Go Deeper into The Lost Symbol

Lost_SymbolThis week, Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol, is being released in paperback. Besides the thrill of the story itself, Brown has such a wonderful way of mixing fact and fiction that it invites the reader to figure out which one is which.

In this novel, one of the real entities he uses is The Institute of Noetic Sciences IONS). And, one of the main characters, Katherine Solomon,  is the head researcher. Her real-life counterpart is Dr. Marilyn Schlitz.

If you haven’t read the book yet, you’ll find it to be a entertaining introduction to the very serious research being conducted all over the world on topics that were once taboo in scientific circles.

If you have read the book and you’re ready to go deeper, I invite you to visit the IONS website at www.Noetic.org. There you will find a wealth of information on their three main areas of research including consciousness and healing, worldview transformation, and extended human capacities. This is not the woo-woo stuff. It’s real science conducted by respected researchers and has real-world applications that are making real changes in people’s lives, as well as in ecology, economics, and community systems.

And, if you want to get a real handle on the blending of science with intuitive wisdom in one book, pick up a copy of The Sage Age. I have just a few on-hand from my last lecture tour, if you would like one personally autographed for yourself or someone you would like to gift.

Here’s a brief description of what you’ll get in the book.

  • Harmonizing the full range of frontier science with current intuitive wisdom and practice.
  • Demystifying science jargon and metaphysical buzzwords with easy to understand examples and illustrations.
  • A seekers guide bringing new models for new thought.

In these changing times, it’s important to have clarity of where we are headed. I’m delighted that The Lost Symbol has highlighted such a vital organization like IONS where you can find a host of articles, blog posts, audio and video downloads, research papers, and other publications to help you make sense of it all. And, did I mention membership is free? Be sure to take note of their past and future Wednesday teleseminar series info too.  I’m usually on those calls. Maybe we’ll get to chat there too.

Here are a few other blog posts you may find interesting:

The Research Behind The Lost Symbol
The Noetic Scientist in The Lost Symbol

What Really Started the Quantum Revolution

Many folks assume that Einstein and his famous E=mc2 equation single handedly started the quantum revolution. Actually, Einstein put the icing on a cake that had been baking for a few hundred years, and it was his other, lesser known equation that kicked off the whole quantum era and won him the only Nobel Prize he ever received. And, you may be shocked to learn how rooted in mysticism the whole thing is.

We entered the realm of quantum ideas by way of something seemingly mundane to the modern world, which was a fascination with why objects glowed different colors when heated. But, back when philosophy and spirituality were still tied directly to science, the study of color and light was considered a way of tapping into the Almighty’s mind.

By 700 B.C.E., the ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and Assyrians had all contributed significant treatises on the topic. Later, the Romans and Greeks added their ideas, and the math to back them up, to what would eventually split off as a whole branch of physics called optics. In the Middle Ages, the Islamic philosopher and polymath, Al-Kindi, and later, the Christian experimenter Roger Bacon began to apply empirical method to the study. But, each text from these early scientists was also slanted to reconcile their findings with their spiritual beliefs.

By the 1700s, observation based on experimentation had begun to replace many mythical undertones, but the controversy over the origins and meanings of light and color was brought to its spiritual zenith in a public clash of titans between Newton and Goethe. As much as either of them were desperately trying to lift the heavy hand of the Church from the throats of science explorers, they were both products of their beliefs – Newton as an alchemist, and Goethe as a philosopher. Both wrote more on theology than on science.

And, this was the foundation from which Einstein and his peers emerged to conjure the revolutionary theories that started the early 20th century with such radical ideas that they could hardly be believed. In fact, that’s why Einstein didn’t receive a Nobel Prize for E=mc2. The scientific community was so stunned by the implications of it, and how it brought a touch of anarchy to their belief systems, that they chose to wait and see if it panned out before jumping on the bandwagon of its truth.

However, Einstein’s other revelations were well received, especially his ideas on the age-old question of why objects glowed different colors when heated. About thirty years prior to Einstein’s publications, Heinrich Hertz was the first to observe the threshold frequencies different objects exhibited when struck by a powerful beam of light. In essence, he found what made them glow different colors when heated. But, he couldn’t explain why low frequencies of light didn’t have the same effect. In other words, no one knew why something could feel hot and not look hot.

Enter Einstein. Building on Max Planck’s theory of blackbody radiation, he developed the mathematical underpinnings to answer the last part in this ancient question. For this, what had been known as the Hertz Effect, was renamed the Photoelectric Effect, and Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for it several years after other folks conducted the experiments which proved it to be true.

These equations are still used daily by the astronomical communities to peer into the heavens and make sense of the data gathered. They are also what determines all the beautiful color to the rendered, and amazing pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope.

More importantly, these equations firmly established the idea of light as a particle, namely a photon. That is something Newton and others had tried to do, but could not produce the experimental evidence necessary to bump the wave theory of light from its supreme reign.

What Einstein did was bring us full circle. In the last fifty or sixty years, we have become more at ease with the wholistic notion that light is both a particle and wave. We’ve also come to embrace that light will show itself as either, depending on how we set up the experiment. In other words, we are participants in how things manifest.

The word quantum originally referred to discreet packets of energy, and was applied as a description of how light, as a photon, actually traveled and interacted with matter. Today, it has taken on an entirely different meaning as an all-interconnected realm of possibility.

So, no matter what mathematical or experimental advancements we have made, we have never left the mystical undertones that follow the investigation of light and what it really is, what it represents, and how it interacts with everything.


For further reading, see theses articles from The Sage Age – Blending Science with Intuitive Wisdom

Einstein and His Famous Equation
Quantum – What Does it Mean?
Coming to Terms with Light
Dancing to the Same Score – The Particle/Wave Duality of Light

Stephen Hawking, God, and Consciousness

On September 9, 2010, Larry King interviewed Stephen Hawking and Cal Tech physicist Leonard Mlodinow, who together co-authored The Grand Design. In this book, they propose that “God may exist, but science can explain the universe without a need for a creator.” They go on to say that “The scientific account is complete. Theology is unnecessary.”

While these statements may seem controversial, Hawking and Mlodinow are not the first theoretical mathematicians to attempt to remove God or theology from the halls of science. Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton all did the same thing with varying degrees of success.

It’s important to realize that none of these men stated that God did not exist. What they said was that everything about the workings of the universe could be explained by mathematics. In fact, Newton did such a splendid and thorough job of explaining the clockwork of the heavens, and other topics of physics, that many scientists of the day declared that the last volume had been written on those matters and there was nothing new to learn.

If the history of scientific discovery teaches us anything, it’s that there is
always something new to learn and it either overturns previous certainties,
or shows them to be true only under a limited range of circumstances.

Hawking also presented the idea that ours was not the only universe. In fact, he stated that there are a “great many universes” and all of them were created out of nothingness. He went on to state that “these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law. They are a prediction of science.” Hawking isn’t the first to suggest that idea. It began to gain acceptance as the notion of inflationary cosmology took hold, which describes how the universe took shape from its earliest moments to what we see now. It’s also been criticized as a theory invented solely as a way for cosmologists to remove God from the equations. (Note: the multiverse theory is a fairly recent development and completely different from the Many Worlds theory, which was proposed by Hugh Everett in 1957.)

Something from Nothing

During the panel discussion that followed the one-on-one interview with Hawking, both Father Robert J. Spitzer, (Jesuit priest and author of New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy) and Deepak Chopra (spiritual teacher and best-selling author) took issue with the idea of something from nothing. They are not alone. Several physicists, including those who study quantum theory, M theory (of which string theory is a part), and the multiverse theory, are trying to write the equations that will explain the existence of both time and matter prior to the Big Bang. (A side note. One of my favorite physicists on this topic is Lisa Randall, Professor of Physics at Harvard, who authored Warpped Passages.)

In response, Mlodinow briefly touched on the subject by suggesting that quantum theory upholds the old axiom that nature abhors a vacuum by stating that, “You can have nothingness in quantum theory. But from that, things will arise.” Basically, things pop into and out of existence so rapidly that we don’t even notice. He somewhat deflected the question about nothingness being the beginning of existence and cited the time-before-time problem as the reason there is no satisfactory answer to that question yet.

Consciousness

From out of left field, King asked Mlodinow what happens to us when we die. After recovering from being stunned at the question, he deflected it a bit, but it led to a very interesting response about consciousness and the limits of science to quantify it. He said, “there’s no physics explanation for consciousness. And as far as I can tell, I’ve never seen consciousness defined in a way that a scientist can really deal with.”

One of the TV shows I enjoy is Closer to Truth, which deals with many of the same questions presented in this King interview, including cosmology, consciousness, and God. In each episode, the host, Dr. Robert Lawrence Kuhn, asks a question from one of these topics and then presents interviews with 4-7 leading thinkers in those areas giving their perspective. One of the elements I most enjoy about the show is the diversity of those Kuhn interviews and the balance of ideas it brings forth. Kuhn never draws a conclusion for his audience, although he does tastefully interject his own opinion and commentary between interviews.

The reason I bring up this show is that I’ve been watching it for a couple of seasons and I’m impressed with the wide range of ideas held about what consciousness is. During the time I was researching The Sage Age, I came to the conclusion that each individual branch of study has its own working definition of consciousness, but there is no over-arching definition, and certainly nothing concrete enough for science to quantify outside of measuring the shadows of consciousness, which is brain activity.

The Limits of Science

Given that is the case, Mlodinow was wise to respond that, “physics is not an axiomatic system. Meaning that you state a few mathematical principles and derive everything using mathematics from those principles. That’s not what science is. Science is based on ideas that come from observation and consequences.” And, he was also wise to re-emphasize that the book he and Hawking wrote was fundamentally about answering two questions, which were where the universe came from and why the laws of nature were as they appeared today.

By stating that “God was not necessary to create the universe or to make the laws what they are,” neither author is attempting to do away with the existence of God or to explain every mystery. As Kuhn says in the episode, What Things are Conscious?, when all the great answers of physics have been found, we will not have begun to unravel the mysteries of consciousness.

I am satisfied that consciousness, or Mind, can exist without theology or the need for a personified god being. I also acknowledge that we often marvel at the abilities of our intelligence to recognize patterns in something as vast and complex as the cosmos almost as much as we marvel at the cosmos itself.

We are More than Physics

The comment Father Spitzer made toward the end of the discussion sticks in my mind, which was, “[Humans] want to know who they really are at their deepest level, whether that be empirically obvious or not. Perhaps there is something more to human beings than merely physics or M Theory.” He goes on to say, “We’re constantly inquiring because we want the most out of our lives. And so basically we don’t quash the mystery. We enter into the mystery. Most of the time, we enter into the mystery by asking questions.”

The book that Hawking and Mlodinow present is what they, and many other scientists, believe to be the answers to their questions about one aspect of the mystery. It doesn’t answer everything and it doesn’t completely close the doors to other possibilities. In fact, when King asked Hawking if he could travel through time, which way would he go, Stephen replied, “I would go forward and find if M theory is indeed a theory of everything.”