“There is nothing you can learn from as much as a problem you cannot fully solve. Unsolved problems can be some of the greatest tormentors, but also the greatest teachers. Unsolved problems keep the mind hungry and the eyes open.” –Jonathan Zap
When it comes down to it, the universe is a baffling place. There is perhaps nothing more baffling than the fact that there’s even a universe to be baffled by. How many universes are there? Some scientists claim the answer could be anything between zero (this universe is an illusion) and infinity (multiverse). Nobody really knows the answer. And yet, the more we know, the more fascinating everything seems. The more baffling the question, the more exhilaration we feel. It’s the unanswered questions that pull us forward and bring a sense of the spiritual to the task of figuring things out.
Even the things we have figured out are minuscule compared to the things we can’t even imagine we can’t explain. Like Werner Heisenberg said, “The existing scientific concepts cover always only a very limited part of reality, and the other part that has not yet been understood is infinite.” Here then are four basic unexplained scientific concepts that seemingly bridge the gap between science and spirituality, and just might make us more spiritual in the process of trying to figure them out.
“We, aeronauts of the spirit! …it was our fate to be wrecked against infinity.” –Nietzsche
Infinity says we’re everything, finitude says we’re nothing. Between the two, we flow. From microcosm to macrocosm we are infinite beings perceiving an infinite reality using finite faculties. As such, infinity will always elude us. Infinity cannot be pigeonholed into finite scientific inquiry. The universe is infinite at every point. Every point is itself infinite, creating an infinite array of infinities: an infinite super-infinity multiplied by other super-infinities equaling an infinitely more infinite level of uber-infinity (Cantor’s Set Theory). And that’s just the infinite water molecule on the infinite ice cube balancing on the tip of an infinite iceberg, as this just speaks toward the spatial aspects of infinity. Once you throw in the temporal aspects of infinity then the brain-flipping really begins.
Temporal infinity leads us down a wormhole of infinite realities, where timelines are nothing more than quantized time-particles themselves. Every nano-second of every timeline is an infinite nano-second branching off into infinite timelines each with their own set of nano-seconds branching off infinitely through something outside of time. Huh? Toss in the never-ending irrational number Pi, which is so long that it cannot even be contained by our universe and may even contain the universe within itself, and then the brain-crushing somersaults really begins.
Are you baffled? Good, because that’s a healthy reaction. But there is a veritable boon of spiritual gold in the perplexing conundrum of infinity. I mean, as long as infinity is the rule, there can be no such thing as boredom. If spirituality means anything it means honoring the sacred and respecting the soul of things while also relating to the intellectual and higher endowments of the mind. It means having a genuine concern for that which is unseen and intangible as well as what’s physical and mundane.
If we’re bored we cannot be spiritual. There’s no space for spirituality if there is no awe, no astonishment, and no baffling curiosity to grapple with. The concept of infinity promises that we will never be bored. If there’s always something more to learn (infinite knowledge) then there can be no boredom, which brings up an interesting correlation between boredom and knowing. If we knew everything, we’d be cursed with eternal boredom and tedium. But since there’s always something more to learn, we’re blessed with eternal awe and fascination. It turns out that an infinite mind aware is infinitely bored, while a finite mind aware is infinitely enchanted.
2.) Quantum Mechanics (Space & Time)
“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.” –Carl Sagan
Atoms consist of 99.9999999% empty space. That means: everything from the chair you’re sitting on, the computer you’re staring at, even you, are only 000000001% there. In all actuality, nothing can exist separate from anything else. Everything is needed for anything to be possible. Maybe intuiting “space” is the mind’s way of preventing everything from being in the same place. Maybe “time” is the mind’s way of preventing everything from happening at once. Either way, much spiritual abundance is here to be had.
Perhaps space-time is nothing more than the insomnia of Infinity. Perhaps our searching for an explanation to time is akin to a fish searching for water. The fact that scientists can’t even explain something as simple as why the “arrow of time” only seems to move in one direction is absolutely bewildering. Most physicists even go so far as to claim that time is an illusion. And that’s because most of the research is pointing in exactly that direction. Pun intended. From Einstein’s relativity theory to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, from Schrödinger’s equation to Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, from quantum tunneling to the now eleven dimensions of space, space-time is one giant conundrum. It screams paradox. But is it really?
We find ourselves looking back and wondering: if history has proven, time and time again, that human perception is inadequate for explaining the way things “actually” are (flat earth, geocentric solar system, uniform time, etc.) who is to say that our perceptions are not tricking us into seeing what we think is real, as opposed to what is “actually” real? Perhaps the paradox isn’t time and space. Perhaps the paradox is us. It’s not reality that’s begging the question. It’s us, we, the very things pointing at everything and screaming “paradox” that needs to be questioned, measured, and deemed fallible. When we grasp the utter futility and beauty of this conundrum, a sense of humiliation and joy combines to gift us a spiritual goldmine of cosmic proportions.
“Human consciousness is just about the last surviving mystery. A mystery is a phenomenon that people don’t know how to think about – yet. There have been other great mysteries: the mystery of the origin of the universe, the mystery of life, the mysteries of time, space, and gravity… With consciousness, however, we are still in a terrible muddle. Consciousness stands alone today as a topic that often leaves even the most sophisticated thinkers tongue-tied and confused. And, as with all of the earlier mysteries, there are many who insist — and hope — that there will never be a demystification of consciousness.” –Daniel C. Dennett
Consciousness is the granddaddy of all unexplained scientific concepts, the be-all-end-all of all things unexplainable. I mean, we don’t even know how to go about thinking about not understanding it. Consciousness is the muddled soup of the previous two unexplained concepts combined, with the added bonus of being an unexplained concept itself, and the only tool we have to explain how unexplainable it is. Can you say Möbius-snake eating its own Möbius-tail? Can you say Schrödinger’s alive-cat chasing Schrödinger’s dead-cat around in a box that may or may not exist?
From Hugh Everett’s Many Worlds interpretation of the collapsing wave-function to the multiple histories in Feynman’s Diagrams, each and every particle (electrons, photons, protons) is in an infinite superposition across the multiverse of reality. The wavefunction of each infinite particle collapses only when something, a conscious observer, attempts to measure it. In fact, the research is showing that the particles are not even quantized particles UNTIL they are observed. Before observation, they are merely an infinitely smeared-out wavefunction quantum entangled with everything else.
Even stranger is how the research shows that each of us (who are also made up of protons and electrons), and every single object in the universe, are entangled in the superposition of each and every other particle. This means that not only are all particles spread out infinitely throughout the multiverse, but so are we. So is everything! It’s only conscious observation itself that is bringing tangibility to anything. Without conscious observation, everything is simply infinite, no beginning and no ending, merely infinite energy. With conscious observation, however, we have form and shape and texture and flowers and mountains and planets and galaxies and the universe. More importantly, we have ourselves, observing the absolute miracle of it all.
Consciousness is the medium by which reality, as we know it, exists. It is both the glue that binds all things and the force that separates things into conceivable constructs. It’s a matrix within a matrix observing and creating the matrix it’s in while branching out into an infinite amount of parallel matrixes in a multi-matrix which is spread out through the uber-matrix of time and space. Indeed, it is that which dares to count to Pi. Without conscious observation, everything is everything. With conscious observation, everything is separate, dynamic, beautiful, meaningful, and, yes, spiritual. And suddenly we are not so small.
About the Author
Gary ‘Z’ McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.
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