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Quantum Physics: The Link Between Spirit & Science?

Posted Dec 21 2012 11:30am
Image courtesy of pixtawan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of pixtawan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The origin of the space and the physical world has been a matter of debate and reflection among scientists and philosophers alike. Physics is the study of the patterns and principles that surround the phenomena of nature, while Quantum physics tries to explain these phenomena on the subatomic level. In society today, science is often thought of as the antithesis of a holistic view, but with the introduction of quantum theory could scientific discovery actually substantiate ancient religious texts? Could the new scientific discoveries mean that there is something beyond space that is yet to be discovered? Perhaps the interconnectedness taught in many eastern philosophies and religions is actually more of a scientific idea than once given credit for.

Herbert Marcuse , a hero of science dissidents, put the dehumanizing influence of science being at the root of many social discontents:

The individuals who make up the bulk of the population in the “affluent societies” live in a universe of permanent defense and aggression. It manifests itself in the war against the Vietcong and in the struggle against the Negroes, in the huge network of industries and services which work for the military establishment and its accessories, but it also manifests itself in the violence released and made productive by science and technology…[there is a] progressing transfer of power from the human individual to the technical or bureaucratic apparatus, from living to dead labor, from personal to remote control, from machine (or group of machines) to a whole mechanized system.

For Marcuse the heart of the problem was the totalizing and all-consuming system that the machines of science constructed. It is true that a scientific outlook is often seen as detached and analytical and opponents state that it does not take into account personal experience. Theodore Rozak scathing interpretation on the effect of science on society was, “science has pervaded and polluted society with cool curiosity, untouched by love, tenderness, or passionate wonder… without sympathy or identification. Society had become beholden to “experts” whose job was the “elaboration of chilly jargons and technical terms that replace sensual speech. High energy accelerators offer melancholy examples of major scientific talent taking expensive advantage of the public gullibility… [Scientists] have accepted the support of military and paramilitary agencies to finance high-cost computerized research in counterinsurgency warfare or behavioral modeling.” Rozak continued with the question, “If Science was so tuned to nature why did it create some of the greatest environmental problems?” (Stevens, 2003). Many have stated concern over the misuse of scientific knowledge, and with the threat of biological weapons, superbugs, and genetically modified foods, science has given them quite a large platform.

Quantum field theory sprang from the quest to describe the electromagnetic field in accordance with the laws of quantum physics, as well as the need to reconcile quantum physics with the special theory of relativity. Quantum Field Theory (QFT) has allowed scientists to describe the universe at its very beginnings, when it was very small and compact. QFT can be broken down to the basic theory that each individual particle is in fact the quantum of a specific field (quantum field). In this theory each quantum field is involved with the creation and annihilation of its associated particles (quanta). This discovery of the new quantum field is more dynamic in nature than a classical field since it has the property of generating particles. The discovery of quantum fields caused a shift in the way empty space is conceptualized. According to QFT the whole world is composed of quantum fields interacting with each other so there is no space in the universe where there is no field. In QFT even when the number of quanta is equal to zero or when space is empty of material bodies, the field is still present and its effects can be detected. In Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle it is stated that the energy in a quantum field in its vacuum state must always be greater than zero. The uncertainty principle implies that a certain amount of energy, in the form of particles, be generated from the vacuum within a time allowed by the principle. If we look at this vacuum from the perspective of a substance being defined by its energy and momentum than the vacuum could not be considered a substance but when one takes into consideration the fluctuations and the ability to generate particles one must conclude that the vacuum is indeed something substantial. Cao, attempts to rectify this dilemma by proposing that the vacuum actually consists in a kind of pre-substance, an underlying substratum having a potential substantiality, when the pre-substance becomes excited, it becomes a substance in the form of particles endowed with energy and momentum. This shift in the concept of space has moved closer toward the conception that there is something beyond space on which space depend on for its existence. The mystery of what underlies the vacuum and its potential for giving rise to substance is unable to be solved with present scientific understanding. (Duquette & Ramasubramanian, 2010).

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought the Transcendental meditation movement to the West from India. He insisted that Transcendental Meditation (TM) was the key to world peace and that the Vedic texts provided total knowledge of everything in the universe. Scientific studies greatly helped the TM movement gain acceptance by demonstrating the health benefits of TM. Maharishi taught that modern physics tells us that the world is made of vibrations, and that Om (or Aum), an ancient mantra found in the Rig Veda, possiblythe oldest surviving Indian test, is the primordial source of those vibrations. He continued that Vedic hymns provide direct contact with the gods. Through chanting and Vedic rituals the skilled spiritual technocrat can enlist these deities to produce changes in the mundane world. The entire knowledge of the mantras or hymns of the Vedas is devoted to mans’ connection, to man’s communication with the higher beings in different strata of creation. Maharishi continued that the Veda could not be falsified so were more complete and accurate that scientific theories. The Vedas are said to provide a direct method of direct cognition of material existence in this cosmos while also providing a technique to cognize that which is evenly pervading the entire physical structure of the cosmos, that all pervading reality, almighty God. Maharishi also made analogies linking the quantum vacuum state to the transcendental consciousness reached through TM. This idea contended that thoughts introduced at the subtlest level, essentially rising from a quiet mind, were nearly infinitely powerful, filled with potential energy; analogous to the subatomic particles arising from the vacuum state. Maharishi claimed that one could create reality if one could operate consciously from the level of transcendental consciousness. Harvard educated quantum physicist, John Hagelin endorsed Maharishi’s proposal that “the unified field of modern theoretical physics and the field of pure consciousness are identical.” While never acknowledged by Maharishi those that follow the TM movement share a metaphysical and scientific worldview shared by far-right Hindu nationalists . Maharishis claims have never been substantiated they do pose and interesting link between the philosophy of the eastern world and the science of the West. (Lowe, 2011).

The acceptance of eastern philosophy has evolved along with the expanding theories of science. While many proponents of science fail to see the spiritual link quantum physics introduces, the mystery of QFT and the quantum vacuum definitely introduce an opportunity for more dialogue about the possibility that science is more close to some ancient religious texts like the Vedas than originally thought. Perhaps as scientific knowledge expands further it will be more widely accepted that everything is interconnected and everyone does have an effect on the things in the environment and vice versa.

References

Duquette, J. & Ramasubramanian, K. (2010). Is space created? Reflections on Sankara’s philosophy and the philosophy of physics. Philosophy East & West, 60(4). 517-533. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/762517178?accountid=35996

Lowe, S. (2011). Transcendental Meditation, Vedic Science & Science. Nova Religio, 14(4), 54-76, doi:10.1525nr.2011.14.4.54

Stevens, H. (2003). Fundamental Physics & its Justifications, 1945-1993. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 34(1),151-198. Doi:10.1525/hsps.203.34.1.151

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