Settle back for a story about a miracle of science and how you are an experimental scientist, perhaps without even knowing it. In May of 2013, a brilliant molecular physicist, Aneta Stodoina, captured the first ever photo of an electron’s whizzing orbit within a hydrogen atom. Look at the above photo and imagine yourself peering inside. She and others on her team invented a new microsophy technique that allows us for the first time in human history to take our awareness in an atom. So, this is a story about an incredible journey into the interior of an atom and the power it can release.
What a trip!
Seeing within the tiniest bits of matter has been a challenge for humans over five thousand years because of the almost infinitesimal small scale of atoms. The science of this exploration is called—as you no doubt guessed—quantum physics. Before I get to the punch line of this blog, I want to take you back a bit in the narrative about our relationship with atoms. Hang with me.
Early Atomic Experiments
Around 460 B.C.E. a Greek philosopher/scientist, Democritus, asked a question: if you cut a piece of wood in half, and cut it in half again, how many cuts will you make before you can cut it no further? He went on to surmise that eventually you would get to the smallest possible bit of matter(in this case wood), and he called these smallest particles of matter, atoms,or atomos, a word in his native Greek language,which translates as uncuttable or indivisible. This vision is important, but also illustrates how skewed our Western view of history is. You and I likely learned that Democritus was the first to wonder about these tiny bits of matter just as we were taught that Columbus discovered America.
We were taught a system of errors mixed with a truth here and there.
Awareness Through Questioning History
At this point in the atomic story, I invite us to accelerate our re-thinking thinking by deeply questioning Western Civilization’s history. Dare to. At a likely unconscious level our historians shape the human account to justify our reducing everything to its tiniest material bit and ignore both the wisdom and folly of the ancients. Put another way our historians unwittingly prop up a worldview that supports the dominance of humans over all other aspects of Earth, a form of thinking that has pushed us to the edge of the abyss with climate change. Our mainstream history falls into a fallacy I call the trans/pre fallacy: after this, therefore better than this.
A Story Ignored in the West
Indian historian Kisari M. Ganguli notes that newer archeology and ancient texts are full of references to an ancient science that ventured inside microscopic matter.. Researching the ancient Mahabharata‘s description of a war in the Indus Valley 5000 years ago, Ganguli notes a startling account of a weapon with all the power of the Universe in it. It was, he proposes, a giant fireball, which reduced to ashes an entire race, the Vrishnis. The ground was scorched. Birds turned white. All foodstuffs were contaminated. Had these ancient ones ventured inside an atom and discovered its awesome power?
If so, what went wrong?
When J. Robert Oppenheimer was experimenting with splitting the atom for Harry Truman, he delved into and quoted this ancient science. Such descriptions gave Oppenheimer pause to think, but, unfortunately, not enough pause to re-think his choices. He (and we in the USA) became, to use Oppenheimer’s quote of the ancient narrative, “…destroyers of the world.” Were these ancient scientist warriors not only aware of the tiny world of the atom but also adept at unleashing its power? And does our current perspective simply ignore such possibilities because of the narrow lens of our thinking?
Toltec Practice of Awareness
600 years before Democritus postulated the atom, the Toltecs made perception and expanded awareness that linked two domains of reality the focus of their science and art. They soon would model the pyramid complex at Teotihuacan after their discovery of the solar system, an advance that came over a millennia before Copernicus. Underlying the amazing accomplishments of the Toltecs is their mastery of awareness through a dogged practice that took them out of ordinary reasoning and thinking into domains we call altered states of consciousness. By stalking our usual states(illusory dreams we create) the Toltecs moved into dimensions far beyond the mainstream. My point here is that the Toltecs were early scientist/artists who knew how to move from our mainstream minds to a separate reality that anticipates quantum physics. But I digress.
21st Century Science
Now, let’s return to Democritus and his cutting of the wood until he arrived at the tiniest particle, one he called an atom. That theory held(and is still held by retro-scientists in many universities) until quantum physicists performed experiments that changed everything. Democritus and Isaac Newton were not so much wrong as their journey stopped short of bridging the two worlds of particles and waves. The results of quantum experiments reveal a link between Democritus’ tiny bits of wood and an invisible world of waves. You cut the wood; you cut the wood; and what you end up with is not a thing but a movement between worlds. Reality, it turns out, is not a thing at all but a movement, an oscillation between domains.
Then, they discovered that the waves were waves of possibilities and that the possibility waves became steeper and steeper as scientists interacted with conscious awareness. That’s what you do when you engage in an experiment: focus awareness. The steepness(or amplitude) of the wave under the focus of awareness collapsed into an actual entity we can perceive with our senses, an atom or sub-atomic particle. In our modern culture it has taken a century for it to dawn on us that the missing link in usual thinking is the wild card of focused and expanded awareness. Such awareness is at the heart of rethinking thinking. The thinking of the future will be more like meditating than critical analysis, though it will include both.
The Power of Awareness
Think of it! Or better, re-think of it! According to quantum physics, the shaper of reality at the microscopic level is consciousness. Notice, I didn’t say human consciousness because other forms of consciousness also shape reality.(That is another story). The Toltecs are right, as are most indigenous peoples. The most powerful tool we have is our own consciousness, which begins with our ability to shift our awareness from the ordinary to the trans-ordinary.
Inside the Atom
Now for our actual trip to the inner world of the atom. Look at the chair or any object near you. It appears solid, but the appearance is our dream, our handy concoction. The reality is a mass of moving atoms, like you see in the above photos. Notice how your mind may resist such a view. It’s OK. It has taken a century for our best scientists to get with how things are not things. Einstein himself said it was so weird that he couldn’t wrap himself around it.
Yet, Einstein didn’t have the privilege of the newer photography that takes us inside. Yes, at this moment, your awareness can take you through the above picture inside an atom. Then, shift your awareness to the chair, or other object. There you can see tiny sub-atomic particles. Stretch now. Open you awareness. Focus. As your consciousness moves inside the object/chair, your stretched awareness begins to interact with the chair.
The chair actually is a system of possibility waves that become steeper as you focus your awareness. Then, the tiny waves collapse into actual bits of matter that make up the chair. It is not so much that you are creating the chair as you are co-creating the chair through the power of your awareness.
Now, here is the punchline I promised. Your tiny bit of awareness connects you with the vast consciousness underlying and overreaching the Universe as we know it. Your awareness is connected with what physicist, David Bohm, calls the Implicate Order of Consciousness. In that sense you and I are are possibility waves ourselves that move into physical existence every moment. And in that sense our expanded awareness allows us to become identified as the Beloved Sacred Consciousness that brings everything into existence.
The wild card, though, is our willingness to stretch from our islands of safety into larger awareness.