QUANTUM TANTRA IS PHYSICS-ASSISTED DEEP UNION WITH NATURE.
Like the Newtonian physics it replaced, quantum physics grows out
of a worldview that sees nature as separate from man, as a dangerous Other
to be tamed and controlled by scientists who have decoded her (mostly mathematical)
rules. Despite lip service payed to "quantum wholeness" most physicists
still view the world as Us versus It, as conscious mind confronting mindless
particles. Though their methods differ radically from Newton's, modern physicists
regard quantum mechanics as just that, a new type of mechanics--subtle and
strange, to be sure--but at base as soulless and impersonal as Newton's
gravity-driven celestial machine.
Despite statements in some quantum texts that Observer and System form an
inseparable whole, I know of no physicist that has ever merged with his
apparatus: the relationship of the modern scientist to his quantum System
is every bit as aloof as that of a pre-quantum Victorian scientist to his
pendulum clocks and meter sticks. Despite their nominal belief in the "undivided
wholeness" of the quantum world (described especially well by David
Bohm), physicists, in the name of "scientific objectivity" hold
themselves apart from the nature they are examining and practice dispassionate
"observation" rather than merging. Such aloof inquiry results,
predictably, in a picture of nature that, despite its quantum strangeness,
is essentially dead and lifeless.
Can it be that quantum mechanics has limited itself unnecessarily by thoughtlessly
maintaining old mechanistic and separatist notions inherited from its Newtonian
past? Feminist critics of science such as Evelyn Fox Keller and Sandra Harding
see physics as blinded by "patriarchal biases" and look toward
a more clear-sighted "successor science". Can we find a radically
new way to approach science that is more in tune with the way the world
really is, the way quantum theory hints it might actually be?
"Quantum Tantra" attempts to blaze a new pathway for science by
incorporating previously discarded and marginal ways of thinking into a
new synthesis. Two non-mechanistic, non-separatist traditions are of particular
interest for this purpose: Western alchemy and Eastern tantra. Alchemy is
based on the notion of a partially psychic chemistry in which the mind of
the alchemist merges with the material cooking in his alembic. Tantra teaches
that the universe is not mere motion of dead matter but the sexual play
of two divine beings and seeks techniques to directly participate in that
holy play. The goal of "QuantumTantra:" is to initiate an entirely
new direction of research by approaching quantum theory and its paradoxes
as if they were incomplete fragments of a "successor science"
based on tantric and alchemical principles.
For instance, what kind of science would result if we regarded the world
not as a collection of dead objects but, in the manner of certain Sufi mystics
(practitioners of 'ilm al-qulub or "science of hearts"), as the
very body of the Beloved? What could be learned about nature and ourselves
if, instead of treating her as an object to be passively observed, we begin
looking for ways to "woo her", to become actively involved in
natural processes? And suppose our attempts at wooing and deeper involvement
were guided, not by vague myths of pre-scientific peoples, but by powerful
insights, bold hunches and inspired guesses gleaned from three centuries
of math-enlightened physics? What is the deepest kind of union with nature
that twentieth-century minds can envision? What is the deepest kind of union
we can actually achieve?
Western religion sees the world as a job completed by a lone omnipotent
being (traditionally male) long ago in the past, an event in which humans
played no part. Practitioners of tantra, on the other hand, consider the
world to be created anew each moment, as the love play of two divine beings,
Shiva and Shakti, and believe that humans can participate to some extent
in that union, in partnership with another being, performing a kind of "cosmic
physics" in a soft laboratory of entangled muscle and mind. Which is
the better world-myth? Is the universe more like an ancient one-man job
or present-moment two-part joy?
Along with much else of deep human concern, science has tamed and sanitized
sex as a mere psychobiological process, like breathing or digestion. Sex
in the West has been subject to glaring scrutiny, in hundreds of books,
thousands of magazine articles and millions of pornographic images, but
in spite of massive scientific and media exposure, sex continues to fascinate
us with its primitive mystery. Each of us, no matter how sophisticated,
senses that he or she could still be sexually surprised.
Mystics of many persuasions, using ecstatic introspection as tool have attempted
to examine this world's deep reality from inside and claim, like quantum
physicists, that truth at that level strains human powers of description.
Most mystics are solitary, but, alongside these one-person paths, a more
social way of exploring the inner world in couples and small groups has
also existed, a yoga-for-two calling itself "tantra" from the
Sanskrit word for "weaving".
Tantra begins with the surprising claim that sex is not only holy, but that
it is in some sense a direct participation in the creation of the world,
an event which Western science and religion assert to have happened in the
far distant past. Tantrikas also claim that the universe results from the
playful union of two divine beings and that this divine union can be directly
experienced in the sexual act. Through there are many tantras (tantric scriptures)
they all agree that the truth of these statements is not to be taken on
faith but must be directly experienced. If tantra can be regarded as a science,
it is the kind of science that values experiment more highly than words.
Tantric adepts (tantrikas) use sex neither for recreation nor procreation
but for exploration of deep reality, as a kind of hands-on, wide-eyed descent
into Being. In the past these intuition-inspired sexual explorations of
deep inner nature were carried out within cultures that knew almost nothing
about the deep structure of matter as seen from without. Likewise our math-guided
understanding of outer nature has been achieved in a vacuum of spiritual
knowledge. "Quantum Tantra" will for the first time weave these
two methods of probing reality together by merging the insights of tantrikas
with the insights of physicists. In addition "Quantum Tantra"
will expore the possibility of a new style of scientific inquiry based on
the strengths of both tantra and physics.
"Quantum Tantra" will explore the possibility of a sacred sexuality
enriched by the metaphors of modern physics as well as the possibility of
a new tantra-inspired style of doing physics. The central mystery of physics
is how possibilities become actual; the central mystery of tantra is deciding
what to do next.
Quantum tantrikas are particularly inspired by a wholly quantum form of
connection called "phase entanglement''--the type of connection responsible
for the voodoo-like direct influence proved by John Bell to underlie the
world's everywhere local phenomena. Three "physics icons" in the
quantum tantra book of natural wonders include: a single quantum system
entangled in its own mirror image (Drexhage experiment); Bell's much-studied
quantum twosome (EPR experiment); and a recently concocted quantum threesome
(GHZ experiment) each of which illustrates important features of the peculiar
quantum style of connection.
These three examples of matter quantum-entangling with other matter prepare
us to think about the more unconventional and exciting possibility of human
minds quantum-entangling with matter in new forms of union. These new styles
of directly experiencing nature will involve our quantum parts (oscillating
possibilities) rather than our computer-like Newtonian parts (actual particles),
will involve giving up control, yielding to matter's way, relaxing, being
moved by, being penetrated by and taking in nature, letting "nature
measure us" rather than "us measuring her", will involve
scientists taking turns in the "male" and "female" roles
rather than staying stuck in the single pose of "objective observer"
(which we can always return to with fresh insights)
Most likely these new forms of entanglement with matter will be practiced
first not by conventional scientists but by ordinary people with less old-fashioned
conceptual baggage to overcome. Stuck-in-the-past scientists may be the
last to enjoy the benefits of this quantum-inspired, physics-assisted deep
union with nature. Quantum tantra, with unique labs in every household,
may be a true people's science, its wisdom passed on privately mouth-to-mouth.
For a taste/tease of Quantum Tantra, Nick Herbert recommends
The Spell of the Sensuous
by David Abram,
Pantheon Books (1996)