This week I have had some very fundamental dialogues on two subjects, inner peace, and quantum multisimultaneity, with really serious folks. I have also had interesting discussions on what really happens when an electron jumps an energy level, but that I save for other venues. Item 2 will be quantum multisimultaneity, but my response to that also refers to Christianity and Islam. Republican politics also figure in both.
1. Inner Peace, and link to Buddhism =========================================
1.A: my memory of the first part of the dialogue (at Quaker Meeting)
Last Sunday, our Quaker “drop in” discussion began from a two-page extract from the writings of Howard Brinton, who for many years had a leadership position at Pendle Hill, the number one center for Quaker publications (and many other activities) in the US. “It’s just a ten minute drive from Swarthmore” towards the west. (My mother once lived in Marple Newton, also about ten minutes west of Swarthmore!) Many, many traditional Quakers were religious about keeping spiritual diaries (not unlike this blog, but less censored?), and Brinton had access to hundreds and hundreds of them – a rather interesting resource to think about.
The title of this extract made me interested but nervous: “The Quaker doctrine of inner peace.” DOCTRINE? But inner peace has been a core theme in true Christianity (Yeshua’s family talks a lot about it to this day), and it is certainly not absent from some good things in Buddhism... where people sometimes meditate on the experience of sitting next to a moonlit pond surrounded by woods in a calm vibrant evening in the forest. (I remember the intense feeling WALKING by such a pond in very late evening, dragging a suitcase, walking through a deep park on my way from New Carrellton metro stop and my house, when my ex-wife forgot to pick me up. Such a mixed melange of strong inputs!)
The first paragraph asked: “How can we expect to create peace and harmony in the world if we do not have it within ourselves? No matter how hard we work to create peace and harmony in the world, it will all end in failure as we project the chaos in ourselves out to the world, if we do not achieve inner peace.” That was pretty persuasive to me. It resonates with a lot of my own personal experience. One of the factors nudging me towards retirement last February... was a hope for straightening out some of these things.
Before we discussed the rest of the reading, we did get deep into analyzing what that first paragraph says. Should we REALLY aim to reduce the chaos in our lives, with such priority? Is that like the folks who want to eliminate fear, or pain, or aberration caused by memory (the cause of scientologists)? But we shouldn’t take pain-killing drugs under normal circumstances; that is like shooting the messenger! The natural sane approach is to fight the source of the pain or fear, or to reduce the confusion and ignorance which causes a lot of mental turbulence, NOT the phenomenon of mental turbulence as such. Like painful memories, it is an important tool, which should not be repressed but should be managed carefully. I think we mostly agreed on this.
But then – after the commercial, Brinton argued for a very specific WAY to achieve inner peace. I wish I could just post the reading, but it came on paper (and I have even lost the paper!). Basically, he said that we should listen quietly to hear the voice of God, learn what our life’s mission is, and then be calm and steadfast in simply focusing on that mission for the rest of our lives. He did cite noble and notable activities by Quakers built on that foundation. He extolled his choice of “RELIGION” as primary leading – but then showed respect for others who feel real meaning and purpose and inner peace by suffusing spiritual calling into whatever role in life they have gravitated to.
There was less of a feeling of immediate consensus here than on past meetings in this series, so we continued a bit by email.
1B. My Initial email follow-on ******************************************************
We discussed the important selection from Howard Brinton a bit more after we left meeting.
His first paragraph was very meaningful to me, on more levels than one, but we still feel some discomfort with the rest. I am reminded of some Eastern people who say "be here now" or scientologists who just want to ditch the power of associative memory in human life, or Ayn Rand, or folks who try to be fearless, and so on. There are many many concepts about life which can be exciting at times and very useful in the right context, but also unbalanced and dangerous if taken too far. It is really vital to put such things into the right context, to preserve the benefits but avoid the downsides.
In fact, a whole lot of my own life has been intensely "mission oriented." Crudely, I think of this as a kind of "yang" style of life, which is vital to life, but which strongly needs balance with the "yin" side. In fact, this month, as I came to understand more and more the limits of Zen Buddhism as it emerges from the Shaolin Monastery in China (which we have visited), I have joked to myself: "This was NOT so Chinese as Shaolin claims, to get money. Maybe the Chinese need to invent a third Buddhism, Yang Buddhism.... to create balance with the extreme yin which makes China strong in some ways but very weak in others."
So yes, mission oriented life is an important PART of life, but....
In my case, the mission I have felt most called to address in my life is: "Try to minimize the probability that the human species does not go extinct within just a few millennia." That is a clear mission, much better defined in principle than most,
and it does allow a kind of integration and one-mindedness as Brinton describes.
But it does not really avoid chaos and turbulence in the mind, and does not create calmness. Indeed, understanding the various threats to human existence in anything but calming! There is a kind of chaos of mind which is a natural, healthy way to consider multiple hypotheses and multiple approaches, always readsy to adapt to changing circumstances.
Sometimes that is too much for me. For example, I am recently interested in the challenge of "formulating MQED," a model of physics as proposed at the end of my recent paper with Luda. That is much smaller, and much more focused... yes even there, it is essential to open up to chaos, to uncertainty, to hundreds of viewpoints, to have a real chance of success.
What worries me most about Brinton's description is HOW he would in effect choose a mission for himself. I do not believe that God gives just one
clear well-defined simple mission for each person on earth, for their entire lives.
In a way, I think of God as more like a teacher in a Montessori school, who offers choices and is aware of the need to make it not too hard and not too easy.
Brinton's emphasis on peaceful thinking is biased towards too easy, in my view.
Much of my own life has been TOO yang, probably biased towards to hard,
inhumanly hard. Yet... we are called to push ourselves to our limits -- not beyond, but enough... a bit like "no pain, no gain."
I really liked an old Quaker woman I once heard from at Adelphi meeting, whose testimony was: "I really listened to the thoughts about getting rid of unimportant things, to make room for what is more important in life. My life was so overcluttered with things which were not really important. Now I got rid of those things... and now my life is even more cluttered with important things, where I know it will cause real harm if I do not keep up..!!" I believe we are all called to
follow her path, one way or another... but lately I am drifting towards a bit more yin to balance things. To some degree. Not pushing things so hard that I break myself or others. I think. (I am reminded of some neat things people said about Kasich, "He sounds so moderate and in the middle but actually he drives everyone nuts...")
1C. His Initial Response ************************************************************
Thanks for your thoughts. I think Brinton's experience is that God does communicate (if we listen). And if that really is the case (not hypothetically, but actually), then that experience puts everything else in a distant second place. The important question has been answered: there is a God who loves me and has something for me to do. Now, get to work and do it. That really does have the effect (at least, for me) of focusing and putting all other matters into proper perspective. It becomes possible to live "single mindedly." Which is what I think Brinton means by "peace of mind." No conflicting motives and purposes. All for His glory.
I do not see how to frame this idea, of a personal God with whom I have a direct relationship, into (say) Buddhist or Taoist terms. No Yin or Yang. Just one-on-one relationship with God. You know, somepeople really do have such an experience of God. Yeah, yeah, I know. I've been talking to my imaginary friend again. But, hey, to me God is not imaginary, or just an idea.
The other quibble I have is your choice of the word "mission." It seems to me freighted and not really how I experience much of my relationship with God. For example, what God calls me to do might only last for two minutes (say, speaking a word of encouragement to someone). And then the next instruction. And the next. etc. I'm not saying that some people don't experience a call to mission (that might last years); but much of the communication (in my experience) fits much more into the minute to minute, daily rhythms of life. IMHO.
1D. My First Reply *************************************************************
>You know, some people really do have such an experience of God. Yeah, yeah, I know. I've been talking to my >imaginary friend again.
Ah, but am I the imaginary friend?
The Greeley piece suggests many people have had experience they would not discuss in public. This fosters a situation where ever so many people imagine that they as individuals have seen so much more than all or 90% of the world.
To be honest, when Brinton suggests that God acts like a marine sergeant, handing out orders and saying "just do it, stupid, no questions," that suggests to me that his experience was substantially modulated by what he himself asked for and wanted, based on his own fears and limits. (Another theme Greeley probes quite well.) If one ASKS God for simple, stupid orders, he may provide what is asked, but the request from the person who asks really drives that outcome.
> But, hey, to me God is not imaginary, or just an idea. The other quibble I have is your choice of the word "mission. It >seems to me freighted
That's pretty much what Brinton was saying, no? Isn't that what focused and specific and single-minded MEANS, especially when one views it as exactly representing what God is asking of one?
>and not really how I experience much of my relationship with God For example, what God calls me to do might only >last for two minutes (say, speaking a word of encouragement to someone). And then the next instruction.
Yes, that was part of what I was saying, in contrast with the pure single-minded approach. To some extent, it is a matter of one thing at a time.
>And the next. etc. I'm not saying that some people don't experience a call to mission (that might last years); but >much of the communication (in my experience) fits much more into the minute to minute, daily rhythms of life.
Perhaps that is closer to the real thing than Brinton's more formal statement of it. But again, it is a matter of balance.
Of course, there is a very deep and fundamental challenge of discernment. Many people on earth have asserted very strongly that God wanted them to do things which you and I would agree are not really that. My brother recently talked to me about the lessons he has learned about being very careful to manage what LEVEL one listens to, and there are many levels, and many ways the process can be biased by ego. Brinton clearly rejects the idea of tuning into the earth as a whole, in the spirit of de Chardin... yet did his mind really reach out beyond the earth, or do we see more reflection of his personal needs? In many ways, it reminds me of what Greeley says about people who recoil from the ongoing dialogue, by saying "Please God, I'll be a good boy, I will be loyal and perseverant in (whatever tradition they grew up in), if only you will please not do THAT again ... please be satisfied by my being a loyal (X)..."
1E. His second reply ***************************************************
Hi, Paul --
Your choice of words (marine sergeant; handing out orders; just do it, stupid, no questions; substantially modulated; simple, stupid orders) does not accurately capture my own personal experience. Here is my attempt to rephrase your concern. You seem to be worried that people like Brinton (and me?) actually have a personal, hidden agenda that they may not be fully aware of themselves, and are using the excuse that "God told me to do it" in a kind of narrow, neurotic way to justify what are in fact selfish motivations. You may also be worried that people like Brinton (and me?) cannot easily handle complexity, and therefore seek ways not to have to deal with it (simple orders). Again, the motivation is self-serving. God is being used as a psychological justification for a hidden selfish agenda.
I respond: I think that both these concerns are realistic, and occur widely. Whether they occur, in fact, for Brinton (and for me?) requires more careful analysis. I observe (something you already know) that the fact that some people mis-use grace does not mean that others may not use it well. I think we ought to look more closely on a case-by-case basis; "one size fits all" doesn't work here, IMHO.
For what it's worth, I think you are a sensitive, thoughtful person. It's likely that I am over-reacting to some words that don't have the same emotional overtones to you that they have to me. I apologize.
1F. My second reply ************************************************************************************
Yes, I did note a difference between the fully single-minded approach advocated by Brinton and
what you said towards the end about your experience.
>Here is my attempt to rephrase your concern. You seem to be worried that people like Brinton (and me?) actually >have a personal, hidden agenda that they may not be fully aware of themselves, and are using the excuse that "God >told me to do it" in a kind of narrow, neurotic way to justify what are in fact selfish motivations. You may also be >worried that people like Brinton (and me?) cannot easily handle complexity, and therefore seek ways not to have to >deal with it (simple orders).
I certainly did not want to raise questions about your own practice. My concern was simply with the lack of balance in Brinton's recommendations for us all, which were labelled as THE Quaker doctrine on inner peace.
>>Whether they occur, in fact, for Brinton (and for me?) requires more careful analysis.
All of us who are serious about our spiritual practice must always be vigilant about the effects of normal human psychology. Normally, I should put much more effort into critiquing my own limits (as Jesus suggested... removing the beam, from my own eye...)... but written formal doctrines do require that we evaluate such doctrines carefully, to keep ourselves in the right context.
Just as I see Brinton's "solution" as one-sided (good but bad if pursued too far and too completely), I would also criticize the "be here now" Buddhists and Taoists in the same way. It is very good to be here now sometimes, energetically, but it is also very important to be somewhere else far away at times. More enlightened Buddhists are serious about being somewhere else at times and taking a middle way, and more enlightened Taoists call for a yin-yang kind of balance, but in all major cultures people do sometimes forget the larger picture, to their loss.
>I observe (something you already know) that the fact that some people mis-use grace does not mean that others >may not use it well. I think we ought to look more closely on a case-by-case basis; "one size fits all" doesn't work >here, IMHO.
Yes, we agree completely. In a good Montessori school, the teacher works hard to meet the distinct needs of individual students, and to be sensitive to what they need and what they can handle. There are many forms of Buddhism, some as decadent as the most decadent forms of Christianity or Islam, but there is also some kind of higher form, which seriously views the world as a school. I see no inconsistency between that and what Yeshua was teaching.
2. Quantum Multisimultaneity: What Does that New Experiment Tell us? ===============
2A. A friend in the quantum field asked***************************************************************
Physical Review Letters - Experimental Test of Multisimultaneity http://journals.aps.org/prl/pdf/10.1103/PhysRevLett.88.120404
Jenny Lorraine Nielsen: Attention all physicists – Does this result take out the transactional interpretation?
Sabine Hossenfelder Jes Scott Paul Erlich Nick Herbert – It's curious I do not see it cited very often despite it being a big name paper with an interesting result. (I don't personally endorse a conclusion that all forms of the pilot wave interpretation are ruled out, but also do not have a firm opinion in re: Bohmian interpretations.)
2B. My evaluation of this: ************************************************************
Just yesterday, I was considering joining APS primarily for the sake of journal access (which I had at NSF but no longer I think)... but the web page was a bit fuzzy. "members pay $50." Per issue? Per journal? For full access?
But "multisimultaneity" is a good google term. As I understand it, they are philosophers looking at the way reference frame effects change predictions for Bell's Theorem experiments. The new empirical result is that they DON'T change those predictions, just as Copenhagen would say, more or less.
But: so far as I know, I am the only on earth ever to demonstrate local realistic models which correctly predict the Bell experiments. (Not just in arxiv, published also in SPIE, QIP and IJBC.) Of course, I know how those models work. Change in reference frame does not change the predictions. Thus it is simply incorrect in logic to say that the new experiment does anything to invalidate the class of models I have developed (and am working on-again off-again to extend).
What about "pilot waves"? Well, there is a lot of stuff done in the name of De Broglie and Bohm (like stuff done in the name of Jesus or Mohammed) which would have really horrified the folks who developed the original version. Perhaps the new experiment invalidates a lot of that, but perhaps it was already logically invalidated, depending on which instances of Bohmianism you pick. However, in my view, the basic concepts of the linear and nonlinear wave discussed in the book by De Broglie and Vigier are still quite tenable, at least if one allows for some chaos in the dynamics of the "pilot wave" (the linear wave). 'tHooft claims that he believes that, just as Jeb Bush and Cheney claim to be Christians and the Koch brothers claim to be fighting for freedom...
but I don't see him having any interest in the type of mathematics needed to make it real.
Maybe I will write more on that, or maybe not.....
(By the way, I kept the letters I received from DeBroglie long ago, and included them in my scans from the time I retired.)