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Werner Heisenberg, the father of Quantum Physics, once said: “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will make you an atheist but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting.”
I love this profound statement.
Now, I’m not a physicist, but after learning a little about quantum physics, what I learned gave me a whole new understanding of the Baha’i teachings. In fact it seems that what great scientific minds like Heisenberg, Bohr, Planck and Einstein discovered about quantum physics accords with the Baha'i teachings—and maybe brings us the closest we can come to understanding and scientifically explaining our true reality, consciousness, God, life and the existence of our spiritual reality.
According to quantum physics nothing that we see and perceive in the material world is actually “real.” Our senses tell us that the material world appears solid and unchanging—but quantum mechanics describes the physical world, composed of matter and energy, or particles and waves, as inherently paradoxical and uncertain. Instead, we see a holographic reality. Quantum physics says that reality doesn’t really exist until we attempt to measure it, observe it, or look at it, at least in the microscopic scale of the material building blocks of matter.
The Baha’i teachings describe the world’s physical reality in similar ways:
…the criterion of the senses is not reliable. For instance, consider a mirror and the images reflected in it. These images have no actual corporeal existence. Yet if you had never seen a mirror you would firmly insist and believe that they were real. The eye sees a mirage upon the desert as a lake of water but there is no reality in it. As we stand upon the deck of a steamer the shore appears to be moving, yet we know the land is stationary and we are moving. The earth was believed to be fixed and the sun revolving about it but although this appears to be so, the reverse is now known to be true. A whirling torch makes a circle of fire appear before the eye, yet we realize there is but one point of light. We behold a shadow moving upon the ground but it has no material existence, no substance. In deserts the atmospheric effects are particularly productive of illusions which deceive the eye. Sometimes three or four suns called by scientists “mock suns” will be shining at the same time whereas we know the great solar orb is one and that it remains fixed and single. In brief, the senses are continually deceived and we are unable to separate that which is reality from that which is not. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 21.
Baha’is believe that detachment from the world of the physical allows us to recognize our true selves, understand our spiritual reality and firmly move towards an eternal spiritual existence. The Baha’i writings continuously remind us to recognize that everything physical will eventually die and decompose; while the inner spiritual reality—the human soul—never perishes.
Baha’u’llah refers to this principle often, asking each one of us to regard the material world as “a show, vain and empty, a mere nothing:”
With firm determination, with the whole affection of your heart, and with the full force of your words, turn ye unto Him, and walk not in the ways of the foolish. The world is but a show, vain and empty, a mere nothing, bearing the semblance of reality. Set not your affections upon it. Break not the bond that uniteth you with your Creator, and be not of those that have erred and strayed from His ways. Verily I say, the world is like the vapor in a desert, which the thirsty dreameth to be water and striveth after it with all his might, until when he cometh unto it, he findeth it to be mere illusion. It may, moreover, be likened unto the lifeless image of the beloved whom the lover hath sought and found, in the end, after long search and to his utmost regret, to be such as cannot “fatten nor appease his hunger.” – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 328-329.
Studying the science of quantum physics can teach us even more about our existence. It contains scientific clues to the mysteries of life after death, and brings us closer to the recognition of the oneness of humankind. Quantum physics teaches us, as a first step toward understanding our true spiritual reality, that a focus on the human spirit leads to a meaningful life.