||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (August 2013)|
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. Quantum mysticism is generally considered pseudoscience.
Origin of the term
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 Schrödinger's and Eugene Wigner’s 1961 paper. The essential qualities of early quantum theory, and the ontological questions that emerged from it, made a distinction between philosophical and scientific discussion difficult as quantum theory developed into a strong scientific theory. Some of the leading Quantum physicists gave mystical interpretations to their findings. In his book "My view of the world", Schrödinger outlined his mystical and metaphysical view as derived from Hindu Vedanta philosophy.
David Bohm was deeply influenced by Jiddu Krishnamurti, crediting him as a source for understanding the worldview he proposed in his interpretation of Quantum Mechanics that he put forth in Wholeness and the Implicate Order (his first footnote credited Krishnamurti's book Freedom from the Known - a treatise putting forth a distilled rendition of apophatic mysticism), and had a series of in depth dialogues with him that were published in the book The Ending of Time. In On Creativity, he wrote of Krishnamurti, "I got to know Krishnamurti in the early sixties. I became interested around that time in understanding the whole thing more deeply. I felt that he was suggesting that it is possible for a human being to have some kind of contact with this whole [that Bohm postulated in his work]. I don't think he would want to use the word 'God' because of its limited associations." The Harvard historian Juan Miguel Marin noted also the "“lucid mysticism,” a synthesis between rationality and religion" favored by Wolfgang Pauli, that Pauli "speculated that quantum theory could unify the psychological/scientific and philosophical/mystical approaches to consciousness". He further noted:
Among contemporary quantum field theories, the important gauge theories are indebted to the work of [Hermann] Weyl and Pauli. Yet many physicists today would be shocked if they learned how Weyl and Pauli understood the concept ‘field’ when they wrote their classic articles. They were both immersed in mysticism, searching for a way to unify mind and physics. Weyl published a lecture where he concluded by favoring the Christian-mathematical mysticism of Nicholas of Cusa. Moreover, Pauli's published article on Kepler presents him as part of the Western mystical tradition ... For those who do not favor the Copenhagen interpretation and prefer the alternative proposed by David Bohm, I would suggest reading Bohm's many published dialogues on the topic of Eastern mysticism ... Eddington and Schrödinger, like many today, joined forces to find a quantum gravity theory. Did their shared mysticism have a role to play in whatever insights they gained or mistakes they made? I do not know, but I think it's important to find out.—Juan Miguel Marin, "'Mysticism' in Quantum Mechanics: The Forgotten Controversy" in European Journal of Physics 30 (2009), as quoted by Lisa Zyga in "Quantum Mysticism: Gone but Not Forgotten"
Marin noted that Albert Einstein, though he claimed belief in Spinoza's God remained opposed to some of the novel mystical formulations of Pauli and his colleagues. Wolfgang Pauli was strongly against pseudoscience, severely criticizing unfalsifiable theories, coining, when referring to them, the phrase "not even wrong". Nevertheless, his findings in Quantum physics led, in his view, to mystical interpretations.
According to Marin, the opposition to mystical interpretations of Quantum Mechanics that Einstein and others had stemmed from their adherence to the philosophical school of realism. Yet in the 2007 Nature paper An experimental test of non-local realism, Anton Zeilinger and his colleagues wrote that, "Most working scientists hold fast to the concept of ‘realism’—a viewpoint according to which an external reality exists independent of observation. But quantum physics has shattered some of our cornerstone beliefs. According to Bell’s theorem, any theory that is based on the joint assumption of realism and locality (meaning that local events cannot be affected by actions in space-like separated regions) is at variance with certain quantum predictions. Experiments with entangled pairs of particles have amply confirmed these quantum predictions, thus rendering local realistic theories untenable. Maintaining realism as a fundamental concept would therefore necessitate the introduction of ‘spooky’ actions that defy locality. Here we show by both theory and experiment that a broad and rather reasonable class of such non-local realistic theories is incompatible with experimentally observable quantum correlations. In the experiment, we measure previously untested correlations between two entangled photons, and show that these correlations violate an inequality proposed by Leggett for non-local realistic theories. Our result suggests that giving up the concept of locality is not sufficient to be consistent with quantum experiments, unless certain intuitive features of realism are abandoned." Professors Richard Conn Henry and Stephen R. Palmquist, commenting on that paper, stated: "Now we are beginning to see that quantum mechanics might actually exclude any possibility of mind-independent reality and already does exclude any reality that resembles our usual concept of such (Aspect: 'it implies renouncing the kind of realism I would have liked')." They concluded their commentary by adding that in their view, because of these findings, "a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism." Nonlocality is a concept in physics, previously known as action at a distance.
Quantum flapdoodle is a term reportedly coined by Murray Gell-Mann to describe: "..stringing together a series of terms and phrases from quantum physics and asserting that they explain something in our daily experience.."; the term has been used by skeptics to describe quantum mysticism as espoused by the likes of Deepak Chopra.
Physicist Roger Penrose wrote in the Shadows of the Mind that consciousness may be a quantum phenomenon. The idea was cuttingly criticised by Stephen Hawking; a summary of his criticisms was added to Penrose's book. Penrose, posited that quantum forces affected neural processing via microtubules in his Orchestrated objective reduction model that he developed in collaboration with the anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff.
A renewed interest in mystical interpretations and the psychological aspects of the new physics arose in the 1970s with physicists such as Fritjof Capra, whose popularly successful book The Tao of Physics explored parallels between quantum physics and principles of Eastern mysticism. The 1980 book 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 so-called "Science wars". 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.
Deepak Chopra's 1988 book Quantum Healing explained a theory of psychosomatic healing using quantum concepts and his Ageless Body, Timeless Mind (1993, a New York Times Bestseller that sold over two million copies worldwide) discusses specific claims of healing, reversal of the aging process and immortality, adopting a "quantum worldview" and prescribing specific practices. In 1998 Deepak 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".
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 claimed 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. Numerous critics dismissed the film as pseudoscience. William Tiller, a scientist interviewed in the film, wrote a reserved defense of it, as did Stuart Hameroff, an anesthesiologist interviewed in the film.
According to E.J. Squires, the description of the observer in a decoherence approach, as in the Copenhagen approach, always involves extra information, the information which specifies the outcome of all the random events in the past. This information answers the question "which observer?" in many-worlds, and correspondingly answers the question "what outcomes of past measurements?" in the Copenhagen approach.
Squires associates this with the consciousness of the observer, because it is purportedly associated with the observer, not with the matter from which the observer is built. This includes most information about the universe.
The only form of interactionist dualism that has seemed even remotely tenable in the contemporary picture is one that exploits certain properties of quantum mechanics. There are two ways this might go. First, some [e.g., Eccles 1986] have appealed to the existence of quantum indeterminacy, and have suggested that a nonphysical consciousness might be responsible for filling the resultant causal gaps, determining which values some physical magnitudes might take within an apparently "probabilistic" distribution… Although these decisions would have only a tiny proximate effect, perhaps nonlinear dynamics could amplify these tiny fluctuations into significant macroscopic effects on behavior.
This is an audacious and interesting suggestion, but it has a number of problems… A second way in which quantum mechanics bears on the issue of causal closure lies with the fact that in some interpretations of the quantum formalism, consciousness itself plays a vital causal role, being required to bring about the so-called "collapse of the wave-function." This collapse is supposed to occur upon any act of measurement; and in one interpretation, the only way to distinguish a measurement from a nonmeasurement is via the presence of consciousness. This theory is certainly not universally accepted (for a start, it presupposes that consciousness is not itself physical, surely contrary to the views of most physicists), and I do not accept it myself, but in any case it seems that the kind of causal work consciousness performs here is quite different from the kind required for consciousness to play a role in directing behavior… In any case, all versions of interactionist dualism have a conceptual problem that suggests that they are less successful in avoiding epiphenomenalism than they might seem; or at least they are no better off than [naturalistic dualism]. Even on these views, there is a sense in which the phenomenal is irrelevant. We can always subtract the phenomenal component from any explanatory account, yielding a purely causal component.—David Chalmers, "The Irreducibility of Consciousness" in The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory
- 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.
- Edis, T. (2005). Science and Nonbelief (Greenwood Guides to Science and Religion). New York: Greenwood Press.
- Stenger, V. J. (2003). Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
- Edis, T. (2002). The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Science. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
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- Seager, W. (1999). Theories of Consciousness: An Introduction (Philosophical Issues in Science). New York: Routledge.
- Pagels, H. R. (1982). The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics As the Language of Nature. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
- Nanda, M. (2003). Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
- Scott, A. C. (2007). The Nonlinear Universe: Chaos, Emergence, Life (The Frontiers Collection). New York: Springer.
- Niels Bohr, "Discussion with Einstein," In P.A. Schilpp, ed., Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, p. 235.
- Freedom From the Known - Jiddu Krishnamurti
- The Ending of Time - Jiddu Krishnamurti
- On Creativity. Bohm, David and Lee Nichol. Psychology Press, 1998. p. 77 
- Zyga, Lisa. "Quantum Mysticism: Gone but Not Forgotten". Phys.org.
- http://www.spaceandmotion.com/albert-einstein-god-religion-theology.htm, quoting Victor J. Stenger, Has Science Found God?, 2001, chapter 3; "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings". (Einstein, letter to Rabbi Herbert Goldstein)
- Alain Aspect and Anton Zeilinger on Unreality
- Shermer, Michael (December 20, 2004). "Quantum Quackery". Scientific American. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
- "I confess, that very different from you, I do find sometimes scientific inspiration in mysticism … but this is counterbalanced by an immediate sense for mathematics." -- W. Pauli, from 
- Wilson, Robert Anton - Quantum Psychology 1990
- The 1998 Ig Nobel Prize Winners
- What the Bleep are they On About?! Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- Wilson, Elizabeth (2005-01-13). "What the Bleep Do We Know?!". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
- "The minds boggle". The Guardian Unlimited
- What the Bleep Do We Know; A Personal Perspective, Vision-In- Action (VIA) Magazine, 2 (4) (2004)
- E.J. Squires "An Attempt to Understand the Many-worlds Interpretation of Quantum Theory", collected in M. Cini, J.M- Levy-Leblond eds. , Quantum Theory without Reduction", ,1990, pp. 151-161
- Chalmers, David (1996). The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. Philosophy of Mind Series. Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 156–157. ISBN 978-0-19-983935-3.
- Publications relating to quantum mysticism
- Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism, Shamballa, 1975
- Deepak Chopra, Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine ISBN 0-553-34869-8
- Rolf Froboese, The Secret Physics of Coincidence: Quantum phenomena and fate - Can quantum physics explain paranormal phenomena? ISBN 978-3-84823-445-5
- Patrick Grim, Philosophy of science and the occult ISBN 978-0-7914-0204-7
- Lawrence LeShan, The Medium, the Mystic, and the Physicist: Toward a General Theory of the Paranormal, 2003, Helios Press, ISBN 978-1-58115-273-9
- Jack Sarfatti, 1975, Space-Time and Beyond, with Fred Alan Wolf and Bob Toben, E. P. Dutton. ISBN 0-525-47399-8
- Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe ISBN 0-06-092258-3
- Michael Talbot, Mysticism And The New Physics ISBN 0-14-019328-6
- Michael Talbot, Beyond The Quantum ISBN 0-553-34480-3
- Evan Harris Walker, The Physics of Consciousness: The Quantum Mind and the Meaning of Life ISBN 0-7382-0436-6
- Ken Wilber, Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists (editor), 1984, rev. ed. 2001: ISBN 1-57062-768-1
- Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, 1980, ISBN 0-553-26382-X-
- Criticism of quantum mysticism
- Richard H. Jones, Science and Mysticism: A Comparative Study of Western Natural Science, Theravada Buddhism, and Advaita Vedanta (Bucknell University Press, 1986), ISBN 978-0-8387-5093-3 (Paperback ed., 2008 ISBN 978-1-4392-0304-0), criticism from both the scientific and mystical points of view
- Richard H. Jones, Piercing the Veil: Comparing Science and Mysticism as Ways of Knowing Reality (Jackson Square Books, 2010), ISBN 978-1-4392-6682-3
- Michael Shermer, "Quantum Quackery", Scientific American, January 2005 
- Victor J. Stenger, The Unconscious Quantum: Metaphysics in Modern Physics and Cosmology, (Prometheus Books, 1995), ISBN 1-57392-022-3, an anti-mystical point-of-view
- Victor J. Stenger, "Quantum quackery", Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 21. No. 1, January/February 1997, p. 37ff, criticism of the book "The Self-Aware Universe"