Where Spirit Becomes Soul
As someone attempting to develop a cohesive theory of healing and human potential that incorporates not only biology and biomedicine but also the new sciences (by that I mean quantum theory and modern physics; and complexity theory, systems theory and non-linear dynamics), an image recently came into my mind that fit my line of reasoning.
The specific image occurred to me while I was taking a workshop on guided visualization. The instructor led us through a guided visualization that I called, according to my notes, a guided voyage into our souls. At first I visualized that angels were leading me; there was one on each of my arms, carrying me higher and higher. From there, we progressed into the second part of the exercise, and this time I delved deeper into the soul. As I did so, I went to the borders of soul and spirit, where spirit becomes soul.
This realm that I was delving into may contain the secrets of life, health and human potential. It is here where we can tap into the regenerative and restorative powers of the universe, and where we can also tap into the ability to transform our lives, achieve self-actualization and tap into our full potential as human beings.
To fully understand it, and to put a scientific framework around it, let us first examine it from a theoretical standpoint.
Where Does the Weirdness Go?
Scientists studying quantum theory have wondered where the world of quantum mechanics goes once the transition is made into the world of classical mechanics, our world of everyday things. In the quantum world, particles are not particles but instead wavicles, both particle and wave. This is also known as the wave function. In this world, these wavicles do not reside in any one place but instead are clouds of possibilities, existing in a state of pure potentiality consisting of all the possible positions they could conceivably occupy. And conceivably this could then encompass every position in the entire universe.
For instance, even though I am sitting here in front of my computer, my wavicles could be everywhere in the entire universe, all at the same time, representing the past, present and future. Yet, as I said, I am sitting here. Sounds more interesting to be here, there and everywhere, but alas, there is only one place for me. So the question then becomes, as the author David Lindley aptly put it in the title of one of his books, “Where does the weirdness go?”
This has been a question for scientists to ponder. It would be a lot easier if there was no “weirdness” at all, but because quantum theory has been experimentally verified, we are left with the reality that our linear, four-dimensional thinking, which is our way of seeing the visible world, may only be the partial truth. To truly appreciate what these new theories are telling us, we need to expand our thinking and see the world beyond our five senses and our four dimensions. We need to see things more expansively because we are multi-sensory beings residing in a multi-dimensional universe.
The answer to where the “weirdness” goes is the process of decoherence. The quantum state is in a coherent state, known as quantum superposition – this is where all of the wavicle’s possible and potential states cling together. When either the act of observation, the act of measurement, or some other disturbance occurs, the superpositioned state becomes unglued, losing its coherence. It then decoheres into one specific position, going from infinite potentialities to finiteness. Quantum ambiguity transforms into hard-edged reality, the familiar world dominated by the laws of classical physics.
The quantum world, in the coherent state, is a world of resonance, purity and perfection. In this world, everything exists in unison, in oneness, in lightness. When brain waves have been measured in people who are considered spiritually evolved, there is generally no brain wave activity seen, except for a slight delta wave measurement. Delta waves signify the activity of the brain in deep sleep. This type of measurement of spiritually evolved people may be what the quantum state looks like.
This is also the world of the quantum vacuum, also known as the zero-point field. This realm is infinite, and contains all of empty space. Empty space is not just outer space, of course. It is all around – everywhere and anywhere, both in the infinite expanses of space and in the endless depths within us.
It is found in the depths of the universe and in black holes. It is also found within the atom, which is 99% empty space. And within the atom lies the subatomic realm, which is an inverse infinite version of the infinite depths of the universe. Deep within the subatomic realm is a world without boundaries, a region that doesn’t end just with quarks or neutrinos or gluons, or any of the other subatomic particles.
Murray Gell-Mann, the founder of the quarks, must have intuited the realities of the subatomic world. He called the organizing scheme of the subatomic particles the Eightfold Way, after the Buddha’s teachings. Gell-Mann probably felt a kinship to the Buddha’s teachings of the Void when Gell-Mann stared into the infinite depths of the subatomic realm.
The classical realm, our everyday world of randomness intertwined with meaning, is created by the process of decoherence. We lose the infiniteness of the coherent world, in order that we can be in one place at one time. By the nature of the term though, decoherence is not stable. There is a certain complex order to our macro world, an order that can not be totally explained by linear, cause and effect reasoning. As much as people would like predictability and safety, there is a non-linear dynamic to life.
This is because underlying our relative world is the quantum world. Although decoherence has occurred, this does not mean that the quantum world has disappeared. Instead, the quantum world becomes the silent mechanism that permeates our visible reality and tries to direct us in a way that aids us in maintaining our purity, and keeping us connected with the quantum vacuum. This silent mechanism contains information at a level more primordial than what we generally think of as information. It is an information that contains transcendent consciousness, and within this information all of the secrets of the universe, from the beginningless beginning to the endless end are contained.
The Transmission of the Lamp
In the teachings of Zen, the transmission of this information is called The Transmission of the Lamp. It is considered that this information has no weight, no substance, nor any density. It is weightless, formless, and free of any strictures. It contains knowledge of the infiniteness of the universe: this is a wisdom that when tapped into and understood, contains the ability to release the infinite power of the universe in our lives.
We could say, if we were to speak in more metaphysical terms, that the quantum force that permeates our everyday lives is the divine guidance that we hear so much about. This divine guidance emanates from the purity and light of the quantum world. We could also say that the purity and light of the quantum world is the sacred contract that Caroline Myss talks about. I don’t see the sacred contract as a literal object; I see it more metaphorically as an energetic substance. This energetic substance is like a light, like the Zen lamp, that contains information; the divine guidance emanates from this light and acts as a pendulum that swings back and forth within each of us, trying to direct us towards the light and helping us find our own internal equilibrium.
The Implicate Order
If we were to chart the movement of the pendulum, we would see that it moves in a direction that would be called, to borrow a term from complexity theory and fractal geometry, a strange attractor. Strange attractors are the movements of a healthy system; this type of movement appears on the surface to be chaotic, yet deeper understanding shows that there’s an inherent order amidst the seeming chaos. This is the way our lives go: although there appears to be no rhyme or reason to the patterns of our life, we are being led through life on a path of a deeper-lying purpose, of an implicate order. This order is a self-regulating order; it is the pendulum, in its strange attractor pattern, that is doing the regulating.
This pendulum is our internal compass, trying to direct us towards the true north of the light. We all decide whether we want to pay attention to this internal compass; this is our free will. The best way to pay attention is by developing and listening to our intuition and vision. Yet somehow, even when we don’t listen to our intuition, when we go 180 degrees opposite to the direction the pendulum is trying to point us, we still may end up in the right direction. All roads eventually lead to Rome, as is said; at times it appears that there is an invisible hand or force that leads us through life.
The more in touch we are with ourselves, the more evolved we are, the more we will begin to comprehend the direction our life is heading, and the more we can take control of our life and steer it in the direction we deem best. To take control of our life is to listen to our heart and to follow our intuition.
Yet for many people this is a difficult task. Many people go through life as if they were going through the paces, as if life were one big production of Waiting for Godot. People wait and wait and wait, waiting for something to happen, waiting to get pushed in one direction or another, waiting for a lucky break. They are held back by their fears and by tribal beliefs that tell them what is to be expected of their lives, an expectation that may go against the grain of where they would truly desire to be.
The first time I heard the terminology of tribal beliefs was at a private funeral service I attended for Dr. Benjamin Spock. I had the privilege of getting to know Dr. Spock over the last few years of his life, and like many people who crossed paths with him, I felt very blessed by having met him. At his service, another friend of his, Deepak Chopra, spoke. Chopra discussed Dr. Spock’s life and said how his entire life was spent going against the belief patterns of tribal thought, and that he forged and pioneered new ground by going his own way. Dr. Spock was one of the gentlest souls I ever met; yet in his quiet, noble way, he went up against the monolith of society’s established mores and values and changed the thinking of millions of people.
Dr. Spock, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, and many others of a similar vein, have shown that the power to change the world, and with it, tribal belief patterns, does not come by force. Instead, it comes from a gentle, indomitable spirit that allows the pendulum of divine guidance to take them on a voyage into the quantum vacuum, where their spirit and soul can be empowered by infinite fortitude.
The transportation for this voyage into the quantum vacuum is the ship of intuition and vision. For each of these men, their vision, goals, agendas and heart-felt desires most probably came to them in dreams, or internal voices, or some other modality that was divinely inspired. Indeed, one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most famous speeches, a speech that inspired and galvanized an entire nation, began with the phrase, “I had a dream.”
Obviously we all aren’t going to become like these people. Only a few have such lofty aspirations or hear divine guidance speak to them in such a way. Yet we each are capable of making a difference in some way, either in our own lives or in the lives of others. To do so, though, means to break away from the tribal patterns of conformity in order to forge new ground.
To break new ground, to go against tribal patterns and habits, may be as simple and pragmatic an act as changing your eating habits from the unhealthy ways that your family instilled in you as the ethnic or family way. To the family, this way maintains continuity with tradition, even if it goes against the grain of contemporary progressive nutritional thinking.
I bring up this example because I used to work in the field of nutritional counseling and saw how difficult it was for most people to change their dietary habits. I even wrote a research paper about where people learn their nutritional patterns from; what I learned was that most people learn their lifetime eating habits while growing up. Whether these habits are healthy or not doesn’t matter; people feel a tenacious connection to these habits. These past ways are ingrained in their subconscious and are not easily removed or altered.
People like those mentioned above are stuck on a pattern that is deeply enmeshed in their soul. Dietary habits are just one pattern; there is no end to the list of patterns that people get stuck on. All of these patterns are the unfinished business that blocks people from hearing divine guidance.
Why these patterns of unfinished business blocks people takes us back to the concept of decoherence. Hypothetically, the flow from the quantum superpositioned state of coherence to the classical state of decoherence should be a smooth transition. This smooth transition allows the quantum state to be in constant, clear communication with the classical realm: there is a resonance that is taking place between the two states. This resonance allows the communication to come through loud and clear in the form of intuition, or divine guidance.
When a person is stuck on a pattern or patterns (and generally once a person becomes stuck on one pattern they become stuck on many), the transition does not go smooth. There is a dissonance that takes place and the communication is blocked from being heard. The communication is still being sent, there is just trouble hearing it. So instead the communication will manifest in other ways, either as an ailment in order to get the person’s attention, or in a more benign way, as a synchronicity, in order to pull the person along on the right path.
To break the patterns of dissonance is to cut through the illusion of our everyday world of matter as being the only world there is. We must become cognitively aware that beyond our mind lies our psyche, and beyond that lies our soul. And then beyond the soul lies the spirit.
The path that extends from the mind into the soul is the realm in which psychological matters get stored. This is where traumas, insults, hurts, fears, angsts, insecurities and all other real or imagined indignities wind up. You can never access these solely via the conscious mind, therefore a person who lacks the self-reflection to look deeply within will live their entire lives in a semi-conscious way, and will never be relieved of the burdens of death and terror. They will have a tremendous amount of unfinished business that will never be resolved, because unfinished business embeds itself into the depths of the soul and cannot resolve itself of and by itself, unless the hands of synchronicity and fate push things along.
Voyaging Into the Soul
To go past the conscious, egomind, and into the psyche and soul, can be a scary experience, yet it can also be a profound experience that can open a person’s eyes as to the true meaning of life. Here a person can realize their unfinished business, and if they can resolve it, they can redirect the laws of karma and destiny, which may have amassed over numerous lifetimes, within their own lifetime. To take this voyage into the soul generally entails some sort of psychodynamic therapy: it could be traditional psychotherapy, or it may be some type of mind-body, behavioral approach. The bottom line is some form of soul medicine is needed. One of the earliest of these forms is shamanism.
The point is that once a person delves into their soul, there generally is no turning back, because their life starts to become more in touch with the quantum force. But there is one drawback to this approach: many people, because their soul issues and unfinished business are so vast, become stuck in a swamp of their own making. They have found out why they are the way they are, but now they can’t get beyond it. They are stuck in their issues. The answer is easy, for all these people need to do is release their unfinished business, yet as with many things, even though it sounds easy on paper, in practice it can be quite difficult.
The Mesoscopic Realm
Things get stuck at the border of the quantum world and the macroscopic world. The quantum world represents the spiritual realm; the macroscopic world represents the worlds of conscious mind, physical body and matter. In between these two worlds is the mesoscopic realm – it lies between the place where wavicles can hover indefinitely in superposition, and where superpositions disappear into fixed and stationary positioning. This mesoscopic realm is where the mysterious actions of decoherence take place. It is also in this mesoscopic realm that I believe the soul resides.
The soul is the bridge between the world of matter and the world of spirit. When the soul is stuck, the transition is not smooth and spirit does not freely become matter. The entire practice of shamanism centers on retrieving the soul from this stuckness. Shamanism believes that parts of the soul can leave a person and go into a non-ordinary reality. The shaman’s job is to then find the soul and bring it back.
The term used in psychology for this soul loss is dissociation. In other words, the soul dissociates from the body. But where does the soul go? Does it really leave? I believe it stays in the mesoscopic world, but its wavelength can become very chaotic and dissonant and hard to calm down.
At the same time, because there is an interaction and two-way flow between the coherent and decoherent states, it then may become possible for this dissonance, this dissociated soul, to wander into the level of spirit. When this occurs, the spirit can then be polluted by a toxic soul. The unfinished business has now totally blocked any divine guidance from making its way into our daily lives.
Or the dissociated soul may wander into our physical world and our everyday thoughts. Then a person will become haunted by their repressed memories, and the darker aspects of the soul will take control of a person’s life.
To delve into the soul can thus be a double-edged sword. You can unlock the secrets of your inner life, but in doing so you may come face to face with things that may be terrifying to know. And you may be face to face with the issues and unfinished business that block your progress.
But what is the other alternative? To live an unexamined life? A person who lives an unexamined life will never know what their true passions, desires, and life’s purpose is.
First There is a Mountain
There is a saying in Zen that is apt to this discussion. It states that “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, and then there is.” At the first level of mountain is the person who lives an unexamined life, in which all of life is taken at face value. Then there is no mountain, and the immaterial realm is exposed, and a person meets their soul. But if one solely lives at this level, life will become a swirl of unfocused images, because everything has been stripped away. A person living at this level can become unhinged, or more benignly, will live forever with their unfinished business as their modus operandi for existing. For example, many people who are survivors of a trauma from their earlier years create their entire life and identity around that trauma. That trauma becomes their modus operandi for existing.
But finally, we need to go back to the world of the mountain again. But the difference now is that you have examined your life, seen where the dark clouds lie, and will plod ahead to resolve them, while at the same time integrating the progression into your life. This is the mark of a well-adjusted person who knows no fears nor has any boundaries. They will forge ahead with their lives, and by doing so, will inspire others to do the same.
Haven’t Got Time for the Pain
I have a number of patients, in my private practice, who can’t get beyond their soul loss. They are living with their past wounds, and they just can’t escape these burdens. Perhaps these people, and so many others like them, should take as an example for their life the title to Carly Simon’s song “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain.” They need to use the tools of cognitive awareness to rationally examine what they are doing to themselves, and put it in perspective.
Often, when the mind has too much time to wander on its own, it will play tricks on a person and try and keep a person stuck in the illusions of the world of everyday life. So the best therapy for someone may just be to keep active and busy, to not allow the mind to have time for the pain, because oftentimes the pain is the egomind’s creation.
Even if the pain lies in the soul, because the soul lies in the halfway state between spirit and matter, the soul is partly influenced by the world of matter and the egomind. And one thing the egomind likes to do to the soul is trick the soul into thinking that our everyday experiences are the only thing that matters. The ego wants to win the soul over to its side, and not let the soul understand that eventually the soul becomes spirit, and at the spirit level all is pure, all is joy, all is calm.
A busy mind and body, that attains a directed focus and concentrated attention, will transcend the egomind and can attain deeper levels of awareness. There are many paths to enlightenment, with meditation being one of them. As another saying in Zen goes, “Chop wood, carry water.” In other words, these simple tasks can be a way to enlightenment and the liberation from our world of illusion.
Many spiritual seekers feel if they just meditate, if they just align themselves with the Divine, if they just sit around and listen to the wise words of a teacher, then all their unfinished business will fall away. This can only be partly true, because even though the quantum world is the world of perfection, it is an immaterial, invisible world and its silent force cannot always influence the harsh, forceful way of the material world. If the quantum world could absolutely influence our everyday world, there would be no pain or suffering in this world.
Cultivation and work is required to change our own lives, the lives of others, and society at large. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his essay Self-Reliance, who said: “Though the wise universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.”
The path to release our unfinished business may take some work, but it will not take a lifetime. For some it can even be instantaneous. It can and should be joyous work, and be a work-in-progress. And the more joyously we see the work, and life in general, the lighter we become. And the lighter we become, the easier it is to access the quantum vacuum.
In accessing the quantum vacuum, we can hear the language of divine guidance that reaches us through our intuition and vision. And when we do so, we can hold the whole world in our hands.