Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Science and spiritual intuition

In this essay, I engage with the question: Is spiritual awareness or intuition possible? I argue that such an awareness may be conceived of as a real possibility within the context of quantum physics. This continues my presentation of a Judaeo-Christian worldview which ascribes a spiritual dimension to our world. 

The ancients believed in spirits and gods as well as some kind of spiritual intuition or awareness which connects humans with such entities. In ancient societies, spiritual guides were assigned the role of establishing contact with that world [1]. Within the Judaeo-Christian view, the Spirit of God, as well as all sorts of spirits, are operative in that world. Although communication with all spirits, including the spirits of the dead, were prohibited, they believe that God's Spirit through some kind of spiritual intuition was able to "move" the Hebrew prophets in their writing of the divine Scriptures. Traditional Christians also believe that God "speaks" to them through His Spirit in their daily lives. In general non-religious people and atheists do not believe in the spiritual world (spirit world), soul (spirit) or spiritual intuition.

The basic question seems to be: How would we know whether the spiritual realm, spirits and spiritual intuition (awareness) exist? Since these are outside the reach of our sensible intuition (and by extension, empirical confirmation), there is no way to "prove" the existence of any of these. What is possible, however, is that in the progress of science these would in time become accessible in the context of indirect empirical studies within the context of quantum physics.

Although scientists do not have empirical access to the (pre-measurement) quantum realm - once measurement takes place the entities no longer exist in that kind of quantum mode which belongs to the "quantum realm" - they have various ways to indirectly establish whether particular things exist in that realm and one may suggest that all of the above may in time come within the reach of scientific inquiry. Although there would be various metaphysical interpretations regarding such observations, the view presented here would at least have the advantage that such predictions were made beforehand. This implies that we may develop this conceptual framework into a viable hypothesis that can be brought within the scientific domain.

In my view, the existence of the spiritual realm, spirits and spiritual intuition together present the basic ingredients of a spiritual worldview in which about all religious people believe (although I work from a Judaeo-Christian perspective, these concepts are not particular to Judaeo-Christianity). I previously suggested that we use the Kantian metaphysical conception as the point of departure - using it as a theoretical model or hypothesis that may be tested insofar as the study of such things becomes possible in the framework of science [2].

In this regard, I showed that Kant's noumenal realm, which was based on the corresponding Platonic conception, originally went back to the spiritual realm [3]. In line with this perspective on the noumenal realm, Kant situates the soul in that realm and calls it the "noumenal self" [4]. I showed that all the characteristics of this realm have been confirmed in the context of quantum physics [3] and also that we may conceptualize the Kantian soul in this context as a quantum body (existing outside proper space-time) [4].

In this essay, I proceed in showing how another aspect of that ancient spiritual worldview, namely spiritual intuition, may be conceptualized in the context of quantum physics. Again, I use the Kantian metaphysics as the point of departure. Now, however, I move beyond the Kantian position which only incorporates sensible intuition (and not spiritual intuition) in his philosophy. I show how Kant's philosophical system may be expanded to include spiritual intuition and also how (as before) that may find an application in the context of quantum physics. As such I present a viable conception of such intuition which is in line with contemporary quantum physics. This may serve as working hypothesis guiding scientific research in this regard.

Spiritual intuition in philosophical tradition

The idea of spiritual intuition or awareness entered Greek philosophical tradition as early as the 6th century BC in the time of the Pythagoreans (maybe even earlier). In their view, the "higher soul" is the seat of the intuitive mind and the "rational soul", which they considered secondary, is the seat of discursive reason (they also distinguished the non-rational soul, responsible for the senses, appetites and motion). For the Pythagoreans, the word "nous" ("mind") referred to an ability of the soul. As such it did not only had reference to an intellectual ability but also - and even more importantly - to some kind of intuitive apprehension or awareness of the invisible world.

Plato also understood the soul in such terms. Although Plato's view is often taken as merely referring to our intellectual understanding of the "invisible world" of our thoughts, he seems to have had a more basic kind of perception of such a world in mind. One should not forget that Plato mentions in the Phaedo - in the context of the dialogues between Socrates and his friends - that he takes the view of the mystic Orphics regarding such an invisible world as the point of departure for his own view of that world. In fact, one may assume that this was how the "invisible world" entered Greek philosophical thinking in the first place, i.e. as originating from the idea of the spiritual world [3]. As such Plato mentions that our perception of the invisible world is through the "eye of the soul", which seems to go beyond a mere conceptualization of such a world.

What happened in Platonic philosophy (even though the neo-Platonists always accentuated this mystic side), especially in later Western tradition, is that the noumenal world and the intuition that we as humans may have of it was collapsed into an intelligible world that is grasped intellectually in some way (through an intelligible intuition). Rationalists such as Rene Descartes (1596-1650) believed that our concepts originate in the Platonic forms that exist in that intelligible world. As such concepts were considered to be the only things that are truly real. That is why the rationalists discarded empirical data as untrustworthy.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), however, rejected this rationalist view. In his philosophical system, no intellectual intuition of that world is allowed for humans. In his thinking, only God can have such an intellectual intuition of things existing in the noumenal world. Humans only have access to the phenomenal world through their senses. They may think about things that may exist in a noumenal realm, but there is no way in which they may know that such things exist because they do not have an intuition that allows for that. Kant writes in his famous Critique of Pure Reason (called the first Critique) in a section called "Phenomena and Noumena": "room thus remains for some other sort of intuition... [but] we are acquainted with no sort of intuition other than our own sensible one" (B343). For Kant, all concepts must be synthesized with sensible intuitions for knowledge to become possible - and since humans do not have an intellectual intuition, the noumenal or supersensible world (if it exists) is totally unknown to them.

I showed in another essay [5] how the move in Western philosophy to collapse the noumenal into the intellectual and taking the noumenal intuition of early Greek tradition merely as an intelligible intuition has led to a divorce between the phenomenal and intelligible realms. When reason became enthroned, the possibility of some noumenal awareness of a supersensible realm was discarded. But is this correct? I argued that this was a reductionist move which did not allow for the extreme complexity of our human existence. As such I proposed that we may actually conceptualize how such an intuition is possible - even within the Kantian conceptual framework.

Kant developed a regulative metaphysics in which we may conceptualize what the world beyond our senses may be like - even though his conceptual view was not a dogmatic metaphysics. Such a metaphysics is not established through our understanding but through reason (in its regulative role) as a hypothesis. Although Kant's purpose with the first Critique was also to establish the limits of reason (and therefore the futility of the dogmatic metaphysics as presented by the rationalists) he also allowed for the legitimate use of reason beyond our sensible reach insofar as that is only problematically considered - as regulative ideas (guiding ideas).

The question is how such noumenal intuition may be introduced within Kant's regulative conceptual system. Although Kant thought that we cannot conceive of such an intuition, he was not in principle against such a possibility. In fact, Kant mentions that we cannot assert that no such intuition exists (A255/B311). Kant just did not know how one may conceive of such an intuition in his philosophical system. Since then, our knowledge has increased a lot and another possibility that is compatible with his system did, in fact, open up. 

Noumenal intuition within Kantian philosophy

In Kant's philosophy, all our interaction with the world takes place through our senses in which empirical objects are presented within space and time. For Kant, space and time are the basic a priori "forms" of our human sensibility and all sensible intuitions are given within these forms. As such, space and time are also the "forms" of appearances, i.e. the form in which appearances (in the phenomenal world) are presented to us as humans. Insofar as we perceive the world around us, all perceptions are always within the framework of space and time. So, how would one introduce noumenal intuition in the Kantian system?

Kant distinguished between the space and time as the forms of intuition - through which we experience the world - and space and time as concepts. Insofar as (geometrical) space and time are concepts, they may be applied to "empirical space" and time in the same way that concepts (in general) are applied to empirical intuitions in his system (which allows us to make a determinate judgement whether something is such or not). Empirical space refers to the way in which empirical objects determine the form of space through their magnitudes and relations (A431/B459). The same principle applies to time. 

Many possible concepts of space may be constructed in this way and Kant did not restrict what he called "ideal" (conceptual) space/time in any way even though only Euclidean space was known to him. As such, there is no reason why his philosophy should not be compatible with non-Euclidean space (such as Riemannian geometry used in general relativity) or abstract Hilbert space used in quantum physics. In my view, we may rework the Kantian system to be compatible with general relativity or quantum physics (quantum field theory) when we introduce a space-time manifold in the context of his conception of ideal space/time. 

We may think without contradiction of any possible abstract mathematical space or space-time which may apply to the noumenal realm - which may be conceptualized in correspondence with the quantum realm. In this regard, the quantum realm corresponds with Kant's noumenal realm which is also beyond empirical reach (see [3]). In this context, the Kantian conception of ideal space/time (as mere concepts) may be applied to the quantum realm even though that realm is beyond empirical access in its pre-measurement phase. 

At this stage, I am only concerned with quantum mechanics. The unique feature of quantum mechanics is that abstract Hilbert space is combined with proper time. Within the Kantian system that would mean that ideal space (as an abstract space concept) is combined with proper time. Kant did not foresee this possibility, but there is no reason why such a concept cannot be introduced within the Kantian system. The question is: what are the implications of this for the Kantian way of thinking? How is the Kantian philosophy expanded through this reworking thereof? 

In the first place, this provides a way to bridge the gap between Kant's phenomenal and noumenal realms. The divide between these realms had always been a major drawback in Kant's philosophy since no human interaction with that realm is allowed in his system. The result was that this realm was reduced to a realm of belief - something that religious people believe in but which can never be confirmed or denied through science. In my reworking of the Kantian system, we do not only find a conceptual link between these realms (that they may be conceptualized as interwoven in certain contexts) but also that humans may have some kind of experience of that realm through noumenal intuition.

When we take the noumenal realm as the quantum realm, then from a quantum mechanical perspective this means that we may become aware of quantum entities insofar as these are presented within our time intuition (even though they are not presented in our space intuition). This would happen when our quantum bodies (souls) interact through quantum interactions with our natural bodies. We would be able to become conscious of such quantum interactions in proper time if humans have such an awareness.

Image result for god and man
God and man connecting: Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel (1508-12)
Although we do not know at this stage if humans do indeed have such a form of intuition in line with the suggestion given above, it may very well be the case. This would mean that humans have another kind of intuition than the sensible one, which would allow for some kind of spiritual experience over and above our sensible experience. Insofar as we take the noumenal realm as our first interaction with the spiritual realm [3], this would constitute a spiritual intuition. 

Although I do not prove that such a quantum or spiritual intuition exists, I show how it may be conceptualized as a real possibility. In the Kantian conceptual framework, this may serve as a regulative idea (hypothesis) that may guide scientific research into this matter. Although this idea has to be presented within a detailed conceptual framework that includes both physical and quantum bodies, the basic idea underlying such interaction is quite clear. As such this kind of intuition is no longer merely a vague idea that religious people believe in, but a philosophical concept that is consistent with contemporary science.

Within the Judaeo-Christian worldview, this opens the door for an understanding of God's revelation in Scripture that is consistent with our scientific worldview. Although the details of God's working through his Spirit in the hearts and minds of humans would probably forever be beyond our human understanding, we may at least grasp how that is possible. 


In this essay, I focus on spiritual intuition. If we allow that our engagement with the quantum realm is, in fact, our first scientific step in exploring the spiritual realm and that humans may have a quantum body which compliments their physical bodies and which may continue existing after death, then it seems very likely that we as humans would have some kind of spiritual intuition that allows for some kind of communication between these two spheres. Although I did not present any proof at this stage that such intuition (or even spiritual bodies) exist, I do show how we may conceive thereof in the context of contemporary science. 

Science has progressed a lot over the last two hundred years. Many of the things which Kant included in his metaphysics which was originally rejected as untenable - such as a noumenal realm governed by spontaneity instead of mechanism - have been confirmed in the context of quantum physics where determinism had been proven to break down. I believe it is just a matter of time before the existence of the soul as a quantum body which is somehow interwoven with our physical body, is also confirmed (albeit only indirectly - just like any quantum entity in its pre-measurement phase - since it is beyond the possibility of direct empirical confirmation). 

In the same way that the possible existence of a quantum aspect to our human existence (i.e. a soul) has become a viable scientific hypothesis, the possibility of quantum (spiritual) intuitions may be so the presented. Although the existence of such intuitions would be extremely difficult to establish, they would nonetheless in time come within scientific reach.

[1] Today such persons are called "mediums". In my view, they, in general, do not interact with the dead but with the psyche of those who knew such persons. In this regard, they may actually use the kind of spiritual intuition that I discuss, but only in connection with living persons.
[2] Part 3 of this series
[3] Part 4 of this series
[4] Part 5 of this series
I previously argued in essays on this blog (before 2014) that Kant's noumenal realm finds its conceptual application in the framework of the higher dimensional realm theorized by theoretical physicists. Since then I have reworked that hypothesis into a more substantial position in which the quantum realm itself is taken as confirmation of Kant's noumenal realm. The second position is much stronger because it does not only involve the quantum realm as a reality (instead of the mere theoretical possibilities presented by quantum theorists) but also because higher dimensions are just one way among others in which the quantum realm may be conceptualized. 
[6] Prof. Brian Josephson has proposed that quantum entanglement may explain telepathy. Although this is by no means confirmed to be the case, it is nonetheless an example where a form of spiritual intuition is understood in the context of quantum mechanics. My reworking of the Kantian metaphysical framework provides a philosophical framework within which these things may be understood and studied.  

Author: Dr Willie Mc Loud (Ref.

The author is a scientist and philosopher (PhD in Physics, MA in Philosophy). He writes on issues of religion, philosophy and science.

Science and God. Part 4: Science and the spiritual realm
Science and God. Part 5: In defence of the soul

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