I remember the day I first realized this. From around the corner came the trolley car, scattering sparks above it. There was a grind of metal wheels, the tinkle of a few coins. With a jolt, the gigantic electric machine was on its way to my past, back, block by block through the decades, through the metropolitan limits of Boston, till it came to Roxbury. Here, at the foot of the hill, for me the universe began. I hoped I might find a set of initials scratched into a tree, or perhaps an old, half-rusted toy, which I might put away in a shoe box as evidence of my own immortality.
But when I reached that place I found that the tractors had been there and left. The city, it seemed, had reclaimed some acres of slum; the old house I lived in, and the houses next door where my friends played, and all the yards and trees of the years I grew up in all those things were gone. And though they had been swept from the world, in my mind they still stood, vivid and heliographing in the sun, superimposed on the current setting. I picked my way through the litter and the remains of some unidentifiable structure.
That spring day which some of my colleagues spent in the laboratory, and others in contemplation of black holes and equations I sat in a vacant city lot agonizing over the perverse nature of time. Not that I had never seen the fall of a leaf, nor a kind face grow old; but here, perchance, I might come across some hidden passageway that would take me beyond the nature I knew, to some eternal reality behind the flux of things.
The extent of the dilemma was realized both by Albert Einstein in the “Annalen de Physik” and by Ray Bradbury in his masterwork, “Dandelion Wine.”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Bentley. “Once I was a pretty little girl just like you, Jane, and you, Alice…”
“You’re joking with us,” giggled Jane. “You weren’t really ten ever, were you, Mrs. Bentley?”
“You run on home!” the woman cried suddenly, for she could not stand their eyes. “I won’t have you laughing.
“And your name’s not really Helen?”
“Of course it’s Helen!”
“Good-by,” said the two girls, giggling away across the lawn under the seas of shade. “Thanks for the ice cream!”
“Once I played hopscotch!” Mrs. Bentley cried after them, but they were gone.
Standing in the rubble of my past, it seemed extraordinary that I, like Mrs. Bentley, was in the present, that my consciousness, like the breeze meandering across the lot, blowing leaves before it, was moving on the edge of time. “My dear,” said Mr. Bentley, “you never will understand time, will you? When you’re nine, you think you’ve always been nine years old, and always will be. When you’re 30, it seems you’ve always been balanced there on that bright rim of middle life. And then when you turn 70, you are always and forever 70. You’re in the present, you’re trapped in the young now and an old now, but there’s no other now to be seen.”
Mrs. Bentley’s observation isn’t trivial. What sort of time is that which separates us from our past, and yet gives continuity to the thread of consciousness? Even a cat, when mortally ill, keeps its eyes focused on the ever-changing kaleidoscope of the here-and-now. There’s no thought of death. However, we humans believe in death because we’re told we’ll die. Also because we strictly associate ourselves with the body, and we know bodies die. End of story.
Physics tells us that energy is never lost, and that our brains and hence the feeling of life operates by electrical energy, and this energy simply can’t vanish. The biocentric view of the timeless, spaceless world allows for no true death in any real sense. Immortality resides outside of time altogether. Eastern religions have argued for millennia that birth and death are equally illusory. Since consciousness transcends the body “external” is a distinction of language alone we’re left with consciousness as the bedrock of existence. Death has always meant only one thing: an end with no reprieve. If we’re just our body, then we must die. But if we’re our consciousness, the sense of experience, then we can’t die for the simple reason that consciousness is expressed in manifold fashion and is ultimately unconfined.
As I sat in the vacant lot that spring afternoon, I found myself thinking there’s a better way to understand nature than science has so far. We need to pay closer attention to the processes of knowledge and perception. Scientists propound with much ado the connection of appearances in experience, but don’t see the connection of things in themselves, how they stand in community with others. They think they can say where individuality begins and ends, whether the mind is absolutely destroyed with the body. Yet, when death approaches, even they try to look beyond it.
Mrs. Bentley was right: we’re trapped in the “now.” We think 70 is the last “now,” but who knows that space and time aren’t forms of intuition, and that there are other “nows” if we but knew our mind?
World May Be Influenced By The Future
We’ve been taught our consciousness and everything else in the world flows like an arrow in one direction from the cradle to the grave. But an amazing set of experiments suggest the present and the future are entangled, and that events in the future may influence things happening in the world now.
An amazing set of experiments suggest that events in the future may influence things happening in the world now. The past, present and future are inseparably entangled.
Since this sounds absurd, let’s go straight to an actual experiment published in 2002. Scientists showed that pairs of particles could anticipate what their distant twins would do in the future. They stretched the distance one of the photons took to reach its detector, so the other photon would hit its own detector first. The photons taking this path already finished their journeys they either collapse into a particle or don’t before their twin encounters a scrambling device. They decided this before their twin ever encountered the scrambler. Somehow, the particles “knew” what the researcher would do before it happened.
We, of course, live in the same world. Does this experiment suggest your unborn child could influence what’s going on next to you right now?
In the mid-30’s, physicist Erwin Schrödinger, upset about the implications of quantum theory devised a thought experiment to try to reveal the absurdity of applying quantum reality to the ordinary world. He imagined a closed box containing a cat and a radioactive source. If a detector registers a radioactive particle, a poison gas is released and the cat dies; if not, the cat lives. The detector is turned on so there’s a 50-50 chance the radioactive source will emit a particle. If quantum reality is applied to this experiment, neither of the possibilities open to the radioactive source, and therefore to the cat, has any reality unless its observed; that is, the atomic decay has neither happened nor not happened, and the cat is neither dead nor alive until we look inside the box to observe it. One might say the cat exists in an indeterminate state until it’s observed.
Ironically, although Schrödinger devised this experiment to reveal the absurdity of applying quantum notions to the everyday world, many scientists believe Schrödinger’s conclusion is an appropriate analysis of the cat’s (or our) predicament. Some object on the grounds it’s non-deterministic Einstein’s quotes “God does not play dice” and “Do you really think the moon isn’t there if you aren’t looking at it?” exemplify this. In response, the great Nobel laureate, Niels Bohr said “Einstein, don’t tell God what to do.”
Recent experiments suggest Schrödinger’s “absurd” conclusion may be right. Zeilinger’s work with huge molecules called buckyballs pushes quantum reality into the macroscopic world. In an exciting extension of this work proposed by Roger Penrose, the renowned Oxford physicist not just light, but a small mirror that reflects it, becomes part of an entangled quantum system, one that’s billions of times larger than a buckyball. If the proposed experiment confirms Penrose’s idea, it would furnish the most powerful evidence that biocentrism that is, the biocentric view of the universe is correct at the level of living organisms.