In fact, this collapse occurs with the active participation of an observer, setting up a quantum experiment, something known as the observer effect. The phenomenon that reality does not exist independently of measurement was so counter-intuitive that it continues to pose riddles a century after it was proposed, for unlike normal objects in everyday life—mountains, trees, rocks, etc.—that stay put no matter whether someone is present to look at them, a quantum apparently has an absolute need for an observer. Without being looked at, for the purposes of measuring it, there is no proof that the quantum, as a particle, even exists or where it might be.
Let’s set aside the technical issues the measurement problem gives rise to. Behind the technicalities, one faces the prospect that creation itself needs an observer in order to exist, including the entire universe. This theoretical hypothesis is taken very seriously in contemporary physics, because when you go as deep as the quantum field and reach the zero point of creation, time and space themselves vanish. Nothing of the known universe has a proven existence without an observer (although in a novel twist, some physicists theorize that the observer doesn’t necessarily have to be human).
Let’s accept the fact, well established in modern physics, that the precreated state exists, and that in some way the physical universe popped into existence from a state that has no ordinary qualities of everyday reality, no time, space, colors, shapes, indeed no materiality or constant energy. If the observer effect gives us any clue about how precreation turned into creation, a glaring fact emerges. Observation is neither passive nor neutral. Creation isn’t a passive act, and no observer is neutral because every living creature sees the world through a specific nervous system, tied to specific sensors. It is inconceivable with the human nervous system, for example, to imagine how a butterfly’s 360-degree field of vision operates.
So far, we’ve taken no unproven leaps; everything up to now is fairly standard physics, although there are all kinds of interpretations about what any of these discoveries actually mean and what kind of world is implied. One sizable portion of physicists, for example, have given up on describing reality in everyday familiar, sensory-based terms, conceding that the quantum world and the precreated state are only describable as abstract mathematical entities existing in a purely mathematical space.
If this view doesn’t represent a defeat for an objective reality devoid of the participation of observation, it certainly amounts to a humbling turn of events. The optimism that modern physics would arrive at a Theory of Everything has waned in many circles, and various advanced equations and observations of strange phenomena like dark matter, dark energy, and black holes greatly diminish anyone’s certainty that the physical universe is actually open to human explanation and its inherent limitations. Despite the excitement over observing a black hole for the first time, no one knows where the matter and energy sucked into a black hole goes (perhaps to regions of space-time beyond our accessibility) or whether it comes back again.
But if we stay with the basics, the observer effect and the collapse of the wave function seem to indicate that simply by looking out upon the world, each observer is enmeshed in creation, perhaps forever and everywhere. We are not solid bodies plunked down on the stage of history. We are entangled in the whole process of creating space, time, matter, and energy. For one implication of the precreated state is that the leap from precreation to creation is occurring all the time. Some theorists go so far as to say that we are surrounded by countless big bangs going off every second. What makes them occur? No one knows, but a very good candidate is our own participation in the process.
In other words, simply by looking, you are shaping the universe you perceive, a human universe unique to us as a species of consciousness. Unseen all around us are frameworks of space, time, matter, and energy spinning off on their own course. It is speculated that every thought leads to an “event line” that shoots off into a new reality. This sounds like dizzying stuff, but it gives rise to amazing possibilities in everyday life.
The first possibility, which has already been sketched in, is that each of us co-creates reality. Instead of being something “out there” in the physical world, reality not only includes the subjective mental world “in here,” but reality cannot exist in its present form without human consciousness. “You are the universe” must be taken seriously, along with its converse, “the universe is you.” In the next post we’ll see that this proposition totally overturns everyday life and how we interact with the world. An expanded state of freedom with far more creative possibilities is dawning.
(To be cont.)
Reprinted from San Francisco Chronicle with permission