Quantum Mysticism Revisited

Physorg.com has a fascinating article on the early history of quantum physics and how a number of the pioneering researchers embraced mystical thought. In an article for the European Journal of Physics titled "'Mysticism' in quantum mechanics: the forgotten controversy", Harvard historian Juan Miguel Marin argues that modern physicists should understand the philosophical positions held by early quantum physicists in order to better comprehend the current state of knowledge:

Marin hopes that scientists today might gain a new perspective on their research by considering how the founders of quantum mechanics viewed the theory.

“Whenever I read scientific articles citing the classic equations conceived by German scientists, it seems to me they could have been improved by researching how the scientists themselves interpreted their own equations,” Marin said. “Among contemporary quantum field theories, the important gauge theories are indebted to the work of [Hermann] Weyl and Pauli. Yet many physicists today would be shocked if they learned how Weyl and Pauli understood the concept ‘field’ when they wrote their classic articles. They were both immersed in mysticism, searching for a way to unify mind and physics. Weyl published a lecture where he concluded by favoring the Christian-mathematical mysticism of Nicholas of Cusa. Moreover, Pauli's published article on Kepler presents him as part of the Western mystical tradition I study.

“For those who do not favor the Copenhagen interpretation and prefer the alternative proposed by David Bohm, I would suggest reading Bohm's many published dialogues on the topic of Eastern mysticism,” he added. “Eddington and Schrödinger, like many today, joined forces to find a quantum gravity theory. Did their shared mysticism have a role to play in whatever insights they gained or mistakes they made? I do not know, but I think it's important to find out.”

This topic always tends to inspire some indignant rebuttals from materialists, and going by the comments thread there are a few over at Physorg.com. For those that wish to explore the thinking of a modern physicist who still sees consciousness as being of primary importance to quantum mechanics, I recommend browsing Henry Stapp's documents. More interesting information can also be found in the links below.

Previously on TDG:

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