Swedeborg’s Remarkable Quest for the Quantum Fingerprints of Love
by Edward F. Sylvia, M.T. S.
©2009 Staircase Press. All Rights Reserved.
Unifying science and religion is a high-risk venture. Landmines and dangers are everywhere on both sides of the issue. Yet, the history of human exploration is full of individuals who have risked even death to find what they are seeking. The passion of the human mind and spirit is such that visionary people will always feel it is worth making the attempt to explore the unknown.
For that very reason, there is growing interest among scientists, theologians, and laypeople to explore another uncharted region and resolve whether science and religion can both answer the same questions about reality and have real points of interaction. I like to think of myself as a part of this exciting and mentally stimulating movement. This book is my contribution to this discussion.
Both religion and science make truth claims about ultimate reality. Science deals with facts and religion deals with values. Because of this, some people feel that science and religion address different issues and should be kept apart.
But, can these two powerful endeavors ultimately satisfy the human psyche by keeping them apart? Einstein said in 1941 that, “science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind.” Religion is weak on the how of creation, and science is weak on the why. In other words, science shuns teleology or purposefulness in the universe as a legitimate category of explanation. In place of a purposeful creation, scientists embrace the concepts that fundamental reality consists of irreducible chance and that everything must be describable exclusively in physical terms and physical quantities.
Many scientists also believe that metaphysical principles cannot be a part of real science because such principles and philosophies make claims that are not testable. Ironically, physicists who have jumped on the bandwagon of string theory and a multidimensional universe have embraced concepts that also cannot be tested. Checkmate.
If God created the world, then God created the laws of nature as well as the tenets of virtuous living. But theology offers us no further rational help here. It offers only faith and expects belief. Does God create one set of laws for nature and another set of laws for the human heart? Or are God’s laws wholly self-consistent? (Inconsistency implies imperfection.) If the ubiquitous law that everything in the universe proceeds by the most economical means flows out from the action of the Creator, then there must be a top-down causal link between God’s nature and the laws of nature.
This book attempts to show that the laws of nature emerged out from God’s spiritual principles and values. That is, the laws of nature and its forces are actually spiritual laws and forces extended into spacetime constraints. While this is daunting and challenging enough, it is not the only challenge of this book!
Many other tricky problems are associated with attempting to write a book like this. Each of these problems is one more landmine ready to explode when stepped on. In spite of this, I have decided to step everywhere and not purposely avoid any dangers. The first big landmine is best expressed by the quote:
“ I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you
the formula for failure: which is: try to please everybody.”
– Herbert B. Swope
I did not write this book to please anyone. People have different and strong opinions about things. Theologians argue with theologians, scientists argue with scientists, and theologians and scientists argue with each other, often bitterly. In science, we have competing theories, even within the realm of quantum physics. In religion, we have competing theologies, even within the realm of a single “ism.” For instance, did God create the world and let it run on its own (Deism) or is God continually active in the world (Theism) and interested in our personal happiness? If the latter is true, which interpretation of quantum mechanics do I use (assuming one is correct) for demonstrating how God acts in the world?
So, in my attempt to unify science with religion, I must answer the question: which scientific model do I use and which interpretation of theological doctrine do I use? Two wrongs do not make a right, and my attempt will surely lead to an enormous backlash, since most of my readers will have their oxen gored no matter what choices I make.
In our post-modern world, it is taboo even to suggest in any way that one religion or worldview is “superior” to another (and I would do this if I picked one). But there is a big difference between respecting everyone’s deepest beliefs and suggesting that these belief systems can be improved upon; few people are experts concerning their own faith systems anyway. Does any theology excel over others in addressing scientific issues? Does any theology even adequately address such issues as the virgin birth, miracles, the resurrection, the Second Coming, and the nature of heaven from a scientific perspective? (I have already tipped my hand that I will try to unify science with Christian theology.)
Even if I enjoyed special enlightenment and chose the best interpretation from science to describe reality and the best interpretation from theology, the problem still exists that science and theology use wholly different languages. The differences must be addressed and bridged. And, unless I plan to sell this book only to a handful of intellectuals, I also need to reach the understanding of normal but serious-thinking laypeople while still challenging their minds.
Another problem is that God will stand in the way of my ultimate success. I believe God does not want to be proven in any way that would threaten a person’s freedom of thought and discrimination. Otherwise God would use coercion and constantly interfere with all our daily activities. And what constitutes proof? For instance, if experiments reveal that prayer and worship have a positive effect on one’s health (and they do), is this proof of a Divine Architect? One might just as easily explain that faith is an evolutionary strategy of selfish genes to calm the human mind from stressful thoughts about the inevitable fate of one’s death and enable us to live longer and have more chances at reproduction. So even if such an experiment in faith were repeatable, it would still be open to interpretation.
I have also put myself in the uncomfortable position of going against the experts. Therefore, I run the risk that this work will be summarily dismissed. However, since none of the experts has all the answers, I have invited myself to the table.
“A leader must have the courage to act against the expert’s advice.”
– James Callaghan
My calling is to go against the advice of the experts, to shake things up and stir up the dust. I come to the table with the wish to stimulate healthy discussion. I have not shied away from making choices, and you will find my choices to be quite unexpected; in many cases they will be quite new to you.
I have chosen to use the scientific and theological ideas of Emanuel Swedenborg, an eighteenth-century scientist, philosopher, mystic and theologian. Using the ideas of a little known eighteenth-century thinker to straddle complex twenty-first century issues may seem like intellectual suicide. But I have studied this extraordinary man for more than 35 years, and I am confident that he has provided the world with scientific ideas that have yet to be grasped (like quantum gravity) and a theology that is most suited to interface with the discoveries of modern science. My undertaking will live or die on that choice.
Who is he? Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) is one of the most overlooked thinkers in human intellectual history. His theology, while Christian, is radically inclusive and teaches that all those who sincerely live according to their religious beliefs and conscience and strive to do good from spiritual principles are welcomed into heaven. He states:
“ All people who live good lives, no matter what their religion,
have a place in heaven.”
This universal idea of the essence of religion to seek goodness in one’s life was shared by Einstein, who said:
“ True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all
one’s goodness and righteousness.”
Swedenborg’s Christian theology was so universal that Buddhist scholar T.S. Suzuki wrote a book about him, comparing his ideas to Buddhism and calling him the “Buddha of the North.” Swedenborg demonstrated that similar universal principles could be found at the heart of all the world’s religions.
His most remarkable idea is that God’s Holy Word was more than a historical account of the human predicament. It was a scientific and multi-dimensional document. The Holy Word, which encompasses God’s wisdom, not only teaches us how to live, but also contains deeper levels of meaning that offer insights into the true nature of God and the scientific principles, laws, and symmetries that emerge from this Divine nature and Divine order.
God and science are one.
All true knowledge is connected because it leads to Love and Wisdom. Knowledge that does not lead us to wisdom is incomplete and disconnected from the bio-friendly laws of the universe. This idea of the ultimate interconnectedness of knowledge is not simply New Age drivel or philosophical naiveté. Real Science seeks knowledge for the goodness and benefit of society. How else is human achievement to be a blessing? How else can human society reach true greatness? Again, Einstein:
“ All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.
All these aspirations are directed towards ennobling man’s life,
lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading
the individual towards freedom.”
“ Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelationship of means and ends.
But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends.
To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations
and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual,
seems to me precisely the most important function
which religion has to form in the social life of man.”
Swedenborg underscores Einstein’s sentiment that knowledge must lead us beyond head-intelligence and move toward the heart:
“ To understand and to be wise are two altogether distinct things,
for we may understand and still not be wise; but one leads us to the other,
namely, science to the cognition of truth (veri) and truth (veritas)
to the cognition of good, and it is the good which is sought for.
But in order that we may be wise, it is necessary,
not only that we should know and thus understand what truth and good are,
but that we should also be affected with the love of them.”
– Worship and Love of God, Part 3, footnote b
Love is an emotion, and only recently has neuroscience begun to look at the importance of emotion within human cognitive function and consciousness. All human thought links itself to some emotion, appetite, desire, intention, volition, or derivative of love, and emotion is now recognized as a vital part of human reason. In other words, the neural networks are subservient to affection, which modifies the activity that animates, focuses our attention, and shapes our very thoughts and memory.
Swedenborg anticipated these “modern” ideas about the brain more than 250 years ago, even taking these ideas into deeper structures within the neuron. He believed that passion, emotion, intention, and love modified the neural structures of the brain, and the resulting modifications represented the analogs, ratios and equations that produce human thought. Thoughts are the outer forms of our intentions. Said another way, emotions and affections are the inner life of our thoughts, and from these thoughts come our speech. No information, idea, or subject can connect itself to our personal lives without some affection. Our worldview is an internalization of our loves.
The importance of emotion in all this is that it links neuroscience to personal-level experience and contributes an important link between hard science, the human heart and a heavenly God of Love.
In spite of all the problems that come with writing a book like this, there is a way out of the challenge of pleasing readers. Everyone responds to Love. This book is about Love! Therefore, no matter what beliefs you hold, you are invited to experience a most pleasant surprise—that Love is the ultimate reality. I am not a betting man, but I wager that, quietly, you will root
– Edward F. Sylvia, M.T.S.
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|by Ian J. Thompson, Ph.D.
It is well known that there are many severe problems yet unsolved in the foundations of physics, not least the question of whether and how to unify the dynamic geometries of general relativity with the superpositions of quantum mechanics. There are even more difficult problems when it comes to understanding minds and how they can be related to the physical world. Most scientists these days want to accept some kind of “non-reductive physicalism,” but there are still persistent debates about whether such a view is even internally consistent. And there is always the question of how to God can possibly be understood, and how anything Divine can be related to the physical world. Can we say anything scientific, for example, about how God could influence the evolution of life on earth? Most scientists and philosophers want rather to accept some kind of “dual magisteria,” whereby science and religion are allowed to peaceably coexist within their own realms, and as long as they are not allowed to disturb each other.
These commonly held views are all based on the desire to leave science alone; to let it proceed autonomously and not to disturb it. However, the views are all based on ignorance of connections. They all reflect the fact that we do not yet have any scientific knowledge that connects general relativity with quantum mechanics, or connects minds with the physical world, or connects anything Divine with the universe. They are all therefore susceptible to revision if we do have some good theory about any of these connections. Many today say that there are no connections, but that again is from ignorance. If someone does propose a theory for these connections, then that proposal should be worked out as best as possible, as it may be a chance for solving our severe problems.
Developing such a connecting theory is what Ed Sylvia is trying to do in this book, based on some neglected ideas found in the works of Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg, a Swede who lived from 1688 to 1772, claimed to have received extensive instruction in philosophical, spiritual and theological knowledge after his “inner sight was opened” in his 50s. Before that stage, Swedenborg had demonstrated a very independent and penetrating scientific mind, and published a Principia to explain his theory of how physical objects may be constructed by the rapid spiral motions of microscopic points.
This is not the place to discuss the entire veracity of Swedenborg’s writings, but his ideas do certainly appear to be relevant to all our contemporary problems as listed above. This book starts by using Swedenborg’s early physics ideas to see how a more modern account of how a “pregeometric” realm might be constructed. Ed then works to link that account with Swedenborg’s later ideas about how a spiritual realm might exist, and how such a realm might function in relation to the physical world. In a most interesting manner, Swedenborg and Sylvia see the spiritual world as continuously existing “alongside” the physical, and continually generating the physical world to sustain it in apparently stable forms. This, they argue, gives the appearance of physicalism, as the world functions “as if” from its own powers; but the powers are themselves derived from some other (spiritual) cause. And it would go some way to explain the apparent autonomy of the physical world.
Of course, anyone can make such claims: the proof is in the details. And there are certainly many details known today about the world that could not have been known in the 18th century. It is therefore a challenge to present Swedenborg’s ideas again in relation to what we now know about physics, biology and neurology. Sylvia certainly rises to that challenge.
Ian J. Thompson
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California
and Department of Physics, University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom.
Aug 28, 2009.
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