Respecting personal (subjective) reality seems like a good idea, that is until an aeroplane drops out of the sky because somebody decides physics is not real. However, there does seem to be room for both the kind of reality that explains obvious everyday cause and effect, such as laws of physics, and the less-commonly talked about reality of unseen connection, (What is nonlocal mind?). Let's explore how this aspect of mind might sync up with everyday reality, by looking at the block universe theory.
Back in 1987, Larry Dossey came up with the name 'nonlocal mind', to label mind events that seemed to step beyond the body: snapshots of future events that come to pass, knowledge about distant objects or events, or interactions with other minds. It is not so long past that biologists found plants are connected together in the unseen world beneath our feet, linked by the tendrils of fungi that mesh through undisturbed soil, used to transfer signals. But how might such a thing be possible for the mind? This is where block universe theory comes into the picture.
A common way to explore this theory is to visualise the universe (i.e. current materialistic and time-base reality) as a loaf of sliced bread. If we narrow our focus to just one slice, this represents the current moment. Looking behind, the previous slice is the moment just passed. Usually we think of the past as dissolving into a phantom or unreachable ghost that exists only as a memory. In this block universe theory though, it maintains a solid form of existence; although one we cannot contact while we maintain our position in the current slice. Looking ahead, there is another surprise; a solid slice exists here too, and another beyond, and so on. Basically, the entire loaf of past, present and future forms one block of existence.
But surely this is ridiculous. If we can't touch the past or the future how can we say that it actually exists? And wouldn't this mean that our life path is set in stone from the moment of birth to our death?
In general, most of us steer clear of questions about spacetime, because it is just a little too weird for the mind to grasp easily. However, thinking about the fabric of reality is necessary if we are to see how someone might communicate across space, and even time, without physically moving, touching anything, or sending a message in a conventional manner.
It may help to travel back to the image of a two-dimensional world addressed in an earlier blog (What does reality actually look like?). Imagine a dot on a piece of paper. We can ask, how might this dot access more than the tiny and locally connected informational-space it personally occupies? To do so, surely it would have to move its position on the paper, physically ploughing through the sheet, which we would notice. However, if we make use of three dimensions, then the dot might be visualised as a slice through, or the end of a protrusion. The dot, extending beyond the two dimensions of the paper would be free of its constraints above or below the sheet. We might think of this in terms of the way we see plants as trunks, branched and leaves; but they also exist unseen below this air-filled region in what we call the ground.
Is there evidence though, that mind, or some aspect of it, might exist in such a fashion, beyond the world of width and depth and breadth that we experience daily? Well, a few years ago, Arturo Tozzi and James Peters noticed that strange flows of information in the organic brain, previously taken for granted, only make sense if seen as a projection from another dimension, and took this to be evidence of information processing in hyperspace (a further dimension). They argue that this extra-dimensional aspect might even be necessary to give us our everyday perception of a continuous flow from moment to moment. Helping our mind stitch awareness together across the apparent progression of time rather like a computer program, that projects an image, allows an aeroplane to fly off one side of a screen in a game scenario, magically loop around, and fly back on from the other side.
What does physics say about the prospect of a further dimension for our spacetime; one that might be required for the functioning of our three-dimensional world? Well, a recent paper in the Annual Review of Condensed Matter Physics argues that this extradimensionality is needed to explain how quantum entanglement knits together our 3D spacetime. If you would like to follow this up, KnowableMagazine has provided an easy-to-read summary on the topic.
Seeing reality through the lens of the block universe, from which we can protrude in some kind of mental way, allows for the untouchable and invisible connections people speak of experiencing.
Till next time – B.W. Cribb