Using Swedenborg to Understand the Quantum World III: Thoughts and Forms

Swedenborg Foundation

By Ian Thompson, PhD, Nuclear Physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory


In this series of posts, Swedenborg’s theory of correspondences has been shown to have interesting applications for helping us to better understand the quantum world.

In part I, we learned that our mental processes occur at variable finite intervals and that they consist of desire, or love, acting by means of thoughts and intentions to produce physical effects. We in turn came to see the correspondential relationship between these mental events and such physical events that occur on a quantum level: in both cases, there will be time gaps between the events leading up to the physical outcome. So since we find that physical events occur in finite steps rather than continuously, we are led to expect a quantum world rather than a world described by classical physics.

In part II, we saw that the main similarity between desire (mental) and energy (physical) is that they both persist between events, which means that they are substances and therefore have the capability, or disposition, for action or interaction within the time gaps between those events.

Now we come to the question of how it is that these substances persist during the intervals between events. The events are the actual selection of what happens, so after the causing event and before the resultant effect, what occurs is the exploring of “possibilities for what might happen.” With regard to our mental processes, this exploration of possibilities is what we recognize as thinking. Swedenborg explains in detail how this very process of thinking is the way love gets ready to do things (rather than love being a byproduct of the thinking process, as Descartes would require):

Everyone sees that discernment is the vessel of wisdom, but not many see that volition is the vessel of love. This is because our volition does nothing by itself, but acts through our discernment. It first branches off into a desire and vanishes in doing so, and a desire is noticeable only through a kind of unconscious pleasure in thinking, talking, and acting. We can still see that love is the source because we all intend what we love and do not intend what we do not love. (Divine Love and Wisdom §364)

When we realize we want something, the next step is to work out how to do it. We first think of the specific objective and then of all the intermediate steps to be taken in order to achieve it. We may also think about alternative steps and the pros and cons of following those different routes. In short, thinking is the exploration of “possibilities for action.” As all of this thinking speaks very clearly to the specific objective at hand, it can be seen as supporting our motivating love, which is one of the primary functions of thought. A focused thinking process such as this can be seen, simplified, in many kinds of animal activities.

With humans, however, thinking goes beyond that tight role of supporting love and develops a scope of its own. Not only do our thoughts explore possibilities for action, but they also explore the more abstract “possibilities for those possibilities.” Not only do we think about how to get a drink, but we also, for example, think about the size of the container, how much liquid it contains, and how far it is from where we are at that moment! When we get into such details as volume and distance, we discover that mathematics is the exploration of “possibilities of all kinds,” whether they are possibilities for action or not. So taken as a whole, thought is the exploration of all the many possibilities in the world, whether or not they are for action and even whether or not they are for actual things.

For physical things (material objects), this exploration of possibilities is spreading over the possible places and times for interactions or selections. Here, quantum physics has done a whole lot of work already. Physicists have discovered that the possibilities for physical interactions are best described by the wave function of quantum mechanics. The wave function describes all the events that are possible, as well as all the propensities and probabilities for those events to happen. According to German physicist Max Born, the probability of an event in a particular region can be determined by an integral property of the wave function over that region. Energy is the substance that persists between physical events, and all physical processes are driven by energy. In quantum mechanics, this energy is what is responsible for making the wave function change through time, as formulated by the Schrödinger equation, which is the fundamental equation of quantum physics.[1]

Returning now to Swedenborg’s theory of correspondences, we recognize that the something physical like thoughts in the mind are the shapes of wave functions in quantum physics. In Swedenborg’s own words:

When I have been thinking, the material ideas in my thought have presented themselves so to speak in the middle of a wave-like motion. I have noticed that the wave was made up of nothing other than such ideas as had become attached to the particular matter in my memory that I was thinking about, and that a person’s entire thought is seen by spirits in this way. But nothing else enters that person’s awareness then apart from what is in the middle which has presented itself as a material idea. I have likened that wave round about to spiritual wings which serve to raise the particular matter the person is thinking about up out of his memory. And in this way the person becomes aware of that matter. The surrounding material in which the wave-like motion takes place contained countless things that harmonized with the matter I was thinking about. (Arcana Coelestia §6200)[2]

Many people who have tried to understand the significance of quantum physics have noted that the wave function could be described as behaving like a non-spatial realm of consciousness. Some of these people have even wanted to say that the quantum wave function is a realm of consciousness, that physics has revealed the role of consciousness in the world, or that physics has discovered quantum consciousness.[3] However, using Swedenborg’s ideas to guide us, we can see that the wave function in physics corresponds to the thoughts in our consciousness. They have similar roles in the making of events: both thoughts and wave functions explore the “possibilities, propensities, and probabilities for action.” They are not the same, but they instead follow similar patterns and have similar functions within their respective realms. Thoughts are the way that desire explores the possibilities for the making of intentions and their related physical outcomes, and wave functions are the way that energy explores the possibilities for the making of physical events on a quantum level.

The philosophers of physics have been puzzled for a long time about the substance of physical things,[4] especially that of things in the quantum realm. From our discussion here, we see that energy (or propensity) is also the substance of physical things in the quantum realm and that the wave function, then, is the form that such a quantum substance takes. The wave function describes the shape of energy (or propensity) in space and time. We can recognize, as Aristotle first did, that a substantial change has occurred when a substance comes into existence by virtue of the matter of that substance acquiring some form.[5] That still applies to quantum mechanics, we now find, even though many philosophers have been desperately constructing more extreme ideas to try to understand quantum objects, such as relationalism[6] or the many-worlds interpretation.[7]

So what, then, is this matter of energy (desire, or love)? Is it from the Divine? Swedenborg would say as much:

It is because the very essence of the Divine is love and wisdom that we have two abilities of life. From the one we get our discernment, and from the other volition. Our discernment is supplied entirely by an inflow of wisdom from God, while our volition is supplied entirely by an inflow of love from God. Our failures to be appropriately wise and appropriately loving do not take these abilities away from us. They only close them off; and as long as they do, while we may call our discernment “discernment” and our volition “volition,” essentially they are not. So if these abilities really were taken away from us, everything human about us would be destroyed—our thinking and the speech that results from thought, and our purposing and the actions that result from purpose. We can see from this that the divine nature within us dwells in these two abilities, in our ability to be wise and our ability to love. (Divine Love and Wisdom §30)

When seeing things as made from substance—from the energy (or desire) that endures between events and thereby creates further events—we note that people will tend to speculate about “pure love” or “pure energy”: a love or energy without form that has no particular objective but can be used for anything. But this cannot be. In physics, there never exists any such pure energy but only energy in specific forms, such as the quantum particles described by a wave function. Any existing physical energy must be the propensity for specific kinds of interactions, since it must exist in some form. Similarly, there never exists a thing called “pure love.” The expression “pure love” makes sense only with respect to the idea of innocent, or undefiled, love, not to love without an object. Remember that “our volition [which is the vessel of love] does nothing by itself, but acts through our discernment.”

Ian Thompson is also the author of Starting Science from Godas well as Nuclear Reactions in Astrophysics (Univ. of Cambridge Press) and more than two hundred refereed professional articles in nuclear physics.

[1] Wikipedia,ödinger_equation.

[2] Secrets of Heaven is the New Century Edition translation of Swedenborg’s Arcana Coelestia.
[3] See, for example,
[4] Howard Robinson, “Substance,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
[5] Thomas Ainsworth, “Form vs. Matter,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
[6] Michael Epperson, “Quantum Mechanics and Relational Realism: Logical Causality and Wave Function Collapse,” Process Studies 38.2 (2009): 339–366.
[7] J. A. Barrett, “Quantum Worlds,” Principia 20.1 (2016): 45–60.

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The title for this blog post is actually the title I use for chapter four in my upcoming book Proving God. The purpose of this adventuresome book is to unify science and theology—in a way that will offer new insights to both the New Paradigm science (relativity theory, quantum theory and string theory) and biblical interpretation (exegesis). My aim is to offer novel and rational ideas that can be applied toward measureable social transformation.

The basic material for this book comes from my 35-year study of the remarkable ideas of scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. His ideas are remarkable because he claimed that LOVE was fundamental reality (esse) and the a priori law-giving universal substance by which creation comes forth through orderly causal process.

Of course, such a premise—that the physics ruling the universe on the fundamental level is something we usually associate with a human emotion such as romance or a value like empathy—would obviously have dubious merit among the proponents of the natural sciences. So to add potency to my book I decided to apply this psychical dynamic to the toughest problems facing physicists today.

One of toughest of the challenges facing today’s scientists is QUANTUM GRAVITY. Without a solution, scientists will be unable to unify the laws of the universe. String theory attempts to offer a solution but it never ventures beyond physical explanations and remains unproven. Is there any precedence for a physicist to suspect that non-material values, such as justice, ethics, morality, or empathy should enter into the equation of describing fundamental reality?

Yes! But this is not your father’s (patriarchal) physics and would equally embrace the feminine worldview.

Not long ago someone (who remains unknown) came upon my blog from a link to a most interesting site. I “clicked” on the link and an article entitled Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity appeared. The article was written (in 1994) by Professor of Physics, Alan D. Sokal, at the Department of Physics, New York University (NYU). Not too shabby! You can read it here:

Sokal described his paper as a “subversive undertaking” because it challenged the scientific community that the very foundation of their worldview must be rebuilt on the principle of social ideology—otherwise it could not be considered legitimately postmodern. He offered no final answers but simply as an “idea starter,” suggested that a final science would have to be in line with an “emancipatory” and “ecological” (holistic) perspective capable of transforming society in positive ways.

That is precisely what my book attempts—to show that the ultimate laws of nature are the same as the laws of mutual love! Mutual love is the essence of social ideology and will redefine the content of science—even leading us to a plausible scientific theory of Quantum Gravity. So Swedenborg was way ahead of his time! And my book will present all the startling evidence.

P.S. I have just been informed by a physicist friend that I fell for a hoax concerning the Skokal article. See affair

Rather than remove the post I will keep it as is. My book is not a hoax and even if I fell into a trap (because I trust people) the Sokal article is based on a real premise – a premise that it attempts to make fun of – that love is the ultimate science.

So perhaps the laugh is on me for now. It doesn’t hurt my relationship with my readers that I can laugh at myself and embrace a little humility. But I am quite amused that the hoax itself is based on the real direction science must ultimately take – fundamental reality is psychical not physical!

Certainly it is no hoax that the issue of Quantum Gravity has not been solved. And, my book “Proving God” indeed offers novel ways of approaching this elusive topic that are anything but superficial. The Sokal article offers no solutions to quantum gravity anyway. My book does! I was only fooled into thinking a scientist was interested in expanding science to include VALUES. There are many, many serious scientists attempting such a challenge.

This has been a hoot for me and I am going to enjoy it! So please have a laugh on me as well.

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Order and Disorder

New Christian Bible StudyNew Christian Bible Study

By Mr. Joseph S. David

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If you look at the universe, containing so many stars and galaxies, extending so far, and containing so much sustaining energy, you can sense the overwhelming order that enables it to provide for solar systems and planets that surely provide other places for life to thrive.

If you learn a little about the physics of matter, where scientists are continuing to postulate building blocks of larger particles and the various forces that bind them at close distances or operate over astronomic distances, you can see not only a mind-boggling complexity, but also a serene order that keeps everything operating as it should and has been doing so for billions of years.

This order comes from God, the creator. His infinite Divine love, as it gets finited and sublimated, is the only real thing, the only thing that exists in itself. Everything else, time and space, elements and physical matter, living creatures and human consciousness, all natural and spiritual entities come from Him. This flowing down, so to speak, is the order that exists, and it is dominant.

The Lord’s order is not only concerned with natural creation but with mankind’s spiritual welfare as well. Mankind is different from all other living creatures because all other living creatures can live only in the order in which they are created, whereas people can deviate from their order because they are free.

The short form of the order for mankind is to “love the Lord with all the heart… and thy neighbor as thyself”. Spiritually speaking, people did so until, as told in the parable of the garden of Eden, we ate of the forbidden tree. From that time we took upon ourselves the decisions for what is good and what is evil, and forgot what the Lord said. As these decisions multiplied, we turned more and more to ourselves and away from the Lord, and our heredity was passed on generation after generation, slowly getting worse. Order was replaced by disorder.

Eventually our heredity was turned upside down so that the order of our lives in our heredity was completely backwards, and we are now born with the will to love ourselves rather than the Lord and our neighbor. However, because we have rational minds, we can be taught and trained to turn our minds right side up again, putting a love to the Lord and the neighbor ahead of loves of self and the world.

A written Word or Sacred Scripture was, in time, given to guide us. The Lord is also always sending love and wisdom into all of us, to influence and help us, but we are all free to reject that help if we choose. People who read the Word, listen to its teaching, and accept the Lord’s help, are trying to live according to Divine order.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1055, 1475, 8513, 9736; Arcana Coelestia 10659 [4]; Arcana Coelestia 4839 [2]; Brief Exposition of Doctrine 52; Divine Providence 279 [5]; Heaven and Hell 315, 523; True Christian Religion 53, 54)

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Starting Science From God

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Theism is the belief that God is the creator and sustainer of the world, and hence of all life and activity within the world, yet in a way whereby the world is as if active from itself

Physics and psychology want to know the causes of natural and mental things.

New book: Starting Science from God.
Links theism (religion) to science (psychology and physics) without reduction.

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Many of us these days sense there is something real beyond the scope of naturalistic science. But what? Must mental and religious lives always remain a mystery and never become part of scientific knowledge?

In this well-argued book, physicist Ian Thompson makes a case for a ‘scientific theism’. He shows how a following of core postulates of theism leads to novel and useful predictions about the psychology of minds and the physics of materials which should appear in the universe. These predictions constitute a kind of ‘theistic science’. It meshes surprisingly well with the structure of reality already revealed by modern quantum field theory and by theories of developmental stages in human minds.

The result is a serious look at a promising new rational structure encompassing theology, psychology and physics.

An integration of science and religious theism
into a science of theism (theistic science),
in which both sides keep their strengths,
and are firmly and logically linked together.

starting science from God

Unique explanatory advantages of this book:

  • Presentation of a science of theism in a realistic manner with explanatory and predictive power.
  • Philosophical account of ‘substance’ in terms of persistent underlying propensities
  • Recognition and many examples of ‘multiple generative levels’ in physics and psychology.
  • Presentation of the basis of theism as the consequence of One God existing who is being itself & unselfish-love itself & wisdom itself.
  • Principles in more detail:
    1. God is love which is unselfish and cannot love only itself.
    2. God is wisdom as well as love and thereby also power and action.
    3. God is life itself: the source of all dispositions to will, think and act.
    4. Everything in the world is a kind of image of God: minds and also natural objects.
    5. The dispositions of an object are those derivatives of divine power that accord with what is actual about that object.
  • Describes an honest, welcoming and living theism
  • No reductionist or ‘nothing but’ explanations of God, spirituality or mentality.
  • Prediction that minds exist with spiritual loves, mental thoughts and physical actions within an integrated complex.
  • Prediction of internal structure of minds: thoughts of love, of thought and of action.
  • Prediction of internal structure of physical degrees: principles of effects (pregeometric physics), propagation of effects (field  theories), and of final affects (quantum mechanics leading to actual selections)
  • Prediction of relations between the mental and the physical
  • Prediction of relations between the divine and the spiritual+mental: that we receive life according to those actions our loves have made in the past.
  • Prediction of spiritual degrees not in terms of expansion/ elevation/ vibration/ dimensions/ nondualism of consciousness, but in terms of principal loves.
  • Why progressive evolution of physical forms is necessary to make living & thinking beings like humans.
  • Gradual biological, psychological and spiritual build-up is necessary in general, as there are no instant adults.
  • That evolutionary fitness must be selected not only naturally, but also theistically according to reception of life from the divine.
  • The consciousness is the joint action of love and wisdom. It is not itself causal, but is the operation of spiritual and mental causality.
  • That permanent spiritual growth depends on those actions our loves have made with wisdom/faith in the past.
  • That some formal modeling is possible within this scientific theism

About Me



Online Course

Rational Scientific Theories from Theism

Foundations of Theistic ScienceThe Theory of Spirit, Mind and Nature from Theism.
Approaches through
Physics, Biology, Psychology, Philosophy,
Spirituality, Religion
, Theology

to Beginning to see
Basic Principles

with Consequences for

Nature,   Evolution,   Mind,   Bible Meanings  and  Dualism.
 Online Resources, Site Information, Blog Author: Ian J. Thompson, revised 08/13/2015 11:04:47 Email: IanT at

Blind faith – Science or religion?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

blind faithEmotions can run high in the debate between religion and science. Just take a look at  the high-profile campaign in the United States to teach ‘Intelligent Design’ in schools. But is conflict inevitable because both sides are showing blind faith in their own version of reality?

Blind faith of scientists who deny a purposive life source

Despite the victory of Darwinism over creationism, it is hard to see how adaption from something like a single cell through natural selection can give an account for the development of human self-reflection, courage, honesty, ethical insight, ideology, altruism, and resistance to temptation. This is not to deny the truth about the facts of nature that science can reveal. But should we not also acknowledge the deeper side of human life revealed inwardly to those of a spiritual bent. To my mind, human consciousness derives from the human soul absent in other forms of life.

Those who believe that the origin of human existence is a spiritual Life Source are aware however that science firmly favours Darwin’s evolutionary theory, which is based on natural selection and chance factors in reproduction. Survival of the fittest means all human beings together with all animal life have descended from some one primordial form. Science it seems has no room for spiritual ideas such as a purposeful human creation.

Blind faith of creationists

The Darwinian view has easily seen off the creationists, who to my mind have failed
to notice the allegorical nature of the Genesis story. By this I mean that the story of the beginning of the world and the Garden of Eden is not a physics and biology lesson but rather a psycho-spiritual one.

Some modern theologians see the first few chapters in Genesis as a symbolic representation of the origin and dynamic development of the human psyche and
its consciousness in relation to its Source; an ageless model of each of us created in the image and likeness of God. Thus arguably the Garden of Eden is a picture of the state of trust in and obedience to God and the fall of humanity into reliance on self-intelligence and self-orientation.

To my way of thinking the Bible as a whole, if inwardly understood, shows the spiritual journey of humanity returning to a state of innocence. We have a tree of life in the first book Genesis and in the last book Revelation, both I think representing the reality seen through the depths of one’s spirit.  Understanding about life

‘coming from a God-given rationality, structured yet full of vitality and dynamism.”
(Helen Brown Do spiritual symbols mean anything today?)

According to this view trust in the Source is not one based on ignorance but is one with rational understanding — no blind faith but rather a realistic perception about meaning and purpose that takes into account all our understanding about life as a whole.

More people these days are rejecting the blind faith of religion expressed in traditional superstitions and unreasonable dogmas. People are more likely to want their spiritual intuition to be confirmed by rational discussion. Only the creationist will assume scripture is always literally true. I am arguing that people want answers to life’s issues informed by scientific education and the reasoning of common sense, as well as by spiritual knowledge and insight.

When theological doctrines such as creationism are seen to lack realistic sense, then I guess religion will start to be side-lined by those who use their rational minds.

Blind faith in scientific theories limited by naturalistic assumptions

I notice that likewise some scientists claim that random processes created human
life rather than any creative design. Is this not because there can be no scientific instruments to observe purpose and meaning? And because science is limited by its assumption that knowledge is limited to natural things like fossils and genes? I can’t imagine how there might be any scientific proof that science is the only means of acquiring valid knowledge.

Likewise when scientific theoretical concepts appear unlinked to the results of research then even to scientists they will seem more like fantasy than reality.

I wonder if you would agree with the following statement? In its naturalistic explanations and focus on the question ‘how?’ science deals with the level of thinking of the external rational mind, whereas, religion, with its focus on meaning and the question ‘why?’, appeals to the inner rational mind.

In other words when rationally presented, perhaps both science and religion are useful for communicating  different aspects of human knowledge and understanding: science for the outer, time-related, natural life and religion for the inner timeless spiritual life.

Blind faith due to arrogance

Does trouble not arise when some theologians or some scientists believe they know it all? Religion got it wrong in the past about the earth being at the centre of the solar system and today creationists claim the world was made in seven days despite all the evidence of science to the contrary.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” Galileo Galilei (1600–1670)

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” Albert Einstein (1879–1955)

Scientists as much as religious people can fall into the trap of blind faith.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Posted on16th November 2011CategoriesMeaning of life, Religion, ScienceTags, , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Leave a comment

Using Swedenborg to Understand the Quantum World I: Events

Swedenborg Foundation

By Ian Thompson, PhD, Nuclear Physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National LaboratoryFor the last hundred years, physicists have been using the quantum theory about the universe, but they still do not properly understand of what the quantum world is made.


The previous physics (referred to as “classical” and started by Isaac Newton) used ideas of “waves” and “particles” to picture what makes up the physical world. But now we find that every object in the quantum world sometimes behaves as a particle and sometimes behaves as a wave! Which is it? In quantum physics, objects behave most of the time like waves spreading out as they travel along, but sometimes measurements show objects to be particles with a definite location: not spread out at all. Why is that? It is as though their size and location suddenly change in measurement events. This is quite unlike classical physics, where particles exist continuously with the same fixed shape. In quantum physics, by contrast, objects have fixed locations only intermittently, such as when they are observed.  So they only offer us a discrete series of events that can be measured, not a continuous trajectory. Quantum objects, then, are alternately continuous and discontinuous.

Why would we ever expect such a fickle world? Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) has some ideas that might help us. He describes how all physical processes are produced by something mental, or spiritual, and this can be confirmed by reason of the similarity in patterns between the physical processes and their mental causes. In Swedenborg’s words, there are correspondences between the physical and the mental—that they have similar structures and functions, even though mind and matter are quite distinct.

I need to state what correspondence is. The whole natural world is responsive to the spiritual world—the natural world not just in general, but in detail. So whatever arises in the natural world out of the spiritual one is called “something that corresponds.” It needs to be realized that the natural world arises from and is sustained in being by the spiritual world . . . (Heaven and Hell §89)

Although these ideas are not part of present-day science, I still hope to show below that they may have some implications for how science could usefully develop.

Swedenborg’s theory of mind is easy to begin to understand. He talks about how all mental processes have three common elements: desire, thought, and action. The desire is what persists and motivates what will happen. The thought is the exploration of possibilities for actions and the making of an intention. The action is the determined intention, the product of desire and thought that results in an actual physical event.

The [actions] themselves are in the mind’s enjoyments and their thoughts when the delights are of the will and the thoughts are of the understanding therefrom, thus when there is complete agreement in the mind. The [actions] then belong to the spirit, and even if they do not enter into bodily act still they are as if in the act when there is agreement. (Divine Providence §108)

All of the three spiritual elements are essential. Without desire (love), or ends, nothing would be motivated to occur. Without thought, that love would be blind and mostly fail to cause what it wants. Without determined intention, both the love and thought would be frustrated and fruitless, with no effect achieved at all. In everyday life, this intention is commonly called will, but it is always produced by some desire driving everything that happens. Here is the pattern:

      Spiritual                                                                   Natural
Desire + Thought Mental Action (Intention)  Physical Action, or Event, in the World

Swedenborg summarizes the relationship between these elements as follows:

All activities in the universe proceed from ends through causes into effects. These three elements are in themselves indivisible, although they appear as distinct in idea and thought. Still, even then, unless the effect that is intended is seen at the same time, the end is not anything; nor is either of these anything without a cause to sustain, foster and conjoin them. Such a sequence is engraved on every person, in general and in every particular, just as will, intellect, and action is. Every end there has to do with the will, every cause with the intellect, and every effect with action. (Conjugial Love §400:1–2)

Now consider Swedenborg’s theory of correspondences mentioned above. He says that there is a similar pattern between the details of the effects and the details of the causes. ”As above, so below,” others have said. So if mental action produces some effect in the physical world, then, by correspondence, we would expect a similar pattern between that physical effect and each of the three elements common to all mental processes. We would expect something physical like desire, then something physical like thought, and finally something physical like mental action. Do we recognize these patterns in physics? And if so, do we recognize them better in classical physics or in quantum physics?

I claim we do recognize them in physics:

  • We recognize the “something physical like desire” as energy or propensity. These are what persist physically and produce the result, just like desire does in the mind. They are in both classical and quantum physics.
  • We recognize the “something physical like thought” as the wave function in quantum physics. This describes all the possibilities, propensities, and probabilities for physical events, just like thought does in the mind.
  • We recognize the “something physical like mental action” as the actual specific physical outcome, a selection of just one of the possibilities to be made actual. This is a measurement event in quantum physics, the product of energy or propensity and the wave function, just like the product of desire and thought is the mental action.

We will discuss energy and wave functions in later posts, focusing here on the final step of mental actions and physical events. According to Swedenborg’s ideas, the structure of mental processes and the structure of physical events should be similar. So, too, the function of mental processes and the function of physical events should be similar. Can we tell from this whether we should expect a classical world or a quantum world?

One feature of thought and mental action with which we should be familiar is time. That is, we always need time to think! Without any time gap between desiring and intending, we would be acting instinctively and impulsively. Sometimes that works but not always (at least in my experience!). Most often, there has to be some delay, even some procrastination, between having a desire and fulfilling it. That delay gives us time to deliberate and decide on the best action to select. And, most importantly, if it is we who decide when to act, we feel that we act in some freedom. It feels better.

If the physical world corresponds to those mental processes, according to Swedenborg, what hypothesis do we reach about physics? It is that there will be corresponding time gaps between the beginning of some persisting energy or propensity and the selection of physical outcome. Remember that quantum objects are selected and definite only intermittently—when measured, or observed—while classical objects are continuously definite with no gaps. All this leads us to expect that physical events should not be continuous; that is, we should expect a quantum world rather than a classical world.

Continue with Part II: Desire and Energy>

Ian Thompson is also the author of Starting Science from God, as well as Nuclear Reactions in Astrophysics (Univ. of Cambridge Press) and more than two hundred refereed professional articles in nuclear physics.

Visit our Swedenborg Studies bookstore page to explore our series of scholarly titles >

Read more posts from the Scholars on Swedenborg series >

Evolution and Religion

A big obstacle in unifying science with religion comes from the point of view that science deals with facts and religion deals with values. They each address quite different topics so some people feel there is no need to waste time trying to forge them together. Let them each do what they do best.

My new book project entitled “Proving God” will challenge this assumption. In my previous post I pointed out that the laws of physics somehow emerged from of a non-local and non-temporal void (that is, if you believe, like most scientists and theologians, that the universe had an actual beginning).

What is most conspicuous about the creation of the universe is that it not only entailed a distribution of energy and momentum but an ongoing process of self-organization. This organization of the cosmos continued to increase in the complexity of biosystems that ultimately led to the human brain. Whether this happened by design or chance scientists know that it is a fact that the manifest universe and organic life could not have come into existence unless the constants of nature met very tight tolerances. Did this “fine-tuning” of the universe, which allowed for the increase of intelligence and consciousness to emerge, have its origins from a creative principle operating in the pre-space void?

In the neo-Darwinian synthesis, which includes microbiology and genetics, evolution occurs from the ongoing strategies of genes to ensure reproduction under the pressures of a changing external environment. New species are the result of these survival strategies. However, the evolutionary trajectory has led to the human race, which enjoys first-person phenomenal experience. So evolution has a complex creature where values are very important.

All human values are derivatives of love. Affection, emotion, appetite, and intention all give focus to human cognitive function and steer it towards some valued goal. This is where religion enters into the picture of evolution. The human mind, which does not operate in space, can continue to develop and raise its level of complexity by adopting a more universal and noble love. What we love defines how our thoughts and ideas are put into some corresponding order and structure. In the same way that a human ear has evolved to be a subject for sound, human ideas represent the higher-ordered forms and subjects of our affections. Our thoughts and ideas are the non-material forms and bio-structure of what we love and intend. This creates our spiritual body.

Religion, which serves as a guide for choosing the optimum values for living, can therefore be looked at as a Divine strategy by which humans can extend evolution and bio-complexity into a non-physical domain. We call this realm heaven.

It is rational to think that the constancy and fine-tuning of laws in the universe is a faithful articulation of first causal principles. If the universe is self-consistent then the perfection of bio-complexity will more perfectly express the first principles of creation. Humans who raise their hearts and minds to spiritual love and its inclusiveness have successfully created a complexity of spirit that mirrors Divine Love. The ultimate scheme of creation and evolution is to create angels from the human race. This completes the dynamic and holistic process of creation emerging from an eternal non-physical reality and merging back into it. What do you think?

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