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Quantum mechanics and the consciousness connection

Now that physicists have found the Higgs boson, the "God particle," the study of physics has entered a new phase. However, a new phase of a different type emerged nearly a century ago as scientists and others explored the merging of science with spirituality in relation to quantum physics.

Quantum mechanics, in its attempt to observe matter in its smallest form, finds that everything is broken down, not into mass, but into energy, where matter can be thought of as a "slowed down" version of energy.

In 1920, Niels Bohr (1885 — 1962) and others developed the Copenhagen Interpretation, stating that a quantum particle doesn't exist in one state or another (as a wave or as a particle), but in all of its possible states at once. When we observe its state, the particle is forced to choose one probability, and that's the state we observe. The particle may be forced into a different observable state each time, which explains why a particle behaves erratically and can give differing results.

The "observer effect" states that the process of observing a particle changes the way the particle behaves.

When you put these together and add spirituality into the mix by taking into account the role of consciousness on the matter (energy) around us, you get an interesting set of theories.

Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958), an Austrian-Swiss physicist, won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1945 for the "Pauli Principle" involving spin theory. However, Pauli was also famous for what became known as the "Pauli effect," which manifested in the spontaneous breakdown of laboratory equipment whenever he entered the room. It also manifested in other ways, including mischievous events like chairs collapsing and train cars decoupling, to the detriment of those around him, but not to himself.

At one point in his life he collaborated with psychiatrist Carl Jung to study synchronicity, in part because of the "coincidences" surrounding his effect on matter. Not surprisingly, he believed in psychokinesis— the influencing of matter by thought—and that parapsychology was worthy of study. In fact, he was one of the first to consider and explore "quantum metaphysics," although Max Planck (1858 — 1957), the "father" of quantum physics, also believed in the metaphysical.  Planck said, "I regard matter as derived from consciousness."

Many who believe that consciousness creates and manipulates matter believe that the "Law of Attraction" can be explained by quantum mechanics. The crux of the Law of Attraction is that whatever a person focuses on will be brought into that person's existence, because the thought becomes directed energy which attracts those things upon which the mind is focused. If a person focuses on the negative in life, more negative will come. If a person focuses on the positive, more positive experiences will come. In short, "You bring about what you think about."

One possible example of this is the death of Natalie Wood, something which is still shrouded in mystery. Her fear of water was well-documented throughout her lifetime. Her fear of death by drowning was something she was focused on anytime she was near water. So when she drowned after falling off a yacht, she died in the way that she feared the most. One could argue that it was coincidence; bad luck; a premonition on her part; or a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the Law of Attraction theory fits as well. "You bring about what you think about."

It wasn't until the 1970s that these ideas became more popular. Physicist Fritjof Capra wrote the popular book "The Tao of Physics," which compared quantum mechanics with the principles of Eastern mysticism, thoughts also expressed in the 1979 book "The Dancing Wu Li Masters" by Gary Zukav. In 1985, physicist Nick Herbert wrote "Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics," which discussed various interpretations of quantum theory, and in 1995, "Elemental Mind: Human Consciousness and the New Physics," drawing on the notion that consciousness is a fundamental process of nature.

In 1988, Deepak Chopra's book "Quantum Healing" described the power of the mind to heal the body on a cellular level by tapping into the "intelligence" that lies in every cell.

And in 2004, the movie "What the Bleep Do We Know" offered up a blend of quantum physics, spirituality, neurology, and molecular biology in documentary form to explore the relationship between quantum physics and consciousness. Although the movie was a sleeper hit grossing over $10 million, scientists decried it as "pseudoscience."

Now that the Higgs boson has been found, the role of religion in relation to science again comes to the fore. Max Planck said, "All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter."

Even Albert Einstein, who categorically rejected conventional religion but gained a cosmic awareness, said, "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

As science and religion seem closer to merging or at least finding some measure of coexistence, it remains to be seen what effect finding the Higgs boson will have on this tenuous relationship.