If you went to church in the 18th century, you would have heard God described as a celestial clockmaker who had wound up the universe and left it to run itself. Today, the wind-up is the Big Bang and the clock’s parts are subatomic particles. But the problem of creating matter out of emptiness remains the same.
How does matter form from the immaterial? What gives particles their mass, and how do they stick together? The physicists at the CERN facility in Europe are busy using the massive multibillion-dollar Large Hadron Collider to try to answer those questions by hunting for the elusive Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle.”
The search takes place between the visible and the invisible. The hypothetical Higgs boson is a virtual particle, which means it can be coaxed to enter spacetime for the tiniest flash of a millisecond. It operates at the Planck scale, which is millions of times smaller than the nucleus of an atom.
The excitement over finding the Higgs particle is that physical science will have uncovered the mechanism for how the tangible world arises from the intangible. That’s as close to the divine act of creation as physics can get. Yet there’s an irony in basing the solid physical universe on — nothing. Could this in fact be where materialism destroys itself from within? The Higgs boson may be the key to unlocking the mystery of creation by affirming very different things than materialism dreams of.
Assuming that the particle allows itself to be discovered, the second step is the exploration of the invisible domain. It is literally nothing, and yet everything comes from it. Centuries ago the wisdom traditions of the world compared creation on a small scale to creation on a massive scale. The great sages noted that our minds are nothing, too. Before a thought appears, there is emptiness and silence. And yet once the mind produces its creations, they are potent, meaningful, and coherent.
Creation doesn’t move from the invisible to the visible with random particles like foam on the surface of the sea. They look random in the Large Hadron Collider, but the scientists running the machine, who are themselves part of creation, don’t have bodies that fly apart into a cloud of particles. Rather, our bodies, like the human brain and DNA itself, are exquisitely ordered creations, the farthest thing from random events.
Physical forces cannot explain such exquisite order, much less the meaning we derive from it, which is why God came into being. The God particle delivers the tiniest bits of the clock but not the maker. I do not mean that an actual person in the sky made the universe. Keeping strictly with the scientific worldview, the maker must be impersonal, intelligent, universal, invisible, yet manifest in the visible world. The only viable candidate is consciousness.
The Higgs boson particle represents a tiny stepping stone toward a theory of creation that rests upon consciousness as the primal stuff of the cosmos. Many theorists are already getting there; it’s been several decades since the concept of a self-aware universe has been in play.
Someday it will be commonplace to concede that the intangible, immaterial domain of quantum physics is conscious. In that world of virtual particles, non-locality, and indeterminacy, things don’t exist with shape, hardness, or color. Their existence is a fleeting display of tendencies, and the superposition of possibilities. It will be a major realization for science to recognize that all of these tendencies and qualities are tendencies of consciousness.
The third step to a full comprehension of the universe will be connecting the consciousness, which is the ground of the cosmos, to our individual experience of consciousness. Our ground of existence is the same as the ground state of the universe. This is the message of Vedanta: Atman is Brahman. Individual consciousness fully awakened is the same as the essential nature of the entire cosmos. Somehow our consciousness participates and is integral to the creation of the universe. Sadly, by the time we realize our true creative role, our ignorant actions might have already destroyed our planetary home.
The creative function of consciousness in quantum mechanics was originally outlined in the Copenhagen Interpretation which says that an observer is required in order to collapse the wave function into a single occurrence and produce a measurable outcome. Without a conscious observer, the wave function remains a superposition of eigenstates that are not real in a measurable way.
The Many Worlds theory of quantum mechanics seeks to avoid the need for an observer and the collapse of the wave function by positing enough parallel universes to contain all possible states of the wave function. But in the end, to solve the measurement problem without an observer, a measuring apparatus is needed that is physical yet when analyzed quantum mechanically would not itself be a wave function, or superposition of eigenstates. No one can explain what kind of matter that would be.
The Transactional Interpretation describes quantum interactions in terms of a standing wave formed by retarded (forward-in-time) and advanced (backward-in-time) waves. Here it is assumed that the interaction with the measurement device somehow activates the emission of a possibility wave going backward in time. This is a way to avoid the need of an observer, but like the Many Worlds theory it too implies a dualistic universe that takes us outside of the rules of quantum measurement. Again, the equipment that measures the wave function would have to be made out of matter that does not obey quantum physics with the superposition of possibilities.
A more promising theory of quantum mechanics is David Bohm’s paradigm of Implicate and Explicate Order where primacy is given to wholeness over the parts which include space, time, particles, and quantum states. In this view, the parts unfold from the whole.
Sir Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff, PhD. have evolved the Orchestrated objective reduction model (Orch OR) and this I find to be the most progressive theory to bridge universal consciousness and individual consciousness. Penrose starts with the position that consciousness is fundamentally non-algorithmic and therefore incapable of being duplicated by a computer or machine. He proposes that consciousness could be explained through quantum theory with a new type of wave function collapse in the brain. Hameroff’s expertise in the field of neurophysiology provided a likely quantum link in the microtubules in the neurons. Instead of the conventional view is that consciousness emerges from complex computation among brain neurons, they propose that consciousness involves sequences of quantum computations in microtubules inside brain neurons, not between them in the dendrites and synapses. The quantum computations in the brain are also ripples in fundamental spacetime geometry, the most basic level of the universe.
Penrose suggests that quantum wave function collapse happens by itself above the Planck scale. He postulates that each quantum superposition has its own spacetime curvature and these bits of curved spacetime form a kind of blister in spacetime maintaining superposition. But when it gets larger, beyond the Planck scale, gravity’s influence makes it unstable and it collapses. That is the objective reduction or collapse of the wave function into a measurable particle.
This theory approaches the perspective of Vedanta, where Brahman the all-inclusive consciousness is the self-interacting dynamic of observer, observed and process of observation. This process of self-interaction gives rise to all diversity and phenomenon while it remains unaffected by it. As science continues to probe the exotic and extreme reaches of physics we can take some comfort that we are actually coming closer to understanding what is most intimate to us, our own consciousness, our self. The tangible springs from the intangible, and that intangible is what we are and what we call God.
Follow Deepak on Twitter