Archive for May, 2010


I’m re-reading, after decades, Gary Zukav’s The Dancing Wu Li Masters. It’s a classic crossover of Quantum Mechanics and Eastern mysticism. Moreover, Zukav is one of the best expositors of Einstein’s relativity theories I’ve run across. In his chapter on the General theory, he summarizes its implications as a simple but mind-blowing concept: matter is energy, and energy is motion. That is, all of existence consists of nothing more than movement from one state of being to another along lines laid out in the space-time continuum.

There are no “things.” There are no “forces.” There is no “cause and effect.” There is only transformation. And transformation occurs along lines of least resistance in a Universe made up of larger and smaller “bumps” of curved spacetime, which is to say mass, which is to say energy, which is to say motion. Things happen the way they do because there is no other way for them to happen.

This is as true for human beings as it is for stars and planets.

And one of the men instrumental in understanding all of this, through his simultaneous but separate mathematical discovery of black holes, was one Sir Roger Penrose.


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My friend Mari sent me a link to an interesting article on creativity and mental illness. The basic premise of the argument presented is that creative people, like schizophrenics, lack dopamine receptors in the thalamus—the part of the brain responsible for regulating divergent thought. This lack of cognitive oversight allows them to see patterns and make connections where others cannot or do not.

Lacking divergent regulation myself (if not exactly embraced by creativity), upon reading this I immediately began seeing connections to other areas. Could this explain paranormal experiences? Mystic experiences? Compassion? Empathy?

In my view, spirituality is the ability to perceive the interconnectedness of the Universe. The “oceanic feeling” of Oneness arising from such awareness (the term Freud so disdainfully attributed to religion) allows us to put ourselves in another’s place and feel what they feel. It seems to make sense that an increased capacity for pattern recognition and dot-connecting would result in an increased ability to see things from another perspective—and further, to realize that other perspective is actually our own.

The human brain is the ultimate pattern recognizer. Perhaps therein lies a hint as to what our ultimate purpose is in the world.

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Photo by Courtney Hartzell

Sir Roger Penrose merged his theory of quantum consciousness with Stuart Hameroff’s theory of neuron microtubules to together come up with a concept of consciousness akin to Plato’s philosophy of Ideals. What if the very foundation of the Universe is made up of precursors to conscious awareness? What if Erwin Schrödinger’s wave functions stipulate that quantum events constitute an awakening of subatomic particles at that foundation? And what if our minds are not creating thoughts, but rather are simply tuned in to these moments of awakening, like a radio tunes in to a broadcasting frequency? And then sending them back out again to create the Universe?

What if we are who we are because the neuronic grid in our brains is attuned to a particular quantum frequency in the Universe, as if to a radio station? And what if we can change that station?

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For consciousness to be aware, it must be aware of something. It cannot exist in isolation. To not be aware of anything is to be unconscious.

Yet quantum mechanics tells us that, at the most fundamental levels of existence, there is nothing of which to be aware.

The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre tried to resolve this problem by positing that consciousness is always conscious of itself. This is a secular version of George Berkeley’s answer to his own question about trees and sound–that is, that God always hears. The only problem is, consciousness cannot be conscious of itself. Because no material object called “consciousness” exists.

There are ways around this dilemma.

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Of course, there are several aspects to my consciousness, to my ego, so I have to be careful which one I am talking about. They aren’t the same. The one I normally think of as me is ephemeral, fleeting, ungraspable. It changes from moment to moment. Yet it’s the one that feels most solid.

Another makes decisions before I even know I’m considering a thing. And yet another is what a Buddhist might call My True Face.

I am all of these and none of them, playing out a momentous existence as through a glass, darkly.

Photo by Courtney Hartzell

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I am utterly amazed to be this person.

I mean that in an ego sense, not an egocentric one. Of all the consciousnesses in the Universe, why did I awaken as this particular one?

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