Quantum PsychoAlchemy

Reproduction of picture from C. Speranza's Master Thesis Show at Ohio State University, Columbus, Oh, 1989.

As performed live at the New Moon Rave, Berkeley, CA Sept. 4, 1994 with DJ M.


quantum physics & the change of the soul.
on the 1st level, quantum physics (QP) seems very rational,
very left-brain;
psychoalchemy (PA) seems very right-brain, very non-rational.

quantum physics uses precise, quantitative methods of  studying nature,
building theories which can then be tested & verified experimentally,
which can either  be supported , or invalidated by experiment.
psychoalchemical practices,
& i am  thinking at this moment about 3 of them:
kabbalah (jewish mysticism), zen buddhism  and trance dancing 
- all in their own ways use different techniques
which allow one to experience the divine nature directly.
one doesn't really analyzes what to do,
one does (various methods or ) various exercises
which  allow one to experience the world around us.
in kabbalah, one develops  a rather complicated way
of classifying and seeing the world
by the use of the hebrew alphabet & various correspondences of words
according to the numerical value of the letters in the hebrew words.

[A. according to kabbalah,
there are 4 levels of meaning: 
pshat (simple understanding);
remez (allusion), a poetical level;
drush (inference) an interpretative level;
and sod (secrets) where we plumb the mystical depths.

we will be on the first 3 levels maybe a bit on the 4th.]

in zen buddhism, one meditates & one empties one's mind
or one ponders on koans, seeming contradictions which put
the mind in a different state of consciousness.
in similar way, trance dancing, by the repetition
of the beat & long time spent dancing ,
also allows one the get in a different state of mind & experience
the world.

on the 1st level (pshat, or simple understanding)
quantum physics & psychoalchemy  seem very, very different.
 i would like to show you, to travel together with you tonight
 and show u that there is more to this than this apparent difference.
one of the  interesting & unusual & surprising developments
 is that the more one studies quantum physics,
 the more one realizes that there is another level of understanding
& one realizes at the next levels(remez, allusion & drush, inference)
 one observes
 ( in some sense) a mystical or spiritual component (sod).
 this has been observed (known) actually for quite a while.
 one of the fathers of quantum physics, niels bohr, had to chose
 a coat of arms when he was knighted by the queen of denmark.
significantly,  he picked the yin-yang,
the chinese symbol which  signifies this interplay between opposites.
also,
i am sure many of u r familiar with the tao of physics,
written in the 1970's by a physicist, fritjof capra,
which shows that on  different  levels (remez & drush)
QP has a lot of certain spiritual or taoist components to it (sod).
this can  only  be appreciated
& comprehended after a lengthy study of  physics.
only with the large body of knowledge
which comes from may years of study of physics 
can one perceive the psychoalchemical or non-rational aspect of 
quantum physics.
in a sense, again, there is a difference here between quantum physics & 
psychoalchemy , because (also)
 beyond the surface of the amalgamation of seemingly unrelated facts
& activities there is a structure underneath.
beneath the large collection
of the seemingly unrelated connections between different correspondences
(in kabbalah)
there is a connection, a structure which one develops, which one discovers.

behind the 1 level of trance dancing that we experience
there is a certain rhythm,
a certain pattern
which we use to connect to the pattern of the universe.

it is at this point
that perhaps we come to realize these seemingly very different ways of relating
to the world,
quantum physics & psychoalchemy,
are actually quite similar.

imagine that all the different kinds of states of consciousness
one can experience
are like different rooms in a house.
there is one room which we call the quantum physics room;
there is another room which we call the psychoalchemical room.
there are a lot of similarities between the two. 
to enter the quantum world,(actually), we r literally taking a journey.
we are starting from the everyday experience, everyday life
(the classical world, as is called in physics)
& we wish to travel to this world at the microscopic level,
which is not accessible to our everyday experience.
our means of getting there ,our ship if you like, our vehicle,
is the mathematical & physical formalism
[the theoretical & experimental phys. formalism]
which we have developed
over the last 80 years.
once there, yes, in some way this formalism gives us some reference points.
some structure on which to 'hang' our experiences,
[but] things aren't as simple as that.
there are many of things we have to construct as we go along.
it is like a spider which is creating
a web as it is exploring the world.
this accounts for the  everchanging
& constant increase in understanding of the physics world which we get from the
study of QP.
similarly, when we want to enter the psychoalchemical world, we do something
very similar: we depart from our everyday experiences,
our everyday life
& we enter a very different world.
there are different ways to get to this different world,
depending  on the path we take.

of the three that i mentioned, zen buddhism  uses meditation.
it is in some sense a purely mental activity,
but the length & the method of it
allows one to access parts of our consciousness which are not
of the everyday life.

of course,in trance dancing we access this different world  dancing together, 
dancing for long periods of time.
also,
dancing to a certain kind of musick,
a musick that has a constant beat, a musick that envelops us,
takes us together on the this journey.
it is a journey that we take together,
usually  we don't take this journey by ourselves.

kabbalah also uses a specific method to access this world:
by meditating on the meaning  that
we ascribe to the different words of the book (the tanakh),
the meaning we ascribe with the help of certain numerical values,
by this constant meditation
we transport ourselves to this different world.
it is a world which shows us the inherent unity of the universe
& teaches us that what we perceive at one point as being different
was just a first level of understanding,
first level of comprehension  of the world .
in kabbalah, this type of comprehension is called 
chokmah (wisdom)
it is different from the first kind of comprehension we saw earlier,
[which was] the analytical kind, binah (understanding).
it is useful when we're in this different, altered aspect of reality,
to have some sort of structure or some sort of way
to gather this part of the direct experience which we have
& bring some of it back with us.
to me, it is not at all clear that one can always
live in this altered state of the world.
we are physical beings & we live in an organized structure (our society),
which places certain responsibilities on ourselves and others.
this  necessitates that we eventually do return
to (if you wish) the classical world, the everyday life.
i believe, one of the reasons we want to go to this altered state
is to learn about the world & about ourselves in ways that we can't
in our everyday life.
the hope is that this experience will teach us things
which are not accessible to us in our everyday life.
for us to be able to use this knowledge,
it is useful
& probably important, i would say,
to be able to come back.
this is the hardest thing, the return  is the hardest thing.
the return with some of this knowledge.
if we do not have some form of organizing this experience,
it is quite likely that we won't return with much when we come back.
i think it is up to the people who want to undertake this journey,
it is up to them to figure out what is the most comfortable,
most useful way to do so [to organize the experience].
this is actually what different psychoalchemical schools  teach us,
that there are different ways of returning, of going & returning
& in so far as they allow us to experience the world,
they are equivalent.

Middle Pillar

Reproduction of cover of I. Regardie's Middle Pillar.

it turns out that in some way ,
the most interesting way,
one way to experience this altered state[space]
is to be in the place between.
in kabbalah, what one tries to do is be
between understanding & wisdom, between 
binah & chokmah.
it is when one is in neither the analytical left-brain, nor in the holistic
right-brain 
that one can experience the part of the world we call the infinite.
trying to understand the infinite purely on the rational level
makes us get stuck in very strange loops.
trying to experience the infinite,
from the so-called right-brain perspective
does not bring us much understanding.
it is staying in between that 1 escapes (in a sense) this false duality.
[B. this place `in between'  is the middle pillar.
besides the 3 sefirot already mentioned, there are 7 more.
one can organize them in the shape of the human body.
thus, keter (the crown) sits above the head;
 chokhmah (wisdom) by the left ear;
 binah (understanding), by the right ;
 
chesed (mercy) sits on the left shoulder;
gevurah (severity) on the right;
tif'eret (beauty) is in the center of the chest;
netzach (victory) is on the left hip;
hod (glory) on the right;
at the genitals, yesod (foundation);
and at the ass (or feet), malkuth (the kingdom).
(there is also the pseudo-emanation, da'at, between binah and chokhmah).
one can imagine several lines, horizontal & vertical,
passing thru these sefirot (numbers,planes).
let us focus on the 3 vertical lines, called pillars.
the one on the left,
made up of chokhmah, chesed and netzach,
is called the pillar of mercy.
the one on the right,
made of of binah, gevurah and hod,
the pillar of severity.
kabbalah teaches us that neither of these paths,
in & of themselves, alone,
is useful.
rather, we should strive to follow the path of the middle pillar,
made of keter, tif'eret, yesod and malkhut,
the pillar of beauty.
this is the pillar which leads us to experience the infinity,
keter, the crown.
the place `in between,'  
aleph,
is related to the mathematical notion we have of the infinite,
also (coincidently?) called aleph_0, aleph_1 by georg cantor:
aleph_0 for countable infinity,like the integers,
& aleph_1 for uncountable infinity, like the reals.]

similarly, in zen buddhism one (in a sense) oscillates
between mindfulness & mindlessness.
there is a saying in zen buddhism: in the beginning, a tree is 
a tree,
before zen buddhism, a tree is a tree.
then, one becomes aware of zen buddhism,
perhaps one practices it for a while & one learns that [sometimes]
a tree is not a tree.
if one practices zen buddhism long enough,
one learns again that a tree is
a tree,
but this knowledge that a tree is a tree is now tempered
by the understanding that sometimes a tree is not a tree.
this is the return,
the te'shuv (the return) that kabbalah tells us about.
this is the return from the altered level of reality
where (in a sense) we are (so to speak) back
to the classical world,
but we know, we are aware, we understand
that the world is a bit more complicated  than we thought.
this wisdom, this understanding
hopefully will help us relate to each other
in ways we didn't know before.

Four Trees
Reproduction from Z. ben-Shimon Levi's The Way of the Kabbalah.
(To the Ladder/Tree)

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