The End of Quantum Reality: A Conversation with Wolfgang Smith
Wolfgang Smith [b 1930] is a nuclear physicist and mathematician who has also written on philosophy, religion, and metaphysics from the perspective of traditionalism or perennialism. As a young man, he spent two years in India and studied under Sw. Nikhilananda and also met Sri Anandamayi Ma. He took from the French philosopher René Guénon the idea of whole-s and how a (physical) whole is not just the sum of its infinitesimal parts – there is an Aristotelian substantial form inherent (in-forming) and causally related to the whole. A recent film about him (Wolfgang Smith) has recently been made: ‘The End of Quantum Mechanics’ (obviously all lay and not scientifically savvy people will not have a clue about what goes on in the discussions by several physicists in the film).
WS refers to Werner Heisenberg and quantum theories, stating that, according to the former, quantum particles constitute something midway between being and nonbeing which, as such, are reminiscent of Aristotelian potentiae. Thus, an original idea of WS is that there is a corporeal realm that is different from the physical realm. He also speaks of horizontal causation and vertical causation, the latter involving space but not time.
WS holds that the theory of the Big Bang has been disproved.
I feel sure the contents of what I am posting here will be appealing to at least Ramesam and Shyshia.
(From an interview in academia.edu by Samuel Sotillos).
WS: Well, I am glad you raised this question, as it touches upon a very important issue. I must admit that until a few years ago, I was among those who regarded the physics of Albert Einstein – in its main affirmations, at least- as sacrosanct. I was amazed therefore to find that this proves not to be the case. In the first place, as you have mentioned, it turns out that the formula E=mc2 which Einstein derived from his special theory of relativity, is in fact implicit in the classical Newton-Maxwell physics, and actually appeared in the journal literature prior to the advent of Einsteinian relativity. Einstein himself admitted the fact in a book published in 1950 [‘Out of My Later Years’] – but by then the harm had been done: the whole world, just about, had been converted to Einsteinian relativity largely on the strength of his fateful formula. Moreover, when I began thus to look more critically into Einsteinian physics, I discovered, to my great surprise, that there were experiments, dated back to 1913, which appeared to falsify the theory, while it turns out that experimental findings which are said to support it, proved, on closer scrutiny, to be problematic. It appears there is not a single experimental result that unequivocally substantiates Einsteinian relativity.
Thank you for bringing Wolfgang Smith to my notice. Managed to find 3 books of his
1) Science and Myth 2) Ancient Wisdom and Modern Misconceptions 3) Physics and Vertical Causation.
Now reading the first one – Science and Myth – very interesting chap 5, page 100 Neurons and Mind where he brings in Vedantic koshas, (Ramesam made a brief comment on the “causal” body in response to an earlier comment of mine.)
His mathematical work went over my head but looked FORMIDABLE.
Noticed with a tinge of disappointment that he is a strong supporter of intelligent design and is a “Traditionalist”, which is a huge burden to carry.
I find his comments on Einstein somewhat embarrassing. He also invokes that old and tired cliche, in his words: ” Richard Feyman’s remarkable dictum: No one understands quantum theory.” I am firmly convinced that Quantum Mechanics has no relevance at all to the quest for self knowledge. Complex numbers (the set) cannot be “understood” and reifying them multiplies the confusion.
Anyway, thanks again and will report back soon, hopefully with comments that won’t irritate Dennis but will provoke Ramesam !
Shishya, Glad that you find something of interest (it is certainly challenging) in my submission; particularly the three books of Wolfgang Smith you mention along with his credentials as a physicist and mathematician.
You may object to Traditionalism but cannot dismiss out of hand the likes of René Guénon and Ananda K. Coomaraswamy that formed part of that group or movement (still alive and quite active).
As to ‘Intelligent Design’ to which you seem to object, is there any substantial difference from the traditional Upanishadic teaching on Iswara? Is the ‘vertical causation’ of WS (intriguing as it is) not something also related to the cosmic laws associated with Iswara?
You will admit that there is intelligence in the universe so that the (timeless) vertical causation, and also the metaphysics that WS propounds, should not appear to be something outlandish (out of this world!).
Dear Martin, just dashing off a quick response to your comments.
Definitely not dismissing Rene Guenon or Ananda Coomaraswamy, fully agree that myth may be the closest “pointer” to the ineffable.
Regarding Vertical Causation I find that WS has already described me (!!!) on page 2 of the Preface to the Third Edition of The Quantum Enigma where he says:
“Vertical causation, so far from constituting a deus ex machina for the resolution of quantum paradox, as critics might charge, constitutes indeed a universal principle of causality which modern science is obliged finally to recognize.”
The impression I have formed from cursory reading of WS is that is precisely what it is: “a deux ex machina for the resolution of the quantum paradox…” …In your excellent words above – “something outlandish (out of this world!)”….
The contortions of brilliant minds in this context always brings this Aldous Huxley quote to my mind; I don’t agree fully with it (dismissing systems completely, for eg): but it is apt here:
“In every region and at every period of history, the problem has been repeatedly solved by individual men and women. Even when they spoke or wrote, these individuals created no systems – for they
knew that every system is a standing temptation to take symbols too seriously, to pay more attention to words than to the realities for which the words are supposed to stand. Their aim was never to
offer ready-made explanations and panaceas; it was to induce people to diagnose and cure their own ills, to get them to go to the place where man’s problem and its solution present themselves
directly to experience.”
Thank you Martin for the interesting Post and thanks Shishya for the thoughtful comments.
I am familiar with the fact that quite a number of people often make claims that
Dr. Einstein was wrong. I used to follow such papers more actively some decades ago, but eventually lost interest in such claims.
Honestly, I am not familiar with the work of Dr. W. Smith. Undoubtedly he has impressive credentials, but lacks, IMHO, credibility of being a mainstream Physicist. On the top of it, I find that he seems to be the source for the claims of some other dubious “scientific” persons like Hossein. So I will be a bit cautious about his scientific views, though, he apparently talks favorably about the Vedantic perspective.
I shall await the outcome of Shishya’s study of the books by Dr. Smith before I dig more into Dr. Smith’s views on Dr. Einstein and Vedanta.
Shishya and Ramesam – Thank you for the good points you both made, including Huxley’s quotation by the first.
Dr. W. Smith is rooted in great part in Western philosophy, where Plato and Aristotle are shining lights. Aristotle almost single-handedly developed, if not discovered, Western (philosophical and scientific) logic – induction and deduction (syllogisms, etc), the law of contradiction, and the law of the excluded middle.
Also important and basic towards understanding Aristotle’s philosophy and – by extension – Western philosophy and metaphysics are his notions matter-form, potentiality-actuality, and becoming-being.
Shishya: ‘… myth may be the closest “pointer” to the ineffable’. Agree.
Coomaraswamy again: [‘With respect to the metaphorical language of mythology and metaphysics] Its ‘worlds’ and ‘gods’ are levels of reference and symbolic entities which are neither places nor individuals, but states of being realizable within you.’