„Quantum Healing: Works immediately – everybody can learn it“ – who has not yet been confronted with slogans like this? In particular, to those who place themselves a little closer to the esoteric scene, such statements will sound familiar. Following this phrase there is then much talk about miraculous healings and other fascinating things with the help of which you can – depending on your personal needs – clean the soul, set up your apartment (with quantum-Feng-Shui), or use „quantum resonance“ to live in the perfect romantic relationship. Even within the exploration of our consciousness quantum physics has now taken hold.
The „post-quantum physical movement,“ as I want to call it, looks back on some tradition. Already in the 1970s, the physicist Fritjof Capra wrote „The Tao of Physics“, a book in which he claimed that the mysticism of the ancient Indians corresponds to nothing less than the insights of modern quantum theory – albeit packaged in some poetic and metaphysical form. Now those who seriously deal with for example the Buddhist teachings will indeed find quite interesting statements that can be somewhat compared to the findings of modern physics. A sort of holistic connection of a quantum particle with its environment, the dismissal of the subject-object duality, and the rejection of any independent substance, these are insights that bear some similarity to ideas from the spiritual tradition of Buddhism, especially as developed in the Madhyamaka philosophy of the Indian thinker Nagarjuna in the second century AD. However, from the thoughts developed by Capra evolved a dynamic that turned his book into a new bible for all those who wanted nothing more than the (according to Max Weber) “disenchanted scientific rational worldview” being spiritually replenished. Thus to this day the word „quantum“ finds its way in the alternative and esoteric scene and must hold up for all kind of nonsense.
As it turned out, „quantum“ is the perfect description for pretty much everything that cannot be described. Add to this the fact that only a few really know and understand the details of quantum physics which prevents the „quantum“-protagonists rarely ever having to justify their ignorance, and you find the ideal esoteric mix for those too lazy to think for themselves. Who dares to contradict, once someone refers to “quantum physics”? Statements like „Everything depends on everything“ are then sufficient to make the hearts of many beat. The scheme applied is almost always the same: A statement originally made in a well-defined conceptual framework and therefore meaningful in the context of physics is distorted „quantum-esoterically“ into obscurity. „Only the measurement determines the state of a quantum particle“ is an example. In the context of quantum esotericism this translates into „Only through our observing is the state of the world determined“ (or, depending on what you want, the state of your health or your love partner). This is a jump from the clarity of a coherent and empirically validated physical theory directly into the mystical world, without any argumentative or discursive connection. Another example: „Quantum particles which are far away from each other can still physically connected“ („entangled“ is the technical term). This then becomes: „We are all connected, and this also with the entire universe.“ This is, to say it bluntly, nonsense
That even experienced scientists who should know better refer to quantum physics in order to fix an otherwise fragile argumentative basis, one was recently able to observe at the Mind & Life Summer School, an institution inspired by the Dalai Lama dedicated to a generally very serious exchange of scientific and Buddhist thought (often leading to fertile discussions and revealing fascinating connections). The topic was what philosophers call the ‚irreducibility of the subject“, i.e. subjective experience cannot be reduced to and fully explained by objective (measurable) physical conditions, such as states in the brain. The philosophical mind-body problem, which underlies this question, remains unresolved so far, despite more and more neuro researchers looking to obtain a clearer view upon it. And you may find good reasons to agree with this thesis. But it really has nothing to do with quantum physics.
Those who understand quantum physics, can only shake their head on this relentless exploitation of its ideas. However, it nevertheless serves nonsensical esoteric ideas very well, as the world of quantum particles indeed reveals some strange surprises to us and in some instances seems unusual and bizarre to our mind. However, only so when viewed with our everyday forms of intuition, which in their evolutionary adaptation processes have never been touched by quantum physics. The vast majority of quantum effects are found far away from our daily lives in the world of tiny distances and unimaginably short time scales, and thus certainly not in the field of spirituality. Knowing that quantum physics makes bizarre-sounding statements, the quantum mystics conclude blithely that everything that sounds bizarre therefore must necessarily belong to quantum physics. This is certainly a fallacy, but one that can be wonderfully exploited. Is it possible that a not so new need is being satisfied here, the longing for one – as simply structured as possible – fundamental, universal and binding worldview, to which one can refer again and again without having to take the trouble to examine it precisely?