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? RenĂ© 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.