Quantum Politics: Part II
By Amit Goswami, Ph.D.
Is quantum physics only applicable to the movement of elementary particles and their not-so-complex conglomerates such as atoms and molecules of the submicroscopic world?
The word quantum etymologically means quantity and was originally designed to designate a discrete quantity when the physicist Max Plank realized that energy, like matter, is also built from discrete elementary particle-like objects. But only when the great Einstein generalized this idea to suggest that light, already determined by experimental data that it is wave, also additionally has a particle nature, quantum physics began to show its ability to overthrow our classical scientific worldview based on Newtonian physics. This wave particle duality of objects of our experience is what defines quantum physics. This same wave/particle duality also underlies the essential structure of material objects that feel so solid to our touch.
You see, the waves of quantum physics are waves of possibility; they reside in a domain of potentiality not in space and time but outside of space and time. How do we know that there is a domain of reality outside of space and time? Physicist Alain Aspect and his collaborators established this in their famous 1982 experiment. Aspect et al demonstrated that quantum objects, under suitable conditions called correlation or entanglement, can communicate directly without using signals. This is in contrast to space-time communication which always uses signals going through space taking a certain time. Aspect’s signal-less communications, call them nonlocal, are instantaneous, without signal. When do you ever communicate without using signals? Only when you communicate with yourself, right? So this domain of potentiality outside space and time must exist as a subset of the whole of reality and be connected to our experiential reality in a nonlocal and spontaneous way by being just one thing.
What should we call this one thing? The holistic philosopher Ervin Laszlo calls it “quantum field” or “akashic field.” The word akasha is a Sanskrit word meaning outside of space. Laszlo and others also suggested that it is the interaction of this field that converts waves of possibility into particles of actuality that we experience in space and time. This is good in view of von Neumann’s great theorem: no material interaction, staying within the bounds of quantum physics, can ever convert waves of possibility into actualities.
A closer examination reveals further insight into the nature of this akashic field: it is consciousness itself, and its interaction with matter consists of choosing from among the various facets of material possibility the particular actual event of experience.
You may have heard of the observer effect: only in the presence of observers that it can be unambiguously stated that quantum possibility becomes actuality. But think! When is an observation by an observer? When the observer sets up a Geiger counter to amplify the submicroscopic object, say, an electron, and listens for a “tick.” However, according to quantum physics, before a measurement or an observation, the observer’s brain with its hearing mechanism that is “observing”, and also the Geiger counter, are all quantum possibility. So obviously, in any act of observation, the observer’s brain, the Geiger counter, and the object of observation actualize together. But the observer never experiences any brain. Instead, he or she identifies with the brain and experiences being an “I” observing an object with a Geiger counter. The one consciousness of the domain of potentiality in this way become many “I”s (in each of us looking out from behind our eyes or ears, or other sensory apparatus that we have)experiencing objects in space and time.
If you are a spirituality aficionado, you must already have been delighted that science, in the form of quantum physics, has rediscovered the spiritual oneness of everything. I hope that now you are even more delighted: an age-old spiritual puzzle—how the one becomes many—has been resolved. One becomes many because of quantum measurement which causes “collapse” of possibility—many facetedness– into actuality—one facetedness.
But if you are not a spirituality aficionado but a mere religionist, most likely you don’t like separation, you look at it as “original sin,” and the source of great ignorance which only religions can remove. To you, being in the world, and especially playing politics with its affairs, ends up only in a politics of ignorance. To you a politics of wisdom can only come if politics is guided by religion and its values.
But of course, if you are an aficionado of scientific materialism—Newtonian classical worldview—then this kind of “sin” view of our separateness will only irritate. To you, we are independent separate objects; how can something that is natural be criticized without substantiation?
But scientific materialism also says, we are machines. And let’s face it, machines don’t play politics, it is all mechanical for them. To that the sophists among materialists say, “Oh, well; brains have experiences of a sort arising out of survival benefit in the process of evolution. So political thought and politics; perhaps that, too, has survival benefit if done the right way—the materialist way. But how do we ever understand what an ephemeral experience full of beauty, complexity and insightfulness is about, as it emerges from our potentiality of consciousness to be experienced in all its wonder, by looking at synaptic processes in a material organ like the brain?
But there is a catch to this kind of thinking. It is not inconceivable that our experiences are brain phenomena, phenomena reducible to the brain substrata. But an experience has two poles, subject and object. The subject pole sometimes remains a little implicit thus creating confusion. But it is undoubtedly there! There is no experience without an experiencer, the subject. And just as the north pole and south pole of a magnet are all part of the same magnet, the experiencer and the object of experience are also part of the same “whole.”
And here’s the catch with the thinking that all is brain. Brain and its components, neurons and all, are all objects. Objects constitute the passive quality of consciousness; however they interact, they can never produce the active quality of consciousness that we experience as the subject
So quantum physics, the quantum worldview by explaining how our self-experience arises not only solves a puzzle for the spiritual traditions but also solves a puzzle for the followers of materialism demonstrating its unifying power mentioned earlier. Religions and scientific materialism not withstanding, can a true politics and wisdom follow from such an integrative worldview? The answer is affirmative.
In the quantum worldview, separateness arising from quantum measurement is compulsory for the play of the manifest world which is a purposeful choice of one consciousness. Only when the separateness becomes pathological, as when accompanied by intolerance and elitism, does it become anything resembling what religions connote by sin. We will see that the quantum worldview has good antidotes for both of these sources of divisiveness that muddle the political scene.
Mythos and Logos
Furthermore, a thinking person who is a nonscientist may find it quite appalling that human behavior, political behavior included, can be all understood with material laws. Our arts and humanities, sociology, culture and history, not just spirituality, has order or regularities, but these regularities are not lawful as in science. Instead they seem to play out story lines that we depict with what we call mythos—mythology.
To humanists, and who can deny the humanistic influence on liberalism, the non-religious half of the game of politics, mythos is as important as logos in shaping human drama.
One of these mythical story lines that play a very important role in politics is called Hero’s Journey. In the first stage, the hero sets out on a journey of finding truth or wisdom including political wisdom. In the second stage, the hero, through many trials and tribulations, discovers wisdom. Then in the third and final stage, the hero returns triumphant.
In another mythological story, the myth of the Holy Grail, there is something wrong in the Kingdom, but at first our hero sees it and does not say anything because of socio-cultural conditioning. Only after much work (hero’s journey?), the hero gets enough courage to ask, “What’s wrong here?” And the Kingdom is healed.
Do you see how important it is that our political leaders bring back these mythological storylines in our political play in their true essence, not faking them? Well, these leaders are confused because of their incomplete worldview; so faking is the best they can do. How can you see clearly when you wear blinders? And so we go through the ritual of leaders bringing “real change” in America every four years, but, of course, nothing much changes.
In the quantum worldview, the world is not entirely run by logos, it can’t be. In quantum-based science within the primacy of consciousness, matter is hardware in computer lingo. We use matter to make software of not only consciousness in the form of the self but also of our subtle experiences in the form of brain memory and body organs and their modifications. The material hardware indeed follows physical laws. But just as in the working of our silicon computers, the hardware laws can tell us nothing about the behavior of the software.
In the silicon computer, we make software to map our mental storylines via algorithms and process them consciously. The same thing we do with our bio-computer except that there is no algorithm, not always. Do these story lines have any order at all? Of course they do; if they did not there would be no arts, no humanities to learn about. The order comes from guidelines from the supramental archetypes; our mythology is the history of the play of these guidelines. As William Irwin Thomson wrote, “Mythology is the history of the soul [our supramental body].”
Good and Evil
Pop religions do something else when they try to develop selling points from esoteric teachings of mystics. They use fear of punishment if you don’t follow these teachings, for example, ethics. They also tell you that you have an innate tendency to fall prey to evil (whose personification is the concept of the devil) such as the tendency toward lust—to have pleasure-full sex (Heaven forbid!). According to these religions, you, through your evil tendencies, lose your spiritual freedom (and thus you need more religion). You have to suppress your evil tendencies. (And which tendencies are evil and which tendencies are natural? Religions decide that.) “Goodness is repressed evil.” If you use sex for procreation only, not pleasure, then you are okay and have recovered goodness and can earn the favor of God, the freedom for spirituality. This you can recognize is the view of the conservatives—that is, republicans in America.
Democrats and liberals saw it differently in the early days. Instead of making you the culprit for losing freedom they blamed the social system. You are innately good and loving they declared; it’s the social systems (for example, religions) that are making you feel sex is sinful and evil. Instead, the thinking went, if we make the society a permissive one, people’s innate goodness will shine through. Evil is repressed goodness. Make the society permissive; innate goodness will break through. Democrats and liberals saw loss of freedom as coming from the environment, not from you.
But now with scientific materialism as guide for most of them, the liberals are more confused than ever. According to scientific materialist view of our sociobiological nature, we are born with negative emotional brain circuits and behaviorally we are helpless when under their dictate but to follow the dictates. So negativity is scientific and natural, according to sociobiologists. Negativity is further inculcated into young people through their social environment, too. But at least this part we can balance. Positive messages and positive role models and positive living environments will very often generate positive people. Okay, we can inject some humanistic values through social conditioning of education and we must in view of the demands of civilization. The rest we must accomplish via laws or by investing quality time into our parenting activities.
But of course, religions and conservatives come back with the counter that more laws only mean more bureaucracy to enforce the laws: big government, big problem with the economic cost etc. and, of course, big loss of freedom.
And freedom and responsibility go together. Agreed, freedom does not guarantee responsibility. Only when we use our freedom to create ideas that we can call our own, do we feel responsible for those ideas. Notice the similarity of this with the capitalist concept of private property. When people own property, they take responsibility for it. Why would the idea, meaning, and feeling domain be any different?
Mystics of the world saw the question of good and evil radically differently. For them the whole subject-object split is the problem of loss of freedom. Get out of the game of samsara! is their advice. But no samsara, no politics, and no answer to politics of ignorance either.
In the religious popular rendition of mysticism, the battle of good and evil comes back again, this time in terms of personae. God is supposed to be good; so religions invent another supernatural force in terms of evil personified; call it the devil. Religions see recent political figures like Hitler as the devil incarnate and invent mythical stories in the line of good-evil battle mythology to interpret recent history (Read, McLaughlin and Davidson, Spiritual Politics).
The quantum worldview integrates all these different views of good-evil battle with one fell swoop—the concept of the unconscious. Freud originally introduced the concept of the unconscious in scienceas a reservoir of suppressed traumatic emotions of childhood mostly. But in quantum physics, the entire domain of potentiality is unconscious in us because we cannot process it with subject-object split conscious awareness Does this mean there is no process in the unconscious? Not at all. The possibilities interact with other possibilities generating often brand new possibilities, and therein lies the power of unconscious processing.
It is now well known that unconscious processing is a crucial aspect of quantum creativity (Goswami, Quantum Creativity).
So what does all this have to do with the good-evil battle? The good-evil battle myth is real, but it goes on in the unconscious for each one of us. In other words, the devil exists in each of us, and sociobiology gives us a partial picture of the devil—the negative emotional brain circuits. We fight this devil consciously by being aware of which emotional brain circuits we are consciously choosing and then deliberately choosing a more positive brain circuit if we are able to. But more effective is to engage the creative process and supplement the conscious processing with unconscious processing within with possibilities generated from good societal conditioning (Freudian superego) and additional creative input of quantum vintage. Eventually the creative unconscious processing generates in us new conscious ideas with which we build positive emotional brain circuits and balance the built-in negative in us.