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Consciousness Studies and Quantum Mechannics
by Dr. Varanasi Ramabrahmam Bookmark and Share


The limitations and unsuitability of the twentieth century intellectual marvel, the quantum mechanics for the task of unraveling working of human consciousness is critically analyzed. The inbuilt traits of the probabilistic, approximate and imprecise nature of quantum mechanical approach are brought out. The limitations and the unsuitability of using such knowledge for the understanding of precise, correct, finite and definite happenings of activities relating to human consciousness and mind, which are not quantum in nature, are pointed out. Analytical methods interpreting philosophical and Indian spiritual analyses suiting the unraveling of working of human consciousness and mind over the deductive approach of quantum physics and advanced mathematics are highlighted. A model of human consciousness and mental functions is presented taking ideas from the Upanishads and related texts. Comparisons with theological interpretations of Upanishadic insight are dealt with to have an idea of working of human consciousness and mind in relation to spirituality.

Key words: human consciousness and quantum mechanics; theological interpretations of Upanishads and related texts


The study of the human consciousness, mind, their nature, structure and function is generally believed to be a subject matter outside the realm of the disciplines of physics and chemistry (Taylor and Green, 2002). Others feel that the study of human consciousness belongs to the domain of philosophy and psychology and concepts of physics and chemistry are not sufficient enough to explain the nature, structure and function of human consciousness. Such feelings convey that the consciousness of living organisms certainly cannot be described in terms of physics and chemistry, even though the neurophysiologists can describe the working of the single neuron in physicochemical terms.

Scientifically, human consciousness, knowing, perception, reasoning, intellectual abilities, understanding, experience etc., are mental processes of the vertebrate human-being, belonging to Homo sapiens species. Thus human mental processes are biological, involving physicochemical energy transitions and transformations relating to brain, spinal cord and the nervous system (Guyton and Hall, 2004), Blakemore, 1977). Mind, which is an expression and part of consciousness, is an aspect of human body. Mind does all human mental functions which are physiological processes. Thus psychology is physiology. Consciousness and mind are aspects of body.

As visualized by some, consciousness is the collection of millions of neurons and their electrochemical states, even if we have no real knowledge of chemical nature of thoughts and ideas. According to them, we neither have understood completely how living organisms originated and evolved. They feel that we may not be able to define precisely what life is nor whence it came from. All that we can do according to them is to describe the observable phenomena that distinguish living from non-living matter.

Mathematics and modeling by computational activity can explain understanding and consciousness. About 2300 years of philosophy, 100 years of mathematical logic and 50 years of computational intelligence have been trying to understand human consciousness and model its form and function, and still a clear model is eluding scientific community (Perlovsky, 2001-chapters 11and 12). Theorems and other concepts developed by Gödel, Turing, Penrose and Putnam on mind and machine have not been sufficient to model intellect, understanding, experience and other mental processes.

(Perlovsky, 2001) and Penrose (Perlovsky, 2001) sustain that the brain activity responsible for conscious understanding must depend upon a physics that lies beyond computational simulations. Further, we are yet to formulate neural structures of consciousness. “The Physics of spiritual substance” is yet to be proposed and develop. We have also to understand the physics of the nature of free will and the creativity mysteries. We have also to probe and determine whether consciousness is a hitherto not known new physical phenomenon or otherwise. A future direction for this research lies in the path to understand the physical nature of the symbol and emergence of consciousness using many sources including spiritual

Many are also trying to bring in quantum mechanics to unravel the working of human consciousness and mind and various types of approach to understand human consciousness are proposed and discussed. A correlation of these various propositions and discussions will be inherently influencing the studies on human consciousness and mind.

This article deals just with the limitations and unsuitability of quantum mechanical approach in human consciousness studies.

Upanishads, quantum mechanics and Vedanta:

Ancient Indian wisdom as revealed in the Upanishads has a lot to say about human consciousness (Radhakrishnan, 1994, Ramabrahmam, 1997, 2004, 2005a, 2005b, 2007a, 2014, 2016). The expressions of the Upanishads, when translated into the modern scientific terms will benefit the fields of physiological psychology; the natural language comprehension branch of artificial intelligence, and the modeling of human cognition, language communication and understanding processes. In addition the expressions of seers and Vedantins can also be analyzed.

It is the philosophical belief of the physicalists that a phenomenon has to be reduced to its smallest components to achieve a complete explanation. This is generally interpreted as meaning that explanation could be achieved only at the lowest level of organization. This conclusion would be particularly disturbing for biologists, because at the lowest levels of organization such a reduction abandons biology, human consciousness, mind and subtleties of their working and deals exclusively with physical phenomena. This is one limitation of quantum mechanics. However such reduction is not only not necessary but indeed quite impossible in consciousness studies. The support for reduction is in part the result of confusion with the process of analysis (Mayr, 2005).

Analysis is and always will be an important methodology in the study of complex systems. Reduction, on the other hand, is based on invalid assumptions and should be removed from the vocabulary of science (Mayr, 2005). In many processes of biology like consciousness studies, ageing; theoretical physics solely has no role to play. Any physical theory clubbed with chemistry and in finite times with finite velocities only will succeed with phenomena relating to human consciousness and mind. Phenomenon dealing with fundamental particles and energy particles represented by a wave function and probability of happening by integrating in tau space the wave function and its complex conjugate must be suitable in tiny dimensions of space, matter and time which only is the range of quantum mechanical approach.

Quantum mechanics is developed based on axioms and not on proven theorems. Quantum mechanics could not explain spectra of various atoms beyond hydrogen.

Mental conjectures in modern physics and cosmology in terms of time and energy: Worm-holes; black holes; white holes; time travel; twin paradox; time dilation; singularities; real and imaginary components of time; big bang; big crunch etc., is the vocabulary that dominates the discussion of nature of time (Stephen Hawking 1989, 2001), Peter Covency and (Roger Highfield 1991). The quantum cat paradox, Wigner’s friend, parallel universes, the EPR paradox, which deal with quantum mechanics make the understanding of nature of time further confusing than clarifying (Peter Covency and Roger Highfield 1991). These attempts to express the nature of time using advanced mathematics seem more as intellectual exercises and the propositions based on them as mental pictures confined to the realm of happenings concerning the universe or quantum mechanics than explaining physical realities actually present in the universe, especially on planet earth as studies in various disciplines and fields like chemistry and biology.

Broadly speaking, quantum mechanics incorporates four classes of phenomena that classical physics cannot account for: (i) the quantization (discretization) of certain physical quantities, (ii) wave-particle duality, (iii) the uncertainty principle, and (iv) quantum entanglement. These phenomena have no application in consciousness studies as consciousness is the result of breathing process as is envisaged by Upanishadic seers and other theological interpreters and is solely classical in nature in relation to energy transformations and organic nature of matter simultaneously existing in all phase of matter..

Wave functions – probability distributions and Uncertainty Principle: Limitations of quantum mechanics in consciousness studies: Wave functions are functions of both time and space and can change as time progresses. An equation known as the Schrodinger equation describes how wave functions change in space and time, a role similar to Newton’s second law in classical mechanics. The Schrodinger equation, applied to our free particle, predicts that the center of a wave packet will move through space at a constant velocity, like a classical particle with no forces acting on it. However, the wave packets will also spread out as time progresses, and this means that the position becomes more uncertain. This also has the effect of turning position eigen states (which can be thought of infinitely sharp wave packets) into broadened wave packets that are no longer position eigen states. Some wave functions produce probability distributions that are constant in time.

Many systems that are treated dynamically in classical mechanics are described by such “static” wave functions. The time evolution of wave functions is deterministic in the sense that, given a wave function at an initial time, it makes a definite prediction of what the wave function will be at any time. During a measurement, the change of the wave function into another one is not deterministic, but rather unpredictable, i.e., random.

Thus the choice of wave functions – to choose, time dependent or time independent – wave functions will be major obstacle in the application of quantum mechanics as consciousness studies deal with both space and time consciousness. And randomness has no use for the precise working of human consciousness and mind. In relation to working of human consciousness and mind; the energies taking part are not quantized nor the matter involved is neither particle nor have a wave function representation - as electron – and in nature – actually exists simultaneously as solid, liquid, gas and plasma phases – and does not travel with the velocity of light. But in relation to working of human consciousness, mind and related mental functions all the happenings and events are classical i.e., velocities are not equal to velocity of light, the energies transform or change continuously and matter exists in all the four phases simultaneously and neither matter nor energy is dual in nature in these studies and is purely classical in nature.

Classical description is also an important view of nature. Just because quantum ideas have been introduced, gravitational forces did not cease to control movements of heavenly bodies i.e., cosmic bodies like sun, planets and host of such heavy masses. However the classical picture finds a limit in the quantum domain. However scientists do not know what to replace it with. This aspect of Reality, i.e. the classical limit as well as non-immutability of the particle view of nature should be discussed. It is a major issue in Science today. However consciousness cannot be modeled in this way considering the dual nature of matter and or energy.

In reality consciousness is the form of infra sonic energy reflected as brain waves produce by breathing process. (Ramabrahmam, 2016). Under other conditions, the same type of objects exhibit wave-like behavior, such as interference. We can observe only one type of property at a time, never both at the same time. And this suits the classical nature of human mental functions whereas quantum approach has limitations in observing the existence of one of position or momentum or time or energy. Another quantum effect is quantum entanglement. In some cases, the wave function of a system composed of many particles cannot be separated into independent wave functions, one for each particle. In that case, the particles are said to be “entangled”.

If quantum mechanics is correct, entangled particles can display remarkable and counter-intuitive properties. For example, a measurement made on one particle can produce, through the collapse of the total wave function, an instantaneous effect on other particles with which it is entangled, even if they are far apart. The quantum mechanical approach though is successful in describing the motions of fundamental particles and photons, will be of no use while dealing with the macroscopic and microscopic physicochemical changes associated with various types of conscious happenings in the observation of consciousness. And quantum mechanics is successful when clubbed with statistical mechanics in view of large number of material or energy particles.

Human consciousness modeled divorced of biological, species basis will not be truthful. Thus quantum mechanics deals with the motion of fundamental particles and energy quanta, their transmission, absorption and transfer through matter or vacuum. The velocities associated and the sizes of particles/photons are not comparable to the neuron signal transmissions which happen in ionic phase through liquid medium.

Quantum mechanics at present is not in the stage of clubbing these ionic-matters and energy-forms (electro-chemical and mechanical) which are classical rather than “quantal”. It is also not known whether these transmissions are analog or digital. The time-periods and nature of energy transfers or transformations of these happenings are more nearer to classical transformations rather than quantum transformations at the gross level. We all know the energy transformations involving quantum processes are discrete in nature. But neural transmissions are continuous in nature. The probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics thus stems from the act of measurement. This is one of the most difficult aspects of quantum systems to understand.

And quantum mechanics could not explain spectra beyond hydrogen atomic spectrum. Depending on such a method where and when the matter and energies involved are in classical range and the energy transformations are not quantum in nature, the quantum mechanical approach to understand human consciousness has limitations and is unsuitable in the infrasonic, chemical, physical, electrochemical energy reversible transformations which constitute the working of human consciousness and mind (Ramabrahmam, 2007, 2013, 2016).

Upanishadic insisght of consciousness:

The continuous and simultaneous or alternate rise and set of the conscious states or phases of mind is an aspect of psychological time and its flow and quantum ideas have no role to play in these classical processes. Atman (yasya gamanam satatam tat atma) and maya (yaya asantam pasyati sa maya or ya ma sa maya) together constitute and compose of human consciousness and are the ingredients that construct and operate human consciousness and human mental functions)8.

poornam adaha pooram idam
poornat pootnam udachyate
poornasya poornam aadaya

poornam eva avasisshyate

The above Upanishadic expression informs about Atman (adaha or aham) and idam, the inner mental world and mental functions taking place therein. Idam comes out as full from adaha – the full and after this release the adaha remains full. This means adaha or Atman or Brahman is both the instrumental and substantial cause (upaadaana kaarana) for the formation of inner mental world. Atman also gives us dristi or consciousness.

Atman, which moves always, rather oscillates in tune with the breathing process and is the result of it8, is both the source, guide of and absorber of maya, the chit aabhaasa or pranavam, the reflected form of the chit energy. And inner mental world is constructed by maya and associated mental functions are transformations of maya in forward and reverse directions, technically known as vivartanam. “mayaamayam idam jagat” sentence informs this.


The aid of philosophical insights of consciousness and mind and its functions available in eastern and western systems have to be taken as presented in this article In view of its essential nature and features – wave functions, wave-particle duality of matter and energy-dealing with only inorganic phase of matter; and various quantum effects, produced; discussed in this paper, not suiting classical behavior of matter being present in all phases and classical energies - mechanical, chemical, electrochemical, biochemical, transforming continuously, thus classically - dealt with quantum ideas have no role to play in consciousness studies.


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