“If you are not completely confused by quantum mechanics, you do not understand it” -John Wheeler.
Ah, Quantum Mechanics. A field that incites the curiosity of history’s greatest minds while also having the ability to turn people off at the mere mention of it. Funny how that works. The second someone says the word “Quantum,” You get a massive polarity of people who are either interested and sit glued to the screen, or who attach such significant level “woo” connotations to it that their eyes glaze over… and there seems to be NO in-between.
Despite it being one of the most complex and math-heavy physics fields in history, it's quite funny. It’s also been appropriated by people in the New Age community like Deepak Chopra more than any other science branch. If you look into any New Age group, chances are they have some material in there that references the word “quantum,” whether it’s Chopra’s “Quantum Healing” or Suzanne Adam’s Ted Talk on “How Quantum Physics can change your life.” Everyone has used Quantum Mechanics to try and justify Spirituality at some point…. I mean, hey… even we went there!
But… As we sit here time after time, listening to people ramble on about how Quantum physics is super spiritual and somehow confirms aspects of consciousness and the soul, no one has ever really looked at the history of what Murray Gell-Mann termed “Quantum Flapdoodle,” which is probably the best word ever. Out of all the science fields, why has Quantum Physics been appropriated so hard? What is it that’s so “spiritual” about it? Where did the whole thing come from? It couldn’t possibly be a conspiracy, could it? If it were, this video would be in Spirit Conspiracies - which you can get free access to by clicking the link in the comments for a ton of mind-blowing content! But most of all,… is there any truth to the idea that Quantum Mechanics could have something to do with consciousness? Let’s find out!
Before we jump into some controversial Flapdoodle, it’s essential to answer a seemingly fundamental question. What is Quantum Mechanics? In a nutshell, it’s one of the other fundamental physics theories (apart from Relativity and Classical Mechanics) - that aims to describe how stuff works on an atomic scale. Now, the history and evolution of the field is its video entirely, and we encourage you to research it because it’s incredible! For the most part, the word Quantum comes from Latin and means “how much,” It describes what goes on at a small scale. How little is small? The debate about where the classical world ends and the Quantum world begins is still going on. Yet, some recent research has shown that quantum particles possibly start behaving in a classical way on a scale as small as a single hydrogen molecule -that is, the most miniature particle/collection of atoms in a chemical element or compound that has the chemical properties of that element.
For the most part, when we get into Quantum stuff, we’re dealing with things at a magnitude of something called the Planck Length. This is the smallest measurement that exists and equals about: 0.000000000000000000000000000000000016 (34 zeroes) meters. If you’re a physics casual, you can say 10^-35m (10 to the negative 35), no one minds. To give you an idea, let's compare it with the size of an atom, which is already about 100,000 times smaller than anything you can see with the naked eye. Suppose that you measured the particle diameter in Planck lengths and that you counted off one Planck length per second. To calculate the whole thing in Planck lengths would take you 10,000,000 times the universe's current age. So, in other words, there isn’t even a theoretically possible measuring device that can measure differences between two locations that are closer together than a Planck length.
This is important to remember since, usually, for a system to be described Quantum Mechanically, things like its mass, speed, and distance should be on the order of Planck’s Constant. If the system is much bigger, it can probably be described using classical physics. With that out of the way and our microscopes in hand, let’s get into the juicy stuff! Mmm.. juicy quantum raspberries...
The first important distinction to make when looking at Quantum Mysticism is that the phrase has gone through a massive change of meaning since it first came up. The whole thing began in Germany in the 1920s when Quantum Mechanics was only a cute baby. As we mentioned in a previous episode, the split between science and religion was still going on at this time. Many of the field's founding fathers were also pretty interested in Eastern Philosophy and the nature of God and the Mind.
Einstein was captivated by Spinoza’s Pantheism. Schrodinger actively discussed consciousness, free will, and objective reality in his lectures, often being quite vocal about the Upanishads' wisdom and how consciousness was a singular, unified force. Even Heisenberg admired Eastern Philosophy and claimed to see parallels between it and quantum mechanics, describing himself as in "complete agreement" with the controversial book The Tao of Physics. He even went as far as to say that after talking with the Indian Philosopher and Poet, Rabina Tagore, “some of the ideas that seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense.” Later on, even though he identified as atheistic in the religious sense, the Great Explainer himself, Richard Feynman, experimented with psychedelics inside meditative sensory deprivation tanks to study consciousness. Honestly - maybe THIS right here is the reason why Quantum Mechanics is a spiritual subject - because all of its founders were knee-deep in mysticism.
In a nutshell, this whole “Science vs. religion” thing is a very recent forced choice that the founders of quantum mechanics would have never recognized, much less accepted. They saw spiritual notions about consciousness, determinism, and free will working with Quantum Mechanics rather than against it. When it boils down to it, the biggest thing that everyone was -and still is, trying to solve - was consciousness and the role of observation in our world.
This is where the biggest misconception of Quantum Mechanics is found in public and most New Age circles. With the double-slit experiment, the light was shown to have the properties of both a particle and a wave depending on if it was observed, something known as the Wave-Particle Duality (creative, I know!). If an electron (since electrons behave just like light on a Quantum level) were fired through a wall with two slits in it, it would leave an interference pattern on the wall that could only happen with constructive and destructive waves.
If you were to measure which slit the electron went through, though - The weirdest thing in the universe would happen...the wave would collapse into a single electron and behave like an ordinary particle (something called the wave-function collapse). So, in other words, the act of measuring/observing quantum objects had a direct effect on their final state. In the 1970s, many people came out and claimed that this meant that our consciousness affects reality. Thus the soul affected the physical world, apparently working off a paper by Eugene Wigner in the 60s that argued that consciousness was the missing part of the measurement problem.
The problem is, the wave function will collapse whether the observer is conscious or not. You could leave the room and let a programmed computer take the measurements, and the electron would still behave like a particle… So actually, it’s the act of measurement itself that causes the collapse, not our consciousness. In other words, you would probably need to exist outside of every conceivable dimension and all of the spacetime to measure the wave without recording it or connecting a sense of information to it...
It’s like the universe is going, “haha, I have a secret,” and as soon as you try to record it or look at it, it hides it. And the weirdest thing is - I have cats that do this too. Here I am, trying to sleep - and they’re just all over the place, making noise, playing around, throwing toys… and I sit up to see them, and they’re just sitting there as if they never moved… staring back at me… ominously… Although it’s worth pointing out that the wave-function collapse is like the biggest question in Quantum Mechanics and is still unsolved, even Schrodinger tried to add consciousness into it, arguing that “a thermometer’s registration cannot be considered an act of observation, as it contains no meaning in itself. Thus, consciousness is needed to make physical reality meaningful”, which got him accused of being a “mystic.”
Remember earlier; I said that Quantum Mysticism meant something different back in the early days to what it does now? Well, that’s because Schrodinger’s generation were the last people to debate the place of spirituality and mysticism in science in a mainstream way. After that, any idea of the spiritual nature of science was downgraded to fringe theories... Kind of like history repeating itself with the separation of the soul that we talked about before. In the 1970s, something called the Fundamental Physics Group -which yes….is spelled like a meme, was founded by physicists from Berkeley, and sought to introduce concepts like Transcendental meditation and more New Age practices into Quantum Physics
With people like Fritjof Capra and a bunch of other New Age philosophers interacting with the Fysiks society, they were the ones who introduced the concept of New Age spirituality to quantum physics and are mostly responsible for the context in which we use “Quantum Physics” in the world today.
So….is that it? Is the whole notion of Quantum Spirituality just a bunch of Flapdoodle? Again it goes back to how you define Spirituality. As we’ve established, Quantum particles start behaving Classically around the size of a hydrogen molecule, which usually means that any Quantum Fluctuation (fancy Physics talk for a change or event that happens in the Planck length) isn’t strong enough to affect the Macroscopic world. Technically, by the current understanding of the universe, it’s not believed that you can heal yourself using “Quantum Methods” or change your life by using the rules of the Quantum Realm in the Classical world… at least, not according to every current-known law of physics… Yet, science still doesn’t understand how the quantum becomes the relative, there’s still a long way to go, and the more we discover, we may learn precisely how quantum healing works! Firstly, does consciousness play a role in interpreting Quantum Mechanics and helping create the 3.5D reality that we experience? That is going to bring out some fantastic research in the next few years.
Secondly - taking note from Steven Greer’s work on consciousness, perhaps quantum behavior moves in some multi-phasic resonant dimensions that we haven’t found yet. Our consciousness also exists through these multidimensional frequencies. If this is true, we must consider what effects awareness and consciousness have on our bodies and the world around us. In this case, while our current understanding may say that so-called “Quantum Influence” is impossible, perhaps there is a great deal here that remains to be discovered.
Today the debate of whether consciousness and spirituality play a role in the Quantum World is seen as science vs. religion sort of thing, but when quantum mechanics was founded, it wasn’t. There were religious physicists on both sides of the controversy. Most of the essential physicists held what we could call today religious beliefs, whether Western or Eastern. It is nevertheless interesting to see that when you look at the field of physics, there haven’t been any significant breakthroughs or paradigm-altering discoveries since Quantum Mechanics. Everything since the 1940s has been an attempt to prove, disprove and expand the fields of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, so...it might just be me, but...why hasn’t there been anything new in physics?
Maybe, scientists today might gain a new perspective on their research by considering how the founders of quantum mechanics viewed their theories through the lens of consciousness and mysticism. When modern scientists argue that there is no place for spirituality and consciousness in the field, they should remember that almost every pioneer of the last century in Quantum Mechanics was immersed in mysticism, searching for a way to unify the mind and soul with physics. Is that acknowledgment of the soul what inspired them to discover what no one else could? That’s what we need to find out!
With that, thanks for joining us today for another episode of Spirit Science! Hit that notification bell if you want to tune in for future updates on this series and all of the other stuff we look at, including the ins and outs of consciousness in Quantum Mechanics, whether Spiritual ideas can explain what’s going on… and if the brain could be in the multiple Quantum States! See you next time!
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