Saturday, October 15, 2011
As Above, So Below; The Quantum Origins of Life
This picture has been doing the rounds on Facebook. It’s a great example of the idea of ‘As Above, So Below’, which is a symbolic truth rather than a literal truth. If you were to push the comparison between brain cells and galaxies, it would probably break down fairly quickly. All the same, the pictures are similar and the comparison has deep appeal.
Why? Speaking for myself, it makes me feel connected. It is a Neptunian experience. Why do our brains work like this? It is worth remembering that outer reality is a construct of our brains – space, time, left, right etc – and that includes the brain itself.
This is also why astrology works. The universe out there is just our minds writ large. If you can read it, it not only gives you self-knowledge, it gives you that sense of connection and homecoming. As with the brain/universe metaphor, astrology works on poetic/symbolic truth, so pushing the metaphors in the wrong sort of way, particularly with the literalising methods of science, will cause them to break down.
Strangely, literal truth and symbolic truth connect through astrology and other divination systems. Astrological truth can also be literal truth, such as ‘Given your work situation and the strength of the astrological factors affecting it, you will almost certainly have a new job in 6 months.’ But it doesn’t work the other way around: literal, observable truth doesn’t easily lead to psychological and metaphysical truths, not unless you’re sensitive with it, which is not part of the remit of the scientific method.
So when I read about life having quantum origins, I thought that was about right. The ‘rules’ of consciousness are more similar to the rules of the quantum world than they are to the rules of everyday science. Perhaps you could also talk about the galactic origins of life, in that the ‘rules’ of the galaxy require it to consist of 96% unknowable, unobservable ‘dark’ energy, which is again rather like consciousness in the sense of its predominant ‘Unconscious’.
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So the more science pushes to the extremely large and extremely small, the more it is pushing at boundaries, boundaries between consciousness and matter. The scientific method is based on a hard distinction between inner and outer, on there being a solid, real world ‘out there’ that can be measured. An elementary training in philosophical thinking would make it clear that this outlook is a case of ‘let’s suppose for a moment’. But the undeveloped, the uncivilised human mind wants simplicity and certainty, and mainstream science seems only too happy to provide this.
Particularly with the nano world, it has been clear for a century that we are no longer dealing with a solid, separate, ‘out there’ world. Not just because of its indeterminacy, but because it is known that at this level you can’t separate the observer from the observed. This insight has not been carried through to mainstream science, perhaps because the effect of the observer is not so obvious on an everyday level, and because of its subtlety.
But on the nano level, we are dealing with a place where the connection between matter and consciousness is clear, and where the rigid boundary between ‘subject’ and ‘object’ starts to break down. Quantum Reality has huge philosophical implications that have been explored by some authors, but even after a century have not reached the mainstream in a rigorous way.
They probably never will, if you look at the history of religion. Religions tend to have a mainstream that is sustained by simple, collectively-held certainties, and a mystical heretical fringe composed of individuals who have their own unique relationship with the truth. Science is no different. It has many of the characteristics of religion. One of this year’s Nobel Prize winners discovered a new form of crystal, and had to endure years of ridicule before his ideas were taken seriously. That’s religion for you.