Monday, March 9, 2015

Beyond the Physical by Rev Sam Sewell

“A fundamental conclusion of the new physics also acknowledges that the observer creates the reality. As observers, we are personally involved with the creation of our own reality. Physicists are being forced to admit that the universe is a “mental” construction. Pioneering physicist Sir James Jeans wrote: “The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter, we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter. Get over it, and accept the inarguable conclusion. The universe is immaterial-mental and spiritual.”  R.C. Henry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University 

This is the start of what I hope will become a "Noetic Christianity" community. What is Noetic Christianity? Karl Barth was once asked if he could sum up his conclusions about Christianity after being one of the most brilliant theologians if his time . "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so." replied Barth. That was an answer I have no quarrel with, but some of us prefer Handel's Messiah. It is that search for the highest expression of the Christian faith that defines Noetic Christianity.

“The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.” 
Nikola Tesla

This is an excerpt from a lecture by Rev. Sam Sewell, President of The Theological Center in Naples, titled “The Secrets of the Universe”.  The full document is here:

Beyond the Physical

So what I wanted to do here is to share with you folks the conclusions of a lifetime. I’ve been working on this stuff for a long, long time, ever since I was a young boy. People frequently see seminary as an experience that gets you the training and the education you need, but that wasn’t the case for me at all. Seminary didn’t answer a pauper’s part of the questions that I had, and I’ve gone on studying and learning from that point forward. I was on a quest for ultimate truth. Seminary gave me particular truth.

I have joked with folks that I came into the church through the back door. What I mean by that is that it wasn’t until I became acquainted with subatomic physics and astrophysics that I was able to allow, (notice how arrogant that is) a God into “my” universe. I am more a philosopher, theologian and behavioral scientist than a physicist. I have no formal training as a physicist, but I am an interested amateur.

In other words, like so many people, it was in studying God’s creation that God’s face finally showed through for me in such a way that I could then start looking at, ‘What is the nature of that which lies beyond the seeable reality?’

Metaphysics is one of the ways of looking at that. Metaphysics investigates principles of reality transcending those of any particular science. Cosmology and ontology are traditional branches of metaphysics.

·      Cosmology is the branch of astrophysics that studies the universe as the totality of all phenomena in space and time.
·      Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality in general.

Metaphysics is concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the universe. The word metaphysics means ‘beyond the physical.’ So in many ways metaphysics transcends the physical sciences.

Let me put it this way:  At the subatomic level, the physical and the non-physical are even interchangeable, so we can’t really talk about a physical reality as opposed to a non-physical reality. I think most of you know that Einstein’s famous theory, E=mc2, E is energy, M is mass, and c2 is the speed of light times itself. What that formula represents is that energy and matter are interchangeable. Another way of looking at it is that matter is just thick energy, compressed energy, because when we crack or fuse an  atom, energy is given off which is non-tangible, so we are converting the tangible into the non-tangible with nuclear fusion and nuclear fission.  So energy and matter are variables of something else. Now, this third element in this process that has not yet been formulated.Think of it this way; H2O is sometimes a solid (ice) and sometimes it is a gas (steam).  The constant underlying these variables is water.

This is what Einstein was talking about when he spoke of the Unified Field Theory. That, if we have two variables, energy and matter, which are interchangeable, then what science says about any kind of variable, is “look for the constant.” There can’t be two variables without there being a constant which underlies those two variables. I know what that constant is. Some scientists know what it is.  The rest of the scientific world has not yet accepted it.

Then there is the reverse of that process, which is also demonstrable. In a Wilson cloud chamber, (which is a device that you can build, believe it or not, it’s that simple) a gaseous atmosphere is created, through which you can see visible contrails - not the particle or the wave itself - but you can see the condensation of the particle passing through a Wilson cloud chamber, or the condensation trail of a wave passing through the Wilson cloud chamber. You can see it with the naked eye. But when you start looking, sometimes the particle trail turns into a wave trail right in the middle of the chamber; right in front of your eyes, matter turns into energy. Likewise, you’ll watch a condensation trail come in on one side as a wave and turn into energy as it exits. At the subatomic level there is this constant interplay between the tangible and intangible; between energy and matter.

Let me be honest about what I’m saying here. This whole conversation is about the degree to which knowledge comes through revelation. Most of the things I’m going to talk to you about tonight are things that have been revealed to me. They are not things that I can prove scientifically.

One of the things that I get annoyed with scientists about is the phrase “Well, there’s no scientific evidence for that.” They use that phrase, ‘There’s no scientific evidence for [fill in the blank],’ to put down speculative thinking. I turn it around the other way, ‘Well if there is no scientific evidence, that only shows how inadequate the scientists are. Go out there and find some evidence because I know it’s true.  Just because you, Mr. Scientist, have not yet found evidence to support my hypothesis, does not mean that my hypothesis is inadequate. Your gathering of scientific information is inadequate.’ Scientists would not agree. They would say that knowledge through revelation is not possible. Do you know why they say that? “Because there’s no scientific evidence….”

So what we’re left with when we start studying the outer reaches of scientific knowledge, the outer reaches of astrophysics or subatomic physics, is the conclusion that we’ve got a far more flexible universe than we think. One of the ways I like to say it is, “Reality is really there, but then again, it’s just barely there; because it can shift from one expression of reality to another expression of reality. Believe it or not, it can shift depending upon whether or not you are observing it.  

Individual human consciousness (we have these little consciousness generators up here in our brain) has the ability to interact with absolute consciousness. Consciousness IS that which underlies all existence. Consciousness is the constant that underlies the two variables of energy and matter. We have the ability as sentient beings, self-aware beings, to interact with that sea of consciousness in which we live, and move and derive our very being. “Consciousness is the ground of all being” is another way to think about it.

Now, theologians will talk about that, philosophers will talk about that, and scientists are beginning to talk about it. The main reason that they’re not able to quantify or put it into a formula is that the only thing science has available is finite instruments. You cannot measure the infinite with finite instruments. So, science is always going to be ‘a day late and a dollar short’ when it comes to understanding the fundamental nature of reality. They’re not able to do it with a finite scientific paradigm or finite scientific instruments.

There are some people who overdo mankind’s ability to influence reality through the manipulation of collective consciousness. There are those who say that the world really was flat until people started thinking of it as round. In other words, they’re way over on the other side of the influence of human consciousness. These are tiny little influences; this human consciousness that we have. All of us put together can only slightly influence the outcome of events or reality, as we perceive it.  If matter is extremely concentrated (thick) energy, then energy and matter are concentrated (thick) consciousness to a degree that is unknowable.  Our puny personal consciousness generators (our brains) are less than a drop in the ocean.  Our collective human consciousness, what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called the “noosphere” isn’t a thimble full in the ocean of Absolute Being Consciousness.

Don’t get me wrong, we do make a difference! I think that God actually functions mostly in the area of barely perceptible phenomenon. That’s where all the really neat stuff happens, where it’s trembling on the brink anyway. It is the influence of spiritually minded people that can affect the outcomes that are trembling on the brink of going one way or the other.  Our collective consciousness has just enough influence to tip the scales of reality.  For example, if it is in God’s nature to sustain life and health, our prayers and healing thoughts will add influence to what God is doing anyway.

That brings me to the whole idea of subatomic physics and what that has to do with our understanding of the nature of God. Essentially, what Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty says is, “Things can change location or can change their nature, depending on whether or not they’re being observed.” What the whole thing boils down to is that all reality is suspended in many potentialities, unlimited possibilities. And those unlimited possibilities are all inherent in every moment. When you start observing that moment, you influence those many infinite possibilities, and the so-called probability wave, or possibility wave if you want to call it that, “collapses” - that’s the phrase the physicists use - and the reality manifests. Of all of the infinite probabilities built into a moment, there are all kinds of ways the moment could turn out, but your feeding into that probability is the thing that makes it turn out the way it finally manifests in perceivable reality. In other words, the universe is visibly living up to our expectations every moment that we exist. We have an influence on the probability wave collapsing, and for reality to manifest the way it does.  

Our consciousness influences reality as we experience it to an unknowable degree.  In thermodynamics for example, a standard mercury-in-glass thermometer must absorb some thermal energy to record a temperature, and therefore when withdrawn it changes the temperature of the body which it is measuring.  Granted, the influence is small; however, we know that we do influence reality by measuring it.

There’s a joke based on Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty. Here is the joke intended for subatomic scientists: “You might be a subatomic physicist if you’re afraid to look at your life for fear the probability wave might collapse and you’re really someone else.” It’s just a joke to illustrate the idea that if you involve yourself in it, you are changing the outcome of it. There is no pure experiment!  The scientist always affects the outcome of the experiment he’s working on. There really is no such thing as objective observation of anything.  If we’ve observed it, we’ve already lost all objectivity.  And, of course, you can’t know what’s going on without observing. Once we become involved, the whole experiment becomes subjective rather than objective. Not only that, our influence and our consciousness is affecting the outcome of something, either in the process of observing it, or in making whatever it is to happen. That is the basic idea behind Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty.

The idea of things popping in and out of existence depending on whether or not they are being perceived is a metaphysical problem more than a century old and predates quantum theory.  George Berkeley (March 1685 – 14 January 1753) in the 18th century developed subjective idealism, a metaphysical theory to respond to these questions, coined famously as "to be is to be perceived" or “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, is there a sound?”.

If you want to see a confident Quantum Physicist blanch with fear mention the “measurement effect: or the “observer effect”.  Click here if you want a technical discussion on the Observer Effect.

The problem was cleverly solved by means of a limerick found in Bertrand Russell’s “History of Western Philosophy.

God in the Quad
By Ronald Knox

There was a young man who said, “God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there’s no one about in the Quad.”

Dear Sir:
Your astonishment’s odd:
I am always about in the Quad.
And that’s why the tree
Will continue to be,
Since observed by
Yours faithfully,

Later developments like Fynman’s (Richard Feynman May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988) Quantum electrodynamics (QED) posit a universe with matter popping in and out of existence even in the vacuum of outer space. 

Now, when you know scientists think like that, is it really that much of a stretch to think that your own individual consciousness is influencing events and circumstances to be attracted to your life? Does your individual consciousness act like a reality magnet, which draws the circumstances and situations into your life because of the nature of your consciousness? Is that which we have in our minds, attracting into our lives the reality that eventually manifests itself? Is it that hard to think that way, when you know how flexible, how indeterminate, reality really is at the subatomic level, and how reality is affected by human consciousness and human interaction with that reality?

Our premise is that our individual human consciousness can influence absolute consciousness, the ground of all being. Now let’s just let that one sit there for a minute. For now, we’ll leave the topic of this kind of indeterminate reality that is subject to all kinds of influences and subject to different outcomes, depending on our involvement.

This is a Two Way Cosmic Street
Now I want to take on another piece of information about what goes on at the subatomic level. Absolute Being Consciousness influences our individual human consciousness.

Bunny and I deal with brain science a lot. It is important for a good therapist to understand brain science - at least the beginning of it, to know what brain function is, and, for the matter of diagnosing a patient who might be having a problem, deciding “How we are going to find a solution for that problem.” If we know brain science, we might find out that the symptoms that are manifesting from that client might have something to do with brain function.  

For instance, thoughts cause emotions. Every thought we think releases neuropeptides (emotional chemicals) that affect every cell in our body. Patterns of thinking cause emotional patterns. This is what causes most of the emotional problems people have. Cognitive therapists teach their patients to adopt habits of thinking that make them happy, healthy, and whole. That is my job. I do it every day with demonstrable long lasting results.

These emotional chemicals also affect our immune systems and our overall health. Epidemiologists can solidly track specific diseases to specific thinking patterns. So it really is true that we can think ourselves sick or we can think ourselves well.

Other people's thinking can also make us sick or well because of the "empathy" effect. Second hand thoughts can hurt our health just like second hand smoke. 

But Bunny and I were fascinated enough with the whole subject of the brain that we went a few steps further, taking it well beyond what we needed to know about the brain as psychotherapists, and began looking at it as a phenomenon we simply wanted to study.

The first thing I want you to know about is the so-called synaptic gap. “Gap” is really a pretty inaccurate word for it, because when you think of a gap, you think of the Cumberland Gap, or other kinds of gaps; a sparkplug gap, you can think of it that way. There are tools that mechanics have that set the spark gap to a certain distance.

Look guys, I want you to understand this; the so-called “gap” is indistinguishable by the naked eye, and only barely distinguishable under an electron microscope. The distance of the so-called synaptic gap is 250 angstroms and smaller. As you know Fahrenheit was a scientist, and when you come up with something good, you get to put your name on it. The angstrom is named after the Swedish physicist Anders Jonas Ångström and is an internationally recognized unit of length equal to 0.1 nanometre or 1 × 10−10 metres. The ångström is often used in the natural sciences for expressing the sizes of atoms, lengths of chemical bonds and the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.

Angstrom is a unit of measure that is used in very small measurements of distance. The place where quantum affect would begin to happen is down at the smallest level.  Most physicists will tell you that there is one set of rules about how the universe works with things that are bigger than an atom, and another whole set of principles for how the universe deals with things that are smaller than an atom. And when we get down to 250 angstroms, some of these really strange things that happen in the quantum or subatomic level begin to manifest themselves even though 250 Angstroms is larger than an atom.  For comparison, visible light may have a wavelength of 4,000 angstroms.

So what I’m saying is that every one of your brain cells is separated from every other brain cell by a gap that is less than 250 angstroms. What that means is that, from my point of view, and again this is one of those things that I know from revelation, the Holy Spirit as an aspect of Absolute Being Consciousness has the possibility, has the potential, has the ability, to influence the human mind by hooking up neuron pathways that otherwise would not be hooked up if the person were left with nothing but the faculties of their own biological brain with which to hook up those neuron pathways. That is how God talks to us, which is how peak experiences happen.

Basically what happens with a peak experience is that a whole bunch of neuron pathways get hooked up, because of the Holy Spirit quickening the human mind, and we have experiences, insights and awarenesses  that would simply not be available to us with the normal biological mind.

That is the next thing that I wanted to make clear; the ability of the Holy Spirit to quicken the minds of humans by influencing activity at the synaptic gap. So we have God speaking to us, we have us influencing reality, the underpinnings of which is God, and we’ve got this interface going on between human beings and the ultimate reality. That spirit of which we live and breathe and move and derive our very being is not some static reality to which we are subject; it is a dynamic reality with which we interact and which we influence.   We are co-creators with God to a greater extent than most of us realize.