Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
Change that is external is no movement in the sense that it is repetitive and of a similar quantum - which is a qualitative statement
chill dude, this is a dialectical process, not an emotional one
rince and repeat and dance? take me across the waters . you know
"Evolutionary theory is almost by consensus a theory of non-linear emergence."
Thomas, what do you mean by "emergence"? Just wondering where I fit in to the consensus reality...
Four or five years ago, I had the opportunity to meet with a physicist, George Weissmann, who is in the process of creating a 'quantum paradigm.' A friend of mine had given me a CD of various pre-publication TSK materials (he was one of the editors of the first book), and on the disk, I came across a transcript of a talk by Dr. Weissmann on quantum theory and TSK (copied below). I asked my friend how I could get in touch with Dr. Weissmann, and he gave me his number. Although Mr. Weissmann lives in Oregon, when I called him on his cell phone, he serendipitously happened to be driving down the road not far from where I lived. So we agreed to go meet for lunch right away and spent half a day in conversation around physics, TSK, Buddhism, and my take (at the time) on "integral postmetaphysics."
The talk below was given almost ten years ago, I believe. At the time I talked to him, he was still working on a book about these topics. I haven't spoken with him in a number of years, now, but given the conversation here, I'm motivated to write and find out how he is progressing on his book.
Transcription of a Talk by Physicist, George Weissmann
One of my functions in life is as a physicist. I’ve had an interesting path as a physicist, a Buddhist, and a TSK student. I’ve been trying to heal those different parts of myself, and hopefully develop something along with other people that could help to heal it on a larger scale, because I feel that my subdivisions, my subcompartments were painful and debilitating, and seem to reflect subdivisions of our culture as a whole, since I picked these divisions up from the culture. So this is part of an attempt to do that, and for myself at least, I found it very conducive. In a number of workshops, symposia, etc., as I became more skillful at it, I got a lot of feedback that it was useful for others as well. I’m writing a book about this right now. So that’s some background.
The specific work that I’m involved with, along with Geoffrey Chew, Henry Stapp, and a group of other physicists, is something I call the Quantum Paradigm. It is not identical to quantum theory. I have to call it an emerging Quantum Paradigm, because it’s not yet there in full flower and detail. It is an attempt to create a new fundamental paradigm, on a really fundamental level, which goes far beyond the significance of quantum theory. It has to do with regaining our home as beings that have been totally alienated by the present paradigm, which I called the Classical paradigm. The Classical paradigm has alienated us in a number of ways. Of course, the materialist reductionism, but even the idea that everything we can know is indirect and deductive and provisional. The most important things cannot be known, only deduced through a very abstract and laborious process, and the things that actually constitute our life are reduced to some kind of unimportant epiphenomenon. This is important insofar as it gives us knowledge about what is real, but not important in itself, so we become strangers in our own house.
The Classical paradigm is basically the idea that there is a space-time continuum, that there is matter, energy in that, that (in the scientistic form of it) there’s a mind-body dichotomy, a subject-object dichotomy, and the object and matter pole of that dichotomy is fundamental, and the mind or subject form is epiphenomenonal. Practically all the mainstream Western religions buy into this, except that they assert some importance to the subject and mind pole, so they have kind of a dualistic way of looking at things.
The objects in space-time obey certain laws—they used to be deterministic laws; in quantum theory it’s assumed that they’re random laws. Our knowledge of things is extremely indirect and deductive. There are many other features. I’ve put together a complete description of this paradigm which is rarely found. The descriptions I’ve seen still presuppose a lot of things.
Quantum theory came along about 70 years ago as an attempt to understand why the microworld does at all obey classical laws, and finally one found a way of calculating how things behave, at least statistically, and that was known as quantum theory. And the dilemma that people have been in since then, is that no coherent, meaningful quantum vision or paradigm has emerged that allows us to understand what is actually going on. Instead, after the most prominent quantum theorists tried for about twenty years, in the late 20s and 30s, it became very clear that was an impasse, indicated by the famous paradoxes of quantum theory. So the orthodox Copenhagen interpretation emerged, saying that scientists shouldn’t be asking those kinds of things. Science is about making sense of our experience in terms of statistical correlations: if we do this, then we find that.
So the mainstream of physics withdrew to a kind of halfway house of quantum theory where everything is framed in terms of classical measurements, measuring instruments, and observers, and the quantum world is relegated to the connections between the so-called atoms and electrons. But the whole classical vision is left intact. And that’s the way that everybody still operates. The quantum paradigm came out of a realization or hunch on my part, communicated to others, that the basic problem here has been that we’ve tried to fit quantum theory into the classical paradigm. Of course, paradigms come and go. A certain level of paradigm will only admit certain high-level paradigms within it. What seems to be turning out here is that the classical paradigm will not admit the quantum theory in any other way than this halfway house, elusive kind of maneuver to avoid the main issue. Nevertheless, quantum theory in the way it’s used is the most successful theory in the history of science. It applies to just about any phenomenon in physical form you can thing about, with the most incredible precision. All attempts to show it’s not correct have ended up showing that quantum theory is correct in its predictions.
Because science and physics is reductionist, they’re always looking toward the small as the source of ultimate truth, and so quantum theory is automatically projected into the central role of the ultimate theory. This is one of the reasons for quantum theory’s success. So the vexing thing about this is that it doesn’t tell us what’s going on.
So the quantum paradigm is a view, and within that, quantum theory fits perfectly, without any paradoxes or problems. In fact, the paradigm raises a whole new set of questions that physics would need to look at, and that some of us already have been examining. These are difficult questions requiring new ways of thinking. So within science itself I think it will be a new stimulus to new ways of thinking, but besides that it is a paradigm, and it’s only a paradigm. It’s not a truth, but a way of looking that allows us to open more to what is, and to open to more of what we are, and to make sense of a larger set of phenomena in a more coherent way. And that I think it does.
So what is it? Those of you familiar with Buddhist philosophy or Whitehead may see this paradigm as a specification and elaboration of an ancient way of looking at things, but one which interfaces and interlocks with the most advanced scientific thinking and actually is suggested by it. And this is a very important point—any scientific theory can never prove a more fundamental paradigm. Modern science doesn’t show anything, but does points toward certain things. It may show certain things that don’t work, like the classical paradigm and practically all its presuppositions. A bridge of reasoning which very naturally leads from quantum theory to this as a more fundamental basis without proving or showing it. But once it’s there, you can look back and see that it fits together.
The classical paradigm has been shown to be ridiculous from a number of different points of view. The fact that we’re conscious beings is already a refutation. But because of our inculcation with classical scientism, we have found immune responses to this and other things, so we’ve accommodated ourselves to still live in the classical paradigm. Quantum theory doesn’t allow that, since it comes from the very core of things, and it comes from what the classical paradigm considers the very core of things. It comes out of a dilemma which hasn’t been solved, the Copenhagen interpretation, though people have become habituated to it. So the word quantum in quantum paradigm refers to the fact that it comes from quantum theory. But as a whole view, it is not new. There’s a number of quotations in the TSK book that for me personally played an important role in looking in that direction. Another big influence was working with Stapp, who was influenced by Whitehead and William James. Another big influence was studying the Yogacara. On pp. 40 and 41, Tarthang Tulku points out that we normally think that these [TSK] exercises could never lead to real knowledge, because we know that the real reality can only be known ‘imaginatively’.
“It may seem that we are just using a scientific model to guide an imaginative exploration, and that there are no real encounters or discoveries possible in such an exploration which could truly bear on the nature of the physical body. But before taking this as a definitive answer, we should compare the model of the body offered by physics with the model as presented in these exercises. Physics demonstrates that the body is mostly space, while, at the same time, explaining why it appears solid to us. The model deriving from the exercises also sees the body as a tendency emerging from a kind of space; it likewise suggests that the body's solidity is mere appearance reflecting a limitation of our power of observation. More specifically, it posits that the mental, emotional, and physical are different but coequal facets of a subtle ongoing patterning or tendency toward consolidation. This model holds that the solidity of the body is only an appearance, due to our inability to see it as a tendency that is never fully finalized.”
This really resonates with the quantum paradigm. I know that paradigmatic knowing is not the deepest knowing, but it is a useful thing.
“According to this same model, the limitation in our powers of observation is not absolute because there is a more sensitive process-oriented 'knowing' which follows along every stage of the consolidating tendency.“
This may be the most important sentence of the book for me in terms of developing the quantum paradigm, because that’s exactly what the paradigm leads to, a process-oriented 'knowing'.
According to the paradigm, to super-simplify, the world and me and us and everything can be regarded as a process. From Buddhism and TSK we know that the process comes out of a space. Science does not look at that space, though it looks at physical space, which is already a result of patterning or process. So physics looks at process and the dynamics of process. Things within the quantum paradigm don’t exist. What occurs is a process consisting of events, and these events are ‘timing out’. Take an electron moving along. If you look from a distance you see a trajectory. If you look more closely, you see a series of dots. Then you may think that the dots show up because the electron has interacted with the cloud chamber at those points, but there’s a thing which is causing this, and it’s actually moving through in a continuous way. But in Feinman lectures, Vol. 1, quantum theory, double slit experiment, says you cannot assume there is a thing going through. That assumption is necessarily wrong. Not a wave nor a particle, nothing. So you get this discontinuous series of events. First they’re called observation events, but more generally they’re called moments of experience. This jump from observation events to moments of experience was already pointed out by von Neumann, Wigner, Heisenberg. There is no natural boundary that would say . . . . The possibilities represented by the wave functions condense into a specific outcome whereas before that outcome there were many possibilities. To put the event out there is the world will not work. The only place something can happen is experience, when you actually observe it. The observation is where the event occurs. You cannot project it into some outer world. When von Neumann, Wigner first said this, people thought they meant that only when human beings are around could there be a process going on. But when we relax the presupposition that it has to be conventional human knowing, then we just have a process which is occurring in terms of events, and events have an essential element of knowingness.
And when they’re organized in certain complex ways, it ends up as a subject and an object, etc., which is what we call our body, brain, etc., that patterning. Not only do you have these events, but any event history will lead to a certain tendency for other events to occur. The tendency is expressed by the wave function. Given a certain event pattern, with the quantum theory you can calculate the probability of any other possible event pattern. So that’s the mathematization of this tendency idea.
So you have a world process, events, each of which has an element of knowingness, and a tendency which is expressed in causal lines, and those causal lines have arrows in them, and we call them particles, and we think of them traditionally as things, but they’re actually not things. They’re elements of tendencies, so matter turns out to be an expression of tendency for patterning. So if you have a macroscopic object, you ask how can it be a tendency. If you look at it more closely, you can see it’s a very rapid series of events, far too rapid to observe. If you have a TV, there seem to be objects moving around. When you look more closely, it’s a series of lines, and when you look even more closely, it’s a series of dots which are the impacts of the electrons. Our conditioning leads us to form objects, situations, identifications, and emotions, and before you know it you’re involved in a soap opera, when what’s actually happening is a series of fast events.
A tennis ball is a series of rapid events. So the manifestation of a tennis ball is not material at all, it’s a series of events. The thing that’s material about it is the tendency for structuring which leads the things to have an overwhelming probability of presenting in that particular way.
As a theoretical structure the quantum paradigm heals the mind-body problem right away, because they are coequal and actually call for one another: one is the appearance and the other is the patterning. When moving your arm, there are probabilities, but these are just ways of calculating how many ways can I get from here to there. What actually occurs is determined by the process as a whole. Bell’s theorem shows us that that cannot be a local process, it’s a global process of ‘timing out’ [TSK term]. If you have a random number generator and a red or green light . . . . , what determines the red or green light is a global process. However, it’s a process that has a knowingness in it, so if you have a person there who has a predilection towards red or green, you’d expect the quantum paradigm to take this into account.
Science has its place in the quantum paradigm as the study of a certain level of causal patterning of events. I say a certain level, because physics only looks at material signals, and if there are indications that there might be more subtle levels of signals or energy, quantum theory allows them but at this point doesn’t predict them. Various phenomena like reincarnation seem to say that there are more subtle levels of patterning, but science as we know it today looks at the material patterning. So science has a modest but definite place in the paradigm. And to use the metaphor of waves on the ocean, spirituality allows us to disidentify from being waves on the surface and becoming the ocean. Then instead of knowing indirectly, you know because you are. There’s no subject-object now.
But in order to become operative it needs to be embodied. So the next big step is to develop a series of practices to embody this. There again TSK plays a very important role. (TSK already played an important role in loosening up our mindset to understand the notion of paradigms, to challenge paradigms, etc.) Many of the TSK exercises as they are, can be used. If it remains theory, it has some intellectual significance, but most important would be to be able to experience the world as a quantum world. And that opens up into a second-level experience in which ordinary dualistic logic is deactivated. A different, nonexclusive kind of logic applies.
So this embodiment is an important thing. This can become a Tao of Physics that deserves that name. But I think that’s too narrow a view of things. Physics is one strand that has led us to this point, but I think once we are there there’s a number of different things we can draw upon. Many people will start out by drawing on other things. I’m just describing this particular strand of getting there. So the quantum paradigm, with a set of practices, and with other things that TSK doesn’t have explicitly either, like the notion of a practicing community, a set of ethical principles, which I’m convinced are really necessary to have this whole thing develop in a healthy way, and with a number of other things. TSK has a tendency to be practiced too much from the head, and you have to bring the rest of the body into play. So there are a number of other facets that go into creating a full-fledged path out of this. It merges into a kind of spirituality which is nonsectarian, not tied down to presuppositions, which is very suitable for our modern society.
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A lot of books have been written about how quantum theory show that science and spirituality merge, that they are saying the same kinds of things, etc., but they’ve always been on the surface . . . . , but I think the time is here to make a specific paradigm that we can work with and operate in rather than just a set of analogies.
"The classical paradigm has been shown to be ridiculous from a number of different points of view. The fact that we’re conscious beings is already a refutation."
Oh no, not again...
Sorry for being such a pain in the ass, but...
the actual answer to Einstein's "God doesn't play dice" is:
"Don't tell God what he can and what he can't do"
which is both attributed to either Bohr or Enrico Fermi. Ah! High indeed. Yes.
sorry my englisch is not so good.
what do you mean by "what do you mean by the "actual" answer"?
Nice post, Tom!
I haven't heard any updates on his forthcoming book, but I am thinking now might be a good time to write to him -- to let him know about this discussion and to inquire for any news whether, and when, his book will be published.