Physics, enhanced with the perspective of spirituality, can give humanity a new perception of reality.

by Alan Mayne

Physics has already travelled far from the simple picture of physical reality provided by classical physics a century ago. At about that time, certain anomalous results that could not be explained by classical physics began to appear. As a result, relativity theory and quantum theory began to emerge as two major new branches of physics that succeeded in explaining the anomalies as well as many new phenomena that began to emerge over that time.

At the same time, the picture of physical reality that they presented often seemed very paradoxical and strange indeed. This article outlines how modern physics and cosmology view physical reality and the physical universe, then goes on to explore some even deeper and more radical ideas about physical reality that are now appearing.

Quantum Theory

Some paradoxes arise from the wave-particle duality that is at the core of this theory. For example, experiments on neutrons aimed at a target through a pair of slits in a screen, show quite definite interference patterns even when the individual neutrons are fired infrequently (John Barrow, The World Within the World,1988).

Even more strange, any attempt to determine through which slit a neutron passes through destroys the interference pattern. As a result, most quantum physicists have given up the attempt to form pictures of reality and abandoned attempts to form a full causal explanation of micro-physical phenomena. They content themselves by deriving accurate theoretical predictions of experimental results by abstract mathematics.

However, a significant minority of phyicists, of whom Luis de Broglie and David Bohm are the best known, have produced a counter-interpretation which allows a space-time
description of micro-events and opens up the possibility of a deeper understanding of physical reality. In this theory, the motion of a particle is affected, not only by the usual classical potential but also by a quantum potential which has appreciable, indeed dramatic affects for very small particles.

Although this interpretation is causal, it is not completely deterministic as it "opens the door for the creative operation of underlying, and yet subtler levels of reality". (Bohm and Peat; Science, Order and Creativity, 1987).

Big Bang and Black Holes

Recent developments in cosmology are discussed in books by eminent physicists like Stephen Hawking, Paul Davies, and John Barrow. In this article, only the briefest glimpse can be given about the many remarkable theories and observations. The general theory explains gravitation in terms of the curvature of four-dimensional time-space. It provides for the possibility of a universe rapidly expanding from an initial "big bang", and then either continuing its expansion indefinitely, or eventually, after many billions of years, collapsing back into a "big crunch".

General relativity theory also predicts that, under certain circumstances, stars literally collapse back into their own gravitational fields. The result is a "black hole", which is a very small area of extremely high density, incorporating a "singularity" with zero volume and an infinitely high density. Gravitation is so intense that no light can escape from a black hole! There is now extensive observational evidence for the existence of black holes. Singularities, like those associated with the Big Bang and Black Holes, are viewed, in effect, as regions where space- time goes out of existence.

For some time, it was thus believed that it was meaningless to speculate on what happened before the Big Bang. More recently, by linking ideas from relativity and quantum theory, it has been possible to postulate theories such as Alan Guth's "inflationary cosmology", to provide fairly plausible pictures of possible events before the Big Bang. But the challenge of finding a true unification of general relativity and quantum theory still remains.

Exploring Deeper Levels of Reality

Bohm has developed his concepts of sub- quantum reality further in his theory of explicate order and implicate order. The implicate order is a special case of the 'generative order', "a deeper and more inward order out of which things can emerge creatively."

The implicate order leads to the 'superimplicate order', which organises it. In principle, there can be an extension into even higher implicate orders, organising and affected by the lower orders. Thus, according Bohm, "the implicate order is a very rich and subtle generative order" and so is consciousness. Thus mind and matter are two aspects of one whole.

John Davidson in his book "The Secret of the Creative Vacuum -- Man and the Energy Dance" (1989) carries further this conclusion that mind and matter, energy and consciousness are intimately intertwined. He explores the simple idea that the 'vacuum' of 'empty' space "is actually a real energy field, or state of subtle material substance, out of which all perceivable matter is formed and levels of manifestation, the energy fields in which our thoughts and instincts have their existence."

He cites several remarkable but little known researches to support this view, based on a new 'ether' concept, together with his belief that the exploration of the 'vacuum' will bring profound and fascinating technological changes, including virtually unlimited supplies of safe and cheap energy. He presents a unifying concept of Formative Mind as the universe's hidden creation mechanism, that links energy, mind and consciousness.

The first scientific questioning of the concept of physical reality came with Niels Bohr's 'Copenhagen' interpretation of the quantum theory, which maintained that there was no deep reality, only a description of it. A BBC TV programme speculated that, perhaps, some time in the future, our present view of the universe would be seen as mistaken, our present scientific theories as myths. Our minds and thinking shape our perception of the world. The new paradigm of the future will view a universe where consciousness is the primary reality, from which physical reality is derived.

Alan Mayne is the editor of New Paradigms Newsletter (29 Fairford Crescent, Milton Keynes MK15 9AF, England). This article originally appeared in the June,1989 edition of New Paradigms Newsletter.

This article was published in New Renaissance magazine Vol.3, No.1