2 January 2022 ;18, 1 December, 25 November 2021; 8 October , 16 Sept 2018 ;29 August 2018; 23, 29 July 2018 25 February 4, 9, 10, 15, 17 March 31 May 16 June, July 4, 28, 2016
mind beyond brain, free will beyond body, & life beyond death
Gerald L. Schroeder, PhD [M.I.T.]
“The mind uses the brain as an instrument to think”
John Eccles, Nobel Prize, neurophysiologist
“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness”
Max Planck, Nobel Prize, Physicist
“that stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe”
George Wald, Noble Prize, Biologist
M.I.T. trained scientist Gerald Schroeder discovers the source of our free will and of our immortality using the data of neurologists who claim that no such phenomena exist.
The You that makes you You is not the you You think is you
Two compelling forces reside within all humans: our passion to preserve our lives even against all odds, and, our thirst to be masters of our minds, to have the gift of our free will, even if we are inescapably enslaved by the customs of society or the forces of war.
We may be the only animals consciously aware that our bodies have a finite duration, that our demise is inevitable. Death always catches life, and the same laws of nature that determine the inevitability of death also control the chemistry of our brains, the chemistry that produces our thoughts, our choices and our will. Based on this bio-chemical fact, sages of science have taught us that the perception that we ontrol our will is exactly that, a perception, a useful perception, even an empowering perception, but a perception none-the-less, not a truth. At least that is what we were taught. The control of the laws of nature over the chemistry of nature and hence over the thinking processes of our brains was so obviously true that no one questioned it. In his essay, “On the Freedom of the Will”, Arthur Schopenhauer nailed it perfectly: “a man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.” With that in place, the thought you think next is the result of the thought you thought before it, and that the thought before it and before it … . The craving to push off death and the craving to control our minds are both losers, both in vain.
And then came the discovery of the quantum world and a revolution, the quantum revolution, turned our understanding of the world at its core on its head. In fact, the head, or better said, the brain, turns out to be the antenna that links us to this quantum world, a world never before envisioned, a reality that preceded, and will out-live, the material, determinate present we measure with our senses. In the following pages we will discover and explore this quantum world, not via faith and not via our perceptions of reality. In user friendly, lay-person terms, we will discover the scientific proof that both our un-ending life and our ability to choose our thoughts are real, and we will do this using the discoveries of those self-same scientists who claim that neither life beyond death nor our free will are there to be had. Using the discoveries of the nay-sayers we find the yea.
Within the scientific advances of the past 100 years, we discover the part of you that dwells beyond the physical you and that in fact (not in theory) is the part of you that makes you the you that you are. But don’t look for it in the mirror, it is not there to be seen. I find it intriguing that the truth of our having free will and the fact of our life beyond death are both embedded in the you beyond you. In a quantum sense, they are entangled in that each advance in our knowledge of one impacts our knowledge of the other. Study one and you learn about both.
In the following pages we will review the paradigm shift, actually the paradigm upheaval, that the quantum revolution has forced upon our understanding of nature, of the universe, and of our being.
A superficial understanding of the laws of nature tells that all of nature is controlled by those laws of nature, this including the functioning of our bodies and our brains. With this understanding, the laws of nature would control the brain’s neurological activity, and so it would be that the laws of nature, and not our free will choices, would determine our next thoughts and our next actions. We would be living in what is known as a deterministic world.
The quantum revolution (QR) exposed the truth that reality is quite the contrary. Thanks to the discoveries of the past century, we now know that at the very lowest rung on the ladder of the physical world there is a slack in how the laws of nature control nature, a slack known as quantum uncertainty. But beyond this uncertainty, even more significantly, there is an essential aspect of our existence that lies beyond the physical world, and as such evades the invincible control held by nature and its laws. A long list of Nobel Prize laureates, whose scientific careers probed the significance of the QR, conclude that the only way to explain the observed scientific data is, in the words of Nobel laureate George Wald, “that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality – that stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe.”
The significance of this conclusion is nothing less than astounding. In the following pages I discuss the scientific origins of this game-changing revelation. The substrate of all physical existence is not at all physical. The basis and substrate of all physical existence, our brains included, is totally ethereal MIND. The assumption that our lives are totally embedded in a physical world turns out not to be true. While our physical brains are powerfully controlled by the laws that control nature (hence they are called the laws of nature), our ethereal minds are not.
The mind, being outside the physical world, breaks the ethereal mind free from the constraints of the physical world. Not being physical, mind is not shackled to the viability of the brain and body. Our conscious mind is the source not only of our free will. It also that part of our life that exists beyond our physical life. As such, that which we refer to as death merely marks the end of our body’s participation in an on-going life. Our life in mind continues though no longer the bodily, physical aspect of our life.
The ethereal mind / physical brain duality is totally consistent with the dualistic nature of all existence. The QR has proven that all aspects of the entire material world exist simultaneously both as an extended wave and a discrete particle, the well-known wave / particle duality. The matter / energy duality is basic to the physical world. Duality, including our mind / brain duality, is the essence of existence in this amazing world of ours.
Nobel laureate physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, stated this in quite a pithy way:
“So in brief, we do not belong to this material world that science constructs for us. We, [the awareness of each of us has of being one’s self], are not part of it. We are outside. We are only spectators. The reason why we believe that we are in it, that we belong to the picture, is that our bodies are in the picture. … And this is our only way of communicating with them.”
The 20th century theologian, philosopher and paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin summarized that thought perfectly: “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings have a physical experience.”
Some three and a half centuries ago, Descartes speculated on a metaphysical mind existing separately from the physical brain. The discoveries of the past 100 years have proven him to have been correct.
Let us keep in mind that in the physics of our magnificent universe, mind is the substrate of our physical existence. Mind is present. The only debate is whether we individuals share in, or experience, bits of that universal mind as the consciousness that our individual minds bring us.
Mind exists. It is up to each of us as to how we will choose to use it.
What half a shrimp cocktail can do
I could never have guessed that a shrimp cocktail would change my life, and, as it turned out, the lives of many other persons. Half a shrimp cocktail to be exact.
I was in my final year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where I had earned my Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees. I had stayed on at Tech, as we called it, and was now on the staff of the physics department.
My academic background and the topics of my research were a bit off mainstream because I worked in two seemingly unrelated fields: one oceanography and the other, nuclear physics.
I did my physics research in an underground lab in MIT’s building 4. No sunlight. The oceanography brought me to the hulls of commercial fishing boats out of Gloucester Massachusetts and on sunny cruises to the Caribbean on the deck of the research vessel called Chain from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. On some of those cruises the famed Professor Harold Edgerton was on board as chief scientist. Doc Edgerton, as everyone called him, had invented the strobe light, the flash that allows photographing the blast of a nuclear weapon or seeing a 204 Ruger bullet as it bursts out of the apple through which it just passed at over 1,200 meters per second.
MIT, like most academic institutions, relied on a mix of private donations and government grants to pay for research. My unusual combination of physics and oceanography, fit exactly into a niche that interested both United States Navy and the United States CIA. The niche? Tracking nuclear submarines.
Looking back, it’s not surprising that I had both the Navy and the CIA as potential sponsors for my work. Nuclear subs were a primary factor in keeping the cold war between the U.S. and the Soviets from boiling over into a hot war. With their potential for extended periods of clandestine maneuvering and their armaments of Polaris-type missile-launched nuclear warheads, these subs all but guaranteed a devastating second-strike response should either country be foolish enough or brazen enough to fire first.
These submarines get their power from on-board nuclear reactors located toward the aft of the vessel, making the inherent radiation remote from the crew’s living quarters that are toward the forward part of the vessel. Uranium-based reactors, whether in a submarine or anywhere else, get their power from the energy released by splitting uranium-235 atoms. When the atoms split, as a by-product, nuclear particles called neutrons are released. To generate the nuclear power, vast numbers of uranium atoms are being continuously split and so there are also vast numbers of these set-free neutrons. Some of the neutrons escape from the reactor and then from the sub. And in their escape lies the essence of my project.
I was seeking a trail. A nuclear submarine has the potential of leaving a trail of radioactive seawater.
Seawater is approximately 3% sodium chloride salt. It’s the same salt that I was about to put on the salad that accompanied my fateful shrimp cocktail. When a neutron slams into the center part, called the nucleus, of a sodium atom that sodium atom becomes highly radioactive. Those “leaking” neutrons might be the key to finding those subs. As radioactive sodium atoms decay, they release a burst of highly energetic gamma rays. Those gamma rays can travel far enough in water to make the sodium an ideal tracer for nabbing those submarines. Find the radioactive seawater and follow that trail right up to the sub itself. My proposal was to learn if all this actually did the detection job. Although I might look like a relaxing college student on an indulgent holiday, I would actually be tracking water currents and background radiation.
The idea of using sodium as a sub-tracer had been cooking in my mind since the tragic sinking, several years earlier, of the nuclear submarine the USS Thresher. The Thresher disappeared somewhere a few hundred miles off the coast of Massachusetts’ beautiful Cape Cod. At that time, I had suggested measuring radioactivity in water currents downstream of the area generally believed to be the site of the loss. If the reactor was still producing energy, or if it had ruptured in the tragedy (129 persons perished), there was a strong possibility that there would be a trail of radioactive seawater. Find the trail and we find the sub. In this part of the ocean, the north-flowing Gulf Stream was the perfect current for the job.
To present my proposal to the Navy, we had a private conference room on the MIT campus. Following the review, the Faculty Club provided lunch. Not surprisingly, being an ocean-oriented project and Navy sponsored, the meal started with shrimp cocktail.
These project reviews were not just about facts. They were supposed to nurture personal bonds between the sponsors and the sponsored. As such, the seating arrangement at the luncheon was not random.
Each of us presenting research results, including me, was seated so that on each side and also directly across the table was a Navy officer, often of considerable rank.
The shrimp cocktails arrived and talking ceased as we started the meal.
Everyone had shrimp except one: the MIT rep sitting diagonally across from me. She had a mixed green salad. That was a surprise to me because I couldn’t imagine anyone passing up the elegant cocktail.
I knew this scientist from lab work. She was an Israeli in her late-twenties. Before coming to Cambridge, she had worked with Holocaust survivors to help them rebuild their broken lives. English wasn’t her native language, of course, but she had made it to MIT graduate school from Israel, fulfilling her life’s dream of studying the sciences. But why the salad when the shrimp were so delicious? And then it dawned on me. She was following the injunction found somewhere in the Bible against eating seafood that did not have both scales and fins in the waters. It did not take much marine biology to realize that shrimp failed the test.
This admirable woman was willing to give up something as delicious as shrimp cocktail because of a law in a 3,500 year-old book.
I was three shrimps through the six that were originally hooked onto the side of the cup. I put down my fork. The Navy officer across from me asked incredulously: “Aren’t you going to finish?” I said no. I could feel his internal tussle, but the situation was much too formal for him to have asked me to send what remained over to him.
From that moment until today, I have never eaten another shrimp. I began the journey of exploring that ancient book and other biblical texts while taking on the eating habits of an Orthodox Jew. Besides giving up shrimp, I also gave up my mis-conception that the wisdom of that ancient book we call the Bible was exactly that, ancient and quite out of date, especially when it came to science. I mean, Genesis and the world made in 6 days. Really?? No one can logically believe that – that is until you understand the science that underlies the passage of time and its perception (there is that word again) in our magnificent expanding universe.
I didn’t grow up in an Orthodox household, although I did have an Orthodox grandmother, Hanna, whom we visited in Brooklyn on the Holidays. I never thought that these ancient laws to which Grandma Hanna adhered were wrong. They were just irrelevant to my life. I was a scientist and that was enough.
If that is the case, then why did I put down my fork?
For me, what led me to make this life-changing choice was and is a real dilemma. I liked shrimp cocktails. Did I do this by my own free will, or–as many scientists argue—had that choice already been made and it was just waiting for me to recognize it?
Neurologists with whom I have discussed this quandary of mine have all, with no exception, told me that the latter is true, as unsettling as that may be. They argue that conscious and unconscious memories, stored within the vast matrix of nerve cells of my brain, made this decision. All that was needed was a trigger to fire up the potential stored there. They claim that my life changing choice was actually waiting silently, subconsciously, in the neurological wings of my brain, biding its time for the appropriate call to come center stage and drag me helplessly along with it. My brain had been a trap ready to spring and spring it did.
It was like a long line of tumbling dominos, each fall inevitably leading to the next fall, each recalled memory unescapably awakening the next and the next. That shrimp cocktail triggered a mental chain-reaction of forgotten memories one after the other, totally out of my conscious control, that autonomously led me to my long-gone Kiev-born Grandma Hanna.
With this scenario, our perceived free will is pure fantasy, a useful fantasy, an emotionally empowering fantasy, but fantasy none the less. We are told that what we experience as mind and consciousness arises from the immeasurable complexity of the brain’s interactions among its approximate hundred billion neurons (nerve cells), each neuron communicating with a multitude of thousands of other neurons. As such, there is no thinking external to the “flesh and blood” neurons of the brain. And those brain neurons are governed not by our will, but by the laws of nature. And in nature, nothing beats the laws of nature.
But this conclusion is not only wrong. It flies in the face of scientific fact. The error stems from viewing the discoveries of modern neurology through the lenses of an out-of-date science, a science that pre-dates the game-changing rules of the quantum revolution, a revolution that reshaped our understanding of the world, and in that, our understanding of life.
We humans, with our five senses of touch and taste, sight and sound and smell, experience the world within the three dimensions of space, (length, width and height) and the fourth dimension, the passage of time. Every thought that we have occurs within this 4-D box of space-time. Regardless of how clever, how mystical, how exotic the person may be, no one can think and wonder outside the physical “box.”
But the quantum revolution has literally discovered the part of each of us that exists beyond the physics of body and brain[i], our metaphysical us, the part of our lives reaches to our mind beyond our brain and our life beyond our body.
The idea that each human psyche and each human body is slave to the neurons of its brain simply does not equate with the facts of science.
Confusing perception with reality?
I might question why I need physical proof that I have a mind endowed with an ability to choose, i.e., my free will. Every moment of my life I feel this mental freedom. Unfortunately, if I based my certainty that I have free will merely on the fact that I perceive I have it, I would be on “very thin ice.” Perceptions can be very misleading.
To discover the unworthiness of simple perceptions being a measure of truth, try this.
Wiggle your toes. You feel them move, but where do you feel your toes move? Seems as if you feel them moving in your shoes. But not true. Toes feel nothing. True, it is nerve cells in your toes that are stimulated by the motion. But awareness of that motion only occurs when those nerve cells transmit that neural “information” to maps of your body formed by the nerve cells of your brain. In this case it is the part of the body-map dedicated to sensations of your feet and toes that is stimulated and so gives you the conscious sensation of toes in motion.
Those body-maps completely control the awareness we have of our bodies. So complete is this control that they convince your consciousness that it is your toes and not your brain that is doing the “feeling.” You feel those wiggling toes in your head even though every perception tells you the feeling is almost two meters away in your toes. We know the bio-chemistry that is induced within the nerves as you move your toes. No one has a clue as to how that bio-chemistry is translated into your mind’s perception of moving toes. The workings of the brain and mind are all quite amazing – and – puzzling.
Be skeptical of perceptions, even the perception that you are master of your thoughts. That is a very subjective conclusion.[ii]
For centuries philosophers have debated the possibility that there exists, separate from our physical bodies and our brains, an aspect of our thinking usually referred to as our mind. Thanks to today’s research, this debate is no longer mere philosophy and speculation.
As we proceed through the following pages, we will see that a progression of individual discoveries inevitably led to this paradigm changing realization of the ethereal mind / physical brain duality. For the present the far-reaching implications of this duality reveal that eternal life and free will are intimately intertwined, both being embedded in the mind that neurologists have discovered to exist beyond the body.
Robley Evans, professor of physics par excellence – and the primary adviser for my doctorate thesis at MIT – taught that when presenting a topic or fact that grinds against the popular notion of an accepted piece of wisdom, then best to present your thoughts in three stages: first state what you are about to say, then say it, and then at the end, tell those listening what you said.
We humans have a portion of our existence that extends beyond the physical. We call it our mind. It is mind that expresses the uniqueness of each personality.
The difficulty in accepting this duality of our selves is that the physical world is so totally “in our faces.” The physical world obscures the meta-physical just as the sun’s bright light masks the myriad of stars that are still shining in the heavens.
At the most fundamental level of our universe, every item exhibits duality. The discovery that all matter is simultaneously both a wave (a wave has no distinct edge) and at the same time a particle (a particle has a distinctly defined edge) baffles human imagination, and yet it is demonstrably true.
Within the scientific revelations of the past century’s quantum revolution we discover that the dual relationship of brain to mind exactly parallels the duality that all matter exhibits in its wave / particle duality. A paradigm shift has occurred. Duality we find is fundamental to the most basic aspects of existence.
Contrary to the often-heard mantra that Descartes was wrong, that his idea of a mind / brain duality is dead, it turns out that Descartes got it right when some three and a half centuries ago he speculated on a metaphysical mind existing separately from the physical brain. What Descartes could not do, and what today’s neurologists have done, is to discover the location within the physical brain that is in contact with the external mind.
Let’s look at the facts, point by point. It is one unbroken chain of discovery. As Socrates averred almost two and a half millennia ago, we must go to where the truth leads us.
The search: getting past the material world
Each of us makes decisions by drawing from the range of information and emotions held within our particular unique window of choice. Each person’s own window is built, consciously and sub-consciously, from the prompting of our genes combined with the history of our previous choices and life experiences. As the academist Hanna Shir stated, “You are your memories.”
The belief that our “will” is pre-determined by the laws of nature that govern the workings of the neurons of our brains was the catechism of science. After all, by definition the laws of nature control nature. Hence the term, “laws” of nature.
Simon de Laplace, in 1814, described this theory of determinism in absolute terms. The only surprise in de Laplace’s thesis was that no one had stated it previously in such an encompassing manner. It was so obviously true.
Map all the chemical and physical potentials of all neurons in a brain plus all inputs from the environs and that brain’s next thought or act is predictable. We live in a pre-determined world.
Here is de Laplace’s well stated thesis: “We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also grand enough to submit these data to analysis [via what today we would call a super-computer], it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom. For such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.”
Past and future derivable from the present. Just enter the data that describe the world in its tiniest detail into a super-computer programmed with the universal laws of nature and let it give us an out pouring of truth. The fact that we are not able to measure every nit and cranny of the universe is our shortcoming. Though we can not get the data for this cosmic equation of de Laplace, still the data exist. And so the future of the universe and of your thoughts is indeed fixed by the present.
All this made total sense. And then a series of scientific discoveries, often grouped together in what is known as quantum mechanics, changed our understanding of the world. In fact, they turned our understanding of the world up-side-down.
The first crack in the long-held erroneous belief that the laws of nature controlled all of nature came in 1900. In that year, the physicist, Max Planck, discovered that heat radiating from something hot, such a stove, and light shining from any glowing object, such as the sun or a light bulb, came in tiny individual packets of energy (which Planck called quanta) and not as a continuous smear. These quanta come so close together that to our eyes it appears as if the light is a continuous stream. But it is not. Once again, perceptions are not always an accurate description of the truth. Today we call those quanta of light, photons. This insight earned Planck the Nobel Prize in 1918. The era of quantum mechanics was making its debut. The quantum revolution had begun.
Then came the demonstration that those heat and light photons have a totally bizarre nature. They are both waves and particles at the same time. An aspect of that revelation earned Albert Einstein the Nobel Prize in 1921. This bizarre aspect of nature is also what keeps the elevator door shutting on your leg as you enter or leave.
A duality of being a wave and a particle simultaneously is logically impossible. While the exact position of the edges of a particle, as if a micro- miniature ping pong ball, can be measured, a wave has no distinct edge to measure. The edge of a wave is fuzzy, indeterminate. A wave, in essence, extends everywhere, mostly “here” but also a bit “there.” That may be fine for a wave, but that wave is also a micro-ping pong – like particle with distinct edges.
Don’t try to visualize this wave / particle duality. In our limited in-the-box human logic there is no logic to this proven fact of nature in which you and I live. But then there is no reason to assume that the world is humanly logical. The very fact that the world exists requires a leap beyond logic. Though this schizophrenic wave and particle duality of nature is both uncanny and irrational, it forms one of the basics of all hi-tech industry.
So, the light we see shining from the sun and the light from a lamp or a Kindle illuminating this page come to us as both a particle and a wave simultaneously. How about “solid” matter? Could it be that even solid matter also exists as this wave / particle duality?
In 1923, Duc Louis de Broglie deduced that this wave / particle duality must relate not only to light, but most amazingly, and once again totally counter to human logic, this duality of being simultaneously both an extended wave and a discrete particle is true for all matter. This earned de Broglie the 1929 Nobel Prize in physics.
Quantum mechanics, and especially this wave/particle duality, is so counter-intuitive, so contrary to human logic, that the scientific community had to be dragged kicking and screaming into its clutches. Today our knowledge of the quantum world, for all its strangeness, forms the basis of hi-tech industry. This includes such common items as your smart phone, the remote control that turns on your TV, opens your car doors.
Logical or not, every bit of matter, from an electron to an elephant, and we too, have this wave / particle duality. This is a puzzle since the entire physical world is built from these “fuzzy” micro particles that are also waves. The Nobel laureate physicist, Niels Bohr, said that if you have studied quantum mechanics and are not confused, you have not studied QM.
With quantum theory becoming quantum fact, our exact knowledge of the world became indistinct, fuzzy, rather than crisp and sharply defined. What this means is that when we attempt to make a precise, clear-cut prediction at the micro-level of atoms and smaller, instead of finding a distinct particle or point, we find what might be called a smear, a range of possibilities. We encounter a “quantum uncertainty.”[iii]
And within that quantum uncertainty, that wave-like range of possibilities, all of the possibilities are potentially true. It is almost like a grab-bag. All the possibilities are there in the bag. Blind-folded you reach in and grab one. There is no way of knowing which one you will grab until you make the grab, take your hand out, and see what you have. What this means is that at the level of the quantum, there are no precise numbers to put into de Laplace’s cosmic equation. And so there is no pre-determined possibility to predict the future or reconstruct the past. The future does not exist as a fixed potential. Until the future happens, what will happen is not precisely fixed by the present.
And it is not that we can not predict the future because of our lack of knowledge. Rather it turns out that the future is not predictable because at the quantum level, the present does not determine the future. There is a slack, a leeway, in nature’s control of nature. Einstein was correct when in his famous quip he averred that he can not believe that God plays dice with the universe. God does not paly dice with the universe, but God, via this quantum slack, lets the universe play dice!
In the words of Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine, predictability is the founding myth of classical science. The implications of the quantum world exceed even the most far-fetched of our expectations:
Quantum Mechanics: linking an ethereal mind to the material physical brain
As our knowledge extended into the strange sub-atomic micro-world of the quanta, we discovered that in fact there is no “thing” there.
The tangible matter that we experience, whether solid, liquid, or gas, is composed of molecules, and molecules are composed of atoms, and atoms are composed of protons, neutrons and electrons, and protons, neutrons and electrons are composed of quarks, and quarks are composed of tangles of energy, and these tangles of energy are the manifestation of fields of force, i.e., totally non-physical “things” that make themselves mightily and distinctly felt.
At the most fundamental base of matter and energy, like the enduring smile of the Cheshire cat, both matter and energy disappear, “dissolve,” into a totally non-physical, that is a meta-physical, substrate. The physicists who discovered this bizarre aspect of our reality have labelled this realm “mind” or “idea” or “information.”
I realize that this does not make sense. The world, my body included, feels much too “solid,” much too “being here,” to be a manifestation of ethereal forces. But this conclusion is drawn from the identical science that makes your smart phone work.
Werner Heisenberg, Nobel laureate in physics, one of the parents of all modern quantum mechanics, in his book, “Physics and Beyond,” describes the essence of this almost spooky trend toward the ethereal reality of our world:
“Inherent difficulties in the materialist theory [of existence] have appeared very clearly in the development of physics during the 20th century. This difficulty relates to the question whether the smallest units of matter such as atoms [of which we and all objects from bacteria to galaxies are composed] are ordinary physical objects, whether they exist in the same way as stones or flowers. Here quantum theory has created a complete change in the situation. … The smallest units of matter are, in fact, not physical objects in the ordinary sense of the word; they are – in Plato’s sense – Ideas.”
These are not the speculative words of philosophy. Nor are they the products of science fiction. And, again, don’t let that exotic technical name, quantum physics or quantum mechanics, deceive you. QM is not some idle theory waiting in the wings for an esoteric application. Every time you browse the Internet, start your car engine, place a phone call, you are putting into operation the insights of Heisenberg. The products of his mind are part of your everyday life.
The insights of Heisenberg and those who followed his lead have become the catechism of the world of science. They, when coupled with Einstein’s laws of relativity, extend to the very essence of existence.
The Mind behind the Universe
In 1973, professor of physics Ed Tryon, in a brilliant breakthrough, presented an insight that for the first time explained in scientific terms how our magnificent physical universe was created from nothing physical. He published his theory in the journal Nature, one of the world’s two most prestigious, most rigorously peer-reviewed scientific journals. To publish in Nature means that what you have proposed is accepted as valid by the general scientific community.
Professor Tryon summed up the significance of his extraordinary insight: “In 1973, it occurred to me that relativity and quantum theory might imply the spontaneous creation of universes from nothing. If so, matter and energy would not be fundamental. Matter and energy would be manifestations of underlying laws. Ultimate reality would be the laws of nature themselves – the mind of Einstein’s God.”
This is not theology speaking, this “mind of Einstein’s God.” This is the same science that produced your smart phone.
From these totally ethereal forces of nature that have absolutely no tangible physicality, the physical universe in which we dwell, emerged. A system of non-physical forces, that is a system of meta-physical forces, created the physical universe from nothing physical. With this, we have discovered that the meta-physical can, and in fact did, interact with the physical. This is a crucial piece of information in our search for the potential of a meta-physical mind interacting with our physical bodies.
Each advance in science has moved our understanding of our world further from a simplistic, material description and ever closer to a realization that all existence is an expression of the meta-physical force that created it.
If as Heisenberg, Tryon, and a long list of other quantum physicists, tell us that the physical material world, with its billions of conscious self-aware beings called humans, is actually built of the totally ethereal forces of creation, what can the origin of these forces possibly be?
This conundrum led Nobel laureate biologist George Wald to the following astounding, conclusion which, in 1983, he published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Quantum Chemistry:
“It has occurred to me lately – I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities – that both questions [the origin of life arising from non-living matter and the origin of consciousness in that life that arose from non-living matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality – that stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals. In them the universe begins to know itself.” [emphasis added]
This changes an “all is random material world” to a world that is all mind. Biologist Wald’s insight is a direct parallel with that of physicist Tryon’s “mind of Einstein’s God” and is a spot-on match of Heisenberg’s “idea” and Planck’s “all is consciousness.[iv] This insight was gradually attained by Wald[v] .
Our individual minds within the universal mind
Are our individual, personal minds splinters of the “universal mind” alluded to by these giants of science? In that case, each personal mind is tuned to the frequency of its own personal unique consciousness. This would then manifest itself as the thoughts we perceive as our meta-physical minds interact with the information stored within our physical brains.[vi] At times closely paired minds might cross frequencies with the sensation of “wow, I was just thinking of you.”
For this mind / brain interaction to function, each brain must have a receiving “antenna” specifically tuned to the “channel” of its ethereal mind.
And the human brain does have exactly that antenna.
Neurologists have identified in the brain (in your brain and in mine) this “antenna-to-the-mind.”
The discovery of a mind free of the brain
The existence of our mind / brain duality turns out to be totally logical. Discoveries of the past 100 years have shown that the entire structure of the world is built of dualities. Unfortunately, much of today’s neurological research has yet to incorporate this material / ethereal transcendent relationship into studies of the sensations we experience. If such researchers view the world solely in obsolete materialist terms scientifically known to be false, then for certain there will be no place for a complementary transcendence, the mind / brain duality, in their conclusions. As per the words of George Wald, mind is not merely imbedded in the universe; mind is the fundamental substrate of the universe.
Internal evidence for our external mind – inductive reasoning
How does science work? To establish a general pattern in nature, what we call a law of nature, we observe a range of events, notice a commonality among them, and then group the results into a general law. I drop a rock; it falls down toward the ground. I drop an apple, it falls down. I drop a feather, it falls down. I pour water, it flows down. No matter what form of matter I release, it falls down toward the earth. I have discovered that in general, matter attracts, pulls on, matter. We call that pull, ‘gravity.’
This method of deriving a generality from multiple, particular observations is the basis for much of scientific inquiry. It is called inductive reasoning.
Let’s relate this scientific learning process to the workings of the brain and the discovery of the mind. In the following discussion it must be clear that we are dealing with healthy, conscious, “awake” brains.
Your child cries in the dark of night. You leap out of bed and rush toward the child’s room, forget that the door to your room was closed, and bump your head. You see flashes of light even though it’s the pitch-black middle of night. Nerve cells in the visual pathway leading from the eye’s retina to the visual cortex at the back of the brain were physically stimulated by the bang. Being good soldiers, though misinformed, the nerves related the stimulation as sparks of light.
We also know that certain wave lengths of radiation entering the eye from outside the body induce the sensation of light. The brain is wired to receive specific external radiations and interpret them as the light we see. The bump on your head took the place of the radiations.
Alternatively, we can stimulate a specific part of the brain, the visual cortex, and induce the sensation of light, even though the room is dark. From this we note that the brain has a specific location designated to receive and interpret the information carried by the light waves that originated outside the body. The brain has an antenna, the eye, that is designed to receive the external light rays and to bring that information to the specific part of the brain devoted to experiencing light and vision.
The same relationship exists with the brain’s sensation of sound. We clap our hands and we hear sound. That is because the hand clap initiates waves of vibrating molecules of air. When those vibrating air molecules strike our ear drum, they are converted into bio-chemical signals that in some mysterious way are consciously sensed as sound.
Alternatively, we stimulate a specific part of the brain, the auditory cortex, and we hear sound, even though all is quiet.
Again, as with the sensation of light and vision, we note that the brain has a specific location designated to receive the information carried by sound waves that originate outside the body.
The same can be demonstrated for all the sensory portions of the brain, whether the smell of garlic or the pain of a stubbed toe. Specific parts of the brain are dedicated to sensing sensations that we know originate external to the body. This is not surprising. The brain is there to make you aware of what is happening, what exists, outside your body. By artificially stimulating the appropriate part of the brain, we can “trick’ the brain into the hallucination that we are sensing these externals.
This repetition with its variations is the method of inductive proof. In this case, we have shown that the brain has specific parts designed, wired, to receive and interpret information it receives from phenomena that we know exist outside the body.
Speculation on scientific evidence that in each of our brains there is a neural ‘antenna’ for receiving thoughts from our minds
The light waves and sound waves and the smelly garlic molecules are all outside the body and yet they interact with the brain. They do this via the specific parts of our bodies that are designed to sense these various external phenomena and then bring that information to specific sites in our brains that are uniquely dedicated to record each of these external stimuli.
Now we will follow this method of research to find the part of our brain that is “tuned” to our external mind, the part of our being that is not in our brain and not in our body, and yet is constantly in touch with our brain. Our (external) mind is the part of our being that gives us our conscious awareness of self.
A bit over a decade ago, the noted neuroscientist, Olaf Blanke, came upon something quite amazing. Blanke detected a place in the brain that when stimulated induces the sensation of you being outside of your physical body. This fact was so intriguing and so special that Blanke was able to have the results of his study published in the science journal, Nature ( Blanke, O., et al; Stimulating out-of-body experiences, Nature 419, 269-270 (2002).
Please note that at least according to the lectures and writings that I have encountered, Blanke, Saxe and Shermer all tell us that there is no mind/body duality. They posit that there only is the physical brain. So here, to find our transcendent mind, I am deliberately using data from scientists who tell us there is no transcendent mind. In this way I do not subjectively prejudice the forthcoming conclusion.[vii]
Recall that the journal Nature is one of the two most highly respected, rigorously peer-reviewed, science journals worldwide. Since then, others have replicated his findings.
In his discovery of this you outside of you, might Olaf Blanke have inadvertently come upon the source of our mind? Could this specific part of the brain be the brain’s portal, antenna, that receives the messages of the mind beyond the body? Rest assured, Blanke does not imply this to be the case. Blanke, at least from his writings and lectures to which I have been exposed, maintains that all our cognitive processes are couched within the physical flesh and blood neurons of the brain. With this pre-quantum logic, there is no place for a metaphysical self that exists beyond the body.
The often-cited neuroscientists Andrew Newberg, Olaf Blanke, Rebecca Saxe (at MIT) and science writer, Michael Shermer (founder of the Skeptics Society) have all described specific locations in the brain that when stimulated induce this sensation of the “self” of the person existing outside the body of the person[viii]. Shermer referred to this sensation as a “shadow person” when quoting the “great neurologist” (Shermer’s words), Oliver Sacks, of blessed memory.
Now let us be consistent with the above line of inductive reasoning, a process inherent in the vast majority of all scientific studies. We’ve shown that the brain has specific multiple locations tuned to react to and record phenomena, such as light and sound and touch and smell, that we unquestionably know exist outside the brain and outside the body. And when we stimulate those brain locations, we artificially induce the experience of those known external phenomena. With this in mind, we have to conclude that since, by stimulating specific locations in the brain we induce this sensation of a metaphysical “shadow person,” a self outside our body, this “shadow person” actually exists.
The brain is wired for sensing this metaphysical presence that exists external to the brain just as the brain is wired to sense light waves and sound waves that exist external the body. And just as these other external stimuli interact with our brain at specifically dedicated locations within the brain, so does this metaphysical self, this “shadow person”, also interact with our brain, and quite possibly at the specifically dedicated location discovered by Blanke.
Is this meta-physical “shadow person” that Professor Blanke has discovered our metaphysical mind? The difficulty in proving objectively that the shadow person actually exists is that we cannot physically record or measure the metaphysical mind the way we can record a sound or photograph a rainbow. But the location in the brain dedicated to sensing this me outside of me is measurably there. We construct machines that detect light rays and sound waves, other machines that respond to the presence of specific airborne molecules emanating from a food. These are all physical. It has been suggested that the brain may be the only detector sensitive to the ethereal emanations of the mind.
Of course, this mechanically induced sense of self is a hallucination. When we stimulate specific parts of the brain and induce the sensations of there being light and sound and garlic in a room that is pitch dark, totally silent and free of any garlic odor-inducing molecules, these are also hallucinations. And just as the brain has retained the locations dedicated to sensing the radiations we refer to as light waves and the vibrating molecules we refer to as sound waves because they actually exist, so too the brain will have retained the location dedicated to sense the shadow person of the mind because it too actually exists.
Let us keep in mind that in the physics of our magnificent universe, mind is the substrate of our physical existence. Mind is present. The only debate is whether we individuals share in, or experience, bits of that universal mind.
If this metaphysical mind were not a reality, then the aggressive nature of the neurons of the brain would have long since taken over those portions of the brain now dedicated to sensing this part of me that is outside of me. Those areas would have become dedicated to deal with “real” functions.
We see this clearly in studies reported by Rebecca Saxe and others [who, as I understand their writings, insist that there is no external mind; so we are again relying on nay-saying data to find the yea]. For example, as Saxe describes, in persons blinded by damage to their eyes, but with their visual cortex remaining undamaged, the neurons of the visual cortex are gradually usurped, taken over, by functions related to language. By the age of four in children born blind, this neural retro-fitting has already begun.
Newburg sensibly pointed out in his book, The Neuroscience of Religious Experience, that spiritual experiences appear to be ubiquitous across different cultures and epochs. If there is a metaphysical or spiritual reality, then logically the brain would have the ability to connect with it just as it has the ability to perceive light and sound[ix].
How might the mind of an individual mind be related to the universal mind? At any moment there are in a room, hundreds, possibly thousands, of cellular telephone messages passing through, all at the speed of light, all imprinted on electro-magnetic radiation, each bearing a code that makes it accessible only to a specific telephone tuned to that code. In turn, each telephone can only download messages that are encoded for it.
An individual’s mind becomes the receiver tuned to the specific portion of world’s ubiquitous mind that is relevant to it. This individual mind, in turn, is “tuned” to link with that person’s physical brain. This would make the mind more fundamental than the brain, exactly as averred by Wald and a list of other Nobel laureate scientists.
Erwin Schrodinger was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics the year after the same was awarded to Werner Heisenberg. His work has become the heart of quantum mechanics. From his book, My View of the World:
“So in brief, we do not belong to this material world that science constructs for us. We [the awareness that each of us has of being one’s self], are not part of it. We are outside. We are only spectators. The reason why we believe that we are in it, that we belong to the picture, is that our bodies are in the picture. … And this is our only way of communicating with them.”
Note that these intellectual giants, pillars of modern science who with their insights into the workings of our world changed humankind’s concept of our world, do not shy away from acknowledging the need for the meta-physical if we are to understand the physical. That is not so surprising since quantum mechanics is their trade and in quantum mechanics the meta-physical has entered the physics laboratory.
Near death experiences (NDE) may give us a clue related to our phantom self. Of course, an NDE occurs with a highly stressed brain and so might not be representative of healthy brains.
A study of 62 hospitalized patients who were resuscitated after clinical death and who described having had NDE, was reported in the highly respected, peer-reviewed medical journal, Lancet. In the “core” experience, the patients sensed leaving their bodies and being greeted by deceased relatives. (I personally interviewed several persons who had NDE. Two reported that their deceased mother said “It is not time yet. Go back.”)[x]
The Lancet article concluded that “with lack of evidence for any other theories for NDE, the thus far assumed, but never proven, concept that consciousness and memories are localized in the brain should be discussed. How could a clear consciousness outside one’s body be experienced at the moment that the brain no longer functions during a period of clinical death with flat EEG? … NDE pushes at the limits of medical ideas about the range of human consciousness and the mind-brain relation. … Finally, the theory and background of transcendence should be included as a part of an explanatory framework for these experiences.”
“Transcendence” means a mind outside of the body, transcending the body, communicates with the body via the brain. This medically-based hypothesis matches exactly the physics-deduced hypothesis presented by Schrodinger.
The naysayers respond with a very different conclusion, claiming that the NDE experience does not occur during the time of the flat EEG. Rather they attribute the entire near-death experience to a hallucination that occurs during the few seconds or moments just as the brain is re-awakening. In an attempt to discredit the metaphysical implications of the NDE, Michael Shermer titled an article he published in Scientific American, “Proof of Hallucinations.”
The NDE is happening in a stressed brain. As stated, it may not be relevant to the observation of the “shadow person” in healthy brains. However the logic that the “shadow person” when induced in a healthy brain is the result of the brain’s ability to hallucinate, totally lacks logic. A healthy brain is wired to keep its person alive, to record reality as best it can, not to confuse us. Hallucinations do exactly that. They confuse us by replacing reality with fantasy.
The effect of a hallucinating brain that for example repeatedly heard a sound and hallucinated that a leopard about to leap, and repeatedly no such threat was present, would be a recipe for disaster. In short order, the person experiencing these hallucinations would learn to ignore them. Not a wise decision for a brain trying to keep its person alive since eventually the warning sound might indeed arise from a leopard about to leap.
Hallucinating brains were weeded out from the healthy populations of Homo sapiens sapiens during the eons of their [our] development in the wild.
My brain is not the source of the radiations it receives from the outside and interprets them as the sensation of light, nor is it the source of the vibrating molecules that upon striking my ear drum induce the sensation of sound. And in exactly the same way, my brain is not likely the source of my sense of self that I feel as my ethereal mind dialogues with the physical brain of my body – to paraphrase the insight of Erwin Schrodinger previously cited.
The biochemistry of how the brain takes in and stores information is well studied. FMRI (Functional magnetic resonance imaging) reveals which parts of the brain are active in any particular experience. The puzzle is not the input of the information. That biochemistry is known. The re-play is the conundrum. We hear sound but there is no sound in the brain. We see light but there is neither sound nor light anywhere in the brain.
So deep is the riddle that Robert Sapolsky, professor of biological science and neurology at Stanford University was moved to write in Scientific American “[D]ispite zillions of us [neurologists] slaving away at the subject, we still don’t know squat about how the brain works.”
A similar evaluation was given in Scientific American by the former editor of the journal Nature, Sir John Maddox. “Nobody understands how decisions are made or how imagination is set free. What consciousness consists of, or how it should be defined, is equally puzzling. Despite the marvelous successes of neuroscience in the past century, we seem as far from understanding cognitive processes as we were a century ago.”
SciAm, with its materialist view of reality (as evidenced by its monthly column penned by Michael Shermer), has no intention of implying a metaphysical underpinning for consciousness, a separation between physical brain and transcendent mind.
Unfortunately, this failure to understand ‘how decisions are made or how imagination is set free’ likely rests on the fact that most neuroscientists are looking for the answer in the physical brain and not relating to the metaphysical mind.
Science is filled with puzzles in which we know the quantitative answer, such as which part of the brain is active when we perceive light or hear sound, but we remain totally in the dark qualitatively as to how that neural activity produces that which we consciously perceive as light or sound[xi].
And equally unknown, how does our non-physical mind communicate with our physical brain. The answer to this conundrum lies in the structure of our universe.
From Mind to mind
Scientific inquiry has revealed the scenario of our existence:
Big Bang Creation ->Energy ->Matter ->Life ->Brain
That the energy of the big bang creation transformed, morphed, and became alive and sentient is bizarre in the extreme. Yet the scientific community not only agrees with this. The scientific community revealed this truth. The light beams of creation have become alive, able to feel joy, love, wonder. The super powerful light beams of the big bang creation have become you and me, and every physical item in the universe.
With no poetry implied, and no new age jargon, we are literally made of the light of creation. Only slightly more bizarre is the claim of science that mind is not only ubiquitous in our universe; mind is the underlying substrate of all existence. Of course that might explain how the light beams of creation, that primordial electromagnetic radiation, could eventually acquire the “smarts” to become alive, consciously self-aware, and even to feel love and joy. Think about it: without mind, how could a light beam have the hutzpah to feel joy?
We have learned that matter and energy are not fundamental; matter and energy present the manifestations of the laws of nature, which in turn are the emanations of a universal mind of which our minds are a part. In summary:
Universal meta-physical Mind ->Big Bang creation of physical energy ->Matter ->Life ->Brain -> individual meta-physical mind
In our individual minds, the universe literally begins to know itself. [Thank you George Wald for that extraordinary insight.].
Scientific discoveries of the past 150 years have forced upon us a major re-definition of the essence of existence and of life. In doing so, we are obligated to re-evaluate the relationship between the mind and the brain and also to re-evaluate what physical death means to life.
The scientific discoveries are correct. You prove that every time you use your cell phone or browse the internet. The metaphysical is parent of and substrate to the physical world that we physical beings inhabit. As such, our physical lives are but a chapter in our on-going lives that pre-date and out-live our bodies and our brains. Our Life beyond life resides in the spiritual mind that co-exists with, and then out-lives, the transient physical body that houses the brain.
As per the 20th century theologian and paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings have a physical experience.”
Recall Casper the ghost? We never really saw Casper, only the white sheet moving about making a ruckus. Our bodies are the sheet. Beneath the sheet is what we are, our mind, a splinter of the mind that composes the entire universe. This is hard to perceive but perceptions are not always reliable. Remember that a solid rock is mostly magnificently and marvelously empty space, and my stubbed toe makes itself felt only in my head, or more likely in my mind, that part of me that makes me conscious of me being me.
With my mind not being shackled within my physical body, then even though my mind can only choose from among the data stored in my brain’s window of choice, my choice is not controlled by the physical laws of nature that control my body and my brain. Choice originates outside the dominions of the restrictive determinism of classical physics and the uncertainty of quantum probability. Mind does not conquer those laws of nature. Nothing beats the laws of nature. Mind, being outside the physical, evades the laws of nature. And that makes each of us personally responsible for the choices we make.
Now that we have the mind / brain duality, how does it work?
Mind beyond brain; Life beyond death
We’ve discovered, or more accurately stated, the community of neurologists has discovered the likely entrance port, that is the location in the brain, at which the metaphysical mind contacts the physical brain.
Even though my mind can only choose from among the information stored within the nerve cells of my brain’s window of choice, my mind’s choice of which brain-stored information to choose is not controlled by the physical laws of nature that control my body and my brain. My choice originates outside the dominions of the restrictive determinism of classical physics and the uncertainty of quantum probability. The mind prompts the brain and body to follow a specific path of action or thought. Of course, in a sense, the brain has a mind of its own. It has within its neurological makeup all the physical drives and desires of the body. The final choice of action becomes manifest totally by expressions of the body. That choice is the result of a debate between the desires of the mind and the drives of the body.
From information stored quietly in our brain, information culled from our personal histories, our genes and our environment, we choose the roads we take. From the destination of those journeys, how they have affected us and those around us, for better or for worse, there are lessons. The brain and mind combo, acting as a self-correcting computer, learns from those lessons and adjusts its goals accordingly.
Not only is the mind not constrained by the physical limits of nature and the laws of nature as is the brain, but also, and highly significant, the mind is not driven by the physical demands of the body. Because of the very immediate and constant needs of the body, the mind may have a difficult time convincing the brain of the long term benefits the mind envisions.
The esteemed theologian and philosopher, the late Rabbi Noah Weinberg, brings an example of this debate, which in one form or another we have all experienced. In this case it is about jogging. You are pushing along and the body insists that this is just too hard and it is time for a rest. Your mind knows that jogging a few more blocks will make you feel great for the rest of the day. The body has no interest in what the rest of the day will bring. The body wants immediate pleasure. Stop running now. So the mind works around that demand taking it into account. It suggests let’s just do two more blocks, up to that tree. Let the body see that there is a potential limit to this misery. The body goes along and ultimately learns that the mind was correct. The immediate discomfort of the jogging had a long-term benefit. I do feel great for the rest of the day. That is an easy one to win. A harder battle is how can just one more scoop of ice cream be a problem?
When mind and brain are in sync, we have peace of mind and peace of brain. Science, technology, medicine, have made huge advances in our understanding of nature, but human nature, with all its inherent drives and desires, is the same as it has always been. That is part of the conflict the mind faces as it confronts the brain and the body. We confront modern challenges with the bodily drives and instincts that were formed eons upon eons ago while we developed “in the wild.” No wonder we feel the ancient drive of territoriality when we become enraged (road-enraged) as a car takes “our” space.
Freud and the Id and the Ego: the two souls of all humankind
This dualism of the mind and brain matches closely the dualistic concept of Id and Ego proposed by Sigmund Freud. The Id [read here drives of the body and brain] has the instinctive drive for immediate bodily pleasure. The Ego and super-Ego [read here meta-physical mind] recognize the need to integrate the drives of the body with the norms of society, and so they attempt to channel the desires of the body toward goals compatible with the ways of society.
How did the Bible, so many millennia ago, treat this metaphysical / physical duality?
Now at the mention of Bible and God, I beg you, dear reader, please do not jettison what remains of this book into the trash bin. Recall that the movie Star Wars was a massive box office success even though it urges its hero to “Listen to the Force.” That sounds meta-physical to me. Of course had the film been scripted to read “Listen to God,” also meta-physical, the theater would have emptied in a flash. “Force” is acceptable, somewhat amorphous, no implied theological baggage, but still totally meta-physical. So if you, the reader, are understandably reluctant to incorporate the concept of God, I urge you in your mind’s eye to see “Force” where the text reads “God,” and Star Wars movie when the text reads Bible.
The opening chapter of the Bible, Genesis chapter One, popularly known as the creation chapter, describes in a brief 27 sentences the development of the universe from its creation (Genesis chapter 1 verse 1) to the creation of the Adam (Genesis chapter 1 verse 27). Compacted within that brief account we find the information we seek.
All ancient biblical commentary (recorded a millennium and more in the past and therefore not influenced by the discoveries of modern science) teaches that which science has discovered so recently: that there was only one creation of a physical nature. Today we call that the big bang creation of the universe. Biblically, that was the creation described in the opening sentence of the Bible: God created the heavens and the earth.
The claim of a one-time creation introduces a problem. Later in this evocative opening chapter we come upon two more creations highly reminiscent of Freud’s Id and Ego. We read that God created animals (Genesis chapter 1 verse 21). Since animals are already mentioned in verse 20, and since there was only one physical creation (Genesis 1:1), the ancients tell us that this creation of animals (in Genesis 1:21) can not have been their physical bodies. It must have been a spiritual act, the creation of the soul of animal life. In Hebrew, the term for the animal soul is “nefesh.” All animals, including us humans, have a nefesh. The nefesh is the force that urges us to satisfy our basic animal drives of survival, immediate pleasure, procreation, the body pleasures we experience. Sounds like the Freud’s Id.
Attempting to mollify these inherent animal desires, we humans have an additional spiritual input that is described in verse 27 of Genesis chapter one. Here we read of a further creation in which the text tells us that God created “the adam.” Again, we are told this creation cannot be the physical creation of Adam’s body. Adam’s body was made from the elements as we read in the previous verse and elsewhere (Genesis 1:26; 2:7). Therefore, the creation described in Genesis 1:27 must have been spiritual, the human soul. In Hebrew, this spiritual infusion is termed the “neshama.”
The neshama is the part of our being that recognizes the unity, the Oneness that envelopes all of existence. As such, it tries to direct the selfish desires of the nefesh toward goals beneficial to the wider society. Now we are back with Freud’s concept of Ego and super-Ego.
The neshama, being purely spiritual, that is metaphysical, is part of our phantom self, the shadow person. As such it is not bound to, or regulated by, the drives of our physical body. Both in Judaism in the fifth book of the Bible (Deuteronomy chapter 6 verse 4), and in Christianity some 1500 years later (in Mark chapter 12 verse 29), this unity is considered as the pivotal sentence of the Bible: “Hear Israel the Lord our God the Lord is One.” This statement tells us far more than that there is only one God. It tells us that a Oneness pervades, envelopes and integrates all existence. The neshama (Ego) knows this. The nephesh (Id) wants no part of it.
The combination of the drives of the body prompted by the nefesh and the knowledge of this unity held within the neshama presents humans with a challenge totally different from all other life forms: how to harmonize our nephesh’s egotistical, quite myopic, ambition for immediate satisfaction with our neshama‘s realization (and quantum physics’ discovery) that every individual aspect of being is woven together into a pact of universal mutual interdependence. We struggle to accomplish this within the parameters of the free will made possible by our ethereal mind, our phantom self.
It is the neshama that makes us human. According to these ancient commentators, the transition from a pre-human being with the body and the intelligence of a human but lacking the neshama the soul of a human (adam of Genesis 1:26) to a human (the adam of Genesis 1:27), had nothing to do with our physical bodies. The change was totally spiritual.
The theologian physician Moses Maimonides in his book, The Guide for the Perplexed, published in 1190, describes these pre-human beings in detail. Today we call them Homo sapiens sapiens.
The infusion of the neshama changed a walking, talking, thinking animal, human in all respects of shape and intelligence [but an animal none the less since it lacked that one essential quality of humans: the spirituality of the neshama] into a human able to empathize with the reality of the Oness of existence and then to act on that knowledge[xii]. As the commentator, Onkelos, 1900 years ago described the essence of humans: we are not speaking animals; we are “speaking spirits.” Or in Teilhard de Chardin’s words quoted above: “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings have a physical experience.” [xiii]
The neshama, being located in my mind, is the eternal part of my life, not linked to the finiteness of my brain and body. It is the part of my personality that says, okay, I built this company. I made clever use of my brains. I succeeded in whatever field my success might be. Now I should share the rewards of success with the society that provided the social order and culture that allowed me to use my potential. The nefesh of course says don’t be a fool. Keep, don’t share, and don’t worry about the others. Within every human this battle occurs. It is as old as humanity, and the Bible. The neshama urges to give and help others. The nefesh wants no part of it. The world is all for me, it insists, urging me to ignore the goodness of the neshama.
When the nefesh and neshama are in sync, great goals are reached. The nefesh in the beginning made us have the drive to accumulate the wealth that the neshama then tells us to share. The nefesh and the neshama working together build hospitals, universities, museums, sponsor great research projects. It is such a clever combination. Philosopher Harry Frankfurt attributes this combination to what he terms as second order volition, the ability of humans to want to want, to seek to embrace the desire that gives rise to one’s present desires.
The nefesh also has aspects that can contribute to our spirituality. As a horse can take a rider to places the rider could never reach on his or her own, so too bodily pleasures can take the spiritual neshama to spiritual heights of ecstasy unattainable by the soul alone. Theologically speaking, for that reason, we have been given bodily pleasures.
Archaeologists discover the soul of humanity, the neshama
Though the metaphysical neshama leaves no material fossil, its influence on human civilization is loud and clear – and is identified and dated in secular museums. For example, the British Museum in central London has an entire wing devoted to the major change in civilization that took place in Mesopotamia 5500 years ago. The exhibit is titled “The first large cities.” (Mesopotamia is the Middle East region from which biblical Abraham hailed. Today it is Iraq and Iran.) Since the ages of the main persons in the Bible are recorded, it is possible to sum the ages and construct a Biblical calendar. The Biblical calendar dates Adam at a bit under 5800 years ago, just prior to the date that the British Museum records this change in society. Why should the appearance of the first large cities be so significant as to warrant an entire wing of this major museum? As the curator explained, large cities mark a major change in societal relations within the population. These changes included, among other advances, the invention of writing, trading among different clans, and of course the possibility of forming the first large cities. And they occurred shortly after the biblical date for the infusion of the neshama into Adam. This infused spirit of the human soul changed the world. And it spread throughout, socially and biologically.
Before the neshama, if you were not of my clan, then stay away from my place. With the neshama, persons who did not look alike, talk alike, smell alike could for the first time live together, and in doing so they formed the first large cities.
When I asked the curator of this extensive exhibit about the tower of Jericho dating back to 10,000 years ago, that is four millennia before Adam, he urged me not to confuse the tower of Jericho with the city of Jericho that Joshua battles thousands of years later. It is the same general location and the same oasis, he tells me, but 10,000 years ago the tower was a marker for the farmland of a specific clan and seems to have implied to other clans to stay off my land. Farming, the curator reminded me, goes back 11,000 years. By the time of Joshua, some two millennia after Adam, Jericho was a large city, a few kilometers on a side.
The curator had no explanation for this appearance of large cities. It was not a population explosion. That is tied to the invention of agriculture, 5,000 years prior to the advent of large cities. The invention of writing dates to the formation of the large cities. Large cities induced division of labor, with some clans living and working on farms and some clans living and working in cities. That division of labor required trading and the trading required writing, hence the invention and development of writing at this time.
The neshama (Freud’s Ego and Super Ego) changed the world. The neshama humanized the world. And anthropologists, including those at the British Museum, have identified and dated the effect of that “humanization.” Truly, “truth shall spring from the earth” (Psalms 85:12).
(I did not mention the nefesh, neshama, Adam or Bible during my conversation with the curator.)
The brain: Becoming aware and being aware: sub-conscious and conscious
A healthy human brain at birth has approximately a hundred billion neurons (That is a one followed by eleven zeros!) and each neuron has hundreds, even thousands of connections with other neurons. Stimulate a specific neuron and get a mental image of your parent. That image is not generated from information contained in that single nerve cell. Rather, that cell is the joined to a myriad of other nerve cells having shared information of color, motion, shape, voice that added together yield the total unique image of mom or dad.
All that information is sub-consciously stored in the physical neural network of your brain until you choose to call for it; that along with a billion other images, thoughts, sounds, desires that comprise the memories from which your window of choice is built. That window is fed with options, both actively by how we play out our lives and passively as we are constantly bombarded by the sights and sounds of our environs.
The central role of the sub-conscious in the decisions we consciously make was explicitly demonstrated in a series of experiments, initially performed by Benjamin Libet in the early 1980’s. A person would be asked to push a button sometime in the next few moments. It would be the patient’s choice exactly when that move would be made. By studying blood flow in specific parts of the brain, Libet was able to demonstrate that approximately a third of a second before the person becomes consciously aware of the desire to make that move now, a “readiness potential” in the brain foretold the intention to move.
Libet had shown what every psychologist and psychiatrist had always assumed to be true: intention is dependent on our “un” conscious, that is our sub-conscious, as well as our conscious awareness. If, as so many neurologists claim, that our current thoughts and actions are triggered by a chain of information silently stored in the neurons of our brains – the falling domino effect – then our sub-conscious brings the final domino to fall and with that fall, our inevitable thought or action surfaces as if it is our freely chosen conscious whim of the moment.
The study revealed something else as well. That information is stored both in the conscious and in the sub-conscious. Consciously, the subject was aware of the command to push a button at will. Sub-consciously this was also known and hence prior to the conscious awareness of the impending move, the subject sub-consciously readies to move a hand and not for example a foot.
Following Libet’s lead, other neuroscientists extended the work using more sensitive imaging equipment. John-Dylan Haynes and Itzhak Fried detected indications of these subconscious “readiness potentials” for action in excess of a second prior to being consciously aware of the intended move.
The driving force of the subconscious becomes clear when we are focusing on a certain item or event. When we consider buying a new car, suddenly every car on the street becomes interesting and worthy of analysis of its quality. As Marshall McLuhan stated so well, “If I had not wanted it [sub-consciously], I would not have seen it [consciously].”
The thought or desire for action which rises to our becoming consciously aware of it often by-passes our conscious control as our subconscious forces its way into our thoughts. The subconscious seems to have a mind of its own. It seems to be the boss. Even persons who pray with great devotion, certain that they are having “God’s ear,” suffer from random thoughts pushing their way in, such as will I make the train; or, I can’t possibly get that job done in time. That part of our psyche that we never knowingly meet waits quietly in the wings, ready to foist its thoughts into the conscious awareness of our minds.
But what triggers the subconscious to take over and push a specific thought into our consciousness remains a mystery. There may be ten “projects” waiting to be acted upon, each vying for attention, but only one bursts its way into our awareness. All ten are there within our window of choice.
This hidden reservoir of thought has its parallel in the physical world. When we study the cosmos, we discover that a mere 4% or 5% of the stuff of the universe is composed of items we can measure, such as atoms. A vast 95% is composed of un-seen forces, some of which hold galaxies in shape while at the same time other forces push those shapely galaxies apart from one another in our expanding universe.
The design of a memory system in which the large majority of information is held without conscious awareness is totally logical. If we were continually aware of all our memories, our minds would be flooded with data irrelevant to the needs of the moment.
Our subconscious houses our history whether we know it or not. You are indeed your memories (as academist Hanna Shir stated so incisively) – and your genes.
Accidents in a Godly world
An argument often arises concerning the biblical God’s power in the world. If the creating force of this magnificent universe is indeed God, then why do accidents happen? Isn’t God the controller of all?
Not so according to the biblical description of God. Biblically, this seeming contradiction was resolved millennia ago by the ancient commentators on the Bible. They disclosed within the words of Isaiah (Isaiah 45:7) that though the biblical God is always present, God has granted a slack, a leeway, in God’s control over humans and also a slack in God’s control over nature. In Hebrew that slack is termed tzimtzum, a word meaning to contract.
There in Isaiah, God speaking through Isaiah, states: I am the Lord and there is nothing else. I form light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil.” The source of light creates darkness by concealing part of the light. The source of peace allows for evil by withdrawing aspects of peace. We see this in biblical statements of God hiding God’s manifest presence, God hiding God’s face (Deuteronomy 31:17; Isaiah 54:8; Psalms 30:7). These are acts of tzimtzum. The obvious parallel in physics is the quantum slack in the control of nature by the laws of nature.
Very early in the Torah we are presented with tragedy as a result of God’s tzimtzum. Adam and Eve have two children, Cain and Abel. Cain brings a sacrifice to God and Abel follows suit. God rejects Cain’s sacrifice and accepts Abel’s. Cain is annoyed. God tells Cain that he has the ability to choose to do better and also to control his anger. Two sentences later Cain murders Abel. God confronts Cain and says “your brother’s bloods [bloods in the plural] cry to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10).
Why bloods – plural? The ancients bring two reasons. One reason for the plurality is that when you kill a person you in a sense kill all the progeny who might have come from that lineage. The second reason is more related to the current discussion. Cain did not know how to kill Abel so he beat Abel repeatedly until Abel died. Bloods, many bleeding wounds. Abel did not die immediately. So to whom would Abel cry for help as he was being repeatedly beaten? Clearly to God who had just accepted his offering. God did not come to help. God could have stopped the murder. This we see when, after the murder, God exiles Cain and Cain obeys and goes into exile.
Biblical message: undeserved tragedy occurs. Biblical God allows us our free will, often for the good, but sometimes for the bad. There was a Holocaust. Eighty million humans perished in the two world wars of the 20th century – and God let that happen. In the 5th Book of the Bible, Deuteronomy, God tells us “I place life and death before you, therefor choose life” (Deut. 30:19). That seems like an easy choice, but sadly we humans at times choose death, and God allows us to do so.
God’s tzimtzum in relation to humans is clear. In a discussion further along, we will find this tzimtzum in the seemingly inanimate world of rocks and water and earth. This earthly tzimtzum was succinctly characterized in a discussion I had with Dennis Prager: Though God can cause floods, not all floods are caused by God.
Hints of God’s actions in this world
To have God as discovered by science match the Bible’s description of an active Creator, and not be a deist, disinterested, God, we need a demonstration or at least some hints that this creating God of science is also active in the universe It created.
As we live through the flow of our lives, there is no easy way to discern the difference between coincidence, or randomness, or Divine intervention (assuming that there is this possibility). In this world there are no announcements such as: the following event is caused by …. We experience acts of nature that at times yield unearned tragedy. But we do not curse at nature. We don’t ask “How could nature do this to me?” More likely we might ponder that if there really is a God active in the world, this never could have happened. God would have stopped it.
That is a beautiful concept of God, but unfortunately that line of thinking has the wrong God in mind. Certainly this is not how God is described in the Bible. Recall that by chapter 4 of The Five Books of Moses (The Torah) Cain has murdered Abel. Abel was the good guy. His offering had just been accepted by God while Cain’s offering had been rejected. Cain then murders Abel. By chapter 4 of the 187 chapters that comprise the Five Books of Moses, the good guy is dead and God let it happen. The Bible is not immune to the reality of unearned tragedy. Approximately 2% through the five books, tragedy has already been documented.
We see what we perceive as good and bad and have the option to ascribe it to chance or coincidence or to God’s doing. In the biblical Book of Job, violent storms and then violent thieves destroy Job’s world of peace and tranquility. For Job there was no meta-physical announcement that there was a meta-physical force at work orchestrating the disaster. Job and his wife experienced nature’s violence and the greed and evil of a gang of thieves. Only in the closing chapters of this biblical book does God tell Job that it was God’s decision to allow this to happen. And even then Job is not told why. Job never learns why he and his family suffered!
Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin; in excess of 80 million persons brutally destroyed. There is no sign post or book telling us if these beasts were a re-play of the Book of Job but in modern garb and with modern tools of terror. We are stuck with reality and our human thirst to find a cause to explain every aspect of reality. But explanations in many instances may not be forthcoming.
Fortunately, in some cases there are hints of God acting in this world, even though we may prefer to credit those possibly Divine interactions to “coincidences” or random chance.
Here are a few examples that may help us in our assessment.
Reuven Gelfond listens to God
Tuesday, 12 January 2010, 16:53 local Haitian time, a magnitude 7 catastrophic earthquake strikes. Its epicenter is some 25 km (15 miles) west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s densely populated capital. The most reliable death count is estimated at 220,000. 300,000 buildings are destroyed or damaged. A hotel collapses killing the residents.
Among the dead are the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince and the leader of the Haitian political opposition. The headquarters of the United Nations building, located in the capital, collapses. There among the many dead is the chief of the UN Mission.
Just a day following the devastating earthquake, 220 Israelis, security and medical personnel, are already on their way. At departure, one of the doctors realizes that they will have to take shared showers. She phones her son from the airport and tells him to bring her bathing suit. The plan was to erect a field hospital within twenty hours. It took just ten. News teams covering the events are in awe. While the Americans were still getting their act in order, the Israeli team was already operating on the wounded and even delivering babies.
In the Israeli gynecological tent, Jeanne-Michelle gives a reporter a broad smile when she says she is naming her newborn Israel. She can not stay for long. Room must be made for other deliveries.
How’d they get the field hospital set up so quickly? Much of the credit goes to a nurse, Reuven Gelfond.
Reuven Gelfond came to Israel from the former Soviet Union. In Israel he trained to be a nurse and eventually became the head nurse in the ER of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. When in Israel the call came for help in Haiti, Reuven was near the head of the line. It was Reuven who was in charge of setting up the ER tent. The Israeli team was to be based in a soccer field. Using the skills embedded within his varied background, Reuben’s tent was the first up and the first in operation. He realized immediately that one operating “theater” was insufficient and so set up a second. While some other teams were using vodka in a rather weak attempt to sterilize their apparatus, Reuven had a proper hi-tech sterilization system on line.
Fractures were among the most common injuries. For large bones, surgical nails are used to hold the set bone in place. But for hips, and a broken hip can be fatal, surgical screws are essential. The team had a good supply of the nails, but the screw supply was rapidly being depleted.
And then a most bizarre episode began to unfold, and this is the reason for my telling of these events. Reuven announced that he was leaving the site and heading out to find a way to convert the surgical nails into those essential surgical screws. A mission impossible if there ever had been one. Perhaps the heat of Haiti and the emotional trauma of the disaster within which the recue team was embedded had confused his judgment. Heading out to where? To the ruble filled streets of a country to which he had never been. Nor did he speak the native language. And recall, English was Reuven‘s second or perhaps third language. So fluency was limited as would be communication with any locals from whom he might ask directions along the way. He had to find an industrial area, and then within that industrial area, a metal working shop that might also have tool and die facilities. He succeeded!
Now among the rubble of that shop, Reuven searched for where the dies might have been stored and then for that crucial die that would fit his nails. A die resembles a nut that might screw onto a bolt. Just as with a nut, the center of the die is hollow with threaded walls. The threads of the die are of hardened steel so that as a smooth rod of metal, such as a surgical nail, is forcibly screwed into the die, the threads of the die cut into the wall of the rod the corresponding grooves. And out comes a screw. In Reuven’s case, a surgical screw. The major catch, besides the obvious impossibility of actually finding the tool and die shop, is that the inner diameter of the die must match exactly the outer diameter of the rod being threaded. He found the one that matched the nails.
It would be another day before more supplies, including the needed screws, could be flown in from Israel. In the interim Reuven’s nails-turned-into-screws worked perfectly. They literally saved lives.
How did Reuven explain the success of his life-saving search?
The journalist, author, Barbara Sofer, interviewed Reuven immediately upon his return to Israel and then twice again during the following week. How’d you know you could find the die? “God told me.” Three times during those separated interviews, Reuven’s answer was the same and sincere: God told me.
Really? God told you? From the lips of a man raised and initially trained in the atheistic Soviet Union, those are unusual words to hear.
And yet he did find the shop and the exactly matching die. Picture the devastation. You probably can not. Even in its pre-earthquake condition, we are not talking an orderly hi tech industrial park. The shops were sheds prior to their becoming rubble. Reuven found the tool and die shop about a mile from the ER tents, and then found the precisely matching die. What are the odds of such success? Pretty close to zero. Especially since he had no easy common language with which to ask directions from locals, no map, and no fore-knowledge of the area to point him in the direction of success. There is a myriad of points on a compass from which to choose. He chose – by chance? – the correct one. And he did find the needed equipment. That is an undisputed fact.
Could it be that some meta-physical “Force” (as in Star wars: Listen to the Force.), Reuven’s “God,” actually communicated with Reuven? We might discard the possible notion of a meta-physical Presence interacting with the physical as rubbish. Yet we have seen that the current scientific understanding of the origin of our universe has embedded within it exactly that “meta-physical force.” Our very physical world is the product of a totally meta-physical force, a force that we can describe but can never envision.
A difficulty, in fact the fundamental difficulty, when discussing the meta-physical is exactly that: we are talking about that which is meta, or outside, the physical. Every thought, every whim, every wish we have is couched within the confining three parameters of our physical world, a box the sides of which are time, space, and matter/energy. No one thinks outside that box. For example, try to envision a universe with no space, an edge with an inside but no outside. Impossible. There are phenomena the existence of which may be hinted at in the physical world, but cannot be actually observed. Is Reuven’s “God” one of those?
We have established scientifically, not by speculation and not by theological wishing, but with hard undisputed data from the discoveries in physics and biology, that there is a meta-physical basis for the physical world in which we dwell. With this known reality, we approach the possibility that in truth an unembodied voice, referred by Reuven as that of God, sent Reuven on his vastly unlikely, yet totally successful, life-saving search for a metal disk not larger that an American 25 cent piece [a quarter] somewhere amidst the turmoil of a destroyed city.
But not everyone would agree with this conclusion.
The reality of human nature teaches us that even if we sense the presence of the metaphysical acting in our lives, we tend to rationalize the experience in mundane terms. Miracles simply do not convince, not in daily life and not even in the Bible.
During the biblical Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, the people witnessed miracle upon miracle. And yet just days after the event, the people rebelled against Moses and against God and made the infamous Golden Calf. With this understanding of human nature, hints of a miracle occurring in daily life have no chance of making any kind of lasting impression, or even to be seen as a miracle. Coincidence might just as well be seen as the reason; that is, no “reason” at all.
Chance or the hand of God?
Israel’s Operation Opera was not a song and dance festival. It was a mission for national survival. In the 1970’s, France agreed to build a nuclear reactor in central Iraq. The Iraqis named the project Osiris, the name of the Egyptian god of the dead. A foreboding choice of names considering Iraq’s explicit threat to develop nuclear weapons and then to use them. The name of the reactor itself was Tammuz, the name of the month that the ruling Bath party came to power in 1968.
By early 1981, according to American intelligence, Iraq could have a nuclear weapon within a year once the reactor reached full power. France had contracted to deliver 90 kilograms of enriched uranium fuel to achieve that goal. This presented a quandary to the Israelis. Diplomatic pressure might discourage the French from arming the reactor, but the window of time for diplomacy was rapidly closing. Once the enriched fuel reached Iraq, any military action aimed at the reactor would likely release huge amounts of radioactivity.
After intense debate, Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel, ordered the destruction of the reactor. At 4PM, on Sunday, 7 June 1981, eight F-16 aircraft each carrying two one ton delayed action bombs, flew east, leaving Israel airspace over the southern port of Eilat / Aqaba [keep this detail in mind]. This initially positioned the planes along the common border between Jordan and Saudi Arabia. An hour and 40 minutes later, in a raid that lasted 80 seconds, the reactor was destroyed. World censure was immediate. In the United Nations, the United States voted for a Security Council resolution condemning Israel. As punishment, the USA delayed (by two months) a further delivery of F16’s to Israel.
Upon return, the pilots, as usual, were debriefed. The description by the head pilot, Ze’ev Raz, was one of unqualified success. “They [the Iraq’s] had [Russian-supplied] surface to air SA-2 and SA-6 missiles and the MiG-23, plus radar directed anti-aircraft guns [also keep this in mind]. Their radar could see our planes 20 minutes before we reached the reactor. None of the pilots could believe it, no Iraqi jet fighters, no radar, no missile systems locking on to us. All 16 bombs hit dead-on. On the 90-minute fight home no one tried to intercept [us]. Everything went as well as we could have planned”. And then Commander Raz made a most amazing statement: “If I were religious, I would tell you it was the hand of God.”
Was it? Was the hand of God nudging them toward success? Let’s just look at two of the many coincidences in what might be called the “back story” of their success.
June can be a really hot month in Jordan. Time for royal holiday which is exactly what King Hussein of Jordan was doing on that 7th of June 1981. Vacationing on his yacht in the Gulf of Aqaba, he spotted the 8 Israeli heavily armed fighter planes heading east. Immediately he knew their goal, the Iraqi reactor. Phoning his government offices in Amman, he ordered that an urgent message be sent informing Saddam Hussein of the impending attack. That was a full hour and half before the planes arrived on target. The message was lost in transmission. It never arrived.
And those very accurate radar directed AA guns and surface to air missiles, what about them? Half an hour before the attack, the Iraqi soldiers manning the guns, turned off the radar and went to have their afternoon meal. (Those of the Iraqi military who failed in their responsibility for defending the reactor reportedly were hanged.)
According to a summary of the mission, on the 90 minute flight home, one of the pilots on radio recited the verse from the Book of Joshua, “Then spoke Joshua to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered the Emori before the children of Israel, Sun be silent upon Giv’on, and moon in the valley of Ayyalon” (Joshua 10:12). For that to have happened, it must have been seen as a miracle by any account.
Ten years after the “Opera,” United States Secretary of Defense, Richard Cheney, visited Israel. Cheney gave General David Ivry, commander of the Israeli Air Force under Prime Minister Menachem Begin, a satellite photograph of the ruined Iraqi reactor. The photograph was signed by Cheney with the following: “For General David Ivry, with thanks and appreciation for the outstanding job you did on the Iraqi nuclear program in 1981 which made our job much easier in Desert Storm.”
The loss of the warning phone call from King Hussein and the shut down to the radar directed anti-aircraft weapons might have been merely a run of luck for Israel. In another incident also related to the First Gulf War, the run of luck seems to have been present as well.
For some misguided reason, Iraq attacked Israel with Scud missiles. 39 missiles exploded in the Tel Aviv area, the most densely populated region of Israel. Some 4000 apartments were destroyed, 17 schools had direct hits. In one of the many bizarre incidents, a community bomb shelter with 200 persons huddled inside took a direct hit. The 500 pound explosive warhead collapsed the building within which the shelter was located. Three of the four walls of the shelter also collapsed. Rescue workers searched for victims only to learn that all had survived. In all the 39 attacks, there was only one casualty directly caused by the missiles.
So why in fact were there so few casualties? The esteemed peer-reviewed science journal, Nature, in an article titled “Why were Scud casualties so low” did a detailed statistical analysis of why indeed was the number of Israeli casualties from the missiles were [thank God] so low?
The conclusion written in this esteemed source of scientific knowledge was that the casualties were so few because, and I quote directly from the journal Nature: “luck must have played a crucial role.” In the many decades of my science career, reading science journals, never do I recall finding the conclusion from a statistical study of any phenomena attributed to luck. But there was no mathematically acceptable explanation in a materialist world.
In an example of luck quoted in the article, the missile exploded in “the only empty field in a densely populated neighborhood.” There was considerable damage to apartment buildings but no casualties. In a materialist view of the world there certainly is no explanation other than luck for these pieces of good fortune. However in a world embedded in the quantum reality of a universal mind, there is another ‘outside the box’ explanation. Staying with the materialist conclusion of ‘luck’ as the sole possible explanation, ignores the findings drawn from the discoveries of 20th and 21st century physics.
In a subsequent war, over 2000 missiles were fired into Israeli territory. Now the range for aiming the missiles dropped from a thousand kilometers to a 10’s of kilometers. Israel had developed a defense system for intercepting the incoming missiles, the Iron Dome. Again, thank God, the injuries from the attacks were far fewer than predicted. A review article published in M.I.T.’s technical journal, Technology Review, analyzed the reason for the low number of casualties. The authors concluded, showing specific data, that the Iron Dome anti-missile system was not the reason for the low number of casualties. The article concluded that the low casualty rate was due to “luck.” Recall that M.I.T. is one of the world’s two or three leading science and technical institutions. And again luck was the conclusion.
The difficulty is that each case is anecdotal, with no way of proving whether luck or coincidence or a metaphysical force active in the world was the cause.
Not all “coincidences” portend a rosy outcome. Over 40 documented attempts to murder Hitler failed, some missing him by minutes, some actually wounding him but killing colleagues standing nearby. If all those escapes are listed, we might arrive at a conclusion not very different from that drawn by the journal Nature as related to the Scud missile attacks on Israel.
In a statistically normal world, all those near misses, both the Scuds and the failed attempts on Hitler’s life, reflect something that is statistically way out of the norm. We have no way of knowing if the success of Operation Opera was luck or “the hand of God.” Nor can we say what cause kept Hitler alive to do his evil. Reuven attributed his highly improbable success to a prompt that he received from “God.” The fact of Reuven’s success against all odds is certain. Reuven’s posited meta-physical source for that success might be debated. But that debate must take place within the context of a physical world scientifically known and acknowledged to be built totally of ethereal, call them metaphysical, forces, as does Commander Raz’s statement: “If I were religious, I would tell you it was the hand of God.”
Perceptions vs reality – perceiving light and sound in a universe that is totally dark and silent
In this discussion of mind and brain, and our caution of relying on superficial perceptions, it is important to realize that our most basic perceptions of the universe may be vastly different from the reality of the universe. Most dramatic of all mis-perceptions is our experience of light and sound. The universe is actually black, entirely without any of the phenomena we perceive as light, and totally silent, without any of the phenomena we perceive as sound. This may read as ridiculous, but it is absolutely true. When I realized this reality, I was shaken and shocked, but it is true. Please read on
With regard to our perception of light, only when electromagnetic radiations [the scientific way of saying photons or “light” waves] enter our eyes, strike the nerve cells [neurons] on our eye’s retina and induce a bio-chemical signal that is then sent to our brain’s visual cortex, does the sensation of that which we perceive as light and sight appear to us. Still, we have no idea where our body’s sensation of light and sight actually is. There certainly is no light in our physical brain, only the well-documented bio-chemistry of our neurons set into action by the photons hitting those neurons in our retina.
If the light waves themselves were actually what we perceive as light, then the space and air through which the light waves travel from the sun to us would be glowing with their “light.” And quite obviously the space and air are not glowing. The bio-chemistry, that which records the incoming radiation in the brain, is well known. It is the re-play, the sensation of vision and light, that is the conundrum. Where is it?
Dreaming provides a clear demonstration that our perception of light is not light as in the standard implication of the word. In our dreams, sleeping with eyes closed, there is no visual input of information coming from our eyes’ retinas. But the visual cortex of the brain where the complex mechanisms of sight are located is awake and functioning. It fills our dreaming minds with visions culled from stored past experiences to produce the shapes and colors and actions of the visual fantasy we call a dream. (The dreams of a person whose retinas have been destroyed from birth, but having the visual cortex remaining in function, must be vastly different since there is no stored visual information.)
As with the universal absence of that which we perceive as light, so too is the total absence of the sensations we experience as audible sound. Nowhere in the physical universe, inside or outside our heads does there exist that which we hear as sound. Only when vibrating molecules of air strike our ear drum, which then transfers that vibration on through the middle ear and into the inner ear packed with nerve cells sensitive to these vibrations, does the sensation of sound appear to us.
But again, as with the absence of light, there is not a clue as to where this sensation of sound actually occurs. There is no sound in your brain, only the well-studied bio-chemistry triggered by the impacting vibrations. And there is no sound in the world outside of the brain. There only are the vibrations of molecules. When a tree falls in a forest, deserted or not, it makes no noise. The sensation of what we perceive as noise is simply not there. There are only the molecules of air set in motion by the push and crush of the falling tree. If those vibrating molecules of air were actually what we perceive as sound, then the air through which they travel to our ears would be booming with noise and quite obviously the air is not booming.
It is hard to internalize, to emotionally believe, that the entire physical world, inside or outside our brains and bodies, is without any of these sensations of light and sound that we so obviously perceive. We see such a rainbow of colors even in the most casual glance at our surroundings. In parallel, a cacophony of sound constantly envelopes us.
And yet if the radiations we call ‘light waves’ were actually light, and the vibrating molecules of air we call ‘sound waves’ were actually sound, then, as stated above, the air through which they travel would be glowing with light and rumbling with sounds. And quite obviously, it is not.
How these two parameters, light and sound, so central to our lives, surface to our consciousness remains a conundrum. Only if we break free from proven-to-be out-dated materialist, classical physics, can we ask whether there is also some external, non-physical aspect of our being that brings to us the sensations we perceive as light and sound. The common term for that external link is mind.
Since those physical forces that induce the sensations of light and sound upon impacting our eyes and ears are neither light nor sound prior to and even after reaching our brains, we can agree with philosopher G. Goller when he avers that not merely beauty, but also light and sound are in the eyes of the beholder, or more accurately, in the mind of the beholder. The maxim “It’s all in your head,” better said would be “It’s all in your mind!”
God’s Free Will
At a Papal conference I attended several years ago, the lecturer, a biblical scholar from a leading British university, asserted that the “pivotal statement” in the entire Bible that described God’s essence in the world is Exodus 3:14. My mind scrambled but failed to recall that verse. The lecturer then quoted ”I am that which I am.” Considering the claimed central importance of this verse, anyone knowledgeable in biblical Hebrew would have gasped as did I at that translation. The three Hebrew words that comprise that verse, in transliteration, are “eh’yeh a’sher eh’yeh” which means “I will be that which I will be.” “eh’yeh” means “I will be,” not “I am.”
This mistranslation finds its origin in the Septuagint, the 2200 year old translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. The irony of this error is that the same word, eh’yeh, is used in Exodus 3:12, just two verses earlier, and all sources, including the Septuagint, translate eh’yeh as “I will be,” as in the verse “I will be with you” (Ex 3:12), and not as “I am.”
So why the change when it comes to God’s actions? “I am” describes a fixed, pigeon-holed God, easy to understand, almost predictable and certainly unchanging in its manifestation in this world. “I will be that which I will be” is a totally dynamic God whose manifestation in the physical world is also dynamic. This is a God that tells us that if we want to know God, we can do so only by studying God’s works, that is by studying nature and history.
Within very broad guidelines described in the Bible, God’s choice of how to respond to events in the world is God’s choice. Hence, just nine generations after Adam, God explicitly stated regret (the Hebrew word ne’ham’tee) at having allowed the animal kingdom to have flourished (Genesis 6:7) and so brought the Flood (Genesis chapter 7). God chose Saul to be the first king of Israel. Saul was a great warrior, but failed in his duties. God again stated regret (ne’ham’tee) and removed Saul from kingship (First Book of Samuel 15:11). This is a dynamic God with dynamic responses. When Divine plan “A” fails, then bring on Divine plan “B.” That is God’s choice to do; God’s “free will.”
Our Free Will (in a world having a Divine Future)
”I place before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life …” (Deuteronomy 30:19). That biblical verse and several other verses tell us explicitly that we can choose the paths we take. The Hebrew “you” in the verse is in the singular. Each individual must make the choice. As a former chief rabbi of England, Dr. Joseph Hertz, wrote in his commentary on that verse, “Though man cannot always even half control his destiny, God has given the reins of man’s conduct altogether into his hands.”
We’ve learned that the neurological composition of our brains does not make us puppets dominated by those neural fibers of which our brains are composed. Beyond our physical brains are our minds, free from the controls of the physical world, giving us that precious gift of choice, and in tandem, life beyond death.
These promises of having pro-active authorship to our choices is encouraging until we study the biblical text more closely. “And [God] said to Abram [Later his name is changed by God to Abraham (Genesis 17:5).] know with absolute certainty that your seed will be a stranger in a land that is not theirs; and they will serve them; and they will afflict them for 400 years” (Genesis 15:13). This verse seems to have a very different opinion of our future being ours to choose. Here we are told explicitly that God foretells the future “with absolute certainty.” There is no slack in this Divine prediction – or is there?
There is. And that slack rests in the distinction between the predicted future of the group and the fate of individuals within the group.
In Genesis 18:17 – 19, we read that God has decided to tell Abraham the fate of the horribly perverted cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Text there explains why God has chosen to inform Abraham of God’s plan: “because I have known Abraham …”. The ancient commentaries based on this verse (Nahmonides in his commentary on this verse; ca 1250; and, Maimonides in his The Guide for the Perplexed 3:51; ca 1190) open an entirely new vista on biblical God’s actions in this magnificent world.
They ask: why do I need to be told that God knows Abraham? Doesn’t God know everyone? The commentary: By telling the reader that God knows Abraham “God is alluding that God’s providence [hasgaha] in the world is to guard the group [ haklal] and therefore the [average] children of men are subject to chance events [mikraiim ] until their end comes. But as regards the righteous pious persons, God directs God’s providence to know each one individually, so that the Divine providence constantly attaches to him.”
There is a Divine goal for the group, but the individuals within the group may encounter chance events along the way. With the “seed of Abraham” the goal is to come into the land of Canaan after 400 years. There may be meandering along the way, but eventually the Divine goal will be reached. But there is no guarantee that every individual within the group will make it to the “finish line.”
Prior to entering the land of Canaan, Moses sent spies to learn what might be expected there. They returned with a false bad report (Numbers chapters 13, 14) and the men of the congregation upon hearing this disheartening news pleaded to be allowed to return to Egypt. As punishment for that, God added to the exile the 38 years of wandering in the desert. As a result, not all the persons who experienced the actual leaving of Egypt lived to enter the promised land of Canaan. The group succeeded but not necessarily the individual.
The group, Israel, had its destiny and that was eventually reached, following the added 38 years of meandering in the desert.
In the fifth Book of the Bible, Deuteronomy, Israel is finally about to enter Canaan. God tells them “The Lord your God goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:4). That is certainly encouraging news. But then the facts of life are read to the group. “What man is there that has built a house but not yet dedicated it? Go home lest you die in battle and another man dedicates it. What man is there that has planted a vineyard and not yet had the fruit from it? Go home lest you die in battle and another man takes it. What man is there that is engaged to a woman and not yet married her, Go home lest you die in battle and another man marries her.”
Very confusing. God said explicitly that God would fight for us and save us. So what is this “Go home lest you die in battle”? Yes, God would save the battle for the group. The “you” in the promise of God’s protection is in the plural form of Hebrew “you.” English translations miss this crucial nuance. The individual in the group gets no guarantee. This is actually very empowering. The more you choose to bring God into your life, the more God will be in your life. You make that Godly choice.
Reaching the Godly desired goal may involve a Divine re-directing of the world. A Biblical example would be God bringing on the flood to redirect the world after the ten generations from Adam to Noah during which society went from bad to worse (Genesis chapters 6f). God waited for ten generations. Perhaps society would right itself by itself. That did not happen. And so God stepped in.
A Divine redirecting the world after the flood of horrors that we call the World War 2 might be the establishment of the State of Israel. Being outnumbered by enemies by well over 10 to one, the chances of the newly formed State of Israel’s success in its war for independence were slim. When, prior to declaring independence and so prior to the impending war, David Ben-Gurion (destined to be the first Prime Minister of Israel) was urged by friendly nations to postpone the decision, that only by a miracle could the fledgling state survive the invasion that was certain to erupt, Ben-Gurion is said to have replied: Only by a miracle? That’s good news. With us, if you do not believe in miracles, you are not a realist!
From the biblical perspective, the God of the Bible, though always present, has the option to pull back Divine control through the act of tzimtzum and allow the reins of our conduct to rest in our hands, as Dr. Hertz stated so well.
Each of us has the gift and at times the burden of choosing the paths we take. With the gift of choice, of free will, comes the responsibility for the results of those choices. The group has its destiny. If you want to be part of that destiny, you must choose to join. A metaphor might be: The train leaves the station heading for its goal. It’s your choice whether or not you get on the train. The train can leave without you. It is a reality to be constantly remembered. The implication in the Bible is that all nations, all groups, have a destiny. The Hebrew Bible relates to the destiny of the Hebrews.
What about the force that created this duality we call our universe?
To answer that question, let’s visit data brought to us by NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the USA) that relate to our cosmic history
The following NASA diagram depicts the cosmic history of our universe from its big bang creation to the present day. This diagram can be directly downloaded from the NASA internet site by entering the letters WMAP, the initials of the satellite depicted at the right in the diagram. It is this satellite, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), that produced the data shown in the diagram.
The NASA diagram is a timeline from the creation of the universe at the left end of the diagram to the current condition of the universe at the right. Each of the 14 vertical lines represents the passage of a billion of years. The specks of white indicate galaxies. The universe expands in all directions but the diagram shows the expansion over time. The oval at the right end of the diagram indicates the expansion in all directions. That oval is today, our time in the universe.
This amazing, informative NASA diagram integrates the mechanisms of quantum physics, relativity, astronomy and cosmology to generate the cosmic history of our creation and existence.
The black surrounding the diagram is nothing. Not a vacuum. Vacuums are empty space, and space, empty or full, is inside the universe. Total nothing-ness eludes the human brain’s imaginations. Hence science does not deal with that. As scientists, we deal with phenomena within the universe, the time-space-matter “box” within which we dwell.
This is your and my cosmic history and the cosmic history of every other being and item in our magnificent universe. It is the concentrated knowledge of the scientific community and has within it what may be the two most meta-physically significant facts ever revealed by scientific discovery — though the producers of this diagram may not have realized this:
One, The creation of the universe from absolutely nothing physical, via pre-existing laws of nature, and,
Two, From the burst of energy that marked the big bang creation, the magnificent wonder of conscious life emerged even though there is no obvious hint of life or consciousness in that initial burst of chaotic energy. The wonder of that wonder is not how much time it took to happen, whether billions of years or 6 Biblical days. The wonder is that the energy of creation morphed and morphed again and again and ultimately became alive.
The light beams of creation became alive and sentient. Within the energy of creation was the potential for life and consciousness, the potential for mind.
Everything in the universe, from the stars of the galaxies to the molecules of your body, is made from that burst of energy.
No poetry, no theology, no new age talk here. It is reality.
An error is often made when envisioning the condensation of the energy of the big bang creation into the form of solid matter, the famous E=mc2 of Albert Einstein. This equation does not state that the energy (E) disappears and in its place matter (m) arises. No, that is not the message of E=mc2. Einstein’s equation tells us that energy can change form and take on the characteristics of solid matter. Matter is literally condensed energy, even though it has the appearance of matter, just as, for example, hydrogen and oxygen can join and change from the form of a gas to become liquid water. The water remains hydrogen and oxygen. When you drink water, you are literally drinking hydrogen and oxygen in the very special form we refer to as water.
And when you look in the mirror in the morning, and for some of us that can be pretty depressing, you are literally looking at the energy of creation in a very special form, you. You and every other item in this magnificent universe of ours entered the universe as that burst of exquisitely hot energy almost 14 billion years ago.[xiv]
But how did this occur, this stunning flow from the inanimate energy of the big bang creation to the intricately balanced complexity of life? What drove it?
The answer lies within the creating force itself. Note that on the extreme left of the NASA diagram, God is not shown as the source of creation. Science explains the creation as the result of a quantum fluctuation, exactly as Ed Tryon had proposed half a century ago. The universe was created by a quantum fluctuation, that is, by an aspect of the laws of nature. The laws of nature actually allow creation of something physical from nothing physical as Tryon described so well in his 1973 article in the prestigious journal, Nature.
Consider the phenomenal implications of this scientific statement. If the laws of nature created the universe, they must predate the universe. They predate the physical world. Our perception of time begins with the universe. Since the laws of nature predate the universe, then, by necessity, they predate our concept of time. The laws of nature are not physical. They are information carrying forces that created the physical. As Tryon wrote, the laws of nature are the fundamental substrate of the physical world.
According to these NASA data, the scientific community proposes that a meta-physical force, that is a force outside of the physical, that pre-dates the universe and so is outside of how we perceive time, created this physical universe of ours from absolute nothing physical. This is science. But it is also biblical theology. A non-physical, timeless force that created the physical universe from nothing physical is the exact description of the creating force the Bible labels as God.[xv]
“Secular” scientists have said to me that you can call that force God, but it would not be a God interested in the universe It created. It would be a deist God. Even at this limited level of acceptance, the scientific view of creation has produced a description that matches the millennia old description of the Hebrew Bible.
Note that the only Hebrew name for God in Genesis chapter one, the creation chapter of the Bible, is Elokiim, the aspect of biblical God made manifest in nature.
With wisdom God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1)
The oldest translation of Genesis Chapter one, verse one, the opening sentence of the Hebrew Bible, that is consistent with the grammar of the Hebrew text is not “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And not “In the beginning of God’s creating the heavens and the earth.” Those translations, or more accurately those mis-translations are the result of the 2200-year-old Septuagint[xvi] deliberate mis-translations of the Hebrew into Greek. This then made its way into the Latin Vulgate (ca 350) and from there into the King James Bible (English, ca 1600).
To make “In the beginning” grammatically tenable with the Hebrew text, the Septuagint had to change the Hebrew text. The oldest translation that is consistent with the words of the Hebrew text is “With a first cause [of wisdom] God created the heavens and the earth.” The Jerusalem Translation [Aramaic] approximately 1900 years ago condensed this to: “With wisdom God created the heavens and the earth.” This was seconded by the commentary of Rashi [Hebrew] on Genesis 1:1, in 1090, based on Proverbs 8:12, 22-27. “I am wisdom. … God made me [wisdom] as the beginning of His way, the first of His workings of old. …….from the beginning before there was the earth… when He established the heavens I [wisdom] was there.”
This message is extraordinary. As physicist Ed Tryon wrote “matter and energy would not be fundamental. Matter and energy would be manifestations of underlying laws. Ultimate reality would be the laws themselves – the mind of Einstein’s God.” And again, Nobel laureate biologist George Wald: “that stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals. In them the universe begins to know itself.”
Unfortunately, this “In the beginning” rubbish is so deeply ingrained in the English -speaking psyche, that it is all but impossible to reject it. And yet every competent translator knows it is wrong.
These modern statements of science are spot on matches with that ancient Proverb and the correct reading of the opening sentence of Genesis. The substrate of all existence is wisdom, the product of the creating mind.
Mind in matter: a Biblical source
The commentator and scholar (and vintner), Rashi (ca. 1090), discovered the hint of mind being inherent even in matter via a nuance in the opening chapter of Genesis. In Genesis chapter 1 verse 11, God calls for the earth to bring forth life. Among life forms requested by God are “fruit trees bearing fruit.” That verse is the command. The execution of the command follows in the next verse, Genesis chapter 1 verse 12. There we read that the earth brought forth “trees bearing fruit.” But God had commanded the earth to bring forth fruit trees bearing fruit. That is, in addition to the fruit hanging on its branches, the tree itself was also to be a fruit and a food. The bark of a cinnamon tree is an example. That would make the cinnamon tree a fruit tree, but not a fruit tree bearing fruit since it has no apple-like fruit hanging from its branches. As per verse 12, the earth did not comply with God’s command of verse 11. Rashi wrote that the earth sinned by going against God’s command.
The earth, according to this understanding of the Bible, has a mind, a will, of its own, independent of the physics and chemistry that operate in the material physical world, and that this mind can actually rebel, sin, against God.
I realize that this mind-in-matter certainly sounds bizarre. Rashi’s conclusion of this bizarre aspect of nature must have given him a few sleepless nights. But then equally bizarre is the fact of existence itself. Why is there something, anything, rather than nothing? Why is there existence?
We have learned that in nature’s laws of quantum physics and also in the Divine act of tzimtzum, there is a slack, a latitude, in the control of the physical world. God could have designed a world in which the laws of nature did not have this quantum slack, but it would be physically a very different world. Similarly, God could have designed a world in which God’s control of life would be total, without the leeway granted by Divine tzimtzum. But it would be spiritually a very different world.
Suggested exercises for the reader:
Try to think of coincidences, twists of fate, that changed your life. Were these all by “chance?”
Try to think of coincidences, twists of fate, that changed history. Were these all by “chance?”
[i] The entrenched mis-placed logic of materialist reasoning is disturbingly reminiscent of the conclusion of the biologists following the 1966 Wistar conference. In that meeting, originally chaired by Nobel Laureate biologist Sir Peter Medawar, mathematicians showed statistically that random mutations could not account for the development of complex life as evidenced by the fossil record. Most of the biologists responded with: Well, that development from the simple forms of life to the complex forms of life happened and it must have happened by random mutations. Therefore, the math of the statistics must be wrong.
Evidence from the fossil record shows that life did indeed develop from the simple to the complex. The question is not the flow. The question is what drove that flow. Was it all random or was there a direction, a teleology? There are no data, none whatsoever, that demonstrate that the genetic mutations that induced the flow of life, were random. The mutations occurred, yes. But we cannot say that they were random any more than we can show that they were “directed.” The book by Steve Meyers, The Return of the God Hypothesis, brings a range of solid data indicating that randomness did not produce the life-forms we see today.
Perceptions can be misleading. A stone may feel solid, but it is actually 99.99999999999% magnificently empty space. That leaves only 0.00000000001% of its volume as solid. Hard to believe, but it’s a measured fact.[ii]
The origin of this quantum uncertainty arises from the now known fact that every particle, in fact every item, has a wave aspect as well as a particle aspect. Where the wave is most concentrated is where the particle is most likely to be found. But the more concentrated the wave, the less exact is our knowledge of the particle’s wavelength. The momentum or the energy of the particle is directly proportional to the wavelength. So the less precisely we know the wavelength of the particle, the less precisely we know the energy or momentum of that particle. When we measure the exact location of a particle, the wavelength becomes confined to that location and therefor ill-defined. This “reverse” relationship between wavelength and particle energy tells us that the more exactly we know the location of a particle, the less well we can know the energy or momentum of the particle: hence the well-known quantum uncertainty.
Max Planck, Nobel Prize laureate, Physicist: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”[iv]
[v] It is worth noting that Wald, in his earlier professional life embraced a totally materialist, all is random, view of life and its origins. These he published in Scientific American in 1954: “However improbable we regard this event [the start of life], or any of the steps which it involves, given enough time it will almost certainly happen at least once. And for life as we know it … once may be enough. Time is in fact the hero of the plot. The time with which we have to deal is of the order of two billion years. What we regard as impossible on the basis of human experience is meaningless here. Given so much time, the “impossible” becomes the possible, the possible probable and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait: time itself performs the miracles.” And then 25 years later SciAm, surprisingly, almost shockingly, unequivocally retracted Wald’s article even though it had become a classic in evolutionary theory: “Although stimulating, this article probably represents one of the few times in his professional life when Wald has been wrong. Examine his main thesis and see. Can we really form a biological cell by waiting for chance combinations of organic compounds? Harold Morowitz, in his book “Energy Flow and Biology,” computed that merely to create a bacterium would require more time than the Universe might ever see if chance combinations of its molecules were the only driving force.” In brief what Scientific American, the most widely read science journal world-wide, states is that life could not have started by chance random reactions. There must have been other factors, as of yet unidentified, that prompted, guided, the chemical reactions that led to life.
Do not dismiss the “universal mind” as scientific fantasy. The governments of every major country are frantically – literally – researching how to access this mind of the universe, and they are not doing this for theological reasons[vi]
Blanke, O., et al; Stimulating out-of-body experiences, Nature 419, 269-270 (2002).
Please note that at least according to the lectures and writings that I have encountered, Blanke, Saxe and Shermer all tell us that there is no mind/body duality. They posit that there only is the physical brain. So here, to find our transcendent mind, I am deliberately using data from scientists who tell us there is no transcendent mind. In this way I do not subjectively prejudice the forthcoming conclusion. One of the locations in the brain that is cited as sensing the external self is in the area of the angular gyrus. This region of the brain integrates visual information related to the sight of the body with the mental image of the body formed from feed-back related to balance and the spatial positioning of the body’s limbs.
c.f., d’Aquili, Eugene and A. Newberg; Religious and Mystical States: a neurological psychological substrate, Zygon 28:177-200, 1993
[ix] Portions of the brain that are used extensively become neurologically enhanced. With musicians, it is the right lobe that deals with harmony. With cabbies, it is spatial relationships integrated with name-site correlations that get the neural boost. Research by Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz and others has shown that persons suffering from obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) can willfully re-wire portions of their brains by concentrating on alternative behavior, forcing themselves to see their particular form of OCD as worthless behavior, as junk and destructive.
[x] This greeting by past relatives is very similar to the several descriptions of death and burial described in the Hebrew Bible. For example, Biblical Jacob, aged and infirm, living in Egypt, asked his children to bury him in the family burial cave located in Hebron, a multi-day journey from Egypt. The Bible then tells us that Jacob died, was gathered to his people, was embalmed (a 40-day process) and months later was buried in the Hebron cave. Note the sequence: death, gathered to his deceased ancestors, and only then buried. Clearly gathered to his ancestors is not the act of being placed in the burial cave where the bones of his deceased ancestors lie. The description reads like an NDE without the “N.”
xi The basic challenge of resolving the mind/brain duality finds an equally fundamental conundrum in physics: the puzzle of the photon, that massless particle of which light is composed. What we perceive as light results from reactions induced in our brain’s visual cortex after photons strike the neurons in the retina of our eyes.
All this is well studied. The unknown in this sequence is the photon itself. A photon is formed when an electron orbiting an atom falls from a higher energy level orbit to a lower energy level orbit. The energy released in that fall converts into a photon which in turn exits the atom at the speed of light. We know quite exactly the amount of energy that is released in each such transition. But how that released energy converts and forms the photon particle that emanates from the atom is a complete unknown. Yet it is by those enigmatic photons that we see every bit of light and every vision.[xi]
[xii] For a full discussion of this spiritual transformation of a human-like being into a human, please see the relevant chapters in The Science of God which bring the Biblical verses and ancient commentaries that reveal this transition.
[xiii] The basic animal drives for survival, pleasure and progeny were not invented by the nefesh. To some degree they are present in all forms of life. Plants need the energy inherent in light to power their photosynthetic production of carbohydrates. In order to promote their light gathering potential, plants turn toward the source of light. Encoded in their genes is the response of a plant stem that causes the cells of the stem on the shaded side to elongate and on the sun-lit side to contract. These changes cause the stem to bend toward the light, a clear response designed for survival. But in a plant that drive for survival is totally automatic. For a plant, its genes are its destiny. Not so with animals.
An animal also has the drive for survival but with animals, the nefesh makes the animal pro-active in its pursuit of survival and progeny. Plants also have the drive for progeny and so produce large numbers of seeds, each a potential “off-spring.” Plants use varied techniques to spread their seeds in an attempt to find fertile ground. But this is all genetically programmed: seeds inside fruits, seeds with wind-catching appendages.
The change that the nefesh bought to life is the animals’ aggressive, active pursuit of these basic survival goals, and, equally significant, the nefesh can learn and adjust. The body is drawn to the tantalizing odor of hot chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven. The nefesh prompts the body to take one and the body gets burned. The nefesh learns that next time it is wise to wait a few minutes and let the cookies cool a bit. This might be seen as akin to a self-correcting computer program. This ability to learn is totally missing from individual plants.
[xiv] The first of the many nuclear weapons’ detonations that I witnessed was a uranium-235 “atomic” bomb. What occurred to produce the blast was not that the uranium-235 metal became energy. The uranium-235 was always energy but in this case the energy held in the nuclear binding forces within the nucleus of the U-235 atoms, the condensed form of which we refer to as metal. At the detonation, as the U-235 atoms fissured, the binding energy was released as the explosive force of the weapon.
[xv] That the creating God would use the laws of nature, in this case a quantum fluctuation, to create our universe is totally within the descriptive paradigm of the God of the Hebrew Bible. Consistently throughout the Biblical narrative, when a force of nature is available to accomplish a Divine goal, the text tells us that God used that force. If God created the laws of nature, God might as well use them.
For example, at the Exodus, the Israelites are blocked in their escape by the Sea of Reeds (Yam Suf in Hebrew; Yam being the Hebrew word for sea and Suf being the Hebrew word for reeds), often referred to as the Red Sea. God opened the sea by “a strong east wind that blew all night (Exodus 14:21)” and the Israelites passed through to safety.
Two scientists, Doron Nof and Nathan Paldor, wondered if an all-night, strong east wind could actually open a large body of water. The only exact Biblical identification of the Sea of Reeds (the Yam Suf) location is found in the First Book of Kings chapter 9 verse 26: “King Solomon built a fleet of ships next to Etzion Gever near Eilot on the banks of the Yam Suf.” Both landmarks, Etzion Gever and Eilot, still exist at the north end of the Red Sea. This identifies the Yam Suf as the north end of the Red Sea The reference in the Bible to reeds indicates that there may have been a relatively shallow portion of the Red Sea. Reeds only grow to 5 or so meters in height. Nof and Paldor plotted into their computer the hills and valleys at what might have been the point of the crossing. They found that a 40 mile an hour wind blowing out of the east for eight hours in their computer model opened the sea.
They published their data in the very highly regarded, peer-reviewed science journal The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The title they chose was “Are there oceanographic explanations for the Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea?” Their answer was yes. The fact that their article passed scientific peer review tells us that their results were accepted by the scientific community. So what was the miracle? The miracle would be timing and location of that wind. That the wind looked natural is made evident in the text by the fact that the pursuing enemy followed the Israelites into the waters’ opening. Had it looked supernatural, they never would have done so. This we learn when the parted waters begin to return and cover the sea. At that moment the enemy acknowledges that “God is fighting for them [the Israelites]” and attempts to flee.
[xvi] xvi King Ptolemy ordered the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. The name, Septuagint, comes from the Greek word for 70. Tradition tells us that 70 or 72 Hebrew scholars were placed in separate rooms and each was ordered to do a translation. By miracle or by previous planning, the translations were all the same and all had deliberate changes in order to make the Greek version consistent with basic Greek theology. One clear example of the change is found in Genesis chapter One, verse one. The word “created” was changed to “made.” In place of “God created the heavens and the earth,” the Septuagint reads “God made the heavens and the earth.” The reason for the change is that Greek theology held that the world and the Gods were both eternal. There had not been a creation. The eternal Gods made from the eternal matter, the world as they wanted it.