Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beyond Theology - The science of Godmanship - Pt 2

- Robert Anton Wilson

"Your theory is crazy, but it's not crazy enough to be true."
- Niels Bohr to a young physicist

In 1964, Dr. John S. Bell published a demonstration that still has physicists reeling. What Bell seemed to prove was that quantum effects are "nonlocal" in Bohm's sense: that is, they are not just here or there, but both. What this apparently means is that space and time are only real to our mammalian sense organs: they are not really real.

This was the first step toward solving the mystery of Freud's exploding bookcase and similar enigmas of parapsychology, but nobody realized it immediately. The next step came - as is often the case in science - from three sources at once.

In the early to mid-Sixties, Charles Muses, a mathematician interested in para-psychology, Dr. Timothy Leary, the LSD researcher, and Cleve Backster, a polygraph expert who had been investigating ESP in plants, all proposed that consciousness does not reside in the brain alone. Rather, they all proposed that consciousness goes down to the cellular level, to the molecules, to the atoms, and maybe even deeper.

The first to construct a complete quantum theory on this basis was Dr. Evan Harris Walker, a physicist working for the US Army in weapons research. Dr. Walker explains this theory in a paper written with Dr. Nick Herbert: "The hidden-variable theory of consciousness asserts: (1) there is a subquantal level beneath the observational/theoretical structure of ordinary quantum mechanics; (2) events occurring on this subquantal level are the elements of sentient being. This being the case, we find that our consciousness controls physical events through the laws of quantum mechanics."

That couldn't possibly mean what it seems to say, could it? Yes, by all the potbellied gods of Burma, it means exactly what it says: our consciousness controls physical events through the laws of quantum mechanics. We are the hidden variable - or parts of it. There hasn't been a more radical proposition since the Psalms proclaimed (and Jesus repeated), "I said, you are Gods" (John 10:34).

Walker and Herbert have specifically applied this theory to psychokinesis - and here we are getting close to explaining Freud's exploding bookcase. Using an equation devised by Walker to predict the amount of quantum wobble that can be produced by the human mind, they have compared the results predicted with those actually obtained in one classic, long-range 98 investigation of the alleged PK function. The experiments were conducted by Haakon Forwald, a retired electrical engineer, from 1949 to 1970. Forwald's results exactly fit the prediction of Walker's equation. Subjects trying to control randomly falling cubes produced results as far above chance as they should have, according to Walker's math.

Dr. Herbert has carried this line of thought one step further. Director of the C-LIFE Institute (a conscious robot job-shop), Herbert is a soft-spoken fellow who dresses like Einstein did (or a Sixties hippie). He had developed Bell's Theorem into the idea of the "cosmic glue," which holds, in effect, that everything is the cause of everything.

The waters get pretty deep here, but fortunately the cosmic glue can be illustrated, with amusing accuracy, by an old Sufi joke. Nasrudin is out riding when he sees a group of horsemen. Thinking this may be a band of robbers, Nasrudin gallops off hastily. The other men, who are actually friends of his, say, "I wonder where Nasrudin is going in such a hurry?" and trail after him to find out. Nasrudin, feeling himself pursued, races to a graveyard, leaps the fence, and hides behind a tombstone. His friends arrive and, sitting on their horses, lean over the wall to ask, "Why are you hiding behind that tombstone, Nasrudin?"

"It's more complicated than you realize," says Nasrudin. "I'm here because of you, and you're here because of me."

In Herbert's cosmic-glue theory, every quantum event is here because of another quantum event, which is here because of the first quantum event. At this level, causality is meaningless, and Herbert prefers to speak of "influence," which acts every which way in time. All of us - past, present, and future - are bound non-locally by the cosmic glue.

Dr. Herbert claims this is the only theory of quantum causality consistent with Bell's demonstration that cause and effect are nonlocal, and with the Einstein-Bohm claim that nothing in the universe is truly random. In case the full implications of the cosmic glue still haven't hit you, Herbert will tell you quite bluntly: "Consciousness, nonlocal in space and time, is the hidden variable."

You ask at this point, "If this is true, why don't we notice it?" Why, that is, do we generally feel that our consciousness is located in one place - a few inches behind our foreheads? The physicists haven't tangled with this problem yet, but there are answers to be found in anthropology and psychology. In the first place, not all people feel that the consciousness is necessarily in the brain. The Chinese have always thought it was in the center of gravity of the body, and their ideogram for "mind" literally shows a heart and liver, not a brain. Hindus and Sufis perform daily exercises of moving consciousness all over the body, from the toes and legs and torso onward to the top of the skull and back down again. In the second place, modern psychology has demonstrated that where and how we feel our selves to be is conditioned by childhood experiences, and is not based on any innate physiological seat of ego awareness. And, finally, parapsychology and the study of other societies records ample cases of people who have experienced their consciousness as far, far removed from the physical brain.

According to the cosmic-glue theory, consciousness is everywhere and every-when; we experience it here and now only because we are trained or brainwashed to experience it that way.

"There is a sharp disagreement among competent men as to what can be proved and what cannot be proved, as well as an irreconcilable divergence of opinion as to what is sense and what is nonsense."
 - Eric Temple Bell, mathematican

Let us, as the Chinese say, draw our chairs closer to the fire and see what we are talking about.

The story so far: the parapsychologists have accumulated a great deal of strange data about wild, bizarre behaviors of human consciousness. Although they have labeled these strange experiences with many names, the data all seem to reduce to the phenomenon of consciousness acting as if it were not imprisoned in the brain, as if it could migrate elsewhere occasionally ("out-of-body experience"), or as if there were nonsensory openings through which information from elsewhere can leak in.

The quantum physicists, meanwhile, have found a subatomic jumpiness or randomness that cannot be reconciled with common-sense ideas of cause and effect. Aside from saying the whole problem is in our heads (the Copenhagen interpretation) or that everything that can happen does happen (the multiple-universe model), the most plausible theory that has been devised is the hidden-variable theory which, together with Bell's Theorem of cosmic glue, suggests that consciousness is nonlocal in space and time (not locked into the brain).

The hidden-variable theory is gaining ground because its central assumption of nonlocality (Bell's Theorem) has been experimentally confirmed five times since 1974. These experiments showed that two photons (light particles), once in contact, will continue to react as if still in contact, no matter how far apart they are in space, exactly as predicted by Bell's math – and just as would be true if Walker and Herbert are right in claiming that quantum events are controlled by a consciousness which transcends space and time.

In San Francisco, Dr. Jack Sarfatti, President of the Physics/Consciousness Research Group, has gone a step beyond Walker and Herbert. "Below the spacetime level of the universe we perceive," Sarfatti says, "is the subquantal world of minimum intelligences. Imagine them as micro-micro-microcomputers. They make up the hardware of the universe and are localized in space and time." (Each is here or there, not both.) "But," Sarfatti goes on, "the software or programming is nonlocal in Bell's sense." (The cosmic blueprint is here, there, and everywhere; now, then, and everywhen.) "The hidden variable," Sarfatti concludes, grinning benignly over his Mephistophelean black beard, "is not precisely consciousness, as Herbert and Walker think, but information."

If the intrepid reader cannot wait for the third installment of this series, the complete and annotated edition can be found on our website… here.