Quantum Zen

Recently, reading a New York Times article entitled, “Black Holes May Hide a Mind Bending Secret About Our Universe” (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/10/science/black-holes-cosmology-hologram.html), I was struck by the similarities between my last kensho (enlightenment or seeing into one’s own true nature) experience and reality as described by quantum mechanics and the holographic universe.

As I thought about this possible quantum connection, I realized that it might also be relevant to spiritual practices of indigenous shamans, Wiccan, and Neo-Pagans. And, important to me personally, it might tie into my own shamanic experiences and abilities.In this post, I discuss the possible Zen Connection. For the underlying science involved, see my blog post,  https://darrellyardley.com/quantum-connection-science/.

My Zen kensho experience occured in my last in-person sesshin, eight or so years ago. Sesshins are intense Zen meditation retreats. I was in a lot of pain and had been from the second day. It was now day four and during one of the afternoon meditation sessions, all my pain just dropped away, and I was in this place/space of no-thingness, emptiness, peacefulness, and it was me—except there was no ‘me;’ just presence. This oceanic experience lasted, I am guessing, about 15 minutes. After that, the pain came back, and I decided I was through with this sesshin. I’ve regretted not sticking it out and not discussing my experience with Roshi (teacher).

As I read the NYT’s article, I thought to myself, if we could directly experience quantum reality, would that be similar to my kensho experience? I remembered F. Capra’s book, The Tao of Physics, which had really resonated with me, and his discussing the similarities between quantum mechanics and Eastern mysticism, which included Buddhism, Taoism, and Zen. My intuition tells me that these similarities also include other mystic traditions from indigenous shamanism to even Abrahamic-based ones: Think, Christian theologian and mystic, Paul Tillich’s, God as the ‘ground of being;’ or the writings and teachings in the Jewish Kabbalah, and Alfred North Whitehead’s Process Theology.

In the quantum reality there is no ‘thingness’. There are energy waves and information, the latter being the way the energy is organized. Subatomic ‘particles’ can be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. They are waves or particles, until and depending on how they are measured. A cat can be both alive and dead at the same time, until you see it. Energy is conserved; never lost, only changed. So too information. And then there is entanglement: paired electrons, which spin in opposite directions. If you change one of the pair’s spin, its entangled electron sister will simultaneously reverse its direction of spin. Then, there may be more than four dimensions, anywhere from 9 to 23, depending on which version of string theory you read. The universe and everything in it is a hologram, like a can of soup with the information of the ingredients on the outside.

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