A direct link for the above video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbGAPR70tTY
A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty... We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.
- Albert Einstein
In David Jay Brown and Psychedelics, we talked about the possibility that psychedelic experiences might actually be used in the treatment of addictions and mental illness, when given in properly supervised circumstances. Though I have no personal experience with psychedelics I'm fascinated when I read about the experiences of others who have gone out to the edges of perception and brought us back some jewels for us all to admire.
Last blog was entitled "I Know You, You Know Me": a phrase from a Beatles song. This time we're using another phrase, this one which John Lennon tells us was based upon an insight that came to him while he was taking an acid trip. (The song this is taken from, "I Am the Walrus", is also quite famously known as a song John Lennon concocted after learning that schoolteachers were incorporating Beatles music into their lectures, and Lennon took great delight in creating a song which would be so deliberately obscure no one would be able to interpret it. Nonetheless, the opening phrase of the song is reported to be a serious effort by Lennon to explain an insight he perceived while under the influence of LSD:
I am he as you are he as you are me
and we are all together
Last blog we talked about the feeling of connectedness that a growing number of people are sharing right now around the world. It's so easy to be cynical about ideas like this, and yet books by serious scientists like Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, whose "My Stroke of Insight" I have talked about a number of times before, are showing us that there is more than just naive wishful thinking to such an idea: it appears that it is part of our basic human awareness, the underlying seeds of consciousness that make us who we are, that is naturally driven to find the connections of the one to the many.
I don't usually talk about my dreams in this blog, but I had a doozy a few weeks ago which, if you will indulge me, I would like to share.
Have you ever had a dream that seemed to cover an impossibly long span of time? In this dream, I started from my current life, interacted with people in ways that were sometimes wonderful, sometimes frustrating or infuriating, and eventually I died. After a brief break I started another life, this time still laden with the memories of what had ticked me off and what I had enjoyed in my previous life, and this definitely had an influence on my new life and the decisions I made. Again and again I repeated the process, and eventually I started to recognize myself in other bodies, often acting from a certain belief system which was flawed by misunderstandings and bad luck that had come before, and eventually I had lived every life that there was to have lived in the history of the world. I awoke with a feeling that if only we could all have such an experience, we would all be able to understand why so many of us can appear to act with unreasoning negativity - we are all interacting without truly understanding what makes the other person do and say the things they do.
Okay, it was just a dream, everyone has strange dreams from time to time. But since this project has me obsessed with finding connections, I saw an eerie echo of my dream a few days later when I read this passage from Michio Kaku's "The Physics of the Impossible". He is talking about Richard Feynman, whose "sum over histories" method is one of the concepts I have used many times in my book and this blog:
...Feynman revealed the true secret of antimatter: it's just ordinary matter going backward in time. This simple observation immediately explained the puzzle that all particles have antiparticle partners: it's because all particles can travel backward in time, and hence masquerade as antimatter. (This interpretation is still the explanation currently accepted today.)
With his thesis advisor, John Wheeler, Feynman then speculated that perhaps the entire universe consisted of just one electron, zigzagging back and and forth in time. Imagine that out of the chaos of the original big bang only a single electron was created. Trillions of years later, this single electron would eventually encounter the cataclysm of Doomsday, where it would make a U-turn and go backward in time, releasing a gamma ray in the process. Then it would go back to the original big bang, and then perform another U-turn. The electron would then make repeated zigzag journeys back and forth, from the big bang to Doomsday. Our universe in the twenty-first century is just a time slice of this electron's journey, in which we see trillions of electrons and antielectrons, that is, the visible universe. As strange as this theory may appear, it explains a curious fact from the quantum theory: why all electrons are the same. ...Maybe the reason is that the entire universe consists of the same electron, just bouncing back and forth in time.
Feynman's crazy notion about one single electron, and antimatter particles traveling backwards in time grew into his theory of quantum electrodynamics, which has been experimentally verified to one part in 10 billion, making it one of the most accurate theories of all time. Feynman and his colleagues were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1965 for this discovery. If you click here you can read his Nobel acceptance speech from that year, which is an entertaining and insightful exploration of the creative mind.
Could our universe really have only one electron, whizzing back and forth within timelessness to create the trillions of electrons we see at any particular "now" for our universe? Could consciousness be the same, only one consciousness traveling back and forth across time, experiencing the endless complexity of our universe from a unique perspective each time, but ultimately seeing itself complete the same journey over and over again? Perhaps John Lennon and Richard Feynman were thinking about ideas that were more similar than either of them could ever have realized.
Enjoy the journey!
PS - Since we've been talking about Beatles music, let's finish this entry with what I would consider to be the most Beatles-esque of the 26 songs I've written for this project, and it even begins with a mention of Paul McCartney, who reports that the first time he smoked marijuana he had the insight that there are seven levels to our reality. A direct link to this video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7r2NJop0cs
Next: Scrambled Eggs