Quantum mechanics, reality, and magic mushrooms
Does knowing quantum mechanics help you understand reality as much as magic mushrooms do? This is a fun question. But it has a serious side, a side that can be summarized by the word “understand.” What do you understand? What do we understand? What is our knowledge? Our wisdom? And conversely, what is lacking in our understanding?
Magic in the Quantum
Quantum mechanics (QM) and psilocybin mushrooms (PM) are both challenging. Not many people would dare say, “I totally understand quantum mechanics!” or “Psilocybin mushrooms journeys are a piece of cake!”
About quantum mechanics, I remember watching a YouTube video of Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate in physics, who said of a quantum phenomenon, “But what does it mean?”
I’m sure many of us have said something similar during or after a magic mushroom trip—unless we were too dumbstruck.
Nevertheless, I will venture to articulate some lessons we can glean from both QM and PM. And just for fun, at the end of the essay, we can each vote on which one teaches us more.
Understanding the Difference in Experience
A starting point is to acknowledge that understanding quantum mechanics requires us to operate in ordinary consciousness. QM is our current understanding of how the physical universe works. Nature doesn’t need the theory of quantum mechanics. It does much more than we can ever comprehend in just a teaspoon of dirt.
In contrast, partaking in psilocybin mushrooms is an exercise in non-ordinary consciousness. However, after a PM journey, we return to ordinary consciousness and retain some fraction of what we learned. What fraction? Well, that can vary a lot, depending on the particular journey and person, so we won’t specify a particular number here.
The ground rules, then, for comparing and understanding QM and PM require us to be in ordinary consciousness. Otherwise we’re comparing apples and oranges.
While I have substantial experience with both, I don’t claim to be a leading expert in either QM or PM. I have a Ph.D. in chemical physics, and I have published original research applying QM to solve a variety of problems. I also am experienced with PM, and I have practiced meditation for many years, which has enhanced some of my abilities to appreciate the PM experience.
There are various schools of thought regarding the interpretation of quantum mechanics. It’s a huge subject with lots of points of view, and oodles of intriguing YouTube videos. I’ll provide a few salient observations here.
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