A Psalm for Sunday

What lies beyond SpaceTime is incomprehensible in human terms, but we’re human and can only speak our language.  (Now, we see through a glass darkly). Understanding comes through  parable and metaphor. Two thousand years ago God was described as male, as father. We created God in our image. We haven’t, though, confined or proscribed God to that image. Jesus might now easily describe God as female, our Mother. Better though, for me anyway is,  the description as – the Word existing beyond time.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This always seemed to me inconsistent with Christ’s compassion for all humanity, particularly the lost and the lonely.  It came to me today however that He was signifying that all humanity, that all through His action, is saved. His sacrifice changed the course of history. Nirvana is possible for all of us.

Steven Weinberg, honest atheist

I am interested in the philosophy and beliefs of the great scientists. Einstein, Bohr, Pauli, Schrodinger, Heisenberg. It strikes me that in almost every case they are led to a wonder at the harmony and structure underlying existence. What a refreshing contrast to the childish un-scientific preaching of Dawkins (all religion is “child abuse”).

Speaking at the “Beyond Belief” symposium in 2006 Steven Weinberg (Nobel Prize for his electroweak theory) was quoted as saying  “the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief”. He is an avowed atheist, but since he’s a proper scientist he also said:

“I have to admit that, even when physicists will have gone as ar as they can go, when we have a final theory, we will not have a completely satisfying picture of the world, because we will still be left with the question ‘why?’

Heisenberg’s Certainty Principle

” these relationships .. have been there since the creation of the world”. Heisenberg is of course most famous for his Uncertainty Principle, which states that it is NOT possible for us to know everything. The more certain we are of one factor, then the more uncertain we are of another. (In atomic physics for instance if you know a particle’s position you cannot know it’s momentum etc).

He was though, certain about a structure underlying creation. Here he is in a letter to his sister Edith in 1958:

“I have attempted an as yet-unkown-ascent to the fundamental peak of atomic theory with great efforts during the last five years. And now, with the peak directly ahead of me, the whole terrain of interrelationships in atomic theory is suddenly and clearly spread out before my eyes. That these interrelationships display, in all their mathematical abstraction, an incredible degree of simplicity, is a gift we can only accept humbly. Not even Plato could have believed them to be so beautiful. For these interrelationships cannot have been invented; they have been there since the creation of the world”.

Losing weight

Mass and energy are different aspects of the same thing. We know that since e(nergy) = m(ass) x the speed of light squared (a constant). We also know that Conservation of Energy is one of the other fundamental laws of physics. Energy is never lost, but just changes wavelength (light to heat etc). This does NOT though apply to mass. Mass is NOT conserved.

How can this be? What does it mean in our struggle to understand meaning and existence? We can lose weight, but not energy. What happens to the weightless energy?

Certainly I think materialism isn’t the way forward. Should we focus on being – energistic. I’m told that Hindus think in terms of vibrations, auras and energy flows within their cycles of transformations. Is this where angels live – energy dissociated from mass. Any thoughts?

What Wolfgang Pauli Believed

Pauli was – with Bohr, Planck, Heinsenberg, Dirac et al – a pioneer of quantum mechanics and Nobel Prize winner for Physics for discovery of the exclusion principle. He could equally have won the prize for his discovery of the Neutrino or of PCT Symmetry.

He is less known for his work on the philosophy of knowledge and for his work with Carl Jung on the links between physics and the psyche. They wrote papers together (in some of which Einstein participated) , which were only discovered and published in the 1970’s and also co-authored the book “The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche”.

In 1955 he gave a lecture at the University of Hamburg, “Science and Western Thought”, which he later described in analysis to Jung and to Niels Bohr. His interest throughout his life was to reconcile the “rational-critical” (Western Science) with the “mystical-irrational” (Eastern thought), to try to create a single framework of the physical and psychical.

“it is precisely by these means, that the scientist can more or less consciously tread a path of inner salvation. Slowly then develop inner images, fantasies or ideas, compensatory to the external situation”.

His belief in complementarity was fundamental; not just in physics but in general. For him and Jung the conscious and unconscious are mirrors of each other, and an understanding built solely out of one or the other is necessarily incomplete. (What Pauli sometimes referred to – witheringly – as “not even wrong”). This extended to his views on wider existence. He had an abiding interest in the views of Kepler and Newton – scientists working out of the alchemy tradition – “as above, so below” whose physical discoveries were incidental (to them) in their pursuit of the truth of God.

Pauli, with many great creative scientists, was a polymath. His scientific credentials are impeccable. His god-father was Ernst Mach and he was mentored by Arnold Sommerfeld. Albert Einstein proposed him for his Nobel Prize. He was a lifelong friend and collaborator of Bohr, Heisenberg and Dirac. All of his inquiring brought him to a concrete sense of the motive force and nature that lies beyond the physical or material world. He had a strong sense of humanity and humour, dealing gently with those of other or non-belief. For instance in response to Paul Dirac (who famously could not tolerate the religions and their politics) he quipped – “Well, I’d say that also our friend Dirac has got a religion and the first commandment of this religion is ‘God does not exist and Paul Dirac is his prophet'”.

Here he is on the nature of knowledge itself:

“the natural laws are of such a kind that every bit of knowledge gained from a measurement must be paid for by the loss of other, complementary items of knowledge.. the process of knowing is connected with the religious experience of transmutation undergone by him who acquires knowledge. This connection can only be comprehended through symbols which both imaginatively express the emotional aspect of the experience and stand in vital relationship to the sum total of contemporary knowledge and the actual process of cognition. Just because in our times the possibility of such symbolism has become an alien idea, it may be considered especially interesting to examine another age to which the concepts of what is now called classical scientific mechanics were foreign but which permits us to prove the existence of a symbol that had, simultaneously, a religious and a scientific function.”

Walter Heisenberg wrote of Pauli’s beliefs (in his book – “Across the Frontiers”)

“Pauli.. points out that even Kepler’s conversion to the Copernican theory, which marks the beginning of modern natural science, was decisively affected by certain primeval images or archetypes. He cites this passage from Kepler’s Mysterium Cosmographicum: “The image of the triune God is in the sphere, namely of the Father in the centre, of the Son in the outer surface and of the Holy Ghost in the uniformity of connection between point and intervening space or surroundings”.

Continuing to:

“Pauli considers, moreover, that Kepler’s symbol illustrates quite generally the attitude from which contemporary science has arisen. “From an inner centre, the mind seems to move outward in a sort of extraversion into the physical world, in which all happenings are assumed to be automatic, so that the spirit serenely encompasses this physical world , as it were, with its Ideas.” Thus the natural science of the modern era involves a Christian elaboration of the “lucid mysticism” of Plato, in which the unitary ground of spirit and matter is sought in the primeval images, and in which understanding has found its place in its various degrees and kinds, even to knowledge of the word of God.”

Max Planck, the Constant Believer

 

“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.”

Max Planck was the originator of Quantum Mechanics, and gives his name to the Planck Constant, relating energy to frequency and to the Planck Length – the smallest measure of length, below which nothing is knowable. He was a committed Lutheran; like many great scientists, one who questioned the nature of God’s knowability – but not God’s existence. “I am a deeply religious man, but that does not necessarily mean that I believe in a Christian God or even a personal God”.

He took issue with Pauli, Heisenberg and Bohr on their “Copenhagen Interpretation” of the results of quantum mechanical experiments – holding that eventually all matter would be found simply to be wave form. Odd, of course – given that it was his work that showed that photons behave as packets or quanta (it had much earlier been shown that light behaves as a wave). He eventually was proved wrong and the duality of existence at the fundamental level – both material and immaterial has now been proved.

He held that science was capable of answering only so much:

“Religion belongs to that realm that is inviolable before the law of causation and, therefore closed to science”.

And again:

“We might naturally assume that one of the achievements of science would have been to restrict belief in miracle. But it does not seem to do so.”

He most certainly would not have tolerated the current lazy assumption that in some way science and religion are incompatible or opposed to each other:

“There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony. And indeed it was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls”.

And:

“the movement of atheists, which declares religion to be just a deliberate illusion, … eagerly makes use of progressive scientific knowledge. It is the steady, ongoing, never-slackening fight against scepticism and dogmatism, which religion and science wage together . The directing watchword in this struggle runs from the remotest past to the distant future: ‘On to God’”.

Ceilidh in the Clouds

 

We danced as we gathered

Fresh sublimation of triple-point stars

To the covalent ceildh of clouds

Skylark ascending acceleration of joy

Heel-toe the tapping

magnetic the tempo

Crescendo the cresting

Till..

Swooping tangiential

Pregnant with knowing

Out flowing in ozone of love

 

Raining, tip-tripping we’re falling, soft folding away

Each in our droplet, clear-crystalline skin

Singly we sing, conjoint in orchestral skein

And tip-tap-tip slip-slopping

Hoh o hoh tippie-toe flowing

Torrents a-gurgling, giggle-atumbling

Drenching dry frictional sand

Glisten to demara-gold strand

Irresistably streaming

Mixing dust into lusting

Slaking memory with fire

Returning we quaff

As we laugh.

 

Phlebas the Phoenician, reconstituted

Crying was pulled from the deep sea swell

Wrenched through world enough, and time

(Prophecy lost)

To act again on the stage of her youth

Through this whirlpool ent’ring the clouds

(trailing glory)

Through tongues of fire she arose

(To be won)

 

The journey of water starts as molecule – HoH – evaporated from that sea, arising to form clouds, alive with brownian motion. On the one hand water represents eternal bonding – with the hydrogen and the oxygen atoms held-together through their covalent cloud of electrons through endless cycles of rebirth. A trinity. On the other – they associate variously – in droplets falling, through the rivers to the ocean. Together water retains a memory. (Mixing memory and desire). Water has a triple-point – at 0.1 degrees celcius at atmospheric pressure – where it’s different forms – solid, liquid and gas – are in equilibrium. The phase-change between ice and gas without passing through the liquid state – is called sublimation. An image of resurrection.