Science and Mysticism

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Science and Mysticism

More than once, people have commented about some of the “far out” experiences I write about in my book, "An Uncommon Cancer Journey." I have always accepted these experiences without question. But recently I have thought about these experiences afresh in light of new scientific discoveries. It appears that quantum physics may provide some possible explanations.
More than once, people have commented about some of the “far out” experiences I write about in my book, "An Uncommon Cancer Journey." I have always accepted these experiences without question. But recently I have thought about these experiences afresh in light of new scientific discoveries. It appears that quantum physics may provide some possible explanations.

Skepticism

More than once, people have commented about some of the “far-out” experiences I write about in my book, An Uncommon Cancer Journey. They are referring to stories like the one about the English psychic and how she identified spirits hovering around Jack, and later in our journey, our meeting with Dr. Lang, who left his body in 1937 but continued his healing profession through the medium of George Chapman. These are just two of the several “other-worldly” experiences we had at that time. People who know me as a relatively grounded and reliable person, especially those who know my technical background, sometimes ask if I have any reservations or doubts about these experiences.

While my background in science included a small amount of laboratory research, most of my work involved the development of criteria and the evaluation of science leading to public policy decisions. In the process, I needed to evaluate the validity and relevance of other people’s scientific studies to see if they would merit inclusion in the development of well supported criteria. Because of that I have learned to be discriminating, discarding conclusions based on studies with insufficient controls, or expressing caveats in cases where the evidence was not solid.

Yet, when people express skepticism about the episodes I report in my book, I reply that I never questioned their validity, either at the time or afterward. I believe in the fundamental truth of these experiences. For example, after the session with the German healer, Frau Anni Ziemer, the fact that I felt a column of “energy” leading up from the top of Jack’s head was real. Exactly what I felt, I’m not sure, but I am sure that I felt it. Or another time, Gaye Muir’s messages communicated from the sprits hovering around Jack was also an experience I accepted wholeheartedly because of the plausibility and the remarkable authenticity of the comments from these individuals. I also accepted our encounter with Dr. Lang without question, including his later visitation in a dream.

Is my Acceptance Reasonable?

I recognize that these incidents are highly unusual in our everyday world, and I’m also aware that once Jack was completely well and our life had returned to a happy normality, these experiences stopped. There have been no more of them in my life for almost 30 years.

Until recently, I have just accepted the fact of these and other unusual events as an important part of our healing journey. But lately I realize that it’s not surprising for people to question them, especially knowing my background in science. For years, people have made jokes about psychics and séances, and I’m sure I took part in the humor. Professional skeptics like the Amazing Randi would probably have some kind of explanation for every one of the events I recount. Committed atheists scoff at the idea of spiritual healing, just as they ridicule the practice of so many Americans of going to church, saying prayers, and believing in angels.

After Jack and I returned from Europe in 1986, we heard about a couple in Baltimore named Ambrose and Olga Worrall, who were spiritual healers. People came to them from all over the world. By that time, Ambrose had died, and unfortunately we never met Olga. Ambrose was an engineer, and he felt no conflict between his technical/scientific work and his work as a spiritual healer. He believed that it was all in perfect scientific order, but that we just didn’t yet understand the science that made it possible.

Enter Quantum Physics

CERN tunnel
Giant particle colliding tunnel at CERN

Recent developments in quantum physics may have put us on the road to understanding this kind of science. There has been a lot of interest in the recent discovery of the Higgs boson (particle), named after Peter Higgs, one of the scientists who predicted its existence. This discovery supports the existence of a Higgs field, an invisible energy field present throughout the universe, which explains the existence of matter, particles endowed with mass. Because this field is assumed to have been present at the birth of the universe, it is sometimes referred to as the “God particle” due to its relevance to the contemporary creation story, the Big Bang.

Is the Universe Unstable?

Simulated Higgs boson
Simulation showing the Higgs boson produced after two protons collide. Credit: CERN

Scientists debate the implications of the Higgs boson and what the Higgs field may mean for the survival of the universe. Stephen Hawking warns of a doomsday scenario where fluctuations in the Higgs field could create an expanding vacuum, which would suck up and wipe out the whole universe. Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist at the Fermi Laboratory in Illinois, states that we in space-time are on the edge between a stable and an unstable universe, but the collapse would probably occur billions of years from now. However, he adds that this eventuality may already have happened and the vacuum may be on its way at the speed of light, so there wouldn’t be any warning. Regardless, he advises us not to sell our houses and keep on paying our taxes [Stephen Hawking says ‘God Particle’ could wipe us out.]

Evolving Theories

Over recent decades, quantum theories have come into favor and are then superseded by new discoveries and new theories. At this time, physicists agree that all particles and their interactions are best described by the Standard Model, but unlike its predecessors, it too is incomplete and may be superseded by a more fundamental theory. Or we just need to discover the next particle. Or a recently proposed answer may be “supersymmetry,” in which every particle has a supersymmetric partner, which would help stabilize the universe. Evidently the Theory of Everything it is yet to come.

Non-Locality

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of contemporary quantum theory is the idea of non-locality. Austrian physicist Anton Zeilinger and his colleagues have pioneered experiments in quantum teleportation, meaning that the exact state of an atom or photon can be transmitted instantly from one location to another. Quantum bits or “qubits” can be communicated or teleported without having to move a physical particle. In a 2007 article in the journal Nature, Zeilinger and his colleagues say:

Most working scientists hold fast to the concept of ‘realism’—a viewpoint according to which an external reality exists independent of observation. But quantum physics has shattered some of our cornerstone beliefs. According to Bell’s theorem, any theory that is based on the joint assumption of realism and locality (meaning that local events cannot be affected by actions in space-like separated regions) is at variance with certain quantum predictions. Experiments with entangled pairs of particles have amply confirmed these quantum predictions, thus rendering local realistic theories untenable. Maintaining realism as a fundamental concept would therefore necessitate the introduction of ‘spooky’ actions that defy locality…

– Gröblacher et al., Nature 446, 871-875.

Spooky as the New Normal

The concept of quantum teleportation could explain the success that some experimenters have found with distant healing through prayer. It could explain Frau Anni’s request that Jack “tune in” to their communication of absent healing at noon every day. It could also explain the ability of shamans and other spiritual healers to inhabit two worlds simultaneously: that of the patient in front of them and that of the mystical.

Hubble view of halo around star
Hubble view of an expanding halo around the star V838 Mon.

It seems to me that within the vast, invisible Higgs field, if it is powerful enough to influence the survival or collapse the universe, all kinds of actions hitherto considered “spooky” could transpire. If quantum physics has shattered our traditional concepts of what is real and what is not, the otherworldly abilities of the English psychic and the return of Dr. Lang would be, as Ambrose Worrall might say, perfectly reasonable. They were, at that time and even in retrospect, perfectly reasonable to me, without knowing anything about quantum physics.

Being Thrown Open

And if indeed the universe is unstable, and our traditional concepts of space and time are illusory, or at least much too limited, anything can happen and anything is possible. Perhaps the key to existential living in today’s seemingly real world is to be open to all possibilities. During the challenging times of Jack’s illness the parameters of our consciousness were thrown wide open, as are those of many people when they are going through crises.

We don’t need quantum physics to tell us about the sudden presence of mystery when faced with death. The ancient Celts spoke of the “thin times” when the veil between the worlds of spirit and matter becomes porous and we are allowed glimpses into a more profound reality. This is why I am drawn in my later years to mysticism. Quantum physics may be leading us in that direction, but it is reassuring to know that the ancients were already there.

I prefer to view the world that author and philosopher Philip Simmons describes as “vitally charged with meaning.” In my life as a traditional scientist, homeowner, taxpayer, and operator of a motor vehicle, I am stuck with the conventional concept of reality. But in my spiritual life I can be open to the profound meaning that lies under, above, and alongside my rational perceptions.

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6 thoughts on “Science and Mysticism”

  1. Alice, I started meditating almost 40 years ago, strictly for the physical benefits, ignoring my meditations as a Spiritual practice. I’ve come to look for and celebrate the experiences that remind me I am part of something way more vast than this one body, mind, and lifetime. Dr. Joe Dispenza in his latest books, “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to lose your mind and create a new one”, and” You Are The Placebo” give us the science behind re-creation in the Quantum Field. Life is so magical and awe inspiring when we allow ourselves to go beyond our 5 senses. I love your willingness to suspend limitations of thought to embrace the larger than personal knowing that resides in your heart. I loved your vulnerability in your book. I loved Jack and I love you. Sharon Gist

    1. Sharon, a naturopathic physician I know recently recommended the book you mentioned, “You Are The Placebo.” Sounds like good reading and I may add it to my stack. I love the way that in these double-blind studies the experimenters work so diligently to get any influence of the mind completely out of the picture. So it must say something about the power of the mind or they wouldn’t work so hard to get rid of it.

  2. Ram Dass makes the distinction between healing and curing. Healing is what brings us closer to God.
    Curing means bringing you back to what you were — but if what you were wasn’t closer to God, then you haven’t been healed.
    Somehow when I read through your Science and Mysticism article, I thought of what Dass said, maybe because I was reading both of your writings today.

    I have to read your new addition again – it is dense for me who has heard all those words but certainly don’t know what they mean!

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