In Babette’s Feast—a wonderful old movie—the out-of-town captain sits to dine with a motley set of locals at Babette’s cottage in a poor remote 19th century Danish village. As he begins eating, he is utterly shocked, and looks around at the others in disbelief. None of them realize that the meal in front of them is extraordinary both in terms of the foodstuffs and the preparation. What the captain doesn’t know is that Babette had previously been a top chef in Paris and that this meal had cost her entire lottery winnings. Everyone else is just gobbling down the food and chatting. But the captain sits dumbfounded at the scene. No one else has a clue of what is in front of them.
For weeks I have pondered how to do an organized rollout of blog posts based on my sub-world of REG research and its implications. Ultimately, I found myself tied up in knots because there is too much to report, and there are two few reference points to ground how important it is. How will people understand? I was mentally frozen as to how one conveys this vast body of knowledge in a meaningful way.
Enough with the grand design. Rather, I will just start speaking about it by putting one foot in front of the other, so to speak (It is also methodically laid out in my book The Selection Effect.) And while I tend to be over-analytical, this post comes from the heart.
The worldview we all inherited (and the world we created from it) is based on 400 years of highly successful findings in the physical sciences. The knowledge led to, among other things, the general pronouncement the universe as fully mechanical at its foundations. For hundreds of years we saw the universe as a large clockwork. Quantum mechanics has provided a way out of this narrow view, but we are still so invested in our mechanical worldview that it is very difficult to dislodge. The experience of the REG, however, has allowed me to dislodge it, at least for myself, albeit very slowly. As I have learned to affect the physical world with my mind, it creates a feedback process regarding how it lets me think about and relate to the world. The universe, in fact, is nothing like we think it is.
Indeed, the REG, in my estimation, is one of the best vehicles for giving transitional knowledge because it creates us a bridge between our current description of physical reality and what is to come. There must be such a bridge constructed or the main body of society has no way to follow. Without a bridge, scientists on one side describe the researchers on the other side as living out a fantasy. But when we engage a new reality that bridges mind and matter in measurable ways, then those scientists who are moderately open are able to use the bridge.
The REG experience advocates for a world constructed of meaning. Our minds overlay meaning on the world such that we see the world in the image of that meaning. And while that can’t help but be true, it goes much deeper. The world is constructed of meaning in the sense that meaning is all there is in the universe. Electrons are meaning. Atoms are meaning. Molecules are meaning. This is not to say that they are just a meaning to us, but rather they are meaning to themselves. The world consists of what cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman calls “conscious agents.” These agents, in my estimation, are each made of a web of association just as each of our own minds are. (See the simple spider web depiction above.) Our minds are fabrics of hypertext linked threads of association, with “birds” connected to “seeds” and seeds connected to plants, and plants connected to green…and on and on. The web is the mind, and the threads of the web cause it to hold its shape. An electron’s mind is just like ours, only much simpler.
The physical world, then, becomes a place where meanings interact. Where meanings or associations can be shared among webs, there is communication. The commonality allows for the experience of the solidity of things. Things appear solid because they engage and push back against consciousness. When you argue with a person, their “positions” are brought to life for you. They can push back on you and you feel their meanings as real things. An electron in in a chair pushes back against the meaning of the electrons in your own body. In contrast, where this is no commonality of dimension, two meanings or even full webs pass through each other transparently. There could be whole universes on top of each other comprised of sets of associations that are not in common, like different spaces we do not even know are there. (For example, dark matter appears to lack most physical qualities or associations if normal matter other than mass—which is all we can measure its presence by).
This concept of meaning may sound wild, but if one looks through the literature in quantum mechanics, the foundational nature of meaning is an insight that a number of physicists began to embrace. For example, great physicist John Wheeler wrote, “That forward step has yet to be taken in the realm of meaning. Until it is, we will not have grasped the why of the quantum.” He continued, “No model for such an [observer/observed] loop is available for us today except of information-theoretic character, the model of existence as a meaning circuit.” Theoretical physicist David Bohm stated more bluntly, “It’s not to say that [the universe] has its meaning, but it is its meaning.” [emphasis in original and references below]. Bohm is not characterizing the universe as consisting of meaning for us but more ontologically consisting as meaning to itself.
For me, the realization of the fundamental nature of reality as meaning comes through the REG experience. When trying to shift the output of the REG, I come to inhabit a space in my mind that puts me in touch with pure meaning. During the process the essence of what I think is fused with the essence of the world outside me. With me as meaning and the world as meaning, the world becomes malleable. Not wholly, of course, as I do not have full rein over the world outside me. I can only change it a little, because the world’s other interconnected meanings keep the world largely fixed in place. The world is nested layers of webs of association, and to make a shift or change in this way, one must impose a slightly different structure, bending the current threads of association into slightly new patterns. I describe both the experiential aspects of the REG, and a more scientific description in The Selection Effect.
I think science will be forced into this awareness in the future. It is, in my estimation, inevitable. Neuroscience will encounter the fundamental nature of meaning as it digs deeper into the workings of the brain and realizes that the calculations do not add up—the material activity of the brain is not a closed causal loop that explains all that is going on. Physics, as noted, is already beginning to dig deeper into the quantum implications of what Wheeler called “our participatory universe.” And so, I feel like I sit a table where many others are unaware of what is happening. I am a strong believer in science and expect it will get there. We need it to get there, because this new awareness has profound implications for who we are, where we are headed, and the innate value system built into the world. But right now, it is too busy looking in other directions. And that makes for an uncomfortable silence at the table.
- John A. Wheeler, “How Come the Quantum,” in New Techniques and Ideas in Quantum Measurement Theory, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 480. New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1986, p. 305.
- Renee Weber, ”Meaning as Being in the Implicate Order Philosophy of David Bohm: a Conversation,” in Quantum Implications: Essays in Honour of David Bohm, Editors B. J. Hiley and F. David Peat, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987, p. 438.