Philosophy, Science

The Relationship Between Quantum Physics and Spirituality

quantum physics and spirituality

Quantum physics and spirituality seem an unlikely pairing. What relevance do subatomic dimensions have with subjective experience? Doesn’t science disprove spirituality? I’m inspired quantum theory, and how its implications correlates to Eastern philosophy. Whereas conventional physics had no room for non-material phenomena, quantum physics opens the door of mystery, suggesting science can support a spiritual worldview.

Many people immersed in Western culture, which is dominated by scientific ideology, require an intellectual green light to embrace spirituality, even when direct and immediate experiences conflict that particular worldview. My purpose isn’t to dive into the details of scientific theory, but instead, explain the importance of bridging quantum physics and spirituality, to give you an intellectual green light.

What Is Quantum Physics?

Quantum physics emerged in the early 1920s, with pioneers including Erwin Schrödinger, Max Planck, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, and Albert Einstein. Discoveries in this field contradicted models and theories of classical physics, most commonly that of a mechanistic universe where matter (physical form) was fundamental.

Classic physics emerged during the Age of Enlightenment, a 17th century movement which saw the revolution of science, reason, and logic, challenging the control of religious institutions. Slowly but surely, science replaced religion as the predominant authority. That came at a cost. In 1918, sociologist Max Weber astutely suggested we’d entered the age of disenchantment, or de-magic-ation (from the German Entzauberung).

“As intellectualism suppresses belief in magic, the world’s processes become disenchanted, lose the magical significance, and henceforth simply ‘are’ and ‘happen’ but no longer signify anything.”

Max weber

Classical physics appeared to see beyond the veil, with its complex technology revealing physical explanations for forces earlier generations had assumed to be magical or divine. The scientific method mined knowledge through rigorous, “unbiased” study of data, and seemed to offer concrete, objective evidence, when compared to superstition or magic.

Of course, there is a distinction between the scientific method and its discoveries, and the philosophies that emerge from those discoveries. The prevailing ideology that emerged is reductionist materialism. This is the ultimate disenchanted worldview, fuelled by the belief that the scientific method will, in time, reveal all the answers to the universe.

This wouldn’t be an issue if compartmentalized in academic circles, where professors and theoretical physicists discussed their passion with curiosity and openness. But reductionist materialism as an ideology infiltrated culture, summed up by Francis Bacon’s ethos of “man conquering nature.” This catalyzed significant progress with technology, medicine, and infrastructure, but every technological leap took a step away from God.

There is a distinction between the scientific method and its discoveries, and the philosophies that emerge from those discoveries.

Most people are unaware that many “truths” of Western culture are inherited beliefs, not facts, that stem from the Age of Enlightenment and reductionist materialism. I grew up believing this ideology without even knowing why I believed, or how accurate those beliefs were. I just thought I was intelligent and forward-thinking, and that science was a noble pursuit of truth, replacing archaic religious belief on merit.

More accurately, religious dogma was replaced by scientific dogma. Both dogmas make assumptions about reality that cannot be challenged, even in the face of conflicting evidence. Quantum physics is a direct challenge to reductionist materialism, though. Not only do its discoveries invalidate theories from classical physics, the very theories that disenchanted culture, it also provides a better model to explain the one thing we all share — consciousness.

How Quantum Physics Bridges Science and Spirituality

How do cultures define reality? It’s not a straightforward answer. Empirical science is the method of external observation, collecting data, and analyzing. From those findings, conclusions are made, and if the field of science is healthy and functioning earnestly, it will continually reassess, update. Quantum physics challenges many pre-existing conclusions, and yet, the mainstream model of reality lags behind.

One example is what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance,” or quantum entanglement, where two particles, once bonded, can be opposite ends of the universe and remain connected. Quantum entanglement demonstrates that there must be connections across space and time, to allow for information to travel faster than the speed of light.

Reductionist materialism would argue there’s no way for information to do this, which would invalidate experiences of remaining connected to people or events, those you are “bonded” with, across space and time, such as thinking of someone you love just before they message you, or remaining emotionally connected across distance.

Quantum superposition is one of the most mind-blowing revelations of this field, which shows how particles can exist in two states at the same time, until they’re measured. The way in which measurement influences a quantum system is also referred to as the observer effect. Observation itself can “manipulate” particles, suggesting that “mind” or “consciousness” is fundamental, or inseparable from objects that are measured.

Again, reductionist materialism would argue that, because matter is the foundation of reality, it is fixed and determined regardless of measurement. Pure objectivity is the defining principle of scientific dogma, which quantum superposition calls into question. If scientists and their tools influence their findings, can pure objectivity exist? Both quantum physics and spirituality note the inseparable influence of observer and observed.

“It is science that masters the objects, but it is the objects that invest it with depth, according to an unconscious reversion, which only gives a dead and circular response to a dead and circular interrogation.”

Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation

Discoveries require theories to make sense of them. In the 1980s, quantum physicist David Bohm suggested that what is observable — the explicate order — is influenced by an implicate order. Bohm conversed with spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti to try and bridge quantum physics and spirituality. Podcast guest Dr. Harald Atmanspacher, a theoretical physicist and the co-author of Dual-Aspect Monism and the Deep Structure of Meaning, suggests a model similar to Bohm’s, that integrates subjective experience and meaning.

Dual-aspect monism describes a “third” dimension of reality that is the foundation from which mind (mental) and matter (physical) emerge. Atmanspacher explained how conventional physics, though incredibly useful, has distinct boundaries, not least that it doesn’t include subjective experience, or consciousness. This stubborn barrier, known as the “hard problem of science,” has consistently failed to explain how consciousness appears from matter.

The Significance of Quantum Physics and Spirituality

By now, you may get the sense for how absurd scientific dogma is. As an attempt to define reality through observation, it dismissed the essence of that which every single one of us can attest “exists” — consciousness. All the while, reductionist materialism invalidated the possibility of spiritual domains, by default, as spirit is distinct from the material.

The reverse is true of Eastern practices that focus on the immediate and perceivable. Rather than objective data, it focuses on subjective observation through consciousness itself. If you’ve watched Oppenheimer, you’ll remember the significance of the Bhagavad Gita. Oppenheimer wasn’t alone in his admiration of Vedic philosophy; most of the founders of quantum physics were inspired by non-duality and mysticism, including Werner Heisenberg, who remarked:

“After the conversations about Indian philosophy, some of the ideas of quantum physics that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense.”

Werner Heisenberg

Quantum physics, like Vedic philosophy, suggests a holistic universe, that includes the psyche, or consciousness, as part of a unified vision. Many don’t realize Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity isn’t a New Age belief, but was developed in conversation with leading physicists, including Wolfgang Pauli. Synchronicity explains coincidences that are connected by subjective meaning. Jung felt synchronicity was part of the structure of reality, a principle on par with time and space.

Whereas classic physics tried its best to separate man and nature, increasingly, the conundrums of quantum physics suggest that to get a true picture of reality, you have to include the subjective experience. As the wisdom of the creators of the Vedas departed millennia ago, everything falls neatly into place when consciousness is seen as primary, and not matter.

“The Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter… we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.”

Sir James jeans, physicist

Quantum Mysticism and the Fallacy of Skepticism

Skeptics will argue that quantum physics doesn’t prove spirituality is real, or God exists. But this argument is built on the assumption that science is the only model able to validify the existence of God, or spiritual dimensions. Quantum physics in itself doesn’t prove anything. What it does is invalidate scientific theories that claim to disprove spirituality. The fallacy of skepticism is the claim that quantum physics doesn’t prove something that hasn’t been disproven.

This is a subtle difference, but an important one. Quantum mysticism (or quantum quackery or quantum woo) is a disparaging term used to ridicule those who draw a relationship between quantum physics and spirituality. But it’s not as if humanity has lacked spiritual connection prior to the scientific revolution, and people have hypothesized “God” from quantum physics. Skepticism must also apply to bold claims that deny the spiritual.

It’s much more logical to suggest observable phenomena is a byproduct of consciousness, than consciousness a byproduct of observable phenomena.

Spirituality is not objective. It’s an “inner” experience. The empirical scientific method, or observational data, will never prove or disprove spirituality. But scientific discoveries are covered with God’s fingerprints, with implications in every field. It’s much more logical to suggest observable phenomena is a byproduct of consciousness, than consciousness a byproduct of observable phenomena.

Good science is self-sacrificial. Hypothesis that in one moment appear true may be disproven. The evolution from classical physics to quantum physics illustrates that the eagerness to replace religion was flawed. I’m not suggesting any particular religion is redeemed. I’m thankful for the positive shift away from religious dogma. But if spirituality is what is true and essential, then it will surface in both “good science” and “good religion.” I believe that the correlation between the Vedas and quantum physics is an indication of this mutual surfacing of truth.

If this is all a bit dense, in a nutshell: if you’ve inuitied an interconnected universe, where a meaningful, ordered consciousness transcends the physical and the mental, quantum theory is a scientific affirmation of that intuition. Of course, the Vedas explained this thousands of years ago, as have many Western philosophers and mystics, but science is slowly catching up, so let’s smile and nod as more of these “revelations” appear.

Published by Ricky Derisz

Spirituality Coach and Meditation Teacher devoted to understanding the human psyche and nature of consciousness. Undergoing a life-long process of minding my ego.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *