The intuitions reported by mystics, poets, artists, ordinary people, even scientists, often go beyond the range of sensory perception. In the reductionist culture inspired by classical science, they are dismissed as mere delusion – classical empiricism claims that there is nothing in the mind that was not first in the eye. However, the classical tenet is not universally upheld. It is exceptional in the annals of history, and even in the context of contemporary cultures. In history intuitions were embedded in the conceptual framework through which a given culture interpreted the nature of reality. In indigenous societies shamans and medicine-men (and women) tuned themselves to spontaneous apprehension through rigorous initiation and training; they derived their mystical vision from them. In mythically oriented societies the world was seen as a cosmic realm of spirits, and in classical cultures it was believed to be governed by a panoply of unseen gods. The Abrahamic monotheistic religions recognised the intuitions of their prophets as conveying fundamental truths about God and the nature of His creation. Eastern cultures have always held that reality extends far beyond the domain of the senses.
On the other hand Western culture takes as real only that which is manifest – literally “to hand.” Because what people see is constrained by what they believe they can see, everything that is not conveyed to consciousness by eye and ear is dismissed from the modern view of the world. But are the intuitions that occasionally surface in consciousness mere delusion? Or can there be intuitions that are as real and fundamental as sensory perception? This question calls for a deeper look at the possibility that spontaneous insights and apprehensions may have a physical basis. There are findings at the cutting-edge of scientific research that affirm this possibility.
The Brain as a “Macroscopic Quantum System”
The crucial finding is the discovery that the brain is not merely a classical biochemical system; in some respects it is a “macroscopic quantum system.” Certain cerebral functions involve processes previously thought to be limited to the domain of the quantum. The pertinent functions concern the reception and transmission of information at the cellular and subcellular level: intercellular communication involves quantum-effects and processes. Neurons and neuronal and subneuronal networks form synchronised oscillators that receive and send information through quantum resonance. This information propagates quasi-instantly throughout the organism and does not require classical channels of signal transmission. The various forms and characteristics of information transmitted through quantum resonance are not fully understood, but their physical basis is clear. It is nonlocality, the process Einstein first said is “spooky” and then Erwin Schrödinger termed “entanglement.” Entanglement means that the states and functions of the entangled entities are correlated beyond the ordinary bounds of space and time. As a result the entities are intrinsically and fundamentally coherent. Such coherence obtains in the domain of the quantum: in pristine states quanta are coherent and mutually entangled. Only interaction in some form (measurement, and possibly certain acts of observation) renders them decoherent. Macroscale objects were said to be in a permanently decoherent state, yet certain objects also exhibit forms of quantum coherence. There is experimental evidence that the state of entire atoms can be entangled, and in recent years quantum-coherence has been discovered at the scale of living organisms. The divide between the microworld of the quantum and the world of macroscale objects has been breached. The heat of living organisms – even of warm-bodied species – does not necessarily destroy the coherence that is the precondition of entanglement. While classical quantum theory maintained that at ordinary temperatures Brownian movement made quanta, so-called “qubits,” decoherent and thus incapable of entanglement, recent research (inter alia by Kitaev, Pitkanen, and Frecska and Luna) indicates that the problem of “heat-decoherence” is not insuperable.1
There appear to be networks of quanta where the particles are “woven” or “braided” in a way that is sufficiently robust to maintain coherence at body temperatures. Whereas at such temperatures classically organised qubits become decoherent, networks of woven or braided qubits conserve coherence. As Parsons put it, “braiding is robust: just as a passing gust of wind may ruffle your shoelaces but won’t untie them, data stored on a quantum braid can survive all kinds of disturbance.”2 Quantum coherence in the brain and throughout the organism is not just theoretical speculation; it is entirely fundamental for coordinating the processes that make life possible. The staggering number of physical and chemical reactions taking place in the living organism is not likely to be coordinated by limited and relatively slow biochemical signal-transmission alone. Only the “entanglement” of the organism’s cellular and subcellular components can ensure a sufficiently rapid flow of multidimensional information to maintain the organism in its physically improbable state far from thermal and chemical equilibrium.
Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff suggest that cytoskeletal structures in the brain are responsible for the reception, computation, and transmission of multidimensional quantum-resonance-based information. Throughout the organism cytoskeletal proteins are organised into a network of microtubules, and the elements of these networks are connected to each other structurally by protein-links and functionally by gap junctions. However, the network of microtubules may be too coarse-grained to produce quantum-effects in the brain. The “infoplasm,” the basic substrate of living matter, may be the microtrabecular lattice, a web of microfilaments 7 to 9 nanometer in diameter. The periodic lattice of microtubules forms a network within the network of neurons, and the microtrabecular lattice is a network embedded in the network of microtubules. According to Ede Frecska, it is this lattice that is likely to be the structure responsible for quantum-effects in the brain. It appears physically possible that the quantum-scale components of the cytoskeletal lattice convey information from the world to the brain. The question is, what information? How does information originate in the world at large?
The Akashic Field
Until recently, asserting that information is objectively present in nature and not only in the human realm was considered metaphysical. This is no longer the case. It is now recognised that information is present in all things; as John Wheeler remarked, in some respects it the most fundamental feature of the universe. Experiments designed to test the Einstein-Podolski-Rosen hypothesis indicate that already quanta behave in an informed manner: they appear to make choices of their own, and respond to choices by other quanta. Either they have a form of consciousness (a thesis entertained by some physicists), or they are embedded in a complex informational environment. The latter is the minimally speculative assumption. It suggests that even in the absence of matter space is neither empty nor passive. As this writer among others has suggested, cosmic space is not a vacuum, but a plenum. In recognition of the prophetic insight of ancient Sanskrit and Hindu cosmology – where Akasha is the most fundamental of the five elements, the one from which the others arise – this writer calls the field that fills cosmic space the “Akashic Field.”3
The idea that space is active and filled with physically significant events is not unique to Sanskrit and Hindu cosmology; it has noteworthy antecedents also in the history of science. In the nineteenth century, mathematician William Clifford suggested that small portions of space are analogous to little hills on a surface that is flat on average; the geometry of the landscape does not hold for them. The property of space to be curved or distorted, he said, is continually being passed on from one portion of space to another after the manner of a wave. In the physical world there is nothing else but this wavelike variation.4
In a 1930 paper, “The concept of space,” Albert Einstein noted, “We have now come to the conclusion that space is the primary thing and matter only secondary; we may say that space, in revenge for its former inferior position, is now eating up matter.”5 A few years later Erwin Schrödinger restated the same thought: “What we observe as material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of space.”6 In physical cosmology cosmic space is seen as a ceaselessly fluctuating sea of emerging and vanishing virtual particles. In grand-unified and super-grand unified theories all the universal fields and forces of nature are traced to origins in the quantum vacuum, a fundamental hyperspace often viewed as a unified field. This fundamental field carries also zero-point energies – energies that remain present when at the absolute zero of temperature conventional forms of energy vanish. The concept of a complex unified field, effectively the Akashic Field, offers a basis for identifying the origins of the information that quantum processes transfer to the brain. It is known that as a consequence of their motion atoms, molecules and all material entities (i.e. structures composed of massive particles) produce electromagnetic waves that radiate into surrounding space. Space, however, is not empty and passive, and it is more than Maxwell’s extended electromagnetic field. It is the locus of the Akashic Field. The waves emitted by moving objects excite and modulate this field, creating wavefronts that propagate in the field and, upon meeting, interfere with each other. The interference patterns that result carry information at their nodes on the objects that created the waves. Because the Akashic Field is a seamless medium that extends throughout space, the information carried by the interference patterns produced by moving objects extends throughout space. This information corresponds to the physical properties of the objects.7
The process is similar to that which occurs in holography. The holograms created by interfering beams of light conserve information on the surface of the things and events that modulated the light beams. But the interference patterns responsible for quantum coherence are created by waves in the Akashic Field, and not by photons in the electromagnetic field. Thus they are not ordinary, but quantum holograms. Walter Schempp has shown that quantum holograms are coherent, mutually entangled, and carry nonlocal information on the things and events that produced the constituent waves. He has also shown that the brain’s object imagery is phase conjugate. Lending support to Karl Pribram’s “holonomic brain theory,” Schempp affirmed that “the conditions which make quantum holography possible are ideally suited to the hypothesis that the brain works… by quantum holography.”8
The answer to the question regarding the origin and nature of the information transferred by quantum-resonance to the brain can now be essayed. When the phase and frequency of a cerebral lattice corresponds to the phase and frequency of a quantum hologram, brain and hologram enter into phase-conjugate resonance. This allows the information conserved at the nodes of Akashic Field quantum holograms to be transferred to the cerebral receptors. Thus some of the intuitions that reach consciousness are not merely delusion: they are transmitted by phase-conjugate resonance from the Akashic Field to the cytoskeletal structures of the brain. Just which intuitions have this physical origin cannot be ascertained at this time merely by examining the pertinent cerebral processes. We need to resort to circumstantial evidence, examining the correspondence of the content of the intuitions with things and events known to exist in the real world through ordinary sensory perception. But we can affirm in good conscience that it is entirely plausible some intuitions have a bona fide physical basis. And that, in itself, goes a long way toward legitimating belief in the veridical nature of at least some of our intuitions.
A Concluding Note
Although widely reported and often meaningful, intuition is seldom the subject of sustained scientific research. The classical empirical tenet of mainstream science discourages attempts to investigate the phenomenon: it is physically implausible if not categorically impossible. Yet sustained research on intuition would be potentially fruitful and extremely important. In the positive case it would show that the human brain and nervous systems can access information in a spontaneous mode. While some varieties of experience viewed as intuition could well be delusion, there could also be spontaneous apprehension for which we can find an acceptable scientific explanation. This would lend support to the frequently voiced belief that human beings – and by implication all living things – are connected with each other and with nature in ways that are more subtle than those that stimulate the senses. This in turn would reinforce and legitimate empathy and solidarity among people and a closer sense of rapport with nature – vitally important attributes in our critical times when we face problems we can only resolve in cooperation with each other and harmony with our environment.
This article is based on the author’s latest book The Akashic Experience: Science and the Cosmic Memory Field (Inner Traditions, Rochester, USA).
The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 114 (May-June 2009).
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About the Author
Ervin Laszlo, twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, is editor of the international periodical World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution and Chancellor-Designate of the newly formed GlobalShift University. He is the founder and president of the international think tanks the Club of Budapest and the General Evolution Research Group and the author of 83 books translated into 21 languages. He lives in Italy.
1. Alexei Kitaev, 1997, Quantum error correction with imperfect gates, in Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Quantum Communication and Measurement, edited by O. Hirota, A.S. Holevo, and C.M. Caves, New York: Plenum Press; Pitkanen, Matti, 2006, Topological Geometrodynamics, Frome, UK: Lunilever Press; Frecska, Ede and Luis Eduardo Luna, 2006, Neuro-Ontological Interpretation of Spiritual Experiences, Neuropsychopharmacologia Hungarica, 8(3), 2006.
2. Paul Parsons, Dancing the Quantum Dream, New Scientist 2431: 31-34, 2004.