Matter, Energy, and the Living Matrix

Pages: 56-62
Year: 1993
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Rolf Lines, October 1993 – Vol. XXI nº 03

Volume: 21

Matter and Energy

Rolfers and other somatic practitioners have daily and remarkable experiences of human bodies functioning as whole bio energetic systems. The paradigms or metaphors used to describe these experiences maybe structural (material), spiritual, and/or energetic. Here we address aspects of these perspectives and some of the relationships between them.

It is our impression that body workers have a practical and intuitive understanding of the relation between matter and energy that would be envied by biologists and physicists. The well-kept secret in biology is that we do not really understand the source of the energy that makes muscles contract. Biochemists have developed a crisp and tidy story of the conversion of chemical energy through various metabolic pathways leading to the formation of the high energy phosphate bond in adenosine tri phosphate (ATP). The hydrolysis or splitting of this bond in the muscle fiber supposedly releases energy that is converted into movement. However, there are many problems with this story. The resulting “crisis in energetics ” was summarized in a symposium held at the New York Academy of Sciences in 19742. The conference did not resolve any of the difficulties, and matters soon got worse when it was discovered that high energy phosphate bonds are not the only source of energy for muscle contraction’. Some of the energy comes from some other source, and this has, to our knowledge, never been discovered.

Meanwhile, physicists have had a tenacious struggle with reconciling matter and energy at the fundamental level of subatomic particles. The problem is that physicists have two sets of repeatable experiments, each of which disproves the other. One kind of experiment shows that energy, such as light, is composed of particles with a definite location and trajectory, whereas another kind shows conclusively that light is a wave that spreads in every direction through space. This is known as the wave particle duality or paradox, and its resolution is fundamental to the development of quantum mechanics.

Niels Henrik David Bohr (18851962; Nobel Prize in 1922) made a major advance with the introduction of the principle of complementarity. This was an application to physics of the ancient Taoist philosophy of the paradox of opposites, as exemplified by the 2500 year old writings of Lao Tsu in the Tao Te Ching:

“Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness. All can know good as good only because there is evil. Therefore having and not having arise together. Difficult and easy complement each other. Long and short contrast each other; High and low rest upon each other; Voice and sound harmonize each other; Front and back follow one another. Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing, teaching no-talking. The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease. Creating, yet not possessing, Working, yet not taking credit. Work is done, then forgotten. Therefore it lasts forever.”

Bohr stated that the particle and wave points of view are complementary but cannot be reconciled with each other conceptually or experimentally. If one looks at a photon in a certain way, it is obviously a particle, and displays no wave-like features. Looking at the photon in another way shows that it is a wave, and has no particulate behavior. The two views are complementary, in that a complete understanding of a photon requires both views, even though there is no way of logically or experimentally reconciling or connecting them, at least in classical quantum theory. While physicists were focused primarily on light, the wave-particle duality is a characteristic of all matter and energy in the universe.

How can a “something” like light have two properties that are mutually exclusive? The answer to this paradox has implications for our understanding of the nature of reality. Waves and particles are not actually independent properties of light, they are properties of our interaction with light. The way light is detected, the experimental setup, will determine whether light is a wave or a particle.

In terms of our direct sensory experience of light, what we perceive depends not on fundamental properties of light but on the way our nervous system is programmed. According to neurophysiologist Sir John Carew Eccles (Nobel Prize with A.L. Hodgkin and A.F. Huxley in 1963) each of our individual experiences leads to a certain kind of nervous system, and thence to our own interpretation of reality:

“I want you to realize that there is no color in the natural world and no sounds-nothing of this kind; no textures, no patterns, no beauty, no scent…”

Since the behavior of light belongs not to light itself but to our interaction with light, it therefore follows (if the complementarity principle is correct) that light has no properties independent of us as observers. Without something to interact with, light does not exist. And, without anything to interact with, we do not exist either. Deepak Chopra has pointed out that this is an ancient principle, originating with the rishis, who wrote most ancient texts of Rig Veda, which probably predate the pyramids by thousands of years. In essence, the rishis taught that there is nothing so important about the universe as your participation in it.4

Stated another way, complementarity leads to the conclusion that the world consists not of things, but of relationships. Properties of objects (and the results of a Rolfing session) are the results of interactions.

Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976; Nobel Prize in 1932) addressed the same issue and proposed the uncertainty principle: we can never know completely what an electron is because knowing anything depends on the techniques we uses. We can measure the exact position of a particle at a particular instant, but our measuring instrument alters the particle’s motion, so we are not able to simultaneously determine its velocity. Similarly, if we determine the velocity of a particle, its position at the instant of measurement becomes uncertain. This principle led to the idea that we can never know precisely what a particle is doing. Classical quantum mechanics discards any hope of ever having a complete description of individual events. Instead, classical quantum mechanics is a set of statistical laws governing aggregations of particles.

Classical quantum mechanics is a pragmatic approach in that it deals with our experiences rather than with absolute mechanisms. In terms of healing, the statement “I feel better” becomes a far more realistic goal of clinical practice than determining absolutely that a particular intervention will predictably produce a particular physiological outcome. Physicist Fritj of Capra has written an interesting essay on this subject’. Capra discusses how medicine can benefit by including the holistic, organic, and dynamic frameworks that emerge from quantum mechanics and relativity theory.

According to classical quantum theory, cause and effect, and a complete understanding of reality, lie beyond science. Instead, we can predict the statistical probabilities that certain interactions or events will take place. Quantum theory has been very successful in doing this by using the wave equation developed by Erwin SchrOdinger (1887-1961; Nobel Prize in 1933). This equation enables us to develop a statistical prediction of what a particle will do without determining why it does what it does.7

These ideas have profound implications for the traditional view that science can locate the absolute truth about reality. According to classical quantum mechanics, there is no absolute truth. The mind can only deal with ideas, and cannot relate to anything else. It has also been said that it is ideas, and ideas alone, that can change a human being. The mind cannot directly ponder reality, it can only ponder ideas about reality. These ideas are modified by the way our instruments or our sensory nervous system detect reality. But the instruments are creations of the mind, and our sensory nervous system is programmed by our experiences.

Einstein could not accept the idea that we will never know what an electron is and precisely what it does. He was convinced that “the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.” He acknowledged that the statistical predictions of quantum mechanics always work, but he was convinced that “God does not play dice”. Einstein was certain that we will someday discover a fundamental and complete description of nature that will tell us what is really happening inside atoms.

A New Quantum Mechanics

Physicist David Bohm made a major advance toward Einstein’s goal. In two papers published in 1952, Bohm suggested that what is missing in Bohr’s “classical” quantum mechanics is a set of “hidden variables” or invisible factors which determine the precise behavior of individual particles’. When these variables are understood, we will have a precise, logical, complete, and continuous description of all processes, as Einstein had predicted.

Bohm was profoundly influenced by Einstein (his 1952 paper ends with the acknowledgment “The author wishes to thank Dr. Einstein for several interesting and stimulating discussions”). Bohm’s view differed radically from both Bohr’s and Heisenberg’s. Bohm suggested that the wave particle question is not one of “either/or”. Instead, waves and particles mutually imply each other. While this may seem to be a trivial semantic difference, the concept of implicate order has profound significance because it allows one to grasp both aspects, the totality, at the same time.

Bohm’s ideas were an extension of an earlier concept that had been developed by one of the founders of classical quantum mechanics, Prince Louis-Victor de Broglie (1892-1987, Nobel Prize in 1929), de Broglie had developed a concrete physical picture of the coexistence of waves and particles in 1923. However, in a famous debate9betweenNiels Bohr and Albert Einstein in 1927, Bohr’s views about the indeterminate and indeterminable nature of atomic structure, which came to be called the “Copenhagen interpretation,” prevailed over Einstein’s. As a result, de Broglie went along with the tide of history, and set aside his “theory of a double solution” until 1970.10

In 1979, Philippidis and colleagues reported that particle and wave aspects of reality could, indeed, be accounted for at the same time”. This became possible by introducing a hidden variable, the “quantum potential” into the wave equations. Specifically, calculations based the quantum potential enabled Philippidis and colleagues to calculate the expected wavelike interference patterns of an electron while retaining the notion of a well-defined particle trajectory.

A second series of papers by Bohm and colleagues developed some of the remarkable consequences of a new quantum theory (as opposed to the classical theory of Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, and others) based on the quantum potential12. A remarkable aspect of the quantum potential is that the equation describing its properties includes non local features. One way this manifests is that a component of the force of interaction between two particles is not influenced by separating them by very great distances. By its very nature, the quantum potential predicts a fundamental interconnectedness of all things. Hence the universe as a whole is conceived to have a holographic-like order. Bohm referred to this as the implicate, enfolded order. The properties of the whole are enfolded into every part, and, like a hologram, the whole can be reconstructed from any part.

The implicate, enfolded order and quantum potential describe a universe that is structured in such a way that constrains the properties of all of the parts and processes that are embedded within it, and this universal structure is, at the same time, a consequence of the properties of the objects within it. The smallest change in the properties of any object in the universe can produce a change in the quantum potential, and this change is expressed everywhere, throughout the whole.

These are profound ideas that create a new conceptual framework for viewing the structure of the world within and around us. The quantum potential is global and homogeneous; it has no well defined source; it is a distributed property of the whole universe. Its conceptual significance for bodywork lies in its possible usefulness in describing those remarkable instances in which actual physical contact between the practitioner and client are not necessary. In particular, the new quantum mechanics can help explain how your thoughts about your client may influence their structure, even if you are separated by many miles. The quantum potential can account for the phenomena that Jung referred to as “synchronicity”. The new physics states that the appearance of things as being separate is an illusion of our consciousness.

The new quantum mechanics does not replace the classical version. Schrodinger’s wave equation continues to be the most reliable method for predicting the behavior of physical systems. However, Bohm’s contribution of the implicate and holographic order in the universe are beginning to percolate into many different disciplines, as reviewed in a fascinating book entitled Quantum Implications. 13

Where Do We Study Wholeness In Action?

What, if anything, do these rather mind-boggling concepts of classical and “new” quantum physics have to do with the practice of bodywork? Physicists, and in particular biophysicists, seek to understand the nature of matter at all levels. They do not hesitate to make theories about the nature of consciousness, order in the universe, or even the way life works. These ideas are interesting, but where can they be tested?

We view the experiences of the holistic body worker to be a precious cauldron in which universal principles of energy and order may be manifested and observed. Hence our biophysical approach involves listening carefully to the observations of Rolfers and other practitioners, and reconciling these observations with physical theory. There are two simultaneous goals: to test physical theory in the living organism, and to enhance our understanding of healing processes.

We have encountered a number of energetic and whole-system phenomena that are reported again and again. For example, Rolfers, massage therapists, acupuncturists, and other somatic practitioners sometimes have subtle or vivid experiences of “energy” directed to one part of the body spreading rapidly throughout the organism, influencing every part. Anatomical and/or energetic balancing of one system, such as the musculoskeletal system, may produce beneficial effects that radiate into other systems: circulatory, nervous, immune, reproductive, etc. A set of diverse symptoms and/or negative attitudes may suddenly disappear. There may be a sense of an overall quantum increase in the availability of “energy”, and an increase in the quality of physiological functioning throughout the organism. Balance appears to spread in an autocatalytic “chain reaction”, moving the entire organism toward a higher order.14

When such global phenomena take place, the person being worked on may seem to radiate a palpable “signal” that “something important” has happened. Sometimes these signals contain detailed information and vivid images relating to particular past traumas or repeated thought patterns. To the practitioner, such remarkable and rewarding experiences seem to derive from basic properties’ of the living tissue functioning and communicating as a whole system. To the scientist, these experiences point toward models of memory storage and recall that are based on distributed or holographic properties of the whole organism, rather than models that confine memory to the brain.15

Experiences of energetic connection and of wholeness in action can be profound occasions, both for the practitioner and for the client. Until recently, however, such experiences have merely served to emphasize the gulf between the bodywork and scientific communities. This gulf has existed because some of the most remarkable and beautiful experiences that take place during a Rolfing, cranial session, acupuncture treatment, massage, or other type of bodywork seem to have little basis in scientific theory. Both “wholeness” and “energy” have been elusive concepts for Western biomedicine. Likewise, the search for the location of memory in the brain has been notably unsuccessful.

It can be frustrating to have one’s vivid and intimate personal experience dismissed as biologically impossible, a hallucination, an aberration, a coincidence, a fantasy, or an anomaly. These are some of the polite expressions scientists use to categorize observations that do not fit with current theories. We believe, however, that the time is approaching when the body worker and the scientist will be able to validate each other’s ideas and experiences.

The relation between bodywork and natural science is undergoing rapid change because of the synthesis of a wealth of discoveries in broad areas of biology, physics, and mathematics. The following summarizes concepts that are simplifying our picture of how the human body works and that have the potential to change the face of clinical practice. For those wishing more details, references are given at the end of the article.

The Search for Predictability

In the past, biomedical researchers have studied the parts and systems in the body as isolated entities with identifiable properties. The goal has been to identify predictable cause-and-effect relationships. This linear Newtonian reductionist mode of thinking has helped in the analysis of complex living systems, and has led to some clinical successes in areas such as surgery and treatment of infectious diseases.

In terms of mathematical modeling, living systems are now recognized as non-linear rather than linear. One significance of this is that cause-and-effect thinking is useful only in certain specific situations. Non-linear mathematics permits analysis and prediction in seemingly chaotic, intricate systems, composed of many parts, connections, and feedback loops.16

In terms of research, the newer models emphasize the limitations of the classic double-blind, randomized trial, which has in the past been regarded as the only route to the understanding of physiological processes. The double-blind statistical model serves the , pharmaceutical industry, but has only limited application in the study of complementary medicine.

The division of inquiry into separate disciplines has constrained biology from addressing the question of how global unity of structure and function are achieved and maintained. From what we have said so far, we obviously consider body workers to be leading-edge inquirers into the theoretical and practical aspects of whole-organism integration and communication.

An example of the classical way we have thought about the body is provided by the concept of separate structural divisions, such as the musculoskeletal, connective tissue, cytoskeletal, and genetic domains.

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The Living Matrix

We are now recognizing that it is also useful to visualize all of these domains as a single structural and energetic unit, a continuum. This continuum has been described as the tissue-tensegrity matrix, as the connective tissue/ cytoskeleton, or simply as the living matrix. What connects all of these living phases together is a set of ground substance fibers.19

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The living matrix is composed of a diverse set of molecules, each with its individual set of properties. Synergetics is a new field of inquiry concerned with the behavior of systems composed of subsystems with different properties.20

Cooperative or Collective Phenomena

The living matrix as a whole exhibits cooperative or collective phenomena. These are whole-systems properties that arise because each component is modified as a consequence of being a part of a collective group. For example, the total force acting on any individual atom in the living matrix depends on the positions and activities of all of the other atoms in the organism. The behavior of any part is a reflection of the properties of the whole, and vice versa.

Physicist Herbert Frohlich has predicted that molecules of the living matrix, such as the collagen of connective tissue and the phospholipids of cell membranes, should produce stable large scale coherent vibrations21. Because of the high degree of order present in the living matrix, vibrations of one molecule will entrain or synchronize vibrations of others by resonant interactions. When billions of molecules begin to oscillate in resonance, very large oscillating fields will be produced. Vibrations will be rapidly conducted through the living matrix and radiated into the environment.

Frohlich and others think these vibrations communicate regulatory information responsible for the integration of function taking place at various levels within the organism. Quantum mechanical calculations indicate that these highly ordered, coherent, or laser-like vibrations should fall in the microwave and visible light portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Such signals have been detected in living systems and have been shown to regulate cellular activities.22

The most efficient quantum detector of Frohlich oscillations radiated from a human body is the living matrix of another organism. The ability of an organism to respond to minute electromagnetic fields is particularly evident when the whole living matrix is involved’. Greatest sensitivity is exhibited when the living matrices of two or more organisms can function as transmitters/receivers/perceivers. From simple biophysical considerations, we would predict that body workers and their clients will become potentially more sensitive to physiological and emotional signals (empathy) as their living matrices become more and more ordered, coherent, and interconnected. Their “antenna systems” become connected or coupled together.

Spread of Non-Chaotic Energy Through a Synergetic System

The biophysical properties of molecules comprising the living matrix are consistent with many of the phenomena taking place in bodywork. For example, when non-chaotic, intentionally organized, energy is introduced into the living matrix, energy and information can suddenly spread throughout.

Some of the energetic signals emerging from the hands of the practitioner (in the form of heat, bioelectric, and bio magnetic fields) are probably indistinguishable from the normal communications (Frohlich oscillations) that enable every part of the organism to be informed of the activities of every other part. In this model, “healing” can be described as the introduction of biological signals into apart of the living matrix that has been partly isolated from the whole. Restoration of vital information flows revitalizes the communication network (the flow of energy/information tends to organize the system).

The spread of energy/information through the living matrix, and from one organism to another, are possible because of unique solid state physical properties of the living matrix. Semiconductor properties allow energy to be converted from one form to another. For example, the living matrix is a crystalline piezoelectric material, and this allows for rapid conversion of elastic energy (produced by sound, compression, tension, or heat) into electric energy, and vice versa. Such energy conversions are essential for the survival of the organism. Energy conversions give rise to a host of communication signals that spread in waves through the living matrix and into the space around it. These messages enable body structure to become adapted to the activities the body is called upon to carry out. Once structures have become adapted to a particular activity, these structures will support the communications that enable every part to participate in that activity. “Practice makes perfect!”

Light Is Involved

Quantum theory predicts that energy will be converted back and forth between phonons (units of vibration, sound, or heat) and photons (units of light) in the living matrix, which is technically described as a dielectric semiconductor”. It is therefore not surprising that a number of studies have revealed that living systems emit light. Photonic communication has a number of advantages for living systems because of its high speed and capacity, low energy and low noise operation, coherence, ease of coding and processing, and immunity from outside electromagnetic interferences.

The movement of vibrations through the living matrix will alter both the mechanical (elastic), electronic (dielectric), and optical (photonic) properties of the tissues. In highly regular crystalline arrays, such as those forming much of the living matrix, quantum mechanics predicts that electrons will act like light beams in a box filled with partially reflective mirrors. At the interfacial boundaries of the living matrix, the layers of atoms or molecules may act like fully reflective mirrors, reflecting the electron waves back into the interior of the crystal”. This fact points up the possible role of interfaces between fascial layers, such as between superficial and deep fascia, or between endomysium and perimysium, as reflective boundaries that regulate exchanges of information between different structural levels.


We have suggested elsewhere that the visible or palpable ripple that sometimes propagates through tissues in advance of the place where you are working maybe a non-dispersive nonlinear soliton wave.26

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A soliton wave is a solitary or singular wave that can occur on the ocean or in any other medium. In contrast to normal waves, solitons do not disperse or dissipate their energy by spreading out. The usual concentric wave, such as that produced by dropping a pebble in a pond, loses its energy as it spreads over the water surface. In contrast, solitons can carry large amounts of energy over long distances with little or no loss. An example of a soliton is the destructive tsunami or tidal wave produced by a submarine earthquake or volcanic eruption. An interesting feature of the soliton is that it possesses magnetic properties. It is also a coherent wave27.

Meditative and other practices can enhance one’s ability to project energy into space. Recent discoveries have shown that “Qi emission” by Qi Gong masters involves the production of a powerful magneticfield28. In the meantime, solid state physicists have predicted how soliton waves can be produced by large scale vibrations passing along hydrated protein chains29. The rotation of water molecules associated with the living matrix seems to play a role in generating magnetic “Qi emission.” We have suggested that such emissions may be large coherent soliton waves generated in the living matrix and projected into space.

Cellular Memory

Cell biologists are exploring ways the cytoskeletons of all of the cells in the body store information (cellular memory)30. Reversible gel to sol transformations in the cytoskeleton, produced by application of pressure and/ or by passing soliton waves may erase traumatic memories stored in non neural cells. At the same time, the ability of bodywork to elicit conscious memory recall is providing clues about the very nature of biological memory and consciousness.

The empathetic detection of memory traces by the practitioner may have a simple explanation. Immediately before a polymer, such as a microtubule in the cytoskeleton, undergoes a gel to sol transition, it may emit a large scale coherent Frohlich soliton into the living matrix. This phenomenon maybe comparable to the coherent emissions that are detected at the time of cell division, when the cytoskeleton breaks down to allow the chromosomes to migrate into the two daughter cells. Memory traces may be radiated into space, and be detected by the living matrix of the practitioner. The topic of somatic recall in bodywork, and its relation to holographic and other models of memory, will be discussed in greater depth in a manuscript that is in preparation.


The practice of the body worker is the ideal place to examine phenomena of wholeness in action. Such study is especially warranted in times of a health care crisis, because many of our presently intractable chronic organic diseases are whole-system disorders. Linear, Newtonian, cause and effect, statistical methods are inappropriate as the primary approach to the study of whole systems communication dysfunctions.

The ideas emerging from current research are very interesting and relevant, but they are not new. Practical knowledge of the body as a whole is, in fact, ancient. It is fascinating to examine how our relatively recent intellectual attitudes have inhibited modern biomedicine from exploring phenomena that have been known about for so long.

This summary would not be complete without expressing our gratitude to the scientists who have made major contributions to this area of inquiry, and to the practitioners who have shared their experiences with us.

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