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Consciousness and Physics

In addition to the understandings of numerous quantum physicists, Lothar Schäfer [1] has provided a brilliant addition to the literature on consciousness and physics.  In his book, he quotes Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (one of the great physicists of history), to wit, “To put the conclusion crudely -- the stuff of the world is mind-stuff... and the substratum of everything is of mental character...  Consciousness is not sharply defined, but fades into subconsciousness; and beyond that we must postulate something indefinite but yet continuous with our mental nature.  This I take to be the world-stuff.”

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Schafer goes on to note that the quantum phenomena “has all the attributes of a transcendent reality.  The foundation of the material world is found to be non-material; the constituents of real things are found not to be real in the same way as the things that they make; and non-local faster-than-light influences are found to pervade a universe whose nature is mind-like.”  Also, “The quantum phenomena makes it possible to establish a new covenant -- between the human mind and the mind-like background of the universe.”

From the forefront of modern quantum physics, it has become clear that the foundation of matter is nonmaterial.  In effect, the components of what we call real things are not real in the same way as the things of which they are composed.  At the same time, mechanical, deterministic processes alternate with expressions of choices in creating the visible order of things -- what we see and observe.  In fact, it is observation that creates reality.  

“Heisenberg thought, the quantum waves are not quite real -- ‘between the idea of a thing and a real thing’ -- but have the potential to become real when an observation is made.” [1] This view is equivalent to Creating Reality by intelligent thought!  (Or brainless ponderings.)  Saying a word aloud can create the subject matter.  

“Accordingly, in Heisenberg’s ontology -- similar to views expressed by von Neumann and Born -- physical reality is assumed to be formed by two processes.  In the first, when no observations are made, elementary physical systems, such as atoms, molecules, or collections of elementary particles, evolve into a superposition of possibilities or tendencies, in a wave-like state that constantly splits into numerous branches, each representing an alternatively possible event, or outcome of an experiment.  This state contains all possible events, evolving in accordance with deterministic laws of motion, and in this process continues until an observation is made.  In this case -- the second process -- the transition from the “possible” to the “actual” takes place, as Heisenberg phrased it.   

“An observation “changes the probability function discontinuously; it selects from all possible events the actual one that has taken place.”  The second process occurs in the form of a quantum jump.  Seemingly ruled by nothing but chance, one of the possible events is abruptly selected and made the actual one.  In the terminology of Dirac, a “choice” is made.  As Aristotle puts it: Forms bring matter into reality. [Geometry!]  In the language of quantum mechanics: Observations bring tendencies into reality.” [1]  

The term “observation” can be thought of as denoting an interaction of a quantum system with an object in a state of ordinary reality.  But physical systems are not thought to react (to the point of being observed to do so), simply because of changes in the information available on them.  Such a reaction to information is the prerogative of a mind.  But in the quantum world, just knowing information about a system -- a Quantum Knowing -- does in fact change the outcome.  The Wave-Particle Duality clearly demonstrates a system reacting to information being known about it, and thus implies that mind-like properties are found at the very foundation of ordinary things.  

In an equivalent sense to the wave-particle duality for physical reality, the Mind-Body duality can be thought of as the defining symbol of the nature of human reality and an indicator of its transcendent elements.   

In Eccles’ The Human Mystery, the question is posed: “How has the materialist mechanism of biological evolution been able to bring forth beings with self-consciousness and human values?  How can we explain the dualism of man’s nature: body and mind, and the interaction between mind and brain.”  [1]  How does a transcendent mind -- distinct from a mechanical, computer-like brain -- relate to matter, body, and the physical world?   

The answer seems to suggest that Eccles asked the wrong question.  Instead of how did mind derive from matter, the more appropriate question is how did matter derive from mind.  (If you don’t mind my asking; if it doesn’t matter to you.)  

“If, as Eddington says, ‘the substratum of everything is of mental character... [which in some parts] rises to the level of Consciousness... and the universe is of the nature of a thought,’ then it must be assumed that the universe rules spiritual matters as well as the laws of physics, and it is in human minds that the spiritual order of the universe rises to the level of morality.  [1]  That says quite a lot.  

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Mind-Matter         Mind-Body         Consciousness         Creating Reality

Forward to:

Consciousness Research         Bruce Lee Effect



[1]  Lothar Schäfer, In Search of Divine Reality; Science as a Source of Inspiration, The University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, 1997.



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