Friday, March 30, 2012

The Quantum Activist

I'd like to talk about this film I recently saw in which Amit Goswami, a theoretical nuclear physicist and author of many books including the university textbook, Quantum Mechanics, explains that there is now a proven connection between science and spirituality. But I wanted to warn anyone who hasn't yet seen it that they may want to do so first because reading this article might spoil it for you if you read it before watching the film.

The film begins with Amit asking the question, "Can we ever talk about God in scientific terms let alone find scientific evidence for God?" During the course of the film, Amit explains that, in his view, this is indeed possible. In fact he goes as far as to say that, "There is very definite evidence for the existence of God." So what evidence does he have for such a claim?

Since the 1950's scientists have been pushing the materialist world view that everything is composed of matter and this matter is composed of molecules that can be broken down into elementary particles which are considered to be the basis of all life. This view has discounted the existence of God which has caused a split between science and religion and, as materialism has gained ground, religion in turn has become more reactionary and fundamentalist as it responds to the modern, reductionist world view. For many, it has been a question of choosing either the scientific world view or the religious, since to adhere to both causes a conflict between two irreconcilable opposites.  Amit explains this dichotomy through the use of the terms upward causation and downward causation. Science, he says, talks about upward causation in that it says that cause rises upwards from elementary particles to atoms, then from atoms to molecules, from molecules to cells and from cells to a more complex organ such as the brain. In contrast, downward causation means, in the religious world view, that cause comes from above, from God, and that it moves downwards in direction.

So if  person were to have a mystical or supernatural experience, science would explain it as a material phenomenon caused by the release of a hormone in the brain such as serotonin or due to another neurological process. For example, a near death experience (NDE) is reported by about 18% of people who die from a heart attack and are later resuscitated.  Many of these report similar experiences which include the sensation of leaving their body and floating above it before being drawn towards a bright, white light, then travelling down a tunnel at the end of which their deceased family members are waiting for them. Scientific researchers put forward different explanations such as the disorder, rapid eye movement (REM) intrusion, in which a person's mind can wake up before his body giving them hallucinations of being detached from the body. Others say that oxygen deprivation and trauma are the cause along with natural opioids produced by the brain to cope with pain.

Later in the film, Amit says that neurophysiologists are now giving out the idea that the pineal gland, located in the mid-brain, will give you mystical experiences or the experience of God when stimulated. The new G-spot, as he jokingly calls it, is lately attracting a lot of attention from the new age spiritual community who also refer to it as the third eye and, in some cases, are using plant sources of the chemical DMT (dimethyltryptamine) such as the decoction ayahuasca to stimulate out-of-body experiences and other spiritual states. DMT, also called the spirit molecule following the publication of the book of the same name in 2001, is naturally occurring in mammals and many plants. In humans, some believe that it is produced by the pineal gland, although that has not been scientifically proven to date.

But however the mystical or god-like feelings and visions are achieved, in the materialist view, these subtle, internal experiences can only be explained through the movement of atoms and molecules throughout the body. In this view, consciousness can only be explained as a brain phenomenon, a product of the biological processes of our brains. But how can consciousness, which is non-material be produced by matter? René Descartes pondered this question and came up with the dualist theory that is the basis of the much of the materialist world view of today. He posited that the mind is distinct and separate from the body and that they interact through the pineal gland which he called the seat of the soul. However, this idea still left the question of how the mind could interact with the pineal gland, which is composed of matter.

These ideas that the mind and body are separate (dualism) or is as a result, like a by-product, of physical matter (physicalism) have continued right up until relatively recently, until the development of quantum theory. As I explained in an earlier post (For the Dreamers), quantum physics shows us that a particle is a wave constantly in flux, until it is observed. Then it becomes fixed in time and space: an object to be observed. Amit explains it thus, "In quantum physics objects are not determined things. Objects are possibilities. Possiblities of what? Possibilities for consciousness to choose from." But here comes the paradox. If objects are possibilities, as quantum physics says they are, from the materialist perspective the elementary particles from which matter is made are only possibilities until they are observed by consciousness. But materialist science says that consciousness is a brain phenomenon. Therefore the equations look like this: possibility + possibility = possibility. As Amit says, "We have possible elementary particles creating possible atoms, giving us possible molecules, making possible neurons, making possible brain, giving you possible consciousness. Can possible consciousness convert possibilities of elementary particles into actual events?" To put this problem into a more familiar context he asks us to think of possible money in the bank and possible cars we could buy with it and asks us if this could ever give us a real car in our garage.

The solution to this paradox is to turn the problem upside down. Instead of looking at it from the bottom up, as in the materialist view, if we instead take consciousness to be the primary source of everything or as Amit calls it, the ground of all being, rather than matter, the paradox is solved. In quantum physics consciousness is not involved in the equation because consciousness is the subject that chooses from the infinite possibilities that exist in the quantum world. Therefore, matter is a product of consciousness and not the other way around.

If consciousness is choosing from infinite possibilities, this would imply that we could choose whatever we desire and it is from this premise that the idea that we can create our own reality was born. Amit talks about the fact that in the 1970's another theoretical physicist and author, Fred Alan Wolf, coined the term, we create our own reality and that at that time people were trying to manifest a Cadillac through the focus of intention and meditation but were usually disappointed when no car appeared. So then they concentrated on manifesting parking spaces with a bit more success but still less than one hundred per cent.

So why is this? Amit answers this question by explaining that in our normal wakeful lives, we are making choices from the ego, the part of us that we identify with as me or I. It is the part of our consciousness that we operate from in our day to day lives. But, he says, this ordinary consciousness of the ego can only make very limited choices. He says that ego's choice is a conditioned choice based on past learning, things we've already experienced, so it cannot really conceive of something new. Therefore, creation must take place at a subtle level which he calls non-local or cosmic consciousness and what the mystics call God. This cosmic conscious is who we really are and at this subtle level we are all connected. It is this connectedness which solves another quantum paradox which is that, if we are all creators choosing our own reality, what would happen if we all chose the same? What if everyone wanted a new car at the same time, wouldn't this create a problem? But it is this unified consciousness that is the solution because it is objective. It allows us to choose to a degree. In the Abraham teachings, he says that in actual fact, people don't all want the same nor do they all want the same thing at the same time.  Amit's traffic light analogy is perhaps a rare occasion that people may all want the same thing at the same time, in another words a green light, but this problem is taken care of, as shown by the predictability of quantum physics, by giving each driver equal portions of green light, except in the case of special emergencies when we get green lights all the way.

So how do we consciously create from non-local consciousness? Do we really have any creative control? Amit says the key is to get into an altered state of consciousness from which this non-local consciousness can be accessed. Such altered states can be achieved through meditation or hypnosis. In  the film, Amit quotes four experiments, the first of which was conducted in the University of Mexico in Mexico City by Greenberg. This experiment consists of  two people who meditate together for 20 minutes with the intention of having a non-local communication, which means without exchanging any signals. After 20 minutes they are separated and put in individual Faraday chambers, which are electromagnetically impervious chambers but they still maintain the meditative state and the intention to communicate. They are both connected to individual EEG (electroencephalogram) machines to monitor their brain activity. Then one person is shown a series of light flashes and the resulting brain activity is recorded on the EEG machine. The other person is not shown any light flashes and just continues to meditate. But the EEG machine of the second person also shows a reading that is comparable in its strength and phase as that of the first person who received the stimulus. The conclusion of this result is that the two subjects are using quantum consciousness. Amit says the two brains have become correlated through intention and are communicating non-locally.  The other experiments were carried out by other people at different times and reproduced the results of the first experiment.

What we can learn from this is that through meditation and intention we can connect to quantum consciousness and create what we desire. So what do we choose? In this we have the benefit of contrast, the light and shadow of our world. Experiences and events that are both positive and negative - although in reality they are neither as it is only our perception that labels them as such - which help us to decide what we want to create in our lives.  As long as our desire is in alignment with the collective it will manifest. With this knowledge and our imaginations, the possibilities are endless. We need not fear that we will conflict with others in what we want to create because we are so varied in our thinking and our desires, we never choose exactly the same. But we can choose similarly and in this we can effect great changes that have a collective benefit for our own society and that of the wider world. In this way we could enrich our cultures with a diversity and creativity that is unparalleled in our history.






Sunday, March 11, 2012

A new paradigm in relating

If you are someone who cares passionately about the state of the world you live in, at some point you will have asked yourself the question, "What can I do personally to make a difference?" Of course, the answer to this question is entirely individual and there is no single answer. For some it will be to use their democratic rights to vote, to become involved in local politics and/or to put pressure on the politicians who represent them at local, national or international level. But others are becoming increasingly frustrated with these conventional methods due to the time it takes to effect any real changes. In many cases people no longer believe that the democratic systems of their countries are able or willing to respond to their concerns so are resorting to direct action such as demonstrations and sit-ins as in the case of the 15-M and Occupy movements. But for those of us who choose not to do either of these, perhaps due to time constraints of job or family responsibilities, what can we do to effect change on the apparently chaotic, unjust and violent world we live in?

One answer could lie in the realisation that we are all connected and so any changes we make to ourselves and our personal lives will affect the wider world in which we live, radiating outwards like concentric ripples in a pool of water. Like the native Americans, we could walk our talk and choose to take personal responsibility for the way we live our lives and especially the way we treat ourselves and others. Many are realising that they want to find new and better ways to relate to the people in their lives based on cooperation instead of competition and resolution rather than conflict. Many realise that the problems in the world are caused by the human condition which has historically been based on certain premisses such as the scarcity of resources which gives rise to greed and often violent struggles for control and dominance. A belief that resources are finite and that there isn't enough to go around keeps people in survival mode and this deep-rooted fear for survival influences all aspect of our lives and interactions with others. In our modern world many of the apparent shortages are contrived to artificially elevate prices for financial gain, when in fact there is more than enough to go around. We have been conditioned to believe that there is a lack of money, a lack of jobs, a lack of resources and this means we are constantly on edge, believing that we need to compete for everything we desire. At this time of global financial crisis this belief is more prevalent than ever. But what if the principle of scarcity is false? The ancient wisdom of the aboriginal peoples of Australia taught a belief in abundance and that the earth would provide for all the needs of the people. They believed in the richness of the land and this belief fostered peaceful cooperation and respect for each other and their environment. They had faith that their needs would always be met. With the new understanding emerging of how our thoughts and beliefs create our reality, it is clear that such a strong, dominant belief in scarcity could hardly be expected to yield anything other than lack on a worldwide scale. But conversely, with this knowledge, we could choose to give new life to the aboriginal belief in abundance and gradually let go of our negative conditioning and once again nurture the faith that we will always have enough.

On a personal level, there has been lack in the quality of interpersonal relationships that people have come to accept as normal. In the case of romantic relationships there has been the expectation that we should find someone and settle down with them, although these days less couples are getting married and instead choosing to live with their partner. But these relationships are not always satisfying and after the honeymoon period people often find themselves unhappy and unfulfilled. Many of these relationships are what relationship specialists refer to as codependent relationships, a term first used to describe relationships in which one person was an alcoholic or substance abuser and the other their carer but has now come to mean any relationship which is unbalanced or unequal in some way and based on need rather than genuine love. For example, a relationship may begin when one person is recovering from a breakup and the other person steps in to fill that gap and becomes a carer and suppresses their own needs while prioritising the needs of the partner over their own. This excessive care taking often masks a fear of abandonment as the person tries to make the other dependent on them so that they won't leave them. But in many cases relationships get into difficulty simply because each partner expects to have all their needs met by that one person. When each person feels that their needs are not being met they may resort to criticism and other types of controlling behaviour. Another typical pattern is one partner trying to be someone that they think their partner wants them to be and losing touch with their own identity as a result. Some people are unable to commit and keep pulling away as they fear being consumed by the relationship. Sometimes there is a feeling of being in competition with the partner for energy within the relationship - trying to get the other to give them that love and acceptance they crave, not realising that it's only them that can give it to themselves, that their partner is not responsible for making them feel good all the time and that they need to maintain their own connection with source. It is understandable then that there are a great number of people who have chosen to remain single to avoid the risk of ending up in another relationship of this type due to the pain they have previously gone through - once bitten, twice shy.

But avoiding relationships altogether is giving up the pleasure that can come from loving another person and sharing oneself and one's life with them and the opportunities for growth and spiritual development that they bring. Therefore, individuals are looking for new ways to relate so that they do not repeat destructive patterns and, as a result of this, there are new approaches being developed by people such as Gay Hendricks and his wife, Dr Kathlyn Hendricks, who together have co-authored many books about creating conscious relationships. They say that learning to love yourself as you are, unconditionally, before entering a relationship enables you to love your partner unconditionally. As Gay says, "You cannot love something in another that you haven't loved in yourself first." He also lists three things as important: honesty, commitment and appreciation. Honesty about what you are feeling so that you can communicate with your partner, commitment to the relationship and to making it work and showing appreciation for your partner regularly. 

The main principle of creating a conscious relationship is the awareness that we as individuals are entirely responsible for ourselves; our thoughts, our reactions and our behaviour.  In this way we do not get into blaming the other person for what we co-create with them. But if we have a bad experience, it doesn't mean that we should blame ourselves either. Understanding the dynamics of relationships and why people interact the way they do require us to transcend the level of blame and try to understand what we can learn from the experience however painful it might have been.  Often this understanding enables us to know more clearly what we want and what we don't want and that understanding is invaluable in enabling us to create something better for ourselves in the future.  This is true for all types of relationships, those with our parents, siblings and children and those people we meet in the world outside the family circle such as friends, bosses and co-workers. We can maintain healthy relationships of all kinds by being clear that we co-create with others and that if things go wrong we are party responsible. One technique for having positive interactions with people we deal with in our lives, as given by Abraham Hicks, is only holding positive thoughts about that person. This technique is especially useful when we are having a difficult time with someone. Perhaps someone you deal with regularly is giving you a hard time, criticising you or being confrontational. Try holding only positive thoughts about this person, even if you can only think of one thing that's good about them, think that one thought repeatedly until it becomes the dominant thought you have about them. Then watch what happens. They will not be able to behave in a negative way towards you any longer and will either be civil towards you or avoid you completely.  

There is so much more that I would like to write about this subject but this post is already quite long. The conclusion is that we don't need to feel impotent and believe that, because we don't hold political power, we cannot contribute to a better world for our children. Perhaps we are powerless to shape world events but we are able to change things at a grass roots level by loving consciously and with integrity so that we transform our relationships and see that love radiate outwards to touch more and more people. If we choose to see our fellow man as co-creator rather than competitor we are taking an evolutionary step forwards and that step is being taken at an individual level.



Sources:

Aboriginals and abundance mentality
http://www.hendricks.com/
The Vortex: Where the Law of Attraction Assembles All Cooperative Relationships by Esther & Jerry Hicks 2009