First published in Science of Mind, October 2004,
©2004 Barbara Stahura
A Quantum Fable: Fiction and Physics on Film—What the #$*! Do We Know?!
by Barbara Stahura
XXXXXIf there was a movie--an entertaining movie,
no less--that contained the real secrets for a happy and fulfilled life, would
you see it? If this same movie told its message using beautiful animation,
a storyline that many of us can identify with, and the latest cutting-edge
information from quantum physics, molecular biology, and spirituality, would
you see it? If this movie whacked you right between the eyes (in a good way,
of course) in demonstrating how all human beings create their own realities,
would you see it?
XXXXXIf you do, you’ll be in good company. Such a movie exists and is gathering a huge following. It’s called What the #$*! Do We Know?!, otherwise known as What the Bleep. It was first released in the spring of 2004 in the western states and is slowly being rolled out around the country (see www.whatthebleep.com for information). It has been selling out theaters for months, which is an amazing feat, given that its subject is the nature of perception and reality, science and spirituality. But its enthusiastic reception is really no surprise to Will Arntz, the force behind the movie.
XXXXXArntz has been a research physicist, a computer programmer, and the owner of two very successful software companies. Along the way, he made a short, award-winning film with a friend, studied Buddhism, retired twice from his software companies with plenty of cash to show for it, and became interested in leading-edge science and spiritual inquiry. In the late 1990s, he started thinking about making his own film that combined science and spirituality. As he says, “I started getting a sense of the population out there, how there were just millions and millions, tens of millions, around the world who really are looking for this information. I got a real inner sense that this was true, and the thought dawned on me, if not me, who?”
XXXXXSo he collaborated with Betsy Chasse and Mark Vicente to create What the Bleep, financing the production with profits from the sale of his companies.
XXXXXArntz has been surprised, however, at the sense of community that seems to be forming around the film. “It’s like a lightning rod for people who are interested in this type of material,” he says. “People tell me, ‘I’m sitting in an audience of 300 people, and I thought I was the only one who thought this way.’ I get emails from people who tell me that driving home from the movie, they just burst into tears. They always thought they were alone. They thought they were crazy and there was no one else like them. And then they find there are all these people who love it also.
XXXXX“There’s a sense of growing community that people are hungry for,” he continues, “and it’s quite amazing to walk into the midst of that. I’m not surprised that people like the movie, but what it seems to be doing on a cultural level is a surprise and quite wonderful.”
XXXXXShot in Portland, Oregon, the movie revolves around Amanda, portrayed by Marlee Matlin, a divorced, depressed photographer who gulps anti-anxiety drugs to help her cope with life. The beautiful animation illustrates the story on the microscopic and molecular levels, sometimes with hilarious effect. Finally, the documentary portions of the film--lively interviews with physicists, a molecular biologist, physicians, an anesthesiologist, and spiritual mystics, teachers, and scholars--provide the scientific and spiritual underpinnings to Amanda’s story, which is, of course, the story of humanity.
XXXXXSo much valuable information comes hurtling out at the audience during a screening of What the Bleep that many people see it more than once. They’re already clamoring for the DVD, which Arntz says he won’t release until the theatrical release is complete, sometime in 2005. But the DVD set will be worth the wait, since it will include much more of the 60 hours of interviews the filmmakers conducted with the scientists and other experts in the film.
XXXXXUsing cutting-edge research from quantum physics, What the Bleep demonstrates how human intention affects physical reality--a concept disallowed within the machine-like, Newtonian vision of reality that humanity has been following for several hundred years. The film also employs new research from neuroscience and molecular biology that shows how brain chemistry and function can, to some extent at least, be directed by conscious intent. In order to learn more about these concepts, I spoke with three of the scientists who appear in the film.
Intention creates reality
XXXXXAccording to materials physicist William Tiller, Ph.D., the unstated assumption of science since Newton’s time is that “no human quality of consciousness, intention, emotion, mind, or spirit can significantly influence a well-designed target experiment in physical reality.”
XXXXXHowever, rigorous experiments performed by Tiller and many others over the last several decades have “robustly disproved this assumption,” he says. In fact, many such experiments clearly demonstrate that we humans truly are co-creators of our realities, not in some airy-fairy, new-agey way, but in a solid, concrete fashion, based on the most fundamental building blocks of physical creation as revealed by physics.
XXXXX“Intentionality is the path to creation,” he explains, and since “nature is much more higher-dimensional than we realize, much more than just space-time, this underlines how we can learn to create. Everything we do in daily life, every single thing, is an act of creation.”
XXXXXIn fact, as he states in What the Bleep, “I am much more than I think I am. I can influence my environment, people, space itself, my future.”
XXXXXExpressing in the film his belief that “our purpose here is to learn the power of intentionality,” he adds, “We are co-creating our future all the time, collectively, and if we really got that we are influencing our reality and applying our intentions to a particular direction of change and did it collectively, then, believe me, the world would change. Things would go flip very quickly.”
XXXXXFred Alan Wolf, Ph.D., is also a quantum physicist, as well as a writer and former lecturer at the Holmes Institute (www.fredalanwolf.com). He first became interested in physics when, at a young age, he saw a newsreel about atomic bomb testing. His early training in physics led him to quantum physics, “which leads me into the mind and consciousness because quantum physics is an integral part of it, the changing of probable realities into actual realities,” he says, “and that effect is very mysterious and seems to be instrumental in everything from how we evolved to how we learn.”
XXXXXHe agrees with Tiller about intentionality, based on the theories of quantum physics, which point to “a subtle relation existing between mind and matter,” he says. While the quantum physical effect on the world is “very difficult to appreciate in the world we see ordinarily, it most assuredly affects the ways we experience the world even if we cannot appreciate it,” he says. “According to quantum physics, there is no reality until that reality is perceived” (my emphasis).
XXXXXThis statement underlines one of the major points of the film. The main character, Amanda, undergoes a personal transformation as events show her how she does indeed create her own reality. She moves from being a self-hating, hostile person to someone who loves herself, truly understands that she has a choice in her experience of life, and then begins to make more loving, positive choices.
XXXXXThe movie also examines the connections between quantum physics and metaphysics, a long-time interest of Wolf’s and a topic of interest to many followers of Science of Mind. He says that quantum physics is an objective way of exploring the physical world at its deepest levels, using mathematics and experiments, while metaphysics gets into the meaning of all that. “In other words, metaphysics is the overlying structure,” he says. “If physics is the bones, then metaphysics supplies the tissue and meat and body.”
XXXXXYet despite all that quantum physics has taught us about the universe and ourselves, it’s still a mystery, and “the real trick to life is to be in that mystery,” as he says in the movie.
XXXXXWhat does that mean? Wolf, who has written several books on these subjects, sums it up this way:
XXXXX“Being in the mystery is appreciating that we live in a world of paradox and utter confusion for human, limited intelligence if we attempt to rationalize all our experiences. For the world is a quantum physics universe where a thing both occupies a single place at a single time and occupies an infinite number of places at the same time. Yet there is an explicit order to the paradox. The problem is that we cannot reveal its entirety. We, who exist in the world of matter, can only disrupt that perfection of paradox by attempting to observe the pattern. We pay a large price for a material world. The price involves our sanity. We cannot make total order of our observations. There always appears to be something missing. This disruption of God's order appears to us as ‘The Principle of Uncertainty.’ Thus in trying to be in the know, we become helpless, feel inadequate, and long for the order we are helpless to create in the universe. All we can do is go along with it.
XXXXX“On the other hand, we are free to choose how we engage our lives. Our very helplessness to create a perfect order allows us to create. You might say that the Uncertainty Principle is a two-edged sword. It frees us from the past because nothing can be predetermined. It gives us the freedom to choose how we go about in the universe. But we cannot predict the results of our choices. We can choose, but we cannot know if our choices will be successful.
XXXXX“It all boils down to: Be in the mystery, not in the know.”
Brain chemicals do it all
XXXXXOne of the most powerful themes of What the Bleep is the explanation of how our brain functions on a chemical level, producing neuropeptides and other substances that, quite literally, run the show. Our brain is the engine that powers everything we do, from breathing and digesting our food, to responding to anger and love, to deciding whether we want to get a degree in history or be a drummer in a rock band. In other words, our brain is the tool by which we pull our reality out of the quantum field of possibilities. And all that is done through chemical reactions.
XXXXXIn “What the Bleep,” this process is wonderfully illustrated with animation that reveals the lively action of brain chemicals of guests at a wedding Amanda is photographing. It is also explained in more depth in the film by Dr. Joseph Dispenza, a chiropractor and researcher into the relationship between brain chemistry and physical health.
XXXXXPart of what Dispenza and others explain in this scene is addiction. We’re all familiar with how people can become addicted to substances such as alcohol or heroin. But we usually don’t realize how we are all addicted to our own emotions, which at a foundational level are nothing more than chemical reactions in our brains. Whether heroin or emotion, both create chemical needs in our bodies that we then feel a need to satisfy repeatedly, which is the process of addiction. As he says in the film, “Addiction to emotions is not just psychological, it’s also biochemical.”
XXXXXAs we repeat an emotional process over and over, our brains create webs of neurons and nerves, called neural nets, that direct our behavior through their chemical functioning. Can’t keep a relationship? Enjoy running? Always acting as if the world is plotting against you, or bringing the good life right to your door? These are all patterns we develop based on our emotional experience, and they become ingrained into our neural nets through chemical action. As Dispenza says in the film, “Nerve cells that fire together wire together.” This explains why we often do the same things over and over again, despite claims that we really do want to change.
XXXXXFortunately, it is possible to create new neural nets, explains Dispenza. It’s all about making thoughtful, conscious choices instead of simply reacting through our old ones, usually made and embedded unconsciously. Make new choices often enough and strongly enough, and you’ll override existing neural nets and create new ones. This is the reason why affirmations and visualizations can be so effective: By consciously creating new thoughts and imprinting them in our brain, we build new neural nets.
XXXXXThis is how that process works in the brain: According to neuroscience, as explained in the film by Dispenza “The brain does not know the difference between what it sees and what it remembers. It calls up the neural net of past experience and uses that as a model of the present.”
XXXXXUsing functional brain scans, such as PET or SPECT scans or functional MRIs, researchers have peeked inside the brains of people who first looked at a material object, say, a plant. “So the person observes this plant, and the researchers see the visual cortex light up, and the brain processes, and there’s a certain pattern,” Dispenza says.
XXXXXThen the researchers ask the person to imagine or visualize the same plant. “And the same regions of the brain light up as if the person was actually seeing it,” he says. “It caused the scientists to back up and go, wow! We use the same exact machinery for perception as for what we remember.”
XXXXXWhat this means, says Dispenza, is that we can “direct consciousness and energy to create a new reality.”
XXXXXSo, when we imagine something long enough and with enough detail and energy, we are causing our brains to “experience” it as if it were right in front of us, thus creating new neural nets. And, as Tiller and Wolf explain, this intention then shifts the quantum field to begin making this “something” real in the material sense.
XXXXXVery exciting news, indeed. And an entertaining movie with an improbable name is delivering that news to the world.