This is the 3rd and final post in this series building on the ideas that John Breck put into his book, BEYOND THESE HORIZONS: QUANTUM THEORY AND CHRISTIAN FAITH. Breck begins a much needed dialogue between Orthodox theology, quantum theory and a theory of consciousness, attempting to fill a void that exists between Orthodox theology and modern science and philosophy. The previous post is Quantum Theory and Orthodox Theology (II). Quantum physics presents to us truth about the empirical world which may open a door for a dialogue between scientific theory and Orthodox theology by adding a dimension to Orthodox thinking. Orthodoxy historically formed a great synthesis between theology and the dominant ideas from Hellenic culture. Now Orthodoxy begins to speak to the world of scientific materialism by using concepts which quantum thinking has brought to light about the material world.
Breck points out that physicists recognize that “…two entangled photons behave as a single unity…. the interaction between the two renders them independent of time and free from the influence of ‘local’ or immediately surrounding conditions.” (BTH, p 122) If physical reality can be free of time and locality, why is it impossible to accept a being, namely God, which is also free of these constraints? It seems to me that quantum discoveries have opened a door to allow scientists to accept an immaterial/spiritual world since immaterial ‘things’ exist in the materialistic world of science! The material world at the quantum level reveals that it behaves both like matter and like a wave. Fields underlie the existence of everything, indicating an immaterial basis for reality. This opens the possibility of bringing quantum physics to bear upon spiritual topics.
For example, if one wonders how the person of Jesus can somehow miraculously convey salvation to all, we can think about entanglement in the quantum world. “Entanglement permits the instantaneous communication of information from one quantum element to another…” (BTH, p 122). Salvation can be understood as information that is being conveyed from the incarnate Christ to all of the other elements of the universe. Our bodies share a common existence with the rest of the universe and salvation is a cosmic event touching all that exists. It turns out that the entire cosmos is entangled with the Creator and Savior God. God shows that divinity can become incarnate (God becomes “not God”) as creation and Creator interface and blur all lines of separation. The concept of theosis shows creation is capable of being united to divinity.
Breck himself takes this notion of the shared common existence of all things and sees the hologram as offering a scientific paradigm or even an explanation for several theological claims. The way in which a hologram works is already present in the universe as understood by Orthodox theology. “The world is a Whole; everything is interconnected. Like a hologram, every part and aspect of the world contains the whole of everything” (BTH, p 93). This becomes obvious in the writings of St Maximus the Confessor for whom both “…Scripture and the universe should be contemplated as a [hu]man ” (Lars Thunberg, MAN AND THE COSMOS, p 74). The whole is contained in the part and the part in the whole, this is how the hologram forms its image. The human is a microcosm of the universe. So, if we come to understand the human we can come to understand the universe, but not only the universe but also the Scriptures, for each contains the other and is interconnected.
Lars Thunberg explains: “Here the Pauline trichotomy (St Paul speaks of man as consisting of body, soul, and spirit) is also inscribed in the system. This means that the Church as a building is now seen as divided into three parts, organized according to their sacredness: to the spirit corresponds the altar, to the soul the sanctuary, and to the body the nave. But what is important for Maximus is precisely the reciprocity between them: the Church reflects man in his constitution as the latter reflects and represents the Church in man. Man is in fact a church in the world, and the Church is universal Man, what Maximus calls the makranthropos.” (MAN AND THE COSMOS, p 122) If we look at the universe/Cosmos as a whole we will see how it reveals the human to us, and so too the human reveals the cosmos. The Church also reflects the human and the human the church. All are interconnected, revealing each other and each containing a revelation about the other. This is where quantum physics opens the Church to science and the scientific way of understanding the world. The quantum world and the experienced world come together in Christ. The science of the hologram makes the theological claims of Maximus even more clear to us.
As St Maximus says:
“The Logos, God by essence, became man and messenger of the divine will. He let the most intimate ground of the goodness of the Father appear, if one may say so, and showed in Himself the goal for which created beings were created. For it is for Christ, i.e. for the Christic mystery, that all time and all that is in time has received in Christ its beginning and its end. The union between the determined and the indetermined, the finite and the infinite, the limited and the non-limited, and also between Creator and creature, between rest and movement was conceived before the times.” (Maximus in MAN AND THE COSMOS, p 79)
For Christians, it is in Christ that the quantum world and the experienced world interface and are united. In Christ the beginning and the end, the spiritual and the physical, heaven and earth, the living and the dead, the finite and infinite, divinity and humanity, Creator and creation are united and understood. The theory of everything so sought out by science will fall short until it recognizes something beyond mathematics unites all things.
One thought on “Orthodox Theology and Quantum Theory (III)”
Pingback: Orthodox Theology and Quantum Physics (II) – Fraternized