Friday, May 25, 2012

Transpersonal psychology & quantum weirdness

Re-reading Ken Wilber’s Spectrum of Consciousness again, now when a little older, a little wiser (one hopes) has helped me better appreciate the significance of Wilber’s 1977 book. This is specially the case as I’ve been brushing up on the strange world of the quantum in the last couple of years.

Wilber attempts to integrate transpersonal psychology into a comprehensive new world view drawing on vast variety of areas and disciplines, ranging from psychology, anthropology, sociology, mythology, and comparative religion, through linguistics, philosophy, and history, to cosmology, quantum-relativistic physics, biology, evolutionary theory, and systems theory.

Transpersonal psychology is concerned with the study of humanity's highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness.

Quantum theory has been said may help us understand consciousness and, more so, perception of the objective world, and the meaning of reality. A small example is the original work undertaken by Scully and Drühl that shook the physics community when it was first published in 1982. Essentially they demonstrated the possibility of simultaneously observing both particle-like and wave-like behavior of a quantum via quantum entanglement. The which-path or both-path information of a quantum can be erased or marked by its entangled twin even after the registration of the quantum.

This is weird because, in simple terms, an electron [somehow knows] that in the future the information about which slit it went through will be erased, and decides to act differently in the present moment.

From the double-slit experiment we know that when a particle is observed it behaves like a ball of matter since two bands are formed on the back screen. However, if we remove this information by making it uncertain again an interference pattern reappears (this is because an observer does not know through which slit the particle went when information about the path it took is removed). Amazingly an interference patterns appears even when the which-slit information is removed in the far future! It is as if the electron knows that in the future the information about which slit it went through will be erased, and decides to act differently in the present moment.

The great Richard Feynman was fond of saying that all of quantum mechanics can be gleaned from carefully thinking through the implications of the double-slit experiment.

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