Quantum Physics and Buddhist Thought Agree on Nature of Reality

Quantum Physics and Buddhist Thought Agree on Nature of Reality

(Excerpts form Quantum Revelation: A Radical Synthesis of Science and Spirituality, Paul Levy) 

“The revelations of quantum physics and the Buddhist worldview certainly seem mutually consistent, coherent, and complementary”in fact precisely so. To quote the Dalai Lama, ‘It can’t be a pure coincidence that both science and Buddhism come to more or less the same conclusion on the nature of emptiness when taking physical objects as the focus of analysis.”412 Buddhist psycho-metaphysicians pointed out the interconnectedness between apparently external objects and the mind of observers over two thousand years before the discoveries of quantum physics. His Holiness comments, ‘I think Buddhist philosophy and Quantum Mechanics can shake hands on their view of the world.”413 When Buddha realized the true nature of his mind, I find myself imagining that he had directly realized the quantum nature of reality. What I call our quantum nature and what is referred to as our Buddha nature are the same nature, at least in my imagination.”

– Paul Levy

Please watch thos short fun Video for an explaination of the Quantum Physics “Double Slit Experiment”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1YqgPAtzho    Or Google: Dr. Quantum Double Slit Experiment

This by far the easiest visual explanation I have found.


*John Wheeler is refernced in this commentary often. John Archibald Wheeler, (1911—2008), physicist, the first American involved in the theoretical development of the atomic bomb. He also originated a novel approach to the unified field theory and popularized the term black hole.


Now assuming you have watched the video—When both slits are open, an interference pattern builds up; when one slit is closed, the interference pattern disappears. The questions naturally arise: how does any given photon know when the second slit is open and when it is not? In passing through one part of the experiment, how can it know what is happening in some other part? The results of the experiment indicate that whether or not the second slit is open informs the photon regarding what sort of pattern to build up on the photographic plate. How do these individual and seemingly separate photons conspire with each other to build up an interference pattern over time? And how does a single photon ‘know” where to place itself in the overall pattern? Why doesn’t every photon follow the same trajectory and end up in the same spot on the other side of the slits? All good questions, I imagine *Wheeler saying. A detector is then placed at one of the slits to see which slit the photon actually goes through. Whenever this is done”trying to catch the photon in the act”the photon always manifests as a particle that goes through one slit or the other and the interference pattern disappears. 

In other words, when we look, the photon always manifests as a normal everyday particle. When we don’t look, the photon manifests its wavelike aspect. The act of observation (awareness) collapses the wave function and “causes” the photons to become particles.

So not only does the photon know whether both slits are open or not, it also knows whether or not we are watching it, and adjusts its behavior accordingly. It is as if the photon knows beforehand that we are lying in wait ready to observe it and, as a result of this, chooses to maintain its particle persona. Appearing self-conscious, the photon doesn’t seem to want to be seen in its quantum weirdness, as if not wanting to be caught in the act of going both ways at once. If the detector at the slit is turned off, we then have no knowledge of the route the photon has taken, its secret is safe, and it resumes its mysterious wavelike behavior and the interference pattern comes back. 

The photon not only knows which slit is open or closed, but seemingly possesses information about the whole experimental setup, including the observer, which in principle suggests that it knows the quantum state of the entire universe. Astrophysicist Massimo Teodorani writes, ‘You may also think of a kind of “˜intelligence’ of particles, since when a particle passes through both slits simultaneously it seems to have a perfect consciousness of the past and the future in order to create the correct figure of interference.”59 This suggests that the quantum world is truly sentient, as well as holistic; each of its parts are in touch with the whole. 

There is no clearer example of the interaction of the observer with the observed than the double-slit experiment. 

Consciousness interfered in the experiment in such a way so as to have a direct effect at the quantum level. 


The Buddha tells us…

“Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.

Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.”


It is important to understand that Wheeler’s idea of a participatory universe was not based on wild theoretical speculation, but on the most rigorously tested scientific experiments imaginable. Quantum theory is so counterintuitive that he could never have dreamt it”even in his wildest dreams”without the constant guidance provided by experiments. The double-slit experiment was the very first experiment in the future and are able to retroactively change their behavior accordingly. This experiment indicates that observations made after these quantum entities have ‘done their thing” (whatever their ‘thing” is) seems, from all of the evidence, to have an effect on their behavior after the seeming fact.61 Though manifesting in time, these quantum entities appear to be not ‘bound” by time, but seem to exist both inside and outside of time simultaneously, casting our previously held notion of linear time into question. 

In addition, these quantum entities act as if they can interfere with themselves (in the same way that we can) and appear to have the superhero power of being able to be in two places at the same time (most of us are still working on this). This is to say they are not localized and can’t be pinned down in the normal way, both in terms of space and time. Quantum entities act as if they are party to some bizarre, mysterious form of nonlocal telepathic communication that transcends the normal parameters of space and time. To say they are psychic is an understatement; in some way they are inseparable from, connected to, and manifestations of the psyche itself. The double-slit experiment was the archetypal process that pulled the curtain back and revealed that… 

…consciousness is an integral part of our universe. 

Wheeler’s vision of the universe, to use a metaphor from electronics, is that it is like a self-excited circuit.228 To say the universe is self-excited is to say it is not other-excited, which is to say that rather than depending upon an external agent like a god or deity, the universe is self-creating and self-referential. Thus it is able to refer to and reflect and act upon itself and, as a result, endlessly re-create itself anew.229 This is similar to how in Buddhism our true nature is described as self-excitatory intelligence, likened to the self-originating heart of the sun, or the unceasing main channel of a great river. We are, according to Wheeler, the universe looking at ”and simultaneously creating”itself.

Quantum entities are truly holistic in that they seem to have an aspect that is localized in space while at the same time having a nonlocal aspect in touch with the whole. Based on their behavior, these inhabitants of the microworld act as if they know they are part of ”and are merely playing a role in”a more extensive entity called a probability wave. 

Seemingly aware of more of the world than their immediate locality, these quantum entities, based on all the evidence, appear to know and have the ability to instantaneously synchronize themselves with the quantum state of the entire universe.



“I tell you that there is no making an end of suffering & stress without reaching the end of the cosmos. Yet it is just within this fathom-long body, with its perception & intellect, that I declare that there is the cosmos, the origination of the cosmos, the cessation of the cosmos, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of the cosmos.”—Anguttara Nikaya, 4.45



We are onfronted with empirical evidence that there is no objective universe existing separate from the act of observation. 

This created a previously unimaginable reality crisis in the minds of the most brilliant physicists. It made Einstein seriously ponder deep philosophical questions such as: Does the domain of physics is totally natural and ‘enforced” by nature herself, it is nature revealing one of her most intimate mysteries to the minds of modern physicists, most of whom were simply not prepared for what nature was beginning to reveal to them. To quote Nobel Prize winning physicist Eugene Wigner, ‘Through the creation of quantum mechanics, the concept of consciousness came to the fore again. It was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.”65 Quantum physics cannot do without the notion of consciousness”the most important component of the phenomenon of life”while life cannot be understood without invoking the revelations of quantum physics. In a mutually reciprocal relationship, the physical dimension needs consciousness to organize and evolve, while consciousness needs the challenge and limitation of physical reality in order to grow and realize itself. 


“When there is this, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises. When there is not this, that does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases”

-The Buddha


As Jung reminds us, the unconscious, once it is activated, is projected into matter, which is to say that it approaches people circuitously, from the outside. The fact that the unconscious appears projected into the seemingly outer world is therefore not surprising, as there is no other way by which it might be perceived. It is as if the psyche ‘fleshes out” its immaterial nature through the embodied forms of our universe. Pauli writes about the psyche, ‘From an inner center the psyche seems to move outward, in the sense of an extroversion, into the physical world.”415 Compare Pauli’s words about the psyche to Stapp’s words describing quantum entities, ‘An elementary particle is not an independently existing unanalyzable entity. It is, in essence, a set of relationships that reach outward to other things.”416 Interestingly, Pauli completes his quote by saying that once the psyche extends itself into the world, ‘the spirit serenely encompasses this physical world, as it were, with its Ideas.”417 The psyche, as a higher-dimensional ‘no-substance” that is not located in the third dimension of space or time, is able to affect our ordinary lives and reveal itself by mysteriously interpenetrating into and synchronistically configuring our three-dimensional world. Jung writes, ‘”˜At bottom’ the psyche is simply world.”418 Inhabiting the world, we find ourselves inside of the psyche, just like we do when we become lucid in a dream. 


We live, in Wheeler’s words, in ‘a self-observing universe,”230 where we are the instruments through which the universe becomes aware of its creative nature. The question then becomes: How do we hold up a mirror to ourselves when we ourselves are the mirror? For we are simultaneously the mirror, the light it reflects, and the eyes that see the reflection. Everything is part of one unified quantum system with no separation to be found anywhere. The universe is self-excited in the sense that the observation comes from within the universe, not from without. In Wheeler’s words, ‘The universe is a grand synthesis, putting itself together all the time as a whole.”231 In a sense the parent to itself, the universe is the cause and effect of its own existence. Seen as a self-excited and self-actualizing circuit, the physical universe bootstraps itself into existence, laws and all. In his personal journal Wheeler writes, ‘We form what forms us.” For him, reality was a kind of Mobius strip, like Escher’s hands drawing themselves. This brings to mind the ancient philosophical definition of God as ‘the uncaused cause.”232 As a self-excited circuit, the universe gives rise to observers who, in completing the circuit, potentially give meaningful reality to the universe. Cosmologically speaking, conventional science assumes a linear, logical sequence: cosmos gives rise to life, which gives rise to mind. Including both a linear and circular sequencing of events in his vision of the universe, Wheeler closed this chain into a loop: cosmos gives rise to life, which gives rise to mind, which in turn gives rise to the cosmos. As observers, we look back to both observe and create the very universe that bore us. Wheeler says, ‘The universe is to be compared to a circuit self-excited in this sense, that the universe gives birth to consciousness, and consciousness gives meaning to the universe.”233 In our act of observing the universe, we are actualizing the universe. Since we are part of the universe, this makes the universe, as well as ourselves, self-actualizing. This is similar to the nature of the psyche. The life of the psyche arises out of organic life, while at the same time the biologically based human psyche transcends its origins through its own self-creation”a process which takes place at an immaterial level of consciousness. The psyche has the unique quality of creating itself through its own activity. Is this a mirror of the quantum nature of the universe? The emergence of consciousness in the universe is as epic and epochal an event in cosmic history as the first big blast of its materialization in the supposed big bang. The self-excitation is caused by the innate fundamental tendency for consciousness’s self-referential self-perception”i.e., for illuminating itself in ever new ways with the light of consciousness”built into the very ground of being. In this process of radiant self-cognition, the universe is able to turn back upon itself so as to explore its nature via its various life-forms as it endlessly creates and re-creates itself through innumerable acts of observer-participation. 

The universe generates an interactive feedback loop of cosmic intelligence within itself that becomes the internal guidance system and source of its own continually unfolding genesis. Contrary to the mechanistic worldview of classical physics, the universe as a self-excited circuit implies a participatory universe that endlessly creates itself through innumerable acts of participatory self-perception.234 To quote Wheeler, ‘Directly opposite to the concept of universe as machine built on law is the vision of a world self-synthesized. On this view, the notes struck out on a piano by the observer participants of all times and all places, bits though they are in and by themselves, constitute the great wide world of space and time and things.”235 In such a self-referential cosmology, the nature of which is a self-generating feedback loop of pure creativity, we are dreaming up the universe while at the same time the universe is reciprocally dreaming us up, as the seemingly subjective and objective realities interblend and cocreate each other. 

The world and consciousness are intermingled in such a way that they mutually co-arise in a deeper unified sphere of being. 

It is impossible to say which initially caused the other, as their relationship has no beginning in time. Their relationship is reciprocal”now one side and then the other acts as a cause. This realization of the acausal and synchronic co-arising of the world and consciousness ‘orients” us towards the universe, as well as ourselves, in a whole new way that opens up vast realms and domains of possibilities that were simply not available to us while operating from a more linear and deterministic worldview. Quantum physics’ new perspective can potentially liberate our mind from the mental straitjacket of the classical mechanistic worldview, revealing new creative orders of freedom that we can step into at any moment”even right now! 

Uncountable small acts of observer-participancy have over eons built up the tangible appearance of the material world. As observers, there is no getting around the fact that each of us are participants in bringing reality into being. In his personal journal Wheeler writes, ‘I can’t make something out of nothing, and you can’t, but altogether we can.” The universe is a collectively shared dream that is too seemingly dense and solidified for any one person’s change in perspective to transform, but when a critical mass of people get into alignment and consciously put together what I call our ‘sacred power of dreaming” (our innate power to dream the universe into materialization), we can, literally, change the (waking) dream we are having. 

As agents of cosmic evolution, we are being invited to contribute to the growing edge of the universe’s creative unfoldment into uncharted territory. This is truly evolution in action, as we discover that we can actively participate in our own evolution, and in fact are being called to do so. We become (or maybe we always have been but just didn’t know it) a channel for the universe to autopoietically re-create itself in a novel and evolutionary way. Or maybe I’m just dreaming.

Key Points

There is no objective reality independent of an observer. ​We live in a participatory universe. 

The observer affects what is observed by the mere act of observing.

​Quantum entities exist in a multiplicity of simultaneous potential states (called a superposition), hovering in an abstract realm between existence and nonexistence prior to being observed. ​

The act of observation is the very act which turns the potentiality of the quantum world into the actuality of the seemingly ordinary world. ​

Our act of observation not only changes the present state of the universe, it reaches backwards in time and changes what we can say about the past. ​

The questions we ask make a difference.

​The laws of physics are not written in stone, but are mutable.

​The universe is a seamless, undivided, and interconnected whole. 

An expression of this wholeness is that each part of the universe is in communication with every other part in an immediate and unmediated way.

Quantum entities can jump from one place to another without traversing the path in between.

​Quantum theory is discovering that mind and matter are not separate but interconnected. ​

Quantum physics is revealing that the boundary between the inner and outer domains, however conventionally useful, does not ultimately exist. 

​Quantum physics is showing us how we ourselves are moment by moment playing a key role in the creation of our experience.

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