Dixi et salvavi animam meam

(I spoke and thus saved my soul)

Wolgang Pauli in a letter to a fellow physicist, on pressure to comply with the atheistic positivism of his god-father Max Born:

“Many physicists and historians have of course advised me to break the connection between my Kepler essay and C.G. Jung… I am indifferent to the astral cult of Jung’s circle, but that, i.e., this dream symbolism, makes an impact! The book itself is a fateful “synchronicity” and must remain one. I am sure that defiance would have unhappy consquences as far as I am concerned. Dixi et salvavi animam meam!”

 

Wolgang Pauli, Nobel prize for discovery of the exclusion principle, discoverer of the neutrino and father of supersymmetry.

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.”

Emergence and Entropy

Science has been immensely successful in revealing the workings of the physical world. Understanding has come from dissection of systems, that is to say by reductionism. If you isolate small pieces fragments – smashing atoms, deconstructing ecosystems – then  you can test, experiment and apply mathematics.

Well and good, as far as it goes; but what of the understanding of complexity, where emergent properties arise from interactions – to form new entity? Society, ecosystems, intelligence, consciousness. Reductionism simply doesn’t help. Indeed it is becomes a little dangerous, because of false conclusions that it reaches about systems.

Think of a colony of ants, each of which participates in a larger society – which has new (emergent) properties, indeed a separate life. The individual cells in our body have their own life – but this does not speak at all to the life of our whole being.

The Universe is by definition a single system – with no known external absolute values and where all is therefore self-defining and relative. Within this we pretty much accept the laws of thermodynamics and mechanics – two of which state that “entropy always increases” (the Universe becomes increasingly disordered) and “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” (we find time and again that forces balance).

I’ve always been struck by the apparent illogic of the first – since it certainly appears to me that the material world is increasingly ordered. I wonder if the clue is in emergent systems. Perhaps whilst the Universe at the simple level is becoming increasingly disordered – there is a balancing increase in order arising as complex emergent systems arise.

I don’t suppose that reductionism can answer this, or the key mathematical tools apply. I wonder if we need a new approach to our investigation of the physical world – to complement the traditional toolset?

Which reality shall we create?

So quantum physics shows that it is observation that crystallises out the particular universe we inhabit. The material is in the past. We are working as observation engines at the immaterial present creating reality.

Quite a responsibility.

Which reality should we create and inhabit?

Bertrand Russell’s.. “all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins”

or…

Charles Wesley’s .. “lost in wonder, love and praise”

Russell’s despair was born before the science which tells us..

that the choice is ours

After Linear Time: Anthropological Ruminations on the Afterlife

A review of “After Linear Time: Anthropological Ruminations on the Afterlife” an article by Phoebe Cottam UCL

At heart this essay questions the basis and nature of anthropology. This academic discipline is apparently caught up with a desire to be seen as a formal science – however “that anthropology is a science is a significant point of contention within the discipline”. Certainly within UCL there appears to a striving to prove anthropology’s objectivity. This is reflected in the seminar on discussion on “afterlife” which prompts this essay response. The seminar appears to have commenced with a demand to disavow any belief in afterlife and to consign any non-materialist beliefs to the “observed” and presumably inferior races and civilisations.

Cottam asserts that anthropology is a science – “firstly for its positioning within an ontology I call scientific, secondly for its commitment to objectivism”. The first half of this statement appears to be a statement of an axiom and the second to anchor the study of humans within objectivity.

The essay quotes Wallach and Schmidt (Repairing Plato’s Life Boat with Okham’s Razor) with their definition of scientific worldview comprising:

– The atomist hypothesis
– The mechanistic hypothesis
– The materialist hypothesis
– The time irreversibility hypothesis

The rest of the article questions the earlier assertion that anthropology is a science, essentially by attacking the latter time irreversibility hypothesis, which is a fundamental assumption of both mechanism and materialism. Anthropologists find many societies have a concept of co-existing linear and non-linear time , for instance “the two forms the Maya imposed on their past, historical time and cosmic time”. Essentially if existence transcends linear time then a fundamental tenet of the ontology of science is undermined. This leads to the essays’ eventual conclusion that there is a belief system operating within anthropology that wishes to suppress other beliefs – “we cannot presume an anthropological discussion of the afterlife to be apolitical”.

The essay might equally have made a significant evidence based challenge to each of the three other pillars of the scientific-materialist paradigm. However at heart it is pure logic that undermines any claim by anthropology to be a science. A study of man by man must always involve the subject with the object, and it has been proved within mathematics (Godel’s incompleteness theorem) and science (Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle) that because of an infinity of self-referential feedback loops that all “knowledge” is unprovable and can ultimately be traced back to an original axiom or belief.

As Douglas Hofstadter puts it (Godel Escher Bach) “By the way, in passing, it is interesting to note that all results essentially dependent on the fusion of subject and object have been limitative results. In addition to the limitative Theorums [eg Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorum], there is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which says that measuring one quantity renders impossible the simultaneous measurement of a related quantity. I don’t know why all these results are limitative. Make of it what you will.”

Faith is at the core of all, and we would do well to step outside the edifice of thought that it gives birth to, and openly acknowledge our intrinsic beliefs. Atheist materialists simply start from that as an axiom (see above for the 4 hypotheses underlying the scientific worldview). Their dishonesty is to pretend that the resultant logic chain somehow proves the initial premise. Other great religions at least simply state their belief as just that – belief.

A truth to set us free

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

We’re good at How.. (what about whence, whither and why?)

Carl Jung gave us spirit as balance to material, the collective unconscious and synchronicity.

Niels Bohr gave us quantum uncertainty – with observation (call that knowledge) crystallising out our reality from the infinity of potential.

Manuel de Landa gave us nonlinear history. Complex systems combining to form new emergeant realities.

Martin Buber gave us spiritual existentialism. I-thou forming a connection between our spirit and other, as opposed to I-It of materialism which is essentially connecting only with ourselves via our projection on to the material world.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin gave evolution awakening consciousness – from the big bang (physical evolution) formation of atoms (chemical evolution), complexification into life (biological evolution) and now arrival of the noosphere (evolution of ideas).  He believed that the culmination of conscious awakening will be the ultimate connection between us all with shared ideas – the Omega Point.

Wilfred Bion gave ideas existing before the structures to think them.

Albert Einstein gave us the integration of space and time into four dimensional space-time. There have been experiments that show backward causality, with current observation crystallising out past reality from quantum possibility – to make the current observation true.

Whence, Whither and Why?  

Could it not be that God is an emergeant property of the evolving complex system of ideas. The evolution of the material world now supports consciousness that can witness these ideas. If we awoke from Jung’s universal (un)conscious to a shared universal consciousness then we would be at de Chardin’s Omega Point. Consciousness arising from intense connection (the I-thou of Buber’s existentialism). Consciousness, the thinking of pre-existing ideas. Knowledge, witness – observation – which crystalises out reality from the realm of quantum potential. If God were ultimate truth (the word existing beyond time), then end-point of the evolution of ideas and their combination into an emergent property then that observation could perhaps be potent enough to have caused the evolution of the universe to lead to God itself. From our individual standpoint – we would see God as an emergent property of the complex sytems that evolution has thrown up. Cosmology, quantum mechanics and particle physics are discovering the mechanisms through which all this happens. The question – how? is being answered in increasing detail. How?, however, bears no relation to the questions whence?  whither?  or when?

If God, our ultimate shared connection through knowledge, has the power to create itself – perhaps whence? whither? have the same answer or solution.

Of course, that would still leaves the question – why? The answer will not come from the material side of existence, but from the spiritual. de Chardin’s answer is  – love – the primal force, and it’s expression through a physical world. We can experience this, and our most intense connection (I-thou) individually and every day – even though that is still experienced “through a glass darkly”.