In a journey of research, we can bring our attention both to the outside and to the inside. In the first case, we can speak of ‘outer research’, in the second case of ‘inner research’. It is clear that these two fields (and directions) of investigation are not separate, but it is not for this reason evident to understand how they are exactly connected, or connectable.
Building long-lasting bridges between the ‘inner world’ (which is not only inner) and the ‘outer world’ (which is not only outer) and creating true understandings, rather than mere fantasies, is not easy. For example, we are often tempted to use the ‘explanations pertaining to the inner world’ to elucidate the phenomena of the outer world or, conversely, the ‘explanations pertaining to the outer world’ to elucidate the phenomena of the inner world. I do not want to state with this that these attempts to operate some “transmigrations” of concepts and explanations cannot be advantageous, or even prove to be crucial, but it is good to understand that it is not at all obvious that they are, and that it is, therefore, desirable to always proceed with caution.
From a careful study of quantum physics, it seems to emerge, for example, that our physical reality is mostly non-spatial (the term that is usually used is ‘non-local’), therefore much larger than what would be expected on the basis of our ordinary experience and representation of it. Likewise, the data today available to us on parapsychic phenomena (such as out-of-body and near-death experiences), if taken seriously and not interpreted in a reductionist and positivistic way, also indicate the existence of a possible non-spatial ‘elsewhere’, where our individual consciousness would be able to manifest, even after the death of our physical body. In other words, both quantum physics and first-person consciousness studies would indicate the existence of more expanded realities, extending beyond the limits of our three-dimensional spatial theater or, more generally, of our four-dimensional spatiotemporal theater. This does not mean, however, that these realities would be necessarily the same.
To use a metaphor, imagine that you are inside a house where you were born and from which you never left. You approach one of its many windows and open it for the first time, discovering that “out there” a strange and wonderful landscape opens up to your sight. Suppose that this is the window of the quantum world. Then, you open another window, on another side of the house, oriented in another direction, and also in this case you see a strange and wonderful landscape. Suppose that this is the window of the mystico-spiritual experiences. Since both of these landscapes appear strange and wonderful, you might be tempted to believe that the two windows open onto the same landscape, that is, on the same reality. And the observation that both belong to the same house could reinforce such temptation. But of course, this is not enough to validate such a conclusion. For example, if the house is located by the sea, one window could look inland, the other towards the open ocean. And if you have lived in the house for a long time, both landscapes will undoubtedly appear strange and wonderful to you, but they will nevertheless remain very different from one another: in one fish live, in the other, the quadrupeds!
Then, for sure, it is always possible to imagine a more fundamental level, where land and sea are part of a single undivided reality, that of planet Earth, but then we leave the metaphor. In fact, it is always possible to conceive of a more fundamental level, but in the current state of our knowledge, we have no reason to believe that our psycho-spiritual experiences, and our experiments in fundamental physics, would have succeeded to even touch such a level.
Having said this, and coming back to the possibility of applying what has been learned in a specific investigation to understand a different field of investigation, such “transmigration” of tools and explanations, if conducted with prudence and common sense, can surely allow (sometimes) to make progress. For example, as a quantum physicist, I’m active in an interdisciplinary research field called “quantum cognition,” where the quantum mathematics is used to model some of the human cognitive processes, such as decision-making, allowing to shed new light on human irrationality. In other words, it may be advantageous to use what we have learned in a field of investigation, in this case, that of modern physics, to elaborate possible theoretical approaches aimed at describing — mutatis mutandis — entities and situations that fall outside such field of investigation, here that of the conceptual entities that are used in human cognition.
So why not try to use physics to give a foundation to the hypothesis (or the certainty, for some people) that a human being has more than one vehicle of manifestation, and that the so-called physical world (understood here in the ordinary sense of the term) is only one aspect of a much wider reality? Of course, there are no contraindications in trying to do so, although it is appropriate (from my point of view at least) to avoid getting carried away by too much enthusiasm and wanting to give each new discovery of physics a “spiritualistic” interpretation. In other words, my advice is to try to take seriously and not trivialize both the inner research and outer research processes.
Surely, for those who support the thesis that the individual consciousness is able to survive the death of the physical body, the equivalent of (at least) another “body” capable of containing the integral memory of the consciousness must exist. Because without memory, no individual consciousness, and without support for memory, no memory. Now, if there is a “subtle” body, that is, if each of us has at least one, in addition to the physico-biological body, this will be composed of some substance (or set of substances), that is, it will be made of some material having certain properties, in correspondence with the properties of that more “subtle” reality that constitutes its natural habitat, when the consciousness disconnects from the physical body, at the moment of death, or when it is in those particular states that partially favor such disconnection. And since it is unthinkable that there would be a radical separation between the physical body and the “subtle” body (since these vehicles are related to one another, that is, interact at some level), the substance of the “subtle” body must in principle be detectable. Maybe not directly with the instruments today available to us, but certainly in an indirect way, being quite natural and logical to consider the existence of an intermediate, quasi-physical, border area, between the physical and the extra-physical world, and that such area would be (partially) explorable from both of its “sides.”
Therefore, in different historical periods, whenever physicists discovered new fields of matter-energy, which had not been observed before, these were immediately tentatively borrowed by some “entronauts” to give a substantial foundation to the “subtle” body. The latter was then thought to be formed of a magnetic, or electric, vital fluid, when magnetism or electricity were discovered, or of “negative energy,” when Dirac hypothesized the existence of an “ocean of particles of negative energy,” which was followed by the discovery of antimatter (but the “subtle” body, obviously, could not be made of antimatter, otherwise it would not be able to interact with our physical body in a constructive way), or then made up of neutrino fluxes, of superstrings with “compacted” dimensions, of virtual particles, of vacuum energy of quantum field theories, without forgetting the faster than light tachyonic entities, or the more recent “weakly interacting massive particles” that are believed to form the so-called dark matter. In short, whenever new fields and material substances were discovered, or only hypothesized, they immediately became the ideal candidates for describing the composition of the mysterious “subtle” world.
Let me stress it once again, there is nothing wrong with this: every new discovery corresponds in fact to a new possible breach in our three-dimensional theater, opening towards an unknown direction, and therefore, potentially, also in the direction of that “subtle” world where our multimillennial individual consciousness is possibly based. But as suggested by the metaphor of the multiple windows of the house by the sea, it is not certain that the new breach opens in the wished-for direction. On the contrary, I think that the default hypothesis is to consider that it does not do so, in the same way as it is correct to expect, when buying a lottery ticket, that it will not be the winning one, even though, obviously, it could also be.
No doubts, all the lottery winners have been at least once players, so let us “play,” that is, let us boldly open all the windows we are able to discover, during our (inner and outer) multi-millenary exploration journey, and as far as possible let us venture even a little beyond the many “border areas” that we encounter, without just remaining “looking at the window,” however fascinating the view may be. But let us do it always keeping in mind what every explorer of the unknown should know: that the unexplored territory is immense, that there are innumerable worlds, that we know very little, perhaps almost nothing, and that there are things we do not even know we do not know…
For the Italian version of this story, go to: Mondi Strani e meravigliosi