"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Consciousness, the Big Bang, Being and the Soul

Many of the leading theoretical physicists today continue to struggle with the age-old 'hard problem' of matter and the mind, physical reality and consciousness, science and the soul. "They are definitely grappling with the problem of the soul," says Fred Wolf, himself a leading theoretical physicist, "because they are grappling with the problem of the origin of the universe."

You observe an atomic system," Wolf notes, "and the atomic system changes from a field of possibilities into something that is solid and physical and real, and right there in front of your eyes. This is a fact of physics that we have to deal with."

If the Big Bang . . . occurred out of nothing and produced a material universe," he points out, "then there had to have been quantum mechanics operating at the moment of the Big Bang, and that means that there had to have been an observer present, and this is where . . . the whole question of the soul (arises)."

"Positivism," (the philosophical school that says that the only things that we can be talk about scientifically and rationally are things that we can 'sense with our common senses') should have been tossed out a long time ago when we recognized the existence of electrons and atoms," Wolf observes. "No physicist - no one - has ever seen an electron or an atom," he points out, "We (only) see something very fuzzy when we start looking for things like that. So it is very difficult to deal with positivism rationally."

I think positivism is a fine theory," Wolf notes, "but it is (only) a philosophy."

"Since we can't sense an electron, a single electron, with our common senses," from a positivist approach, "we really shouldn't be able to talk about it. And since we can't sense - we can't hold in our hands - the very essence of quantum physics, which is something called the quantum wave function (which is a mathematical abstract), we shouldn't talk about it either. So we have this basic schism," Wolf notes. A schism, he points, that goes all the way back to Aristotle and Plato.

"The question," he asserts, "isn't: Is the soul is a 'thing'? Can we prove its 'existence' as an object?" This, he posits is a misdirection. The soul is not an object, he says. "It is not a noun, it is a verb. The 'soul' is a process." "And," he reasons, "because it is a process, it has consciousness and its alive. To understand life and consciousness without a material substrate, that is where a lot of people have difficulty. They think, 'Well, how can something be conscious and alive if there is no matter there?'" Which is, it seems, the common view and understanding of most people.

It is at this point, that Wolf goes beyond our common understanding. "There has to be something before even matter appears according to my understanding of quantum physics," he notes. "I don't see any reason why we can't have consciousness and 'aliveness' without necessarily having matter."

Wolf's view is not unique, as he points out, but rather is a point of view that is shared by many other leading physicists, as the following videos attest.

In Gary Zhukav's The Dancing Wu Li Masters, a now-classic treatise on the convergence of modern physics, metaphysics and the world's oldest wisdom traditions, Zhukav writes:

"According to quantum mechanics there is no such thing as objectivity. We cannot eliminate ourselves from the picture. We are a part of nature, and when we study nature there is no way around the fact that nature is studying itself. Physics has become a branch of psychology, or perhaps the other way round."
 To this end, Zhukav quotes the pioneering Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, who observed:
"The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner contradictions, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposite halves."
 According to Zhukav, Jung's friend and colleague, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Wolfgang Pauli, put it this way:
"From an inner center the psyche seems to move outward, in the sense of an extraversion, into the physical world . . . ."
"If these men are correct," Zhukav observed, "then physics is the study of the structure of consciousness." [Emphasis added.]


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