the physicist Erwin Schrödinger proposed a thought experiment in which a live
cat was placed in a sealed box together with a mechanism that could be
triggered by a quantum event -- the decay of a subatomic particle that had a
certain probability of happening -- that would kill the cat when it occurred.
According to quantum theory, subatomic particles can be in a condition of
superposition -- in other words, the particle can be in two states at once, until
observed. Thus, the killing mechanism in the box could be both triggered and
not triggered. So, Schrödinger wondered: Could the cat be both alive and dead
at the same time?
For some thinkers, including Einstein, this was obviously impossible, a reductio ad absurdum. But for others, it was clear that quantum physics points to just this possibility. To explain such theoretical high strangeness, many theories have since emerged, including the possibility of parallel universes.
But Schrödinger's cat has today emerged from its box, and is dead-and-alive and well and smiling uncannily at us, like another cat from Cheshire, from every point of our macro-reality. We are clearly now passing through an extraordinary moment of the revelation of quantum superposition in our phenomenal plane.
Let's take a look at some of the nine lives of Schrödinger's elusively undead
feline. In the political realm, it is perhaps most obvious. For example, did
Egypt just celebrate a successful popular revolution or has freedom been
curtailed by a military coup? It is clear that both are true. Egypt is in a
state of political superposition. In fact, this is true of many states today,
and the number of such superposed countries is multiplying rapidly. Indeed, if
we look closely enough, we can see that it is true of all -- nations today are
both functioning and failed states at the same time. The U.S. is the best
example -- it is both the richest and the most impoverished. If you don't believe
it, check out the size of its national debt.
In sociological terms, the same superposition is visible. People are in upward mobility and simultaneously in downward mobility. They are happy and miserable. Their lives are both full and empty. Some would prefer to call it denial, but it is a genuine superposition.
In a more paranormal level of life, we can examine the experiences of thousands, if not millions, of people who say they have been abducted by aliens. Their experiences certainly seem real to them. Yet the objective evidence is slim to none. Alternative mundane explanations can account for these stories, and the case histories show every indication of fitting snugly into the profile of hysteria, as developed in Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, or archetypal visions, if you ask a Jungian. On the other hand, there is indeed a tremendous amount of objective evidence that extraterrestrials are visiting our planet. Did non-earthly beings really kidnap these people -- or do they suffer from hysterical delusions? Or archetypal downloads from the collective unconscious? What if all the above are true? This is an important example of superposition that is directly affecting the consciousness of large numbers of human beings. In many cases, the superposition has shifted into an even more radical octave: there are a growing number of apparently sane people who feel that they themselves are both human and alien.
Quantum undecidability also reigns in most people's minds about whether we are headed for planetary apocalypse or the dawn of a golden age. Some see that it is obvious that modern life is unsustainable ecologically, and can list all the plagues that are coming at us right now, which require not just four horsemen, but a stampeding army of wraith-riders bringing death and destruction as karmic blowback to our morally degraded world. But others are living in glorious optimism, in a sunny world of high technology that will soon solve all our planet's problems, and even lead to a singularity in which human intellect merges with far more powerful artificial intelligence in a cyborg utopia of limitless longevity for titanium-based life forms sharing a virtual matrix of unified consciousness. Still others find the cyborg future a horrid dystopian vision, and instead share a different sort of optimism, seeing a future of transcendent beings in light bodies, re-dreaming the world through mystic psycho-technology, in a unified field of divine love. Can all these visions be simultaneously true? Quantum theory says yes (and simultaneously of course, no).
If indeed what we are witnessing is quantum superposition writ large, then many people will be experiencing this as terrifying fragmentation. It is producing anxiety and even psychosis in some, and at the same time, ecstatic mystical awakening in others. In fact, some people are in superposed states of enlightenment and psychic meltdown in the same instant. There was a time when we needed to take LSD, magic mushrooms, or ayahuasca to experience such feelings and throw open the doors of multidimensional perception. But now, it is happening unbidden to more and more of us.
A comedienne some years ago delivered a wonderful line: Reality is a crutch for people who can't handle drugs. But things have now changed. The crutch is being removed. Reality itself is a drug that is wearing off. None of our stories hold together any more. The opposites are crashing into one another. Time is yielding to simultaneity. Sense and nonsense interpenetrate.
Of course, religion has always affirmed quantum superposition. What is Christ except the symbol of the superposition of man and God? The Buddhists say that samsara is in superposition with nirvana. Form is superposed with emptiness. The Advaitins assert that that the world of multiplicity is superposed with the Absolute. Duality is nonduality. The ego mind is in superposition with the mind of God, body-consciousness with the Buddha-nature.
Schrödinger's monstrous cat has been loosed upon our world. We had better prepare ourselves for its approach. It is marking its territory everywhere. It is rubbing against our legs. We are already in quantum entanglement with its tail. Soon it will jump into our lap. Already we can't tell if we are coming or going, if we are at alpha or omega. You look into the mirror and see the back of your head. You look in someone's eyes and realize you are gazing at yourself. You look out the window and see a déjà view. "You know something's happening here, but you don't know what it is." The cat has disappeared yet somehow it is beginning to speak through your mouth. You are becoming the cat's meow.
Some of us hope to awaken from our surrealistic pillow, while others relish playing in the inter-net of Indra. But this feline genie will not be put back into the Klein Bottle of Schrödinger's mind. The apocalypse of linear thinking is already upon us. Normalcy is a pipe dream. Materialism is a laugh, capitalism a bad smell that is thankfully dissipating, and the whole symbolic order is written in vanishing ink. Even the continents are poised to sink beneath the waves and allow new landmasses to rise in a re-born Earth. Everything is now possible.
But this magical moment in which the quantum wave is de-collapsing will not last. We are returning to the initial conditions of transfinite quantum potentiality, as the cosmic wave massively superposes new possibilities upon every undecidable superposition, burgeoning into a blur of becoming, ghostly waves of nightmarish beauty, extending outward and inward to infinity upon infinity. We are in a real Fantasia, and the sorcerer's apprentice has muffed the mantra in a ghastly goof. And yet it is a given, opening us again to the giving-ness of God.
Return, t'shuvah in the Kabbalistic tradition, enables tikkun -- the repair of the world. But full repair cannot be achieved unless we surrender to the Absolute beyond all possible conditions. As Islam rightly insists, there is no god but God. We must stop our worship of the ego, our sin of making idols out of money, physical beauty, power, or other mere mirage-like manifestations of the Absolute, and return all our attention and love one-pointedly to the Source. For optimal results in this tango of entanglement, the cosmic dance of Shakti and Shiva, we must humbly pay our homage to Emptiness. We must de-cathect our demonic and catabolic desires, de-focus our fixations, and junk our juvenile jouissance. Only then can we avoid being overwhelmed by the deadly fallout of our malpractice of creative consciousness.
This is the moment not only of superposition, but of super-consciousness. If we awaken to the hidden power we have been given, and use it with integrity, then this bardo state will birth a paradise; otherwise, what is to ensue will be unbearable. And the ultimate option is now also open: Supreme Liberation from this hall of mirrors, in union with the Absolute. Whatever you choose, says Schrödinger's cat, remember it is all purr-fection.
Image by Sol Grundy, courtesy of Creative Commons license.Tweet