From Quantum Physics to Quantum Politics

By Amit Goswami, PhD

Clearly, there is a political crisis in hand in America and elsewhere. Its root cause is worldview polarization between religion and science; its disease is elitism; and its cure is the worldview integration of spirituality and science that the quantum worldview facilitates.

People ask me, “Isn’t 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? Many establishment physicists tell us it is so. What is your response to that?”

Good question. My response is this, “Follow the logic carefully; it is a long string.” The word quantum etymologically means quantity. It 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 to be a wave, also additionally had a particle nature, quantum physics began to demonstrate its ability to overthrow our classical scientific worldview based on Newtonian physics—scientific materialism. This wave particle duality of objects of our experience is what defines quantum physics. Not that quantum physics is the physics of the micro, and Newton’s physics reigns over the macro. There is only one physics. Instead we say, quantum movement is everywhere. However, in the domain of the macro, quantum movement becomes subdued, so Newtonian physics approximately describes the movement of macro objects, causing confusion.

The confusion arises because you may be thinking this: If this same wave/particle duality also underlies the essential structure of macro material objects, how can they feel so solid to our touch, so localized? Yes, they do, don’t they? They don’t seem at all like waves. 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? Through direct experimental data that the physicist Alain Aspect and his collaborators established in their famous 1982 experiment. Aspect et al demonstrated that when quantum objects locally interact, they pick up a condition called correlation or entanglement. These quantum objects can communicate directly and instantly without using signals even when they move away from each other and stop interacting locally. This direct communication without signals is in sharp contrast to space-time communication that always uses signals going through space and 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, all objects in the domain of potentiality constitute a Oneness.

To take the logic further, we must ask, “What should we call this oneness? What is its primary aspect?” The holistic philosopher Ervin Laszlo calls it “quantum field” or “Akashic field.” The word akasha is a Sanskrit word meaning outside of space. Laszlo, as well as others, 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 interesting in view of physicist von Neumann’s great theorem: No material interaction, staying within the bounds of quantum physics, can ever convert waves of possibility into actualities.

Laszlo saw this nonmaterial interaction that convers potentiality into actuality as the major attribute of the Oneness. A closer examination reveals further insight into the nature of this Akashic field: 1) The field is consciousness itself responsible for our subject-object awareness and 2) The field’s interaction with matter consists of consciousness choosing a particular actual event of experience from among the various facets of material possibility.

You may have heard of the observer effect: Only in the presence of observers can it be unambiguously stated that quantum possibility becomes actuality. But think! According to quantum physics, before a measurement or an observation, the observer’s brain that is doing the “looking” is also quantum possibility.

Let’s go back a step. We observe a submicroscopic object like an electron with a measuring apparatus, a Geiger counter for example. But in truth, a Geiger counter cannot truly measure. Why? Because being made of submicroscopic objects like electrons protons, and neutrons, it too, must be an object of possibility, only macro.

But by the same token, the observer’s brain, being made of the same submicroscopic objects—electrons, protons, and neutrons—must consist of quantum possibilities. And yet, obviously, in any act of observation, the observer’s brain and the object of observation actualize together, but the observer never sees any brain. Instead, he or she identifies with the brain and experiences being an “I” observing an object. We call it the quantum self. You can think of it as your quantum I. The one consciousness of the domain of potentiality in this way becomes many quantum “I’s” in each of us, respectively, looking out from behind our eyes (no pun intended), and experiencing objects in space and time. The brain is a very special apparatus not at all like the Geiger counter. A Geiger counter is a simple hierarchy of elementary particles making up atoms, making up molecules, making up the solid bulk. The brain is not made that way.

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. The one becomes many because of quantum measurement that causes the “collapse” of possibility—multifaceted—into actuality— single-faceted.

And what might it be that actually influences/determines which actuality emerges from this process of a “collapse” of quantum possibilities? It is the choice of consciousness, of course. The causal power of downward causation comes from a choice of our consciousness at the most primary level.

But if you are not a spiritual aficionado but a mere religionist, most likely you don’t like separation. You look at separation as “original sin” and the source of great ignorance that only religion can remove. To you, living in the world, and especially playing politics with its affairs, ends only in a politics of ignorance. To you, a politics of wisdom can only prevail if politics is guided by religion and its values.

But, of course, if you are an aficionado of scientific materialism—the Newtonian classical worldview—then this kind of “original 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 does not help either when it declares that we are machines. 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 a survival benefit in the process of evolution.”

To this, the quantum aficionado responds, “But how do we understand ourselves and the subject-poles of our experiences by looking at neurons and their synaptic processes in a material organ like the brain? We can’t.”

Precisely. That’s the quantum perspective; we need a primacy of consciousness view of the world to understand our experiences, including political experience. But materialists would maintain that political thought and politics, too, have a survival benefit if done the

right way—the materialist way. Thus, political experience albeit with no causal power.

There is a catch to this kind of thinking; the reason it is called sophistry. The 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.

Agreed, this is a strong assertion; I need to elaborate more upon how I came to this understanding. The subjective quality is individual. However, developed is our power to calculate in some future science, we could never calculate that individual quale of an experience; if you could, it would be objective, and we would miss the point, right?

So, 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 by demonstrating its unifying power as mentioned earlier. Religions and scientific materialism notwithstanding, can a true politics of wisdom follow from such an integrative worldview? The answer is affirmative.

In the quantum worldview, separateness arising from quantum measurement (and by separateness, I mean the distinction of subject and object), is compulsory for the play of the manifest world, which is a purposeful choice of one consciousness. What I mean is that conscious choice is not arbitrary or subjective; instead, it is purposeful and objective.

Going back. In the new scientific view, only when the separateness becomes pathological, as when accompanied by intolerance and elitism, does it become sin—something bad to be concerned about.

Okay, if sin is too much of a derivative of religious ideologies, and if it will improve your understanding of the sentence above by using a different concept of sin such as “incongruous,” I am okay with that. Incongruous is fine. I mean sin or incongruity in the sense of separateness that is not good and is avoidable. In any case, we will see that the quantum worldview has good antidotes for both of these sources of divisiveness, both intolerance and elitism, that muddles the political scene.