Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quantum Solace: Further Debates On Synchronicity

There's a good thread going on over at the Forum called "Quantum Solace: Acausality for the Compleat Idiot...', which gets into some interesting ideas about synchronicity and causation. This is my reply to Elias' original post, which quotes most of his original piece and includes my replies. For the full debate, follow the link above.

Elias said:

I. Your consciousness influences events simply by 'being there'.
In Quantum Physics Theory, the universe is not deterministic (i.e. causal). Rather it is called probalistic -- meaning that events can only be described and measured by their probability of occurring. Bye bye Newton, hello Niels Bohr.
That said, the original theory also stated that probabilities collapse into specific actualities at the moment of measurement. This, as we know, was picked up by Fred Alan Wolf and spun into a series of popular books about the "quantum" interaction of consciousness and reality --

There's been a long debate in quantum mechanics about the implications of the theory, particularly in whether the probablistic aspects of the theory are purely a mathematical abstraction, with no real-world meaning, and whether the quantum effects only apply at the level of the very tiny, and get washed out at the larger, human level of experience. The biggest issue is whether there really is an objective universe out there before we observe it, and that the problems with quantum mechanics merely show that there are limits to our ability to observe it. The famous "Copenhagen Compromise" was essentially an agreement not to even address these issues. Since then, however, experiments have come close to conclusively demonstrating that the universe really does not "collapse" the wave function and produce a "real world" of objectively and priorly fixed attributes until we actually observe it.

See this remarkable article on these recent series of experiments.

The basic conclusion is that "realism" is essentially disproven, and that this applies not just at that level of the very tiny, but at the everyday level of large objects in the visible universe. The reason we don't see these effects so readily is simply that our senses are a bit too crude. Our sense and brains tend to wash out these effects and create a sense of continuity which is not actually there.

I wouldn't call that interactive connection direct (or mechanical) causality, at least in our naive or "simply present" state. I notice that events appear to be shaped by my presence, but I can't seem to find a set of gears at work behind the Universe which are mechanically responding to my consciousness. Rather, I can only note the synchronistic data and feel the non-verbal ways in which I am part of everything around me.

It's important to understand that my "theory" of acausality isn't a black and white one, in which there is no causality to be observed at any level. It's a shaded theory, that from the perspective of ultimate truth, there is no causation, but that the appearance of causation creeps in as one's view becomes limited. In the most limited, one-dimensional view, such as in materialism, causation seems at first glance to be solid as a rock and indisputable. So there's two extremes, that of pure causation at the one-dimensional level, and pure acausality when dimensionality becomes infinite. In between, which is where we all tend to live and think and view the world and experience our lives, we get a hazy sense of both, an indeterminate impression of a synchronistic world that perhaps operates by a much subtler kind of "causation" than the purely mechanical determinism of the one-dimensional materialistic view. This is because we are conscious, and no matter how dim-witted we may be or limited in our consciousness, the mere fact of being conscious introduces new dimensions to our experience than the purely material one.

Which is why, I think, the results of even scientific theory ends up introducing acausal principles. The reason is that scientists themselves are conscious beings, not purely mechanical machines, and the more they examine their experience even within the highly disciplined materialist strictures of science, the presence of their own observing consciousness is seen to be involved in the process of the material world's own existence and function. This makes it impossible to see the world as a purely causal place, and requires notions of acausality to explain even material phenomena observed by us.
But based on accumulated life experience, my presence and my conscious perception do seem to affect this hypothetical "synchronous wave" of events. There is causality there -- it's just not Newtonian causality, at least in terms of my knowledge of what's going on. (It might be Newtonian, or mechanical, of course. But I don't yet know that. In fact, the only way I, as a human, can describe this kind of influence is to appeal to the theories of quantum physics, as Wolf as done.)
The experience of causality is not vanquished merely by theorizing, or even by noticing consciousness as an active part of the equation. It merely diminishes the role of causality as we begin to examine our experience from multiple dimensions simultaneously. Consciousness, as we explore it, includes many dimensions, and when we start to acknowledge these, causality breaks down more and more. Ultimately, according to the Ajata view of Advaita, it breaks down entirely. Before that, however, it creates a kind of indeterminate haze, in which we sometimes will still see causation, and even presume that consciousness is a cause, in some indeterminate way, or an effect in some cases, but in a much weaker sense than we previously thought. And these views change as our point of view either expands to include more dimensions of consciousness, or contracts to concentrate on fewer of these dimensions. Depending on our needs for either an expanded or a focused viewpoint, our sense of causality will also change.
This leads me to my next point, which is two-fold. First, it is my sense that those who embrace acausality in the way BY apparently does are looking for a way to absolve themselves of responsibility for the evil in the world. They want to restore a lost childhood innocence, a "pre-egoic" bliss if you will. (In Jungian terms this would be called "losing the Shadow".) One of the ways they do this is to prove to themselves that events -- past present and future -- are largely beyond their influence. Furthermore they claim that the very idea that there is a causal connection between themselves and "random events" is "a false model of the world" which derives from the ego. The ego, being an illusion, can't really exist. Voila, all causality disappears! And with it goes responsibility, the result -- they hope -- being moksha!
I think I've already dealt with these issues in the dialog with EE. SInce the issue of my motives is an entirely subjective one, it can't be resolved here. You will undoubtedly think as you will about this. Just remember that it's a two-edged sword. Your own motives in arguing as you do are not pure either, I'm sure. The larger point, however, is that I've made it clear that the acausal viewpoint does not relieve us of responsibility. It merely sees responsibility as an acausal one. We are not in control of what happens in our world, as virtually everyone knows. The idea that responsibility means being in total control of everything is a false one. Real responsibility acknowledges that most of the world "just happens", and our control over things is very limited, to say the least. We can of course do things that affect the world around us in relatively small ways, but I can't stop earthquakes in Haiti from happening. I can't stop Glen Beck and Sarah Palin from scheming to take over the world. I can laugh at bit at the folly of people who think they really can control this world, but I can't really stop them from trying. What I can do is simply live my life in harmony with the world I experience, even in relation to earthquakes (we had a big one here last week as well) and Glen Beck. I can cease to act as an opponent of anything, trying to battle causes and effects, and instead live in peace and loving relationship to those around me. If that is considered an irresponsible attitude by some, I can't really argue with that. I don't know what these people think they are doing to take responsibility for the world they live in, but I guess they think there's a difference. And maybe there is.

The second part of my next point is this: In our conscious perception of arising events, there is a way that we influence events by purifying ourselves of dishonesty and motives of greed, anger, and so forth. The events around a saint will (it has been observed) be much more benign than those around a hardened criminal. Good vibes? Or is it that there is a causal connection between our state of consciousness and ongoing feedback from the Universe?

Yes, this is quite true. I'd simply argue that what you are describing is not a causal influence, but an acausal harmonization. The problem with the notion that this is an actual causal "influence" is that it introduces a number of illusions into our viewpoint, such as the notion of "spiritual transmission" that you decried in our other thread. One of the insidious things about this notion of "transmission" is that it presumes a causal relationship within spirituality. It presumes that some causal force emanates form spiritual people, spreads like electromagnetic waves through the ether, and produces an effect on the devotee. This leads of course to the notion that our spiritual life is an effect that is caused by someone else, by some great Maha Waddadoo, and thus that we are dependent on that Maha Waddadoo, because without his causal spiritual force we cannot experience spiritual effects.

My view is that all of that is really just an illusion created by a limited perspective in consciousness. It's not that there is no atmosphere of peace and spiritual energy around saintly people, it's that it's not a causal one. It simply coincides with out own spiritual nature. It harmonizes with us naturally, and helps us to see our own spiritual nature. Nothing is actually "transmitted". There is no force that travels from one person to the other. There is no causal process enacted. Instead, there's simply a synchronistic affiniity that becomes more and more conscious, in more and more dimensions of our consciousness, which it becomes clearer and clearer is not actually causal in nature at all. However, it may appear to us to be causal, because we may be limited in our own conscious awareness of all the dimensions involved. And that can bring about a lot of trouble, because then either we, or the Maha, may try to exploit this causal impression by claiming to be the source of it, the cause of the positive effects we experience. And it tends to create illusions in us as well, because we identify the spiritual process with the causal effects we see, rather than with the deepening and broadening of our own conscious perspective. Thus, we may end up seeking effects through methodical causes, including all kinds of techniques and practices, or slavish devotion to the causal source, the Maha Waddadoo, all of which tends to obscure the real nature of the process that goes on in genuine spiritual practice, which is essentially an acausal one.

The role of the ego in all this is, I think, that of limiting our point of view, such that we tend to interpret these things as causal in nature, centered on the ego in us and the ego of the spiritual "source", such that transmission is seen as a causal force which emanates from the ego of the Maha Waddadoo and is received by our own ego. The more limited our point of view, the more egoic this whole process becomes, and the more rigid our conviction is that it's a causal relationship, rather than an acausal syncrhonous one.

Another way to describe this is to say that taming the ego (becoming humble) has the effect of harmonizing the "synchronous waves" of arising events. For the arrogant or narcissistic personality, arising events lose their resonance with "God's harmonious guitar" and start to take on the discordant qualities of a techno-rock composition, so to speak.

I think that's a good perspective on the issue.

This too is causality, an observable connection between my consciousness and the Universe.

Not all observable connections are causal in nature. That's the assumption we tend to make, based on the limited point of view tht is socially and culturally and even spiritually ingrained in us by all kinds of people and their presumptions. When we see two clearly connected events, we all too often immediately search for a causal connection, because we tend not to think there could be any other way things are connected. But there is, and that is acausal synchronicity, which operates by harmonization rather than causation. There's certainly a sense in which we can still view this as a sublter kind of causation, but I think the more we examine it, the greater our perspective is, the less actual causation we will find.

Lastly, after one has taken note of the relationship between seeing itself and arising events, one may take up the practice of various yogas and meditations to positively or negatively affect events.

Yes, all this is good, but I would argue that seeing that as a cause producing an effect actually limits the effectiveness of these practices. One is not actually producing a causal effect, one is merely harmonizing with the universe. Because the actual nature of the universe is acausal, when we take up these practices naturally, without trying to produce an effect, but simply as a way of harmonizing with what is real, this produces an harmonious sense of relationship and concordance. Yoga does not "cause" this effect, it is simply the manifestation of a process going on synchronously in all our parts.

This is a large area of consideration, and there are many simplistic (and archaic) ideas about how it works. I will attempt to say a little (or a lot) about all of this in my next post.

Yes, I agree, and it's helpful to me to get this kind of feedback to ponder the issues more deeply.


Anonymous said...

greetings from one yogin to another, thanks for the good posts, I have spent the past couple of years co-creating a film (the quantum activist) to explain some of these concepts, present the paradoxes that indicate the need for a greater understanding and present a major conceptual shift (consciousness as the ground of all, not matter) HAve you perchance checked out this work?
it is in harmony with your theories, some great experiments and thesis further supports this awareness.

co-producer/director the quantum activist

great work!

my address if there is any need.

Anonymous said...

Your writing is very clearly written and easily understood, thank you!
When it comes to synchronicity and the true nature of the universe I love that the ego is left totally out of the picture-where it needs to be! Very inspirational post.