Quantum physics and consciousness

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Stephen Hawking, arguably the greatest living quantum physicist, in chapter two of his book ‘The Grand Design’ has raised serious doubt as to whether man possesses free will. In his words, “It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behaviour is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.” He has based his above observation on recent experiments in neuroscience that have led to the finding that by electrically stimulating the brain, one could create a desire in a patient to move his/her hand, arm or foot or to move the lips and talk. He goes on to say in the last chapter of his book under the same caption viz. ‘The Grand Design’: “We cannot solve exactly the equations for three or more particles interacting with each other”. Hence, we are just not in a position to predict action of a human being, containing a thousand trillion, trillion particles so as to prove that it is actually a robot, having no free will/consciousness. Thus owing to our inability to do the calculations so as to predict actions of a human being, we concede, according to Hawking, that any complex being has free will (though in reality they do not have). It is thus patently clear that quantum physicists like Stephen Hawking are reluctant to accept the phenomenon like consciousness or free will for the simple reason that all these are governed by brain and not independent of it.

 

Secondly, Hawking is firmly of the view that since there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. The universe in the beginning was as small as the Planck size, a billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimetre from which it expanded by the law of gravity as if “a coin 1 centimetre in diameter suddenly blew up to ten million times the width of the Milky Way”. And this was possible because of the principle that gravity warps space and time. Based on the above phenomenon of quantum physics Hawking concluded that “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

While to Hawkins consciousness is nothing more than an accidental byproduct of laws of physics, to David Bohm, another well-known quantum physicist (refer: The Undivided Universe: An ontological interpretation of quantum theory), consciousness is rooted deep in the implicate order, and is, therefore, present to some degree in all material forms. In his words: “everything material is also mental and everything mental is also material, but there are many more infinitely subtle levels of matter than we are aware of”. “”It could equally well be called idealism, spirit, consciousness. The separation of the two – matter and spirit – is an abstraction. The ground is always one.”

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Hawking’s observation that God is not necessary for the creation of universes, is strikingly similar to the essence of the Sankhya philosophy of Kapila. His other findings that man has no free will and his action is governed by laws of nature (Prakriti of Sankhya & Vedanta) agree in substance with the philosophy of Sankhya and are also akin to the revelation of Sri Krishna in verse 27, chapter 3 of the Gita as follows:

“All action is universally engendered by the attributes (Gunas) of primordial nature (Prakriti). A man whose self is deluded by ego thinks, ‘I am the doer’.”

Latest neurobiological researchers like Nobel Laureate Sir John Eccles (refer: How the Self Controls its Brain) and Stem Cell researchers like Robert Lanza (refer: Biocentrism) have a scientific explanation for consciousness and super-conscious phenomena. Sir John Eccles and Robert Lanza speak of a mental world in addition to the material world and hold that our mind or consciousness acts on the brain at the quantum level. To them, the mind is not only nonphysical, but non-material and non-substantial, while brain is just the opposite. Life/consciousness, according to them, plays a central role in creating the cosmos instead of the other way round. The perspective of our study of universes, therefore, ought to be switched from physics to biology, with emphasis on consciousness that governs the matter.

There are two physical phenomena that have so far defied known principles of Quantum Physics – viz. wave function of particles and quantum entanglement. Those two physical phenomena, in fact, hold the key to our study of consciousness and super-consciousness.
As for the first phenomenon, experiments have revealed that electrons behave differently when observed by a human. When not so observed, the electron behaves like a wave. When observed, it behaves like a particle. This change in behavioural pattern would suggest that the electron is aware, just like the human, whether it is being observed or not. Neurobiologists have taken the above finding of Quantum Physicists to a different level for explaining out-of-body experience (OBE) and near-death experience (NDE) while the body is in an anaesthetized or inactive state. In that state consciousness remains dis-embodied, and the subject observes events from outside the body. After returning to normal sense, the person can relate what his/her consciousness observed and heard from an out of body location. According to Susan Greenfield, Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University and Professor of Physics at Gresham College, London, none has yet pointed to a single event that occurs in awake but not in anaesthetized brain. Experiments have also shown, as stated by John Eccles, that consciousness leaves a dying person, floats around observing things and later attach itself to an unborn foetus to start a new existence. Consciousness, therefore, has been classified by neuro-biologists like Eccles as a non-material entity and not a property of brain. It is similar to electron in behaviour. While the electrons in the brain behave as particles, it prevents consciousness from realizing that it is part of a whole. When the electrons behave as a wave, the consciousness becomes aware of its existence outside the mind and body, as a part of the larger whole. When the wave function collapses, consciousness returns to the physical body to become entangled just like the electron. This is known as double slit experiment with electron in quantum physics, which has been applied by neuro-biologists to consciousness. Experiment has further revealed that the dis-embodied consciousness possesses visual, auditory, and olfactory senses and experiences a new perception of reality outside of one’s self, I-ness, or oneness. When the person becomes self-conscious, the wave function collapses and the electron changes from wave to particle preventing the person from being aware of his/her larger self or existence as part of the whole.

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This out-of-body consciousness can be achieved by a person through meditation when he/she gets eventually merged like a wave with the larger Whole, transcending the limit of time and space. In that state, his super-conscious mind may become capable of controlling the matter/nature and performing miracle. While in a state of meditation, mind is withdrawn from material world setting the particles into wave motion. In that state, if anybody touches the body of the meditator, he is likely to feel an electric shock, as has been experienced and recounted by a person who touched Swami Vivekananda (then Narendra Nath) while the latter was in deep meditation.

The second phenomenon defying scientific explanation is known as Quantum Entanglement of two particles that interact with each other almost instantaneously and certainly at a speed much faster than light, irrespective of distance. This is known as Nonlocality or ‘super-nonlocality’ as Bohm would describe it, which provides an explanation for telepathy, teleportation and clairvoyance.

We have received corroboration of the existence of dis-embodied consciousness from the book of Dr. Raymond Moody, an American heart surgeon, titled ‘Life after Life’. In his book he has recorded out-of-body experiences of some of his patients during the course of heart surgery. Further corroboration is available from the writings of past life regression therapists like Dr. Brian Weiss, suggesting that human brain does not only contain current life memory but also memory of several past lives.

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