Please note: Some people referred to in this essay were introduced in the "Welcome to Nowever Then" pages (accessed via the "Welcome" button on the Main Page of this site). Familiarity with these individuals is not necessary to understand this essay.
Commentary on Cecil De Sanctis'
"Living Roots of Possibility"
A Simple Method for the Control of Possibilities
With Reference to Quantum Physics and Synchronicity
As Re-explained With Scientific Background
To the Best of Our Ability
Cecil De Sanctis With Peter Lucia
(First and Last Draft)
In the last years of the Nineteenth Century, my great-grandfather, Cecil De Sanctis, founder of Nowever Then, New Jersey, wrote a remarkable monograph that claimed to teach the reader how to intervene (as he put it) "in the yet unborn possibilities that must exist as in a sea all around us." Apparently this small book was the last in a series of works on several improbable subjects (such as time travel) and is the sole document handed down to us in its entirety. It is titled The Living Roots of Possibility. The present Commentary is based on this document, and is, in no small part, an asinine attempt to frame Cecil De Sanctis' ideas in the context of science, using modern language and a few clever technical expressions.
There is definite indication that Cecil De Sanctis did not want to completeThe Living Roots of Possibility. His letters tell us that he considered the "possibility-control technique" far too easy to activate. It was his fear that people might abuse it, adopting it for "unsavory uses." It was only after his favorite cousin, Abigail Punch, was run over by a beer wagon that he decided to complete the work. The event that led to his decision, as told in one of De Sanctis' letters, is as follows:
[Abigail's] dislike for the demon rum and for every sort of intoxicant was great... Often she would say (jokingly I am sure) that at the next appearance of one of those vile [beer] wagons on the streets of Nowever Then she would stand in its way and severely reprimand the driver-dispenser. "I will jump in front of it, I tell you," was her frequent claim. Often, this was accompanied by her statement - "Never have I tasted a drop of ale and I never will, I tell you, never will!" How ironic, dear friend, that she accidentally should collide with a beer ark on her bicycle and be transported beneath the wagon for no less than seven miles - more than enough time for a steady spillage of the fluid to make its way down her throat and fully inebriate the poor dear! Learning that she was uninjured - and taking this good fortune to be a sign of divine exhortation - I decided to complete my monograph, The Living Roots of Possibility.
At this point in my Commentary, the reader is not expected to understand why the Abigail incident changed the Founder's mind about the completion of his work. Let it suffice to say that Cecil De Sanctis believed the whole unfortunate event never would have happened had he applied his "possibility-control technique." I have included this story not simply to add historical background, but, more important, to make use of it later for illustrative purposes. So don't forget it.
My Commentary is divided into three parts:
Part One gives an introduction to the fascinating ideas of QUANTUM PHYSICS. My investigation into this subject drew my attention to the strange parallels between its claims and Founder De Sanctis' theory. I urge the reader to read this section carefully (but not too carefully), as part of the wonder of encountering the "possibility-control method" is, I believe, tied to the mysteries of this astounding subject. My interest in quantum physics has been that of a layman (Excuse No.1), and therefore I have kept this part as "simple" as possible (Excuse No.2). The straightforward writing of this account has assisted me in learning the basics of the subject (though I've already forgotten them); and I hope that it will be a help to others, who may be encountering it for the first time (may God have mercy on their souls).
Part Two deals with SYNCHRONICITY, a theory formulated by the great psychologist, Carl Jung. Again, I have given a very straightforward description of this subject. Its relation to quantum physics and to Cecil De Sanctis' theory eventually will become apparent (apparent, that is, to the lucky person who is bizarre enough to read through this thing).
Part Three describes the remarkable POSSIBILITY-CONTROL THEORY itself, in a step-by-step fashion. Through the use of examples, I show the reader how and when to perform it. I explain its various modes. I add more disclaimers. I hope that I have made excitingly apparent its relation to the ideas of quantum physics and synchronicity.
One final note: Should the reader of this essay become insane after exposure to the ideas presented herein, its authors reserve the right to absolve themselves of all responsibility.
PART ONE - QUANTUM PHYSICS
A) The Building Blocks of Matter.
The most basic thing one can say about the science of physics is that "it studies the building blocks of matter." The perennial question of this science has been: "What are the most basic blocks?" We all remember from grammar school that "things are made up of atoms and molecules." Later we learned the words electron, and proton and were told that these are "sub-atomic particles" or components of atoms. Hard or thick materials have a greater density of particles than soft or thin materials, which is one reason why harder materials are more difficult to break or penetrate. Ronzoni macaroni has low density.
So (we deduced) if the things around us are made up of particles, then nothing is really solid at all. If we could make ourselves tiny enough we would be able to slip right through a wooden table top. In fact, if we could make ourselves tinier still, we'd be able to slip right through a glass or marble tabletop. Of course we'd probably get hurt doing so since all those particles are in extremely rapid motion. Not only that, but after we passed through the table we'd go right through the tile on the floor! Then what! Zeno Clamp, Nowever Then's resident scientist, often walks around in padded shoes. He can never quite get over the fact that nothing is really solid. He hopes that the shoes will cushion his fall when the time comes!
Yes, the microscopic particles that make up matter are in motion. They move so fast that they look like single solid things. It's similar to what happens with the blades of an electric fan: when the fan is off, you can push your finger between them; but when it is on, the moving blades become almost like a single object (well, almost - your severed digit somewhat erodes this otherwise brilliant metaphor). Everything is like a pointillist painting, but one made up of microscopic dots that "buzz" into shape a sculpture-like picture - the world.
B) What About Light?
We knew you would ask this question. If things (including gases) are made up of other things (microscopic things), then what about light? Is light a "thing"? In other words, is light made up of particles too, or is it made up of something else? Waves for example? H'mmm? Scientists of different periods held one or the other opinion. Based on various experiments at different times, some scientists believed that light was made up of waves and some believed it was made up of particles. Others believed it was made up of Ronzoni macaroni. (History has all but forgotten the latter group.)
In 1690 Christian Huygens arrived at the conclusion that light was transmitted as waves, because of its ability to diffract or stream off in various ways when it comes in contact with objects (his wife's scalp, for example).
Sir Issac Newton favored the particle theory. He knew that light, if uninterrupted, would move in a straight line, as would particles (a tendency that had puzzled Huygens); but he could not account for diffraction, such as the "bending" that occurs in a stream of light when it is made to pass through an opaque object. He asked, "Why may not nature change light into bodies, and bodies into light?" This would prove to be a prophetic statement (as would his declarations about figs).
In 1801, Thomas Young proved that light possessed properties that could be accounted for only by reference to waves. He passed light through two slits in a screen and then observed the pattern that resulted on another screen a distance away. Instead of seeing a two-slit image-pattern on Screen Number 2, he ended up with series of several slit-patterns. (Had light been composed particles, he would have expected a regular "straight" projection of the two slits (unless he had been boozing it up the night before). Moreover, the series was variously shaded, light to dark. This result demonstrated a pattern of "interference" caused by the bands of light coming in contact with each other in a wave-like manner.
For the next hundred years the view remained that light was composed of waves rather than particles. Then, in 1900, Max Planck made a puzzling discovery studying the radiation of heated objects. As the temperature of an object rose the radiation began to spurt out in discrete quantities rather than in a steady stream. To explain this distribution, he called these bursts of energy "quanta" (of course, he could have named them spurts, but that didn't sound scientific enough; and Quantas sounded too much like an airline). Such discontinuity of energy where light was concerned troubled Planck, who was reluctant to draw conclusions from this discovery about the possible particle-nature of light (don't ask me why he should have been).
A few years later, young Albert Einstein examined what is called the "photoelectric effect" - the ability of metal to give off electrons when struck by light. (This is one reason why Einstein had such a weird hairdo, but we'll save the unfortunate story for another time.) It seemed to Einstein that light's effect on metal was that of being hit by particles rather than waves. For Einstein, then, the "light-ball" was now back in the particle-court, at least in some instances. He called these particles of light photons. (He was beside himself for days when he heard that the name quanta had already been taken).
This opinion created a stir in within the community of physics (many people were stoned to death, a few vaporized); after all, "wave had been the rage" since the time of Huygens.
In 1923 Einstein's belief in light particles was confirmed by further experiments, but the notion that light might have some kind of dual nature was gaining acceptance. (No kidding, Kreskin!) Then, in 1924, Louis de Broglie theorized that not only photons but electrons as well as other sub-atomic entities might have this dual property. (Sure, and so does your sister!)
C) Wave and Particle
This dual-nature theory was problematic for the world of physics. It is important to understand why. Remember that the sub-atomic level of existence is made of tiny things; it is assumed that things are things no matter how large or small they are. But there is nothing in the world of ordinary things that behaves sometimes like a wave and sometimes like a particle. It had always been assumed that particles are what makes up the material world and that waves were disturbances that carried energy (like what happened when I ate that month-old broccoli rabe). The street outside your house does not behave like a solid sheet of asphalt at one moment and like a gale of wind at another moment (except on really bad mornings).
Let's return to the Young experiment of 1801, in which light was passed through two slits in a screen (I know you've been itching to get back to this). As you recall, a definite wave-like pattern resulted on another screen that had been placed on the other side. Similar experiments were now conducted in which the screen was replaced by photographic film. When photons were passed slowly one at a time through the two slits in the shield, the discrete marks that little by little built up on the film emulsion were, as expected, exactly as if made by particles. But wait... As ever more individual particles passed through the shield and onto the film A DEFINITE WAVE PATTERN EMERGED. There were the bands of varying intensity, the canceling out - in short, there was the "interference" associated with waves - even when individual particles came though one at a time.
HERE OUR REAL MYSTERY BEGINS.
Let's pretend to be physicists. All right, let's not pretend physicists. Anyway, we have our double-slit apparatus still in place as well as our electron gun (a device for firing electrons not for killing aliens). We're going to try something a little different, just to see what happens. We are going to shoot electrons through a single slit only. What happens is very curious: They behave thoroughly like particles - they fill in the light spaces between the dark bars left by our earlier double-slit experiment and cover much more area on the film emulsion than they do when passed through two openings. The questions follow: Why do the electron particles form a wave pattern when both slits are open, when we would expect even greater particle-coverage on the screen? And why do electrons fired through a single slit scatter like particles? We know that, in both instances, they do not interact by striking each other, since they are fired slowly one at a time. In short, electrons fired one at a time through two slits behave like waves; and electrons fired one at a time through a single slit behave like particles. The difference does not seem to have any physical connection with the number of slits or the structure of the apparatus.
It's uncanny: It seems that the particles somehow "know" beforehand whether one or two slits are open to them and that this puzzling "knowledge" determines what kind of pattern to make. (Okay, okay that's what I read.)
After many experiments and much thought, some scientists have gone on to forward the following stunning theory: OUR VERY DETERMINATION OF WHICH SLIT THE ELECTRONS WILL PASS THROUGH, CHANGES THE ELECTRON FROM WAVE TO PARTICLE!
That is, any time we know for certain which slit the electrons will pass through (or have just passed through), a wave or interference pattern will not occur - it will be a particle pattern that we will see. Go figure!
THE WAVE PATTERN ON THE SCREEN CAN BE SAID TO MIRROR OUR LACK OF KNOWLEDGE ABOUT WHICH SLIT THE ELECTRONS HAVE PASSED THROUGH; WHILE A PARTICLE PATTERN SEEMS TO REFLECT OUR KNOWING WHICH SLIT THE ELECTRONS HAVE PASSED THROUGH.
One might even put it this way: ELECTRONS AS WAVES SEEM TO BE AWARE OF THEIR POSSIBILITIES (i.e., they have a choice of slits to go through) BUT CHANGE THEMSELVES INTO PARTICLES BY WAY OF THE DETERMINING (OR KNOWING) MIND OF THE EXPERIMENTER AND (THUS) THE NARROWING OF THEIR POSSIBILITIES. This appears to be (dare we say it?) a MENTAL INTERACTION between the experimenter and the experiment!
The above experiments have several variations and interpretations (judging from our admittedly brief follow-up research); but no matter whose account you read, each conclusion expresses a similarly "mystical" strangeness.
And I haven't even got to the weird stuff yet. Wait till you hear Grandpa De Scanctis' complimentory theories!
This wave/particle duality is at the heart of quantum theory. It a tremendous mystery - and it has been so for over half a century. (Actually, nobody wants to figure it out - it's too damn much fun like this!)
An interpretation called "the Copenhagen Theory" sees sub-atomic waves as EXPRESSIONS OF PROBABILITY- that is, a probability-picture of where a sub-atomic entity is located at any given time. Since the experimenter's consciousness seems to change (or "collapse") the wave's identity (into particle), it is impossible to determine its position and velocity (information basic to physics!). Impossible means that we are not able to come up with a well-formed picture of reality. And what is a physicist without a well-formed picture of reality? What is anybody!!! It was from this unsettling condition that Warner Heisenberg, one of the founders of quantum theory, formulated this now-famous "Uncertainty Principle."
But what does "probability" mean in reference to sub-atomic waves? As I have mentioned above, if the wave-phase of a particle is some kind of probability-expression, then at some point before it hits the screen IT IS NOT YET A SINGLE OBJECT BUT MAY EXIST IN MULTIPLE STATES (ALL POSSIBLE EXPRESSIONS OF ITSELF AT ONCE AND ON ALL POSSIBLE PATHS), THUS EXPLORING ALL THE POSSIBILITIES OPEN TO IT - THAT IS, UNTIL AN OBSERVER COMES ALONG! (THESE PARTICLES ARE EAGER TO PLEASE!)
Some inevitable questions: "Are these 'unreal' conditions truly at the foundation of our material world?" "What does it mean if there really is a confusion between observer and observed, experimenter and experiment?" "DOES IT MEAN THAT OUR MINDS ARE MORE CONNECTED TO THE WORLD THAN WE HAD ONCE BELIEVED?" "IS THE WORLD MADE UP OF MIND?" ... "IS IT MADE UP OF YOUR MIND?" "IS YOUR MIND IN THE GUTTER?" "IS EVERYTHING YOUR FAULT?"
Obviously these questions do not reflect the realm of traditional physics (especially the last three). For the rest of his life, Einstein, for one, was disturbed by the almost "mystical" aspect of quantum physics. He never quite believed in it, and fruitlessly sought to account for its phenomena by way of traditional explanations and experiments. (He was a bit dense.)
D) Schrödinger's Cat
There are many other fascinating and puzzling experiments that have been done in the area of quantum physics. One of the most famous is a "thought experiment" that moves the paradoxical uncertainties of sub-atomic measurement onto a human-sized plane. This experiment was proposed by Erwin Schrödinger, the Austrian physicist whom it is named after, and involves imaginary conditions that nonetheless reflect - or seem to reflect - the actual world.
Let us imagine the following: A cat is placed inside a cage. Also inside is a device that, if activated, would release a gas that would kill the cat. (DON'T TRY THIS WITH FLUFFY!) Next to the cage is a particle detector designed to measure the spin of an electron. If the detector finds that a particular electron's spin is UP, the poison-gas device is activated and the cat dies. If the electron's spin is DOWN, the cat is unharmed. (There is a fifty-percent chance of either UP or DOWN occurring.) The entire experiment is placed in a room, away from anyone's sight.
An electron is sent into the detector. Since no human observation is present, the wave-function of the electron can be said to have no specific value. ACCORDING TO QUANTUM PHYSICS, IT MUST BE IN A MIXED STATE OF POSSIBILITY - BOTH UP AND DOWN, and the particle detector must somehow reflect this strange state.
But what about the cat? Remember, if the electron's spin is UP, the poison gas is released and the cat dies; if it is DOWN, the gas is not released and the cat remains alive. Therefore, if the electron really is in a mixed state of two possible outcomes then THE CAT MUST BE SOMEHOW BOTH DEAD AND ALIVE! (This would also work with your aunt Mildred.)
However, if you went to go check up on aunt Mildred - I mean, check up on the cat - you would not find some kind of half-dead, half-living cat - YOUR CONSCIOUS OBSERVATION WOULD INSTANTANEOUSLY CAUSE THE WAVE-FUNCTION TO "COLLAPSE" INTO ONE OR THE OTHER OUTCOME!
There are many more ramifications of this state of affairs. The most basic is revealed in the question, "What does this say about the nature of reality?" The Copenhagen Theory suggests that unobserved phenomena exist in some kind of possibility-state or statistical state that never reaches consummation, that is, reality. In some ways it's like the question, "If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?". Of course it doesn't - if there is no ear present. And what if Helen Keller falls in the forest? Oh, never mind...
Another view is called the "Many Worlds Hypothesis." It claims that nothing in the Copenhagen Theory requires us to assume the existence of such "unreal" possibility-states. Rather, in the case of Schrdinger's Cat, the Many Worlds Hypothesis holds that BOTH outcomes did indeed take place - BUT WITH ONLY ONE ENDING UP IN OUR REALITY, THE OTHER ENDING UP IN A PARALLEL UNIVERSE! (See Fig. 2, Cat Graphic).
If we found, say, that the cat was alive, we, in some parallel universe, also found a dead cat. (See, can skin your cat and have it too.) The Many Worlds Hypothesis suggests that EVERY POSSIBILITY in our world actually DOES occur - BUT EACH IN ANOTHER UNIVERSE! Therefore there are trillions upon trillions of parallel universes, of which ours (this one Right here!) is just one. (In another universe none of this is true, so you might as well chuck the whole thing now and pack your bags.)
Where We Are Headed
(Please no jokes about hand-baskets)
If what quantum physics says is true, then there is a continuous effective interaction between our minds and the world (yeah, it's called our greedy little hands).This supposition is important for Cecil De Sanctis' "possibility-control technique." Recall that in his book, "the Living Roots of Possibility" he said "[T]he yet unborn possibilities...must exist as in a sea all around us." Amazingly, his theory seems to work within the wave and particle framework. But before we examine Sanctis' principles in detail there is one other subject we need to deal with.
Please go to Part Two and read about synchronicity (or return to the MT Index).