Thursday, March 4, 2010

Implicate Astrology

"As long as you still experience the stars as something "above you", you lack the eye of knowledge."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

Have you ever looked up at the stars, so impossibly distant and mysterious, and wondered what it all has to do with you? If anything? If you're of a scientific or, at any rate, materialist bent - and I certainly have been, off and on, for a good fraction of my life, so: no one's judging - then outside of the idea that we're all ultimately made from star-dust (and that connection, tenuous as it is, is only to long-dead stars, gone supernovae billions of years before the Earth formed, let alone you) your answer will no doubt be, "Not a whole hell of a lot." The stars are a long way away, after all: so far that these inconceivably huge, blazing cosmic furnaces are reduced to infinitesimal pinpricks of light. Their gravitational force is far too weak to affect us; their magnetic fields, likewise. Aside from sharing our universe with us, and decorating our night skies, the stars have nothing to do with us.

That's the consensus, and until recently, I would have agreed with it without reservation. The alternative, the notion that there might be some connection between the stars and us, strikes the modern mind as a curious superstition; that so many persist in a belief in a astrology strikes the scientifically educated as one of those regrettable and incomprehensible atavisms ... much like the belief in God, spirits, angels, chakras, what have you. There is, they say, no scientific support for such notions; and so, in rationalist circles, it is impermissible to broach the subject unless one's intent is to make fun of it.

And yet ... here's the thing. When you take a closer look at science, at the real bleeding edge of it, the truly scientific mind - open and unclouded by dogma - starts to see something quite different.

Since the 1950s physics has been grappling with quantum non-locality, the so-called Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox, which Einstein referred to as 'spooky action at a distance'. Amusingly, EPR began as an effort to discredit quantum mechanics: Einstein and his collaborators had hoped to point out a reductio-ad-absurdum in quantum theory, by showing that the equations implied that two particles (electrons, say, or photons), once 'entangled' or connected by means of their wavefunctions, would mutually affect one another over arbitrary distances: a measurement of one would instantly determine the state of the other, seemingly violating the speed-of-light limit on the transfer of information.

A more careful analysis later revealed that general relativity and its iron-clad speed of light remained safe: no information could be transmitted through this mechanism. Nevertheless quantum non-locality itself remained very much a fact, as has been verified time and again in the laboratory. This has led some to speculate that, given that all particles must have been co-located at the time of the Big Bang, all particles may in fact be mutually entangled with one another, sharing a sort of 'universal wave function'.

There are now many variations on this idea. David Bohm, a physicist who ran so close to the bleeding edge he went right off it (in the view of many of his colleagues) postulated what he called the 'implicate order': that the universe might in fact be analagous to a hologram, with each element within it in a sense containing the whole. This idea has been expanded on by others, with some physicists even suggesting that the universe of space and time that we (seem to) inhabit isn't just like a hologram, it is a hologram, projected inwards from the boundaries of the cosmos: just as a holographic image is a 3-dimensional illusion encoded into every segment of a 2-dimensional photographic plate, so the universe is a 4-dimensional illusion encoded into a a 3-dimensional surface. Interestingly, there are observational consequences to this idea: a year ago, those predictions were borne out at a gravitational wave observatory in Germany. If this discovery turns out to be genuine - and I expect it will - those involved will most certainly win the Nobel Prize, while the rest of us (and science especially) will have to turn our conception of reality inside out.

Of course, science moves very slowly: it will likely take years for the results of this experiment to be verified, and years more for it to be accepted. As a scientist I would have it no other way; as a mystic, I could care less.

Now, in my day-job - when I'm not moonlighting here at Moon Food - I am a scientist, or at least a scientist-in-training. My field is astrophysics, stellar astronomy in particular; in fact at this very moment I am sitting in the control room of a hulking beast of a telescope, a scientific instrument the size of a bus with a giant mirror polished to a precision that staggers the mind, an impressive and expensive piece of engineering meant for measuring the spectra of giant stars. As an astrophysicist I find it endlessly puzzling that although we have known of quantum non-locality for over half a century, our discipline has failed entirely to assimilate this idea. But then, to truly tease out the implications of the implicate order would obligate them to admit that, these past several hundred years, they might have been very wrong indeed and ... how embarrassing would that be?

Several months ago, at the beginning of my astrophysical career, I came across a very interesting and quite scholarly volume: Cosmos and Psyche, by Richard Tarnas of the Integral Institute. Anyone who's ever had their sense of reality, mind, and self exploded by Ken Wilbur will recognize the Integral Institute; for me, that affiliation alone was enough for me to give Tarnas' book a second look. In it, he lays out the reasoning and methodology behind astrology in a very logical fashion, examining the last several hundred years of history through the lens of the transpersonal planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (while touching also on Jupiter and Saturn, the more slow-moving - and thus more easily analyzed - of the personal planets.)

It was a fascinating and compelling read, but the scientist in me felt the need to put the theory to the test. "If there's anything to this," I said, "Then I will have Neptune in prominent aspect." Tarnas compared Neptune to Orpheus: it is the planet of dreamers and poets, of high ideals and head-in-the-clouds illusions, of mystical dissolution of the ego in the sea of consciousness and dissipation of the spirit at the bottom of a bottle of spirits. All of these have been powerful forces in my life; ergo, I reasoned, Neptune should be somewhere in my chart.

And so I asked my bemused mother the time of my birth, calculated my natal chart and, lo and behold, there was Neptune: in almost perfect conjunction with the Sun (go to the bottom of this page, where my chart is on display for all to see, and you can verify this for yourself.) The hair practically stood up on the back of my neck.

I was convinced.

Not that I'd ever admit that to my colleagues, of course. They'd think I'd lost it! And maybe I have but ... over the past several months and especially with the help of the fantastic text Astrologik by Antero Alli I've given the subject a deeper study, at the expense (I freely admit) of my formal studies and I have yet to be disappointed. Analyzing not just my own natal chart, but those of friends and family members, has consistently revealed an endless series of correspondences between the messages written in the sky at the time of birth and the personalities I know them (and myself) to have.

As a postscript, not so long ago I was adding some of the asteroids to my natal chart, and discovered that Eros - goddess of eroticism - was also in perfect conjunct with Neptune and the Sun. This made sense: I've always been a very good lover, practically by instinct (for no other reason than that selfish loving strikes me as not just rude but dull). Mere days after discovering this, on a whim I googled 'quantum astrology' for the very first time, wondering if others had made the same connections between Bohm, the implicate order, and astrology, and was led directly to the website of the fascinating and beautiful Kim Falconer: martial artist, mystic, fantasy author, and astrologer. Her speciality? None other than Eros.

I don't know where this new doorway into synchronicity will ultimately lead. To enlightenment? To madness? One thing is for sure, however: my conception of the world has been radically expanded, yet again, and if scientists scoff?

A fig for their narrow ideology. This is fun!