From  the book  “PROOF  OF  GOD”


Parts  of  some  chapters  -  Keith Hunt


This is ALL going pretty well, I thought to myself as I headed back toward the Haisches, relying on my iPhone, as usual, to navigate me through Redwood City's confusingly loopy and roundabout suburban streets. In our first in-person encounter, Bernie and I had seemed to be pretty much constantly finishing each other's sentences. That was good news. The other good news was that I had decided on the first of my Keys. It emerged naturally from what Bernie had had to say about the apparent reality of the physical world, and the truth that lay beneath it:

The physical world is not real. It is not substantive. It feels that way, and it looks that way, but it isn't. There's nothing in it, because there's no such thing as solid matter.

Once I got back to the house, Bernie and I sat down for our second talk of the day. Bernie instantly shot down all my optimistic feelings about how things were going by launching, seemingly out of nowhere, into a speech about the extraordinary . advances that were being made in virtual reality machines.

"The virtual reality games available today," Bernie told me, "are truly amazing in comparison to the primitive, Mario Bros — type games of the early eighties. Nowadays games and films using computer-generated images are strikingly realistic. Soon," he said, "there are going to be suits you step into that will take you to faraway worlds that will appear every bit as real as this one. Actually a lot of early models of these suits exist already, and it's incredibly exciting how well they work. Give it a few more years, and there's no telling how advanced the technology will get."

"Okay," I said, wondering how to negotiate this apparent interruption of craziness into what had looked like it was going to be a totally smooth process, "I get that you're excited about all this computer simulation stuff, and I'm sure it's very interesting, but I'm not sure what it has to do with our subject. I mean, what's the reality of God got to do with some guy getting into a suit and pretending he's climbing Mount Everest when he's just in some little white room?"

Bernie thought for a moment. I wasn't sure if he was trying to figure out what to say to put me at ease, or if he was just preparing to rail on some more about how great today's computer simulation technology was.

"The reason," he finally said, "that I'm so interested in the advances that virtual reality technology is making is because I see it as a model for how God created this universe."

"You mean," I said, half relieved and half still on my guard, "you see our universe as some kind of giant video game?"

"That's simplifying quite a bit, but yes. Basically, I believe that everything we see around us right now is a simulation. Entanglement, Einstein's spooky action at a distance—these seemingly unsolvable quantum problems are problems no longer, if you simply follow the lead given by today's computer technology and see the universe as a giant program."

"Entanglement" and "spooky action at a distance" (the latter is simply Einstein's term for the phenomenon) were references to a discovery, first intuited by Einstein (who didn't like it and hoped it wasn't true), and later codified in a theory by the physicist John Bell. The theory states that our universe is non-local in nature. This has been interpreted to mean that space as distance or separation does not, on a subatomic level, exist. In the 1960s, Bell hypothesized an experiment involving two paired particles (you might call them brother and sister particles) that were linked in such a way that when one was made to move in a certain way, the other particle would react immediately, mirroring its sibling's actions with no time lag whatsoever. If, Bell said, you took a brother and a sister particle and placed them at opposite ends of the universe, and made one of the particles spin in a certain direction, its partner over at the other end of the universe would instantly mirror its sibling's actions. In other words, these two particles would be in instantaneous communication, with absolutely no time whatsoever elapsing between the movement of the one particle and that of its sibling no matter what the distance of separation. Bell's Theorem, which laid out the specifics of his theory in the mathematical language used by physicists to describe the invisible realities they explore, appeared in 1964. It was widely disregarded until 1997, when an experiment was performed at the University of Geneva in which two photons seven miles apart were shown to react instantaneously to each other. Seven miles is not that big a distance, but it is big enough to demonstrate that, no matter how anyone felt about it, space was, in fact, at some level an illusion, just as Einstein had feared. The physicist Henry Stapp, a student of Heisenberg's, called the Bell's Theorem validation the single most profound discovery in the history of science. "This," said Bernie, "would seem to violate the laws of special relativity . . . and majorly!"

"Well," I said, "I'm willing to follow you on this, of course, but I have to interrupt with the usual problem. I don't understand how computer programs work. Not a clue. And maybe you could make it clear how Bell's discovery relates to this excitement of yours about them."

"You don't need to have much understanding of how computer programming works. All you really have to understand is the basic nature of digital reality, and the basic nature of digital reality is that it is generated —that is, it's created. It's not real, in and of itself. It appears real, at a certain level, but it isn't. It's constructed, using a certain set of rules.

"And in a computer program, space is simply not an issue. If the universe is a big computer simulation, every part is connected to every other part instantly. There is no actual separation in a computer simulation, just apparent separation. That is, it looks like separation if you're in the program, as we are, but if you're outside the program, as God is, then distance simply isn't an issue. Nor, for that matter, is time. If we see the universe as a giant computer program, we can understand how it is that certain atomic events, like a radioactive atom emitting an electron very precisely, again and again, over a certain period of time, can happen. The proton or neutron doesn't know when to leave the radioactive atom. But it doesn't need to, because the event is programmed to happen.

"But to get back to actually imagining how our world is very much like a giant computer-generated illusion, take a film like Avatar. The scenery in that film looks wonderfully, impressively real and organic. Yet every inch of it represents thousands of bits of computer code, translated using enormously complex sets of algorithms into a series of colored dots that come together to imitate what we experience as reality. But of course, the reality of a scene in Avatar is numbers and code, nothing else.

"Now, how did that code come together to produce this illusion? It's thanks to the work of hundreds upon hundreds of people, devoting their intelligence and skills to this single project of fooling your eye into seeing something that isn't there. So ultimately, though virtual realities can seem incredibly real, if you go back far enough, you will eventually find something, or some One, who has constructed this artificial reality, and who is real."

"Okay," I said, "so you and I are sitting, right now, in a digital office, with digital books on the digital shelves, and stacks of digital papers about to fall off that digital desk over there. And I'm seeing that digital stack of about-to-collapse papers using digital eyes, set in a digital skull, that is part of my digital body?"

"Oops," Bernie said, quickly glancing over his shoulder.

"Just kidding about the stack of papers," I said.

"Yes," said Bernie, "In conventional computing systems, all information is stored using a binary system—that is, a system of two numbers: one and zero. Everything in the computer world, ultimately, goes back to those two numbers. It turns out that the simple binary of ‘one’ and ‘zero’ is so good at preserving information that it's just a matter of time before we will be able to capture and replicate the entire surface of the earth and everything on it just by using ones and zeros. A hundred years ago no one would have imagined this. Even fifty years ago, the computer power used in the manned Apollo moon missions was about a million times less than one of today's smartphones. We are rushing toward a world of simulation that will be truly staggering by any measure. And the more staggering it is, the clearer it will be that God may use similar techniques to construct the virtual world we are living in right now."

"Back in Nyack," I said, "there's a record shop that just opened—something I'd never have expected would happen just a year or two ago. Young people are going back to vinyl records because there's that natural sound to them, that warmth, as everyone says, that digital will never be able to replicate, because when you get down to it, CDs are composed, like computer programs, of ones and zeroes, so there's a certain essential smoothness to recorded music that digital is always going to miss.

"But what you're telling me—and I must say, it feels kind of weird—is that nature, the whole outside world around us, is more like a CD than a vinyl record. Nature, in short, is digital. When you get down small enough, everything in our world is composed of discrete little ‘bits’ like the dots in a newspaper photograph. Nature, if you go down small enough, is not smooth and slippery. It's composed of tiny little building blocks that are absolutely discrete."

"That's right," he said.

"So you could say that, essentially, the ultimate building blocks of nature, of matter, of the whole world around us, are discrete 'bits' of information, or ‘quanta’ [the plural of ‘quantum’], that are not all that different, in the way they work, from the individual bits of information that go into a CD or a computer program."

"Yes," said Bernie. "That's all correct……..


WITH THE WORD "consciousness" introduced into the conversation, I suddenly realized why our morning talk had got me thinking about my days at Guideposts, with our modern world's obsession with fame, and with that feeling of fleeting reality that I believed so many people in the modern world suffered from. I also realized that with it, we had stepped to the very center of what our discussions had been moving toward from the very beginning.

"Consciousness" is a notoriously hard word to define, but one simple—and accurate—way to do so is to substitute another word for it: thought. The word "thought" took on new significance when the seventeenth-century philosopher and scientist Rene Descartes used it in what is perhaps the single most famous philosophical statement in history.

This sentence, Cogito ergo sum, is usually translated as "I think, therefore I am." It's one that most people remember from school no matter how little contact with Philosophy classes they may have had.

Though Descartes first formulated this sentence in Latin, he introduced it to the world in 1644 in his native French asje pense, done je suis. But whatever language this sentence is spoken in, its meaning remains clear: the fact that we think is evidence—incontrovertible evidence—that we exist.

Thinking, said Descartes, is the one and only thing, in a world where we must greet everything we see with doubt and a demand for proof, that does not require proof. It does not require proof because it is self-evident. No one can doubt that he or she thinks—that he or she is conscious. This is, said Descartes, the one unqualified truth that we can know—the one fact that is evident without any need of experiment.

But a closer look at Descartes's famous declaration reveals another message: to arrive at truth, we must separate our minds from everything else in the universe.

Descartes, in short, is the father of our distinctly modern way of looking at the world: as a collection of material objects that we can isolate, measure, perform experiments on, and just generally treat as separate objects; objects having nothing to do with the thinking, watching, manipulating selves that are performing all these experiments.

For Descartes, the division between the out there world of objects and the in here world of thought was firm. This division in essence launched modern science, for it freed scientists to measure, weigh, kill, dissect, experiment on, and just basically do whatever it wanted to the world and all the things, be they living or dead, within it.

In the world before Descartes, objects could be loaded down with all kinds of invisible yet real qualities. A holy relic preserved in a church was holy not just because it had, at some point in the past, been associated with a sacred event. That holiness lived, as a very real power, within that object itself.

Not so after Descartes. By dividing the world into "inner" and "outer," he robbed the outer world not just of its holiness, but of all qualities, from large to small.

Before Descartes came along, the world was full of qualities. After Descartes, all those qualities were swept away as mere illusion. If a particular spot—a section of woods, say—held a certain kind of magic that all who went there could feel, people understood it as special. After Descartes, there was nothing real about this so-called magic. The leaves on the trees were real. The earth those trees grew out of was real. But all moods and atmospheres, all beauty, anything at all that failed the test of being physically analyzable, was proclaimed unreal. This even extended to color, which Descartes proclaimed was a creation of enough, created. At the end of the day, as they say, the virtual world—its rules, the algorithms thanks to which it is able to run—cannot be created by anything that lives within that same virtual domain. It must be created by something, or Someone, which is outside it and above it.

"Consciousness is, to use your analogy about music, the one true ‘analog’ phenomenon in the universe. Nothing else is genuinely fluid, nothing else is able to transcend the virtual nature of everything else in the universe. There is, in fact, nothing else in the world that truly exists. Everything real is consciousness."

And with that, I realized, I had my second Key:

Consciousness is the only reality in our universe. Matter, energy, space ... All these things are only simulations, generated by God using the sole and single "thing" in this universe that actually exists. The world of objects we move through is not conscious, but we are. And because we are conscious, we are real.

Emerging from that second talk with Bernie into the overwhelming normalcy of Bernie and Marsha's house, with the sounds of yet another singing lesson going on upstairs, I marveled at the way these talks had of pulling me into another frame of mind……….



As Above So Below

“I’VE BEEN thinking about it,” I said to Bernie the next morning, after we'd set ourselves up in his study and I'd turned my phone on, "and I can see why you're so cautious about people writing about this Higgs and Zero Point Field stuff. When you were talking about them, I realized that both fields reminded me of something. I tried to think of what that 'something' was, and then it came to me. They reminded me of the Force in the original Star Wars.

"I'd just turned fifteen when the original Star Wars came out in the summer of 1977, so was basically the perfect target for the film, and for all the mythical and religious imagery and ideas concealed in it. For me, and obviously for millions of other people, that idea of the Force was instantly appealing. George Lucas didn't have to spend much dialogue in the movie getting across what he was talking about, because people just instantly picked up on it. An invisible, universal field that records and unifies everything, everywhere. A force that's all-pervasive, that's sensitive to your thoughts and actions, that records every activity ... who knows, maybe even your thoughts."

"Well," said Bernie, "I'm more of a Star Trek man myself, but I see your point."

"Star Trek." I said. "I could never get with Star Trek myself. Spock's too logical."

"Logic is important!" Bernie said.

"Yeah, I know," I said. "But anyhow, whether you're a Star Trek or a Star Wars man, it just seems to me that that notion of the Force was an incredibly powerful idea. It's one that our minds just say 'Yes' to so immediately that you can't help but wonder if there's a reason for that. By introducing that idea of the Force, Star Wars allowed millions of people living in what they thought was a post-religious world to feel, once again, a very potent religious feeling: that they were immersed in an invisible world of some sort, one that they'd known was there all along, and had secretly felt all along, but had just forgotten about on a conscious level. It's an incredibly powerful idea, but it's also, I think, the kind of idea that an awful lot of nonsense could be written about very quickly."

"A lot of nonsense has been written about it," said Bernie. "If ever there was a place where Mr. Spock's logical mind is needed, it's in the world of books on the Zero Point Field., And, I'm sorry to say, I've played a part in that, as I've been interviewed by authors who took what I had to say and then twisted it to suit their purposes."

Bernie then, as was his habit, reached behind him and produced one of these books. He was all for my mentioning it by name, but I said that in my experience, calling specific people out didn't really get one anywhere.

"I think it might be best just to sort of turn the other cheek," I said. Then for good measure, I regaled him with several grievances that I'd suffered as a writer, getting ever more worked up as I did so.

"Anyhow," Bernie said, pulling me back on course, "it's a shame that this material gets cheapened like that, because this material is so interesting just as it is, there's no need to overstate any of it. You get pop science or pop spirituality authors writing about it so much that eventually it becomes associated with flaky thinking, with phony science. The Zero Point Field is very precisely, rigorously, and mathematically defined in physics. And its chief characteristic is that it is totally random. All those particles popping into and out of existence do so in a completely wild, chaotic manner. By definition you cannot convey information with them. Most of the new age, fuzzy-wuzzy theories about the Zero Point Field use the extraordinary fact that it's present everywhere to turn it, basically, into, as you say, a kind of equivalent of George Lucas's idea of the Force. The Zero Point Field is an extraordinary phenomenon, but a phenomenon is all it is. It's a part of this world. And as we've covered again and again, God is not part of this world. He's above, apart from it, even if in another sense he's deeply immanent in it. Again, if God were just another part of the world, instead of a being categorically above and beyond it, he wouldn't be God."

"Sure," I said. "That's standard theology. Or as you would put it: he created the program, so He's not part of it. God is not a thing-among-things. Not even if that 'thing' is something as crazy and fascinating as the Zero Point Field."

"Right," Bernie said. "But the problem is that when a scientific idea gets popular, it can actually turn out badly for the idea. Crazy as it may sound, if a new scientific idea takes on too much cache in the media, especially the world of fringy writing that tries to slap science and spirituality together in too quick and easy a fashion, the idea can get. . . tainted. Serious researchers get scared to touch it. The subject acquires a stigma, and before you know it, the grant money dries up, the solid research stops, and you don't learn anything more about it. By being so interesting, the subject sinks itself."

"That's ridiculous," I said. "Grant money for an idea shouldn't dry up just because a subject is interesting, for God's sake."

"I couldn't agree more," Bernie said. "But you see, the public images that come from the descriptions and names applied to new scientific discoveries have important ramifications. Look at the Higgs Boson. A boson is a kind of particle, named after an Indian physicist named Satyendra Bose. There are two basic classes of particles: bosons and fermions. All particles can be classified as one or the other of them. So the Higgs Boson is just a particular kind of particle that Higgs and his associates suggested existed. Whether it does exist or not, the excitement around its possible existence has earned it its nickname, the ‘God Particle.’ And that's a terrible name."

"Right," I said. "Because as soon as you give something a name like that, you not only cheapen the discovery by sensationalizing it, you also do God a disservice by demoting Him down to the physical realm, which is as good as throwing Him in the trash altogether. Traditionally, God is thought to transcend the physical realm completely, but the physical realm reflects His glory all the same. And that means that the more we learn about the world, the more we learn about God, because the world is His handiwork, right? Not that this is a perspective the average scientist would share, I imagine.

"All of this also makes me think of the ancient Greco-Egyptian document known as the Emerald Tablet, where it says: ‘As above, so below.’ What those words have always meant to me is that while spiritual realities might not, for most of us at least, be directly perceptible, we can gain hints of what the spiritual worlds are like by paying attention to what this world is like. But that doesn't mean the two are the same."

I didn't mention this to Bernie at the time, but all of this, it seemed to me, was also illustrated in the way the word "light" appears in the Bible. In the New Testament, especially in the Gospel of John, the state of consciousness Jesus advocates and identifies himself with is constantly compared to light. But the "light" the Prologue to the Gospel of John talks about is clearly not ordinary light—not the light made up of photons that the sun bathes our planet with every day. It's a higher light. It's the light God speaks of on the first day of creation when he says: "Let there be light." As is often pointed out, Genesis describes God creating the sun and moon on the fourth day of creation, so the "light" the Bible is talking about on that first day of creation clearly cannot be ordinary physical light. It is, more likely, the same light-that-is-not-light that the Gospel of John talks about when it says:

"In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."

(Later, when I brought this up with Bernie, he pointed out that in the Haggadah, a collection of legends from the tradition of Jewish Kabbalah, it is specifically written: "The light created at the very beginning is not the same as the light emitted by the Sun, the Moon, and stars.")

"As above, so below" I said again to Bernie. "The important thing to remember in discussing the Zero Point Field, it seems to me, is that it can appear to have God-like properties, but that doesn't make it divine. God is God, the physical world is the physical world. But just as humans, being made in God's image, have qualities that can tell us what God is like, so the physical properties of the Zero Point Field have properties that can tell us what God is like as well."

"That also goes," said Bernie, "for what we were talking about the day before yesterday, when I talked about how mathematics 'fits' this universe. You can come up with some extremely abstract mathematical theory, and then later discover that, my God, this fits the laws governing quasars, or galaxy formation."

"So what's the single most important lesson that someone like me, a layman, as they used to say, can learn from this fact that mathematics 'fits' this universe?"

"The lesson," said Bernie, "that we were discussing the other day. That you cannot look at the world around you and take anything for granted, take anything as just 'being there,' with no further discussion of it. Any law of physics that exists has to have come from somewhere. You can't just say, 'Oh, it's a law. It has to be that way.' No it doesn't! When the universe came into being with the Big Bang, some fourteen billion years ago, all kinds of laws were already in place, and the universe went about organizing itself according to those laws. But where did those laws come from? The materialistically based scientists who believe in the Big Bang have no trouble accepting that these laws existed. They have to, because without a law, physical matter doesn't know what to do with itself. Indeed, without a plethora of laws, it can't exist to begin with.

“Any law of physics that exists has to have come from somewhere.

"But the important thing is that a lot of those laws didn't have to be 'set' at exactly the setting they have. In principle— and everyone agrees on this—they could have been set any old way at all. If any of the laws that were in place when our universe came into being—any single one of them at all—were set differently, then our universe would either be profoundly different from the way it is, or it wouldn't exist at all, because the Big Bang would have been nothing more than a big blip, with the universe coming into being, and popping back out of it, instantly.

"Imagine the universe is like an oven. The knobs could be turned up to high, down to low, or anywhere in between. But the thing about our universe is that the settings for at least half a dozen constants were tuned so finely that the precision of it boggles the imagination.

"Take," Bernie continued, "the gravitational constant, the 'setting' that gravity is set at. Gravity, as you know, is yet another of those many aspects of our life that we largely take for granted. We are all so used to gravity that we tend not to give it much thought, but that's just because were used to it. After all, its been around as long as we have, so it's easy to ignore it—as people in fact did for thousands of years before Newton drew our attention to its existence.

"Why does the earth attract objects to itself, so that if you climb a ladder and step off, you risk breaking your leg? Because, of course, of the force of gravity. But gravity does not need to be set at the specific setting it is in fact set at. It could be stronger (you'd break both legs falling off that ladder, and have a harder time climbing up it as well), or weaker (once you got to the top of that ladder, you could step off and drift slowly back down to earth). We understand how gravity is stronger or Weaker on different planets, because of the different size of those planets. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about a 'setting' that takes place before all that—a setting that defines exactly how strong the force of gravity is going to be that precedes the coming into existence of matter itself. A setting that was set at the very dawn of the universe.

"So . . . the common assumption is that the gravitational force just is what it is, and that's the end of it. It could have been no different. But this is far from the case. Gravity in our universe has been set at a certain strength, and it has been set very precisely. We use mathematics to understand how God created the cosmos, because mathematics is the language this cosmos speaks. So if you want to understand God in our universe, you need to understand mathematics, because God is one hell of a mathematician."

"We use mathematics to understand how God created the cosmos, because mathematics is the language this cosmos speaks."