Quantum mysticism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Quantum mysticism is a set of metaphysical beliefs and associated practices that seek to relate consciousness, intelligence, or mystical world-views to the ideas of quantum mechanics and its interpretations.[1][2][3][4][5][6] Quantum mysticism is considered by many scientists and philosophers to be pseudoscience[7][8][9] and "quackery".[10]

Origin of the term[edit]

The term originally emerged from the founders of quantum theory in the early twentieth century as they debated the interpretations and implications of their nascent theories, which would later evolve into quantum mechanics, and later after World War II, with publications such as those of Schrödinger, and the 1961 paper of Eugene Wigner.[2][11][12][13] The essential qualities of early quantum theory, and the ontological questions that emerged from it, made it difficult to distinguish between philosophical and scientific discussion as quantum theory developed into a strong scientific theory.[citation needed]


The controversy surrounding mysticism in quantum physics began in Germany during the 1920s, when some of the leading quantum physicists, such as Erwin Schrödinger and Werner Heisenberg, had leaned toward mystical interpretations of their findings. Others, such as Albert Einstein and Max Planck, objected to such interpretations. Despite accusations of mysticism from Einstein, Niels Bohr had repeatedly denied the charge, attributing it to misunderstandings. During the second half of the twentieth century the controversy died down, and today most physicists are realisists who do not believe that quantum theory is involved with consciousness.[14]

Quantum mysticism has occasionally reappeared, due in part to popular books such as Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics and films such as What the Bleep Do We Know?.[14] Wholeness and the Implicate Order by David Bohm portrays reality as a unity which can be understood in terms of implicate and explicate orders. Steven Weinberg disagreed with Bohm, due to the many "erroneous claims" about physics and quantum theory, in the "science wars".[citation needed] Another well-known contribution was Quantum Reality by physicist Nick Herbert (1985) which dealt mainly with possible interpretations of quantum theory.

The 1979 book The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav (self-confessedly "not a physicist") again included parallels between Eastern mysticism and modern physics. Michael Talbot's The Holographic Universe developed the ideas of David Bohm in relation to the recent Aspect experiment. In 1990, Robert Anton Wilson wrote a book called Quantum Psychology which explains Timothy Leary's Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness in terms of quantum mysticism.[15]

Deepak Chopra's 1988 book Quantum Healing explained a theory of psychosomatic healing using quantum concepts and his Ageless Body, Timeless Mind (1993) discusses specific claims of healing, reversal of the aging process and immortality, adopting a "quantum worldview" and prescribing specific practices. In 1998, Chopra was awarded the parody Ig Nobel Prize, in the physics category, for "his unique interpretation of quantum physics as it applies to life, liberty, and the pursuit of economic happiness".[16]

In his The scientist's Conversations with the Teacher, Alexander Zelitchenko introduced the notion of what he called "a subtle matter" and speculated about how the physics of subtle matter may be understood in connection with de Broglie waves.[17]

The 2004 film What the Bleep Do We Know!? dealt with a range of New Age ideas in relation to physics. It was produced by the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, founded by J.Z. Knight, who said that her teachings were based on a discourse with a 35,000-year-old disembodied entity named Ramtha. It made controversial use of some aspects of quantum mechanics—including the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the observer effect—as well as biology and medicine.[18] Numerous critics dismissed the film for its use of pseudoscience.[19][20] William Tiller, a scientist interviewed in the film, wrote a reserved defense of it.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Athearn, D. (1994). Scientific Nihilism: On the Loss and Recovery of Physical Explanation (S U N Y Series in Philosophy). Albany, New York: State University Of New York Press.
  2. ^ a b Edis, T. (2005). Science and Nonbelief (Greenwood Guides to Science and Religion). New York: Greenwood Press.
  3. ^ Stenger, Victor (2003), Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe, Prometheus Books, p. 373, ISBN 978-1-59102-018-9 
  4. ^ Edis, T. (2002). The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Science. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
  5. ^ Crease, R. P. (1993). The Play of Nature (Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Technology). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  6. ^ Seager, W. (1999). Theories of Consciousness: An Introduction (Philosophical Issues in Science). New York: Routledge.
  7. ^ Grim, Patrick (1982). Philosophy of Science and the Occult. SUNY Press. pp. 87–. ISBN 9781438404981. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  8. ^ Collins, Tim (2010-03-02). Behind the Lost Symbol. Penguin Group US. pp. 87–. ISBN 9781101197615. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  9. ^ Udemans, Fuad (2013-09). The Golden Thread: Escaping Socio-Economic Subjugation: An Experiment in Applied Complexity Science. Author House. pp. 388–. ISBN 9781491879337. Retrieved 22 July 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ Pigliucci, Massimo (2010-05-15). Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226667874. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  11. ^ Niels Bohr, "Discussion with Einstein," In P. A. Schilpp, ed., Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, p. 235.
  12. ^ E.P. Wigner (1961), "Remarks on the mind-body question", in: I.J. Good, "The Scientist Speculates", London, Heinemann
  13. ^ Hans Primas, Michael Esfeld (1997) "A Critical Review of Wigner's Work on the Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Theory"
  14. ^ a b Zyga, Lisa (8 June 2009). "Quantum Mysticism: Gone but Not Forgotten". Phys.org. 
  15. ^ Wilson, Robert Anton - Quantum Psychology 1990
  16. ^ The 1998 Ig Nobel Prize Winners
  17. ^ Alexander Zelitchenko (2001). The scientist's Conversations with the Teacher, San Jose, Writers Club Press ISBN 0595194125
  18. ^ Hobbs, Bernie (30 June 2005). "What the bleep are they on about?". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  19. ^ Wilson, Elizabeth (2005-01-13). "What the Bleep Do We Know?!". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  20. ^ "Britain's best scientific brains give us their verdicts on a film about quantum physics". theguardian.com. 16 May 2005. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  21. ^ Tiller, William A. (2004). "What the Bleep Do We Know: A Personal Perspective". Vision-In- Action (VIA) 2 (4): 16–20. 

Further reading[edit]

Publications relating to quantum mysticism
Criticism of quantum mysticism