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The Quantum Goddess

Author: Janice Van Cleve
Posted: August 5th. 2012
Times Viewed: 6,276

Neils Bohr and J.R.R. Tolkien may never have met each other in person but they certainly breathed the same air. Bohr (1885 – 1962) , the father of quantum theory, was born in Denmark but did his postgraduate work in physics at Manchester College and at Cambridge in England. Tolkien (1892 – 1973) , the father of Middle Earth, was born in South Africa but attended King Edwards School in Birmingham, England, and later became a professor at Oxford. While their careers took far different paths, their lines of reasoning pointed in the same direction – nothing less than the creation of a new deity.

Really? This may require a little explanation. Neils Bohr discovered the structure of the atom but even he admitted that the atom is something that could not be seen or measured. In what would later be called the Copenhagen interpretation he said “it is meaningless to ascribe any properties or even existence to anything that has not been measured”. In other words, nothing exists until it is measured and by measuring it, all other possibilities of existence collapse to fit the measurement. The movie What The Bleep Do We Know? illustrates this principle on a basketball court. When the subject is not looking, there are lots of basketballs bouncing on the court. When the subject turns around to look, she unconsciously collapses all those possibilities into one basketball.

This is the old story about the tree falling in the forest. If nobody hears it, did it make a sound? By seeing, hearing, measuring or in any way in-corp-orating (giving it a body) something into our consciousness, we inevitably reduce it to just that one incorporation. Physicists and psychologists have often debated whether we actually see with our eyes or with our brains. Are light and sound and mass quantitatively measurable outside of our consciousness or are they figments of our imagination? The movie Matrix comes to mind.

Light is a good example. Einstein spent his whole life trying to conceptualize the nature of Light. He discovered that Time is relative and that at the speed of Light, Time stands still. He and others discovered that Light could be either a particle or a wave depending upon how one measures it. Measured as particle, scientists calculate that the Earth receives 4.5 pounds of Light from the Sun every year. Measured as a wave, Light has no mass at all. However, Light may not be either a particle or a wave. Scientists speak of particles and waves because these are the only phenomena for which they have invented measurements. Perhaps Light is neither a particle nor a wave. Perhaps it is something else entirely, something that cannot be measured at all.

To take this analysis further, physicists point out that all matter is made up of molecules and all molecules are made up of atoms. Atoms are made up of at least one electron (negative charge) and one proton (positive charge) as in the hydrogen atom. Larger atoms have more electrons and protons and neutrons as well. Protons themselves are made up of quarks to which physicists have given names: Up, Down, Strange, Charm, Bottom, and Top. Who said physicists have no sense of humor?

Electrons and quarks are considered elemental particles – or if measured another way – waves. This whole mess of things moving back and forth between particles and waves made scientists pull out their hair until they developed String Theory. String Theory oversimplified says that everything is really a vibration, like the strings on a cello or the vocal chords of a singer.

Enter Tolkien. He begins the Silmarillion with his fantasy story of creation:
“There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Iluvatar, and he made first the Ainur, The Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad. But for a long while they sang only each alone, or but few together, while the rest harkened; for each comprehended only that part of the mind of Iluvatar from which he came, and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly. Yet ever as they listened they came to deeper understanding, and increased in unison and harmony.

“And it came to pass that Iluvatar called together all the Ainur and declared to them a mighty theme, unfolding to them things greater and more wonderful than he had yet revealed; and the glory of its beginning and the splendour of its end amazed the Ainur, so that they bowed before Iluvatar and were silent.

“Then Iluvatar said to them: ‘Of the theme that I have declared to you, I will now that ye make in harmony together a Great Music. And since I have kindled you with the Flame Imperishable, ye shall show forth your powers in adorning this theme, each with his own thoughts and devices, if he will. But I will sit and hearken, and be glad that through you great beauty has been wakened into song.’”

And thus was Middle Earth with all the lights of the heavens and the currents of the deeps, and all living things, formed and created. It all came forth from a song, a vibration of vocal chords. Sound familiar? Two widely different lines of reasoning pointing in the same direction – a harmony of strings.

The coincidence of quantum physics, string theory, and the creation of Middle Earth could not be closer if they had sprung from the same mind. Tolkien was a devout Catholic yet through his academic career he must have heard of quantum physics or sensed the singing basis of all matter from the sagas, which he studied. He did not see any conflict between fantasy and science. In an essay on fairy tales in Tree And Leaf he writes: “Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer the reason, the better fantasy it will make.”

If both science and fantasy arrived at the same conclusions about the theory of everything, it is only natural that this interconnection of all things would find expression in the Gaia Hypothesis. Chemist James Lovelock and biologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970’s formulated the Gaia Hypothesis, which proposes that all organisms and their inorganic surroundings on earth are closely integrated to form a single and self-regulating complex system to maintain the conditions for life on this planet.

As we enter the 21st Century and experience the effects of climate change, pollution, exhaustion of resources, etc. in the ecology around us, we begin to see the Gaia Hypothesis in action. We are beginning to realize that our actions do have consequences that upset the complex system that maintains the conditions for life on this planet. At first we responded, in our arrogance, by promoting efforts to save the planet. Only recently are we acknowledging that Gaia is perfectly capable of saving Herself and that the only effect we can have on Her is to try to save a place for our continued existence in Her plans! She did get rid of the dinosaurs, after all, and they didn’t even drill for oil!

This short foray into physics and fantasy provides a unique platform from which to reconsider concepts of deity. Since the first lightning bolt frightened a Neanderthal, humans have ascribed Gods and Goddesses to natural phenomena. Even today the spokesperson for the fire fighters battling the blazes in Colorado admits that Mother Nature is calling the shots. Humans tend to personalize the forces of Nature because it makes us more comfortable. Anthropomorphisizing Nature helps to make it something with which perhaps we can reason, something, which we can appease or even control. Humans generally do not like to feel alone in an impersonal universe like some accident that emerged from the primordial ooze and which can just as accidentally be wiped out.

As science pushes back the frontiers of the unknown, many of the phenomena which humans used to ascribe to deities are now explained. Humans understand the physics of lightning, tsunamis, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Humans understand the dynamics of disease, psychology, and motivation. The realms of the possible on the basis of human thought and action alone, without supernatural assistance, are expanding exponentially in all directions. Carl Jung even explained that the Gods and Goddesses themselves were merely archetypes of human nature – a concept that Greek scholars seem to have comprehended 2500 years ago.

In fact, many ancient cultures understood that the human relationship to their Gods and Goddesses was a reciprocal deal. The supernaturals needed humans as much as humans needed them. Humans made sacrifices to appease their Gods and Goddesses or ask for favors but they understood that these deities would dry up and blow away if they were not supplied with human offerings. No wonder Zeus and the Olympians became anxious when Demeter shut down agriculture so humans had nothing to put on the altars! By the same token, the Maya and Aztecs believed that blood sacrifice fed their Gods and Goddesses who returned the favor by granting rain. The Hebrews had a covenant with Jehovah in which each party had responsibilities. Nor is this reciprocal relationship lost in the past. One modern Wiccan church today closes its ceremonies with the phrase “may the Gods preserve the Craft as the Craft preserves the Gods.”

Yet the further science penetrates into the unknown, it seems the more unknowns it finds. Quarks and quantums present mysteries. Vibrating strings cannot be tested. But we humans still do not want to feel alone so we have to create new Gods and Goddesses. Instead of Isis, Athena, Kwan-yin, Quetzalcoatl, and Hecate will we have Up, Down, Strange, Charm, Bottom and Top? Will we have a Higgs Bosom, the so-called “God Particle”? Or do we ignore science and Nature altogether and invent some kind of “revealed” truth that we put into books like a Bible, Koran, Torah, or Book of Mormon? “Revealed” truths provide the comfortable security of certainty but they inevitably conflict because revelations tend to fossilize into dogmas that require violence to enforce. “Revealed” truths cannot stand competition. They tend to fight each other and to fight exploration into the unknown because such exploration may discover new truths that do not fit into their dogmas.

Thus we return to a single and self-regulating complex system that maintains the conditions for life on this planet – the Gaia Hypothesis. This concept has many key advantages. It includes everything, the known and the unknown, from quarks to continents. It acknowledges the value and necessity of everything even if we do not understand it. It accommodates constant change, growth, and evolution. It requires no faith because it can be experienced all around us. It can be given a name for its entirety like Gaia, Mother Nature, God, or Goddess. It can also be considered in smaller, more comprehensible parts, and these can accept individual identities like the cardinal directions, the sky and the sea, the moon, spirits, or angels. We humans can project our archetypes upon it or conform ourselves to its demands. It is a peaceful concept because all things are its manifestation and the conscious experience of one sentient being does not invalidate the conscious experience of another. It has no dogma because it is a vibration of constant renewal and as part of it; we are also in constant renewal. We are part of the song.

In conclusion, both science and fantasy inform our reality. They mold it and change it and then we customize it to fit our individual needs. Quantum physics has upset the scientific world and the Gaia Hypothesis has upset the fantasy of manifest destiny. We are smaller and less important than we used to think we were while at the same time we are part of a whole greater than we had ever imagined.

What kind of deities will we have to create to help us cope with this new reality? The Quantum Goddess may be a likely candidate.

Copyright: Janice Van Cleve is priestess in the Women Of The Goddess Circle ( . Copyright 2012.


Janice Van Cleve

Location: Seattle, Washington

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