Posts Tagged Martin Rees

Quantum physics and Consciousness

A friend of mine have just made me aware of the physicist Amit Goswami:

Quantum physics, as well as a number of other modern sciences, he feels, is demonstrating that the essential unity underlying all of reality is a fact which can be experimentally verified. Because of the enormous implications he sees in this scientific confirmation of the spiritual, Goswami is ardently devoted to explaining his theory to as many people as possible in order to help bring about what he feels is a much needed paradigm shift. He feels that because science is now capable of validating mysticism, much that before required a leap of faith can now be empirically proven and, hence, the materialist paradigm which has dominated scientific and philosophical thought for over two hundred years can finally be called into question.


Consider instead the possibility that the entire story only existed as an abstract potential—a cosmic dream among countless other cosmic dreams—until, in that dream, life somehow evolved to the point that a conscious, sentient being came into existence. At that moment, solely because of the conscious observation of that individual, the entire universe, including all of the history leading up to that point, suddenly came into being. Until that moment, nothing had actually ever happened. In that moment, fifteen billion years happened. If this sounds like nothing more than a complicated backdrop for a science fiction story or a secular version of one of the world’s great creation myths, hold on to your hat. According to physicist Amit Goswami, the above description is a scientifically viable explanation of how the universe came into being.


Goswami is convinced, along with a number of others who subscribe to the same view, that the universe, in order to exist, requires a conscious sentient being to be aware of it. Without an observer, he claims, it only exists as a possibility. And as they say in the world of science, Goswami has done his math. Marshalling evidence from recent research in cognitive psychology, biology, parapsychology and quantum physics, and leaning heavily on the ancient mystical traditions of the world, Goswami is building a case for a new paradigm that he calls “monistic idealism,” the view that consciousness, not matter, is the foundation of everything that is.

He is not the only one, Martin Rees:

“In the beginning there were only probabilities. The universe could only come into existence if someone observed it. It does not matter that the observers turned up several billion years later. The universe exists because we are aware of it.”

From the interview (it’s simply filled with Goodies):

WIE: In your book The Self-Aware Universe you speak about the need for a paradigm shift. Could you talk a bit about how you conceive of that shift? From what to what?

Amit Goswami: The current worldview has it that everything is made of matter, and everything can be reduced to the elementary particles of matter, the basic constituents—building blocks—of matter. And cause arises from the interactions of these basic building blocks or elementary particles; elementary particles make atoms, atoms make molecules, molecules make cells, and cells make brain. But all the way, the ultimate cause is always the interactions between the elementary particles. This is the belief—all cause moves from the elementary particles. This is what we call “upward causation.” So in this view, what human beings—you and I—think of as our free will does not really exist. It is only an epiphenomenon or secondary phenomenon, secondary to the causal power of matter. And any causal power that we seem to be able to exert on matter is just an illusion. This is the current paradigm.

Now, the opposite view is that everything starts with consciousness. That is, consciousness is the ground of all being. In this view, consciousness imposes “downward causation.” In other words, our free will is real. When we act in the world we really are acting with causal power. This view does not deny that matter also has causal potency—it does not deny that there is causal power from elementary particles upward, so there is upward causation—but in addition it insists that there is also downward causation. It shows up in our creativity and acts of free will, or when we make moral decisions. In those occasions we are actually witnessing downward causation by consciousness.

WIE: In your book you refer to this new paradigm as “monistic idealism.” And you also suggest that science seems to be verifying what a lot of mystics have said throughout history—that science’s current findings seem to be parallel to the essence of the perennial spiritual teaching.

AG: It is the spiritual teaching. It is not just parallel. The idea that consciousness is the ground of being is the basis of all spiritual traditions, as it is for the philosophy of monistic idealism—although I have given it a somewhat new name. The reason for my choice of the name is that, in the West, there is a philosophy called “idealism” which is opposed to the philosophy of “material realism,” which holds that only matter is real. Idealism says no, consciousness is the only real thing. But in the West that kind of idealism has usually meant something that is really dualism—that is, consciousness and matter are separate. So, by monistic idealism, I made it clear that, no, I don’t mean that dualistic kind of Western idealism, but really a monistic idealism, which has existed in the West, but only in the esoteric spiritual traditions. Whereas in the East this is the mainstream philosophy. In Buddhism, or in Hinduism where it is called Vedanta, or in Taoism, this is the philosophy of everyone. But in the West this is a very esoteric tradition, only known and adhered to by very astute philosophers, the people who have really delved deeply into the nature of reality.

AG: Yes, it is. Henry Stapp, who is a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley, says this quite explicitly in one of his papers written in 1977, that things outside of space and time affect things inside space and time. There’s just no question that that happens in the realm of quantum physics when you are dealing with quantum objects. Now of course, the crux of the matter is, the surprising thing is, that we are always dealing with quantum objects because it turns out that quantum physics is the physics of every object. Whether it’s submicroscopic or it’s macroscopic, quantum physics is the only physics we’ve got. So although it’s more apparent for photons, for electrons, for the submicroscopic objects, our belief is that all reality, all manifest reality, all matter, is governed by the same laws. And if that is so, then this experiment is telling us that we should change our worldview because we, too, are quantum objects.

AG: We all hope so. Now this is called the “quantum measurement paradox.” It is a paradox because who are we to do this conversion? Because after all, in the materialist paradigm we don’t have any causal efficacy. We are nothing but the brain, which is made up of atoms and elementary particles. So how can a brain which is made up of atoms and elementary particles convert a possibility wave that it itself is? It itself is made up of the possibility waves of atoms and elementary particles, so it cannot convert its own possibility wave into actuality. This is called a paradox. Now in the new view, consciousness is the ground of being. So who converts possibility into actuality? Consciousness does, because consciousness does not obey quantum physics. Consciousness is not made of material. Consciousness is transcendent. Do you see the paradigm-changing view right herehow consciousness can be said to create the material world? The material world of quantum physics is just possibility. It is consciousness, through the conversion of possibility into actuality, that creates what we see manifest. In other words, consciousness creates the manifest world.

AG: I mean that literally. This is what quantum physics demands. In fact, in quantum physics this is called “delayed choice.” And I have added to this concept the concept of “self-reference.” Actually the concept of delayed choice is very old. It is due to a very famous physicist named John Wheeler, but Wheeler did not see the entire thing correctly, in my opinion. He left out self-reference. The question always arises, “The universe is supposed to have existed for fifteen billion years, so if it takes consciousness to convert possibility into actuality, then how could the universe be around for so long?” Because there was no consciousness, no sentient being, biological being, carbon based being, in that primordial fireball which is supposed to have created the universe, the big bang. But this other way of looking at things says that the universe remained in possibility until there was self-referential quantum measurement—so that is the new concept. An observer’s looking is essential in order to manifest possibility into actuality, and so only when the observer looks, only then does the entire thing become manifest—including time. So all of past time, in that respect, becomes manifest right at that moment when the first sentient being looks.

It turns out that this idea, in a very clever, very subtle way, has been around in cosmology and astronomy under the guise of a principle called the “anthropic principle.” That is, the idea has been growing among astronomers—cosmologists anyway—that the universe has a purpose. It is so fine-tuned, there are so many coincidences, that it seems very likely that the universe is doing something purposive, as if the universe is growing in such a way that a sentient being will arise at some point.


Connie: We think science and spirituality are mutually exclusive but lately it seems that the two ideas are moving closer together.

Amit: The division happened because of a quirk of history: that classical physics was discovered before quantum physics. If quantum physics had been discovered first we would not have these separations between science and spirituality. Carl Popper coined the phrase “promissory materialism.” Materialism will always remain promissory in those areas of spirit, soul, mind, meaning and what life is all about. Science based on materiality will never make total sense. It fits some questions that have a reductive tendency. Some things we do are materially oriented. If you need a job you learn a skill. But on the other hand if you want to be happy, to think money or work will make us happy is foolhardy. One becomes happy by connecting with wholeness. This wisdom has escaped most scientists.

I am finding a shift among budding scientists who want to find real answers to questions like happiness, soul, reincarnation and the meaning of life. All those questions that science thought it could never answer. It’s clear that if we continue our present direction, the decline of the stock market and business ethics are just a few of the symptoms of the disease, which is leaving spirit, ethics and values out of the equation. If you understand reincarnational philosophy, you’ll know that we come back again and again if we are unethical. No one would ever dare to be unethical. You do come back and you have to answer for those propensities. So there’s no sense in building bad karma, bad propensities.


Video 1

Video 2

Video 3


Amit Goswami: Amit Goswami is a theoretical nuclear physicist and member of The University of Oregon Institute for Theoretical Physics since 1968, teaching physics for 32 years. After a period of distress and frustration in his private and professional life starting at the age 38, his research interests shifted to quantum cosmology, quantum measurement theory, and applications of quantum mechanics to the mind-body problem. He became best known as one of the interviewed scientific experts featured in the 2004 film What the Bleep Do We Know!?. He is the author of six books including the successful textbook, “Quantum Mechanics.” Amit is a pioneer of science within consciousness “science based on the primacy of consciousness” which is developed in his books “The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World” and “Science and Spirituality.” He has also authored “Quantum Creativity” and “A Quantum Physicist’s Guide to Enlightenment,” “The Visionary Window” and “Physics of the Soul,” and the upcoming “Integral Medicine.” Amit gives workshops in the United States, Brazil, Sweden, and India on the subjects of quantum creativity, quantum healing, physics of the soul, and science and spirituality.


Blog of Amit Goswami




Also read-worthy The Universe, Quantum Physics, and Consciousness by Subhash Kak, Ph.D.

Max Planck

I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.

As quoted in The Observer (25 January 1931)

As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.

Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], speech at Florence, Italy (1944) (from Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797)

From WikiQuote

, , , , , , , , , , , ,


Chaos or Order? No, Life!

We see everything in opposites,

Right or WrongChaos or OrderGood or BadYin or YangHot or Cold, …

There is more to it than that.

We all talk about Order fighting Chaos, and most of us see ourselves fighting Chaos on the side of Order. But thats not how the universe is, and that is the reason why so many of our struggles go wrong.

Man is always struggling on one or the other side,
instead of finding the middle way.


Lets take a simple example: The Sun is the most Chaotic we know and the Moon is the most ordered we have, nearby. A Black Hole is of course more ordered, but our moon is just up there. The Sun and The Moon are two opposites, and we would not like to live on any of them, one too hot and the other too cold, so we live on Earth, somewhere in between those two extremes, alive in Equilibrium. Seen from that point of view, both the Sun and the Moon is deadly Bad, while the Earth is Good for living.

I define the Equilibrium as the midpoint between chaos and order, and in this context it is Life (I prefer the vocabulary of chaos theory for that of thermodynamics.)

The more ordered or dead the universe is, the higher entropy of the universe following the Second Law of Thermodynamics. With time the entropy will increase until the absolute death of the universe. So, with Entropy, big is Bad!

Following the Second Law life depends on the difference between Warm and Cold:

Since any thermodynamic engine requires such a temperature difference, it follows that no useful work can be derived from an isolated system with maximum entropy; there must always be an external energy source and a cold sink.

Its interesting that our universe have suns and planets, and life on at least one planet, contrary to the Second Law. The life on Earth has been build against all odds, decreasing the local entropy constantly, since the Big Bang.

Misuse of Resources

Today we are increasing the entropy here on Earth with an alarmingly high rate. Our use of the resources of Earth and our destruction of nature is increasing the entropy and destroying our chances for survival in the long run, removing natures possibilities to decrease the entropy while trying to keep the equilibrium.

In Scientific American there is an intelligent article “Does Nature Break the Second Law of Thermodynamics?” about Thermodynamics and local self-organization.

As we normally think in dualities, we have problems defining equilibrium. If we take Thermodynamics as an example, they define equilibrium in the one extreme where entropy is highest, where the universe is dead. In Chaos-theory equilibrium lies somewhere between chaos and order.


From “The Middle Way” by Radha Burnier:

Sir Martin Rees, the eminent scientist who is the British Astronomer Royal, states in his book Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe, that there is this kind of equilibrium or balance in the cosmos itself. According to him, these six numbers, which are either very, very small or very large, represent various forces in the universe, but all those forces exist in a state of equilibrium. It is very similar to the Eastern idea that there are three gunas or three kinds of forces working throughout manifestation. When they are in a state of equilibrium, it is called spiritual sattva or truth. Sir Martin Rees mentions that through the ages, the force of gravity has been in a state of fine balance with the force of expansion. If the force of gravity were too great, the universe would collapse into nothing. If the force of expansion were too great, the universe would expand away into nothingness.

In Christianity we talk about following the Golden Middle way, staying away from the sides, and the Indians talk about Dharma, the way to follow. In Kabbalah the Pillars at the sides are the opposites, Order to the left and Chaos and energy to the right, and the middle pillar is the equilibrium, Life. In the crosses on Golgotha we have Christ in the middle symbolizing life, Love.

Here a description of The Second Law of Thermodynamics without Entropy, very instructive.


Ilya Prigogine

Ilya Prigogine

From WikiPedia

Prigogine is known best due to his definition of dissipative structures and their role in thermodynamic systems far from equilibrium, a discovery that won him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977.

Dissipative structures theory

Dissipative structure theory led to pioneering research in self-organizing systems, as well as philosophic inquiries into the formation of complexity on biological entities and the quest for a creative and irreversible role of time in the natural sciences.

His work is seen by many as a bridge between natural sciences and social sciences. With professor Robert Herman he also developed the basis of the two fluid model, a traffic model for urban networks, using Bose-Einstein Condensation theory in traffic engineering.

Other Work

In his later years, his work concentrated on the mathematical role of determinism in nonlinear systems on both the classical and quantum level. He proposed the use of a rigged Hilbert space in quantum mechanics as one possible method of achieving irreversibility in quantum systems. He also co-authored several books with Isabelle Stengers, including End of Certainty and the classical book La Nouvelle Alliance (The New Alliance).

The End of Certainty

In his 1997 book, The End of Certainty, Prigogine contends that determinism is no longer a viable scientific belief. “The more we know about our universe, the more difficult it becomes to believe in determinism.” This is a major departure from the approach of Newton, Einstein and Schrödinger, all of whom expressed their theories in terms of deterministic equations. According to Prigogine, determinism loses its explanatory power in the face of irreversibility and instability.


In deterministic physics, all processes are time-reversible, meaning that they can proceed backward as well as forward through time. As Prigogine explains, determinism is fundamentally a denial of the arrow of time. With no arrow of time, there is no longer a privileged moment known as the “present,” which follows a determined “past” and precedes an undetermined “future.” All of time is simply given, with the future as determined as the past. With irreversibility, the arrow of time is reintroduced to physics. Prigogine notes numerous examples of irreversibility, including diffusion, radioactive decay, solar radiation, weather and the emergence and evolution of life. Like weather systems, organisms are unstable systems existing far from thermodynamic equilibrium. Instability resists standard deterministic explanation. Instead, due to sensitivity to initial conditions, unstable systems can only be explained statistically, that is, in terms of probability.

The Golden Triangle and the Fibonacci Spiral

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,