Dave’s question: you seem to mention consciousness only at the very end. Is that right, or do you
weave it into the text throughout, or intermittently?
Response: Consciousness appears only at the end, though definitely as more than just a note. The spiritual implications of quantum physics, on the other hand, appear much earlier, starting with Chapter 18.
Let me try to explain, however briefly and inadequately.
The formalism of quantum physics, like that of classical physics, provides us with calculational tools.
While some of the mathematical expressions of classical physics allow themselves to be reified, this sleight-of-hand (the transmogrification of calculational devices into physical entities, mechanisms, or processes) no longer works in quantum physics.
If one nevertheless tries to do this, one ends up asking a number of pseudo-questions, and one makes it strictly impossible to perceive the ontological implications of the only testable aspect of quantum physics. One attempt to provide (gratuitous) answers to those pseudo-questions is to drag in consciousness (much like the deus ex machina of old).
The formalism of quantum physics is a probability calculus. On the basis of the outcomes of actual measurements, it allows us to calculate the probabilities of the possible outcomes of measurements that may be (or might have been) made. In other words, it correlates measurement outcomes statistically.
If one analyzes the way quantum mechanics assigns probabilities, and if one doesn’t throw up a smokescreen by dragging in consciousness or trying to reify a probability algorithm, one arrives at the following conclusions:
- Considered by themselves, out of relation to anything else, the so-called ultimate constituents of matter are identical in the strong sense of numerical identity. They are one and the same thing. I call it Ultimate Reality and abbreviate it to UR (mindful of the fact that the prefix “ur-” carries the sense of “original”).
- By entering into spatial relations with itself, UR creates both matter and space, for space is the totality of existing spatial relations, while matter is the corresponding apparent multitude of relata — “apparent” because the relations are self–relations.
- Reality is structured from the top down, by a self-differentiation of UR that does not bottom out. If we conceptually partition the world into smaller and smaller regions, we reach a point where the distinctions we make between regions no longer correspond to anything in the physical world, and if we go on dividing material objects, they cease to be distinct.
What (in the context of physics) I call a materialistic framework of thought is one that models reality from the bottom up. What (in the same context) I call a spiritual framework is one that models reality from the top down.
This has nothing to do with consciousness BUT it makes it possible to anchor not only consciousness but also quality and value in the very heart of reality, as aspects of UR.
Within a bottom-up framework of thought, what ultimately exists is a multitude of entities (atoms, fundamental particles, spacetime points, you name them) without intrinsic quality or value. In many traditions this multiplicity is fittingly referred to as “dust.” In such a framework it is obviously hard to give a non-reductive account of quality and value.
In a top-down framework, on the other hand, we can invoke the Vedantic formula UR = Sachchidananda, according to which UR relates to the world (its manifestation) as the substance (sat) that constitutes it, as the consciousness (chit) that contains it, and as an infinite quality/delight that expresses and experiences itself in it.
There is much more that begins to make sense. For one thing, the process by which UR enters into spatial relations with itself can now be understood as the transition from the primary poise (vijnana) to the secondary poise (prajnana) of the supermind, to use Sri Aurobindo’s terminology. For another, the laws of physics can be seen as preconditions of the possibility of an evolutionary manifestation of Sachchidananda. If UR wants to go through a cycle of involution and evolution, they have to be precisely what they are.