The Tao of Love and Light: Riffing on physics and faith

The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism

The Tao of Physics

The following is a comment storm that blew out of a seemingly innocent status message I posted on Facebook. It got a few of us thinking, and I think the thinking in it, on all sides, is interesting.

Note that the quote, by Stephen Edwards, is not taken from the book, The Tao of Physics, by Fritjof Capra.

Peter Status:
Ironically, what quantum physics teaches us is that what we can’t see is what controls our world! That’s where faith comes in. ~ Stephen Edwards


Ann:
An important difference is that the process of investigation continues, the unseen is not dismissed as supernatural and unknowable.


Peter:
<smile> Don’t dismiss faith as a process without investigation, or query, Ann. It sometimes is, but is not necessarily so. Whatever faith I have came through a lifelong investigation coupled with a series of empirical experiences.

I have faith in love. Science produces myriad theories regarding its nature. I prefer my faith — it’s more poetic, for one, but more importantly it describes my experience of it better than any theory based on scientific methods of inquiry.

Moreover, scientists today are functionally no different than priests and prophets; they are the possessors of strange, even arcane, knowledge expressed in a language undecipherable to the lay person. The vast majority of people accept the tenets of science as articles of faith rather than from an understanding of established theoretical constructs. (Which also explains why science has such a difficult time convincing the masses of basic scientific insights.) As Arthur C. Clarke noted: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Alan:
Faith may be investigated but, it is not amenable to empirical investigation. This doesn’t mean there is no poetry or awe just that it is a different, non-rational means. I prefer to approach the understanding of the world on the basis that it is real and knowable.

As a science educator, I would agree that many people don’t understand all scientific constructs but if they want to they can. This differs fundamentally from from chances of understanding the supernatural.

Peter:
I think you’re making an assumption about how I’m using faith, Alan, that limits its application. I’m not talking about “faith in god” or any such religious or spiritual confine, but the idea that acting on a reasonable faith is essential to our daily existence.

As a scientist I apply scientific inquiry to matters that are amenable to its methods. I also prefer to approach the world on the basis that it is real and knowable. But is it always wise to limit yourself to one way of knowing?

As a spiritual being, I recognise also that a number of my experiences are not, as you say, entirely amenable to scientific methods of inquiry. That does not mean they are not immune to rational consideration. Because I cannot scientifically explain them certainly does not change the fact that they are real and known to me. I’m not willing to restrict my knowledge to the narrow confines the methods of science have, thus far, defined as real and known, or perhaps are even able to. And in trying to construct an understanding of the world that fits this knowledge, I am forced to step outside the confines of scientific convention. To maintain that construct, it’s necessary to apply a liberal dose of faith. Faith in my experience. And faith in my ability to rationally understand the ramifications of them.

Science and religion share a tendency to a hubris I find dangerous, each setting themselves up as the sole arbiters of what is real and knowable. Thomas Aquinas, Albert Einstein and Carl Jung, among others, were all far too wise for that.

<smile> I agree that many people don’t understand their own spiritual nature, but if they want to, they can. Learning to access your spirituality is really not significantly different than learning to understand science. In fact, the basic techniques and methodologies were established thousands of years ago.

June:
Blah…Blah…Blah..” it’s clouds illusions I recall – I really don’t know clouds at all” (Joni Mitchell) Debate all you want…What if it all doesn’t matter? Smile – Dream Big – Strive to be your Best – Stand aside.. see what happens.. if you don’t like it – do something else…
Karen:
Science is set out for us, and the acceptance is easier when there is someone to stand and explain principles and tenets – learning to access and embrace your spirituality is a daunting process to wade through on your own, Peter….no guiding hand, no text book answers, no theories to fall back on, a personal journey where you put your heart and faith on the line – it’s a process I’m in the middle of right now and faith is my guide and mentor in this one 🙂
Peter:
J: For some it doesn’t matter. For others it does. “A time for every purpose under heaven…” I llike and agree with your thoughts on living…it seems that being my best places me in the category of: it matters to me; it’s important to express how.

<smile> “Both Sides Now” was part of the Olympic opening ceremonies. I posted it here: … part of that “it matters” thing. 😉

K: Yep, under most circumstances the spiritual journey seems more difficult than mastering science. I wonder how much that is due to the relative lack of resources and teachers, along with the prevailing negative attitude in our society toward it. And I wonder how much is due to the nature of spiritual knowledge and wisdom, so resistant to the scientific modes of inquiry we’ve been taught to rely on. Among the things I’ve learned is not only is there no single authority on spiritual questions, the understandings of two people, when expressed, may appear on the surface to be in conflict when, underlying them, the central ideas are compatible. Not unlike the dual nature of light.

When we look at it from some perspectives, it appears wavelike. When we look at it from other perspectives, it behaves as if it consists of particles. Light is neither a wave, nor a particle. No matter what perspective we see it from, it is still light, and how we describe it takes nothing from the beauty of a sunset. The difficulty arises not in the nature of light, itself, but in how we express our scientific understanding of it. For those with a deeper mathematical comprehension of light, it makes a certain amount of sense. For the rest of us, well…. It’s light’s illusions I recall…I really don’t know light at all.

Alan:
I love your last paragraph Peter 🙂

As far as ‘knowing’ anything goes I don’t think we can hope to do anymore than describe and make connections but, look at the wondrous things we’ve achieved doing just that!

If you see faith as merely trusting in your judgements which are based on prior observations then I’m with you.

Karen:
I love it as well…and was in the process of writing much the same comment myself Alan!
Peter:
Thanks, guys. 🙂

What we’ve achieved…and what we can observe that exists, all around us, without any of our doing…. All sources of wonder, that shortened-breath sensation of the exquisite, dare I say, divine? 🙂

That’s pretty much what I mean by faith, Alan.

Alan:
Divine? I’d rather not say it 🙂 But, hey, I’m all for wonder and exquisite sensations that shorten your breath 😉 We are talking about the same thing aren’t we?
Peter:
Waves and particles, Alan. It’s all light. 🙂
June:
what I find interesting about “Science” is that it fails to include the possibility that an “energy pattern” no matter what form it takes, is sentient. So if you were to study light from the perspective that it is a self-aware, actuated entity that has the ability to choose it’s shape based on it’s environment (or it’s mood 🙂 ) that might explain… See more some things.. Maybe the consciousness of light is seeking to understand it’s higher purpose as well? Perhaps light is part of our esoteric family-which is why we are so dependent on it in physical form. Maybe light depends on us too in a way we are not aware of ? Just a thought…

I agree that there is no “right way” – so to get back to Faith… Faith for me – is the trust that an intelligence (that I am one with) has placed my consciousness here experiencing this reality because my presence is important at this juncture.. I also trust that this intelligence is what inspires me, speaks to me through my dreams, a friend/stranger or sensations with the messages that propel me to create until my presence here is no longer required.. and for the most part, in that I find momentum, peace and joy.

Peter:
That’s some pretty impressive blah…blah…blah there June. 🙂
Steve:
Pat, right up your alley would be the classic book “The Tao of Physics” I suggest you look it up.
Peter:
I did, years ago. Decades ago, actually! And, as a matter of fact, it’s sitting on the coffee table in front of me…

Hmmmm….

Maybe it’s time to revisit it?

Steve:
ha… cool.. yeah I read it I think my junior year at RIT
Alan:
June, I think water is self-aware and cleverly constructed the world and us in order to get from place to place.
June:
Hey Peter ! I can “Blah” with the best of them …:) Blah Artists are everywhere… Like they say (who ever “they” are) it takes one to know one *wink*
Alan: Yes.. water is a close personal friend of mine…. and trees (their roots) were actually the first “World Wide Web” 🙂
Alan:
Hey, I liked water so much I let it occupy most of my body. Or, maybe it is their body?
June:
Maybe… or maybe it is the space in between Light Energy..

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