Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How Quantum Physics Relates to the Awakening Process

Below is an email by Dr. Stanley Sobottka, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Virginia, upon the end of his tenure as Leader of a Yahoo! Group called Open Awareness Study Group. Dr. Sobottka's website is A Course in Consciousness.

The email came my way by my blogosphere friend, psychiatrist, Dr. Colleen Loehr (see her blog A Window is Where the Wall is Absent).

Dr. Sobottka explains in the most basic of term the difference between classical physics and quantum physics and what the latter has to say about consciousness and the awakening process. It is reprinted by permission.
From Dr. Sobottka:

Physics in general, and quantum theory in particular, began as the study of objective reality, i.e., a reality that exists whether or not it is being observed. Classical physics had no problem with this approach. When classical physics proved inadequate to the task of explaining the
results of certain experiments, quantum theory arose. It was spectacularly successful in explaining these results and many more, too.

Then a few physicists began to ask, is this all that quantum theory means--the explanation of experimental results? Does it have any ontological value, i.e., can it tell us what objective reality is, not just what it does? This is what an interpretation of quantum theory is supposed to do, to describe what objective reality is.

So a few physicists worked very hard to come up with an interpretation in terms of an objective reality....and failed. But the failure was that there were too many contenders, not too few, and there was no way to determine which one, if any, was correct. Furthermore, most of them pretend that the quantum wavefunction, which is a probability wave rather than a physical wave, is an objectively real object rather than being simply the mathematical formula that it is.
However, rather than this being cause for despair, it actually can liberate us from the prison of objective reality. As long as we believe that objects are real, we will find it difficult to escape the belief that we are objects, and consequently to feel separate from all other objects. The failure of physicists to find an objective interpretation of quantum theory has the
potential to liberate us from this fatal belief in separation.

So now that we don't have to believe in the existence of separation, what is left? We are free to believe in the absence of separation. Better still, we don't have to leave it to mere belief, we can see that there is no separation. This is where the teaching of nonduality comes in.

There are many statements of nonduality, e.g., consciousness is all there is, love is all there is, there are not two, there is only oneness, etc. These are useful to begin with but the statements themselves don't take us very far. To believe the statements is to make nonduality into a religion rather than accepting it as a teaching.

Instead of belief, what is necessary is a clear, direct seeing of truth. The essence of direct seeing is to see that there is no separate me. If there is no separate me, there is no separation.

How do we see that there is no me? Simply speaking, we just look for the me. If we don't find it, then we look for what-it-is that sees that there is no me.

We might think that then is the true me. In that case, we just take another step back and look for what-it-is that sees that.

We might think that we will have to keep on stepping back forever but that proves not to be the case. Once we see that there is no me, the next step, the step of seeing the witness of no-me, is likely to be the last one because the seeing of the witness likely dissolves the witness, and then there is only pure awareness.

What if we find a me in the first step? The process is the same as above. We step back and see what-it-is that sees the me. If we find the witness of the me, we take another step back and see what-it-is that sees the witness of the me. That seeing will likely dissolve the witness, leaving pure awareness.

Even if we can find no me and no witness of no-me, we might still feel that our awareness is confined to the skull. In that case, we look for what-it-is that sees that awareness is confined to the skull. If we see an awareness that is confined to the skull, we immediately see that what
seems to be confined awareness cannot be true awareness. Again, as we step back and look for what sees this, we might find a witness of no-confined- awareness. Once again, we step back to see what-it-is that sees the witness. In so doing, the witness again dissolves into pure awareness.

Once we see that there is no me, no witness of no-me, and no-confinement, all separation dissolves.

This seeing might have to be repeated many times for it to be a continuing awareness of no separation. It is very helpful to realize that both the apparent me and apparent confinement are just arisings. Since all arisings rapidly come and go, the me and confinement are never permanent, even for a short time. There are many times when there is no me and no confinement but we are not aware of it because we are not at the moment suffering from separation. Consequently, we can save our practice times for the times that we are suffering.

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Your comments are most appreciated!

1 comment:

  1. Todd, Thanks for posting this fascinating email from Dr. Sobottka. Every time I read it there are new insights. I don't know much about physics, but I think it is remarkable that there seem to be convergences between the findings of advanced physics and the deepest spiritual teachings, both ancient and contemporary.


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