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Record Type: Review   ID: 408

The Quantum Self: Human Nature and Consciousness Defined by the New Physics

Zohar, Danah, with Marshall, I.N.

Danah Zohar, whose education included both physics and the philosophy of religion, began this book to use quantum physics as a metaphor for daily life activities, but she says that as she worked on it, "metaphor gave way increasingly to evidence, or to what is at least well-grounded speculation about the actual physics of human psychology and its moral and spiritual implications" (p. 11). In a nutshell, she says the basic idea of the book is "seeing ourselves as quantum persons" (p. 11). Rather than being still another popular overview of quantum physics, hers is intended to offer a way to get beyond the sense of alienation, anomie, and anarchy that the mechanistic worldview has fostered in which humans have "no particular role to play in the scheme of things" and to propose a new theory of consciousness based on quantum physics "that promises to bring us back into partnership with the universe" (p. 17). Humans today are "grounded in nothing larger than themselves" (p. 19). She points out that although quantum physics can make amazingly accurate predictions, it cannot explain the everyday world of time and space where Newtonian physics hold supreme. She feels that human consciousness, on the other hand, "might in some ways be explained by, and in other ways mirror, the same laws ... that govern the world of electrons and photons. ... Thus, in knowing ourselves, we can come to know Nature" (p. 23). Her aim is to show how "through a wedding of physics and psychology we, too, can live in a reconciled universe ... in which we and our culture are fully, and meaningfully, part of the scheme of things" (p. 23). The framework upon which she builds this view is evident from the chapter headings, which unfortunately cannot be explicated in an abstract. The 16 chapters are entitled: A Physics of Everyday Life, What’s New About the New Physics?; Consciousness and the Cat; Are Electrons Conscious?; Consciousness and the Brain: Two Classical Models; A Quantum Mechanical Model of Consciousness; Mind and Body; The Person That I Am: Quantum Identity; The Relationships That I Am: Quantum Intimacy; The Survival of the Self: Quantum Immortality; Getting Beyond Narcissism: The Foundations of a New Quantum Psychology; The Free Self: Quantum Responsibility; The Creative Self: Ourselves as Coauthors of the World; Ourselves and the Material World: Quantum Aesthetics; The Quantum Vacuum and the God Within; and The Quantum World View. In her view each of us is unique because of being "an utterly unique pattern of relationships," and yet none of us can separate the I they are from those relationships. "The quantum self thus mediates between the extreme isolation of Western individualism and the extreme collectivism of Marxism or Eastern mysticism" (p. 237). She says the quantum worldview "tells us that our world comes about through a mutually creative dialogue between mind and body (inner and outer, subject and object), between the individual and his personal and material context, and between human culture and the natural world. It gives us a view of the human self that is free and responsible, responsive to others and to its environment, essentially related and naturally committed, and at every moment creative" (p. 237).

Reviewer’s comment: In line with Zohar’s view of human consciousness being the link between the micro- and macro-world, I suggest that consciousness is a continuum linking the individual ego-self with the Self that is everything, and it is exceptional human experiences that provide us glimpses of the latter. Zohar alludes to this when she proposes that "if we truly understood our place in the revolving universe [I would say as in place of in], we might come to see ourselves as thoughts (excitations) in the mind of God" (p. 230).

Publisher Information:New York: Quill/William Morrow, 1990. 270p. Bibl: 247-254; Chap. notes: 239-245; 27 figs; Index: 255-268; 3 tables
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