Re: The Self-Aware Universe

Like Programming the Universe, I got one key idea from The Self-Aware Universe, by Amit Goswami: that the probabilistic realm of quantum potentia is the same thing as the unitive consciousness of mystic experience. Unlike the Dancing Wu-Li Masters, this book conveys a good introduction to both quantum mechanics and the unitive consciousness. I just had a problem crossing the synapse between them.

The book describes five principles of material realism and then gives a decent introduction to quantum mechanics, which concludes by showing how quantum mechanics contradicts those same five principles.

  1. Strong objectivity – There is a material universe that is independent of us. But our observation collapses the quantum wave packet to a localized particle.
  2. Causal determinism – the world is fundamentally deterministic; all we have to know are the forces acting on an object and its intial conditions. But since quantum behavior is probabilistic, you can’t predict the behavior of a single particle
  3. Locality – all interactions between objects are mediated locally. But since quantum waves spread over vast distances and collapse instantaneously, the influence of our measurements is not traveling locally.
  4. Physical or material monism – everything is made of matter. But we seem to need to inject consciousness.
  5. Epiphenomenalism – mind arises from matter. But if consciousness arises from matter how can it collapse the wave function?

The answer offered is monistic Idealism, which underlies mysticism. Mysticism is unified in the theory that idea and form are complementary manifestations that arise from a single consciousness. So what is the unitive consciousness? Mystic philosophy can only say not this, not that, not being, not unbeing, not anywhere, not nowhere. The finger pointing to the moon is not the moon. It cannot be described, only experienced.

So how does monistic idealism relate to quantum mechanics? The quantum waves describing the probabilities of elections or photons dwell in a transcendant domain, the potentia, lying beyond the limits of all possible experience and knowledge. When we observe a quantum object, its wave collapses instantly; which cannot happen in space-time. The book cites Henry Stapp, as saying “the fundamental process of Nature lies outside space-time but generates events that can be located in space-time.” This nonlocal reality is everywhere and nowhere, everywhen and nowhen. And then we are asked to make the logical leap that the transcendant domain of quantum potentia is the same as the transcendant domain of the unitive consciousness.

In Part Two, the book tries to make the case for monistic idealism explaining the various well-known conundrums of quantum mechanics: the two-slit experiment, delayed choice, Schroeder’s Cat. Each time, it goes through several interpretations without being terribly clear about any of them, and declares at the end that monistic idealism is the only valid explanation.

Part Three addresses how monistic idealism explains pyschology, the illusion of self, enlightenment, ethics, and joy. In other words, life, the universe, and everything. Again, there’s a lot that’s not explained clearly, and this part isn’t really necessary to the main argument of the first two parts.