Psi, Grof, Jung, and the Quantum Vacuum
by Ervin Laszlo
The International Society for the Systems Sciences
and The Club of Budapest
Copyright Ervin Laszlo 1996
Are human beings entirely discrete individuals, their
organism enclosed by the skin and their minds enclosed
by the cranium housing the brain? Or are there effective,
if subtle, interconnections between humans — and
between humans and the world at large? This study argues
that the latter assumption is likely to be true. Though
the evidence for "subtle connections" is not
in the form of incontrovertible "hard data"
it is nevertheless cogent and significant. The directly
pertinent findings are generated by research on psi-
phenomena and the practice of psychotherapists. Possible
explanations for the findings can be traced to the ideas
of Carl Jung, and are now pursued at the leading edge
of the physical sciences.
The Findings: (i) Psi experiments
Controlled experiments concerning subtle connections
between subjects removed in space, and occasionally
also in time, date back to back to the 1930s, to J.B.
Rhine's pioneering card-and dice-guessing work at Duke
University. Since then experimental designs have become
sophisticated and experimental controls rigorous; physicists
have often joined psychologists in carrying out the
tests. Explanations in terms of hidden sensory cues,
machine bias, cheating by subjects, and experimenter
error or incompetence have all been considered, but
they were found unable to account for a number of statistically
Relevant work began in the 1970s, when Russell Targ
and Harold Puthoff carried out some of the best known
experiments on subtle connections among distant subjects
in regard to the transference of thoughts and images.
They examined the possibility of telepathic transmission
between individuals, one of whom would act as "sender"
and the other as "receiver." The receiver
was placed in a sealed, opaque and electrically shielded
chamber, while the sender was in another room where
he or she was subjected to bright flashes of light at
regular intervals. Electroencephalograph (EEG) machines
registered the brain- wave patterns of both. As expected,
the sender exhibited the rhythmic brain waves that normally
accompany exposure to bright flashes of light. But,
after a brief interval the receiver also began to produce
the same patterns, although he or she was not exposed
to the flashes and was not receiving sense-perceivable
signals from the sender.
Targ and Puthoff also conducted experiments on remote
viewing. In these tests sender and receiver were separated
by distances that precluded any form of sensory communication
between them. At a site chosen at random, the sender
acted as a "beacon"; the receiver then tried
to pick up what the beacon saw. To document his or her
impressions, the receiver gave verbal descriptions,
at times accompanied by sketches. Independent judges
found that the descriptions of the sketches matched
on the average 66 percent of the time the characteristics
of the site that was actually seen by the beacon.
Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff, "Information
transmission under conditions of sensory shielding,"
in Nature, Volume 251, 1974; Russell Targ and K. Harary,
The Mind Race, New York: Villard Books, 1984; Harold
E. Puthoff and Russell Targ, "A perceptual channel
for information transfer over kilometer distances: historical
perspective and recent research" Proceedings of
the IEEE, Vol. 64, 1976.
Remote viewing experiments reported from other laboratories
involved distances from half a mile to several thousand
miles. Regardless of where they were carried out, and
by whom, the success rate was generally around fifty
percent — considerably above random probability.
The most successful viewers appeared to be those who
were relaxed, attentive, and meditative. They reported
that they received a preliminary impression as a gentle
and fleeting form which gradually evolved into an integrated
image. They experienced the image as a surprise, both
because it was clear and because it was clearly elsewhere.
Images could also be transmitted while the receiver
is asleep. Over several decades, Stanley Krippner and
his associates carried out "dream ESP experiments"
at the Dream Laboratory of Maimondes Hospital in New
York City. The experiments followed a simple yet
effective protocol. The volunteer, who would spend the
night at the laboratory, would meet the sender and the
experimenters on arrival and had the procedure explained
to him or her. Electrodes were then attached to the
volunteer's head to monitor brain waves and eye movements;
there was no further sensory contact with the sender
until the next morning. One of the experimenters threw
dice that, in combination with a random number table,
gave a number that corresponded to a sealed envelope
containing an art print. The envelope was opened when
the sender reached his or her private room in a distant
part of the hospital. The sender then spent the night
concentrating on the print.
The experimenters woke the volunteers by intercom
when the monitor showed the end of a period of rapid
eye-movement (REM) sleep. The subject was then asked
to describe any dream he or she might have had before
awakening. The comments were recorded, together with
the contents of an interview the next morning when the
subject was asked to associate with the remembered dreams.
The interview was conducted double blind — neither
the subject nor the experimenters knew which art print
had been selected the night before.
Using data taken from the first night that each volunteer
spent at the dream laboratory, the series of experiments
between 1964 and 1969 produced 62 nights of data for
analysis. They exhibited a significant correlation between
the art print selected for a given night and the recipient's
dreams on that night. The score was considerably higher
on nights when there were few or no electrical storms
in the area and sunspot activity was at a low ebb —
that is, when the Earth's geomagnetic field was relatively
A particularly striking example of transpersonal contact
and com-munication has been the work of Jacobo Grinberg-Zylverbaum
at the National University of Mexico. In more than
fifty experiments performed over five years, Grinberg-Zylberbaum
paired his subjects inside sound-and electro-magnetic
radiation-proof "Faraday cages." He asked
them to meditate together for twenty minutes. Then he
placed the subjects in separate Faraday cages where
one of them was stimulated and the other not. The stimulated
subject received stimuli at random intervals in suh
a way that neither he or she, nor the experimenter,
knew when they were applied. The non-stimulated subject
remained relaxed, with eyes closed, instructed to feel
the presence of the partner without knowing anything
about his or her stimulation.
In general, a series of one hundred stimuli were applied
— flashes of light, sounds, or short, intense
but not painful electric shocks to the index and ring
fingers of the right hand. The EEG of both subjects
was then synchronized and examined for "normal"
potentials evoked in the stimulated subject and "transferred"
potentials in the non-stimulated subject. Transferred
potentials were not found in control situations where
there was either no stimulated subject; or when a screen
prevented the stimulated subject from perceiving the
stimuli (such as light flashes); or else when the paired
subjects did not previously interact. However, in experimental
situations with stimulated subjects and with interaction,
the transferred potentials appeared consistently in
some 25 percent of the cases. A particularly poignant
example was furnished by a young couple, deeply in love.
Their EEG patterns remained closely synchronized throughout
the experiment, testifying to their report of feeling
a deep oneness.
In a limited way, Grinberg-Zylberbaum could also replicate
his results. When a subject exhibited the transferred
potentials in one experiment, he or she usually exhibited
them in subsequent experiments as well. A related experiment
investigated the degree of harmonization of the left
and right hemispheres of the subject's neocortex. In
ordinary waking consciousness the two hemispheres —
the language-oriented, linearly thinking rational "left
brain" and the gestalt-perceiving intuitive "right
brain" — exhibit uncoordinated, randomly
diverging wavepatterns in the electroencelograph. When
the subject enters a meditative state of conscious-ness,
these patterns become synchronized, and in deep meditation
the two hemispheres fall into a nearly identical pattern.
In deep meditation not only the left and right brains
of one and the same subject, also the left and right
brains of different subjects manifest identical patterns.
Experiments with up to twelve subjects simultaneously
showed an astonishing synchronization of the brain-waves
of the entire group.
In the past few years experiments such as these have
been matched by hundreds of others. They provide significant
evidence that identifiable and consistent electrical
signals occur in the brain of one person when a second
person, especially if he or she is closely related or
emotionally linked, is either meditating, or provided
with sensory stimulation, or attempts to communicate
with the subject intentionally. (see Larry Dossey,
Recovering the the Soul: A Scientific and_Spiritual
Search, New York, Bantam 1989; ——, Healing
Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine,
Harper San Francisco, 1993; W. Braud and M. Schlitz,
"Psychokinetic influence on electrodermal activity,"
Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 47, 1983; Mario Varvoglis,
"Goal-directed- and observer-dependent PK: An evaluation
of the conformance-behavior model and the observation
theories," The Journal of the American Society
for Psychical Research, 80 (1986); R. Rosenthal, "Combining
results of independent studies," Psychological
Bulletin, 85(1978); C. Honorton, R. Berger, M. Varvoglis,
M. Quant., P. Derr, E. Schechter, and D. Ferrari, 'Psi-communication
in the Ganzfeld: Experiments with an automated testing
system and a comparison with a meta-analysis of earlier
studies.' Journal of Parapsychology, 54 (1990).)
Interpersonal connection beyond the sensory range
can also occur outside the laboratory; it is particularly
frequent among identical twins. In many cases one twin
feels the pain suffered by the other, and is aware of
traumas and crises even if he or she is halfway around
the world. Besides "twin pain," the sensitivity
of mothers and lovers is equally noteworthy: countless
stories are recounted of mothers having known when their
son or daugther was in grave danger, or was actually
involved in an accident.
Interpersonal connection is not limited to twins, mothers
and lovers: the kind of closeness that a therapeutic
relationship creates between therapist and patient seems
also to suffice. A number of psychotherapists have noted
that, during a session, they experience memories, feelings,
attitudes, and associations that are outside the normal
scope of their experience and personality. At the time
these strange items are experienced they are indistinguishable
from the memories, feelings and related sentiments of
the therapists themselves; it is only later, on reflection,
that they come to realize that the anomalous items stem
not from their own life and experience, but from their
It appears that in the course of the therapeutic relationship
some aspect of the patient's psyche is projected into
the mind of the therapist. In that location, at least
for a limited time, it integrates with the therapist's
own psyche and produces an awareness of some of the
patient's memories, feeling, and associations. Known
as "projective identification," the transference
can be useful in the context of therapy: it can permit
the patient to view what was previously a painful element
in his or her personal consciousness more objectively,
as if it belonged to somebody else.
Actual bodily effects seem also capable of being transmitted
from one individual to another. Transmissions of this
kind came to be known as "telesomatic": they
consist of physiological changes that are triggered
in the targeted person by the mental processes of another.
 The distance between the individuals involved seems
to make little or no difference. William Braud and Marilyn
Schlitz carried out hundreds of trials regarding the
impact of the mental imagery of senders on the physiology
of receivers — the latter were distant, and unaware
that such imagery was being directed to them. They claim
that the mental images of the sender can "reach
out" over space and cause changes in the physiology
of the distant receiver — effects comparable to
those one's own mental processes produce in one's own
body. People who attempt to influence their own bodily
functions are only slightly more effective than those
who attempt to influence the physiology of others from
a distance. Over several cases involving a large number
of individuals, the difference between remote influence
and self-influence was almost insignificant: "telesomatic"
influence by a distant person proved to be nearly as
effective as "psychosomatic" influence by
the same person.
The Findings: (ii) Grof's experience with altered states
Complementing psi-experiments in regard to the ability
of the human mind to penetrate beyond the limits of
personal sensory experience are the findings of modern
psychotherapists. The pertinent evidence comes clearly
to the fore in the work of Stanislav Grof. In reviewing
findings gathered in the course of over three decades,
Grof suggests that the standard cartography of the human
mind needs to be completed with additional elements.
To the standard "biographic-recollective"
domain of the psyche we should add a "perinatal"
and a "transpersonal" domain. The transpersonal
domain, it appears, can mediate connection between our
mind and practically any part or aspect of the phenomenal
Grof's experience derives from work with non-ordinary
"altered" states of consciousness (ASCs) induced
in his patients either by psychedelic drugs or holotropic
breathing. ASCs embrace a large part of the human psyche;
the states of normal waking consciousness are but the
tip of the iceberg. As over a hundred years ago William
James had noted, "Our normal waking consciousness...is
but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about
it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there
lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.
We may go through life without suspecting their existence;
but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they
are all there in all their completeness." People
in "primitive" and classical cultures knew
how to apply the requisite stimulus — some tribes,
such as the !Kung Bushmen of the Kalahari desert, could
enter altered states all at the same time. In many parts
of the world ancient peoples combined chanting, breathing,
drumming, rhythmic dancing, fasting, social and sensory
isolation, even specific forms of physical pain to induce
altered states. The native cultures of Africa and pre-Colombian
America used them in shamanic procedures, healing ceremonies
and rites of passage; the high-cultures of Asia used
them in various systems of yoga, Vipassana or Zen Buddhism,
Tibetan Vajrayana, Taoism, and Sufism. The semitic cultures
used them in Cabalah, the ancient Egyptians in the temple
initiations of Isis and Osiris; the classical Greeks
in Bacchanalia and the rites of Attis and Adonis as
well as in the Eleusinian mysteries. Until the advent
of Western industrial civilization, almost all cultures
held such states in high esteem for the remarkable experiences
they convey and the powers of personal healing and interpersonal
contact and communication they render accessible.
Today, at the leading edge of the contemporary sciences,
research on altered states of consciousness is becoming
accepted as a legitimate part of the new discipline
known as "consciousness research." The insight
that surfaces is, as Charles Tart noted, that altered
states tend to make our connections to each other and
to our environment more evident. Grof's records of the
verbal reports of his patients makes this very clear.
In the "experience of dual unity" a patient
in an ASC experiences a loosening and melting of the
boundaries of the body ego and a sense of merging with
another person in a state of unity and oneness. In this
experience, despite the feeling of being fused with
another, the patient retains an awareness of his or
her own identity. Then, in the experience of "identification
with other persons," the patient, while merging
experientially with another person, has a sense of complete
identification to the point of losing the awareness
of his or her own identity. Identification is total
and complex, involving body image, physical sensations,
emotional reactions and attitudes, thought processes,
memories, facial expression, typical gestures and mannerisms,
postures, movement, and even the inflection of the voice.
The "other" (or others) can be someone in
the presence of the patient or someone absent; he or
she can be part of an experience from the subject's
childhood, his or her ancestry, or even of a previous
In "group identification and group consciousness"
there is a further extension of consciousness and melting
of ego boundaries. Rather than identifying with individual
persons, the patient has a sense of becoming an entire
group of people who share some racial, cultural, national,
ideological, political, or professional characteristics.
The depth, scope, and intensity of this experience can
reach extraordinary proportions: people may experience
the totality of suffering of all the soldiers who have
ever died on the battlefield since the beginning of
history, the desire of revolutionaries of all ages to
overthrow a tyrant, or the love, tenderness and dedication
of all mothers in regard to their babies. Identification
can focus on a social or political group, the people
of an entire country or continent, all members of a
race, or all believers of a religion.
"Identification with animals" goes beyond
the human transpersonal dimension: it involves a complete
and realistic identification with members of various
animal species. The experience can be authentic and
convincing, including body image, specific physiological
sensations, instinctual drives, unique perceptions of
the environment, and the corresponding emotional reactions.
The nature and scope of these experiences distinguish
them from ordinary human experiences; they often transcend
the scope of fantasy and imagination.
While less frequent, "identification with plants
and botanical processes" occurs as well. On occasion
patients have a complex experience of becoming a tree,
a wild or garden flower, a carnivorous plant, kelp,
Volvox globator, plankton in the ocean, a bacterial
culture, or an individual bacterium. In the still more
embracing experience of "oneness with life and
all creation" an individual expands his or her
consciousness to such an extent that it encompasses
the totality of life on this planet, including all of
humanity and all the flora and fauna of the biosphere.
Instead of identification with one living organism,
the patient identifies with life itself as a cosmic
Experience in ASCs can also penetrate beyond the sphere
of life: it can include the macroscopic and microscopic
phenomena of the inorganic world. In the "experience
of inanimate matter and inorganic processes" patients
report experiential identification with the waters of
rivers and oceans, with various forms of fire, with
the earth and with mountains, and with the forces unleashed
in natural catastrophes such as electric storms, earthquakes,
tornadoes, and volcanic eruptions. They can identify
with specific materials, such as diamonds and other
precious stones, quartz crystals, amber, granite, iron,
steel, quicksilver, silver, and gold. The experiences
extend into the microworld and may involve the dynamic
structure of molecules and atoms, Brownian motions,
interatomic bonds, electromagnetic forces, and subatomic
particles. Grof concludes that every process in the
universe that in an ordinary state of consciousness
can be objectively observed, can also be subjectively
experienced in an altered state.
The cosmic dimensions of altered-state experiences
can encompass all of the planet Earth. In "planetary
consciousness" the subject's consciousness expands
to the Earth's geological substance with its mineral
kingdom, and its biosphere with all its life forms.
The Earth as a whole appears to be one complex organism,
oriented toward its own evolution, integration, and
self-actualization. In "extraterrestrial experiences"
— a further expanded form of consciousness —
other celestial bodies and astronomical processes are
included. The subject can experience travelling to the
moon, sun, other planets, stars, and galaxies; he or
she can experience explosions of supernovas, contraction
of stars, quasars and pulsars, even passage through
black holes. The experience can occur in the form of
simply witnessing such events, or of actually becoming
them, experiencing them intimately, as if being a part
of the experienced thing or event. At the widest (and
comparatively rare) form of this experience —
"identification with the entire physical universe"
— the subject has the feeling that his or her
consciousness encompasses the entire cosmos. All its
processes are experienced as part of the organism and
psyche of the all-encompassing universe-system.
In addition to the spatially expanded forms of consciousness,
there are experiences that recall OBEs (out-of-body
experiences), clairvoyance, clairaudience, and telepathy.
More relevant for our purposes are experiences involving
a displacement in time. Time-displacement experiences
range from "embryonal and fetal experiences,"
where the subject recalls his or her intrauterine experiences
as a fetus, through "ancestral experiences"
involving identification with one's biological ancestors,
"racial and collective experiences" where
those involved are not one's direct ancestors but members
of the same race, or sometimes the entire human species
(suggestive of Jung's "collective unconscious"
of which more will be said later), all the way to "past
incarnation experiences." The essential characteristic
of the latter is a convinced sense of remembering something
that had already happened to oneself. Subjects maintain
their sense of individuality and personal identity,
but experience themselves in another form, at another
place and time, and in another context. In these reincarnation-
type experiences the birth of the individual appears
as a point of transformation, where the enduring record
of multiple lifetimes enters the bio- psychological
life of the individual.
According to Grof the memories that surface in past
incarnation experiences share with other transpersonal
experiences the capacity to provide instant and direct
extrasensory access to information about some aspect
of the world. If so, all divisions and boundaries in
the universe are illusory and arbitrary; in the last
analysis it is only a cosmic consciousness that actually
Toward an Explanation: (a) Jung's unus mundus
What explanation can we give for the varied yet remarkably
consistent phenomena unearthed in controlled psi- experiments
and in the work of Grof and other psychotherapists with
patients in altered states of consciousness? Just what
is the nature of the "cosmic consciousness"
— or similar factor — that would connect
our psyche with the world at large?
Carl Jung, fascinated with this seemingly esoteric
aspect of the human psyche, attempted an explanation
in terms of a higher or deeper reality that would connect
human minds with each other as well as with physical
reality. He was led to his explanatory concept by a
comparison of unconscious processes in individuals with
the myths, legends and folktales of a variety of cultures
at various periods of history. Jung found that the individual
records and the collective material contain common themes.
This prompted him to postulate the existence of a collective
aspect of the pysche: the "collective unconscious."
The dynamic principles that organize this material are
the "archetypes." Archetypes are irrepresentable
in themselves, but have effects that make visualizations
possible: these are the archetypal images and ideas.
"The archetype as such is a psychoid factor that
belongs, as it were, to the invisible, ultraviolet end
of the psychic spectrum. It does not appear, in itself,
to be capable of reaching consciousness."
While in the realm of the spirit, at the upper, "ultraviolet"
end of the psychic spectrum, archetypes are dynamic
organizers of ideas and images, at the lower, "infrared"
end of the spectrum the biological instinctual psyche
shades into the physiology of the organism, merging
with its chemical and physical conditions. As Jung noted,
"...the position of the archetype would be located
beyond the psychic sphere, analogous to the position
of physiological instinct, which is immediately rooted
in the stuff of the organism and, with its psychoid
nature, forms the bridge to matter in general.
Jung formulated his concept of the archetype in collaboration
with Wolfgang Pauli. He was struck by the fact that
while his own research into the human psyche led to
an encounter with such "irrepresentables"
as the archetypes, research in quantum physics had likewise
led to "irrepresentables": the micro- particles
of the physical universe, entities for which no complete
description appeared possible.
Jung concluded, "When the existence of two or more
irrepresentables is assumed, there is always the possibility
— which we tend to overlook — that it may
not be a question of two or more factors but of one
The single factor that underlies the irrepresentables
of physics and of psychology may be the same as that
which underlies the synchronicites Jung had investigated:
meaningful coincidences that tie together in an acausal
connectedness the physical and the psychological worlds.
The common factor that would underlie and connect these
worlds Jung named "unus mundus." The foundation
for the unus mundus is "...that the multiplicity
of the empirical world rests on an underlying unity,
and that not two or more fundamentally different worlds
exist side- by- side or are mingled with one another."
As Charles Card summarized, "The realms of mind
and of matter—psyche and physis— are complementary
aspects of the same transcendental reality, the unus
mundus. Archetypes act as the fundamental dynamical
patterns whose various representations characterize
all processes, whether mental or physical. In the realm
of the psyche, archetypes organize images and ideas.
In the realm of physis, they organize the structure
and transformations of matter and energy, and they account
for acausal orderedness as well. Archetypes acting simultaneously
in both the realms of psyche and physis account for
instances of synchronistic phenomena."
Jung's relates the subtle connections that appear
in synchronistic events involving the psyche of different
individuals, as well as the psyche of one person and
the physical world around that person, to an underlying
reality that emerges in the form of archetypes. The
fundamental reality — the unus mundus —
is itself neither psychic nor physical: it stands above,
or lies beyond, both psyche and physis.
Toward an Explanation: (b) The Quantum Vacuum
Jung's concept points the way toward a fruitful avenue
of research: a deeper reality that connects mind and
mind, and mind and matter. This approach should enter
the current stream of consciousness research. For the
present, most researchers seek an explanation of mental
events mainly in terms of physical processes in the
brain. But henceforth the mental events to explain should
include not only the workings of the individual brain
but, in light of the findings of psi- experimenters
and psychotherapists, the subtle connections that link
human brains with each other and with the world at large.
It seems likely that world and brain — cosmos
and consciousness — are interconnected by a continuous
information- conserving and transmitting field.18——
(see The Interconnected Universe. World Scientific,
Singapore and London, 1995; ——, The Whispering
Pond. Element Books, London and New York, 1996 (in press).)
Such a field cannot be postulated in an ad hoc manner
— science must respect the law laid down by William
of Occam in the 14th century: entities are not to be
multiplied beyond necessity. New entities — which
can also be forces or fields — can only be postulated
when doing so is the simplest, the most economical and
the most rational way of explaining a given set of findings
A field that constitutes the simplest, the most economical
and rational explanation of the current findings may
exist: David Bohm, the same as this writer, suggested
that it is the as yet imperfectly understood "zero-
point field" (ZPF) that seems present throughout
the quantum vacuum. In the following we shall explore
what is known about this field of the vacuum, what is
currently hypothesized about it, and how it could account
for the subtle interconnections noted above.
Received knowledge about the vacuum - - In quantum
physics the quantum vacuum is defined as the lowest
energy state of a system of which the equations obey
wave mechanics and special relativity. It is considerably
more than just the state of a system, however. It is
the locus of a vast energy field that is neither classically
electromagnetic nor gravitational, nor yet nuclear in
nature. Instead, it is the originating source of the
known electromagnetic, gravitational, and nuclear forces
and fields. It is the originating source of matter itself.
The technical definitions of the quantum vacuum point
to a continuous energy sea in which particles of matter
are specific substructures. According to Paul Dirac's
calculation, all particles in positive energy states
have negative- energy counterparts (by now such "antiparticles"
have been found experi- mentally for all presently known
particles). The zero- ppoint field of the quantum vacuum
is a "Dirac- sea": a sea of particles in the
negative energy state. These particles are not observable
— physicists call them "virtual." But
they are not fictional for all that. By stimulating
the negative energy states of the ZPF with sufficient
energy (of the order of 10- 27 erg), a particular region
of it can be "kicked" into the real (that
is, observable) state of positive energy. This is the
process known as pair- creation: out of the vacuum emerges
a positive energy (real) particle, with a negative energy
(virtual) particle remaining in it. Thus the Dirac-
sea is everywhere; the observable universe floats, as
it were, on its surface.
The quantum vacuum contains a staggering density of
energy. John Wheeler estimated its matter- equivalent
at 1094 gram per cm3 — and that is more than all
the matter in the universe put together. Compared with
this energy density, the energy of the nucleus of the
atom — the most energetic chunk of matter in the
known universe — seems almost minuscule: it is
"merely" 1014 gram/cm3.
The vacuum itself is not material: its zero- point energies
— which, according to David Bohm, exceed all the
energies bound in matter 1040 times — are in the
negative state. This is fortunate, for if they were
not, the universe would instantly collapse to a size
smaller than the radius of an atom. (This follows from
E = mc2, Einstein's celebrated mass- energy equivalence
relation: energy corresponds to mass, and mass in turn
Because the "real" world of matter —
that is, of energy bound in mass — is so much
less energetic than the vacuum, the observable universe
is not a solid condensate floating on top of the vacuum,
but like a set of bubbles suspended in it. In terms
of energy, the material world is not a solidification
of the quantum vacuum, but a thinning of it.
Speculations on the vacuum - - A thin line divides
what is already known and accepted about the quantum
vacuum and what is still speculative and controversial.
Here we review the relevant explorations: those that
concern interactions between the observable world of
matter- energy and the vacuum's zero- point energies.
The world of matter and the quantum vacuum are known
to interact. For example, under certain conditions vacuum's
zero- point energies act on electrons orbiting atomic
nuclei. The effects occur when electrons "jump"
from one energy state to another: the photons they emit
exhibit the so- called Lamb- shift (a frequency slightly
shifted from its normal value). Vacuum energies also
create a radiation pressure on two closely spaced metal
plates. Between the plates some wavelengths of the vacuum
field are excluded, thereby reducing its energy density
with respect to the field outside. This creates a pressure
— known as the Casimir effect — that pushes
the plates inward and together.
Other interactions may exist as well. Some years ago
Hungarian physicist Lajos Jánossy assigned "relativistic
effects" (such as the slowing down of clocks when
accelerated close to the speed of light, or the increasing
of the mass of objects at those velocities) to the interaction
of realworld objects with the vacuum's energy field.
Close to the speed of light the matter- particles of
objects rub against the force- particles (bosons) of
the vacuum, and this friction slows down their processes
and increases their mass. In this concept the ZPF of
the vacuum is a physical field that interacts with the
objects that move in space and time.
Currently another Hungarian, maverick theoretician László
Gazdag, developed Jánossy's concept into a full-
fledged "post- relativity theory."——,"Superfluid
mediums, vacuum spaces" Speculations in Science
and Technology, Vol. 12,1, 1989; and "Combining
of the gravitational and electromagnetic fields, ibid.,
Vol. 16,1, 1993.
In his theory the vacuum's energy field has the properties
of a superfluid. It is known that in supercooled helium
all resistance and friction ceases; it moves through
narrow cracks and capilleries without loss of momentum.
Conversely, objects move through the fluid without encountering
resistance. (Since also electrons move through it without
resistance, superfluids are also superconductors.) Thus,
in a sense, a superconducting superfluid is not "there"
for the objects or electrons that move through it —
they get no information about its presence. This could
explain why we, and even our most sensitive instruments,
fail to register its presence.
In Gazdag's reinterpretation of Einstein's relativity
theory the celebrated formulas describe the flow of
bosons in the superfluid ZPF. This flow is what determines
the geometrical structure of spacetime, and hence the
trajectory of realworld photons and electrons. When
particles of light and matter move uniformly, spacetime
is Euclidean; when they are accelerated the ZPF interacts
with their motion. Then spacetime appears curved. (As
Russian physicist Piotr Kapitza noted, in a superfluid
only those objects move without friction that are in
constant quasi- uniform motion. If an object is strongly
accelerated, vortices are created in the medium and
these vortices produce resistance: the classical interaction
Front- line research in physics confirms the basic
notion that underlies these assumptions. Current work
follows up a suggestion made by physicists Paul Davies
and William Unruh in the mid- 1970s. Davies and Unruh,
like Jánossy and Gazdag, based their argument
on the difference between constant- speed and accelerated
motion in the vacuum's zero- point field. Constant-
speed motion would exhibit the vacuum's spectrum as
isotropic (the same in all directions), whereas accelerated
motion would produce a thermal radiation that breaks
open the directional symmetry. The "Davies- Unruh
effect," too small to be measured with physical
instruments, prompted scientists to investigate whether
accelerated motion through the vacuum field would produce
incremental effects. This expectation has borne fruit.
It turned out that the inertial force itself could be
due to interactions in that field.
In 1994 Bernhard Haisch, Alfonso Rueda and Harold
Puthoff gave a mathematical demonstration that inertia
can be considered a vacuum- based Lorentz- force.
The force originates at the subparticle level and produces
opposition to the acceleration of material objects.
The accelerated motion of objects through the vacuum
produces a magnetic field, and the particles that constitute
the objects are deflected by this field. The larger
the object the more particles it contains, hence the
stronger the deflection — and greater the inertia.
Inertia is thus a form of electromagnetic resistance
arising in accelerated frames from the distortion of
the zero- point (and otherwise superfluid) field of
More than inertia, also mass appears to be a product
of vacuum inter- action. If Haisch and collaborators
are right, the concept of mass is neither fundamental
nor even necessary in physics. When the massless electric
charges of the vacuum (the bosons that make up the superfluid
zero- point field) interact with the electromagnetic
field, beyond the already noted threshold of energy,
mass is effectively "created." Thus mass may
be a structure condensed from vacuum energy, rather
than a fundamental given in the universe.
If mass is a product of vacuum energy, so is gravitation.
Gravity, as we know, is always associated with mass,
obeying the inverse square law (it drops off proportionately
to the square of the distance between the gravitating
masses). Hence if mass is produced in interaction with
the ZPF, then also the force that is associated with
mass must be so produced. This, however, means that
all the fundamental characteristics we normally associate
with matter are vacuum field- interaction products:
inertia, mass, as well as gravity.
In regard to the full scale of interactions between
vacuum energies and the micro- as well as macro- world
of matter- energy, the work of a group of Russian physicists
is of particular significance. Anatoly Akimov, G.I.
Shipov, V.N. Binghi and co- workers developed a sophisticated
theory of what they call the "physical vacuum."
In their theory the vacuum is a real physical field
extending throughout the universe: it registers and
transmits the traces of both micro- particles and macro-
objects.Anatoly Akimov, "Heuristic discussion
of the problem of finding long- range interactions.
EGS- Concepts." Center of Intersectoral Science,
Engineering and Venture, Non- Conventional Technologies
(CISE VENT), Preprint No. 74, Moscow 1991.
The theory, which at the time of writing has not been
published outside Russia, is important and fascinating
enough to merit some further details.
In standard theories the energetic properties of the
quantum vacuum are generally considered in the framework
of quantum electrodynamics. This framework gives rise
to elegant and relatively simple mathematics. But such
formulas, though highly sophisticated, can be misleading:
they may not provide the best possible account of physical
reality. Stochastic electro- dynamics, for example,
produces a more "messy" math, but its tenets
about the real world may be closer to realistic assumptions
about the nature of reality. In any case, quantum electrodynamics,
as other scientific theories, can always be reconsidered
The Russian physicists do not hesitate to undertake
this step. They take their cue from earlier work by
Einstein. In a seminal treatment, G.I. Shiphov showed
that in accordance with the Clifford- Einstein program
of the geometrization of spacetime, the vacuum can be
described not only in terms of Riemannian (four- dimensional)
curvature, but also in terms of Cartan torsion. In the
1920s studies carried out by Albert Einstein and E.
Cartan laid the foundation of the theory that became
subsequent known as the ECT (Einstein- Cartan Theory).
The idea stemmed originally from Cartan, who at the
beginning of the century speculated about fields generated
by angular momentum density. This idea was later elaborated
independently by a number of Russian physicists, including
N. Myshkin and V. Belyaev. They claim to have discovered
the natural manifestations of enduring torsion fields.
Presently Akimov and his team consider the quantum
vacuum as a universal torsion wave carrying medium.
The torsion field is said to fill all of space isotropically,
including its matter component. It has a quantal structure
that is unobservable in non- disturbed states. However,
violations of vacuum symmetry and invariance create
different, and in principle observable, states.
The torsion field theory takes a modified form of the
original electron- positron model of the "Dirac-
sea": the vacuum's energy field is viewed as a
system of rotating wave packets of electrons and positrons
(rather than a sea of electron- positron pairs). Where
the wave- packets are mutually embedded, the field is
electrically neutral. If the spins of the embedded packets
have the opposite sign, the system is compensated not
only in charge, but also in classical spin and magnetic
moment. Such a system is said to be a "phyton."
Dense ensembles of phytons are said to approximate a
simplified model of the physical vacuum field.
When the phytons are spin- compensated, their orientation
within the ensemble is arbitrary. But when a charge
q is the source of disturbance, the action produces
a charge polarization of the vacuum, as prescribed by
quantum electrodynamics. When a mass m is the source
of disturbance, the phytons produce symmetrical oscillations
along the axis given by the direction of the disturbance.
The vacuum then enters a state characterized by the
oscillation of the phytons along their longitudinal
spin- polarization; this is interpreted as a gravitational
field (G- field). The gravitational field is thus the
result of vacuum decompensation arising at its point
of polarization — which is an idea that was originally
introduced by Sakharov. Given that the gravitational
field is characterized by longitudinal waves, it cannot
be screened, which is in accordance with observation
and experiment. Hence m- disturbance produces the G-
field, much as q- disturbance produces the electromagnetic
Akimov et al. go further. Following a thesis advanced
by Roger Penrose, they represent the vacuum equations
in the spinor form and thereby obtain a system of nonlinear
spinor equations where two- component spinors represent
the potentials of torsion fields. These equations can
describe charged as well as neutral quantum and classical
particles. They thus allow that the vacuum field is
disturbed not only by charge and mass, but also by classical
spin. In that event the phytons oriented in the same
direction as the spin of the disturbance keep their
orientation. Those opposite to the spin of the source
undergo inversion; then the local region of the vacuum
transits into a state of transverse spin polarization.
This gives the "spin field" (S- field), viewed
as a condensate of fermion pairs.
As a result Akimov et al. view the vacuum as a physical
medium that can assume various polarization states.
Given charge polarization, the vacuum is manifested
as the electromagnetic field. Given matter- polarization,
it is manifested as the gravitational field. And given
spin- polarization, the vacuum manifests as a spin-
field. All fundamental fields known to physics correspond
to specific vacuum polarization- states.
Thus the above "torsion- field theory of the physical
vacuum" can claim that all objects, from quanta
to galaxies, create vortices in the vacuum. The vortices
created by particles and other material objects are
information carriers, linking physical events quasi-
instantaneously. The group- speed of these "torsion-
waves" is of the order of 10e9 C — one billion
times the speed of light. Since not just physical objects,
also the neurons in our brain create and receive torsion-
waves, not only particles are "informed" of
each other's presence (as in the famous EPR experiments),
also humans can be so informed: our brain, too, is a
vacuum- based "torsion- field transceiver."
This suggests a physical explanation not only of quantum
non- locality, but also of telepathy, remote viewing,
and the other telesomatic effects discussed above.
Torsion waves both superluminal and enduring. Meta-
stable "torsion- phantoms" generated by spin-
torsion interaction can persist even in the absence
of the objects that generated them. The existence of
these phantoms has been confirmed in the experiments
of Vladimir Poponin and his team at the Institute of
Biochemical Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences.(see
P.P.Gariaev, K.V. Grigor'ev, A.A. Vasil'ev, V.P. Poponin
and V.A. Shcheglov, "Investigation of the fluctuation
dynamics of DNA solutions by laser correlation spectro-
scopy," in Bulletin of the Lebedev Physics Institute
No. 11- 12, 1999, pp. 23- 30; V.P. Poponin, "Modeling
of NLE dynamics in one dimensional anharmonic FPU- lattice",
Physics Letters A .)
Poponin, who has since repeated the experiment at the
Heartmath Institute in the US, placed a sample of a
DNA molecule into a temperature controlled chamber and
subjected it to a laser beam. He found that the electromagnetic
field around the chamber exhibits a specific structure,
more or less as expected. But he also found that this
structure persists long after the DNA itself has been
removed from the laser- irradiated chamber: the DNA's
imprint in the field continues to be present when the
DNA is no longer there. Poponin and his collaborators
conclude that the experiment shows that a new field
structure has been triggered from the physical vacuum.
This field is extremely sensitive; it can be excited
by a range of energies close to zero. The phantom effect
is a manifestation, they claim, of a hitherto overlooked
Theories such as those we have cited here foreshadow
a major leap in the scientific world picture: the physical
foundations of the universe acquire an active role in
all its functions and processes. Life, and even mind,
is a manifestation of the constant if subtle interaction
of the wave- packets classically known as "matter"
with the underlying physically real zero- point vacuum
If the emerging world picture is to be completed,
we must evolve an explicit hypothesis to describe the
basic dynamics of the overall range of matter- vacuum
interaction. In this writer's "quantum- vacuum
interaction (QVI) hypothesis," the non- classical
energy field of the vacuum (consisting of scalar as
well as electromagnetic wave propagations) registers
the spacetime behavior and evolution of matter- energy
systems in the form of interfering wavefronts. The conserved
interference patterns form a holographic information
field accessible to systems with a stereodynamic pattern
isomorphic to the systems that produced the patterns.
The applicable process can be described as forward and
reverse Fourier (more exactly, Gabor) transforms. Hence
matter- energy systems ranging from quanta to complex
atomic, molecular, cellular and multicellular structures,
including human brains, decode ("read out")
the information they and analogous systems have encoded
("read into") the field. Given that wavefronts
superpose in multiple dimensions, the ZPF of the vacuum
acts as an information- conserving and transmitting
universal holofield, intercon- necting systems with
each other, as well as with their subsidiary systems
(internal parts) and suprasystems (external environments).
The astonishing psi- phenomena that come to light in
controlled experiments, and the equally astonishing
findings of expert psychotherapists cannot be dismissed
as mere chimera, figments of a fertile but undisciplined
imagination. The findings are part and parcel of the
manifestation of human consciousness: an entity whose
subconscious domains extend far beyond the confines
of the subject's brain and organism.
The findings may be real, yet their acceptance hinges
critically on disco- vering ways to connect them with
the received frameworks of knowledge. As long as there
is no conceivable tie between an anomaly and the basic
paradigm that frames knowledge in the pertinent field,
the anomaly will remain just that: a paradoxical, uncomprehended
item, relegated to the back shelf of the science establishment.
Recognition of a conceivable tie could, however, make
for a significant difference — it could open up
feasible avenues of conceptual analysis, theory- formulation,
and experimental testing. For that reason likely hypotheses
of brain- brain and brain- universe (or, in an alternative
terminology, consciousness- consciousness, and consciousness-
world) interaction need to be seriously scrutinized,
for intrinsic meaningfulness, consistency with observations,
as well as mesh with the currently known frameworks
In the here discussed case the scientific validation
of the findings would have an additional bonus. Not
only would it introduce greater coherence into our world
picture — binding together the hitherto anomalous
findings of consciousness research with our knowledge
of the physical world — it would also introduce
greater coherence into human affairs. As thoughtful
observers have frequently remarked, many of our current
ills are due to the sense of separateness and lack of
empathy we experience vis- à- vis our fellow
humans and the nonhuman realms of nature (in modern
societies, as Woody Allen quipped, "nature and
I are two"). The scientist's recognition that we
do have deeper ties to each other and to the natural
environment could make a significant impact on the media,
and therewith on the dominant attitudes of the public.
T.S. Eliot asked, "What are the roots that clutch,
what branches grow out of this stony rubbish? Son of
man you cannot say, or guess, for you know only a heap
of broken images..." Perhaps, the exploration of
our subtle ties with each other and with nature could
enable us to know more than a heap of broken images.
It could help us to recognize Bateson's "pattern
that connects": the subtle connecting pattern present
in the cosmos and in the biosphere — and likewise
in our brain and consciousness.