The Transphysical Domain
An Interview with Hunter Adams III
As told to Elmer C. Pierce I Jr.
Hunter Adams III is a research scientist, consultant, historian and writer. He has lectured nationally on subjects as diverse as
biomagnetism, philosophy of science and African history. Adams is a member of the National Society of Black Physicists, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Congressional Black Caucus/Black Leadership Roundtable's Science and Technology Interface Group. He is one of the contributors to the famous Portland Model of educational curriculum. He is Co-Founder and Associate Director of Lifeways Science Institute where he is engaged in developing holistic science educational programs for grades K-12.
H&H: You have such a diversified academic background. Which did you first feel strongly, the scientific or the social leanings?
ADAMS: I always looked at both of them simultaneously; I didn't prioritize either one. The ongoing advancement of Black people in this society has always been a concern and I've always been involved in that on the scientific end, I've always had a like for things related to science, astronomy, high-energy physics (also called "particle physics") and to a lesser degree twenty years ago– neuroscience (brain/mind science).
H&H: That must influence the manner in which you pursue the sciences and the history; you always see the inter-relation.
ADAMS: Right! Because it's always there. Every scientific discipline has a history: how the science evolved, who are the players, and what are the circumstances that led to someone's discoveries or innovations. So, social-historical values, politics, economics, etc., are always in any scientific endeavor. It has to be. Today, people depend on government to fund their research. So it's clear that history and the whole sociological domain are always present in science. Some people want to argue that science is "value neutral," but it can never be value neutral because there are no neutral values. The thoughts always come from a person and that person is part of a specific culture or ethnic group and they bring with them certain
values, certain ways of looking at things.
H&H: The "value neutral" doctrine was the rationalization for developing the atomic bomb and modem destructive weapons.
ADAMS: Right. But, that's abdicating responsibility. Every scientist has a responsibility to himself, to his small community of scientists, to his country, to the larger society and to the planet. Unfortunately, the last two, the larger society and the planet - the ecosystem, the whole planetary ecology - most scientists don't feel enough responsibility for that. I understand that there's a new idea being talked about among ecologists and some economists called 'inter-generational equity' -which simply means being responsible
for those not yet born -which is an old, traditional African idea of being responsible to the future and to the past; to the ancestors and those not yet born as well as the present generation.
H&H: You've coined a word, "transphysical.” What does it represent?
ADAMS: "Transphysical" is a way of being a bit more specific when we talk about domains that people would call 'spiritual' or 'metaphysical.' If we look at anything 'physical as something that can be counted, measured, touched/felt, or simply in some kind of way investigated with some instrument, whether it's one's eyes, a microscope or telescope, what have you... that's what we call the physical realm of existence. People often talk about the non-physical realm of existence, the spiritual realm, the realm of God; but it is very difficult for a human being to know the non-physical with its physical body. How can you know the existence of something truly non-physical with your physical body?
H&H: It seems virtually impossible.
ADAMS: Right. So, there's this intermediate domain, which I call the transphysical domain, which simply means we're talking about one's thoughts, emotions, patterns of behavior, something that's immediately measurable - but is dependent on the physical substrate of one's body for existence: you can't have thoughts without a brain, for example. And it's with your thoughts that you can talk about God, or the spiritual domain--only because you can think about it. The only way you can project your consciousness on into the future or backward into the past is trans- physically. So the whole trans-physical domain encompasses symbols. Take a stop sign for example. Everyone knows what that means... but the sign, in and of itself, as a physical entity doesn't say stop. It only says it trans-physically; you interact with that sign on purely a symbolic level. That's why we have to have a separate domain
to accommodate that. And, it eliminates a lot of confusion when people talk about the spiritual domain, because different people have different definitions of 'spiritual.' Afrikaners and Black South Africans are Christians, but do they worship the same Jesus? Where one is saying, "Let me oppress these people" and the other is saying "Redeem us from this oppression." Is it the same? People don't think about that because every idea, every religious experience comes from a person. A person had to bring it to another person. They had to have a person transform it into a living experience, no matter who it was. So we have to locate things like that in the trans-physical domain. That's what that idea attempts to project.
H&H: That would apply on a cultural level as well as an individual level, wouldn't it?
ADAMS: Sure. Because culture includes a whole set of symbols, behavior patterns and things that are valued that have no physical existence. Everyone within a specific culture shares what’s important.
H&H: And in this trans-physical domain, something can have significance to one culture that has no significance to another.
ADAMS: Right. But, you know, some people argue that there are 'ideals' or 'cultural universals' that transcend individual cultures and that may be true to a certain extent. But the general idea about 'transphysical' is that we are talking about symbols, patterns of thought and so forth that must have a physical substrate for existence.
H&H: How do you go about getting in touch with the transphysical domain?
ADAMS: Well, for one thing, becoming more sensitive to yourself ... becoming more sensitive to life,and nature. Develop a more natural rhythm where you're more in sync with everything. Be more conscious of yourself ... more conscious of your mood swings during the month, during the week, during the day. Try to identify what happens that allows for expressions of depression or frustration or anger or joy or elation. Everyone has these emotional feelings, which vary from time to time during the month. People need to become aware of those rhythms to get more in touch with themselves spiritually.Jews, Christians and Muslims say that we live in a 'fallen realm.' That is, we're still suffering from the repercussions of the violation in the Garden. Consequently, we are alienated from God ... Yet, God is
beyond human capacity to objectively know, hence we can only know attributes of God. What they're saying is that one has to work in order to know more about - to have within one's self - more of that spiritual domain objectively. You have to self-organize. You have to 'bootstrap' yourself by studying yourself and then, over a period of time you'll know more and more about yourself inwardly, and more about the world outwardly. You see, it takes time for your nervous system to develop, so it can become more sensitive to itself and the environment. You begin to see patterns in nature and people and civilizations. That's
what our ancient ancestors understood ... that's what they spent their lives trying to do - to know those patterns, to 1cnow those' cycles, in order to project what's going to happen in the future. That's how our brains work...to anticipate events in the future so it can have the 'most correct response to survive. We have specialized brain cells that anticipate future events. And so, that's why it's so important, as they say, to 'know oneself.'
H&H: 'That's a fascinating concept.
ADAMS: You see, when people say, "you can't prove that God exists,” they're absolutely correct. Every individual has to discover God for themselves, within themselves.
H&H: But the only way you can discover it is to get in touch with yourself?
ADAMS: Exactly. And every culture base developed ways for people to get in contact with their spiritual or higher selves. And that's the direction we as African people in America have to move in. More of us have to get into that movement – indeed, more of us are getting into that. But, for the most part, our churches have not dealt with that domain directly. And if they are to survive, that's what they're going to have to do in the nineties. They will have to develop programs for personal self- development. Otherwise, many of them will not survive or be relevant in the next century.
H&H: You're saying that because the rest of the Black population is moving in that direction?
ADAMS: Well, it's gaining more and more momentum. It's not just Black churches, but in the white community as well. Fewer and fewer people are getting into the church, and if they do, they go from one church to another. They are all trying to find this elusive truth that no one can deliver, no matter who they are.
H&H: Actually, as a species on this planet, we're going to have to move in that direction.
ADAMS: Right! As human beings, the species will have to do that. As Black people in America, we REALLY have to do it. And we have to turn within to develop our natural creative potential ... from that, and then we can develop new ways to have more economic stability, growth and development. But we have to have a coherent picture of who we are as a people first. Right now, it's incoherent... Like sunlight - light coming from all directions at once. That's the way the Black community is now; it's incoherent in its idea of itself. We have to become more like a laser, which is a single fine-pointed beam of light, tightly focused and coherent."It's very difficult to know your true self when 95% of the information
you receive is about someone else someone else's life and living."
H&H: Then, if the church meets this challenge, it could end up being on the vanguard of the movement, because this is such a project, each individual - without some coercion - is not going to make the effort.
ADAMS: Well, part of the problem is that our leadership tends not to be multi-disciplinary. In ancient African societies, if you wanted to be a priest in for example ancient Kemet (Egypt), you had to know astronomy, human physiology, psychology, botany, language, grammar, rhetoric, semantics ...you had to be a master of a how a host of disciplines’ knowledge interact. How many of our politicians can say that they know, or are even familiar, with multiple disciplines? If one is going to lead, he/she has to know a lot about how the mind works, how our bodies work.For example, if one is going to lead he has to be able to tell people, “Look, these foods will kill you, fast or slowly you won’t even know it until its too late." Just because your grandparents came up eating that doesn't mean you have to follow in their footsteps. Reverend Jessie Jackson attempted that when he first opened Operation PUSH, and half the people didn't come back after hearing that talk! So he hasn't pushed nutrition anymore. But that's a risk our leadership has to take; we have to talk about
healthy eating habits. We just can't eat the same things we've been eating as a people if we expect to advance socially, economically, politically, and especially spiritually. Because food affects how our brains work. So we really have to deal with our diets that are really critical.
H&H: I want to ask you for a real general bit of advice. Let's say you've got a family. Moving into the nineties, in the light of what you've talked about here, regarding the transphysical domain, getting more in touch with ourselves and getting back to our natural rhythms - can you give a basic, general philosophy that your typical Black family can start to move on immediately?
ADAMS: 'First and foremost, read as much as you can about African people, wherever they are on the planet, past and present Whether they're in Australia, the South Pacific, Brazil, Peru, Nicaragua,California, the Sudan, in Europe ... wherever you find African people. Study their histories, their lives, so you can know more about yourself as an African person becoming Black - that is someone who has set very high standards for moral and social behavior. We have to know ourselves. We have to know who we are from all these fragments. What was the life of the African ten thousand years ago like? We have to create a mental garden.
Source: "The Transphysical Domain." Interview by Elmer C. Pierce, JR. History and Heritage.