February 23, 2017
is heading toward a non-physical reality.
The universe begins to look more
like a great thought
than a great machine.
For at least two hundred years science has been telling us that any ideas of spirituality we might hold dear are little more than ignorant leftovers of a superstitious past - foolish relics.
But the truth is, physics itself, that most foundational of all sciences, has now progressed far beyond that initial, dismissive assessment, to a conceptual worldview far more accepting of spirituality than ever before.
To grasp the nuts and
bolts of this new science, then, is to understand the nuts
and bolts that support a new, evolving and far more sophisticated
grasp of spirit than has ever before been available to us.
So let's start by taking
a close look at what
the new physics has to tell us.
Indeed, so astounding were the material, philosophical, and spiritual implications of this assertion that it would soon be referred to as,
Yet even today, few beyond a small community of physicists have come to grips with its meaning.
implications for particle physics were so extreme that for decades
after its announcement many within the scientific community resisted
its implications, as do some resist them to this day.
This monumental insight is called Bell's theorem, and the sea change it caused in physics is still being digested as I write.
So central is Bell's theorem to our understanding of the physical universe, how it functions, and what that means for us as human beings, that to grasp its implications is crucial for anyone interested in the science that today enables us to envision universal processes as far more than simply material phenomena.
Yet, simultaneously, to
truly grasp the new reality Bell's theorem implies, it is essential
that we first understand the old reality it so violently overturned.
How did this new science differ from previous approaches to the study of physical phenomena?
Dr. Dean Radin, Laboratory Director at the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, California explains:
This physics - called classical, or Newtonian, or material physics - has made an enormous contribution to our understanding of the universe we inhabit, and as a result has had a profoundly positive effect upon the overall human condition.
Food production, health services, economics, education, transportation, etc., etc., have all been vastly improved as a result of scientific applications made available through analysis and testing.
No doubt, material
science has been a boom to human kind.
Larger and better telescopes were developed in order to augment this process, and today, of course, spacecraft have been constructed that fly to points distant enough to inspect and photograph distant terrestrial bodies.
As a result, a great deal
has been learned.
Most of the planets, their orbits, and their relationship with the sun were established early on.
The mathematical calculations for all of this fit nicely within the prevailing understanding, or model, of the universe, and all of these findings both confirmed and augmented our grasp of Newtonian physics.
In 1801, for instance, British physicist Thomas Young conducted a "double-slit" experiment in an attempt to deduce the true nature of light. Prior to that, it was assumed that light was composed of small particles of matter, but the result of Young's experiment seemed clearly to indicate that light was in fact a wave.
It was presumed, as a consequence, that light waves would require some sort of medium in order to propagate (conceptualized as a luminiferous ether or ether "wind"), and the search for this medium was promptly initiated.
Physics soldiered on
essentially unruffled by all of this, however, still confident in
its overall grasp of the universe. But this subtle medium, despite
numerous attempts at detection, remained elusive.
In 1900, for instance, American physicist Max Planck developed a mathematical model that demonstrated that light appeared to exist as distinct bursts or "packets" of matter.
Planck named these packets "quanta" after the Latin quantus, which translates as essentially "how much."
Planck's discovery proved the birth of what we today call quantum physics - that is, the study of that group of infinitely small particles that ultimately comprise all matter.
Then, in 1905, Albert
Einstein, an unknown physicist at the time working as a patent
clerk in Switzerland, clearly demonstrated the validity of Plank's
quanta, but it was a proof that also allowed that light had to have
both wave and particle characteristics - a perplexing side issue.
Dean Radin tells us that,
Our insight into quantum mechanics was accelerating rapidly, but, despite all the progress, the seemingly dual nature of light remained a vexing problem.
Was light comprised of particles or waves? No one could say...
In 1929, as an example, by carefully analyzing the redshifts (observed light frequencies) of distant galaxies, American astronomer Edwin Hubble demonstrated that the universe was expanding.
An expanding universe was evidence contrary to the Steady State theory of the universe, or a universe that was essentially constant and eternal.
Hubble's finding also
suggested that our universe, since it was now seen to be expanding,
may naturally have had a beginning; that is, a moment when all that
matter had been consolidated in a single point before it started to
The name actually came from British astronomer Fred Hoyle, who quipped one day on British radio that the theory sounded like little more than a "Big Bang," and while this was stated in jest, the term stuck, nevertheless.
The Big Bang theory postulates that the universe emerged from a "singularity" (a point of infinite density, which remains, frankly, beyond our current physics to explain or, as humorist Terry Pratchett once quipped, "In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded") some 13.8 billion years ago as an incredibly small and incredibly hot point of matter.
According to the theory, this material then inflated, expanded then cooled over time allowing for the formation of light elements like hydrogen and helium.
Due to a slightly uneven
distribution of matter throughout the universe, gravitational
attraction then began to consolidate these elements into clouds
which over eons formed the stars, planets and galaxies that comprise
the celestial panorama we observe today in our night time sky.
This evidence included
the original "redshift" Hubble discovered, the discovery of cosmic
microwave background radiation (which had been predicted as a
residual product from the heat of the initial inflation), and more
recent redshift observations of distant supernovae indicating that
the expansion of the universe is actually accelerating (and which
suggest the existence
of dark matter in substantial
quantities as the driving force behind this acceleration).
History tells us, as an example, that when asked by Napoleon Bonaparte in the early years of the nineteenth century as to why his most recent treatise did not mention the existence of God, the great French scientist Pierre-Simon Laplace was said to have remarked,
Later, and likewise, Laplace explained to an admiring audience that,
In other words, Laplace, along with almost all other scientists at the time, believed that the universe was little more than a vast, material machine, driven by physical forces, and nothing more.
If, for instance, you could determine the position and direction of every particle in the universe at any given point in time, it would be possible, at least theoretically, to crank that picture forward or backward, observing as you did every event that had taken place in the past while accurately predicting every event that would take place in the future.
This view therefore
supported the notion of a deterministic universe, and a universe
that was devoid of either free will or human consciousness as a
The Big Bang was conceptualized as the beginning of an entirely material process that had evolved over eons in accordance with the known parameters of Newtonian (or classical, reductionist, or material) physics.
In that sense, the universe was still perceived essentially as a vast, physical mechanism, a machine that was now understood to be a bit more complex than it had been conceived during the earlier days of, say, Pierre-Simon Laplace one hundred and fifty years before, but differing now only in terms of its sophistication, not its fundamental nature.
Thus Laplace's statements
regarding the absence of God and the predictive power of the
original conditions still held true as far as modern physics was
All events occurred due only to the action of physical forces in contact or proximity with one another, and no force, field, or matter could - according to Einstein's calculations - ever travel faster than the speed of light.
But the wave/particle nature of light still remained an intellectual conundrum that, much like one rotten apple, threatened to subvert the entire structure of physics if not sensibly accounted for.
Physicist Nick Herbert tells us, for instance, that,
But the enigma of light continued to plague quantum theory, and it is precisely here where the old physics of determinism and cause and effect began to unravel.
In 1927, for instance, German physicist Werner Heisenberg authored his now famous uncertainty principle, the intellectual consequences of which did great mischief to Newtonian physics.
Heisenberg was at the time attempting to measure the precise speed and position of a particle in order to predict its future position - a process that should have been entirely within the accepted parameters of Newtonian physics.
But Heisenberg discovered that this could not be done.
British physicist Stephen Hawking tells us that Heisenberg's uncertainty principle indicated unequivocally that,
This finding sent shock waves rippling through physics.
In a very real sense, Heisenberg's principle delivered a body blow to Newtonian physics.
Because, if the precise state of the universe was impossible to measure at any given moment, then any state either before or after was also impossible to calculate.
It was as simple as that. Laplace had been wrong.
Determinism, material cause and effect, even the forward moving arrow of time surely appeared to be "on the ropes." Suddenly, many of the underlying presumptions upon which classical physics rested had seemingly evaporated into thin air due to Heisenberg's principle.
What was going to replace them?
Moreover, what did
Heisenberg's findings actually mean? How could it be that aspects of
the material universe were, had always been, and would always be,
utterly beyond our ability to measure?
If, after all, the position and movement of a particle could not be described with precision, then in a sense a particle could only be described with imprecision - a mathematical approximation.
A photon, for instance, could no longer be considered a discrete particle, but rather a combination - part particle, part wave - or a mathematical description now called a wave function.
Even more importantly, if the manner by which a particle was measured (or observed) altered the resultant observation (a fact Heisenberg had demonstrated), then it followed logically that observation itself had to be a fundamental aspect of reality.
Physics had been thrown for a loop.
This, of course, was an extraordinary claim, something that many physicists thought sounded disturbingly akin to ancient superstition, like magic or voodoo.
What Heisenberg and his colleagues were suggesting, in essence, was that the unseen world of quantum mechanics was not a material realm at all, but a realm rather of pure potential.
And as damaging as all of this was to classical physics, even more shocking news was on the way.
Because if the foundation of our physical reality arose from a source of pure potential (was not material at all), then what, exactly,
Nick Herbert explains the next leap in logic that took place.
Yet it was clear that all material systems consisted of particles, and that these particles always obeyed the rules of quantum mechanics (not individually, but in statistical aggregates), because these rules had been tested and verified throughout countless experiments.
This assertion, while sound mathematically and entirely logical, was so startling that it literally turned classical physics on its head.
A science that had accepted as utterly valid a universe constructed of, and driven by, material particle movement was told suddenly that it had had it all wrong from the very beginning.
And make no mistake about it, that's exactly what was being said.
Indeed, the notion that our material reality was not real after all was simply too much for many physicists, and their response at the time was entirely reasonable.
Many physicists tossed up their hands in dismay, others in disgust.
One of those physicists was the extraordinary Albert Einstein himself, the very father of relativity theory, and the most respected physicist in the world.
All of this sounded crazy to Einstein.
As to the notion that the universe was the construct of little more than the capricious whims of human observation, he supposedly responded with the now famous quote that,
Obviously, he did not
agree with the newest speculations of quantum physics.
This analysis was meant to be a clear-headed challenge to the wave function description of matter that had been adopted by many quantum physicists, and described above.
The EPR paper insisted that the position and momentum of any given particle had to be able to be measured far more accurately than Heisenberg's principle allowed for, or else information between certain "entangled" particles (Erwin Schrodinger had previously demonstrated that when quantum systems interact their wave functions become entangled, and they will remain entangled even when no longer interacting) would be theoretically transferred faster than the speed of light, instantaneously in fact, which was a fundamental violation of Einstein's theory of relativity.
According to the EPR paper, hybrid particles like wave functions, and instantaneous transmissions (what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance") were inelegant solutions clearly out of line with relativity theory, which was the accepted gospel of physics at the time.
In that sense, then, the EPR paper was issued as a direct challenge to quantum theory as it was currently being developed.
Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that Bell demonstrated in his theorem that the EPR analysis was right, but that its conclusions were wrong, and that superluminal (faster than light) entanglements were not only possible, but required if quantum theory was to make sense.
Prior to this, physics had always assumed the universe to be local in nature, that is, interactions between physical systems had of necessity to involve a signal transferred by force at a rate below the speed of light.
Bell's theorem, on the other hand, demonstrated that the universe was in fact nonlocal ("a nonlocal effect is an interaction that does not involve force, nor does it involve the transfer of signals, and it happens instantaneously regardless of the distance between objects"), 8 and as a consequence the "spooky action at a distance" Einstein had argued against, was, in fact, a foundational aspect of the universe.
Not only that, but within a few years, and repeatedly, Bell's theorem was tested in the laboratory, and found to be accurate.
The science was now clear:
As Columbia University physicist, Brian Greene, noted,
The fact is, this finding
has taken a good many people's breath away.
Nonlocal interactions are thus built into the fabric of the universe, but in such a way that we can never actually observe them.
But that does not mean we cannot observe their effects.
For as Herbert explains,
In the span of approximately seventy-five years the world of particle physics had been turned upside down, and the philosophical and spiritual implications of this have yet to be fully digested by either science or the public in general.
Indeed, the implications are mind-boggling.
Our conceptual understanding of the universe (of which we are all material manifestations) changed from one that might be characterized as a vast, relentless, grinding particle machine, to one that seems almost, well… magical...
What other word will do?
As physicist Richard Feynman noted,
Yet to this day many scientists continue to scoff at any understanding of physics beyond the material boundaries of the classical interpretation, as if all the advancements in quantum theory had never really taken place.
We are often lectured that any sort of spiritual or religious belief we may hold are the products of faith alone, discredited convictions rooted in either medieval dogma or rank superstition; that they are simply not scientific.
But today the truth of the matter is actually the polar opposite, for it has been clearly demonstrated that those individuals making these charges are the ones trafficking in faith, in fact clinging to material dogmas that physics has left behind in the dust.
Laplace's material cosmos is now an intellectual relic of the past, overturned, not by faith, but by science.
Then again, maybe they are not...
For if the Big Bang began with a singularity, as we are told, and a singularity that was infinitely dense, then every particle that has ever emerged was initially contained within this extraordinary particle of infinite density, merged or forged or crushed in some magical way into this one tiny something.
The seeds of our entire universe were fused into that one, and if all were once one then is it not reasonable to speculate that all were entangled at that moment - if indeed it can even be described as a "moment" - and thus quite possibly remain entangled to this day.
Suddenly, then, from this
perspective, the universe no longer appears to be an alien landscape
of far distant, whirling bodies at all, but rather a vast
masterpiece of infinite and instantaneous communication - of instant
For, while quantum
interactions cannot be observed, their effects can nonetheless be
experienced, and those experiences can be demonstrated
This a view of reality shared today by many physicists.
In all probability we will not have all the answers to the true nature of the universe in our lifetimes, but one thing does seem abundantly clear - the old dogmas of material science have been proven relics of the past, and a new concept of a foundationally conscious universe appears clearly to be arising to take its place.
And there, in simple
terms, rests the case for human consciousness, for our compassion,
and the spirit that binds us all.