South East Asia :: March - June 1995

Subject: Are you afraid of the dark?
Date: June 8, 1995 20:54

19:54 Babawaki-cho 7-2, Shugakuin; Kyoto, Kansai-Japan :: 8 JUN 95

From Lawrence M. Krauss' book, The Fifth Essence: The Search For Dark Matter In The Universe:

The vacuum [of space defined by] modern particle theory is a strange place indeed. From an unchanging "void" it has become an active arena out of which particles might be created or into which they might be destroyed. Just as light was supposed to excite waves in the aether according to Newton, we now envisage elementary particles to be excitations out of the vacuum state. That vacuum might even be the "source" of all matter in the universe. We may have dispensed with the classical aether of Aristotle and Huygens, but in the process have come to speculate about matters which may seem even more bizarre. Perhaps we have just come full circle. After all, how much closer can we come to the "indefinite" of [the early Greek philosopher] Anaximander? Recall once again his words: the "indefinite". . .
. . . is neither water nor any other of the so-called elements, but some different, boundless nature, from which all the heavens arise and the worlds within them; out of those things whence is the generation for existing things, into these again does their destruction take place, according to what must needs be.
Anaximander's words now appear prophetically familiar. Although we have come a long way from the cosmogony of Anaximander and the earlier myths of the primeval ocean, and our explanations have become more sophisticated and more scientific, the basic questions driving our inquiries are the same. We are still searching for the fundamental constituents of the matter that we can see and touch, and we still wonder about the origin, nature, and existence of the dominant "stuff" in the universe. As our knowledge of one realm has improved so has our ability to speculate about and probe another. Curiously, the possibility that we may be immersed in a background of matter, whose nature and constitution may differ substantially from that with which we are familiar seems to form not just a natural part of our mythological tradition, but of our scientific one as well.

pp. 41-42.

Put another way, contemporary theory may one day seem as naive and 'superstitious' as classical theory appears to us now; we still don't know for sure the true nature of the stuff comprising the universe.

I have recently posted, without comment, two articles on Chinese geomancyFeng Shui. Trailing one of these postings was a lengthy quotation from James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy given also without comment. The gist of these postings suggests that there is something going on in the universe that has slipped the detection of the scientific community. On the other hand, these articles and books claim that evidence provided by modern particle physics supports these more 'mystical' theories of how the universe works.

For example, Redfield claims:

Experiments have revealed that when you break apart small aspects of this energy, what we call elementary particles, and try to observe how they operate, the act of observation itself alters the results — as if these elementary particles are influenced by what the experimenter expects. . .

The Celestine Prophecy

Everything up to and including 'the act of observation itself alters the results' is absolutely true. Redfield is undoubtedly referring here to what is called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Of course it's a little more complex — and mundane — relationship than Redfield implies. Most simply put, the miniscule masses and energies involved in particle physics are grossly affected by the energies and masses inherent in the apparatus of the devices designed to measure them. For example, the act of measuring a particle's mass necessarily alters its velocity therefore any simultaneous measurement of both mass and velocity will be unreliable.

So, the results of observation remain independent of the experimenter's expectations. Redfield's conclusion that "the basic stuff of the universe, at its core, is looking like a kind of pure energy that is malleable to human intention and expectation" is not supported by the Uncertainty Principle. If the conclusion is true, he'll have to look elsewhere for evidence.

Tan Wee Kiat, in his defense of Chinese geomancy I titled, "The Feng Shui of Physics" wrote,

One aspect of the I Ching that appeals to modern physicists is the relation between spirit and matter. The Chinese believe spirit and matter are two aspects of the same thing. To them spirit is inherent in matter. Albert Einstein's field theory agrees with this.

Tan Wee Kiat

Actually, with the equation E=mc², Einstein showed that matter and energy are two aspects of the same thing. By energy Einstein meant electromagnetic radiation. Chinese spirit and Einsteinian energy are not the same thing. If they were, scientists could measure spirit with the same devices they measure, say, the photons cast by a light bulb, or the heat released by a splitting atom. Spirit energy, if it exists at all, has never been successfully measured as electromagnetic radiation.

Still, as even the physicist Lawrence M. Krauss suggests, for all its progress modern physics remains as ultimately mystified about the underlying nature of the universe as ever. We keep finding answers to questions we hadn't intended to ask, while the objects of our queries continue to elude—what is the fundamental building block of matter and energy? Science has uncovered the atom (the word means indivisible) then broke it into the sub-atomic protons, neutrons and electrons. But even these can be further divided. Physicists are forever postulating, then discovering, ever smaller and stranger particles.

Looking back just a few decades reveals a particle physics reality much removed from our present understanding. In this time we have discovered such exotic things as anti-matter, and learned to use these discoveries profitably. During a co-op term I wrote a program to simulate the effects of collisions between electrons and their anti-matter counterparts, positrons. This onetime Science Fiction concept now forms the basis of Positron Emission Tomography, a method for taking pictures of metabolic processes occurring in the human body. Before the turn of the century, only Jules Verne or H.G. Wells might have suggested such a device technologically possible.

Because the 'impossible' has become technologically possible I am skeptical when the scientific priesthood states unequivocally "that's not possible." My skepticism is reinforced by my own experience.

As a teenager I frequently experienced prescient dreams. That is, I would dream of a situation, a conversation or some other event, and sometime later this event would happen. As the event unfolded I would become conscious of its relation to some past dream, not as in Déjà vu such that each step of the event awoke the corresponding dream-memory — I knew in advance how the event would unfold. Rather, I could, for example, recite several phrases of a teacher's lecture out loud to my neighbouring classmate, a few words in advance of the teacher's own voicing. My 'pre-recollection' always proved to be verbatim. This always freaked out my classmate.

The frequency of these dreams declined into my twenties and I went several years without experiencing any. Recently, on this second leg of my travels, I've had a couple more experiences.

At best, science offers no explanation. At worst, it dismisses the possibility of such clairvoyance — any claims of clairvoyant abilities are made by nutcases or charlatans. But I am neither. While I myself have no explanation for the mechanism that sometimes provides me a glimpse of the future, I cannot ignore my own experiences, or convince myself that coincidence, or synchronicity or an over-active imagination are the root of the experience.

Science is often quick to dismiss as superstitious mumb-jumbo those practices and alternative realities that fail to meet the 'objective' criteria of currently accepted scientific fact. Often such a dismissal is dispatched with little or no effort to understand. Acupuncture is just one well-documented example of a 'superstitious' medical practice, developed on a "very shaky foundation laid in China's ancient past—an age of ignorance as seen in the light of present scientific knowledge". It just so happens that the Chinese ancients, without the benefit of modern scientific methods, struck upon a medical practice that works. A medical practice which continues to elude scientific explanation.

Now American doctors attend courses in China to learn how abdominal surgery can be performed on a patient with no more anesthetic than several well-placed needles. A friend involved with these courses laments that, true to form, the doctors are interested only in the methods—where and how to place the needles—not the 'metaphysical theory' that explains why these methods work. Given that western medical science still hasn't fully explained the effectiveness of acupuncture, I find such a state of preferred ignorance remarkable. The foundation laid in China's ancient past looks more like an age of discovery in light of present scientific ignorance.

Through the eyes of a TV documentary crew I have watched a little old Tai Chi master hold at bay a handful of healthy young men trying to budge him from his standing position. With ever so slight a shrug he gathered all the energy — Chi — they threw at him and reflected it back, sending them all sprawling. One of the sprawled commented he might as well have been trying to topple a brick wall and that the force that toppled him was like a shock wave.

I'm a little skeptical of video documentaries, but then Bill Moyers seems a trustworthy sort.

I have seen also a man crouch over a crumpled ball of paper. Holding his hands above the ball he grimaced slightly. The paper burst in flames. When a member of the video crew expressed some doubt, the man had the crewmember lie down. This time the hands unleashed into the other's abdomen what the crewmember described as 'a large jolt of electricity.'

On the other hand, among my favourite quotations come from a New York cop. It goes something like:

I've been to dozens of fortune-tellers and psychics and they told me hundreds of amazing things but not one has ever said that I was an undercover policewoman about to arrest them.

Last July, in Brisbane, I started an entry entitled 'I believe . . . I wonder . . . I don't know.' The intent was to explain a little bit what my conception of reality was and how I came to such conclusions. The motivation for this arose when a series of arguably coincidental events unfolded in an unsettlingly meaningful manner, as if some force were intent on defining my life's path. The project proved larger than my patience, or, more honestly, my understanding.

The entry rests quietly in my "In Progress" folder. From time to time I take another shot at it but don't get much further than an unsatisfactory rearrangement of words already set down. So there it stays, awaiting the inspiration that will provoke its completion. I don't expect any of you will receive it any time soon. In the meantime, I'll continue to read, and observe, and mull over my experiences and wonder about the nature of the universe.

Patrick. -- Responses Sought --


. . .and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.
  graphical element Lewis Carroll
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland