The Power of Thought

The memoir I'm working on contains some of these ideas.

My Spiritual Atheist Friend,    July 27, 2017
I’m coming off a satisfying discussion with a thoughtful atheist friend I’ll call Ben. We’ve known each other for about 30 years but hadn’t seen each other since he moved to take a position far away. We kept communicating. Finally he returned to central Minnesota to visit me and others. What draws us together? We both are in thrall to metaphysical questions.

I do not know a person with more integrity than my atheist friend Ben; I don’t know anyone more principled. I also like him because he and I agree on everything except the biggest questions of existence. We agree on politics and on much about religion.

The morning before our talk, I submitted a letter to National Catholic Reporter in response to a trial Eucharistic Prayer that its author says reflects “the quantum-cosmological-developmental-evolutionary worldview” of today. Its topic was a fitting introduction to the discussion of metaphysical matters that Ben and I had later in the day.

The morning after our pleasant and scintillating talk, I woke up before 4:00 a.m. a little dizzy from a whoosh of thoughts coming in quick succession. Dozens of times I turned on the bedside lamp to write them down. Always I had to turn the light off for the next thought to surface.  Interesting, that it took darkness for them to show themselves.

This fact is not irrelevant to the issue crowding my mind, the Inner Realm, which likes to show itself in unobtrusive, hidden ways. Parker Palmer says it’s like looking for wild animals. You have to wait quietly in the woods a while before they show themselves. Darkness and my letting go allowed more messages from that Inner Realm to show themselves.

After talks with Ben, my mind teems with points I want to make in debating him. I hope he would agree that ours is a relationship of mutual respect.

He has moved past the place where atheists I know and read—Ben an exception—stay stuck, railing against institutional religion. Many atheists seem to think the sins of religion prove there is no God. But the wrongs of institutional religions—their stupidity, hypocrisy, corruption, and so on—prove nothing about what's called "God."

It also is pointless to stop at saying, "I don't believe in God," because the question is this: What idea of God do you not believe in?  When they profess disbelief, atheists argue against the least elevated God-concept coming from religion. That dumb idea booted me out of religion into the lap of atheism years ago.

No religion owns what is called “God.” It does not take orders from the pope or anyone else.

I admit I also rail at institutional religion, specifically its sexist God-talk. Christian prayers teach Christians to think God is like humans, only more perfect. A speaker on MPR once caught my attention by saying that we can’t say what God is any more than a horse can say what a human mind is.

Male terms for God such as Lord/King/Father/Son-—what I call sexist God-talk because Lady/Mother/Daughter are not accepted—cramp understanding of what is called “God.” Inclusive God-names would broaden understanding. I like these: Source, Creator, Divinity, Spirit, Force, Guide, Love. And mixing up genders, naming the Source both “Mother” and “Father,” would suggest the foolishness of trying to define God.

Ben accepts the fact of consciousness. After all, quantum science makes it irrefutable. But Ben does not interpret consciousness as I do. I see consciousness—our thoughts, beliefs, feelings, attitudes, expectations, and intentions—as evidence of spiritual reality. He doubts there is anything but physical reality.

I take from Teilhard de Chardin the view that there is a within distinct from the without, and Teilhard calls the within “consciousness.” 

Ben used to be sure that the physical brain gives rise to thoughts, that physical stuff creates non-physical stuff. Now that quantum science forces physicists to admit that consciousness creates physical reality on the quantum level, he isn’t so sure. To me, the findings of quantum physics evince our spiritual selves.

All our physical actions flow from our mind activity or consciousness. Our consciousness creates our reality. I find support for my opinion in a book by two physicists. I think Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner demonstrates, irrefutably, that consciousness or mind activity creates physical reality. So “Consciousness” is another possible God-name.

Those who share my fascination with these questions are depriving themselves if they don’t study Quantum Enigma. A theologian, Vincent Smiles, recommended the book to me, and an amateur physicist recommended it to Ben, who hasn't read it yet. Because science is not my area of strength, I skip parts that go into torturous (in my view) explanation of how experiments are set up and carried out. “Get to the result!” I say. I’m writing this to encourage others who might be bored or intimidated by science.

When I read Quantum Enigma, when I so much as open the book and reread parts I highlighted, my heart races. It is so exciting!

Science, theology, and philosophy today are moving closer together. They used to repudiate each other; they used to refute each other. Today they converge as science finds evidence for what religions have been pointing to, symbolically, for millennia. The Inner Realm exists in, under, around, and through outer reality.

Mind over Matter, September 4, 2017
A few days ago, I was in an office at the doctor’s getting a referral appointment set up, when our conversation turned to a common phenomenon. The appointment secretary said it often happens to her. She’ll think about someone she hasn’t thought about for a while, and right then that person calls. We agreed that it’s uncanny and science can’t explain it. Her gift appears in more striking ways. She thinks of some event happening, and then it does.

“I bet you don’t talk about this to just anyone,” I said.

“Some people don’t like to hear about it,” she said, “but I think it’s pretty neat.”

I think her gift points to many phenomena that cannot be explained by the physical sciences. It makes scientists who deny the existence of non-physical reality so uncomfortable that they dismiss the phenomena or come up with wildly-improbable explanations in pursuit of anything to avoid admitting that spiritual reality exists.

But they cannot dismiss evidence from their own experiments.

It is hard to give an accurate sense of just how shocked physicists are by the implications of quantum mechanics, say physicists Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner in Quantum Enigma. They write,
For many physicists, this mystery, the quantum enigma, is best not talked about. It displays physics’ encounter with consciousness. It’s the skeleton in our closet.
When I first learned of the observer’s role in wave/particle experiments, I was flabbergasted too. Immediately I saw the spiritual implication, which apparently disturbs physicists. A colleague of Rosenblum and Kuttner objected to their teaching of the enigma.
[P]resenting this material to nonscientists is the intellectual equivalent of allowing children to play with loaded guns.
I probably am the kind of person that scientist worried about because I find evidence for non-physical or spiritual reality in this enigma that Einstein called “spooky.”

Unlike experimentation on other scientific theories, quantum experiments always—in 100% of cases—yield the same result. Stated in nonscientific terms, whether a thing is a wave or a particle depends on the decision of the experimenter. The material result—whether wave or particle—is produced by the scientist’s choice. The scientist's thought process, his or her consciousness, causes the outcome.

Scientists who are scientific materialists hate this because it apparently says that non-physical reality determines physical reality. They insist there is no non-physical or spiritual reality. I don’t see how they can skirt this conclusion: Spiritual reality not only exists, it is paramount.

Many physicists try to avoid the issue and just ignore the “Spooky Interactions” by pursuing practical applications of quantum mechanics in technology. Rosenblum and Kuttner write, "One-third of our economy involves products based on quantum mechanics."

Physics’ encounter with consciousness demands the attention of theoretical physicists, and the quantum enigma, say Rosenblum and Kuttner, “depends crucially on free will.” They quote this materialist position:
"You," your joys and sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.
Why should cells and molecules give rise to our sense of identity and free will? The authors of Quantum Enigma ask this and add,
. . . no mere account of physical process will tell us why experience arises.
They quote J.A Hobson:
Those of us with common sense are amazed at the resistance put up by psychologists, physiologists, and philosophers to the obvious reality of free will.
What follows from accepting our spiritual consciousness may be even spookier, but I have become comfortable with it. I have come to believe we create our own reality. The way this plays out is complicated.

It’s not as easy as doing right instead of wrong, because each of us is part of the collective consciousness, which contains many, many layers of thought from multitudes who created the reality we were born into. And each of us has hidden beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and so on in our consciousness that influence our decisions. Understanding ourselves takes work.

If you are fascinated by the debate between scientific materialists and people who accept the reality of the Inner Realm, you can get more of it by clicking on posts under Scientific Materialism” in my blog index. And this article by an esteemed scientist may intrigue you.

The Power of Thoughts,       August 22, 2017

When I’m working in the kitchen, I’m always listening to MPR/NPR. My attention waxes and wanes, depending on the fare. One day I focused sharply on the radio when I detected the talk of a scientific materialist. Quickly I grabbed paper and pen and wrote down the words of the neuroscientist:
All of our behavior comes from our brain. It’s a matter of chemistry, not character.
I believe the opposite. Our brains are the physical counterpart of our minds. They merely register what’s happening in our thoughts. When the patterns of our thoughts change, our brains change. 
Cells and molecules in our brains do not control our behavior. Our thoughts do. 
But what hidden thoughts are directing my life? That’s the question. Do I believe that I’m safer with people who look like me? That poverty is more virtuous than wealth? That struggles are holier than success? That I should always prefer others to myself?

We are not aware of everything in our consciousness. Hidden beliefs control us.

I first encountered this idea of hidden consciousness decades ago and have been working with it ever since. It helped me to see defeating patterns in my life. “Oh no, not that again!” I’d think when the same challenge would occur with different people. Well, a pattern in my consciousness was attracting that pattern to my outer life.

When I became aware of the patterns and beliefs pulling those experiences into my life, I could change outcomes with my thoughts. Easy to say, not easy to do, but over time I have made surprising improvements in my life. I keep working on changing the mental patterns that kept me sick and poor for much of my life.

I believe our total consciousness creates our reality—our beliefs, expectations, feelings, attitudes, and intentions. Becoming aware of and harnessing them gives us enormous power. The neuroscientist who believes our brains control our lives is mistaken. Not our physical matter, but our non-physical mental activity, directs our lives.

Chris said...      HI Jeanette,
        Surely you realize that the argument for the claim that quantum mechanics proves idealism is just as questionable as the argument for intelligent design? The vast majority of scientist do not accept either.

Also, as I have said before, your belief that pantheistic philosophies are more intelligent or scientific than classical theism is nothing more than a confessionnal bias. You would do well to re-consider the Angelic Doctor's doctrine of analogy. It would pretty much dispel your objection of too much anthropomorphism in traditional Christianity.

Chris said...       Hi Jeanette,
         As you know, I am certainly not a metaphysical naturalist. But, I'm curious, are you familiar with the debate between Sam Harris and Deepak Chopra? Harris pretty much makes handy work of Chopra's defense of idealism.


Unknown said…
Hi Jeanette,
As the character, Augusta in the book; the Secret Life of Bees says "Thoughts are real things".. I ve been quoting her ever since I read it.
I listen to radio MPR in the kitchen too.. (where I do my best work ). There was a program on pbs on the brain last night..but on T V .. wish I d taken notes. I do the same as you, when something is very provacitive or just enlightening, I take a paper plate out of the cupboard and write about it.. (I have a whole set of paper plates).

One item from many on your topic.. I am quite certain I read it in the St Ben s Quarterly.. It was so long ago, it was in type. I had it on the bathroom mirror. I think it speaks to your topic .

We can change the way that we feel ; by the things that we say and do.

By changing the things we say and do, we can change our feelings too.
Thanks, Jeanette.
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