[Editor's Note: I have always been a bit skeptical about using quantum physics as a guide to dealing with problems on a human scale. I'm not convinced that quantum reality shapes or could shape human decisions or human illness. What I am sure of is that the bulk of this article does not depend on the quantum physics tie-in and makes some very important points, and for that reason I hope you will read it. --Rabbi Michael Lerner email@example.com]
QUANTUM MEDICINE FOR THE CORONAVIRUS
One of the real dangers of the current pandemic is for us to feel helpless, overwhelmed with despair, impending doom and pessimism, a state which cuts us off from our agency and creative power. Strangely enough, the hardest of the hard sciences—quantum physics—comes to our aid to serve as medicine to protect us from this psychological danger. A little insight into the essence of what quantum physics reveals to us can be the best anti-depressant imaginable. By revealing that we live in a thoroughly quantum universe, quantum physics is literally placing the keys to our future in our own hands – the question is, do we know how to wisely use the gift that is being freely offered to us?
Called “the crowning intellectual achievement of the last century,” quantum physics points out that even if something is, to quote pre-eminent quantum theorist John Archibald Wheeler, “incredibly, ridiculously unlikely,” it can still manifest “in reality” in this very moment. Wheeler explains, “unlikely is not quite the same as impossible.” An infinitesimally small or “nonzero” probability is radically different from something that is impossible; we should be very careful what we assign to the trash bin of the impossible. The implications of this, both in “the real world” and within our minds, are truly uplifting and inspiring.
The quantum world is the realm of the extremely small, the sub-microscopic dimension. Even though the macroscopic world of our everyday human experience appears to operate classically, it is built out of nothing but quantum entities. Before a quantum entity is observed, for example, it exists in a state of open-ended potentiality such that each and every possible state in which it could ever manifest exists in a potential parallel universe. At the moment of observing a quantum entity it actualizes into one particular state (what we call “the real world”) and all of its other potential states vaporize as if they never existed.
This process (which is happening at each and every moment, including right now!) takes place instantaneously, in no time at all - literally outside of time in such a way so as to be practically imperceptible. Entrancing ourselves via our own intrinsic creative genius to call forth reality, we think the world is simply happening to us, as we miss how the quantum nature of our creativity has a hand in evoking each moment of our experience. We have then literally bewitched ourselves—casting a spell on ourselves—through using our own creative power in an unconscious, disempowering way that is potentially killing us.
Getting back to the so-called “real world” for an instant, I am personally aware of being haunted by a sense of foreboding. From one very convincing perspective our future looks bleak as our country and world trends towards the specter of totalitarianism and environmental destruction. I have to confess that there is a part of me—thankfully, it is only a part—that can feel a sense of despair about what’s going on in our world. I imagine we all have an analogous part within us - it is hard for me to imagine how any thinking, feeling sentient person doesn’t have this part unless they are in denial.
It seems to me a question of what we do with this despairing part, how we relate to it within ourselves. I notice that it is getting harder for me to marginalize this aspect of myself and just go about my life pretending—as if playing a game of make believe—that everything is fine, which it clearly isn’t. If I compartmentalize this part, trying to render it unconscious, I notice I feel slightly ill at ease, out of sorts with myself, somewhat blocked creatively, less than my full self. It feels helpful to at least consciously acknowledge and name this part, to bring it to light and own it, so that it doesn’t unconsciously run me.
When I allow this despairing part into my awareness and, instead of identifying with, becoming absorbed by or falling under its spell, I develop a conscious relationship with it, I notice that the creative spirit within me oftentimes becomes ignited. It is as if the part of me that is in despair, if I don’t allow it to stop me in my tracks and become paralyzing poison, can potentially set aflame a burning inner necessity that impels me to give shape and form to what is going on inside of me – for what else do I have to lose? The despair can be the rocket fuel to catapult me out of my struggles with resistance, inertia and self-created demands of perfection, propelling the creativity within me that is thirsting for expression to cross the threshold of the unexpressed and give voice to itself.
The way our world is manifesting—even before the advent of the coronavirus—seems nightmarish beyond belief; add in the global pandemic and the nightmare takes on an even denser seeming reality than before. When I see the truly dire nature of our situation, any talk about global awakening and the evolution of our species seems like utter pablum, the ravings coming from the fevered imagination of someone who is deeply in denial regarding the depth of evil manifesting in our world. And yet, I also see that something is being revealed to us through the darkness that can—in true quantum style, potentially—change everything.
The source of the problems confronting humanity is fundamentally not economic, political or technological, but rather, is to be found within the human psyche. To quote Dr. Stanislov Grof, “In the last analysis, the current global crisis is a psychospiritual crisis; it reflects the level of consciousness evolution of the human species. It is, therefore, hard to imagine that it could be resolved without a radical inner transformation of humanity on a large scale and its rise to a higher level of emotional maturity and spiritual awareness…. Radical psychospiritual transformation of humanity is not only possible, but is already underway.” This is an important point to consider: There is undeniable evidence that an expansion of consciousness in the human species is not only a remote possibility but is already taking place. Grof concludes, “The question is only whether it can be sufficiently fast and extensive to reverse the current self-destructive trend of modern humanity.” In other words, will we wake up in time?
I am what holocaust survivor Victor Frankl would call a “tragic optimist,” (or in my words, a “pessi-optimist”). Being a pessi-optimist, I see with open eyes and am deeply affected by the tragic and unbearable suffering, the unspeakable evil and mind-rending horror that is unfolding in our world. This causes me immense pain and distress. At the same time, however, I am still able to find the good in our world, create a sense of meaning and see glimmers of light in the darkness. This ability allows me to grow and evolve (what has been called “post-traumatic growth”) in ways I might not have been able to previously. This is related to the archetype of the wounded healer – it is by going through (as contrasted to turning a blind eye towards) the pain and darkness of our wounds that we are enabled to receive their gifts.
As quantum physics has revealed, our act of observing the universe influences the universe that we are observing, which is to say that our act of observation is creative. By our very nature we are interpreters of our experience and generators of meaning, a process which deeply affects our experience of both ourselves and of the universe. How do we place meaning on the fact that we ourselves are the generators of meaning?
EXPANDING THE REALM OF THE POSSIBLE
In questioning and shedding light on the boundary between the possible and the impossible, quantum physics is expanding the realm of the possible to previously unimaginable degrees. In a time such as ours, replete with lies, propaganda and disinformation, it becomes nearly impossible to tell what is true from what is false. It thus greatly behooves us to at least be able to say what is within the realm of the possible.
To be clear - there is still a small chance—even if it’s an “incredibly, ridiculously unlikely” chance—that enough of humanity might wake up in time so as to be able to change our species’ trajectory before we destroy ourselves. This doesn’t require all of humanity, but when a critical mass is reached—think of the hundredth monkey phenomenon (when enough monkeys learn a new behavior, it is suddenly, energetically accessed by the collective monkey population), or the symbolic 144,000 in The Biblical Book of Revelations—this acts as so much yeast in the dough to help the bread (of humanity) to rise, so to speak.
That our species is waking up is not just a remote possibility, but a desperate necessity, an imperative that is demanded by circumstances. We have become conditioned, however, to make use of only a very small portion of our soul’s abundant resources. To quote psychologist William James, our situation is “much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.... We all have reservoirs of life to draw upon, of which we do not dream.” Sometimes the unconscious (the dreamer of both our night and waking dreams) puts us in a seemingly hopeless, dangerous and unsustainable situation so as to catalyze us to become lucid and find gifts within ourselves that we didn’t know we had.
Quantum physics has empirically shown the malleable and dreamlike nature of our universe. The mutability of the universe—which quantum physics has discovered to be one of the primary aspects of nature, not to mention of our minds—implies that nothing is absolute, nothing is so fundamental (particularly our state of consciousness) that it cannot change under certain circumstances. Being that we’ve collectively dreamed up our current situation, when enough of us wake up to the dreamlike nature of our world and the role our consciousness plays each moment in giving it shape and form we can, in theory and hopefully in practice, discover that we can dream it differently. In other words, when we realize that we actually have a hand in creating something that isn’t serving us, it is within the realm of possibility—and within our power—to “un-create it,” thereby changing the collectively shared waking dream we are having.
Each one of us has creative power beyond measure at our disposal, but to the extent we are unconscious of our co-creative power, we allow ourselves to be victimized by it, as our power both turns against us within ourselves, as well as gets picked up and manipulated by outside forces to be used against us. When a sufficient number of us who are waking up to our creative potency connect with each other, it is within the realm of the possible for us to discover that we can collectively put our lucidity together in a way that can literally change the way our world operates and does business. This isn’t some New Age woo-woo theory, but is the very real power that we, as a species, unknowingly wield. When we begin to consciously realize this and get in sync with each other, all bets are off as to what is possible. The only limits are in our imagination, or rather, our lack thereof.
I keep on having a feeling, as if in a cosmic version of the movie “Groundhog Day,” that we have been here before. To let my imagination run wild for a moment (or two) – the image is that we are having a recurring dream. We have been at this same turning point in the historical evolution of our species countless times, and again and again we have tragically destroyed ourselves as a species. It takes billions upon billions of years (which in dreamtime is no time at all) to regenerate ourselves, and here we are, back at the same choice point – are we going to once again enact collective suicide, or this time are we finally going to get the message, recognize our interdependence, come together as interconnected cells in a greater organism, and avert the impending self-created catastrophe so as to collectively evolve as a species? As quantum physics points out, due to the uncertain, indeterminate and probabilistic nature of our experience, the choice and responsibility are truly ours regarding how things turn out. As quantum physics points out, the best way to predict the future is, after all is said and done, to consciously create it.
A French proverb comes to mind, “This is no time for pessimism. Let’s save that for better times.” People who are caught in a pessimistic worldview have fallen victim to an infinitely regressing self-reinforcing samsaric feedback loop: they wouldn’t be so pessimistic if their world wasn’t manifesting so darkly, and their world wouldn’t be manifesting so darkly if they weren’t so pessimistic. People who are trapped in pessimism have literally hypnotized themselves via the creative genius of their own mind in a way that is “taking them down” a path of self-destruction.
It is within the realm of the possible, however, for enough people to snap out of their self-created spell of pessimism, fear and separation and put our emerging lucidity together so as to collectively dream up a more grace-filled world into materialization that more reflects and is in alignment with who we are discovering ourselves to be relative to—and as relatives of—each other. Quantum at its core, our universe is not composed of separable parts or separate people, but rather, contrary to appearances, like any quantum system, our universe is seamlessly and indivisibly whole and one with itself. It is not a crazy “conspiracy theory” to imagine that we can “conspire to co-inspire” each other so as to help us collectively re-cognize that we are all one singular and indivisible human family.
The main gift that quantum physics—the wisdom tradition of modern times—is offering to the world is that it is revealing to us, as well as activating, our unconscious creativity. The revelations emerging from quantum physics imply that it is crazy not to invest our creative energy into envisioning that we can “come together” so as to turn the tide of self-destructive madness that is fast overtaking us, and just as crazy to imagine that we can’t accomplish this. If we aren’t investing our creative imagination in ways for us to heal, evolve, and wake up, then what are we thinking? As always, the real solution gets turned back onto—and into—ourselves.