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7. What’s quantum physics got to do with this?

Much like Buddhism, nothing and everything, depending upon the level one explores.

Despite the attempts to tie quantum physics to Eastern religion in books like, The Tao of physics or The Dancing Wu Li Masters, I have never run across an attempt to tie it in to Amazonian shamanism. I wouldn’t imagine anyone would try to use quantum physics as a way of explaining the placebo effect either.

But at the same time quantum physics gives scientific proof to the notion that rationalism cannot always be used to explain reality. The kinds of truths that quantum physics asks us to believe go way beyond shamanism and placebo effects.

We are asked to believe that light, and everything else for that matter, is both a wave and a particle at the same time. Unless we look. When we look it resolve’s itself into one or the other depending upon how we look i.e. the tests we run.

We are asked to believe that all the states of a particle can be either one way, or the other way or both ways at once. This is called being in a superposition, and is the basis on which quantum computers have been designed, built and actually demonstrated to work.

We are asked to believe in “entanglement” where two superpositioned particles, once related in a certain way, are able to instantly communicate their states one to the other even if they are a thousand light years apart. This was the “spooky action at a distance” as Einstein called it in his famous E.P.R. attack against quantum physics.

Because quantum physics resulted in such an absurd outcome, Einstein thought it proved something was missing from the theory. Instead, entanglement has since been tested in the laboratory, and been shown to actually happen. If Einstein had never deduced that the quantum theory implied entanglement, it might never been discovered. That’s one of the reasons that scientists say Einstein was right even when he was wrong.

The other main reason was his “cosmological constant” that he introduced into his general theory of relativity in order to allow for a static universe. When Edwin Hubble proved that the universe was expanding, Einstein called his cosmological constant the biggest blunder he had ever made.

The recent discovery that the universe was not only expanding, but accelerating in its expansion, meant that the universe contained a repellent force as well as the attractive force of gravity. This was Einstein’s cosmological constant brought back to life, and has been dubbed “dark energy” by cosmologists.

To return to entanglement, the implication of the theory is that everything in the universe is connected to everything else in the universe at instantaneous, superluminal speed. This is because at the “big bang” everything would have been entangled. Once entangled, always entangled. Sounds a bit like “Indra’s net”, no?

David Bohm tried to explain quantum weirdness with his implicate, explicate order theory. The universe exists on two levels, the explicate which we are all familiar with, and the implicate, which we can’t see but which is there nonetheless.

The example often used to explain what is meant by “implicate” is what happens when you put ink drops in glycerin. The individual drops do not dissolve and they hold together as separate entities in the glycerin. Now, if you rotate the glycerin around and around the drops will fade out till they disappear.

When you rotate the glycerin in the other direction, the drops eventually reappear. The drops, originally explicate, become implicate in the rotation, and become explicate again in the counter rotation.

More “Indra’s net” stuff. As I discussed in the previous chapter, Indra’s net is closely related to one of the most common hallucinations on ayahuasca.

Sitting out on the grass with Bob, he asked me whether I thought my MS was somehow caused by myself or was just bad luck. You know, like being one of the ones Charlie Whitman picked off from his place in the university tower.

I told him I wasn’t sure, but that the general feeling I got from the MS forums I visit was more the “bad luck” version. Here’s what he responded.

“Look Joe, a lot depends on one’s point of view and it is critical that you understand this. You know that light can manifest as either a particle or a wave depending upon which test you choose to run. I want you to consider the possibility that your sickness is being caused by something you have chosen during your life. The point is, that by looking at it that way it could actually be that way, the same way as in quantum physics.”

Wow, that hit me hard… I sat and thought as deeply as I could. Everyone makes choices they afterwards regret. But I couldn’t think of any at the moment. Until I came down with MS, my life had been almost literally “charmed”. I mean that.

Best family, best schools, honorable Navy service in Israel, marriage to a brilliant actress/fashion model, two unbelievably wonderful sons, no real money troubles, living in the most beautiful place with the smartest and coolest people in the US… The list goes on and on.

It wasn’t anything mentioned above, obviously. It had nothing to do with externals, they were all great. What about the internals? Was I comfortable with myself?

Was there any part of my life that bothered me? Something under the surface, a hintergedagen that could be manifesting itself through my MS?


The truth is that ever since the MS depression hit me 7 years ago I have basically been operating in “survival mode”. Those readers who have ever been severely depressed should know what I’m talking about. I’ll try to explain to those lucky enough not to know.

Essentially, “survival mode” the way I am using it refers to an intentional withdrawal from anything that could provoke a relapse of the depression.

I don’t go to any movies that are sad or are violent. I avoid even thinking about tragedies, even when they’re in the news. And I suppose I also avoid exposing myself to rejection.

That’s where the problem could lie! I haven’t written anything at all since the depression. I haven’t traveled anywhere since the depression. I have had NO ambitions at all since the depression.

I used to explain my lack of ambition as a positive quality. A Taoist denial of the ego, if you will. But that always felt a little hollow to me.

Maybe I’m disgusted with myself for not having contributed much to anything or anyone for the last seven years.

Maybe? I know I feel that way, now that I think about it. It’s just real hard to admit it.

So Bob wants me to view the MS as being caused by some self-inflicted injury. If it’s anything, it’s this. I will meditate on it and try to connect to whatever self-loathing I find. The point is not a psychological one. The point is to actually change the reality of my illness from a chance piece of bad luck to something I caused myself.

I know it sounds completely non-rationalistic. But the undeniable scientifically proven truth is that our choice of test does determine whether light manifests as a wave or a particle. Do we really know that our choice of attitude can’t affect an illness?

Quite the contrary, placebos and spontaneous remissions do occur. Our internal attitude is critical in these effects. I will try my hardest to believe that I am causing this MS as a way of waking me out of the stupor of “survival mode”.

Truth be told, it already has. My current word count on this book stands at 20,908. My posts to MS support forums of some of the chapters have been really appreciated by a lot of people. They like the content as well as enjoy my writing style. They tell me it makes them feel better to read it.

This makes me feel better than anything I have done since volunteering to fight for Israel after having completed Columbia Law School.

So maybe there is more of a quantum connection to this story than just proving rationalism to be limited.


It’s just very hard to beat back the skeptic inside me.

April 18, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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