The challenge of Quantum integration

There has been a lot of books and articles published in the last decades on the subject of quantum mechanics verifying, as it were, the various spiritual traditions. I have observed some really interesting notions of (attempted) integration of certain areas of human experience and quantum theories!

But, I propose, let us be precise in these matters. Quantum mechanics is a hardcore science, its findings have been objectively and independently tested and re-tested any number of times (i.e. double-slit, delayed choice, and quantum eraser experiments, etc.).

Quantum mechanics is an objective science, based on the laws that govern the nature of particle-wave duality, superposition collapse, quantum entanglement, Heisenberg uncertainty principle, etc. It really does not get much more objective and impersonal than this.

Spirituality, on the other hand, is purely subjective. All inner psychological experiences, personal (trauma and shadow work, defense mechanisms, emotional intelligence, authenticity, etc.) or transpersonal (god forms work, invocation, intuitive perception, transcendental insights, evocation, etc.), are completely subjective and can be interpreted in myriad ways.

Yes, certain notions from Eastern religions or Western mysticism can indeed be conceptually or symbolically linked to the findings of modern quantum mechanics, but that is all. 

I really love the challenge of possible integration of various scientific (and other) disciplines, but I always remain cautious about the superficial notions of integration of objectivity and subjectivity. They really stand quite apart. 

The notion of real and complete, meaning, not merely conceptual or interpretive, integration of objective science and subjective spiritual insights is a stretch, to say the least, in my opinion. 

Philosophically speaking, there are similarities, of course, which are really fascinating, but philosophy does not equate to objective science.

In every day life terms, the (new age) spiritualists have quickly seized the opportunity, and now we can attend the weekend workshops where we might learn to create our own reality, based on the quantum theory notions that consciousness creates the results in the quantum mechanics lab. 

In reality, things do not work that way, I am afraid.

The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics clearly states that there is indeed the so-called wave function collapse which is influenced by an observer.

But again, I propose, let us be precise here:
the role of consciousness in the said quantum mechanics interpretation is not really crucial. It is the measuring equipment that determines the outcome of the experiment, not consciousness. A scientist in a lab in Denmark could set up a scheduled double-slit or delayed choice experiment and had the computer email him the results to Bali, where his consciousness is preoccupied with enjoying the sunset. No consciousness needed in the lab.

My point is that while certain notions of quantum mechanics in general and the Copenhagen interpretation, in particular, are indeed fascinating and stimulating for a vivid human imagination, I propose that a clear line be drawn between objective science and other disciplines.

What do you think?




One of my favorite Professors that share their wealth of knowledge at the former Teaching Company (later on named The Great Courses and now Wondrium), Steven Gimbel, Ph.D., explains this important subject at length:

“…This language and the accompanying mental picture are problematic. The usual way of talking about the standard model makes us think of the subatomic world as being composed of uncuttable particles, the classical atoms. But recall that this is coming out of quantum mechanics. We can think of particles because we’re talking about quantized elements. But elements of what?

Here is where we return to De Broglie. Recall that according to him, we need to see not just light but matter as both wave and particle. Waves require a medium: all elements in the standard model are understood by physicists as excited states of the requisite field which can overlap and exchange energy. Changes are the result of the fluctuations in the field.

Quantum field theory does away with what we usually think of as the most basic aspect of metaphysics: substance; thingness is no longer fundamental but subsumed under a more basic underlying entity, the field.
The field is real, and all we think to be individual things are just transitive aspects of the dynamic field.

It is no accident that this picture beares a resemblance of aspects of Eastern thought, particularly what is found in the Hindu Upanishads: the world of things, the plurality on this view is illusory, Brahman the underlying, unchanging reality that is underneath and throughout the universe is all there is.

Now, the claim here is NOT as was made in several popular works of the 1980s that quantum mechanics varifies the Hindu or Buddhist worldview, but it is certainly true that many of the founding figures in the history of quantum mechanics, Heisenberg, Bhor, Schrodinger were studying these works during the years when they were also engaged in the most important quantum discoveries.

Their physical theories were reactions to the physical problems using the conceptual and mathematical tools of their trade, but science, as it is produced, is not isolated from other parts of the intellectual or lived lives of those who created it.

That we have a group of people reconstructing the basis of our physical understanding and at the same time they are looking at the alternative philosophical pictures of reality, is certainly worth noting.

To remove the idea of thingness from the center of our worldview can be seen as an attack on the most basic foundations of the Western view of reality which begins with the idea of the observing subject, the self, and the world of objects which are observed. This shift to a metaphysic based on all present field is a move that was not lost on many beyond the world of physics.”

Steven Gimbel, Ph.D., featured in “Redefining Reality: The Intellectual Implications of Modern Science”, Wondrium streaming videos >>

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