Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness (Columbia Series in Science and Religion) by B. Alan Wallace (PDF)



Ebook Info

  • Published: 2007
  • Number of pages: 173 pages
  • Format: PDF
  • File Size: 3.43 MB
  • Authors: B. Alan Wallace


Bridging the gap between the world of science and the realm of the spiritual, B. Alan Wallace introduces a natural theory of human consciousness that has its roots in contemporary physics and Buddhism. Wallace’s “special theory of ontological relativity” suggests that mental phenomena are conditioned by the brain, but do not emerge from it. Rather, the entire natural world of mind and matter, subjects and objects, arises from a unitary dimension of reality that is more fundamental than these dualities, as proposed by Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung.To test his hypothesis, Wallace employs the Buddhist meditative practice of samatha, refining one’s attention and metacognition, to create a kind of telescope to examine the space of the mind. Drawing on the work of the physicist John Wheeler, he then proposes a more general theory in which the participatory nature of reality is envisioned as a self-excited circuit. In comparing these ideas to the Buddhist theory known as the Middle Way philosophy, Wallace explores further aspects of his “general theory of ontological relativity,” which can be investigated by means of vipasyana, or insight, meditation. Wallace then focuses on the theme of symmetry in reference to quantum cosmology and the “problem of frozen time,” relating these issues to the theory and practices of the Great Perfection school of Tibetan Buddhism. He concludes with a discussion of the general theme of complementarity as it relates to science and religion.The theories of relativity and quantum mechanics were major achievements in the physical sciences, and the theory of evolution has had an equally deep impact on the life sciences. However, rigorous scientific methods do not yet exist to observe mental phenomena, and naturalism has its limits for shedding light on the workings of the mind. A pioneer of modern consciousness research, Wallace offers a practical and revolutionary method for exploring the mind that combines the keenest insights of contemporary physicists and philosophers with the time-honored meditative traditions of Buddhism.

User’s Reviews

Reviews from Amazon users which were colected at the time this book was published on the website:

⭐This book [Hidden Dimensions] has a primary purpose according to the author to show that, “the measurement problem in quantum mechanics, the time problem in quantum cosmology, and the hard problem in brain science are all profoundly related.” This is all carried out against a backdrop discussion of Buddhist philosophy on consciousness and Buddhist discoveries as to the nature, capacities and powers of mind. The discussion of Buddhism, the description of the penetration of its practitioners into a level or field of consciousness well beyond ordinary perception, the practices required to do this – all are sufficient to make this work worthy of reading. Apparently unless one reads obscure works on Buddhism, this is not readily available information – at least I have not run across it in this detail – and I appreciate Wallace’s making this more accessible. There is unquestionably food for thought here for any theorist of consciousness. The difficult aspect of the book for me resides in the question: just what version of quantum mechanics, just what interpretation of relativity, and just what interpretation of the hard problem are you relating to one another? When I see Everett’s “Many Worlds” position prominently featured – an interpretation of quantum theory no one can actually make sense of when driven to detail and a model which a theorist like Gao for example

⭐] disposes of effortlessly – its hard to maintain interest. When we deal continually with Schrödinger’s equation as though as though the only possible position is that there must be a consciousness (observer) to explain the wave function collapse – ignoring the existence of dynamical collapse models (again, see Gao as an example), the arguments become weak. As far as (special) relativity (STR), for me, a ubiquitous problem in virtually all writing today is the uncritical acceptance of an interpretation that has become standard ever since Langevin’s announcement of the twin paradox and yet is an interpretation which guts the actual consistency and meaning of the theory and erroneously supports claims/statements such as the author’s, “the notion of time no longer has any objective meaning.” But to understand these reservations re the standard, orthodox but wrong views of STR, one would have to read Bergson’s

⭐or an updated commentary/explication of Bergson

⭐. STR is simply the classic metaphysic – rarified. In general, the extensive effort made to relate the insights of Buddhism on one side to a painting of questionable or at least arguable positions in physics on the other side dissipates the power of the book. As to the hard problem, with its part in the triad Wallace wishes to relate, he phrases it as the unresolved problem as to how the brain generates mental phenomena, to include the “qualia” characterizing these phenomena. His critique of the search for “neural correlates” and of monism and Cartesian dualism in this context are incisive, but the dissipative problem for the book is that Chalmers’ statement of the problem – in terms of how a brain or computer architecture could account for the qualia of perception – has been both a partial and a misleading formulation. The problem rather is accounting for the origin of our image of the external world. This includes its qualia, but also the forms within the image as well – the tables, the chairs and tiled floor of the kitchen as well as their oak-browns, tans, black and white patterns, etc., form being equally – qualia. To explicate a bit, this is the problem brilliantly addressed by Bergson (Matter and Memory, 1896) – as much a Buddhist spirit or better, Zen Buddhist spirit, as any theorist referenced by Wallace. Bergson presciently viewed the universe as a holographic field transforming in a indivisible or non-differentiable motion. The brain serves as a modulated reconstructive wave passing through this field and specifying, or specific to, a past subset of the field, i.e., now specifying an image of a (past) portion of this field, say, the kitchen. This is a model of “direct perception” – the perception is an optimal specification of past states of the dynamically transforming field in its indivisible motion. The kitchen chair is where the perception says it is – in the field. This model, naturally aligned as it is with J.J. Gibson’s model of perception with its reliance on the invariance laws specifying events in the field (to include its forms) contains all the emphasis on invariants that Wallace appreciates, and yes, the perception is relative as Wallace insists upon in the “ontological relativity” formulation he touts, since the invariance laws (which define events in the external field) to which the brain resonates depend on the action systems or capabilities of the organism. We would not be entertaining, as does Wallace, that an archetypical level or plane of forms somehow accounts for our image of, our perception of, the external world. To quote Wallace: “The fundamental idea here is not that mental phenomena emerge from complex configurations of matter, as is widely assumed today, but rather that the distinction of mind and matter emerges from an underlying reality of archetypes.” Wallace makes no effort at explanation as to how this framework can work to explain perception (or the origin of the image of the external world), however, Bergson’s model has already fulfilled the essence of Wallace’s vision, for in Bergson, matter and mind are two poles of the same underlying field, and the the relation/differentiation of subject and object is not in terms of space (or spatial distinction), but in terms of time.What I am saying here is that the hard problem is a problem in the theory of (conscious)perception and one does not address it well without being familiar with the theories and problems of perception. Wallace is missing this dimension. He is denying the possibility of direct perception – “[appearances] are illusory in the sense that they seem to exist either in the external world or inside our heads, whereas in reality there is no compelling evidence they are located anywhere in physical space” – yet I wonder if he even has seen the arguments for it.Nevertheless, despite these reservations as to the physics to which he relates and Wallace’s forgivable lack of awareness of the positions of Bergson/Gibson, the discussion of the Buddhist experience, discoveries and theories gives plenty of food for thought and carries implications for the nature of mind yet to be explored even by the radical position I’ve briefly sketched above.

⭐I have never met the author of this enthralling book, but having now also read several of his previous works, he clearly has a remarkably original and creative mind.This book is both the most challenging and the most satisfying of his books, in which he tries to construct a comprehensive model that can take into account consciousness, quantum and Relativity theory.He begins with an exceptionally important problem, and one that is not even recognized by many popular writers who use half-understood metaphors to support their theories of everything from the Law of Attraction to the nature of God.The question is this: Can quantum mechanics tell us anything useful about the nature of reality in the observable day-to-day world? The trouble is that most of the observations in support of quantum theory vanish as the temperature of a system rises. At human body temperature, quantum effects appear to vanish like fairy gold.The second question has also lead to its fair share of misunderstandings: how do Einstein’s theories of Relativity tie in with our day-to-day experiences and with quantum theory?In the 1950s a popular science writer first used a simplified but woefully inadequate interpretation of Einstein’s work to declare that “everything is energy,” and that matter is nothing but “congealed energy.” These attractive statements have become enshrined in countless books, articles and documentaries. Sad to say, this is one of those times when an idea is clear, simple, understandable and… wrong.Alan is far too smart and well informed to make these mistakes. He proposes that three fundamental problems are all related: first, the problem of measurement in quantum mechanics; second the problem of time in quantum cosmology and third the so-called “hard problem” in brain science that tries to explain how consciousness can arise form apparently inanimate matter.What he does next is almost unique in contemporary literature: he engages in a first-person meditative inquiry into the relationships between these two streams in physics and the third strand: the nature of consciousness. He uses techniques that he outlined in

⭐, and builds on some of the insights in his last book,

⭐.He comes to the conclusion, rightly, I believe, that consciousness does not emerge from the brain but is conditioned by it. Furthermore, that the entire Universe of mind and matter arises from a fundamental non-dual reality.Not only has Alan constructed an interesting hypothesis that is compatible with much of what we have learned from physicists, but he has also revived an ancient tradition that teaches us that although we can describe the natural world with our observations and our mathematics, we can also probe the nature of existence by going within our minds.The worry about the latter approach has always been that we might end up in a meaningless solipsistic dream. Alan Wallace indicates to us that inner inquiry may produce answers that seem to agree with and expand many current models employed in physics.This is an important, well-written and engaging book that will be of great value to anyone interested in consciousness, spirituality and the nature of the Universe.Very highly recommended.Richard G. Petty, MD, author of

⭐While I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Wallace’s book “Hidden Dimensions” as a lucid, well executed and highly intelligent attempt to conflate physics and spirituality (and I highly commend his effort) I can’t help but feel that his attempts, noble and necessary as they are, are going to fall on deaf ears. However, every revolution has to start with one person standing up (or sitting down in the case of Mahatma Gandhi) and thunderously announcing the prospect of other possibilities. I can and will continue to be a reader of Prof. Wallace’s work and hope that his ideas will invigorate what I perceive as languid scientific thought.My only negative comments have more to do with Dr. Wallace’s writing style than his perspective and opines. In many ways Dr. Wallace’s style is reminiscent of the renowned physicist Paul Davies, in that every sentence is so charged with meaning, that I find myself having to do mental acrobatics to try and assimilate what is being (or what I think is being) conveyed. And I think I know why. The author has, in my opinion, an exceptional ability to employ “single pointed concentration/focus,” wherein he is able to condense paragraphs, pages and chapters into a single sentence or two. With all due respect, Dr. Wallace, please, expand your writings a bit farther – add more detail so those of us who don’t have tremendous powers of single pointed concentration (or , in my case, near zero powers of single pointed concentration) can more ably and efficiently integrate your thoughts into our receptive minds.Four stars without prevarication.

⭐A very interesting exploration of Buddhist metaphysics when compared with the worldviews emerging from modern Quantum Physics. The author demonstrates a deep understanding.


⭐Alan Wallace opère la jonction entre le monde du spirituel et de la science, séparé depuis toujours par le dogme religieux et le dogme du naturalisme scientifique. Sa théorie de la « relativité ontologique », contrairement à ce que pense le naturalisme scientifique, suggère que les phénomènes mentaux, comme la conscience, n’émergent pas de la matière, mais d’une dimension invisible de la réalité, qu’il appelle le « monde des formes », et qui est, plus que la dichotomie entre la matière et l’esprit, leur source commune.Platon s’en doutait déjà dans « son mythe de la caverne ». Le bouddhisme l’a systématisé : le monde n’est que le vide (vacuité). Ce que nous voyons ne sont que les projections de nos sens, et non le réel. Aucun objet n’existe indépendamment de sa relation avec le sujet qui le perçoit, comme le préconisaient d’ailleurs les existentialistes, et il est donc illusoire de penser qu’il puisse avoir une existence autonome. La réalité objective réside dans le monde des formes, le samadhi, niveau de conscience pur qu’on peut atteindre par la méditation. Ce qui est intéressant, c’est que les récentes recherches scientifiques dans la foulée de Susskind, Bohm, Hawkins et d’autres, tendent à démontrer que l’univers n’est qu’une projection holographique d’un langage abstrait-des équations mathématiques-situant dans une autre dimension qui nous est physiquement inaccessible.Style clair, sobre, érudit, accessible même aux non anglophones. On voit que Wallace, ancien moine bouddhiste, maîtrise parfaitement les techniques de l’introspection contemplative.


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