(published in the Echo, December 2012, Vol 16, No 12, Charlottesville VA)
What’s going on? I’ve had many answers that are maybe a progression, and maybe all the same with just different perspective. My academic training is as a physicist; figured this was a reasonable place to start, with that branch of science charged with understanding matter. But upon discovering meditation and an entire universe of experience for which physics inquiry was a dead end, I found myself with the conundrum of two disjoint realities. I am writing here because that gap appears to be narrowing. Also, I want to share a vision of the far distant future of our species; really an entirely different topic and relevant maybe only to me in the context of my journey. But stating it may per chance, resonate with others.
Are things really as they seem? Matter side of the conundrum.
Ouch! I stubbed my toe. My matter toe collided with an external obstacle and my senses registered the whole thing, including the sensation of hurt. And thus began man’s quest for understanding matter. The strategy of banging one matter thing into another matter thing has led to the establishment of an entire sub field of physics, particle physics. That matter was to be understood in terms of indivisible microscopic constituents, atoms, was postulated in ancient Greece by Democritus. Proof positive for the existence of the atom really didn’t come until the 1890’s when its structure first started to reveal itself in the nuclear scattering experiment of Rutherford, who crashed matter into matter, of course. He had reduced the projectile to the smallest piece of matter he had available, alpha particles emitted from a radioactive source. The toe part of the experiment was now the seemingly irreducible nucleus of a helium atom. When every now and then an alpha particle was turned around by a tissue thin target, the concept of an atom as a tiny nucleus surrounded by a cloud of electrons was born. This borrowing of the term Democritus had coined, atom, was premature. The atom had plenty of structure and was not indivisible. The bulk of the matter, 99.95% (the nucleus), was being reduced to a tiny volume. Take any stuff and concentrate all its matter into a single nucleus and you’re looking at something with 1/20,000 the original volume. Matter as having extension in space is a huge trick of the senses.
But it gets worse. The latest chapter in crashing stuff into other stuff has led to a mind numbing suggestion… that there is no such thing as matter, it’s all smoke and mirrors. The CERN accelerator has been crashing matter into matter at unbelievably high energies, with the objective of at least finding the mirror part of the equation. And this it did on July 4, 2012. Peter Higgs made the suggestion some 50 years ago, that the field, now given his name, the Higgs field, in its interaction with electrons and quarks led to a resistance of sorts that shows up in our universe as mass. So I could have it all wrong. Sprinkle salt on my reasoning … but it’s just too tantalizing a conclusion to not take a stab. What happened on July 4, 2012? The Higgs boson was discovered in a collision of proton beams, the latest version of toe smashing. The formula is pretty simple, take a proton beam and accelerate it in one direction, and another proton beam in the other direction; then let them collide. Of course you have to have plenty of acceleration. In fact the energy is so great, it’s as if the beams were two high speed passenger trains colliding head on. The last 50 years of physics has conclusively shown that the proton is not a fundamental, irreducible atom, but is a dynamic bundle of three matter carrying quarks and the force carrying particles that physicists have named gluons (cousins of the Star Trek Klingons?). At these energies the protons just pass through each other much like the Milky Way galaxy will pass through Andromeda in a couple million years. Every now and then there is a quark - quark or quark - gluon collision… and then there are fire works. The beams are made up of protons in bunches, up to 2800 of them; each bunch containing about 100 billion protons. And when the bunches collide, there may be 20 quark - quark collisions. There’s a lot of empty space in a proton.
Now here’s the interesting part for the thesis of this article. These quarks, when combined into a proton, are the carriers of the bulk of the mass in matter (roughly 99.95% as shown above), but these quarks appear not to have structure. The electrons, which compose the remaining 0.05%, also appear to be without an inside, absent of structure. Thus these quarks and our old friend the electron could be, finally, the atoms of Democritus; the ultimate indivisible constituents of matter. Not having structure means we are talking about something carrying an effect (physically, i.e., mass, electric charge,…) that has zero radius. So now let’s play the game of shrinking all matter down to its quark constituents. How much volume will they require? Answer: NONE. Points do not take up any volume. So without volume for the matter particles, one might say, matter ceases to exist. The mirror (and smoke) of the Higgs field give these points the sense of a drag through the Higgs field; this drag to sentient beings is labeled mass.
Wait a minute!! You’ve proved nothing. Quarks are points only in that we haven’t built a big enough train (the energy in the proton) to get close enough to its structure in the collision of two trains (protons), that would be the edge of the quark. That’s a reasonable objection and that’s why I move from what is to conjecture at this point in the argument. But the conjecture can gain some reasonableness if we move from the micro to the macro world for comparisons. Let’s say the point-likeness of the quark is good to the same ratio as the nucleus to the atom; only now we go from the proton to the quark. Then we would have the quark less than or equal to 1/20,000 of the proton volume which when folded into the nucleus being 1/20,000 of the atom gives us that quark matter is the product or 1/400,000,000 of the volume of any given object. But if an edge to the quark is found and another layer of structure, do we get another 1/20,000 factor for the volume of the quark constituents? This reasoning is leading down the rabbit hole of a smaller and smaller carrier of the matter. The limit of this progression is a point, a mathematical point, requiring no volume. Finding an edge beyond which there is no structure doesn’t seem to be the way this universe works, at least so far.
But whatever the fundamental structure turns out to be, it’s getting smaller and smaller. Cosmology can trace the beginning of our universe with all of its energy and matter to an infinitesimal when the universe was about a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second old. So stacking all the matter of the universe in proximity to itself doesn’t seem to need much volume. This brings us to the salient point, the possible resolution of the gap between my two realities: The limit of a single point for all matter in the universe is not inconceivable; that seems to be where it all began, 13.7 billion years ago.
Oz: The other side of the conundrum
Why Oz? Well, I can’t quite find a word that captures the everything else. So many words exist: Spirit, God, Devil, altered state, levels of consciousness, hallucination … all reserved words in our lexicon with different elements and expression of non-material experience associated with them. Objective and subjective are not quite it either. All my perceptions, either waking conscious scientist studying matter or Oz, are really subjective in that I’m the only one perceiving them. Objective seems to be that arena where we have some community of agreement. So I will use Oz and leave the definition open. Oz for me had many stages and basically is the collage of dream, meditation, visionary and a few plant assisted experiences. There is very little qualitative difference between these experiences, regardless of the context, dream or otherwise. However, they were veridical in that, although difficult or even impossible to prove, they had the same sense of authenticity as experience in the awake, supposedly non-Oz, state.
A random sampling of my Oz would include everything from time travel to an ancient period of history, face to face dialog with my deceased parents, a sustained period of bliss lasting several months, a journey to some world where the next level of earth species is being developed, a detailed perception of a lifetime in 19th century England, a conscious re-integration of a lost part of myself (soul retrieval as practiced in the shamanic healing practice of my wife and I). The list goes on and is important only in that these experiences have shaped me and my life’s outlook more profoundly then all of my years of study and work as a physicist. In fact, it is from these experiences that I now look back on physics, and the fundamental nature of reality; my perspective cannot be integral without giving validity to Oz. The answer pushing to the top to the question, “What’s the matter?” is more and more shaped in my awareness by Oz; and the answer that I see where physics itself is pointing, is Oz.
Let me try and state this in another way. My perception of Oz (and your perception … we all have an Oz) is qualified by a sense that Oz is really quite other than real. Oz is, in some sense, my make up world of experiences. I can’t prove one iota of it. Even with the profound life changing and rewarding aspects that Oz has given me; it’s just not real. Is that the end of the story? I don’t think so … re-read the first part of this discussion, the part about matter and its reality, or non-reality? I say non-reality since we have reduced it to an abstract concept. Matter is made of points. Points that move and drag through the Higgs field, thereby picking up the appearance of mass. Show me a point. It’s very hard to do. In some sense points are outside of reality as much as my Oz.
I would leave you here, my dear reader, but now that I have possibly moved all experience into Oz I don’t feel so awkward sharing the one experience that motivated me to write this dribble in the first place, my night with Sri Aurobindo, in the supermental body form that he (and we) are building; the form of the next species. Where are we building it? In Oz of course.
This was in the category of dream although its clarity even some 37 years later makes me want to call it a vision or visionary dream at worst. If you haven’t heard of Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), the Indian sage, author and creator of the Integral Yoga (one of several yogas by this name), you can find plenty on the internet. For me he has been teacher, mentor, and through my experience in Oz, a close companion. This experience started when a bus picked me up outside my house (like the train in the movie Xmas Express). The bus was driven by Mother Mira (Mira Alfonso, the consort of Sri Aurobindo) and after picking up one or two other passengers took off and left earth, delivering me in some other world at the door of a small cottage. I went in and was greeted by Sri Aurobindo. We didn’t speak but did hatha yoga postures together. Well, not so much together, as it was a demonstration of the new body and its ability to stretch and elongate. The writings of Sri Aurobindo suggest that when we get glimpses of what we call the Supreme or God, much of the time it is more the pressure of the next species on our nature. The qualities of omniscience, omnipotence, immortality, indestructible … these are characteristics of what is to be. I guess God is too big for even these words in this reality. So if elastic man is one way to capture the indestructible quality … well it’s a beginning.
Think about it. “Pass me the salt (from the other end of the table).” “Oh, never mind”, says elastic man as he extends an arm and pulls it in.
About the Author
Jim Wray has a PhD in theoretical physics and has worked as a particle physicist, college professor and engineer in aerospace. He and his wife Deborah have studied shamanism in Peru and have a shamanic practice (www.Gateway-School-of-Shamanism.com) which includes healing, workshops and Peru adventures. Jim can also be found performing as a jazz musician around Charlottesville (www.JimWrayJazz.com).
- Nicholas Mee, Higgs Force – Cosmic Symmetry Shattered – The story of the greatest scientific discovery for 50 years, Quantum Wave Publishing, 2012
- Leon Lederman, The God Particle – If the universe is the answer, what is the question?, a Delta Book, 1994