Holy Shift

Djaloki’s trail through the fulfillment of the Ancient Prophecies.

Quantum Physics and Interfaith

Posted by djaloki on April 24, 2008

by Djalòki Jean Luc Dessables and Anne Presuel-Moreno 

TNS2008 – Assignment April 2007

 

“The separation of the two — matter and spirit — is an abstraction. The ground is always one.”

– David Bohm (1917-1992), Quantum Physicist.

 

Table of Contents

o      Why a Paper on Quantum Physics?

o      What is Quantum Physics and What It Is Not?

o      Basic Principles and Laws of Quantum Physics

o      Metaphysical Questions Suggested by Quantum Physics

o      What Would An Interfaith Minister Do?

o      APPENDIX I: A Brief History of Quantum Physics

o      APPENDIX II: Additional Information from Experts in the Quantum Field

 

 

Why a Paper on Quantum Physics?

As apprentice interfaith ministers, it is incumbent on us to explore and embrace systems that speak to the existential mysteries of the human experience.  Some of these systems are defined as religions, others as philosophies, ideologies, worldvisions, cultures or paradigms, others still as theories, hypotheses and sciences.  Along with Christianity, Buddhism, Gnosticism and Shamanism, we study Freudian and Jungian psychology, as well as modern psycho-synthesis, because they all have something to say about the beauty and complexities of metaphysical aspects of the human experience, each from a different perspective.

 

Quantum physics, one of the most advanced branches of modern science thus far, has introduced new ways of understanding ideas such as the role of consciousness in the material world, remote influence across space and time, or the intrinsic fabric of time, space and matter, which have traditionally been considered as part of the territory of religion or philosophy, but not science.  Although quantum physicists do not claim to have answers to metaphysical questions, their theoretical formulas and experimental findings seem to bring new perspectives to these questions and serve as invaluable inspirations for modern philosophers, theologians and spiritual seekers.  More and more modern interfaith ministers and counselors may find themselves interacting with clients or colleagues who refer to quantum physics in their spiritual quest and understanding of life.  For this reason, we believe that a basic understanding of quantum physics is relevant within the education of a modern interfaith minister.

In this paper, we are not studying the complex mathematical formulae of quantum physics.  We seek simply to define the basic relevant vocabulary and the corresponding concepts in order that we may look at the metaphysical questions that might appropriately be generated as we consider these concepts.

 

What is Quantum Physics, and What It Is Not?

 

Quantum physics is the branch of physics that focuses on the subatomic world, which is the foundation of our material world.  The word quantum (plural form: quanta) comes from Latin, and means a given quantity of something.  In the case of quantum physics (or quantum mechanics), it means more specifically the smallest possible amount of something. Scientists have discovered that by breaking down atoms into their subatomic constituents and trying to break these down into their own sub-constituents, they reached a level of particles that could not be further broken down, but rather transformed into pure immaterial energy.  In other terms, these unbreakable particles are the quanta of matter (smallest possible amounts of matter) and are now called quantum particles.  Furthermore, experiments showed that some physical properties of these particles did not vary on a continuum, but that the particles jumped from one given state to another one without passing by the intermediate states (electrical charge, potential energy, spin, polarization…). These properties were also called quantum properties, to express the fact that they can only take specific discrete states and jump from one to the other without going through a continuous variation.

 

A common misconception about quantum physics is that it is based on theoretical hypotheses that have not been experimentally proven, and that classical Newtonian physics is still the best scientific system to describe reality.  The truth is that classical Newtonian physics only accurately predicts natural phenomena at the level of the human scale, but it is incorrect and useless at the subatomic level or with very high speeds, close to the speed of light, where the Theory of Relativity must be used.  Only quantum physics so far has been able to correctly describe and predict natural phenomena at the subatomic level.  It should also be noted that the laws of quantum physics coincide with those of Newtonian physics at the human scale and with the Theory of Relativity at light speed.  In addition, the quantum theories have properly predicted laboratory experiments, including many that Newtonian physics fails to predict (at the subatomic level), while not one experiment has contradicted quantum theories.  In other words, quantum physics appears to be the best scientific system so far to describe our physical world.

 

A common difficulty that non-scientists often have with quantum physics, apart from its cryptic formulae, is that some of its core laws and principles are completely counter-intuitive and seem to defy normal common sense.  This “quantum weirdness” (an expression used by quantum physicists themselves!) only manifests at the subatomic level and not at the human scale of common perception.  These counter-intuitive laws are absolutely necessary and desirable at the subatomic levels, because without them, atoms and molecules, which form the foundation of our material world, could not exist in a stable state. The common model of solid electrons revolving around solid nuclei has in fact been obsolete since the first quarter of the 20th century, when quantum physics showed that what we call subatomic particles are really not material particles at all – in truth, they appear to behave as particles in certain situations, and as waves in others.  To think of them either as particles (like a solid object with a given mass, position and momentum at a given time), or as waves (like a sound or ripples in water with a given frequency and amplitude at a given place and time), is incorrect and leads to incorrect predictions.  Although they behave sometimes like particles and sometimes like waves, they are neither.  What they really are has not yet been defined by quantum physics, or by any other science so far.

Basic Principles and Laws of Quantum Physics

 

 

Wave/Particle Duality

A visual example of a propagating wave is given by the expanding concentric circles of ripples in water.  Waves are also observed in sound, light and a vibrating guitar string.  The mechanics of waves obey to the classic laws of electro-magnetism.  A wave is described by its frequency and amplitude; it does not have a mass, a “position” or a momentum.  On the other hand, a “normal” particle is a physical body whose mechanics obey to the classic Newtonian laws of physics.  It can be described by its mass, location and movement.  Quantum particles (subatomic) are neither waves nor “normal” particles.  However, in a given situation they behave either as one or the other.  They are seen as bodies that can possess the properties of either waves or particles at any given time, but never both at the same time.  This is called the wave/particle duality.  Their mechanics obey to the laws of quantum physics, which usually deliver results in the form of probabilities.

 

Heisenberg Principle of Uncertainty

In order to see objects around us, we need some light projected on these objects and reflected to our eyes.  Bats (and radars) send radio or sonic waves and read their reflections coming back to them after having bounced on the objects around.  In other terms, to perceive or measure something, we need to bombard that thing with some kind of energy, usually photons of light, which comes back to us to be read.  At the human scale, photons are so subtle, practically with no mass, that they do not modify the initial state of the object we are seeing or measuring.  At the subatomic level, things are different.  The energy (equivalent of mass) of a photon is comparable to, or immensely greater than, the energy (mass) of other quantum particles.  When an electron, cruising in a certain direction at a certain speed, is hit by just one photon of light, its direction and speed are modified as a result of the collision. If the photon was part of a measuring process attempting to determine the position and momentum of the electron, the result will be distorted.  The Heisenberg Principle of Uncertainty states that it is impossible to know the position and the momentum of a quantum particle at a given time, with accuracy.  It provides us with a formula that connects the accuracy of the position and the accuracy of the momentum in a manner that the higher one is, the lower the other one will be.

 

Entanglement

 

When a breakable (non-quantum) particle is broken into its quantum constituent particles, these latter move away from each other but at the same time remain intimately and instantaneously connected.  Any modification applied to the physical parameters of one of them instantaneously modifies the parameters of the other(s), whatever the distance between them, even if they are at opposite ends of the galaxy.  Such particles are said to be entangled.  This experiment contradicts the classic theory according to which nothing can go faster than the speed of light, even information.  Scientists do not understand where, how and through which medium the entangled particles communicate to each other.  However, this factual law is being effectively applied in technology, as in the MRI, in laser technology and recently in quantum computers.

 

The Copenhagen Interpretation (The Observer Effect)

 

This is probably the most counter-intuitive phenomenon discovered, experimented and proved by quantum physics.  In some specific experiments, like in the one called the two-slits experiment, quantum particles behave differently according to whether they are being observed or not.  When not observed, they behave like material particles, but as soon as they are observed, they behave like waves for the exact portion of space and time in which they are observed, only to come back to a behavior of particle right after or beyond the observation.  The most commonly accepted interpretation of this phenomenon is that consciousness interacts with quantum particles and influences their behavior.  One explanation of this phenomenon is that reality is a big system from which no sub-system can be completely isolated, in particular the people making the experiment or an observer.  It is called the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics, introduced by Bohr and Heisenberg.  This phenomenon, reconfirmed many times by experiments world-wide, contradicts much of our common knowledge about matter, reality and consciousness.  Simply formulated, it states that consciousness can modify matter with no intermediate material intervention.  It should be noted that, to this day, some scientists do not accept that interpretation.

 

 

Metaphysical Questions Suggested by Quantum Physics

 

Remote Communication and Inter-connectedness:

The phenomenon of entanglement is heavy in metaphysical possible considerations.  The Theory of Relativity has demonstrated that space and time are not as linear and immutable as a non-informed rationalist mind would tend to believe.  Quantum physics opens the scopes of possibilities even further by suggesting that the apparent distances in space or time exist only in one perspective but not in other ones.  Recent experiments have shown reversed causality phenomena, where an effect happens before its cause, even at the human scale.  As early as 1927, the physicist Niels Bohr offered the theory that all matter is part of one greater whole that ensures consistent inter-connection, echoing many spiritual teachers and prophets past and present. 

 

Question we can ask:

Are distance phenomena such as extra-sensory perceptions, remote healing and shamanic work, manifestations of quantum phenomena at the human scale level?

One underlying source of energy:

Some scientists talk about an implicate order, unified field, single superfield, quantum field, quantum vacuum or zero-point field that possibly informs all things manifest, the ultimate “soup” from where everything originates and to where everything returns.  In this field must be the root potential that causes observable manifestations to form into particles or into waves.  This field is currently beyond the grasp of observation or formulation, although several theories are attempting to capture it, thus bringing modern science closer and closer to age old spiritual wisdoms like Taoism, Buddhism, Shamanism and Wicca.

 

Question we can ask:

Could trances, astral travels, shamanic journeys and mystic experiences represent ventures in the underlying Quantum Field?

The Role of Consciousness:

A great number of experiments have exposed the fact that human consciousness can directly influence matter.  Quantum physicists have suggested that it is the explanation behind the Observer Effect, in which the outcome of an experiment depends on whether the experiment was observed (or not) and the manner or even attitude in which the observation took place.  It has been since correctly argued that the influence of the observation does not necessarily involve human consciousness, because the observer effect is registered even with pure machine observation.  However, consciousness is still invoked by many quantum physicists to explain aspects of the “quantum weirdness” and the hypothetical processes of manifestation from the underlying unified energy field to the observable realm of things.

Questions we can ask:

Could the Placebo effect, magic, miracles, successful prayers, affirmations, rituals and

visualizations, shamanic healing, be manifestations of the role of consciousness in quantum

systems?

 

Could the Law of Attraction (“That which is like unto itself is drawn”) presented in the film “The Secret”, the ancient Hermetic laws of correspondence (“As above, so below; as below, so above”), and resonance (“Like vibration attracts like vibration”) be applications of the role of consciousness in quantum systems?

Are particles conscious?

What Would An Interfaith Minister Do?

Since the divide between science and religion in the Western world at the time of the Renaissance, the territories of physics and metaphysics have been completely separate, driven by independent concerns and objectives.  With quantum physics venturing into territories traditionally reserved for metaphysics, and proving itself to be so efficient in describing our world, the gap between science and spirituality seems to be narrowing once again.

As interfaith ministers engaged in nurturing what unites all humans while honoring their diversity, we hold a privileged perspective and a special responsibility in the debates between different worldviews, including the one between science and religion.  At the present time, quantum physics is probably one of the most valuable assets humanity has for the reconciliation of these two important human areas of concern.  Misconceptions and intentional distortions over quantum physics continue to abound, creating confusion and further divide.  As possible mediators and counselors, we will want to keep ourselves informed of what is true, what is possible, what is speculative and what is false about quantum physics, at least at a basic level of knowledge.  And if we are daring enough to adventure beyond the superficial level, we may have the honor and privilege to serve as interpreters and teachers for our fellow non-scientists, as we have attempted to do in the above discourse.

 

APPENDIX I

A Brief History of Quantum Physics

 

1801: The British Thomas Young shows with the double-slit experiment that light is composed of waves that can create interference patterns between themselves.  This momentarily settles the question whether light was created by waves or by particles.

 

1824: The German Gustav Kirchhoff shows that when an object is heated to a high temperature, it emits light on precise discrete wavelengths, not on a continuum.  In 1862 Kirchhoff coins the term “Black-Body Radiation.”

 

1900: The German Max Planck develops formulas that predict the discrete phenomenon of Black-Body radiation.  The terms “quantum” (plural “quanta”) and “quantization” begin to be used for these phenomena.  Today, Max Planck is considered the father of Quantum Physics.

 

1905: The German Albert Einstein applies Planck’s formulas to the photoelectric effect previously studied by the Hungarian Philipp Lenard, and suggests that light is formed by quantum particles later called “photons” (1926), reawakening the question about the nature of light that the works of Young had apparently solved.

 

1913: The Danish Niels Bohr suggests a quantized model of the atom, where electrons travel on specific orbits and can jump from one to another if sufficient energy is supplied.

 

1924: The French Louis de Broglie expands the notion of wave-particle dualism and develops formulas allowing to treat any subatomic particle as a wave of energy.  His theory will be experimentally proven in the second half of the 20th century.

 

1925: The German Max Born develops the formulas of Matrix Mechanics with Werner Heisenberg and coins the term Quantum Mechanics.

 

1926: The German Erwin Schrödinger publishes the paper known as the Schrödinger Wave Equation, which gives a statistical relation between the parameters of a Quantum System.

 

1927: The German Werner Heisenberg proves that it is impossible to measure both the position and the momentum (direction and speed) of a particle with complete accuracy.  A statistical relation between the two, known as the Heisenberg Principle of Uncertainty, forces the precision of the measurement of one of these two parameters to decrease when the other one increases.

 

That same year, Heisenberg and Niels Bohr publish the Copenhagen Interpretation, which is a set of philosophical comments on the implications of the laws of Quantum Physics.  Basically, the Copenhagen Interpretation suggests that matter and reality are not as rock solid as our senses lead us to believe; natural phenomena cannot be completely described and predicted, they can only be approached with probabilities.  The Copenhagen Interpretation also states that what the formulas describe is not the real state of a system, but only what humans can know about that system.

 

1935: Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen publish the EPR thought experiment (or EPR Paradox), which attempts to show that Quantum Physics is incorrect because its principle theoretically implies absurd situations like remote influence, called “spooky action at a distance,” to oppose the Copenhagen Interpretation.

 

1965: The Irish John Stewart Bell establishes the Bell’s Theorem, which proves the reality of remote influence by showing contradictions created by the use of “local realism” as in the EPR Paradox.  The concept of non-locality becomes a major aspect of Quantum Physics.

 

1981: The French Alain Aspect experimentally confirms Bell’s theorem, turning the EPR Paradox into the very demonstration of remote influence, now known as “entanglement.”

 

1990’s: The laws of Quantum Physics are largely applied to technology (MRI, laser technology, transistors, computers).

 

Planck, Einstein, Bohr, de Broglie, Born, Schrödinger and Heisenberg all won a Nobel Prize in Physics.

APPENDIX II

Additional Information from Experts in the Quantum Field

Henry Strapp on http://www.alchemylab.com/Quantum_Will.htm writing about Eugene P. Wigner (1902-1995, Hungarian Quantum Physicist and Physics Nobel Prize winner):

Wigner (1961): “the laws of quantum mechanics cannot be formulated … without recourse to the concept of consciousness.”

Ref:

Wigner, E. (1961) “The probability of the existence of a self-reproducing unit,” in The Logic of Personal Knowledge ed. M. Polyani (London: Routledge & Paul) pp. 231-238.

 

David Pratt on http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/dp5/jse.htm writing about David Bohm (1917-1992, American Quantum Physicist):

[…] He argues that consciousness is rooted deep in the implicate order, and is therefore present to some degree in all material forms. He suggests that there may be an infinite series of implicate orders, each having both a matter aspect and a consciousness aspect: “Everything material is also mental and everything mental is also material, but there are many more infinitely subtle levels of matter than we are aware of.” (Weber, 1990, p. 151) The concept of the implicate domain could be seen as an extended form of materialism, but, he says, “It could equally well be called idealism, spirit, consciousness. The separation of the two — matter and spirit — is an abstraction. The ground is always one.” (Weber, 1990, p. 101)

Ref:

– Bohm, D. (1984). Causality and Chance in Modern Physics. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. First published in 1957.

– Bohm, D. & Hiley, B.J. (1993). The Undivided Universe: An ontological interpretation of quantum theory. London and New York: Routledge.

– Bohm, D. & Peat, F.D. (1989). Science, Order & Creativity. London: Routledge.

– Weber, R. (1990). Dialogues with Scientists and Sages: The Search for Unity. London: Arkana.

 

 

 

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