The Physics behind the Metaphysics
The last few days have been humbling, coloring and enlightening. I've had my aura photographed, I've learned a fair amount about energy medicine and I've begun to see just how deep the theory is behind it. I've also discovered how much has changed in the theory behind quantum mechanics since I was in college (I studied physics and engineering over 35 years ago). It's been quite an interesting last few days, and I've only scratched the surface. So - what I doing and why am I doing this? Hmmmm, glad you asked...
A look at some of the realities behind alternative healing
At the last Edge expo, my booth was on the other side of the curtain from a group of aura readers. As I talked with them, the engineer within me got interested in the question of just exactly what is going on in this process. To generalize the question, what is the physics behind the metaphysics?
At another gathering I attended only a week or two ago, the presenter was talking about crystal healing, how it worked and what it did. She described a lot of things related to energy patterns, quantum processes, waves, frequencies, etc. She used a lot of physics-y language in an attempt to describe what was going on. Unfortunately for someone with a physics background, the explanation had a lot of visible flaws. It was just enough to make a sci-tech geek like me to want to run screaming from the room.
Later, as I thought more about it, I realized that there is a lot to what the person was saying. The ideas were intriguing, yet the actual physics concepts are often not very well understood. Thus, the language of the field - the buzzwords, if you will - tend to be frequently misused. Yet they point to ideas that at their core, are valid.
When I look into metaphysical topics, right brained stuff, things are pretty coherent. Studying meditation, theology, psychology and spirituality all form a very intriguing picture. I love the path I am traveling into this new (for me) meta world. The depths of spirituality are endless.
At other times, when I look into topics such as physics, I find another, different, also nicely coherent world. Quantum physics is a fascinating field - and while the concepts are mind-bending, they still follow the rules of mathematics and logic. At least in principle, with enough mathematical understanding, one can understand even the most advanced physics. The mysteries of physics are endless. I love this path as well.
The trouble comes when we try to mix the two. Sometimes, when I hear people try to explain the physics behind spirituality, my discernment filter wants to scream for a time out. What do we mean when we talk about frequency, vibrations, energy, wave functions, etc.? A lot of terms are used, a lot of ideas are thrown about, yet overall understanding of them is limited.
Quantum physics is truly a mind-bending topic. It's very easy to get overwhelmed by both the concepts, and the mathematics involved. I recently started reading Quantum Physics for Dummies, a 'basic' primer on quantum physics. Indeed, I did feel like a dummy after starting to read it. The math is at the PhD level and counting. I've had to re-read the early chapters multiple times, and my background is in physics and engineering.
One cannot really understand quantum physics without understanding mathematics at a pretty high level. And yet books like Quantum Reality, by Nick Herbert can give one a feel for the concepts, along with a hint of the mathematics involved - just enough to give you that first glimmer of understanding.
The book Vibrational Medicine, the #1 Handbook of Subtle Energy Therapies, by Richard Gerber, MD, does a good job of building the case for a lot of subtle healing modalities. The author does a wonderful job (the best I've seen) at explaining the concepts behind it. I have started to delve into this, and found it makes quite a lot of sense.
Part of the material I was reading last night was on homeopathic medicine and how it works. For me, the biggest conceptual hurdle in homeopathy is the idea that water can retain the essence of whatever substance has been dissolved in it. This concept is at the core of the modality and for me, it is the sticking point - I cannot say it is false, but I need to be convinced of it. Still, the idea is intriguing. Similarly, the idea of the human aura is intriguing, yet I need to be convinced of just what it is, and how we can perceive and measure it before I can fully accept it as scientifically valid.
Much about the human energy field is speculative at best. A host of electromagnetic effects are present and measurable. Yet it is not clear what is being described in various esoteric texts. Is the human aura a field of electromagnetism? Or is it something we don't yet understand? Based upon what I've read so far, that question is not answered yet. But the gist of it is that the idea of an energy field surrounding the human body is probably valid. Healing using energy fields, frequencies, etc. has a lot of merit.
From the point of view of we physics geeks, it's fine to talk about metaphysics, spirituality, healing modalities, etc. Similarly, it's great to talk about pure hard science topics. Like the relationship between science and religion, when we try to think of one in terms of the other, when we try to explain the subtle or esoteric in terms of physics and mathematics, we venture onto conceptual thin ice.
We need to be careful to use the terms and concepts in physics correctly. If we are going to be scientific, we need to be sure the science is valid and accurate. It is very easy to get beyond the data, to stretch actual physics concepts of well beyond the breaking point. Then we are left with the dreaded "p word" so beloved of the debunkers - "pseudoscience."
We need to be sure we are sticking to the data and using the mathematics correctly. Otherwise the skeptics are right. It's the downside of the physics behind the metaphysics.