"[My relationships were] like I was in these movies where the script was only half-written. When I’d get to the end of this half-script, the other actors wanted me to ad lib. But I had never gotten the hang of that. That’s why these movies were always box-office failures. Six of them in the past twenty years. I always blew the lines." ~ from my horrible first novel "Learn How To Pretend." (unpublished)(obviously)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What the (Bleep) Did the Ancients Know?: An Exploration of Myth, Religion, Enlightenment, and Quantum Reality

Things are not as they appear to be. Nor are they otherwise.” 
—The Lankavatara Sutra

Where there is no vision, the people perish.' 
Proverbs 29:18

It is often felt that the ancients were ignorant, that they made up stories to explain natural phenomenon. We say this in part because their stories of flaming chariots through the heavens, or of one-eyed giants, lack scientific proof of evidence. We may picture a group of slack-jawed drooling idiots with prominent brow ridges, huddled around the fire discussing this with grunts and bone waving. We now know that that burning orb in the sky is in fact a gaseous, medium class star that we revolve around. Yet, the supposedly backward cultures gave us geometry in the 6th century BCE and had created a fully functional geometric theory within 400 years. Pythagoras, the famous mathematician developed a secretive cult following because his ideas were so astounding (and provable).  Algebra’s origins can be traced to the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians who develpoed a variety of linear, quadratic and other indeterminate equations 3,000 years ago. Most moderns have little grasp of either mathematical discipline. The Mayans, Greeks, Persians and Hindus gave us the study of astronomy and understood concepts such as the Great Year. The Greeks gave us ideals of democracy, and the Iroquois confederacy is the oldest continuous participant democracy in existence. The Greeks even had, to an extent, an understanding of atomic structure. Around 500 BC, they noticed that certain substances, such as gold, lead, iron and silver could not be broken down by heat, as could wood, cloth or plant material. They developed the idea of atomos meaning “indivisible.”

Yet, we read of their myths and think them foolish. Modern men are the wise ones. There are a few intelligent humans about, but for the most part, we are like the sports fan who feels a sense of superiority because “his” team has won, even though he had nothing to do with the victory.

A basic concept of quantum reality states that there is no reality if you aren’t looking at it and, by looking at it you make it real. It is this concept that I wish to address in this paper.

RELIGION


The gods of Greece are old. Many go back to a shared history with the Indo-Europeans who, linguists speculate, had a ruling sky-god called Dyeus (from which we get theos or god.) To the Hindus, this was Dyaus Pitar (shining father), and in Latin, Deus Pater or Jupiter. To the Greeks, this god becomes Zeus.

Prior to the Greeks were the Mycenaeans who most likely brought whole pantheon into the land. And before the Mycenaeans, the Minoans, most likely a polytheistic culture who worshiped the earth goddess, Gaia, and occupied the land for at least 1600 years.

In the early days of the stories of the gods, the “myths” were more than fable. They were religion. They were fact. The gods were regarded as real and were worshipped and – we imagine – feared. But in order to have religion, you must have something to believe in the first place. Something fact-based needed to occur in order to spark the initial belief. Somewhere in the back of our minds, we carry the notion from school days that the ancients made up their myths as a way of explaining natural phenomenon. Picture this scenario. A group of people are sitting around cave side in the dark. Suddenly, the sun bursts into the sky and the people cower in terror. “What the hell is that?!” they want to know. One member of the group says that it must be a god riding a flaming chariot through the skies. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief, makes the guy with the explanation a priest, and starts worshipping the sun. Not a likely scenario. The sun rose and set daily for millions of years before man even walked upright. Natural phenomenon did not come as a surprise that needed explanation.

So, what did happen? Did Helios really drive his flaming chariot across thy sky? Did Odysseus really blind a one-eyed giant? Did he sleep with a goddess? Did Oedipus really outwit the mythical sphinx? Did Prometheus really steal fire by hiding it in a stalk of fennel? Let us accept for now that the ancients understood, or at least acted within the concepts of quantum reality. If, as stated earlier, reality is created by observation and there are multiple possible outcomes of observation, then it stands to reason that the events described in “The Odyssey” could in fact have taken place. He could have easily descended into the land of the dead.

There is a story that when Columbus’ ships arrived in the new world, the natives on the shore could not see the ships because they had no concept that such a thing could exist. One shaman sensed though that there was something on the horizon because he could see ripples in the water. After a time, he was able to see the ships and was then able to help the others see them. A cyclops could have existed simply because it was the possible reality that Odysseus and his crew observed. They had an understanding of these things and so when they encountered them, there was no reason not to see them and to perceive them as real. The Greeks, jointly agreeing in these realities did in fact see these things, these acts of gods and heroes. As long as the confederacy of cities was relatively isolated from the rest of the world, the belief was safe.

 But then, if these seemingly fantastic gods and creatures were real what happened to them?  If they were worshipped religiously, how did they disappear?

MYTH


In the 5th century BCE, Euripides, the Greek tragic dramatist said “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”  Or as another put it, “they make ridiculous.”  As new religions advanced, the old ways were supplanted and relegated to the realm of myth and ridiculous superstition. “They can’t be true. Only our God is true.” And “The ancients were ignorant superstitious clowns.” “The followers of Zeus are a bunch of hypocrites.” “I can’t believe in a god who would throw lightning bolts at me.” As the empire expanded, soldiers, away from home and mother’s watchful eye, stopped sacrificing to Apollo and started hanging out with temple prostitutes in Pamphyllia. Far afield, they picked up new religious beliefs. Other religious – and even atheistic – views were introduced. The “Real” god came into play. Doubts crept in and the belief that created these gods faded. Without believers, there was no one to “see” these gods. As beliefs were changed, a different quantum field was created.  It could be said that the Greeks were guilty of deicide, for in their conquest of the world, they brought in the new gods and new ideas that brought Olympus tumbling down.

In the 4th century, Roman Emperor Julian, fearing that the Christians religion would soon take over, sent a messenger to Delphi to inquire of the oracle as to what would happen. The message came back thus: “Go tell the king that the well-crafted court has fallen to pieces, (Apollo) dwells here no more, there is no more oracular laurel, no talking spring, and the Voice of the Water has been silenced…”  The oracle’s mission on earth – that of messenger of Apollo – was through. As Apollo had supplanted Gaia, so Christ now replaced Apollo – the victors declaring the wickedness of those who had gone before. The gods of the Greek pantheon were dead.

THE AGE OF REASON


The church dominated the western world for nearly 1400 years. Far from being satisfied with supplanting the old religions, it sought ensure they never rose again, by equating them with evil. As the old religions had been replaced by myth because people could not see the gods, so The Age of Enlightenment, arriving in the 18th century, sought to replace the new religion because it could not see the new God.  During this so-called “age of enlightenment” or “age of reason,” humanity began to trust more and more in its sciences. After centuries of repression by the church, much of science was back to square one. It was time to rediscover that which the ancients knew all along. Reason was also big with the Greeks. But the Greeks came to the point where they seemed to mock the gods. It was all about man and what man knew.

Kant defined enlightenment this way:

"Enlightenment is man's leaving his self-caused immaturity. “Immaturity is the incapacity to use one's own understanding without the guidance of another. Such immaturity is self-caused if its cause is not lack of intelligence, but by lack of determination and courage to use one's intelligence without being guided by another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own intelligence!"

The 18th century was a hotbed of experiential philosophies as they related to economics, government, chemistry, biology and interesting to our discussion, physics. Mathematician and physicist, Isaac Newton developed a system of scientific study which fused axiomatic proof with physical observation that became the foundation of modern science.

During the age of enlightenment and beyond, religion, belief and faith became increasingly relegated to the dung heap of psychotic delusion and the gullibility of man. Later, Marx decried religion as the opiate of the masses and Nietzsche declared God dead. In looking at the beliefs of the ancients, the newly enlightened asked hard questions. If there were Cyclopes, where is the proof? Where are the skeletal remains? How could Joshua have made the sun stand still? How could Jesus have walked on water? These things all went against the laws of the sciences. They could not be empirically proven and were therefore dismissed as ignorant superstition.

The intellectual elite of this time determined to establish a rational system of ethics, aesthetics and knowledge. They saw themselves as leading the world out of the “dark ages.” This is not to say that all science in this age was against God. In fact, much of it was done in the name of God to discover His creation. There was a strong movement towards piety and ethics. On the one hand there was movement towards accepting the mystery of God and understanding that we can’t know it all. On the other there was Deism, which stated that everything in the natural world was accessible and understandable to the human intellect. It was also during this time that the concept of “a clockmaker god,” came into fashion.

Perhaps it was this vague nod to intelligent design, combined with Newton’s insistence on observable data that allowed for the next big leap. Up until now, science was saying “Where is the proof? Let me see.” Suddenly, the answer would be “The proof depends on your point of view.”

QUANTUM REALITY


In the realm of quantum theory, we understand the ability to create our realities.  In re-examining these stories from the past, such as the story of Odysseus, we can see some of the possibilities of these truths.  With so many believing so fervently in these sorts of events, the reality of them would have been “created.” As stated at the beginning of this paper, according to quantum reality there is no reality if you aren’t looking at it and by looking at it you make it real. Dr. Wayne Dyer, in his book Your Sacred Self strips quantum reality down to two key points. “There is no reality in the absence of observation” and “Observation creates reality.” But who makes this stuff up, and what is this theory of quantum mechanics?

In order to understand even vaguely what quantum physics are about, we need to understand classical physics as developed by Sir Isaac Newton. This classical form makes four basic assumptions – reality, locality, causality and continuity – that relate to how the world appears to our senses. Reality is the assumption that time and space are fixed, and that the physical world is objectively real and exists whether or not anyone is observing it. Locality says that objects can only be influenced by direct contact.  Causality takes for granted the idea that time is a one-way street so cause-and-effect sequences can only occur in one order. Continuity presupposes that time and space are smooth; there are no discontinuous jumps in the natural world.

Classical physics is really very common sense stuff based on our observations of most of the world. But it doesn’t work everything. Light for instance has different properties depending on how it is measured. Sometimes it shows itself as particles – separate objects with specific location in space. Other times it appears as a wave which is spread out in space and can be in more than one place at once. Classical physics has difficulties with electro magnetism as well.

About 70 or so years ago, a few brainy types developed the theory of quantum mechanics to account for this wave-particle nature of light.  As it turns out, it provided a better way of explaining the physical world in general. At least a better way of explaining it to other brainy types who understood physics in the first place.

Like light, electrons appear as either particles or waves. When they are waves, they don’t have any precise location. They exist in what are called “probability fields.” When an electron is unmeasured or unobserved it remains a wave. When it is observed, the probability field collapses into a solid particle in a fixed time and place. Dr. Nick Herbert, a physicist and author of the book Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics, puts it this way:

“… when you don't look at the world, it's described as waves of vibrating possibilities, buzzing opportunities, promises and potential. In some ways it's not quite real, and it's all vibrating. […] Then when you look, it's perfectly normal. The possibilities change into actualities, and these actualities are point-like. They're called quanta, quantum jumps, like little dots on the TV screen, or on a color photograph in a magazine. So, to make it brief, the world changes from possibility waves to actual particles, from possibility to actuality, from waves to particles.”
In other words, until you look at it, it isn’t there. Once you look at it, it exists.  Ultimately, the entire world is constructed out of particles that behave in this manner.
Through the work of people like Einstein, Bohr, Bohm, Everett, Bell and others, classical physics is being supplanted in the same way religion and the age of reason supplanted the mythos of the ancients. Classical Reality is no longer valid because we now understand that properties in the physical world are not fixed, but literally change depending on how we want to observe it. Locality is called Nonlocality in the new physics because items which appear to be separate are actually connected instantaneously through space-time. The Causality in classical physics is no longer applicable since the unidirectional linearity of time has been shown to be an illusion based on the perspective of the observer. And finally, classical continuity has been shown to be invalid. Neither space nor time have turned out to be smooth or contiguous.

Though classical physics got the Apollo rockets to the moon, it will someday be relegated to the same fate as the god Apollo, that of myth and backward thinking.

With an understanding of the ability to create our realities, we can re-examine these stories from the past in a new light. In the story of Odysseus and others, we can see some of the possibilities of these truths.  We understand that reality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. With so many believing so fervently in the events described in the epics, the reality of them would surely have been “created.”

Religion, myth, enlightenment, quantum reality. Applied to, say the Cyclops we have several scenarios. Was the Cyclops a divinely created being subject to worship?  A fanciful story of mythic proportions? Was it some sort of genetic abnormality that could have been studied with modern science? Or was it a being that was seen through the eyes of observers who had no reason to doubt its presence? Thanks to theories based on mathematical models and backed by empirical data proven in repeated experiments, we now know that the ancients may not have been as backwards and ignorant as we once thought. Things are not as they appear to be. Nor are they otherwise. Indeed.



Bibliography

Brown, David J., and Rebecca McClen Novick. “Faster Than Faster Than Light: An Interview with Nick Herbert.” Mavericksofthemind.com. 2003. 7/30/2005.

Dyer, Wayne W. “Your Sacred Self.” N.Y.: Harper  1995 (129)

Institute for Noetic Science. “What the (Bleep) Do We Know: Study Guide and Manual for Navigating Rabbit Holes.” PDF.  Ed. Schlitz, Marilyn, PhD, et al. 2005

Wikipedia.com. 7/30/2005.

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