Schrodinger’s Cat : Not This, Not That

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”   – Isaac Asimov

Here is a post I wrote up a little while ago, but had forgotten to make visible. I had initially jotted down these ideas in order to prepare a paper for the Consciousness Conference in Tucson, but eventually did not present at the conference. These are my thoughts on the subject – the thought-energy arises in my super-curious material mind, travelling outwards, to hopefully stimulate and affect your material mind…….a perfect example of wave transmission…

The expression “Not This Not That” has been taken from the Buddhist and Hindu expression of Neti Neti, which literally translates to “Not This, Not That” in English. When these two philosophies try to explain the experience of objective reality, word symbols fail to describe the experience. This failure to explain occurs because language has been crafted in response to the duality inherent in the material world. Language and all word symbols belong to the material world which is relativistic in our perception. It is said that any Transcendent Experience – that in which one overcomes the duality and experiences one-ness with the universe – can only be described by negating the experiences of this world of inherent duality – hence the expression “Not This, Not That.” Quantum world is something like that – unimaginable, unfathomable, we can only reach it thru our mathematical equations, but such understanding is disconnected from our own experience. It is not like our experience of the world, but it is not not like our experience of the world either. Not this, not that.

They say never plan ahead, go with the flow, live in the present, yada yada yada. So true. I deadheaded almost 250 rosebushes in the last few days. My friend Karin once said that picking  fruit from the trees or vines takes one into a zen like state.  One tends to the external world mechanically, while the mind tends to the internal. Deadheading roses does that to me too. After my previous blog about gardening, I had wanted to write about my philosophical associations with the phenomenon of deadheading. However, life rarely flows according to our plans, and Dr Schrodinger has returned into my life again with his cat, and he takes me to contemplative places that are entirely different from the zen-like places that deadheading takes me to. Whereas deadheading is contemplative, and forces one to recede into interiority, Schrodinger and his cat invite conscious explorations of the external world.

Schrodinger was a pioneer in the world of Quantum Physics. He is credited with the famous   wave function equation, a mathematical representation that brings the bizarre behavior of quantum world into light. He explained the nature of reality with a hypothetical experiment  involving a (his) cat – Schrodinger’s Cat Experiment. The inference from the experiment about the nature of reality at quantum level blows my mind away every time. It is also deeply insightful of human behavior. I have always felt that if Mathematics is the language of God, then Quantum World is the abode of Shiva where he performs the dance of duality and non duality, union and separation, unconscious-ness and conscious-ness. I think everyone MUST study quantum physics, for it bridges the divide between Religion , Science, Philosophy, Metaphysics and the Occult. It provides clarity, and understanding of ourselves, as conglomerate of elementary particles whose behavior is in some ways the same as those of the particles, yet, the outcome is more than the sum of particles.  This principle is also the fundamental, underlying principle in the fast developing area in science, philosophy, art called Emergence, which originally derived from systems theory, but now has become a fundamental theory in itself. Perhaps one day in the not so distant future, Quantum Physics will be compulsory subject in elementary and middle school, like letters and alphabets, and sentence building, and addition and subtraction – it will be a basic building block of our understanding of our worldly existence !!!

The tiny electron (or any elementary particle for that matter)  is multifaceted. It has the ability to behave like a wave, as well as like a particle. The duality is inherent in its nature. Try dropping a stone in still water. The water gets disturbed, and a wave travel outwards from the center of the disturbance. Except, there is nothing material that travels really, there is no movement of water molecules, but there is a movement of energy. The water molecules simply stay where they are, and move up and down with varying intensity.  So the wave is simply how energy moves and transmits. So what does it mean when we say that the electron behaves like a wave ? No one really knows, except that the equations that we have come up to describe the nature of the electron follow the rules of wave transmission.

The particle nature of the elementary particle is more reassuring, and readily understood by human cognition. When we say it behaves like a particle, we mean to say that it follows the classical laws of motion. Just like a billiard ball does. The mathematical equations that represent laws of motion, are applicable to the elementary particle as well (with minor adjustments because of its minuteness).

So the dual particle nature means that under certain conditions, the electron behaves like a wave, and follows the physical and mathematical representations of wave transmission (only energy transmitted, the particle itself remains stationary) and under certain conditions the electron behaves like a particle (the particle follows the same principle that a billiard ball follows). The choice of strategy is purely situational – it seems to have intelligence built in to figure out which mode of transmission to use under which situations.

Electrons – and all other particles – also follow a law called the Uncertainty Principle, which states that it is impossible for us to accurately simultaneously predict the position and the momentum of an electron/photon. Normally the electrons that populate our world, are always moving around randomly, doing whatever they want. And the equations predict that they do some pretty bizarre stuff that is beyond human experience, and understanding – we are reduced to conjectures and can only infer. Their behavior, when they are undetected, unobserved, cannot be ascertained. But when they are being watched by us, or our measuring instruments, they become well behaved and follow our laws of physics. But even so, we are prevented from knowing how fast it is moving AND where it is going.  Its the fundamental quality of the electron that it either it will let you know its momentum, or it will let you know its  location. This inability to calculate both is not because of any shortcomings of our measuring instruments. It is simply the fundamental nature of electron! The electron seems very protective of its privacy – as if it does not want us to get to know him too intimately.

Thus the mere act of looking at an electron will somehow alter the wave function of the electron and makes it an observable particle which follows the laws of motion. In other words, as soon as an electron “knows” that you (or your instruments) are looking at it, it will relinquish its wave-like nature, give up its bizarre behavior, its symbiotic existence, its being-ness and unity with the universe, and it will start dutifully obeying the laws of motion, and will start behaving predictably like a billiard ball would.  It begins to behave in a way that is comprehensible, predictable, and amenable to human cognition and experience, it follows the rules of the material world. It is as if the observation (visual, or thru experiments) forces the electron to change its behavior, and the same electron will now go from a being mode – where it is one with nature, and denies us any direct insight into an experience of that oneness – into a doing mode in which it will let us observe and understand it thru experiments.  Immediately upon being observed, the bizarre behavior – its wave function – collapses, it becomes an obedient particle of the material world, and begins to follow the laws of physics. Like little kids behave perfectly while their mothers watching them, but follow their instinct when the mother happens to look away. It is also somewhat allegorical of human behavior sans law and legal consequences, or religious codes, or social mores, or our innate moral codes – brought into consciousness through the organizing functions of the ego/superego.

If our psychological structures – ego, superego – had not developed the way they do, our id functions will take over and there would be no civilization, consciousness, language. Unpredictability and chaos would rein. According to Lacan, the required interaction with the father, dubbed as the Law of the Father,  forces the child to relinquish its symbiotic unity with the mother, and thru this sacrifice, the infant/child is  forced into an organized, conscious, symbolic world, a world of rules, a world that imposes moral, ethical and social codes (see Quest for the Symbolic Father).  In the absence of the Law of the father, there would be chaos, unpredictability.  Much before him, Freud too had postulated the existence of a primordial primordial tribe, with no taboos. According to him, it was the Taboo that led to a conscious, organized, civilized  world, and psychologically healthy human beings.

Jung has stated the same thing in a different way – he believed that it was the masculine principle, the animus that extracted the developing psyche from the symbiotic depths of the feminine principle (replete with irrationality and chaos), leading to evolution and consciousness.

Sankhya, am ancient Hindu philosophy, espouses that it is the active element, the Purusha –  that impregnates and acts on passivity of the Prakriti, and the interaction leads to evolution (of consciousness?).

Thus consciousness, in religion and mythology, seems to arise as a consequence of forced relinquishing of the symbiotic unity. It is a child-like product of interaction between the passive and the active/dynamic, the masculine and the feminine principles, of forced surrender of unity; it seems to be a product of separation, and duality. In the psychological realm separation is associated with trauma, and expansion of consciousness is a by product of psychic trauma. Evolution of consciousness, or expansion of consciousness is also a byproduct of the interaction between the conscious and the unconscious psyche.

Here we see a confluence in psychotherapy, religion and Quantum Physics. If the predictable, material existence – which appears to be synonymous with the particle nature of the electron –  arises as a consequence of being forced from chaos to order, after being forced from a passive (being) mode, into a dynamic (doing) mode; forced from potentiality to actuality, then we can see this as a universal pattern that applies everywhere, including in our psychic reality. The social codes that force into organizing us into a civilization, are of course contingent on, and a consequence of the psychological structures of people who inhabit the society. Does the psychology of human behavior arise from the atomic constitution of our material bodies ? Is our external organization being driven by the nature of electrons ? The behavior of fundamental particles of nature  create an ever evolving, ever widening pattern that originates in the particle, and shapes the psyche and spreads outward into societies and culture – sort of like a wave. What would then be the cause of the modern day chaos if understood in terms of the nature of the fundamental particles ?

Organization, predictability, consciousness seems to be a condition that emerges when an entity is forced into conformance and is subjected to the rules of the environment. The act of being observed forces the elementary particle into conforming to conscious behavior and manipulation, into predictability, and conformity to the expectations of the material world. Consciousness thus seems to be an outcome of being observed.  In psychotherapy too, the therapist is deemed to be a witness, under whose observation, the client chooses to relive their unconscious experiences, and then re-organizes them differently in their conscious mind.  In his book “Vision and Separation between Mother and Baby,” author Kenneth Wright emphasizes a similar notion. He states that whatever is observed by the mother, becomes conscious, the rest is repressed into the unconscious. Being observed, thus, seems to be a fundamental necessity for consciousness to arise and evolve. Perhaps consciousness and particle nature of the electron need to be studied as two aspects of the same reality. Perhaps the two are synonyms.

This leads us to something that we must ponder on – if the electron conforms to the rules of our world, and to our intentions, and given the subjective nature of our intentions – our subjectivity must be participant in the shaping of our reality! This deduction has enormous implication…

Thus it appears that the fundamental property/ability of an elementary particle – to abandon its wave function, and all properties associated with the function under observation –  holds enormous meaning in the manifest world.

It means that an observer is necessary for an electron (and by inference, also necessary for a material entity) to manifest. The necessity to be observed in order to exist in a material world provides an excellent rationale for the existence of god. According to this particular hypothesis of Quantum Physics, if there was no one observing us, we would not exist. Therefore a watchful god must exist !

The nature of an electron seems to be associated with the nature of the conscious and unconscious mind. Looking, and comprehending, is associated with consciousness. As long as the particles are not looked at, they behave differently, irrationally, chaotically, in bizarre ways. Their behavior undergoes a significant change as soon as they are observed. When observed, they relinquish their ways, and are forced into following an established set of rules that define and organize our environment.

Which made me think – what happens to the soul when we die ? It is not being observed in the material world, so if it exists, it must exist in the cosmic uroboros, and follow the tenets of the same existence……..but returning to the particle, all particles simply seem to have two ways of behaving –

1)       the symbiotic modes where they exist in relationship with each other, lead an unknown, chaotic life that has not been fathomed (as yet), they do not follow the material laws that rule this world – in fact they defy the rules of physics. When they are not being observed, it is as if the particles have a secret life of their own. This life has nothing in common with the life as we know. Eg the particles seem to exist everywhere simultaneously and yet do not have a presence that may be called real, or physical. So an electron may exist in your palm, and on a distant galaxy, and everywhere else imaginably, at the same time !!!! Two particles have the ability to affect each other, and communicate with each other across spacetime continuum  (called Quantum Entanglement). Hypothetically speaking, if you attempt to paint the electron held in your palm, the one on Mars will get automatically and immediately painted as well. It is as if the spacetime continuum does not exist for unobserved particles.

The elementary particle seem to *know* what is being done to them before we humans begin our observation process. As a consequence of that knowing, they change their behaviors in response to the experiment

2)     the observable mode, where they know they are being looked at, and they “relinquish” their unity with the universe, or “decide,” or “choose”, or are “forced” to behave like material particles of nature that follow the laws of this world. When they are not being observed, they seem to be devolved of these special powers vested in them during their symbiotic state. The particle will now honor all physical laws etc.

I am blown away by the similarity of the world body with the human body. And yet, why should it come as a surprise? Nature has only a few patterns that it repeats over and over again, to form the diversity of life.A few musical notes – the melodies are endless. A few fractal patterns, with literally unending, and endless combination of art forms.

Our unconscious has its own way of behaving. It is irrational, choatic, and unfathomable.  It follows its own rules, and is known to communicate across spacetime. The unconscious has enormous potential, and powers. the Self is equated with God in many religions, and religious philosophies of the world – esp of the East. Experiments in intentionality, clairvoiance, ESP etc are currently being conducted to understand such “paranormal” phenomenon. But it is fundamental property of the elementary particle, and we are composed of those particles. Granted that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, but perhaps the whole retains some of those properties – that we have not scientifically understood yet – in some shape or form.

Human beings are mere bodies, affected and limited by the laws of nature that apply to all material bodies. We cannot move faster than our bodies enable, or the laws of physical world enable us to move. We stay where we are, or move sluggishly, like the observed electron, but energy that we possess in many forms, perhaps travels outwards from us like waves, perhaps at speeds of light, or beyond the speed of light, affecting everything that those energy waves encounter. Perhaps energies from other sources, people, objects affect us in a similar manner. We may sometimes get caught in entanglements of the Quantum Entanglement kind, those that are beyond our understanding at present except at the quantum levels. The butterfly effect is a perfect example of that transmission of energy.

Thoughts, and intentions, are also a form of energy. They can possibly radiate outwards from us, and towards us from outside sources. This is the basis of Buddhist thought, that pays homage to Right Thought, Right Intention. A series of experiments, called the Intention Experiments, conducted by Lynne McTaggart has attempted to measure the power of intentional energy.  Dean Radin, another experimenter and researcher, has also conducted what is now famously known as a Chocolate Experiment, to document this power of intentionality, and its ability to transmit and affect the lives of people.

When anything from the unconscious is made conscious, it goes thru the filters of cognitive  understanding, and becomes conscious in this world, it becomes of this world. It is subjected to the rules of this world, and becomes the basis of change of human behavior. Because we now know it, we can never go back to being who we were before this piece of cognitive understanding had changed our consciousness. The expansion of consciousness is irreversible. This is the fundamental principle of psychotherapy generally. This is especially true of Jungian psychotherapy. Jung recognized the archetypical dimensions of the psyche. The unconscious psyche carries within itself information on the archetypes, and this information is transmitted to the conscious mind and informs our everyday behaviors.  Psychopathology represents the undesired distortion of these messages as they travel from the unconscious to the conscious mind, and/or the refusal of the conscious psyche to accept these instructions.

And so psychotherapy seems to be a bridge that deliberately, and intentionally connects the unconscious with the conscious, and this translation must always function as smoothly as the transition from wave to particle nature occurs – seamlessly. Psychotherapy seems to be much like the experiments of the scientific world that seek to understand the quantum world. In the process of observing the quantum world, scientists are also making conscious all that which is unconscious. Could the quantum world be called the unconscious of the universe ? After all, most of the universe is unconscious, much like most of the human psyche is unconscious.  This statement reminds me of the book that has been sitting on my bookcase for several years, waiting to be read – The Living Universe. The name of the author eludes me at this time. Perhaps I need to go back and go thru that.

There are other properties of the quantum world that have parallels in the human psyche. Jung talks about the opposites – the modern physics follows the concept of Supersymmetry which holds that every particle in nature has an antiparticle, every object has an antiobject. This poses intensely contemplative questions on the nature of Good and Evil and such.

Jung also talks about transcendence and transcendent function. Physics discusses the residuals that make up the material world after the antimatter destroyed all matter.  Matter transcended the opposites, and the annhilating duality of matter and antimatter. Perhaps the capacity for a transcendent function arises of this underlying ability of consciousness/matter to sustain itself after the opposites have exhausted/annhilated each other.

The list of similarities goes on and on and on.

Physics -any science – appears simply as a metaphor for human existence. Our quest for knowledge of the external arises in response to the quest for Self Realization.  Science thus appears to represents a tool that may help us to understand the Self. The explorations of science would then represent externalized explorations of the Self.

Our ancestors understood our external worlds thru an understanding of the Self, but we are focused on understanding the external, and only the external, forgetting that the external is merely a perceptual representation of the internal – of the psyche and the Self. We could not understand the external if we did not have the correlates, memory traces within. And hence our understanding of the external will never be thorough, and complete unless we correlate and support that exploration with the exploration of our interiority. And perhaps that is why there is so much uncertainty related to the validity of our scientific achievements – because there is uncertainty, or ignorance about our knowledge of our Selves.

Stuff that is worth reflecting on….

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