In the first part of this series we began to understand the “quirky” nature of quantum mechanics in very basic ways. We realize this understanding is hard to get your head around, and even scientists are struggling with understanding the facts they are uncovering. Stated in the simplest manner, quantum mechanics demonstrates that the universe is really made up of sub-atomic particles which behave in ways that redefine how we have traditionally understood physics. Secondly, it appears the universe and all matter and energy in it is connected on this sub-atomic quantum level.
The basic premise is that quantum physics is not only the future of science, but is also the key to understanding consciousness, life, death, God, psychology, and the meaning of life. Quantum physics is an antidote to the moral sterility and mechanistic approach of scientific materialism and is the best and clearest approach to understanding our universe. In short, quantum physics is indeed the theory of everything.
The recent discovery of quantum vibrations inside neurons in the brain supports a controversial theory of consciousness. If correct, it might lead to new treatments for many different conditions, as claimed in a new review of the evidence by Hameroff and Penrose (2013). The theory – which implies the brain is connected to the universe at a quantum level – was first proposed in the 1990s, but it suffered extensive criticism.
One major point against it was that the brain was thought to be too “warm, wet and noisy” for coherent quantum processes. Recent evidence, though, from researchers led by Anirban Bandyopadhyay has found the proposed quantum vibrations inside microtubules within brain neurons. These microtubules are components of cell scaffolding – they help provide our cells with their structure – that are around 25µm in length. Other research has also found evidence of quantum coherence in living cells. It has been found in our sense of smell, in the parts of bird’s brains responsible for navigation and in plant photosynthesis.
Hameroff and Penrose explain that their theory suggests: “Consciousness derives from quantum vibrations in microtubules, protein polymers inside brain neurons, which both govern neuronal and synaptic function, and connect brain processes to self-organizing processes in the fine scale, ‘proto-conscious’ quantum structure of reality.” They claim that their theory is: “The most rigorous, comprehensive and successfully-tested theory of consciousness ever put forth. From a practical standpoint, treating brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a host of mental, neurological, and cognitive conditions.” They also think that the electrical ‘brain waves’ which can be detected by an EEG machine could be a result of these deeper level microtubule vibrations.
The restatement of the theory has produced a flurry of criticism in the journal where it was published, Physics of Life Reviews, but the authors maintain that their theory suggests: “Conscious experience is intrinsically connected to the fine-scale structure of space – time geometry, and that consciousness could be deeply related to the operation of the laws of the universe.”
Deepak Chopra was asked to comment from the viewpoint of Eastern philosophy, which at first glance will seem irrelevant to most physicists. The essence of Eastern philosophy is to approach reality through subjective experience. Science takes the objective world as a given and has excluded subjectivity. On the face of it, the two worldviews face in opposite directions, even though it cannot be denied that our only access to reality is through subjective experience. If there is a reality beyond human awareness, it will remain unknown to us.
The potential for reconciling science and consciousness was first glimpsed during the quantum revolution a century ago when several of the greatest physicists, including Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Planck, and Pauli, surmised that consciousness might be so fundamental that it can’t be gotten around. This line of inquiry proved uncomfortable, however, and although the observer effect and the measurement problem brought consciousness to the fringes of experimentation, the Eastern view that reality is best explained through investigations into human awareness – our vehicle for knowing reality – was steadfastly ignored.
The landscape is changing now. Physics has never come closer to describing the quantum foundation of consciousness than in this article by Penrose and Hameroff. It begins with the brain as a testable locus of the mind, the standard materialist position. But by tracing brain activity to quantum events at the microtubule level, the Orch OR model positions itself at the halfway house between the physicalist perspective and the “spiritual” perspective most purely represented by Vedanta. Vedanta is non-dual theory (Penrose–Hameroff claim that “spiritual” systems are dual), that posits that the cosmos is the play of consciousness, which undergoes transformations into what we perceive as matter and energy. By inserting Platonic values from mathematics, Orch OR, while still accepting the primacy of a world “out there,” opens up a choice.
The choice is between two non-dual explanations for how mind came into being. Vedanta says that mind is innate in creation. To be viable, this brand of monism must show how mind created matter and energy. The challenge from the Penrose–Hameroff side is to show how matter and energy created mind. Of the two, Vedanta, in our view, has the upper hand. Mind creates matter every time we have thoughts that generate unique electrochemical activity in the brain. But no one has credibly shown how molecules learned to think. This article is an optimistic step in a project that is paradoxical when viewed by Vedanta.
The paradox is that Vedanta rejects materialism as unsound while at the same time allowing any model to be valid on its own limited terms. Since all models are created in consciousness, and since consciousness creates reality, the scientific model is a creative use of consciousness – all models, including the religious and philosophical, are equal in this respect. Science isn’t privileged, but neither is Buddhism or Theosophy or aboriginal animism. Vedanta can live with the paradox that all systems of thought are viable and inadequate at the same time. The only privileged thing is consciousness itself.
Orch OR provides a credible, testable model for how mental activity enters the physical world. Take its optimism and turn it around: the mind-brain problem is indeed closer to being solved, not because quantum events give rise to mind but because these events indicate that an invisible agency (consciousness) is producing orderly, intelligent, information-infused activity at the very interface where space-time emerges. The Platonic values of mathematics are undeniable, and once they are admitted into the picture, Vedanta would allow in every other Platonic value (truth, beauty, love). Then “nothing” – pure awareness without qualities – is the only viable explanation left standing for the origin of mind and reality itself.
We are beginning to see how quantum physics affects our understanding of:
– Thoughts, feelings, and intuitions
– Karma, death, and reincarnation
– God’s will, evolution, and purpose
– The meaning of dreams
– The spiritualization of economics and business, politics and – -education, and society itself
This goes a long way in explaining our shift into a fourth and fifth dimensional world. It really isn’t that difficult to comprehend when the science defines the esoteric more clearly, is it? Your consciousness really does create your reality, and if we take that one step further; our collective consciousness creates our entire world and how we experience it. The important take away here is that we don’t have to believe, we can know scientifically we are participatory in our creation.
Interestingly, this quantum reality is alluded to in the bible, not once, but twice. In Luke 17:6, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea,’. In Matthew 17:20, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Now that this is beginning to make sound scientific sense, what kind of world are we going to create together?