Quantum Metaphysics or The God Experiments
by Ian R Thorpe.
A set of scientific experiments caried out in the 1980s changed physicists understanding of the nature of matter fundamentally. It may also, when put into perspective by history, prove to be the greatest advance in religious understanding for many centuries. And it inspired a gobsmackingly brilliant novel from Douglas Adams, the author of Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Though not as side splittingly funny as HHGTG the novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency ( info ) in which the eponymous central character runs a detective agency whose investigative methods are based on the interconncetedness of all things.
One of the most interesting things about the novel is the Electric Monk character. The Electric Monk, riding on a horse, wanders through the plot never being relevant to any of the scence he features in. We learn the Electric Monk is "a labour-saving device, like a dishwasher or a video recorder. Dishwashers washed tedious dishes for you, thus saving you the bother of washing them yourself, video recorders watched tedious television for you, thus saving you the bother of looking at it yourself; Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe."
The Electric Monk it is a very clever fictional device and as sophisticated readers of fiction will probably have worked out, is a symbolic representation of the need to suspend disbelief. But enough of my reading tastes, back to Quantum Metaphysics:
Physicists call the phenomenon discovered by the 1982 experiments ' quantum entanglement'1, and it refers to the state of two or more particles once they have interacted with one another. From that point, irrespective of time and distance, a correlation will always exist between the particles. What happens to one will affect the other. This is said to hold good even if the particles, having interacted, are blasted to opposite ends of the universe. How this can be known is not clearly explained. This is not surprising as there is no way we can send people to the end of the universe to take observational readings. Being unable to challenge it we must accept that it is so. Anyway it's more fun if we do.
The word entanglement is really a misnomer, suggesting as it does a ball of string a kitten has been playing with. Sometimes the term "non-separability" is used to describe the same condition. The apparently semantic difference between these is really very significant. If matter emerged from energy in the singularity as adherents of big bang theory maintain, it ought to follow that all the particles of which the universe consists are in that state of correlation. They have not become entangled, but at the fundamental level they have never been - and can never be - separated. The Brahminist philosophy of Hindusism and the North European Druids referred to this in earlier times as 'oneness'. There are also oblique references in the Bible, prticularly in the non - synoptic Gospel of John.
North European Druidic and also I believe American shamanistic tribal belief systems also had a notion of connectedness, that indivisuals were as much a part of the land as rocks, streams and trees.
Almost three decades have passed since non-separability was proved by the experiments but the significance of the discovery has not yet permeated the common consciousness. Perhaps it is too radical a concept, too remote from our everyday lives, to make people take notice.When we view it from the spiritual perspective however, everything changes.
Once we consider the implications of non separability from the perspective of the Abrahamic religions, Hinduism of Buddhism, or even the more philosophical versions of humanism ( I include paganism in humanism) clearly the oneness of which all matter and energy are part is both the physical body we inhabit and the manifestation of spirit (or mind if you prefer) and the means to redemptive action. This being so, then the correlation of all matter must also apply to all spirit. Our separateness is an illusion; the reality is an indivisible unity. As the Baghavad Gita puts it The physical life is an illusion, our true lives are in the divine (God by whatever name.) Jesus says much the same but in the Bible it is phrased more obtusely. I should point out the Gita is not exactly easily accessible for Westerners, I have my own personal translator, (she has great legs too.)
I have turned to writing in this vein because after listening to proposals involving the waste of stupendous amount of taxpayers money on pointless and idiotic science projects that promise to answer the great mysteries of life but make it obvious the people behind the projects don't even understand the question I was appalled not long ago to hear a physicist talking about the importance of exploring the galaxies. Now the nearest galaxy to the one our solar system is part of is, I have read, two and a half million light years away. Our fastest spacecraft would take sixty seven million years to get there. There are no new means of propulsion in development that would take our spacecraft anywhere near practical speeds for even interstellar travel. And yet these pedantic, hide bound dolts want us to throw money at projects that cannot possibly offer any practical benefit.
Similarly the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and its rival project at MIT vaguely promise great benefits yet a few hours reading up on the Higgs Boson should be enough to convince anyone except a science cultists (they're all obsessives you know - religious fanatics) that if the theoretical 'God Particle' does exist their chances of identifying it from among all the other electro magnetic hiss released when you start atom bashing are somewhat less than zero.
All the time what we already know shows us if we want to explore a universe we have that universe and the means to travel to its furthest limits (cue spooky Outer Limits music) within us.
Teilhard de Chardin, a scientist - cum - theologian was in ahead of the of the game for nonseparablity, theorising that both physical and spiritual aspects of our being were different parts of the same thing twenty years before the experiments confirmed it.. In The Future Of Man (published posthumously in 1959), he quoted a little-known version of Christ's central message to mankind: "Love one another, recognising in the heart of each of you the same God who is being born." He went on to observe: "Those words, first spoken two thousand years ago, now begin to reveal themselves as the essential structural law of what we call progress and evolution."
(The Tielhard de Chardin website linked is well worth exploring for people who like to play with ideas. You don't have to agree with Tielhard, the page is not evangelical in any way but it does offer philosophical perspectives that will be new to many people.)
Now I am not going to pretend I am in any way Christian, I found that quote while researching a book on existentialism and bookmarked it. It is expiditious for purposes of this article to suspend my opinions about Jesus however. The Hindu and Pagan version of the idea of oneness is usually put like this: The oneness is so great that the whole universe is contained within it and yet so small it's whole is contained within the smallest thing.
In Jesus' lifetime a God of love - using the word in the sense of the Greek 'agape' - love of one's family (2 - was a quite alien concept. The people he was addressing were used to a very different deity: the angry, jealous and capricious Jehovah. Believing judgement day to be imminent, they worshipped him on pain of being cast into hell and in the hope of everlasting life. Jehovah had a lot in common with other godheads particularly the Greek Zeus and the Egyptian Ra.
According to de Chardin and more modern followers of his thinking it was inevitable the injunction to "love one another" should have been understood not as recognition of a commonality or oneness but as a means of gaining personal merit. Only now, when quantum mechanics has revealed (as yet inconclusive) evidence that all matter is one, that there is no separation between me and my neighbour and some guy who lives on the other side of the world and whom I will never meet, do we have the physical proof of what was really meant.
We live in the era of self. I write of existentialism but ask many intelligent people what existentialism means and if they offer an answer they will probably describe solipsism, the belief that one's mind is the only thing one can truly know exists. Loving, in this very unfamiliar sense of identifying with others, requires us to put aside the sense of self, clearly a very difficult task for people who believe we each create our own reality. The love Jesus asks of his followers, the sense of oneness the Baghavad Gita(3) tells us is the only true reality, the Buddhist concept of Anatta does not claim to be an act of virtue. It is simple pragmatism - the only possible path available to us to achieve the self - knowledge and self fulfillment we seek. Not to love others would be to not loving ourselves, and would deny fly the facts as we now know them.
And if each of us is in reality part of a single spirit, can we still sustain our dubious preoccupation with personal salvation? At best it has always smacked of postponed gratification. At worst it can be egotism, reaching its nadir in the perverted belief of the suicide bomber that he is guaranteed immediate admission to paradise.
With new insights through a religion no longer dependent on blind trust, but grounded instead in knowledge, we are offered a higher purpose. Rather than seeing ourselves as separate individuals, we can understand that despite the sneering of those who style themselves realists there is a meaning to life. We are not just chemical accidents but aspects of a beautiful and indivisible whole. Teilhard saw that each of us has a unique and essential role in the continuation of The One.
Please do not assume I believe all of this and am trying to convert you. What I believe is personal. Explore the ideas presented for yourselves and take from them what you will.
The truth is not out there.
The truth is here.
We are the truth.
1, Quantum Entanglement link: Scroll down to the history section to learn about the origins of the idea and the experiments used to prove it.
2. The Ancient Greeks had three kinds of love, agape (sic), erota (jiggy love) and caritas (love of humanity, of the community. We get charity from this.) In modern Greek there are four, charity having been dropped and fondness or affection (storge) plus philia (not creepy love but abstract, virtuous love). Desire (thélema) . Personally I don't think of either fondness or affection as love. Desire is something different again.
3. Links to specific parts of the Bhagavad Gita
(it's a big book - the link in the main text ill take you to an index where you can explore from)
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