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Copyright Ian Irvine (Hobson), all rights reserved, 2012. [See also author’s bio at the end of this document.] Publisher: Mercurius Press, Australia, June 2012.
Image: ‘Visions of the Multiverse’ designed by Peter Wiseman (of Media Australia, Bendigo), copyright 2012, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
[This article - part of the8 part series entitled ‘Alchemy and the Imagination’ - began as the draft of a public talk delivered Monday 4th June, 2012, as part of the ‘Philosophy in the Library Series’ hosted by the Goldfields Library Corporation, Bendigo, Victoria Australia]
Trickster Gods and the Quantum Muse
The Quantum world is magically unpredictable and marvelously undetermined: what better conditions for Muses to flex their inspirational muscles in the lives of great artists? Quantum physics opens up the imagination to a plethora of possibilities where the possibility of mutually contradictory ways of observing something at the same time becomes a reality.1
If, as we’ve been suggesting, the phenomena personified in deities and legendary figures like Thoth, Hermes, Mercury, Mercurius, Hermes Trismegistus, Merlin, etc. (as well as in female trickster/witch figures like Hecate, Cerridwen, Morganna, Vivian, etc.) exist not only on earth but throughout the ‘Multiverse’ as theorised by modern astrophysics, astronomy, physics, etc. then the back-road, the boundaries and in-between zones, that the trickster figure now haunts have become vaster and stranger (more literally ‘alien’) than at any time in the known history of the human species. The old alchemical-Hermetic maxim, ‘as above, so below’ these days demands the integration into our everyday consciousness of realms and dominions encompassing billions of galaxies and star systems many of which contain millions, sometimes billions, of stars and perhaps billions and billions of planets. The Multiverse Hermes traverses (that is ‘mediates’ for us humans) contains exotic phenomena like ‘dark matter’, ‘dark energy’, ‘quasars’, ‘black holes’, ‘super novas’, ‘cannibalistic galaxies’, ‘anti-matter’ etc. So vast is this domain that time and space etc. expand beyond the abilities of most of us to even conceptualise in a meaningful way. The very act of staring up at the night sky is like stepping into a time machine since the light from distant stars and galaxies has taken many light years (hundreds, thousands, millions, billions) to reach us. Much of what we stare at is so out of date as to be grossly misleading. Most systems are much older than they appear to us in the night sky. The short of it is that this new ‘Multiverse’ governed by laws and phenomena unknown to the alchemists and Hermetists of old needs to be integrated into any contemporary alchemicalHermeticist, indeed Jungian (for our purposes), attempt to re-enchant matter, human consciousness and the faculty of creativity. Put differently, at the end of the NewtonianPromethean era any project that wishes to rebalance matter with the human mind (consciousness), emotions, etc. must first integrate new discoveries in the realms of Quantum physics and cosmology. As Jung developed his up-date on ancient Hermesian notions of the psyche from the 1920s to 1940s he only gradually became aware of the New Physics—largely through a famous exchange of letters between members of his circle and one of the founders of Quantum theory Pauli, who underwent analysis with Jung in the early 1930s after a marriage break-down. Pauli was eventually awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1946 and was a colleague of Einstein, Heisenberg and other innovative physicists of the period. Jung came up with key parts of his theory e.g. ‘synchronicity’ and ‘psychoids’ during this period. In retrospect he was clearly looking for ways to liberate his psychological system from what he felt to be the increasingly narrow version of ‘reality’ proposed by Newtonian-Cartesian thinking (which remained fundamental to the Freudian approach). As a result of these theoretical developments, which were also influenced by his studies in occult/paranormal phenomena and ASCs (altered states of consciousness), Jung gradually developed a non-Newtonian form of psychoanalysis. The figure of Hermes, trickster god and magician, was at the very heart of
Forster, 2007 [Kindle e-book Location: 1579].
this change in Jung’s thinking (as I’ve discussed elsewhere). It is not generally understood that the trickster-Hermes figure also influenced Jung via Quantum theory. Jung was not alone among Europe’s intelligentsia in being forced to respond to the strange new pictures of both the micro (or sub-atomic) and macro (or cosmological) realms surfacing among physicists. Many disciplines besides psychology started to drift, inevitably, into postmodernism due to the ontological and epistemological uncertainties unleashed by the New Physics. To understand the way ‘Quantum Hermes’ helped undermine some of the ontological and epistemological foundations of modernity we need to explore the difference between versions of reality as theorised by ‘classical physics’ and versions proposed by Quantum theory. Given this has primarily been a series of talks about creativity we will eventually focus on the possibilities these developments open up for the formulation of a post-postmodern ‘poetics’. NEWTONIAN MIGRAINES IN YEAR 12 PHYSICS When I studied Physics at Rangitoto College on Auckland’s North Shore back in the early 80s we were taught practical, which is to say Newtonian, models of the physical world. It was ‘materialist’ physics perfectly suited to the school’s goal which was to turn out young men and women intent on serving the Gods of industry and commerce. The endless physics equations, however, gave me migraines and the subject matter bored me to tears. I knew intuitively that such a version of ‘science’ had no ability to explain life’s deepest mysteries to me. Luckily for me, the college also gave me a thorough grounding in History and Literature! When I returned to university at La Trobe in the early 90s the Humanities lecturers typically critiqued much of modern science as a Promethean-Materialist phenomenon. I suspected Cartesian-Newtonian science also gave them migraines and we were united in our view of the cure: i.e. literature, philosophy and a sacralised perspective on life. There wasn’t a great deal to argue about! As I studied and eventually taught literature, history, the creative arts, etc. I came to have less and less to do with modern science. I felt that though it certainly had its uses, especially in the worlds of medicine, engineering, etc. it reduced to a philosophy of disenchantment and alienation whenever it sought to monopolize descriptions of: 1) human consciousness, psyche and soul (though it didn’t even acknowledge soul!) and 2) our relationships with each other, nature and the cosmos generally. Until recently this remained, more or less, my position on ‘modern science’. FROM PROMETHEUS and NEWTON to EINSTEIN and HEISENBERG In truth, however, science got very weird in the 20th century. Indeed it could be argued that it began a slow and painful transition away from the Newtonian (let us say Promethean) paradigm toward something new, strange and wonderful. Also—and this is important for the discussion of the trickster archetype that will follow—it became as ‘mind-expanding’, ‘unpredictable’, at times even as ‘chaotic’ as any psychoactive drug or traditional spiritual regime. Although it is not generally acknowledged by many mainstream scientists, it became, if anything, stranger, more bizarre, more ‘other-worldly’ than almost any of the spiritual systems and wisdom traditions known to human history. In this article I want to argue that the schism between science and the humanities described by C. P. Snow back in the early 60s, and labeled at the time ‘The Two Cultures Debate’,
originated with Newtonian science’s tendency toward authoritarianism in matters of the mind/consciousness and the soul—a tendency Romantic poets like Blake and Coleridge had thoroughly critiqued at the dawn of the Industrial Age. The New Physics, however, is no longer primarily Newtonian in outlook—does this fact alter the schism between the sciences and the humanities Snow rightly highlighted? I want to suggest it does and that the signs that a convergence of interests is emerging may well represent the major hope for the human species and perhaps, more generally, for life on earth as this undoubtedly tumultuous century progresses. At the epicenter of the ‘weirdification’ of science in the 20th century were, obviously enough, the astrophysicists, cosmologists and Quantum physicists. After becoming interested in what was going on in let us call it ‘equation land’ I did what any selfrespecting poet/writer who had been traumatised in his youth by Physics exams would have done—I consulted Dr Who, Stargate Atlantis, Through the Wormhole, Fringe and any other popular TV program I could get my hands on that dealt with ‘the New Physics’. Eventually, I bit the bullet and bought the most recent books and ebooks on the topic2—as well as a couple of packets of aspirin for the inevitable equation induced head-aches. Though I’m no physicist, I’m a writer and Humanities/Social Sciences academic, I am very interested in what the new physics has to say about: a) the nature of reality (i.e. ontology); b) how we might choose to live our lives (ethics/morality); and c) the purpose and nature of creativity (aesthetics/poetics). IN SEARCH OF THE QUANTUM MUSE Any attempt to outline a quantum influenced ‘poetic/aesthetic’ leads to a number of questions. What has changed in science to facilitate the convergence of interests suggested above? How has the New Physics already influenced the creative arts and humanities? Also, how do the current theories about reality (and the place of creativity within it) proposed by Quantum physicists and astrophysicists compare with reality as revealed to us by artists, writers, poets etc. of all ages?3 These are vast questions and obviously a short article like this can only really explore one or two of the main developments. As a poet and writer I’m interested in expansive understandings of creativity and I believe that art and literature reflect the ‘real world’ in important ways, though maybe not the real world as described to me all those years ago in Yr. 12 physics! ‘Realism’ in literature has passed its use by date, but so too has the postmodern obsession with ‘meta-fiction’ so prominent in the 1980s and 90s.
Brian Greene’s wonderful summary text The Fabric of the Cosmos has assisted greatly, likewise, David Bohm’s Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Interestingly Bohm seems to have been quite conscious of the links between his theory of the ‘implicate’ and ‘explicate’ orders (which he in turn links to what he calls ‘the holomovement’ i.e. the infinite ground of all being) and traditional—particularly Eastern—spiritual traditions. 3 A number of commentators—most notably Arthur Koestler (in the 1960s and 1970s) with books like The Act of Creation, The Ghost in the Machine and The Roots of Coincidence—have attempted to assess how the th revolutions in physics have impacted on 20 century scientific and rationalistic perspectives on ‘creativity’. A particularly fascinating contemporary reading appears in Julia Forster’s book Muses: Revealing the Nature of Inspiration (2007)—which owes a debt to Leonard Shlain’s book Art and Physics. Forster tries to explain how ancient notions of the Muse might be re-affirmed in some respects by the New Physics. She begins her final chapter by stating that Einstein’s theory of relativity ‘shattered the four tenets of Newtonian physical reality: space, time, mass and energy’.
As an extension of the convergence between the ‘New Physics’ and the Humanities I’d also like to suggest here (like many others, including the Dali Lama) that there are emerging parallels between Quantum physics and the world’s major wisdom traditions. Fritjof Capra and others, of course, argued this in the 80s but science has entered stranger territory since then. An up-date is in order. To summarise: what can the Creative Arts and Humanities learn from the Quantum Muse? “QUANTUM FUZZINESS” DISSOLVES CLASSICAL PHYSICS IN A FIELD BATH OF MIND-LIKE MATTER How have 20th century discoveries related to the ‘new physics’ (here encompassing cosmological discoveries) undermined the former certainties of the classical model of science? The simplest response is that uncertainty concerning what we can really know/discover about reality via the ‘scientific method’ developed by Francis Bacon is fundamental to the New Physics. Here I’d like to summarise the main innovations associated with the New Physics very briefly without complicating proceedings with … well, equations … * Relativity theory destroyed Newton’s static universe, likewise, the cherished separation between time and the various dimensions of space. Matter, energy, light and time were proved to be locked together in the ‘space-time’ continuum and the speed of light became, as one commentator put it, ‘the policeman of the universe’ … we all know the equation … E=MC2. * In the 1920s Erwin Schrodinger, Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr further undermined classical physics (as well as Einstein’s innovations) by suggesting that scientists would never be able to know all the laws that govern our Universe. Their studies of sub-atomic particles revealed a fundamental unpredictability to matter at the quantum level (sometimes termed ‘Quantum fuzziness’). They stated that outcomes can only ever be predicted ‘on average’ (the so called ‘probability wave’) and that matter at the Quantum level displays a strange wavelike quality4 that contains ‘all possible outcomes’ at once (i.e. all possible worlds/universes/presents, pasts & futures?) before ‘collapsing’ into a particular time-bound present due to the actions of observers. One casualty of such a theory appeared to be the classical scientific principle of ‘causality’.5 Similarly, the nature of human consciousness, irrelevant to classical theories concerning ‘matter’, became important again (no mere evolutionary epiphenomena). Some contemporary physicists are even suggesting that in Quantum Mechanics ‘matter’ is ‘mindlike’ and that the matter/mind duality that haunted Industrial Age science has been seriously undermined. Likewise, the impartiality of the objective scientific observer, so central to the scientific method, is challenged by the Quantum approach. Einstein famously—and
The ‘wave’ aspect to electrons was first formulated in a famous equation (‘Schrodinger’s equation) by Erwin Schrodinger in 1925. It led to the development of ‘wave mechanics’ which is central to ‘quantum mechanics’. 5 The psychologist Carl Jung in Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle (p.7) recognized that Quantum theory undermined the Newtonian principle of ‘causality, when he wrote: ‘In the realm of very small quantities prediction becomes uncertain, if not impossible, because very small quantities no longer behave in accordance with the known natural laws. … the causal principle is only of relative use for explaining natural processes …’
somewhat petulantly—critiqued this new approach by saying ‘My God does not play dice with the universe!’ (or something to that effect)6 TRICKSTER ON THE BEACH OF THE QUANTUM OCEAN At this point it is worth discussing the role of the trickster archetype in all of this. Recent theories of creativity and the paranormal emphasise the role of the ‘trickster’ element in processes of social and cultural transformation.7 As discussed throughout this series of articles on Hermes and creativity, the trickster figure— an archetype found world-wide— displays particular traits, notably:1) the ability to violate social boundaries with relative impunity (i.e. the trickster is anti-conformist); 2) the ability to resacralise ordinary life (i.e. trickster ‘magic’ is an antidote to disenchantment and desacralisation); 3) unpredictability; 4) an association with alleged paranormal phenomena (e.g. synchronicity, telepathy and precognition); 5) a satirical disposition (often in the service of political rebellion); and 6) prodigious mental agility (often taking the form of immense learning and wisdom in the senex trickster figure). The trickster also encourages: 7) social leveling (when manifesting at the social level); 8) consciousness expansion; and 9) creativity. Typically the trickster also acts as a 10) mediator between ‘worlds in conflict’ during periods of great change. To paraphrase Hansen (and also Jung), tricksters serve the life force via processes of constructive ‘destructuring’. Hansen also suggests that Tricksters are usually most active during periods of personal or collective upheaval and change, i.e. periods of transition. In many traditions, of course, the creative imagination works in tandem with the life-force. Which leads to the first part of a central proposal of this particular article: that creativity, when it is operating effectively in either the individual psyche or the collective psyche, may be accompanied by signs of ‘constructive destructuring’ i.e. destructuring of inflexible, oppressive etc. paradigms. The second proposal of this article is that post-Newtonian science (particularly the science associated with Quantum theory) is better placed to understand the Tricksterish ‘destructuring’ process we’ve theorized as fundamental to cultural and economic postmodernism. Why? Clearly the ‘indeterminacy’ and ‘unpredictability’ associated with matter in the ‘new physics’—summarised by Heisenberg’s ‘Uncertainty Principle’—uncovers a primeval ‘trickster’ element to the behaviour of all matter at the sub-atomic level. I’m tempted to call the Uncertainty Principle ‘Heisenberg’s Joker’ or some such thing, for it plays a cruel trick on all ‘scientists’ who believe that their main task is to explore, describe and control an independent reality ‘out there’ somewhere in the cosmos. Consistent with trickster’s ability to blur and violate boundaries in order to further consciousness, the mind observing the
‘In the Quantum paradigm, solid matter is no longer the static stuff we believed it to be—it is moving, unpredictable and here by virtue of being observed. Space is not empty but full of invisible energy bizarrely buzzing about us.’ [Forster, 2007, Kindle e-book location 1367] 7 G.P. Hanson’s work The Trickster and the Paranormal is particularly interesting since Hansen makes use of established sociological theories to assess the trickster archetype’s ‘destructuring’ and ‘boundary blurring’ characteristics. Deldon Anne McNeely’s book Mercury Rising: Women, Evil and the Trickster Gods is also relevant. McNeely (p.19) writes: ‘[the] trickster … violates boundaries, ridicules righteousness, and poses ethical questions … [‘Trickster’s purpose is] … to further awareness and communication between all possible factions.’ Elsewhere McNeely extends Trickster’s influence to social phenomena: ‘The continual rise of commercialism, communication explosion, relativity of values, prominence of satirical comedy, high energy, fast pace, and preoccupation with sexual imagery of our times characterise Trickster rising.’
phenomenon of ‘quantum state collapse’ may actually be said to influence the choices made by matter. The implication is that the minds of classical scientists are spookily ‘making’ (at least to some extent) the phenomena they believe themselves to be merely observing. LATER 20th CENTURY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE NEW PHYSICS: ENTANGLED MATTER As it turned out the Quantum physicists were onto something—numerous later experiments demonstrated the accuracy of their theories.8 The mainstream sciences, however, continued as though nothing much had changed and the notion arose that though something was indeed amiss in the sub-atomic realms, at the macro level of matter the laws of classical physics plus Einstein’s modification i.e. the ‘space-time’ continuum, still prevailed—this détente, effectively between ‘classical science’ and ‘Quantum physics’, became known as ‘the Copenhagen Interpretation’. It ensured that the triumvirate of Newton, Darwin and Einstein were at the helm of the good ship ‘Science’ for most of the 20th century. Quantum ‘spookiness’ (to quote Einstein), was temporarily quarantined and uncomfortable questions about the mind’s influence on matter were dismissed as largely philosophic in nature. Most importantly for our purposes, Quantum uncertainty and ‘action at a distance’ phenomena (e.g. entanglement and the possibility that we inhabit a ‘non-local universe’) were deemed irrelevant to the functioning of the human brain and nervous system in the macro realm of large scale objects. The parapsychologists and purveyors of religious superstition were asked to contain their enthusiasm for the ‘new physics’. The elephant in the room turned out to be the difficulties associated with resolving this schism between the macro realms (governed by Relativity etc.) and the micro realms (governed by ‘Quantum fuzziness’ and the ‘Observer Paradox’). In the latter part of the 20th century various discoveries gradually undermined the classical belief that our macro level universe remains essentially untouched by quantum unpredictability. In 1964, John Bell proposed a way to measure the spin of sub-atomic particles/waves.9 By the 1980s ‘entangled’ photons projected in opposite directions were being tested for like properties and something earthshattering was discovered – entangled photons (but not unentangled photons) were found to be influencing each other’s behaviour at a distance and faster than the speed of light. The existence of what became known as ‘quantum entanglement’ phenomena—previously predicted by Schrodinger and rejected by Einstein— appeared to have been confirmed and the Newtonian vision of reality took yet another bodyblow.10 THE COSMOLOGICAL REVOLUTION – THE MUSE PLUCKS STRINGS ACROSS 45 BILLION LIGHT YEARS of AUDITORIUM
Thomas Young’s famous ‘double-slit experiment’ being one of the most important in it a particle apparently went through/chose both slits at the same time. 9 Bell was inspired by a troika of physicists, known as the ‘EPR’ (Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen) who had earlier sought to remove the ‘uncertainty’ inherent in Heisenberg’s picture of the sub -atomic world. 10 Herbert Frolich’s had first proposed the idea of ‘Quantum entanglement’ as a means of interpreting certain consequences related to general Quantum theory as laid down by Schrodinger, Bohr and Heisenberg.
Meanwhile attempts to merge Quantum theory with Relativity were leading to bizarre new cosmological theories. Some physicists found that they could only explain the schism between the two theories of ‘matter’ by positing the existence of other dimensions to the universe. They proposed that the universe is not composed of the four dimensions proposed by classical physics and Einstein—i.e. 3 spatial dimensions plus time—but, in M Theory— the final incarnation of the various String Theories proposed in the 1980s and 90s—eleven. Thus in order to merge Relativity with Quantum Mechanics a further seven spatial dimensions, ‘enfolded’, ‘curled’ or ‘nested’ within our everyday world was proposed. Most of these theorised spatial dimensions are thought to be unbelievably small, others, however, are thought to be much larger than the three spatial dimensions we all know and cook breakfast in. But the physicists were not yet done with inventing dimensions, realities, worlds, universes etc. Another group proposed that there exists an ‘anti-matter universe’ exactly matching our own universe though in negatively charged form. (PS: That makes 8 other places to visit in the summer holidays and counting!). Meanwhile, in 1957 Hugh Everett, emboldened by experimental confirmations of earlier Quantum speculations, proposed the ‘many worlds’ thesis, i.e. the theory of ‘parallel universes’ so beloved of science fiction writers. After observer initiated ‘wave collapse’ into a particular moment of our experienced reality the ‘unused’ alternative universes of the moment do not simply cease to exist, Everett theorized that they actually manifest… somewhere.11 Other somewhat exuberant ‘many universe’ enthusiasts were eventually bolstered in their thinking by deep space discoveries—e.g. black holes, quasars, dark energy, dark matter etc. as well as, in the late 1990s, the discovery that our universe appears to be expanding along a definitive path—perhaps due to the impact of neighboring BUBBLE universes. ‘Dark energy’ and ‘dark matter’ from other universes are theorized as gravitational evidence of neighbouring ‘bubble universes’ impacting on our own. And then there are the multi-dimensional ‘brane universes’ that came into vogue in the 1990s—opposed, as always, by joy-police skeptics who baptized their own theory the ‘nobrane universe’. When we add in the ‘p-brane’ universe we note that contemporary physicists retain a sense of humour in among all the monstrously complex equations. All jokes aside, we may all be living inside a 3-brane bubble universe billions of light-years … flat. WHEN THE MUMMY UNIVERSE LOVES THE DADDY UNIVERSE VERY, VERY MUCH … One could be forgiven for suggesting that modern physics has become quite promiscuous (and compulsively so) in its creation of alternative universes, worlds, dimensions etc.. And when I use the term ‘creation’ here I mean it literally, John Barrow in The Book of Universes writes:
Could we ‘create’ a Universe in the laboratory by stimulating one of the fluctuations that produce the same effect in the eternal inflation process?
To some physicists it became apparent that observers in a sense unconsciously select worlds out of the Quantum ocean every moment of every day (bringing in, some say, that hoary old chestnut ‘mind’). In this view of the implications of quantum physics we collapse out of an infinity of possible worlds each moment of our lives, into the particular world we inhabit.
Barely missing a beat he continues: ‘Several attempts were made to prove that this was possible or impossible, none definitive, but there seemed to be dramatic unwanted by-products.’ Well, yes … there could be … like where to put ‘everything’ if an experiment actually succeeds! However, Barry is not done with growing cute little baby universes in the lab:
Imagine very advanced civilisations … that have developed [an] understanding … for creating special fluctuations in their own part of the Universe, which then inflate rapidly to create new baby Universes … 12
Barrow’s fascinating book outlines some of the many ‘universe’ shapes theorized by serious physicists over the past 100 years or so. Just a few examples will suffice to illustrate where things are headed—apart from the claustrophobia provoking ‘bubble universe’, there have been equations for fractal universes, undulating universes, a Swiss Cheese universe (though that theory is full of holes), perturbed universes (Emo/Goth universes?), a table-top universe (great for putting and table-tennis), chaotic (‘punk/anarchistic?) universes, self-creating universes, fake universes, home-made universes, wrap-up universes and, Lemaitre and Tolman’s ‘kinky universe’ … fun for the adventurous! One of my favourite Universe theories, sees our 3D-(mem)brane Universe as composed of billions and billions etc. of ‘energy strings’ (some closed, some open and some … loopy) that ‘stick’ to the outer part of the universal ‘brane’. In M-theory, the 3-brane Universal consciousness, if she exists, might mischievously be visualized as a cosmic musician endlessly strumming her ‘superstring’ matter guitar (or harp) across the immense aeons and vast expanses of space-time. This is one version of the ‘Quantum Muse’. As a poet/songwriter I find this cosmological development quite appealing! The above list of universes drawn from Barrow’s research is not exhaustive. And the cosmological inventiveness evident among astrophysicists is surely augmented by theories proposing that our universe began as a single electron just prior to the Big-Bang. It is proposed by some that ‘quantum fluctuations’ of some sort precipitated the ‘expansion’ we know as the ‘Big Bang’ some 13.7 billion years ago. However, surely such a proposal is no less fantastic than, well, the Biblical notion that an all-powerful monotheistic God created the firmament etc. in six days … In the face of all this we note that three or four years ago those in the Quantum know stopped talking about ‘the Universe’ and began talking about ‘the Multiverse’. The changed terminology understates an immense paradigm shift. OUR BRAINS AND RELATIONAL FIELDS AS GATEWAYS TO THE QUANTUM OCEAN? Some mainstream scientists now believe that macro scale ‘quantum entanglement’ phenomena can be activated and sustained in living organisms.13 Researchers assessing
John Barrow, The Book of Universes, 2012 p.232-233. As summarised by Dean Radin in his book Entangled Minds, and also by Louisa Gilder in her book, The Age of Entanglement the concept quickly migrated from the relatively safe world of sub-atomic phenomena to
biological systems capable of influencing ‘quantum state collapse’ phenomena in the human brain believe that we possess biological systems capable of harnessing information etc. gleaned from beyond the space-time continuum. Rupert Sheldrake fuelled this line of thinking with his theory that ‘morphogenetic fields’ i.e. biological energy fields that do not obey the known laws of physics, exist around all organic life-forms. He acknowledged his proposed morphic fields possessed quantum field characteristics.14 Currently, the so-called Orch-Or theory posits that ‘microtubules’ in the human brain are capable of processing and amplifying Quantum inputs originating from the ‘freewheeling’ subatomic realms. These microtubules are also capable—via biological amplification processes—of activating nominally ‘classical’ biological systems through ‘quantum entanglement’.15 Day to day communication between the ‘indeterminate’, and possibly ‘infinite’ Quantum realms (or what Bohm calls the Holomovement) may also influence memory storage and retrieval, dreams, reverie, perception, and even cellular communications between distant brain structures—i.e. some of the fundamental processes associated with the psyche are possibly influenced by quantum fields. The Quantum approach to consciousness and the brain is summarized in a recent collection of papers by leaders in the field entitled Cosmology of Consciousness: Quantum Physics and Neuroscience of Mind:
‘What is consciousness in our model? We take it as a field phenomenon, analogous to but preceding the quantum field. This field is characterized by generalized principles already described in quantum physics: complementarity, non-locality, scaleinvariance and undivided wholeness. But … we cannot define it from the outside. To extend Wheeler’s reasoning, consciousness includes us human observers. … In keeping with Heisenberg’s implication, the universe presents the face that the observer is looking for …’16
Arising out of these speculations (critiqued ferociously, it is true, by skeptics), some adventurous thinkers since the 1980s have been writing about the ‘holonomic’, ‘holographic’ or ‘Quantum’ brain as well as the emerging field of ‘quantum psychology’. Paralleling the above developments researchers interested in telepathy, precognition, synchronicity, remote viewing, etc. started to devise experiments capable of testing the existence of quantum effects embedded in the human nervous system and brain.17 David Bohm’s experiments monitoring people’s ability to discern when others are staring at them from behind is one example. Some of the recent experiments conducted by researchers into paranormal phenomena have produced ‘anomalous’ results and, if legitimate, collectively suggest that desire, novelty and survival fears, as well as kinship, friendship and love
explain ‘macroscopic’ phenomena like cell communications, the way flocks of birds appear to know what each other will do next and so on. 14 In The Presence of the Past (p.119) he wrote: ‘Morphic fields may indeed be comparable in status to quantum matter fields. If atoms can be said to have morphic fields, then these may well be what are already described within quantum field theory.’ 15 See Penrose and Hameroff, ‘Consciousness in the Universe: Neuroscience, Quantum Space -Time Geometry and Orch Or Theory’ in Cosmology of Consciousness: Quantum Physics and Neuroscience of Mind (2011) for a relatively technical description of the Orch-Or theory and its implications for consciousness research. 16 Kafatos, Tanzi and Chopra in Cosmology of Consciousness: Quantum Physics and Neuroscience of Mind [ebook location 140] 17 Dean Radin’s Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality is an accessible introduction to the impact of Quantum theorising on the field of parapsycho logy G. P Hansen’s The Trickster and the Paranormal also has some useful chapters on the topic.
‘entanglements’ can skew experimental data into small but significant divergences from chance only outcomes. This doesn’t mean that anyone soon will have the ability to mindblast evil-doers with archaic spells or levitate. Rather it is suggested that these results point to innate capacities allowing some individuals to access the ‘timelessness’, say, of the Quantum realms in order to give them a very slight evolutionary survival edge. The divergence from ‘chance’ in some of these experiments may be significant but only slightly so due to the influence of what physicists call ‘decoherence’. DO POETS, MYSTICS, MUSICIANS & TRANSPERSONAL PSYCHOLOGISTS FACILITATE THE ‘COLLAPSE OF THE WAVE FUNCTION’? Seizing on such developments, some excitable thinkers argue that story-telling, music, dance, meditation, dramatic ritual, art, poetry, etc. as well as strong emotions—especially desire/love, fear, reverie, love of novelty, affection for kin, etc.—activate the brain systems etc. that process information originating in the timeless and infinite Quantum realms. The intuitive ‘leaps’ creative artists and thinkers often describe (as well as the intuitive ‘all at once’ epiphanies often observed in psychotherapy and elsewhere) may thus be explained by way of an individual’s sudden access to the quantum dimensions. A number of thinkers have even suggested that matter may not actually be the fundamental substance of the Multiverse. Instead mind (rather, the unbounded timeless consciousness associated with the Quantum realms/Multiverse or Holomovement) may actually prove fundamental (i.e. mind or consciousness preexists and animates what we understand to be ‘matter’). By this view any particular universe—e.g. ours, to keep things simple!—can be thought of as a limited time-bound manifestation of an all-pervasive (i.e. ‘multiverse pervasive’), pre-big bang, non-local consciousness. In a recent paper Kafatos, Tanzi and Chopra reach precisely this conclusion:
“Consciousness includes human mental processes, but it is not just a human attribute. Existing outside space and time, it was “there” “before” these two words had any meaning. In essence, space and time are conceptual artifacts that sprang from primordial consciousness. The reason that the human mind meshes with nature, mathematics, and the fundamental forces described by physics, is no accident: we mesh because we are a product of the same conceptual expansion by which primordial consciousness turned into the physical world.”18
The same paper describes what amounts to the collapse of the Newtonian paradigm:
‘There is at bottom no strictly mechanistic, physical foundation for the cosmos. The situation is far more radical than most practicing scientists suppose. Whatever is the fundamental source of creation, it itself must be uncreated …’19
THE URGENT NEED TO HUMANISE THE MULTIVERSE Those proposing such radical views of reality still have work to do to convince ordinary people that this new paradigm has anything to do with their day to day lives. The average person wants to know how the new physics explains mental processes. They wonder what it
‘How Consciousness Becomes the Physical Universe’ [ebook location 144] in Cosmology of Consciousnes: Quantum Physics and Neuroscience of Mind (2011). 19 ibid [location 133].
has to say about emotion, free-will, suffering, how we should behave towards others (ethics/morality), our ability to give and receive love, etc. Also, whether it proves or disproves the existence of God (or the Gods), and so on. Of course these are also the kinds of questions that interest (and inspire) writers, artists, musicians etc. However, in the intellectual confusion associated with the slow collapse of the Newtonian paradigm, definitive answers to many of these questions are difficult to come by. Many of the ideas proposed by the new physics have only been described by way of mathematical equations—the approach also favoured by classical physicists due to its supposed objective, i.e. scientific status. Mathematics, however, may not suit the new ‘observer influenced’ reality birthed by Quantum thinking. The new theories are in urgent need of being humanized—i.e. animated—by human desire, longing, inquisitiveness, imagination, etc. For example, what exactly exists in the various dimensions, parallel worlds etc. proposed by contemporary physicists? Are we talking about dimensions inhabited by the dead or perhaps by the soon to be created? Are some of these dimensions/universes free of suffering—is there a non-Darwinian Universe for example? How do these parallel universes/dimensions etc. affect our consciousness? Likewise, can we access them via the collective unconscious, if so, for what purposes? Are some of these dimensions inhabited by Gods and Goddesses or fabulous creatures capable of ‘magic’? Do Jung’s archetypes exist in the Quantum realm or do they exist between the Quantum realm and ordinary consciousness?20 The creative arts may well be crucial to the humanization process I’m advocating—they represent an alternative to the cool logic of equations. Science fiction, of course, has been the main genre relaying the discoveries of the New Physics to the average person. Similarly, there are schools of modern psychology quite sympathetic to both traditional metaphysics and emerging quantum perspectives. I’m thinking in particular of the archetypal psychology of Carl Jung and the Transpersonal Psychology of the likes of Ken Wilbur and Stan Grof.21 I have a hunch that something like Jung’s ‘archetypes’ (which I see as rooted in developmental stages) may structure our day to day ‘personal’ experiences of consciousness/unconsciousness and relationship in what Bohm calls ‘the explicate order’. However, it’s also possible that they may have access to the so-called ‘implicate’ order. In short they may mediate between timeless ‘quantum fields’ dealing associated with ‘potential futures’ and our more Newtonian experience of a ‘specific’ lived existence in the ‘explicate order’ (i.e. the life we lead after the collapse of the wave function).
See Robert Verdicchio’s Quantum Archetypes: Science, Metaphysics and Spirit (2005) for the first inkling that archetypes may exist in ‘quantum fields’. The book is patchy in places but worth reading for this ground breaking insight alone. Why ground-breaking? Because to my mind the idea links Quantum incursions into ordinary life to: a) strong emotions (desire, attachment, fear, hope/wish etc.) etc. themselves related to archetypal constellations (i.e. to archetypal relationships), and b) ordinary development processes catalogued scrupulously, though in Newtonian-speak, by Developmental and Life-Span psychologists etc. ‘Desire’ and ‘development/growth’, so fundamental to our day to day living may then be seen to motivate ‘wave collapse’ phenomena as well as other types of communication between what Bohm calls the ‘explicate’ and ‘implicate’ orders. Quantum psychology is made instantly relevant to all human beings. 21 Indeed, since the 1960s a large number of commentators have noticed certain convergences between ancient spiritual perspectives and certain aspects of the new Physics. In the realm of psychology, the famous collaboration between Carl Jung, founder of archetypal psychoanalysis and Nobel Prize winning (1945) quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli helped undermine the scientific foundations of some of the more mechanistic mid-century psychological schools (e.g. Behaviourism and Psychobiology).
Given the fact that Quantum versions of reality are, if anything, more fabulous than the often colorful cosmologies outlined by many of the world’s spiritual traditions it might also be prudent for mainstream scientists still enamoured with purely ‘Newtonian’ versions of science and reality to adopt more tolerant attitudes toward those who hold to spiritual, mystical etc. perspectives that modern physics is currently unable to categorically disprove. More than ever we require intense, ongoing ‘dialogue among equals’ between experts on the ‘New Physics’, creative artists of all descriptions, scholars in the Humanities and Social Sciences, the more progressive thinkers among the ‘Perennialists’ and ‘ethnopoeticists’ (with their interest in global wisdom traditions), and the various transpersonal schools of psychology (e.g. Jung, Grof and Wilbur). TRICKSTER AND MUSE AS CREATIVE REVOLUTIONARIES What does the creativity associated with the trickster archetype have to do with all of this? An important task carried out by creative individuals throughout history has been that of expanding the collective consciousness in times of need. In this sense creativity is inherently unpredictable and critical of systematized justifications for the oppressive ‘status Quo.’ In this sense, creativity serves a fundamental ‘survival oriented’ purpose. I’m suggesting that creative activities allow us to ‘access’ material, knowledge, perspectives etc. resident in the Quantum realms (or ‘Multiversal Mind’)—realms beyond the straight jacket of time and space as defined by classical physics. A Quantum influenced contemporary poetics also invites us to confront the many crises of our age with a more expansive vision of the place of consciousness in the Multiverse. To my mind, neither the atheistic reductionism implicit to classical physics nor the oppressive narrowness of vision associated with religious and ideological forms of fundamentalism are justified by the discoveries of the New Physics, consequently they have little to offer any Quantum influenced ‘poetic’ and may even represent a deliberate narrowing of perspective by power-mongers that can only be described, ultimately, as forms of ontologically generated oppression. My own sense is that acknowledgement by artists/writers/musicians that they select worlds out of a fundamental unpredictability to matter and mind whenever they create works of art or literature etc. would be seen as fundamental to Quantum influenced perspectives on creativity. This implies, of course, a profound sense of creative responsibility out of vogue among many postmodern writers and artists.22 Concepts influenced by the New Physics have already influenced a number of modernist and postmodernist literary movements e.g. John Cage’s and Jackson McLow’s ‘chance operations’, the Fluxists, aspects of the Situationist poetics, Oulipo, as well as the so-called ‘Actualist’ fiction writers e.g. Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Robert Coover, Margaret Attwood, etc. However, for me many of these wonderful avant garde innovators didn’t quite respond to the central epiphany of the New Physics, i.e. what David Bohn described as the ‘undivided wholeness’ and interdependence [within diversity] of beings and matter associated with what he termed ‘the Implicate Order’. At the deepest levels of matter it seems that ‘actuality’ or (potentiality) and ‘possibility’ are almost indistinguishable. To my
This would supersede both the ‘realist’ mode which seeks to objectively represent the world as is and postmodernist modes that ignore the world (and deny their role in minute-to-minute world making) instead focusing their attention exclusively on language as a self-contained system. Susan Strehle, in Fiction in the Quantum Universe, uses the term ‘actualist’, a phrase borrowed from Heisenberg, for postmodern literature that she suggests is influenced by the new physics.
mind, only Magical Realism, and perhaps Surrealism with its commitment to the ‘marvelous’, have come close to grasping the profound implications of these insights. HOW TO GROW YOUR OWN BABY UNIVERSE THROUGH ART AND LITERATURE We need to accelerate the postmodern shift from the alienation and dehumanisation inherent to classical science to a new, more holistic, kind of science—a science, perhaps, in the service of the all-pervasive consciousness that birthed and maintains the vast Multiverse we each inhabit as conscious beings. The role of the creative artist in such an epoch may well be to assist this process via tricksterish imaginative interventions. What is required is a bloodless deconstruction of the alienated and fragmented modes of consciousness associated with both scientific and economic materialism, as well as all forms of religious and ideological fundamentalism.23 In truth all of the great cultural paradigm shifts of history have also been ‘creativity revolutions’. Civilisations that open up to and encourage the kinds of ‘world making’ and ‘unmaking’ experiments initiated by the Muse and Trickster archetypes have tended to renew themselves and survive, whereas those that have sought to control or censor the Muse and Trickster within their creative minorities, have often collapsed. This is because they eventually come up against what we might term the essential, unpredictable ‘free will’ of both matter and mind—a free will, we theorise (along with the Existentialists), in the service of the life force. If we seek the Quantum Muse and Hermes guide of souls (the Greek trickster God)—or Kokopelli, Loki, etc.—creative people need look no further than the impulse behind the creative imagination to in a sense accept, sample, try on, live etc. all the possible realities, worlds, futures etc. on offer at any particular moment via the Quantum realms. The archetypes of Muse and Trickster may well be our best guides to particular types of nonoppressive ‘wave collapse’ (that is livable ‘futures’, ‘worlds’, ‘realities’)—we do not need some naïve Frankenstein to create a ‘baby universe’ in some sterile lab, nor do we need the services of a ‘Quantum computer’ busily processing data from multiple parallel universes all at once. Poets, artists, musicians have been suggesting futures, realities, universes, moment to moment, for tens of thousands of years. Their ‘baby universes’ arrive in dreams, reveries, meditations etc. and become solid in poetry, music, art, dance, etc. and ever it has been.
Bohm, David, In Wholeness and the Implicate Order, 1980 [Kindle EBook Location 386] states: ‘Wholeness is what is real … fragmentation is the response of this whole to man’s action, guided by illusory perception, which is shaped by fragmentary thought.’
Bibliography * Ralph Abraham, Terence McKenna and Rupert Sheldrake, Fwd. by Jean Houston, Chaos, Creativity and Cosmic Consciousness, Park Street Press, 1992 & 2001. [Kindle e-book version]. * Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, Duke University Press, 2007 Kindle e-book version, 2007. * John D. Barrow, The Book of Universes, Vintage, 2012. * David Bohm, In Wholeness and the Implicate Order, 1980 [Kindle E-Book edition (from Taylor and Francis e-library) 2005]. * David Bohm & B. J Hiley, The Undivided Universe, 1993 [Kindle E-Book edition (from Taylor and Francis e-library) 2005]. * David Bohm & F. David Peat, Science, Order and Creativity, Routledge Classics, 1987 & Taylor and Francis e-library 2010. * Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point: Science Society and the Rising Culture, Flamingo, 1988. * Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism, Flamingo 1987. * Paul Davies & Niels Henrik Gregersen (Editors), Information and the Nature of Reality, Cambridge University Press, Kindle e-book version 2010. * George F.R. Ellis, ‘Does the Multiverse Really Exist?’ in Scientific America, August 2011. * Julia Forster, Muses – Revealing the Nature of Inspiration, Pocket Essentials, Kindle ebook version, 2007. * Louisa Gilder, The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics was Reborn, Alfred A. Knopf, Kindle e-book version, 2008. * Derek Gjertson, Ch. 5 ‘Do Philosophical Problems End in Science’ especially p.70-84 ‘Quantum Reality’, in Science and Philosophy: Past and Present, Pelican, 1989. * Amit Goswami, God is not Dead: What Quantum Physics Tells us About our Origins and how we Should Live, Hampton Roads Publishing, Kindle e-book edition, 2012. * Amit Goswami, How Quantum Activism Can Save Civilisation, Hampton Roads Publishing, Kindle E-Book version, 2011. * Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos, Penguin, 2004. * John Gribbin, In Search of the Multiverse, Allen Lane (an Imprint og Penguin Books, Kindle e-book version, 2009. * Stanislav Grof, Beyond the Brain: Birth, Death and Transcendence in Psychotherapy, State University of New York Press, 1985. * Stuart Hameroff, Subhash Kak, Sir Roger Penrose Rudolf Schild, Cosmology of Consciousness: Quantum Physics and Neuroscience of Mind, Contents selected from Vol. 3, 13 & 14, Cambridge 2011. * George. P. Hansen, The Trickster and the Paranormal, Xlibris, 2001. * John Horgan, The End of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twighlight of the Scientific Age, Little Brown Books, 1997. * Carl G Jung, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977. * Michio Kaku, Physics of the Impossible,: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel, Doubleday, Kindle e-book edition, 2008. * Arthur Koestler, The Act of Creation, Picador, 1981. * Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine, Picador, 1975. * Arthur Koestler, The Roots of Coincidence, Picador, 1976.
* Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd edition, University of Chicago Press, 1970. * Leon M Lederman & Christopher T. Hill, Quantum Physics for Poets, Prometheus Books, 2011. [Kindle e-book version] * Steven Manly, Visions of the Multiverse, New Page Books, Kindle e-book version, 2010. * Deldon Anne McNeely, Mercury Rising: Women, Evil and the Trickster Gods, (revised edition), Fisher King Press, 2011. * Dean Radin, The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena, Harper Collins e-books, * Dean Radin, Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality, Paraview Pocket Books, Kindle e-book version 2006. * Lisa Randall, Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions, Penguin, 2005. * Paul R. Samson & David Pitt, The Biosphere and the Noosphere Reader, Routledge, 1999, kindle e-book version Taylor and Francis e-library 2006. * Rudy Schild (Editor in Chief), Quantum Physics of Consciousness, Contents selected from Vols. 3-14, 2011. * Rupert Sheldrake, The Presence of the Past, Fontana, 1989. * Leonard Shlain, Art and Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time and Light, Harper Perennial, 2007. * Lenny Smith, Chaos: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2007. [Kindle e-book version]. * Susan Strehle, Fiction in the Quantum Universe, The University of North Carolina Press, 1992. [Kindle e-book edition]. * Robert J. Verdicchio, Quantum Archetypes: Science, Metaphysics and Spirit, Authorhouse, 2005 [Kindle e-book version]. * Fred Alan Wolf, Matter into Feeling: A New Alchemy of Science and Spirit, Moment Point Press, 2002. [Kindle e-book version of the same]. * Shing-Tung Yau, The Shape of Inner Space: String Theory and the Geometry of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions, Basic books (Perseus Books), Kindle ebook version, 2010.
Author Bio (as at May 2013)
Dr. Ian Irvine is an Australian-based poet/lyricist, writer and non-fiction writer. His work has featured in publications as diverse as Humanitas (USA), The Antigonish Review (Canada), Tears in the Fence (UK), Linq (Australia) and Takahe (NZ), among others. His work has also appeared in two Australian national poetry anthologies: Best Australian Poems 2005 (Black Ink Books) and Agenda: ‘Australian Edition’, 2005. He is the author of three books and currently teaches in the Professional Writing and Editing programs at both Bendigo TAFE and Victoria University. He has also taught history and social theory at La Trobe University (Bendigo). He holds a PhD for work on creative, normative and dysfunctional forms of alienation and morbid ennui.. This article on creativity and the New Physics (based on the draft of a public talk delivered June 4th 2012) is fundamental to his developing thinking on Transpersonal Relational Poetics.
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