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 In this section we are going to look at the dual wave/particle nature of light and the famous double slit experiment. We are also going to look at how the fragmentary world view that created the mind/body split can be replaced by the holomovement.


Thus far we have seen that both Science and Buddhism choose certain conceptual structures and forms of language to describe reality. Science is inexorably bound to independent experimental verification, so there is big pressure to conform to a particular definition of the accepted concepts and the norms of accepted language. And until relativity and quantum mechanics came along this worked pretty well. As new mathematics was developed to cope with relativity for the very large and quantum mechanics for the very small, some odd paradoxes started to show up.

Light for instance had historically been thought of as a continuous wave; with each colour of the rainbow having a different frequency or period of oscillation. So far so good, conceptually at least, everything in the garden was still rosy in 1839 when Becquerel observed the photoelectric effect in a conductive solution. But by the early 1900's it was down to Einstein to explain that light came in small packets (quanta) now called photons, in a paper named "On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light", which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. However, further experiments with the interference effect showed that light was behaving in a really odd way. The classical notion of light as a wave in the Double-slit experiment seemed to make perfect sense because in that setup, alternating patches of light and dark appear where the waves add and subtract. In other words, the waves effect each other simultaneously, like the ripples of water on a pond.

But the most baffling part comes when individual photons are repeatedly fired at the two slits - a photographic emulsion records the same light and dark areas! That's counter intuitive in the extreme; in fact it's down right weird! But this is exactly what happens when you import notions from one context inappropriately into another. In this case Newtonian notions of independent forces acting on independent objects. This example may seem trivial but bear with me.

Question: What's the weather like?

Answer: It's raining!

Where is the 'it' in - it is raining? OK, this is just a turn of phrase and we know what is happening in terms of rain falling - so the meaning is clear. But we are in the language habit of separating ourselves from the weather aren't we? The it here is the environment and it is raining on us. Fragmentation is pervasive in our thinking and particularly in our language. The subject, verb - object constructs imply that things are independent and separate - that one thing acts on another, like billiard balls moving around a table.

But when physicists started their inquiry into the true nature of light and sub-atomic particles like electrons - asking the question - What is it (the photon) doing now - was crushingly inappropriate. That light seems to us to have a 'split personality', probably said more about our uninspired conceptual approach than anything else, but one thing was clear 'scientific objectivity' was a thing of the past. Light has absolutely no problem functioning in the universe the way it does, but we see its' behaviour as being paradoxical. We seem unwilling to ask the question - maybe we should change the way we think?

To be fair, many physicists have asked this question and some have moved towards the idea of 'participation' rather than as an 'objective' observer. No one exemplifies this more than David Bohm who proposed the radical notion that an unquestioned fragmentary way of thinking, was leading to a lot of self sustaining confusion. He points out that an atomistic view of the world - where atoms move in the void - instead of being thought of as a form of insight, was regarded as the absolute truth, that the whole of reality - is comprised of 'atomic building blocks'.

For a while, this even extended as far as considering that a human being, including his brain and mind, could be understood in terms of structures and aggregates of separately existent atoms. Thus we try to divide what is one and indivisible. He also points out that "fragmentation is in essence is confusion around the question of difference and sameness (or one-ness), but clear perception of these categories is necessary in every phase of life. To be confused about what is different and what is not, is to be confused about everything."

No where is this truer than in the mind and body of a human being. If we see ourselves as being comprised of; 'different mind stuff' and 'different body stuff' we really are going to be 'confused about everything'. Take our thought processes for a moment; a major source of fragmentation occurs in the generally accepted presupposition; that the process of thought is sufficiently separate from the content under consideration, to be able to arrive at a proper judgement of this content as; 'correct' or 'valuable' or 'rational'.

All the evidence suggests that there is so much fragmentation in our self-world view and the content of our thought, that this carries over into 'the actions of the person doing the thinking' with disastrous consequences. Think for a moment about environmental issues and how fragmentary the worlds leaders are in making their policies. The irony is monumental - we have exactly ONE PLANET to play with. Bohm goes onto point out that "content and process are not two separately existent things, but, rather, they are two aspects or views of one whole movement. Thus fragmentary content and fragmentary process have to come to an end together."

Instead, he proposed that reality had to distinct aspects - an explicate and an implicate order. Crucially, the implicate order makes possible a consistent account, not only of the new properties of matter, as seen in the photon, but also of the activity of the consciousness trying to apprehend it, in an undivided process that he calls the holomovement. Bohm was the first physicist to propose that mind is implicit in all matter, as he describes very eloquently in his book Wholeness and the Implicate Order, and that the mind operates in a similar way to a hologram, using a concept known as the holonomic model of the functioning of the brain.[1] . Thus the mistaken mind/body Cartesian split never comes about in the first place. In Bohms' scheme; the price for this is the persistent awareness that our mind and body are implicitly and inextricably bound up in the universal holomovement. This is conceptually a huge step forward and paves the way for us to create an increased awareness of the dignity and preciousness of all life - because we are all interdependent.

I think there is an interesting parallel between the work that Bohm did and some of the ideas that have been in Buddhism for many years. The first is known as Funi, meaning "two, but not two," and indicates one-ness or non-duality. It is short for nini-funi, which means "two (in phenomena) but not two (in essence)."

This relates back to Appearance, Nature and Entity that we saw in Part 1. Appearance is the physical aspect of a person and Nature is the spiritual or intangible aspect of a person. Their Entity (a unique instance of life) gives rise to these two aspects. This is also known as 'Shiki Shin Funi' or 'Oneness of Body and Mind' - a very good explanation of which can be found here:

The real point about Funi though is that it provides a wonderful context for understanding the complexities and subtlety of being human, of mind and body, and to an end of inappropriate fragmentation and instead to be consistently biased towards seeing the whole picture and ones relationship to it. This leaves you feeling much more optimistic about being able to effect some of the major problems besetting the world, because you don't see yourself, as some small cog in a gigantic machine. On the contrary, the companion concept to 'Oneness of Body and Mind' is 'Oneness of Life and Environment' - another great article here: .

Ultimately this principle identifies human life as having a cosmic aspect. As well as being composed physically from atoms created by immense forces in exploding stars - that nothing - let alone a planet, exists in isolation - and that our lives actually pervade the entire universe physically and spiritually. However, I think that the most compelling upshot of this concept is, as Nichiren Daishonin (the Buddha whose teachings I follow) points out:

" …if the minds of living beings are impure, their land is also impure, but if their minds are pure, so is their land. There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds."

So - Scientists, Buddhists, regular dudes and dudettes - be careful how you think!

In part 3 we are going to look at some of Bohms' practical ideas to bring better communication to everyone.

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