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Does New Age Mysticism REALLY Explain Quantum Physics? Communist Theory of Mind Says No

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Quantum Physics
Quantum Physics
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Author, Bruce Lerro

Orientation

From Marxism to de Chardin, General Systems Theory to Buckminster Fuller

Around 1975, it dawned on me that the revolutionary times of the 1960s were not coming back. I still considered myself a council communist but I felt something was missing. I thought Marxism needed to be seen within a larger framework. I began to look for a perspective that located societies as part of cosmic evolution. My first stop was Teilhard de Chardin. I was swept away by The Phenomenon of Man and continued with a few of his other books. I found other authors with an evolutionary perspective like Barbara Marx Hubbard's Conscious Evolution and Gerald Heard's Five Ages of Man. I was also drawn to General Systems Theory and especially liked Bogdanov's Tektology because as a Marxist, he framed human societies as another level of cosmic evolution. People like Oliver Reiser (Cosmic Humanism) saw humanity as part of larger globalization of society. Probably most powerfully, I was drawn to the work of Buckminster Fuller. Here was a guy trained in the hard sciences who had a vision of a new society based on the wise use of technology. What all these theories had in common was they were optimistic about the future of humanity. I didn't care so much at time that there might be contradictions between these theories and those of Marx and Engels. It wasn't until about five years later that I came to terms with these contradictions.

Flirting with Eastern Mysticism

But that wasn't the end of it. I soon found myself in the misty waters of New Age mysticism without really realizing it. In 1975, a book came out called The Tao of Physics, which was soon followed by another book called The Dancing Wu Li Masters. Both these books were written by physicists who took full advantage of the American counter-cultural swooning over Eastern mysticism. We were told that quantum physics was revealing a sub-atomic world that resembled the teachings of ancient Eastern mysticism. I was not alone among Marxists exploring these realms. My best Marxist friend, who knew more about Marx than anyone I had ever met, had been practicing Yogananda's form of meditation for years. He joined me to read Capra's book.

What these New Age physicists were saying was that because subatomic particles were unstable (both a wave and a particle) the observer had to make a "decision" as to which to measure. If you couldn't decide whether a subatomic particle was a wave or a particle without a state of consciousness, that meant that consciousness was at the heart of matter. We were told that western science has finally caught up with the wise ancients of the East. At a liberal arts, New Age university I taught at, we had a science teacher who taught a class called "Quantum Physics and Eastern Mysticism". No one in the class was required to take any preliminary physics classes in order to take the class. We had students walking around the campus holding court about the mysteries of quantum mechanics when most of them knew nothing about physics. Here we have the New Age spirituality.

How prevalent is this New Age mysticism?

But why am I writing an article about something that happened 35-40 years ago? Two reasons:

  1. To show that the same thing is going on today with New Age gurus still claiming that the New Physics confirms eastern mysticism. Doing a search in Amazon under the word "quantum" I found 30 books on the first page with titles such as Quantum Physics and the Power of the Mind; Quantum Consciousness: Journey Through Other Realms; Quantum Consciousness; The Guide to Experiencing Quantum Psychology; Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness; The Shamanic Path to Quantum Consciousness; Quantum DNA Healing; Merging Spiritually with Quantum Consciousness; Cosmic Consciousness and the Healing with the Quantum Field. All these books are dolled up in colorful, space-age covers.
  2. Mystical explanations in physics were also prevalent over 100 years ago. In the late 19th and early 20th century Russia, Lenin battled what he considered mystical ideas about physics that he feared were taking over the Bolshevik party. We will discuss the value and the shortcomings of his attempt to rescue materialism and its theory of mind from the swoon of phenomenology and other idealist theories.

My claim

My claim in this article is that a Vygotskian socio-cultural nature of mind does a better job at combatting mysticism than Lenin's reflective theory of mind. For this article, I will be referring to Pannekoek's book Lenin as Philosopher; Victor Stenger's The Unconscious Quantum: Metaphysics in Modern Physics and Cosmology and David Bakhurst's book Consciousness and Revolution in Soviet Philosophy: From the Bolsheviks to Evald Ilyenkov.

Types of Philosophy

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Barbara MacLean and Bruce Lerro are co-founders and organizers for Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter. http://planningbeyondcapitalism.org/

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