy), by flapping its wings may/will transform with the environment (also a manifestation of energy)--thus a tornado may form (another manifestation of energy).  In other words:  ALL IS ONE.

3) A butterfly has nothing whatsoever to do with the weather!

Of course, the question (and its tentative answers) is purely hypothetical, as Lorenz obviously meant it to be.  We can never know for sure that the butterfly's wings flapping in Brazil had anything to do with the tornado in Texas.  We can also, however, never know for sure that the butterfly didn't have anything to do with the weather.


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