Thursday, March 7, 2013

What Do We Know?

"You don't know much," said the Duchess; "and that's a fact."

Today is Thursday, March 7, 2013.  And that's a fact, but only if you agree that such a thing as time exists. 

When the movie, What the Bleep Do We Know? came out in 2004, the public was treated to a very entertaining statement of the interconnections between quantum physics and consciousness.  The ideas presented in the film ran counter to what many of us had assumed was "common sense."  Since then, I have done a lot of reading on the subject, and have come away with the idea that it's best, after all, to keep an open mind, because what we think of as scientific fact may later be proven false.

One of the ideas in the film was the notion that the universe is constructed from thought, rather than from substance.  Another idea that quantum physicists have entertained for some time now is that so-called "empty space" is not actually empty.  You may have seen the articles not too long ago stating that scientists think they have proven the existence of a subatomic particle known as Higgs boson, also popularly known as the "God particle."   A third idea presented in the film is that what we have always called "solid matter" is not actually solid.  In fact, electrons are popping in and out of existence all the time, and at this point, the scientists don't know where they go or come back from.  Another idea is that our beliefs about ourselves actually create who we are and our circumstances in life.  One last idea: peptides manufactured in the brain are responsible for the body's reaction to our emotions.

In many ways, ancient spiritual traditions have always know these things.  They just don't express them the same way, nor do they go into detail about the mechanism.  That's where science helps out.  It's important to remember, though, that just because we can explain how something happens, that doesn't mean we know why. 

A couple of books that came out around that same time have given us a lot of information about something we thought we knew a lot about: water.  In his book, Your Body's Many Cries for Water: You're Not Sick; You're Thirsty.  Don't Treat Thirst with Medication!  (2008), Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, M.D., says that water is the cure for a laundry list of modern ailments.  In The Hidden Messages in Water  (2004), Masaru Emoto says that human consciousness can affect the molecular structure of water.  The pictures in his book are truly compelling.  In fact, Emoto's ideas were incorporated into the movie mentioned above.

A book that's causing a stir right now is Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife (2012), by Eben Alexander, M.D.  For those of us who believe in the afterlife, this was not groundbreaking information.  However, I did find it extremely interesting to realize how shocked this doctor was when he evaluated his inner experience, because it presented him with information that directly contradicted everything he and other neurosurgeons "know" about our physical brains and how they work, as well as how the "mind" works.  My hat is off to this fellow, who took the time and made the effort to check out this information, rather than dismiss it out of hand.  

Getting back to the idea that what we think of as "common sense" is not always the truth of the matter, I recall reading one of Gary Zukav's early books published in 1984, called The Dancing Wu Li Masters An Overview of the New Physics.  In spite of the strange title, the book really was about the "new physics" and the fact that what quantum physicists have learned about the world is what ancient spiritual traditions have been saying  all along.   Zukav did a great job of making physics intelligible, in a basic sense, for everyday readers.  I have to say, though, that the subject matter is at the very top of my range of comprehension.  

One idea that stuck with me, though, was that when Albert Einstein expressed his Theory of Relativity, he had to do "thought experiments," since the distances necessary to prove his theory were too vast for humankind to travel in one lifetime, and the speeds necessary are impossible for human beings to achieve, at least, for now.  When Einstein ran through situations in his head, he noticed that an analogous situation here on earth would yield results that fit with our current idea of "common sense," but when he applied his theory to a situation where someone or something travels at Light Speed or faster over a vast distance, the results seemed to defy that same "common sense."  Einstein looked at the math: yes that was what it was saying.    

When I read this, I remember thinking that most people would look at the math and then look at the results and say, "The math must be wrong."  After all, how easy it would be to make a mistake in the kind of calculations Einstein was doing!   I realized that Einstein's reaction (No, the math is right.  Common sense is wrong.) was a measure of his mathematical genius.  A friend of mine once told me his definition of a great mathematician: a person who can express what happens in real life in terms of a mathematical statement, or on the flip side, a person who can look at a mathematical statement and figure out how a situation will play out in real life on the basis of the math.

In his most recent books, Fractal Time (2010) and Deep Truth (2012), Gregg Braden talks about some very recent discoveries of human-made structures that seem to predate the Pyramids of Egypt.  He says that these discoveries will blow away everything we think we know about how long we think modern human beings have been on earth, and our notions of the time that we call "prehistory."    The book, Ancient Egypt: 39,000 B.C.E., The History, Technology, and Philosophy of Civilization X (2010), by Edward F. Malkowski, goes into great detail about who might actually have built the Pyramids, and his conclusion is similar to Braden's:  what we think of as "civilization" existed much earlier than we can imagine, and that the reason we cannot find any historical records from any civilizations that might have existed in what we call "prehistory" is that they were in all probability destroyed in some sort of cataclysm that destroyed much of the earth and most - but not all - of its inhabitants.  Both authors are suggesting that the earth may be due for another cataclysm at some point, and that it may be wise to try to save as much of our heard-earned knowledge as possible in a form that could withstand whatever may take place, for the benefit of those who may survive.  

So what do we "know"?  Perhaps the Duchess was right: not much.  :-)

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