The One

The ultimate ground of the world.

Some physicists are beginning to realize that quantum physics has much more to say about the world than that quantum mechanics is an unparalleled successful predictor of physical phenomena. The book ‘The One‘ by Heinrich Päs, professor of theoretical physics at TU Dortmund, is a very good example of this changing attitude. He concludes that quantum physics can only be fully understood if we accept the existence of a quantum universe – already ages ago described by many philosophers as The One – as the ground of the world we observe.

According to Päs, this quantum universe is the – immaterial yet real – version of Everett’s multiverse, but metaphysical instead of physically material. Päs states that the image presented to the public of endlessly splitting material universes is wrong, brought into the world by opponents of Everett’s idea. All these possible universes exist certainly, however as state waves that together, by their respective superpositions, form one single state wave, where all their oscillations cancel each other out. This composite superpositioned state wave of all possible universes together is The One, the unmoving immaterial ground of everything, where space, time and matter do not exist any more, not even as thought, but from which all observed diversity sprouts. This is the Tao of Lao Tze, here anew presented as an ultimate quantum metaphysical reality..

So what’s Everett’s idea, precisely?

To answer that, we first need to look at the greatest mystery that quantum physics confronts us with, the quantum collapse. The end of the – unlimited in space and time expanded (non-local) – immaterial state wave that, according to the accepted quantum physics interpretation, represents the probability to find the material particle at measurement when, precisely at that act of measurement, that wave ends abruptly. This end of that state wave is however not predicted by the mathematics describing the state wave, the Schrödinger equation. How the act of measurement triggers this abrupt transition of immaterial probabilities into matter is still not explained satisfactorily. The most commonly accepted explanation given is decoherence, which is actually not an explanation but only a verbal description of what seems to occur. Which is that a coherent phenomenon – the wave – suddenly loses its coherence as a connected whole, whereupon only one element of it – the in our measurement found particle – remains and becomes matter.

The attributed name – decoherence – doesn’t really explain how it works. However, Päs explains decoherence as an effect caused by the necessarily limited perspective of the observer on the composite quantum wave of the universe, that one single unmoving state wave in which the state waves of all possible universes are summarized, superpositioned in the language of the physicist. His explanation how a limited perspective of the observer hides the full unmoving universal state wave and presents us only one of its myriad components, does unfortunately not go into more detail.

A metaphor he offers as an explanation is that of a completely flat ocean surface that, observed from an overall perspective, shows no movement, but which in that motionlessness may as well be the result of an endless conjoining of an enormous number of waves, that together completely cancel each other out. Waves can cancel each other out, which is what we call destructive interference. This is applied in noise reduction headphones. From a much more restricted perspective then, the area of that ocean that we are able to observe becomes something that appears to be separated from the rest. I don’t understand fully how a perspective change will present to us the world of distinct objects, but it’s an interesting image and it can at least serve as a useful metaphor for a rough explanation of the idea. If you accept his idea, the decoherence of the state wave, happening on measurement, is not that the state wave does disappear into thin air on observation, but that it is just no longer observable from the limited perspective of the observer. The observer observes then only a small part of the full quantum universe. It’s still there, in its immaterial way, but we can’t ‘see’ it.

Everything becomes an observer

Which raises the questions of what an observer actually is, and – related – if an observer is really necessary for evoking the quantum collapse. Everett’s idea to do away with the observer and the quantum collapse is that every possibility exists in the state wave where ‘existence’ does not mean a material existence, but nevertheless a real existence. With this, the definition of what is real is changed in an important way. Accept this for the moment. According to Everett’s proposal, in the double-slit experiment with a single object shot at the slits, both possibilities exist in a real way – the object goes through the left slit and it goes also through the right slit – but both in their own separate immaterial realities. In each of these two realities exists an immaterial observer, who observes the only one outcome within his reality. Every observer is after all only able to observe the reality in which he exists. This eliminates the apparent necessity of a physically enigmatic influence of the observer on the state wave, triggering the quantum collapse of that wave, simply because there is no collapse at all. Instead, however, there are now two completely identical observers.

I hope that you will understand that Everett’s proposal does not impose any special immaterial requirements on the observer, such as perceptive awareness, a camera will suffice. The underlying condition for his idea is clearly that consciousness is an emergent property of the immaterial but nevertheless real brain of the observer. Both observers in both universes are (immaterially) identical to each other and therefore have an identical emergent consciousness, with their also identical emergent memories. The only difference is their observation at the time of the experiment. There splits their universe, with them in it, in two.

Wat is real, really?

Multiverse interpretation of Schrödinger’s living ánd dead cat.

This example of ‘bifurcating’ observers in their universes has been kept simple for reasons of explanation here, way simpler than in any practical real double-slit experiment. In practice, there are many, almost innumerable, possibilities in such an experiment where the observed object can manifest itself everywhere at any of the interference fringes on the back screen, and each possibility therefore means a split universe, each including a copy of the observer. I hope you see that the number of universes and observer copies can get quite substantial if not improbably gargantuan. Therefore, Päs stresses that all these possible universes are not material, even if they are real. The definition of what is real therefore needs to be adjusted. But in such an extended interpretion of reality, an illusion, even a dream, is also something real, although I think Päs does not want to stretch it that far.

Emergent consciousness as condition for the multiverse

Only by considering consciousness as an emergent property of the physical brain, this way of interpreting quantum physics is defensible, it is definitely a prerequisite for Everett’s idea, and this assumption is also stated repeatedly in Päs’s book: ‘Of course, as long as we stick to the reasonable hypothesis that our consciousness is confined within our brains, …’. After shortly considering the idea of primary consciousness as a possible cause of the quantum collapse like, for example, John von Neumann did – Päs joins the almost unanimous opinion of neurologists (Tononi et al.) that consciousness is an emergent product of the brain. He forgets that neurology is an ultimately reductionistic branch of science while he argues elsewhere in his book strongly against reductionism in physics.

Monism – not a new idea – to the rescue of physics?

The idea of the existence of an ultimate source of reality that is The One, that knows no separation, that contains no separate elements, that knows no time and space, is called monism. Päs spends an extensive and indeed fascinating chapter of his book on the history of monism. It is a view on reality – also known under the more common denominator Platonism – that can already be found in Greek antiquity with proponents like Thales, Plato, Parmenides, Pythagoras, and Philolaus. Later on, monism as an opponent of the monotheistic but dual presentation of the world that the Christian church steadfast portrays, repeatedly pops up in historical figures such as Giordano Bruno, Kepler, Copernicus, Meister Eckhart, John Scotius Eriugena, and much later on in time, Spinoza and Kierkegaard.

According to Päs, the strong reactionary suppression of the Catholic church of these clearly monistic ideas, through torture, pyre, excommunication and social exclusion, is the root cause of the fact that the notion of an immaterial ground of our reality is not very popular at the moment, certainly not among most physicists, although I do notice a growing change in attitude. Bohr and Heisenberg also played an important role in this suppression, with their idea of complementarity, by classifying the deeper reality of the state wave as not relevant to physical theories. They classified thus the contradictions, between for example particle and wave, as fundamental to nature, and thus not susceptible to further investigation. There is just no underlying reality to investigate. Case closed. Shut up and calculate.

According to Päs, this is the reason that physics, with its highly reductionistic approach, is currently in crisis. The investigation into the foundations of matter has so far been sought in the ever smaller dimensions of matter for which the necessary energies ánd finances are correspondingly increasing . The path of reductionist approach of nature, and what could be achieved by it, seems to have come to an end. It is therefore time, according to Päs, to introduce monism as a grounding principle in physics. Quantum physics and the quantum universe show us the way.

Entanglement as the ultimate creator of unity and universal love

According to Päs, entanglement is by far the most important factor in the quantum universe. It ensures a connection of everything with everything and confirms thus the unity of The One. Individual properties of the parts do cease to exist in favor of strongly interrelated properties. Interestingly, he quotes Neoplatonist John Scotus Eriugena in: ‘Just as entanglement unites the universe in quantum cosmology, for Eriugena it is “the pacific embrace of universal love” that “ gathers all things together into the indivisible unity which is what He Himself is, and holds them inseparably together”. Päs, apparently makes here a connection between quantum entanglement and what Eriugena calls universal love. That immediately reminds me of the NDE reports that are almost always about the overwhelming experience of universal love. This is found in almost all reports. That’s real, if only because of the amount of data.

You could protest now that you and your ex have a common history and must therefore be quantum physically entangled, but that there is no more love in your present relationship. Päs would say – I think – that your observation is of course a matter of your limited perspective.

Love is entanglement, entanglement is love.

Does Päs acknowledge the quantum physical reality of universal love? It might be different. By linking entanglement and universal love in this way, he also could reduce the latter to the first. Love would then become something that could be examined in the physicist’s laboratory as a phenomenon to which numbers could be assigned by means of measurement. He would then do the same that physicists have done with the actually incomprehensible mystique of forces at a distance, as we experience it with gravity, electricity and magnetism; reducing it to a field that can be measured and described mathematically and thus reduce the phenomenon to something that belongs to the material universe. Reïfication by reduction.

How could they know?

An important question then is, of course, how the ancient philosophers had already stumbled on this principle of the very substance of our reality without having the technical tools available to science today. The ancient Greeks had little more at their disposal than their own senses and their sharp minds. Päs just briefly goes into this and assumes that early and primitive humanity was capable of a more direct observation of The One than modern man, and that these insights were handed down from generation to generation. Which is very close to the assumption of the general validity of mystical lore.

Summary and comments

At the end of this book review, it is good to briefly summarize Päs’ ideas, supplemented with my summarized comments:

  1. The perceived reality is an illusion and originates in the quantum universe. Certainly a remarkable statement by a physicist.
  2. The multiverse is the quantum universe and it is not material. It’s one. That too is remarkable.
  3. In the apparent split of the universe, the physical observer and his mind also split into several observer copies, each observing a single outcome. The quantum collapse is therefore the impression that every observer copy has because each one observes necessarily only a single result of the many possible outcomes. That means that an underlying assumption has to be made, that the mind is a product of the physical brain. That assumption is essential in this multiverse explanation of the quantum collapse. Accepting this, the large number of experiences of people leaving their body at the threat of an imminent physical demise, often verified by third parties, while being able to perceive and report the circumstances near their body correctly (the NDE), are either completely ignored or declared as illusion.
  4. In this assumption, the observer is therefore just a physical object, so that actually every physical object becomes an observer. Which is also the conclusion that, among others, Carlo Rovelli, Sean Carrol and Thomas Hertog convey. Why certain objects, such as lenses, mirrors and even reflective crystals, are exempt from being observers is not clear to me.
  5. But since, according to Päs, physical reality is an illusion, we as observer have an illusion that observes the world and thus creates also reciprocally the illusion of the observer. Whoever wants to believe something contorted like that, is fooling himself, as far as I’m concerned.
  6. The quantum collapse is caused by decoherence which is, according to Päs, an effect of the observer’s limited perspective. The deeper mechanism of decoherence, and how it is triggered, remains unexplained.
  7. Given the interference that the state wave always shows us when it travels through the double slit, all those universes must be able to interfere with each other. That can only be true if all those universes are themselves indeed non-material state waves. Then they can indeed interfere with each other, because they are waves. In this way, they are not material and therefore do not contain any material observer copies. How a non-material state wave can then produce emergent consciousness is pure speculation.
  8. As Päs describes the quantum universe, he is already very close to the idea of the universal mind from which all reality comes, which is a description precisely matching those reported by many near-death experiences. He’s clearly switching his own perspective and he is almost there.

In short: A fascinating, instructive and in general honest book of the quest of a quantum physicist for the meaning and future of quantum physics and a much needed beginning of a farewell to the there-is-only-matter paradigm.

Multiversa hypothesis incompatible with the double slit

Hugh Everett’s proposition – everything that is possible, happens.

One of the hypotheses that tries to explain the phenomena in quantum physics, especially the quantum collapse that occurs at every measurement – the abrupt end of the quantum state wave and the appearance of the particle – is Hugh Everett’s Multiversa hypothesis. Remember; the state wave is a wave that contains all the possible states of the particle to be measured. In Everett’s proposal, everything that can happen happens physically. Therefore the actual universe, where the measurement takes place, splits into as many physical universes as there are possibilities. In all those split-off universes there exists a copy of the conscious experimenter. Each copy thus perceives one of the results of the experiment. There is then no quantum collapse at all that mysteriously occurs on measurement.

Initially, there were only a few supporters of Everett’s idea. But right now, the idea has quite a lot of support among quantum physicists. Its attractiveness is easy to understand. A non-material consciousness is not needed in his hypothesis, so we can continue to assume that consciousness is a product of the material brain. Which is still the most popular hypothesis in neuroscience today despite a huge amount of excellent forensic and casuistic evidence to the contrary. They apparently wish to remain ignorant of this evidence.

The double-slit as test

Reflecting on the multiversa hypothesis, I thought of Richard Feynman’s statement; “The mysteries of quantum mechanics can be understood from just one experiment. That’s the double slit experiment. The experiment is simple, but the results leave us in awe.” The question then becomes this: can I understand the double slit experiment from the Multiversa hypothesis? Can the double slit experiment serve as a test for this outrageous hypothesis?

The double slit experiment was first performed by Thomas Young in 1805. He let sunlight shine through two slits – two narrow parallel scratches on a sooted glass plate. The result of this looked then and looks still like this:

Interference patterns created by sunlight. (Berdnikov)

Parallel colored bands of light separated by dark bands (fringes). This is called an interference pattern. This pattern is easy to understand with the view of light as a wave. The two slits act as synchronous sources of light waves. The synchronous waves running from the two slits meet and at each location their amplitudes are added together. This is called superposition. The superposition of these two waves creates contiguous fanning lines of maximum vibration (intensity) and between them also contiguous fanning lines of rest (darkness). The colored lines arise because sunlight consists of a whole spectrum of wavelengths, from red to violet, and for each wavelength the locations of its maxima are at different distances from the central maximum.

Explanation by Thomas Young. Flaring lines of maximum deflection arise from the superposition of two synchronous waves.

For more info, I refer you to this excellent YouTube video from Veritasium.

Nevertheless, light is made up of particles

The great problem is that light is not a continuous wave phenomenon, but consists of energy packets, photons, where the energy E of each photon is proportional to the frequency f of the wave. This proportionality constant is Planck’s constant, discovered around 1900. Incidentally, it is difficult to imagine a frequency of the photon itself when it is a particle. What is the frequency of a particle? What does it look like?

E = h.f  h is Planck's constant: 6,626 x 10-34 J.s

Photons and the quantum state wave

Photons are light particles whose behavior is controlled by a quantum state wave, the Schrödinger state wave. (NB: A moving photon has never been directly observed, because the observation means the annihilation of the photon). Each part of that state wave can be described as a vector, an arrow that describes both magnitude and direction of the wave’s deflection. This vector must be described in imaginary dimensions, which is not a problem for the mathematician, but for our imagination it’s a problem. The state wave is not a material wave, which can also be inferred from the fact that this vector is not something existing in our 3-dimensional space. However, the absolute length of the vector squared at a particular location does indicate something useful, the probability of finding the photon at that location when measured. However, a probability is not a material phenomenon. The state wave isn’t either.

The frequency and the wavelength of that non-material state wave are the frequency and wavelength that we seem to measure in our experiments with light, although this apparently consists of photons. When we detect a photon, it is the result of the aforementioned quantum collapse, the abrupt end of the state wave, in which the photon transfers its energy to the detector – for example our retina. The photons that appear as points of light on the detection screen are thus the result of the quantum collapse of the state wave upon arrival at the screen. The cause of the quantum collapse has still not been experimentally determined, although recent experiments seem to indicate that it is caused by the information we can get about the state of the quantum particles. Everett seeks to completely eradicate this enigmatic quantum collapse.

The key – a continuous interference pattern

Back now to the Multiversa hypothesis. We will do an experiment, we will send a single photon through a double slit. According to that hypothesis, our universe splits into as many copies as are necessary to contain all possible photon detections. And these are quite a few. Quantum mechanics predicts a continuous spread of maximum and minimum intensities. So not a limited number of discrete points with nothing between.

The two-slit interference pattern is not one of sharply defined lines, but is gradual and thus continuous. So the block-like pattern on the right is not quite correct.

That means an infinite number of possible outcomes for where the photon can end up on the detection device. Possibly we can adjust that infinity to a countable number of possibilities by taking the Planck length as the smallest possible unit of length. At 10cm wide, it still gives you a huge number of possibilities, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1033. So, just sending one photon through a double slit and detecting it, has to result in about 1033 split off copies of our universe with just as many copies of you and me each observing one of those possibilities in their own universe.

In itself, that outrageously huge number is not sufficient proof that the Multiversa hypothesis is not the ultimate truth. But it seems to me anyhow a strong contraindication and in any case a good reason not to take it as seriously as is done by many physicists. Multiversa is still completely unproven and most likely unprovable.

Measuring at the slit and the multiverse

The Multiversa hypothesis should also be able to provide an explanation for a particularly remarkable, but time and again experimentally confirmed, phenomenon. As soon as we somehow, no matter how, set up the experiment in such a way that we can know through which slit our photon has passed, the interference pattern disappears. The result is a light spot that is strongest in the center and diminishes towards the sides.

As soon as the slits are observed in order to catch passing photons, the interference pattern disappears. There is only one expanding wave left per photon. With many photons, a single light spot is created in the middle behind the slits.

If it can be determined experimentally that the photon passes through the left-hand slit, this means that the state wave must have adapted itself to that information and has changed to a 100% probability of being present in the slit. A 100% probability, in my opinion, is identical to a material presence. In any case, indistinguishable from that. It is then easy to understand that from that location in the slit of 100% probability of presence a single state wave departs and no more wave leaves from the other slit. Which explains the single light spot.

Thus, in the Multiversa hypothesis, the way in which the universe splits into as many universes as there are possibilities, as represented by the state wave, has been significantly altered by our experimental set-up. Now how could my decision to measure or not to measure which slit the photon passed, trigger this massive adjustment in the creation of copies of the universe? A persistent materialist will argue that that decision of mine was already 100% predestined, whereby of course he also expanded the demon of Laplace in his possibilities to fully know and predict all those split-off universes. That is, for example, the – completely unproven – position of Gerard ’t Hooft, Nobel Prize winner.

Is this still plausible?

Is that, this frenzied proliferation of multiversa, wholly predestined in their unimaginable totality, still more acceptable than the hypothesis that the observer’s consciousness creates the manifested reality according to the information at his disposal? That’s my question.

A radical change in perspective

Still, I think Everett noticed something valuable. All it takes to make his hypothesis significantly more plausible, as far as I’m concerned, is a radical change in perspective. His idea was that everything that could happen actually happens. He saw our reality as objectively material. Not only was the reality that we experience material, but all those split-off universes were also material, and so were indistinguishable in the nature of their substance. Now consider that that last phrase, indistinguishable in the nature of their substance, can be disconnected from the idea of materiality. So if we see all those multiversa as non-material probability distributions in the state wave of the universe, then if we’re consistent, we should do the same for the universe we experience. Our daily world of experience is then in fact just as immaterial as all those possible universes that do exist in that state wave.

That is indeed a radical inversion of perspective. The advantage of it is that it offers enormous possibilities for the role of the mind with which we apparently choose and create our experiences from all these possible states. Free will is back, the survival of the spirit after – and before – death is possible again. The near-death experience (NDE) fits completely into this framework and no longer needs to be denied or dismissed as the hallucinations of a dying brain. The latter, by the way, is an idea that does not provide any explanation for an important reported and verified subset of these experiences. These are those NDE experiences where there is no plausible material explanation whatsoever for the content of the experiences. And those are legion. Read “The Self Does Not Die” by Rivas and Dirven. Even if you are an inveterate materialist, then that’s what you honestly should be doing.

Do we manifest the world?

What is the role of consciousness?

There is still a considerable group of scientists who prefer to keep consciousness and quantum physics as separate as possible. But their message is losing its persuasive quality as far as I can judge. The following video is a good example of these attempts to keep consciousness outside physics. The creators present first all those arguments that I also present in my book ‘Quantum Physics is NOT Weird‘ for the role of consciousness in quantum physics phenomena, such as the observer effect. These arguments pass the screen in quick succession. Convincingly presented. Very informative; I recommend seeing it anyhow for those who are reading my book. At the end comes Wigner’s paradox and the message is; current insights are that Wigner’s interpretation is no longer necessary according to the latest insights, but that those insights are in fact only reserved for people with a very deep understanding of quantum physics. This will be explained in more detail in the upcoming sequel episode. I guess that the sequel will be about the multiverse hypothesis that has indeed a growing group of adherents between quantum physicists.

Consilience confirms convincingly primary consciousness

That’s indeed the case when I observe what their message is in the sequel. Well, if it were only quantum physics providing arguments for consciousness as the primary creator of reality, I would probably also belong to the group that would consider that idea unlikely or even woo physics. I suppose that I would also gravitate towards the multiverse hypothesis despite its unprovability and its unimaginable proliferation of universes and its occupants. However, when I think of all those phenomena confirmed by experimental or extensive forensic research, such as the ability to influence quantum generators by the mind, psychokinesis, memories of past lives, near-death experiences, telepathy, instrumental communication with deceased persons and with Alzheimer’s patients, I am beginning to understand that all these phenomena strongly confirm each other mutually in supporting consciousness as a primary force. This bringing together of each other mutually supporting scientific confirmed results from different domains is called consilience. A good practice in view of the current scientific compartmentalisation.

A real skeptic does it’s own thinking and research, keeping an open mind

There are many fascinating ways you can do your own research on this topic. It will take time, but I can assure you, the view becomes breathtaking when you keep your mind open. I advise that you start reading a book written by an already three decennia practising neuroscientist, Marjorie Hines Woollacott: ‘Infinite Awareness. The awakening of a scientific Mind’.

Quantum physics and time

From Wikipedia: Vlatko Vedral is a Serbian-born (and naturalised British citizen) physicist and Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and CQT (Centre for Quantum Technologies) at the National University of Singapore and a Fellow of Wolfson College. He is known for his research on the theory of Entanglement and Quantum Information Theory. As of 2017 he has published over 280 research papers in quantum mechanics and quantum information and was awarded the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award in 2007. He has held a Lectureship and Readership at Imperial College, a Professorship at Leeds and visiting professorships in Vienna, Singapore (NUS) and at Perimeter Institute in Canada. As of 2017, there were over 18,000 citations to Vlatko Vedral’s research papers. He is the author of several books, including Decoding Reality.

Watch this movie “Living in a quantum world” from Vlatko Vedral on YouTube: At the end of his presentation a question from the audience about time and quantum physics is asked (at about 1: 10) and in his answer he describes the behavior of a super-accurate clock and what happens to the last digits when you lift that clock half a meter in the gravitational field. And then he wonders what it means when you imagine that clock to be in a quantum superposition at the two different heights in the gravitational field. A superposition of two different timelines. Fascinating.

By the way, the first part of his presentation – about 45 minutes – is actually a very compact version of my quantum physics book. Everything is presented in an almost blazing speed: interference, the Mach-Zehnder interferometer, Schrödinger’s cat, the Copenhagen interpretation against the multiverse interpretation, delayed choice experiments, interference with very large molecules shot through double slits, the orientation of our robin on the earth’s magnetic field in its annual migration, the 100% efficiency of chlorophyll. Highly recommended.