The Spiritual Universe

What do we mean by the soul? This word that so often enters our lives, and with such deeply implied meaning, however, remains a mystery when we attempt to define it. Solving this mystery is the goal of this book! However, while few of us doubt we live in a physical universe, we rarely stop to think we also live in spiritual universe. How does spirit exist in this universe? Does it fill a volume of space? Does it persist through time? What is this spirit? Is it the same as the soul? Can science help to define spirit and soul? To answer these questions, and there are many more we shall be asking, one needs to go back in time and set a foundation for inquiry. In part I we do just this. Herein we look at many soulful questions as we ponder our spiritual existence. It helps to know that ancient minds, possibly wiser minds, and deep-thinking minds from the dawn of early Greek civilization attempted to define the soul, the self, the spirit, and their relationship with the physical universe. However, as we shall see, a problem arises as we attempt to follow our Greek forebears in their defining efforts--namely we may be answering the wrong questions! So let us see how we came to consider the biggest mystery facing all of us--the mortality of individual life and the survival of something so mysterious and yet so much felt by each of us.

I'm not the first nor the only physicist/philosopher to speculate about the issue of the soul's existence and its seemingly precarious, mysterious, and subtle relationship with the energy and matter of our bodies. As we shall see, Aristotle and Plato also worried about its existence. Aristotle saw the soul as a subtle substance; one that presumably would vanish when the body vanished in much the same way that the sharpness of a knife would vanish when it was melted down in a furnace. Plato, on the other hand, while sharing a somewhat similar view--not surprisingly since after all Plato was Aristotle's mentor--in that he also saw the soul as a substance, albeit, a non-physical one, which was eternal, idea-like, and capable of existing beyond the body.

Where does modern science and technology stand in this debate? Can today's physics and computer technology provide us with the hope of eternal life? Set aside this question for the moment and consider how an answer to it might change our lifestyles.

Have we lost our souls to modern technological life?

We live the good life. Yes, indeed. We are better fed, more protected, and bathed in the light and luxury of countless new technical achievements springing up everyday, at least in the Western world. In the so-called third world countries, the good life of material wealth may be absent, but if all goes as planned by ideal altruistic ruling and governing forces, soon the whole world will enjoy the Western-like material wealth.

Many feel we are approaching utopia, living longer and perhaps with the aid of science and technology able to enjoy longer and more fruitful lives. The subject of life-extension through cryogenically storage (literally freezing) of deceased beings until science reaches the understanding and technology to resurrect the dead is becoming more popular. Although modern medicine promises us longer life and the prospect even of living forever as perhaps programs in a computer or as cryogenically frozen heads, I think few of us take heart from this. Consider this: upon resurrection, just what or who would be resurrected?

As we invest our machines with greater apparent intelligence, a gnawing question arises. Are we indeed in danger of losing our souls only to be replaced by modern artificial intelligent conveniences? Some scientists believe our souls are nothing but artificial intelligence devices--sophisticated wetware computer programs--nothing more and nothing less. Other scientists believe we will find our souls in the minuscule interactions of atoms and molecules that ultimately fuel the activity of human biological functioning. And to other scientists, possibly like myself, the soul remains a very big mystery not to be confined to the folds of flesh we call our human bodies; yet at the same time is it necessary that it should be found there? Where else should we look?

Indeed how should I, as a scientist, look for scientific proof of the soul? My physics knowledge is both a gift and a curse in so far as it is needed to define the spiritual universe and its agent, the soul. The gift is that I see, objectively, how much of the physical universe works. That perspective gives me a certain peace of mind that the universe is not an accident and that human life is meaningful and purposeful. The curse is that when it comes to seeing essential matters of the heart, subjectively, I often see nothing. My scientific mind habitually takes over and I become sceptical and unfeeling. But my path in this life is through the mind and my intuition. So I have to work to gain subjective spiritual insight that is heartfelt as much as most non-scientists may have to work to gain objective scientific knowledge.

A "new physics" of the soul

Until very recently, science concerned itself with defining the universe's attributes as objective processes. Little attempt was made to consider subjective processes as they are. As we near the end of the 20th century science again is attempting to define consciousness as a phenomenon emerging from simpler physical processes. The greatest effort seems to be aimed at answering what I consider to be the foundation of all the wrong questions, namely: How does the self-aware entity emerge from deeper and more elementary physical processes? The answer is: it doesn't, and that is very difficult to deal with in today's reductionistic science.

My aim is to set up a "new physics of the soul." In it I will show how the soul, the self, matter, and consciousness are, although related, not equivalent. Present science, based on models generated from Aristotle's vision and later developed with the aid of Newtonian mechanics, led us on the wrong reductionistic and materialistic path. It would incorrectly reduce the soul and consciousness to purely physical and mechanical energy. At best the soul would appear as an epiphenomenon generated by material processes. When we bring quantum physics into the mix, the error becomes apparent.

Instead we will see the soul as a process involving consciousness of knowledge. This process occurs in the vacuum of space in the presence and absence of both matter and energy. From this new vision we shall see why the soul is immortal. This means the soul begins when the universe of space, time, and matter first appear and ends when the universe returns to the nothing from whence it came. The major activity of the soul is manifestation of matter and energy and the shaping of the material world by knowledge. Both manifestation of the world and the soul's knowledge of it are tied to quantum physics principles, specifically the observer effect and the uncertainty principle.

The vacuum is fundamentally unstable. Anything that comes into existence arose from it through the soul's desire to manifest. This desire governs both the appearance of all matter and through the effect of observation spelled out by quantum physics, the relationship of a unified consciousness to matter. Thus the soul cannot be seen either materialistically or reductionistically. In fact the soul cannot be seen as a mechanical physical thing, at all. The soul's fundamental purpose is the shaping of knowledge into material form.

What Is Interesting & Original About This Book?

In answering the above question I leave contemporary science's search for the material basis of consciousness and self-awareness and offer a new and original concept. I wish to show that the self is fundamentally an illusion arising as a reflection of the soul in matter much as a clear lake at midnight reflects the moon. At the same time, the soul is not an illusion although it is a reflection of spirit. One goal of the book is to show how the concept of self differs vitally from the soul. To do this will require us to venture on a journey of soul-deconstruction and reconstruction, moving backward and forward through time and history.

This tour provides a new vision of the "empty vacuum," and a new realization of how the apparent picture of multitudes of mortal souls is also an illusion while the "one eternal soul" with "one eternal consciousness" is a fundamental reality. The pre-quantum or Newtonian picture of the vacuum is simply the non-presence of matter. Well before modern physics, however, the vacuum was seen by ancient philosophers as the potentiality to become anything. It turns out that this ancient view has more in common with the quantum physics view than does the Newtonian mechanical picture. In a similar way, our present Western spiritual traditional vision of soul shows that each individual has one with a single isolated consciousness. I will show that all of these nearly countless separately conscious souls are illusions, reflections of one soul with singular consciousness lasting throughout the span of time our universe persists.

But this is not easy to do. The relationship between the self and the soul is a mystery and will remain a mystery even if I succeed in explaining it. To understand what I mean, consider the fact that the speed of light is constant for all observers, regardless of how fast they are moving. It is also a mystery and it has been explained quite well. We know why the speed of light does not change, but when we observe the experimental consequences of this, we are still in awe that nature plays the game it does and of the strange way that it allows space and time to bend to accommodate the light fact.

The soul is a virtual process and not an entity

I propose a new vision of the soul here, one that explores many of our earlier concepts in light of the tenets of modern science, particularly based as this vision is on the existence of an "intangible, irreducible field of probability"--the quantum physical wave function, from which all physical matter and energy arise.

Many, ranging from modern scientists to perhaps the Buddha, introduce great confusion into the search by not differentiating between spirit, soul, and self. Based on my research, the spirit appears to be virtual vibrations of vacuum energy, the soul turns out to be reflections of those virtual vibrations in time, and the self is an illusion arising from reflections of the soul in matter, appearing as the bodily senses as suggested by the Buddha. Hence the three are related but essentially different.

The quantum wave function demonstrates what I mean by a virtual process--one that has an effect even though it is not a result in fact. Thus this wave function, although never measured, has extremely important physical consequences. The soul arises along side this intangible field of probability--as virtual processes in the vacuum of space. These processes appear much like reflections of so-called "real" processes occurring in everyday life. However, these virtual processes have a life of their own, and even though they are never observable themselves they account for even the simplest things that we do observe.

In other words, the soul is a virtual process and not an entity. Without it, there is no awareness of entity. Here is an analogy. I believe the soul involves us in a manner similar to the way virtual processes involve the ordinary processes of material existence. We know that in quantum physics, virtual processes are extremely important. An example of this is whenever light scatters from atoms or molecules, such as in the everyday occurrence of sunlight scattering from air molecules and producing the blue sky of the heavens, virtual electronic processes are involved.


From The Wrong Question To A New Understanding Of The Soul


We began our inquiry into the existence of the soul by pointing out, as many of our forebears have done, that the soul is not an easy topic to discuss intelligently. Is the soul material or an illusion? This natural question introduces a gap separating modern science and current spiritual thinking and leads to the split situation we presently find ourselves in. We are led to see material things as real and spiritual things as beyond matter. To find the right trail, we need to retreat to where we lost the scent.

As we move both backward and forward through history these two visions of the soul continually present themselves. At times the soul appears as if it were something quite physical, like an attribute of an object such as its color or its organization. At other times it takes on a deeper, emotional sense, even a feminine form. One is tempted to regard these two visions as scientific (the soul is material) and spiritual (the soul is imaginal), but this turns out to be an error resulting from our asking the wrong question.

The split in visions of the soul started with early Greek civilization. Plato sees the soul as ideal while Aristotle sees it as material. In Plato's Phaedo, Socrates clearly characterizes the soul as invisible and yet able to sense the perfection of equality, beauty, goodness and other "perfect" attributes. The material body was seen as imperfect, with fuzzy or imperfect memories, while the immaterial soul was seen as perfect and capable of faultless memory. For Plato the soul is closest to a virtual or imaginal process, while for Aristotle the soul is completely physical and even composed of a fine material, like some form of gossamer.

After considering Aristotle and Plato, we retreat in time to the Ancient Egyptians and Chaldeans. This is the place in time when the split doesn't yet exist: the absolute void contains the undivided spiritual and physical universe and provides the origin of all things ethereal and material. Starting there, we will deconstruct the old soul and begin to reconstruct a new soul model incorporating quantum physics.

The next step in resolving the conflict between the materialist and spiritualist view of the soul is consideration of the soul's relation with the whole universe. Here we look at the possibility of the soul existing as a computer program at the end of time. This non-physical model of the soul leads us back to the vacuum where we investigate how the soul could be non-physical and yet real at the same time. This takes us to the original step in defining the new soul: finding the difference between the self and the soul.

Next we go to the Buddha's mind concerning the non-existence of the self and soul. We find the soul not only able to depart the body, but to depart even the world of possibility as it disappears altogether, like a magician's illusion. This denial of the soul by the Buddha actually helps us to explain how the soul can be fooled by itself and it leads to some original insights into how the soul can become addicted to matter, even polluted by the body!

Then we march forward to modern science's view of the universe. Balancing new with old, we find a scientific view of heaven, hell, immortality, reincarnation and Karma. This leads us to see the soul as an essential unified entity despite the large number living upon the earth today. Finally we learn how the soul speaks to the body and, in the last chapter, how the soul, spirit, self, and matter are all related.

It is my desire that through my attempt to bring the soul concept into the modern scientific age, the old problem of human existence may actually find a solution. From this research and my new model, I believe that I can convince you that although the self disappears at death, the soul continues forever. The real question is: How can we bring that awareness into the light so the essential goodness of humanity is continually reflected for all time?

Istanbul- September 21th 2003

Top Home e-mail