Quantum Physics and the Return of Enchantment

This is an excerpt from one of the presentations featured in the Pari Center’s event The Enchanted Universe, in Pari from August 29 to September 5, 2022.

with Ruth E. Kastner

Cultural modernity has been rightly criticized by Patrick Curry for its dubious project of “the rational mastery of nature, including human nature…It is therefore contemptuous of the wellsprings of life and its enchantment in the bodymind, the female, and the Earth.”[1] This workshop will explore the ways in which modernity, as expressed in the goals and practices of science since the Newtonian revolution, has reified abstractions while denying essential reality. In so doing, it has mistaken the ‘map’ for the ‘territory’ and has lost its way. A key aspect of this inverted world view is the mechanistic nature of classical physics, which forecloses genuine creativity and life-giving meaning: machines do not create, do not initiate; they behave only as they are programmed to behave. Yet out of this sterile wasteland has arisen the desert flower of quantum physics. The notorious failure of mechanistic classical physics to describe the subtler levels of Nature makes clear that ultimately, life will not be supressed and existence will not be mechanized. This workshop will explore the ways in which quantum physics promises a new way forward, while resonating with ancient wisdom traditions long suppressed. Of course, there are still many who want to mechanize quantum theory by forcing it back into the ‘rack’ of modernity through the imposition of misplaced notions of ‘causality’. We will discuss why such efforts are doomed, and how we can restore a world view in which quantum theory describes the inner source of creativity and meaning, as well as its expression in the outer world.

[1] Patrick Curry, “What it’s about,” http://www.patrickcurry.co.uk, 2019.

Ruth E. Kastner earned her M.S. in Physics and Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Maryland. Since that time, she has taught widely and conducted research in Foundations of Physics, particularly in interpretations of quantum theory. She is the author of 3 books: The Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Theory: The Reality of Possibility (Cambridge University Press, 2012; 2nd edition forthcoming in Fall 2021), Understanding Our Unseen Reality: Solving Quantum Riddles (Imperial College Press, 2015); and Adventures In Quantumland: Exploring Our Unseen Reality (World Scientific, 2019).  She has presented talks and interviews throughout the world and in video recordings on the interpretational challenges of quantum theory.