Mysticism, and the
New Holographic Paradigm
IN THE PRECEDING CHAPTERS we have seen that there might indeed exist the possibility of a "new and higher" or comprehensive-integral paradigm, one that at least attempts to include monological sciences, dialogical sciences, mandalic sciences, and contemplative sciences. I have not really presented such a paradigm in anything resembling a fully completed version; I have simply suggested and outlined what some of its central features might be. But I hope I have done so with enough persuasion to suggest that such a paradigm is at least a genuine possibility, grounded in a spectrum of solid methodologies, and open at every point to consensual review. At the very least, we have seen the disastrous consequences of trying to base such a paradigm on only one of the various modes of knowing available to the soul.
In the past few years, however, one such paradigm--generally called the "holographic paradigm"--has received much enthusiastic and international attention. And yet, for all its good intentions, it is based almost solely on empirical physics and empirical brain physiology and, indeed, claims to ground mystical states themselves in empirical data. As Lawrence Beynam eulogized this new theory:
"We are currently undergoing a paradigm shift in science--perhaps the greatest shift of its kind to date. It is for the first time that we have stumbled upon a comprehensive model for mystical experiences, which has the additional advantage of deriving from the fore-front of contemporary physics."11
While we all can certainly appreciate the fact that certain physicists are no longer denying the reality of mystical-transcendental states, we must nonetheless look with suspicion on this particular "new paradigm," simply because, in the final analysis, it seems shot through with profound category errors. In this chapter, then, we will look carefully and critically at each point of the holographic paradigm, pointing out exactly the problems involved. In the next chapter, I will present an interview (originally given for ReVision Journal) that simplifies and summarizes not only the critique of this chapter, but also the overall topics we have discussed thus far.
THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY
In what follows, I will summarize the philosophia perennis--leaving, however, enough details to work with--and then apply this philosophy to an elucidation and critique of both the "holographic paradigm" and the "new physics," touching briefly on each of the key points involved.
The most striking feature of the perennial philosophy/psychology is that it presents being and consciousness as a hierarchy of dimensional levels, moving from the lowest, densest, and most fragmentary realms to the highest, subtlest, and most unitary ones. In Hinduism, for example, the lowest level is called the annamayakosha, which means the level made of food--that is, the physical body and the material cosmos. The next level is pranamayakosha--the sheath made of biological functions, life-breath, emotions, bioenergy, and so on. Both of these levels, in Mahayana Buddhism, are referred to as the five vijnanas--the realm of the five senses and their physical objects.
The next highest level, according to Hinduism, is the manomayakosha, "the sheath made of mind." In Buddhism, this is called the manovijnana--the mind that stays (myopically) close to the five senses. This is approximately the level we in the West would call intellect, mind, mental-ego, secondary process, operational thinking, and so on.
Beyond conventional mind, according to Hinduism, is the vijnanamayakosha (what Buddhists call manas). This is a very high form of mind, so high, in fact, that it is better to refer to it by a different name--the most common being "the subtle realm." The subtle is said to include archetypal processes, high-order insights and visions, ecstatic intuition, an extraordinary clarity of awareness, an open ground-consciousness that reaches far beyond the ordinary ego, mind, and body.
Beyond the subtle lies the causal realm (Hinduism: anandaimayakosha; Buddhism: tainted alayavijnana). This is a realm of perfect transcendence, so perfect that it is said to reach beyond the conception, experience, and imagination of any ordinary individual. It is a realm of formless Radiance, of radical insight into all of manifestation, blissful release into infinity, the breaking of all boundaries, high or low, and of absolutely panoramic or perfectly mirrorlike wisdom and awareness.
Passing through the causal realm, consciousness reawakens to its absolute abode. This is Consciousness as Such, and not only is it the infinite limit of the spectrum of being, it is the nature, source, and suchness of each level of the spectrum. It is radically all-pervading, one without a second. At this point--but not before--all levels are seen to be perfect and equal manifestations of this ultimate Mystery. There are then no levels, no dimensions, no higher, no lower, no sacred, no profane, so matter-of-factly so that Zen describes it thus:
As the wind sways the willowsThe above summary would give us approximately six major levels--physical, biological, mental, subtle, causal, and ultimate (listed below). Now many traditions greatly subdivide and extend this model (the subtle, for instance, is said to consist of seven levels). But aside from that it is important to understand that all major perennial traditions agree with that general hierarchy, and most of them agree right down to details. Further, this hierarchy is not a nicety of philosophical side issues; for these traditions, it is the fundamental core of the perennial wisdom insofar as it can be stated in words. It is fair to say, then, that any account of the mystic's "world view" that leaves out this type of hierarchy is seriously inadequate.
According to the perennial traditions, each of these various levels has an appropriate field of study. The study of level-1 is basically that of physics and chemistry, the study of nonliving things. Level-2 is the realm of biology, the study of life processes. Level-3 is the level of both psychology (when awareness is "turned in") and philosophy (when it is "turned out"). Level-4, the subtle, is the realm of saintly religion; that is, religion which aims for visionary insight, halos of light and bliss, angelic or archetypal intuition, and so on. Level-5, the causal, is the realm of sagely religion, which aims not so much for higher experiences as for the dissolution and transcendence of the experiencer. This sagely path involves the transcendence of all subect-object duality in formless consciousness. Level-6, the ultimate, awaits any who push through the final barriers of levels 4 and 5 so as to radically awaken as ultimate consciousness.
Notice that these different disciplines, like the levels which they address, are hierarchic. That is, just as each level of the spectrum transcends but includes its predecessor, so each higher study envelops its junior disciplines--but not vice versa. Thus, for example, the study of biology uses physics, but the study of physics does not use biology.
That is another way of saying that the lower levels do not and cannot embrace the higher levels. The primary dictum of the perennial philosophy is that the higher cannot be explained by the lower or derived from the lower. (In fact, as we will see, the lower is created from the higher, a process called "involution.")
Even though the various dimensional-levels are hierarchic, this does not mean they are radically separate, discrete, and isolated from each other. They are indeed different levels, but different levels of Consciousness. Therefore, it is said that the various levels mutually interpenetrate one another. Here is an excellent description:
These "worlds" [or dimensional-levels] are not separate regions, spatially divided from one another, so that it would be necessary to move in space in order to pass from one to another. The higher worlds completely interpenetrate the lower worlds, which are fashioned and sustained by their activities.
What divides them is that each world has a more limited and controlled level of consciousness than the world above it. The lower consciousness is unable to experience the life of the higher worlds and is even unaware of their existence, although it is interpenetrated by them.
But if the beings of a lower world can raise their consciousness to a higher level, then that higher world becomes manifest to them, and they can be said to have passed to a higher world, although they have not moved in space.109
The various levels, then, are mutually interpenetrating and interconnecting. But not in an equivalent fashion. The higher transcends but includes the lower--not vice versa. That is, all of the lower is "in " the higher, but not all the higher is in the lower. As a simple example, there is a sense in which all of the reptile is in man, but not all of the man is in the reptile; all of the mineral world is in a plant but not vice versa, and so on. "The more highly evolved," explains Wachsmuth, "always contains in itself the attributes of the earlier, yet always develops as a new entity, an activity clearly distinguishable from that of the other."109
Thus, when the mystic-sage speaks of this type of mutual interpenetration, he or she means a multidimensional interpenetration with nonequivalence.
The explanation, by the mystic-sages, of this multidimensional interpenetration forms some of the most profound and beautiful literature in the world.* The essence of this literature, although it seems almost blasphemy to try to reduce it to a few paragraphs, is that "in the beginning" there is only Consciousness as Such, timeless, spaceless, infinite, and eternal. For no reason that can be stated in words a subtle ripple is generated in this infinite ocean. This ripple could not in itself detract from infinity, for the infinite can embrace any and all entities. But this subtle ripple, awakening to itself, forgets the infinite sea of which it is just a gesture. The ripple therefore feels set apart from infinity, isolated, separate.
This ripple, very rarefied, is the causal region (level-5), the very beginning, however slight, of the wave of selfhood. At this point, however, it is still very subtle, still "close" to the infinite, still blissful.
But somehow not really satisfied, not profoundly at peace. For in order to find that utter peace, the ripple would have to return to the ocean, dissolve back into radiant infinity, forget itself and remember the absolute. But to do so, the ripple would have to die--it would have to accept the death of its separate self-sense. And it is terrified of this.
Since all it wants is the infinite, but since it is terrified of accepting the necessary death, it goes about seeking infinity in ways that prevent it. Since the ripple wants release and is afraid of it at the same time it arranges compromise and a substitute. Instead of finding actual Godhead, the ripple pretends itself to be god, cosmocentric, heroic, all-sufficient, immortal. This is not only the beginning of narcissism and the battle of life against death, it is a reduced or restricted version of consciousness, because no longer is the ripple one with the ocean, it is trying itself to be the ocean.
Driven by this Atman-project--the attempt to get infinity in ways that prevent it and force substitute gratifications--the ripple creates ever tighter and ever more restricted modes of consciousness. Finding the causal less than perfect, it reduces consciousness to create the subtle (level-4). Eventually finding the subtle less than ideal, it reduces consciousness once again to create the mental (3). Failing there, it reduces to the pranic, then material plane, where, finally, exhausting its attempt to be god, it falls into insentient slumber.
Yet behind this Atman-project, the ignorant drama of the separate self, there nonetheless lies Atman. All of the tragic drama of the self's desire and mortality was just the play of the Divine, a cosmic sport, a gesture of Self-forgetting so that the shock of Self-realization would be the more delightful. The ripple did forget the Self, to be sure--but it was a ripple of the Self, and remained so throughout the play.
Thus, this movement from the higher into the lower--which is involution--is at once an act of pure creation and effulgent radiance (on the part of Atman), and a tragic tale of suffering and epic unhappiness (on the part of the self-ripple attempting the Atman project). The ultimate aim of evolution--the movement from the lower to the higher--is to awaken as Atman, and thus retain the glory of the creation without being forced to act in the drama of self suffering.
During the course of our universe's history (and science helps us here), we have evolved from level-1 (which began approximately fifteen billion years ago with the Big Bang) to level-2 (which occurred several billions of years later when matter awakened into some realization of life) to level-3 (which so far has been reached fully by humans only). Evolution is, as it were, half completed. "Mankind," said Plotinus, "is poised midway between the gods and the beasts."
But in the past course of human history, some men and women, through the evolutionary discipline of higher religion, succeeded in pushing their own development and evolution into level-4: that of saintly religion and the first intuition of a transcendental reality, one in essence lying above and beyond the ordinary mind, self, body, and world. This "beyond" was poetically called heaven; this oneness was called the one God. This intuition did not fully occur until around 3000 B.C., with the rise of the first great monotheistic religions. (Prior to that time, there were only polytheistic realizations--a god of fire, a god of water, etc. This was really sympathetic magic, stemming from a simple manipulation of level-2, emotional sexual energies and rites.) By the time Of 500 B.C., however, certain evolutionary souls pushed their development into the causal--Christ, Buddha, Krishna, the great axial sages. Their insights were drawn out and extended to produce what the Tibetans called the Svabhavikakaya path--the path of level-6, or already realized Truth, the path of Zen, Vajrayana, Vedanta. What remains is for the world to follow suit, via evolutionary or process meditation, into the higher realms themselves.
According to the perennial philosophy, not only does this whole process of involution and evolution play itself out over centuries, it repeats itself moment to moment, ceaselessly and instantaneously. In this moment and this moment and this, an individual starts out at infinity. But in this moment and this moment and this, he contracts away from infinity and ends up reduced to the level of his present adaptation. He involves to the highest point he has yet evolved--and all the higher realms are simply forgotten, rendered unconscious. This is why all meditation is called remembrance or recollection (Sanskrit smriti, Pali sati, as in satipatthana, Plato's anamnesis, Sufi zikr--all are precisely translated as "memory" or "remembrance").
This whole panoply of higher levels generating the lower moment to moment, and of the dazzling interpenetrating of each level with the others, and of the extraordinary dynamics between the levels, all occurring in a field of effulgent radiance--all this is meant when the mystic-sage speaks of multidimensional interpenetration with nonequivalence.
The fact that the mystic-sages speak so often of the difference between levels, and emphasizes those differences, does not mean they neglect the relationships between the elements on a given level. In fact, the mystics are precise in their understanding of the community of elements constituting each level. Since all of the elements are "made of" the same density of consciousness--since they are all of the same level--they are all perfectly interpenetrating and mutually interdependent, in an equivalent fashion. That is, no element of any given level is higher, or more real, or more fundamental than the others, simply because they are all made of the "same stuff" (which means, same density of consciousness).
Thus, on the physical plane, no elementary particle is "most fundamental" (they all seem to bootstrap). On the nutritional plane, no vitamin is ultimately more essential (take away any one and you're equally dead). In the moral sphere, no virtue is greater than another--they all seem to involve each other (as Socrates knew and as Maslow discovered for B-values). In the subtle, all archetypes are equivalent reflections of the Godhead, just as all Sambhogakayas are equivalent reflections of the Dharmakaya.
The point is that all the elements of a given level are roughly equivalent in status and mutually interpenetrating in fact. All in one and one in all--holographically, as it were. But, by virtue of hierarchy, any element from a senior level is higher in ontological status than any element of a junior dimension (e.g., the virtue of compassion is not equivalent with vitamin B12). This mutual interconnectivity of the elements of any single level is one-dimensional interpenetration with equivalence. It is a type of heterarchy existing within each level of hierarchy. Heterarchy means that no element is superior to another; it means that there is an equivalence of all parties in a unitary pattern. "Holographic" is simply the strong version of heterarchy, where each part is so equivalent that they actually contain each other. For our simpler and general purposes, we will use "holography" and "heterarchy" interchangeably, since the important point is that both are non-hierarchical. Thus, the simplest way to summarize the mystic's world view would be:
1. Heterarchy within
With this background information, we come to the new paradigm.
PHYSICS AND MYSTICISM
Think of the six levels of consciousness as a six-story building: the mystic means that all the elements on each floor harmoniously interact, and most importantly, each of the floors interacts with each other. As for this multileveled interaction, the mystic means that the physical elements interact with the biological elements which interact with the mental which interact with the subtle which interact with the causal which pass into infinity, each level superseding its predecessor but mutually interpenetrating with it. And thus, speaking of all these levels the mystic says, to use Meher Baba's words, "They all interpenetrate one another and exist together."
Now it happens that
working with the lowest realm--that of material or nonsentient and
processes--have discovered the one-dimensional interpenetration
of the material plane: they have discovered that all hadrons, leptons,
and so on are mutually interpenetrating and interdependent. As Capra
In short, speaking of these subatomic particles and waves and fields, the physicist says, "They all interpenetrate one another and exist together." Now a less than cautious person, seeing that the mystic and the physicist have used precisely the same words to talk about their realities, would thereby conclude that the realities must also be the same. And they are not.
The physicists, with their one-dimensional interpenetration, tell us that all sorts of atomic events are interwoven one with the other--which is itself a significant discovery. But they tell us, and can tell us, nothing whatsoever about the interaction of nonliving matter with the biological level, and of that level's interaction with the mental field--what relationship does ionic plasma have with, say, egoic goals and drives? And beyond that, what of the interaction of the mental field with the subtle, and of the subtle with the causal, and the reverse interaction and interpenetration all the way back down through the lower levels? What can the new physics tell us of that?
I suggest that the new physics has simply discovered the one dimensional interpenetration of its own level (nonsentient mass/energy). While this is an important discovery, it cannot be equated with the extraordinary phenomenon of multidimensional interpenetration described by the mystics. We saw that Hinduism, as only one example, has an incredibly complex and profound theory of how the ultimate realm generates the causal, which in turn generates the subtle, which creates the mind, out of which comes the fleshy world and, at the very bottom, the physical plane. Physics has told us all sorts of significant things about that last level. Of its predecessors, it can say nothing (without turning itself into biology, psychology, or religion). To put it crudely, the study of physics is on the first floor, describing the interactions of its elements; the mystics are on the sixth floor describing the interaction of all six floors.
Thus, as a blanket conclusion, even as an approximation, the statement that "The world views of physics and mysticism are similar" is a wild overgeneralization and is based, as one physicist recently put it, "on the use of accidental similarities of language as if these were somehow evidence of deeply rooted connections."10
Further, physics and mysticism are not two different approaches to the same reality. They are different approaches to two quite different levels of reality, the latter of which transcends but includes the former. That is to say, physics and mysticism do not follow Bohr's complementarity principle. It is not generally understood that complementarity, as used in physics, means two mutually exclusive aspects of, or approaches to, one interaction. Physics and mysticism are not a complementarity because an individual can be, at the same time and in the same act, a physicist and a mystic. As we said, the latter transcends but includes the former, not excludes it. Physics and mysticism are no more two mutually exclusive approaches to one reality than are, say, botany and mathematics.
This whole notion of the complementarity of physics and mysticism comes from ignoring levels 2 through 5. It then appears that physics (level-1) and mysticism (level-6) are the only two major approaches to reality. From this truncated view of reality springs the supposed "complementarity" of physics and mysticism. This claim is not made for sociology and mysticism, nutrition and mysticism, or botany and mysticism; no more so physics and mysticism. They can all complement each other, it is true, but they are not a complementarity as defined by physics.
What is new about the new physics is not that it has anything to do with higher levels of reality. With a few minor exceptions (which we will soon discuss), it does not even attempt to explain or account for level-2 (let alone 3-6). Rather, in pushing to the extremes of the material dimensions, it has apparently discovered the basic holography of level-1, and that, indeed, is novel. There, at least, physics and mysticism agree.
Yet even here we must be careful. In the rush to marry physics and mysticism, using the shotgun of generalization, we tend to forget that quantum reality has almost no bearing whatsoever in the actual world of macroscopic processes. As physicist Walker puts it, in the ordinary world of "automobiles and basketballs, the quanta are inconsequential." This has long been clearly recognized by physicists. The quantum level is so submicroscopic that its interactions can for all practical purposes be ignored in the macro world. The intense interactions between subatomic mesons, which sound so mystical, are not observed at all between macro-objects, between rocks and people and trees. As Capra carefully explains it, "The basic oneness of the universe ... becomes apparent at the atomic level and manifests itself more and more as one penetrates deeper ... into the realm of subatomic particles" (italics mine).30
But it is precisely in the ordinary realm of rocks and trees that the mystic sees his mutual interpenetration of all matter. His basic oneness of the universe does not "start at the atomic level." When the mystic looks at a bird on wing over a cascading stream and says, "They are perfectly one," he does not mean that if we got a super microscope out and examined the situation we would see bird and stream exchanging mesons in a unitary fashion. His unitary vision is an immediate impact expressing his personal realization that "All this world in truth is Brahman."
That is to say, even the agreement between mystic and physicist on level-1 must be looked upon either as somewhat tenuous or as a fortunate coincidence. Ask almost any physicist if the connections between, say, a macroscopic tree and river are as intense and unitary as those between subatomic particles, and he will say no. The mystic will say yes.
That is a fundamental issue and shows, in fact, that the physicist and mystic aren't even talking about the same world. The physicist says: "The ordinary Newtonian world is, for all practical purposes, separate and discrete, but the subatomic world is a unified pattern." The mystic says, "The ordinary Newtonian world is, as I directly perceive it, one indivisible whole; as for the subatomic realm, I've never seen it."
The issue here is crucial, because, as Jeremy Bernstein, professor of physics at the Stevens Institute, explains, "If I were an Eastern mystic the last thing in the world that I would want would be a reconciliation with modern science."10 His point is that it is the very nature of empiric-scientific discoveries that they ceaselessly change and alter, that last decade's scientific proof is this decade's fallacy, and that no major scientific fact can escape being profoundly altered by time and further experimentation. What if we said that Buddha's enlightenment just received corroboration from physics? What then happens when, a decade from now, new scientific facts replace the current ones (as they must)? Does Buddha then lose his enlightenment? We cannot have it both ways. If we hitch mysticism to physics now, mustn't we ditch it then? What does it mean to confuse temporal scientific facts with timeless contemplative realms? "To hitch a religious [transpersonal] philosophy to a contemporary science," says Dr. Bernstein "is a sure route to its obsolescence."
THE IMPLICATE ORDER
This is made very clear by Bohm himself. First of all, Bohm is clearly opposed to trying to introduce mind or consciousness into the formalism of quantum mechanics (QM), as some physicists would like to do. As he and Hiley put it in a recent paper, "We show that the introduction of the conscious mind into physics ... is motivated by certain quite general considerations that have little to do with quantum mechanics itself. This approach is contrasted with our own investigations using the quantum potential.... Our aim is, in fact, to describe this order without bringing in the observer in any fundamental role" (italics mine).18 The conclusion of Bohm's work is that there seem to be certain quantum phenomena that "present us with a new order or a new structure process, that does not fit into the Newtonian scheme."18
This new order, in general terms, is the implicate (holographic or holomovement) realm. Bohm's theory is that explicate matter rests upon a sea of implicate physical energy of extraordinary magnitude and potential, and that the equations of quantum mechanics "are describing that [implicate order]."17 In one sense, then, the implicate realm goes way beyond explicate matter: "Matter is like a small ripple on this tremendous ocean of energy.... This implicate order implies a reality immensely beyond what we call matter. Matter itself is merely a ripple in this background."17
But in the final analysis, this implicate sea, although "finer" than explicate matter, is still of the realm of physics or nonliving mass/ energy in general. This is obvious because (I) Bohm has already excluded higher realms such as mental consciousness, from quantum mechanics, and (2) the equations of QM are said to "describe the implicate order." The unfolding from the implicate realm is, he says, "a direct idea as to what is meant by the mathematics of [quantum mechanics]. What's called the unitary transformation or the basic mathematical description of movement in quantum mechanics is exactly what we are talking about."17 Now QM equations do not define biological life, or level-2; they do not describe mental life, or level-3; they do not describe subtle or causal or absolute realms either. They describe something going on in the realm of physics and nowhere else. Besides, Bohm clearly states that "the implicate order is still matter."17
It is to Bohm's credit that, in his theoretical writings, he makes it very clear that he is not trying to introduce consciousness or mind into the QM formalism, or trying thereby to "prove" higher states of being with equations that are clearly descriptive not even of animal life (level-2) but rather of nonsentient processes. For it is certainly true that if the implicate realm rests on an interpretation of the facts generated by QM, then it just as certainly has no fundamental identity with any of the levels of 2 through 6. In short, the implicate order, as I would state it, is the unitary deep structure (holography) of level-1, which subscends or underlies the explicate surface structures of elementary particles and waves.
At the same time, Bohm himself is perfectly aware that the notion of a nonlocal implicate order of physics is still far from the only possible interpretation of QM, and far, in fact, from being the absolute case anyway: "At present," he says, "it is necessary to resist the temptation to conclude that everything [in the physical realm] is connected to everything else regardless of space and time separations. The evidence to date indicates that the nonlocal effects [what the public has come generally to call "holographic" or "Implicate order" events] arise under very special conditions and any correlations that have been established tend to be broken up rather quickly so that our traditional approach of analysing systems into autonomous subsystems is, in general, quite valid."18
The important point is that the mystic's insight does not rest on what these physicists finally decide.**
MIND AND QUANTUM
The impetus for these formulations lies in what is called the "measurement problem," and the measurement problem is shorthand for some very sophisticated and elaborate mathematical equations and certain paradoxes they generate.
The problem itself concerns this type of dilemma: the mathematics of QM can determine, with great precision, the probability that a certain quantum event will occur in a certain environment (at a certain place or at a certain time), but it can never predict the precise environnent itself. It can say, for instance, that the chance of finding a quantum particle in area A is 50 percent, in area B, 30 percent, and in area C, 20 percent. But it cannot, under any circumstances, say that a particular event will occur in area A (given the above probability distribution). Thus, the particular event is not looked upon as a single entity or occurrence, but rather as a "tendency to exist," which, in this example, would be defined by an equation (or probability amplitude) that says, in effect: 50 percent A/30 percent B/20 percent C.
Now the odd thing is that the event, when it occurs, does occur in just one area. It is almost (not quite) as if a statistician were trying to predict which of three doors you are likely to walk through, and, for various reasons, he winds up with the results: 50 percent chance of door A, 30 percent door B, 20 percent door C. He cannot predict exactly which door it will be, just the percentages. But when you finally walk through the door, you go through only one--50 percent of you doesn't go through door A, 30 percent through B and 20 percent through C.
But beyond that, the analogy breaks down. The statistician has reasons to believe that you exist before you walk through any of the doors--he can go look at you, for one. But the physicist has no such assurances about his quantum particles, because there is no way he can go look at the particle (for our less than accurate purposes, let's just say it's too small to see perfectly). The only way he can look at the particle is by using certain instruments--that is, by measuring it in some sense. But to measure the particle he has, as it were, to get it through the doors of his instruments. And there is the problem: to find out what's behind the door, the physicist has to use a door. In all cases, his phenomena can be detected only as they walk through various doors, and the equations describing these "walks" are purely probabilistic: say, 50/30/20.
The physicist therefore faces a conceptual problem: prior to measurement, all he can say about a quantum event is that it is (not has) a certain tendency to exist (e.g., 50/30/20). The event itself, if left alone (not measured) will "propagate through space-time" according to the Schroedinger wave function, which, if squared, gives the probability of finding the event in a certain environment (50/30/20). But prior to the actual measurement, there is no way whatsoever to know precisely in which region the particle will occur. Yet, when it is finally detected, it does occur in one region only (say B) and does not spread out through the three doors. This is called the collapse of the state vector or wavepacket, because when measurement determines that the particle is in B, the probability of its being in A or C collapses to zero. The collapse of the state vector means that the event jumped from being a "tendency to exist" (50A/30B/20C) to a "real occurrence (B)."
Hence the problems. Does measurement itself "cause" the collapse of the wavepacket? Does the actual particle even exist at all prior to measurement? If we say it does exist (which seems common sense), how can we know for sure, since there is no way to tell, and since our mathematical equations, which otherwise describe perfectly this realm, tell us only 50/30/20? If we deny the equations, how can we deny the fact that they otherwise work so well?
Aside from a large number of philosophers who maintain (not without certain justifications) that what collapses the wavepacket is not mind or matter but bad metaphysics, there are several different schools of thought on this "measurement problem," offered by the physicists themselves:
I. The Copenhagen Interpretation. The vast number of physicists follow this school, which maintains that the collapse of the wavepacket is at bottom purely random. There is no need for an explanation. Since there is no way to get behind the door, there is no behind the door.*** QM is a complete explanation as it stands, and there is no need or possibility to "look behind the scenes" and try to figure out whether the event is there or not prior to measurement. In all fairness, it should be said that there are many good, if not absolute, reasons for adopting this view. It should also be said, as is often pointed out, that Einstein himself violently rejected this view (with the exclamation "God does not play dice with the universe!"), even though every objection he forwarded to this interpretation was brilliantly parried by Bohr and others, using Einstein's own theories. At the same time, I repeat that this (and the following) are species of extremely popularized explanations. But within that disclaimer, the Copenhagen Interpretation says that the probability 50/30/20 is all we can know and all there is to know; which door the particle goes through is purely random.
2. The Hidden Variable Theories. These theories maintain that there are indeed specifiable factors lying "behind the scenes" of the collapse of the wavepacket. These subquantal processes are described by presently hidden variables, but it is possible that they will eventually become technically accessible. In the crudest of terms, this theory says that quantum events are not purely random, and that the particle goes through a particular door for a "hidden" reason, a reason that the particle "knows" and that we should be able to find out. Bohm and his colleagues, working with the quantum potential (and implicate order), belong to this school. Bell's theorem, which has received much popular attention, is often used by some advocates of this school to point to the apparent nonlocal (not confined to a local region of space causality) "transfer" of information between widely isolated regions of space. Bell's theorem is generally taken to mean that , if QM is otherwise correct, and if there are some sort of hidden variables, then those hidden variables are nonlocal--a type of "instant" causality not separated by time or space. Bohm and his colleages take this as an example of a possible implicate order; Sarfatti takes it as an example of faster-than-light "communication"; others (such as Einstein) take it as nonsense.
3. The Many Worlds Hypothesis. This is proposed by Everett, Wheeler, and Graham (EWG). According to the Copenhagen Interpretation (theory #1), when the 50A/30B/20C particle is measured and is found to occur in region B, then the other two possibilities (A and C) collapse--they simply do not occur (just as, for instance, if you toss a coin and it comes up heads, the possibility of it being tails collapses to zero). Now according to EWG, all of the mutually exclusive possibilities contained in the wave function do occur, but in different branches of the universe. At the moment the particle hits B in this universe, two other universes branch off, one of which contains the particle hitting A, and one of which contains the particle hitting C. Or, as soon as I catch "heads" in this universe, I also catch "tails" but in an entirely different universe. Neither "I" knows the other. This has been developed in a very sophisticated mathematical fashion.
It's easy, upon hearing that type of theory, to sympathize with Francois Mauriac: "What this professor says is far more incredible than what we poor Christians believe." But the real point is that it is already obvious that what is called the "new physics" is far from a consensus as to the nature of subatomic reality, a fact that will eventually lead us to certain suggestive conclusions. In the meantime we move on to the fourth major theory generated by the "measurement problem."
4. The Matter/Mind Connection. This theory has many different forms, but in keeping with our popularized presentation, we can say that the theory in general suggests the following: If measurement itself collapses the wavepacket, then isn't measurement in some way essential to the manifestation of this material event? And who is doing the measurement? Obviously, a sentient being. Is not mind, then, an influence on--or even creator of--matter?
This general view, in one form or another, is held by Wigner, Sarfatti, Walker, and Muses. "In my opinion," says Sarfatti, "the quantum principle involes mind in an essential way ... mind creates matter." 104 Walker equates the hidden variables, assuming they are there, with consciousness; Muses plugs consciousness into the quantum vacuum potential. But Beynam sums it all up as: "It is consciousness itself that collapses the state vector." It is this theory we want now to examine, because this is said to be the connection between physics and parapsychology/mysticism.
To begin with, is there anything in the perennial philosophy which would accord with the general statement, "Mind creates matter"? The first-approximation answer is definitely affirmative. Matter is held, by all traditional philosophies, to be a precipitate in the mental field. But they express it more precisely. It is not directly mind (level-3) which creates matter (level-1), but prana (level-2) which does so. Mind creates prana; prana creates matter.
Thus, the physicists would be more precise, according to tradition, if they said not "mind" but "prana," "bioenergy," or "biological sentience" was directly senior to matter. Von Weizsacker has already done so explicitly (using the word "prana"), and so have several others. This would not be a problem for these physicists, because the characteristics they already ascribe to "mind" as being necessary for the wavepacket collapse are actually characteristics of prana. That is, these physicists usually don't say "concepts," "Ideas," or "logic" collapses the state vector. Rather, they use such terms as "biological systems" (Sarfatti), "sentient being" (Walker), "sensation" (Wigner), and these are distally characteristic of mind but proximally characteristic of prana (or any living system). Mind could also collapse the vector, but via prana. This would also fit Sarfatti's suggestions, because all biological systems would contribute to random quantal Brownian movement, but a disciplined mind (not present in animals) might control it.****
All of which sounds as if this version of QM is right in accord with the mystic view, at least as far as levels 1 and 2 are concerned (i.e., level-2 creates level-1). Yet again we must be very precise here, because premature conclusions are much too easy to draw.
First of all, when the mystic says that matter is created by prana, he does not mean that prana itself must be present in a manifest fashion (and from this point on, for ease of recognition, I will use mind" instead of "prana," remembering the important qualifications given above). That is, mind does not create matter by perceiving it, or sensing it, or "measuring" it--which is, as we saw, the form of the theory held by the QM physicists under discussion. Rather, matter simply precipitates out of mind whether mind is paying attention or not. In fact, during involution, mind generates matter and then "disappears" from the scene altogether. It doesn't stay around to watch matter and thereby generate it.
In this fashion, the traditional philosophy avoids entirely the otherwise ridiculous dilemma: if mind creates matter by perception or actual contact (as participator-observer), then what occurred, say, 10 billion years ago when there was only matter and no minds? Science is rather certain that biological life appeared only billions of years after matter. Prior to that time, there was no life, no mind. If mind has to measure or observe matter in order for the latter to exist (or have its wavepacket collapsed), we arrive at absurdity.
This view--that mind generates matter by the effect of the "participator-observer"--is like saying the chicken (mind) sees the egg (matter) and thereby creates it. No chicken to see the egg, no egg. The traditional view says that the chicken (mind) lays or gives birth to the egg (matter) and thereby creates it; what the chicken does after that is its own business--the egg continues to exist, perceived or not. In fact, during involution, the chicken is, well, buried. What it leaves behind is a reduced version of chicken-ness, a reduced version of mind called matter (the egg). But the egg-matter has enfolded in it the potential to actualize ("hatch") a new chicken, or mind itself, which is just what happens in evolution. But in no case does the chicken create the egg by watching it.
It is for similar reasons that most physicists themselves reject this version of the QM interpretation. As David Bohm himself explains: "The introduction of the conscious mind into physics by Wigner is motivated by certain quite general considerations that have little to do with quantum mechanics itself." And speaking of this tendency to hastily conclude that observation by mind is needed to produce matter (measurement), Bohm answers succinctly: "Indeed this is often carried to such an extreme that it appears as if nothing ever happens without the observer. However, we know of many physical processes, even at the level of quantum phenomena, that do occur without any direct intervention of the observer. Take for example the processes that go on in a distant star. These appear to follow the known laws of physics and the processes occur, and have occurred, without any significant intervention on our part."18
In short, the perennial philosophy would agree that matter is created out of mind (prana), but through an act of precipitation and crystallization, not perception and measurement. But QM can account, if at all, for only the latter theory, and therefore the agreement of QM and mysticism on this point is purely coincidental. Should, therefore, this particular interpretation of QM prove incorrect (and I agree with Bohm and others that it will), it would not affect one way or the other the world view of the mystic-sage.
But my point does not concern whether any of the above four QM interpretations is right or wrong. And there are even others we haven't really discussed at all--superluminal connections, simple statistical interpretations, quantum logic interpretations. These issues are extremely complex and difficult, and it will take decades to work out their implications. However, what we can do now is reach certain immediate conclusions:
1. The "new physics" is far from a grand consensus as to the nature of even subatomic reality. To hook transpersonal psychology/ mysticism to the consensus of the new quantum physics is not possible, because there is no consensus. Those connections that have been drawn between physics and mysticism are of the pick and choose variety. The actual details of the various QM interpretations are, as we have seen, largely mutually exclusive. Simply to take a detail from one interpretation, then another, a little bootstrap here, a little implicate order there, is, in the words of physicist Bernstein, "a travesty and a disservice" to the theories involved.
2. Even if we could draw several tight parallels, to hook transpersonal psychology to physics is still "the surest route to oblivion." To paraphrase Eckhart, if your god is the god of today's physics, then when that physics goes (tomorrow), that god goes with it.
3. The most important point is that no matter which version of QM theory is finally accepted, this will not profoundly affect the mystic's vision or world view. First of all, in no case could it invalidate the mystic world view. When Newton's "fractured world view" was "truth," this did not invalidate the mystic vision. If the Copenhagen Interpretation is the "truth," this will not invalidate the mystic vision. If any of the QM interpretations are true, this will not invalidate the mystic vision. And therefore, as any epistemologist will tell us, in no case could an interpretation validate the mystic world view. If there is no conceivable physical test that would disprove the mystic view, and there isn't, then there is no conceivable one which could corroborate it either.
4. It is sometimes said that the new physics at least accords with the mystic world view. I think we can easily agree that certain aspects of some interpretations of mathematical quantum formalisms, when placed into everyday English, sound similar to aspects of the mystic's view, not of the world (levels 1-6), but of level-1. The mystic's insight, however, does not find its validation nor explanation in that possible accord. But if this accord helps "legitimize" mysticism in the public's eye; if it at least does not cause its proponents to radically deny mystical states as hallucinatory; if it opens the way to a fuller acceptance of mystical experience--then, by all accounts, we will indeed have the new physics to thank.
Beyond that point, however, take Bernstein's warning with you: thank the new physics for agreeing with you, but resist the temptation to build your transpersonal models upon the shifting sands of changing level-1 theories.
THE HOLOGRAPHIC BRAIN
But beyond that, it is suggested by some that if the mind were holographic, then this could also account for higher, transpersonal experiences via the mind melting down into the holographic blur beyond explicit distinctions. This holographic blur is called a "frequency realm," where, supposedly, objects in space and time "do not exist." The holographic blur or frequency realm is described as: "No space, no time--just events (or frequencies)."
Let us pass by the difficulties of having events existing without any sort of space or time; let us also ignore the fact that physical objects (space-time things) are needed to produce holograms in the first place. Aside from that, how might this holographic-mind fit with the perennial philosophy?
To start with, it is fundamentally the storage of memory-information that is said to occur on the principles of optical holography. The mechanisms of holography are explained by mathematical transforms, one of whose intriguing properties is that--in mathematical terms anyway--space and time seem at one stage to be left out, and the desired temporal results are retrieved through a readout function of frequency information. This has led to the notion of a frequency realm--the notion that space/time objects come out of "no space, no time frequencies."
I have no doubt that that is basically true--that memory is holographically stored, just as is said. I also think that the research demonstrating this is brilliant. But beyond that, how this relates in any fashion to transcendent states is far from clear. To be sure, there are similarities of language--the holographic blur ("no space, no time") sounds like a mystical state. It also sounds like passing out. There is a world of difference between pretemporal consciousness, which has no space and no time, and transtemporal consciousness, which moves beyond space and time while still embracing it. "Eternity," after all, is in love with the productions of time." This in no way proves that the holographic blur is not a transcendent state; it demonstrates that one cannot judge so on the basis of language correlations.
Nonetheless, it is said that a shift to a "perception of the holographic blur" would produce transcendent states. Since it is memory which is holographically stored,***** what would it actually mean to shift to a perception of the storage bin of personal memory? Would this be nirvana, a direct consciousness which transcended but included all manifestation?
By the accounts of the theory itself, I do not see that it would or could result in anything but an experience of one's own memory storage bin, properly blurred and without benefit of linear read-out. How one could jump from a blur of one's own memory to a crystal consciousness that transcends mind, body, self, and world is not made clear at all. It is a wild theoretical leap to move from "personal memory is holographically stored" to "therefore all minds are part of a transpersonal hologram."
I think instead that we are allowing certain superficial similarities of language to rule the day of reason. The above is example enough, perhaps, but beyond that there exists the whole notion of a "transcendent frequency realm beyond space and time"--which is said to be the implicate holographic blur. This notion, it seems to me, gains credence only from the oddities of the mathematics involved, which translate "things" into "frequencies" and thus allow a slip of language to pass for transcendent truths. The "frequency realm" transforms are assumed to refer to experiential realities in a way that is not only unbelievable, but frankly self-contradictory.
The transform of "things" into "frequencies" is not a transform of space/time into "no space, no time," but a transform of space/ time objects into space/time frequencies. Frequency does not mean no space, no time it means cycles/second or space per time. To read the mathematics otherwise is more than a quantum leap; it is a leap of faith.
This "theory has gained increasing support and has not been seriously challenged. An impressive body of research in many laboratories has demonstrated that the brain structures see, hear, taste smell and touch by sophisticated mathematical analysis of temporal and/or spatial frequencies [hence the primacy of frequency realm].98 I do not challenge the theory; I repeat, and mean, that I am straightforwardly impressed. I am not impressed, however, by speculations that call "temporal and/or spatial frequencies" by the name no space, no time." And it is in just that semantic slip that this theory sounds transcendentally alive.
Needless to say, this semantic sleight-of-hand, which replaces personal blur with transpersonal unity, helps neither the brilliant work of these brain researchers--Pribram for example--nor the difficult task of transpersonalists attempting to explain transcendence.
Aside from the above, we have still another strand of argument which has been proposed. For this strand, let us assume anyway that the mind in general is holographic in its operations. Would this fit with the perennial philosophy, and beyond that, would it possibly account for higher levels of consciousness?
I am afraid that, even given this generous lead, we fare no better. First of all, the fact that the deep structure of the mental field is holographic would not in itself account for transpersonal levels, or levels 4-6. The reasons, according to the perennial traditions, are that (1) every level is a holography, not just mind, and (2) the experience of any level's holography does not take one beyond that level, but merely opens up deeper insights into that level. Just as the holography of level-1 does not imply nor demand level 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, so the holography of level-3 doesn't automatically account for any of the levels above it (levels 4, 5, or 6).
Likewise, the actual experience of the holography Of level-3 would not neccssarily--nor even likely-involve levels 4, 5, or 6. The ordinary surface mind (level-3) experiences itself as separate and somewhat isolated from other minds. To experience the holography of level-3 would be, at most, to experience a strong resonance with, and even overlapping of, other minds. It would produce a direct experience of actual interpersonal empathy.
But interpersonal empathy is not transpersonal identity. In states of transpersonal awareness (beyond certain introductory practices), whether mind is present or not, explicit or implicit, standing out or holographically blurred--all of this is irrelevant. The higher realms transcend but can easily include mind, and whether mind itself arises doesn't matter. The existence of higher states cannot be explained in terms of something that may or may not happen to a lower state, whether that state is unfolded and protected or enfolded and blurred. You might as well say you can explain level-2 by sufficlently blurring level-1. This disguised reductionism led Willis Harman to comment, "These holographic theories still would interpret the primary datum, consciousness, in terms of something else ultimately quantifiable [i.e., in terms of lower physical level measurements]. These theories are not yet of the new science, but rather of the old, in which the attempt is made to explain away consciousness rather than to understand it."98
Finally, we might heed William Tiller's suggestions: "The holographic [theory of brain perception] has focused largely on the sensor apprehension of this representation at the physical level of consciousness [level-1]. [We might do better] to opt for a multidimensional [hierarchical] representation of consciousness and possible structures of the universe for its manifestation. Without such an extension beyond the purely physical perception frame, the scope of any 'new paradigm' will be severely limited."98
Tiller hints at two points. First, the "frequency realm" said to be so transcendent is really prescendent: it's just the chaotic "blooming buzz" of physical level-1 frequencies before the brain can sort them into higher-order organization. An actual experience of that "primary reality" would be, in fact, pure regression, not transcendence. Second, holography cannot account for hierarchy, and thus the whole theory, as a paradigm, falls flat in the most important area of explanation.******
1. The interest of influential physicists in metaphysics. This has taken two different forms. First, the willingness to postulate unmeasurable and undetectable orders of physics lying behind or subscending explicate energy/mass. This is Bohm's quantum potential/implicate order. Second, the willingness of physicists to acknowledge the necessity of ultimately including references to levels higher than physics in their accounts of physics. As Wheeler put it, "No theory of physics that deals only with physics will ever explain physics."104 And Sarfatti: "Therefore, meta physical statements are absolutely vital for the evolution of physics,"104 whereupon Sarfatti introduces the notion of "mind creating matter." But even if that were true in the fashion proposed by Sarfatti, the perennial philosophy would remind him to add: "And you then need meta-mental to explain mind, which brings you to the subtle; and you then need meta-subtle to explain that, and so on in such fashion until, like an asymptotic curve that approaches an axis but never reaches it until infinity, you arrive at Consciousness as Such."
2. The reductionistic fury of mechanistic science seems to be finally winding down, and physics is opening itself--and by impact of authority, many other fields as well--to open systems of unending novelty and creativity. This is especially evident in the work of I. Prigogine, whose theory of dissipative structures is as beautiful as it is profound. Dissipative structures are simply a mathematical way to allow for the evolution of higher, more organized states from less complex structures. Dissipative structures are not actually explanations of life or mind, as is sometimes said, but rather descriptions of what has to happen to matter in order for higher realms to unfold. To actually identify the essence of a higher level as simply being a dissipative structure is like saying the Mona Lisa is simply a concentration of paint.
3. The whole movement of new physics and new paradigm at least demonstrates that there is profound, serious, and rapidly growing interest in perennial concerns and transcendent realities, even among specialists and fields that a decade ago could not have cared less. No matter that some of what is said is premature, that it is said is extraordinary.
4. Books such as the Tao of Physics and The Dancing Wu-Li Masters and publications such as Marilyn Ferguson's Brain/Mind Bulletin are introducing vast numbers of people not only to the intrigue of Western science and physics, but also to aspects of Eastern wisdom and thought, and in ways that simply would not have been possible before.
My point, therefore, in criticizing certain aspects of the new paradigm is definitely not to forestall interest in further attempts. It is rather a call for precision and clarity in presenting issues that are, after all, extraordinarily complex and that resist quick generalization. And I say this with a certain sense of urgency, because in our understandable zeal to promulgate a new paradigm, which somehow touches bases with physics at one end and mysticism at the other, we are liable to alienate both parties--and everybody in between.
From one end of the spectrum: already certain mystically or transpersonally oriented researchers--Tiller, Harman, W. I. Thompson, Eisenbud--have expressed disappointment in or total rejection of the new paradigm.
From the other end: already many physicists are furious with the "mystical" use to which particle physics is being subjected. Particle physicist Jeremy Bernstein recently unleashed a broadside on such attempts, calling them "superficial and profoundly misleading."l0 And no less an authority than John Wheeler--whose name is always mentioned in the "new paradigm" and in a way he finds infuriating-recently released two scathing letters wherein, among several other things, he brands the physics/mysticism attempts as "moonshine," "pathological science," and "charlatanism." "Moreover , he states, "in the quantum theory of observation, my own present field of endeavor, I find honest work almost overwhelmed by the buzz of absolutely crazy ideas being put forth with the aim of establishing a link between quantum mechanics and parapsychology"51--and transpersonal psychology, for that matter. He has asked, and Admiral Hyman G. Rickover has joined him, to have all sanctions of the American Association for the Advancement of Science removed from any endeavor tending toward transpersonalism, a sanction that Margaret Mead, years ago, fought so hard to obtain.
The work of these scientists--Bohm, Pribram, Wheeler, and all--is too important to be weighed down with wild speculations on mysticism. And mysticism itself is too profound to be hitched to phases of empirical scientific theorizing. Let them appreciate each other, and let their dialogue and mutual exchange of ideas never cease. But unwarranted and premature marriages usually end in divorce, and all too often a divorce that terribly damages both parties.
**I am, in this chapter, leaving out the most radical and pervasive difference between mysticism and any sort of physical or holographic paradigm, because it is also the most obvious. Namely (1) the comprehension of holographic principles is an act of mind, whereas the comprehension of mystical truth is an act of transmental contemplation, and (2) if holographic theories are actually said to describe transcendent truths, or to be the same as actually transcending, a violent fallacy known as category error occurs. Some have even suggested that a simple learning of the holographic paradigm would be the same as actual transcendence, in which case these hypothetical theories are not just wrong, they are detrimental.
***This is crudely stated, but it is also the basis of the charge of bad metaphysics
****It should be said that, while I will end up disagreeing with this school of QM as to the nature of the generation of matter from mind, I do not rule out that they may have some important and brilliant things to say about the influence of mind on matter, after the fact of matter's generation from mind. This is a very dilute agreement, but an agreement nonetheless, and certain very select areas of parapsychology (not mysticism at large) might find resonance with these theorists.
*****The "perception" of the physical frequency realm is discussed later in conjunction with William Tiller's critique of the holographic paradigm.******I am not questioning the fact that perception and memory occur as suggested in this hypothesis. I am not challenging the hypothesis on that ground at all. I am questioning whether, beyond that, this hypothesis could have anything to do with transcendent realities. My tentative, personal conclusion is that it only appears to have something to do with actual transcendence because of the oddities of the math involved and because of a less than precise manipulation of language. Particularly questionable is the jump from "each personal memory is equally distributed in every cell of the individual brain" to "therefore each individual mind is part of a transpersonal hologram." The holographic paradigm is described as "one in all and all in one"--where "one" means "Individual memory/cell" and "all" means "all individual brain cells." From that accurate statement a quick substitution is made: "One" comes to mean "one individual" or "one person" and "all" comes to mean, not all other personal brain cells, but all other persons, period.