Fred Alan Wolf (born December 3, 1934) is a theoretical physicist and writer on the subjects of quantum physics, consciousness, and their relationship. His theories about the interrelation of consciousness and quantum physics have been described in a Newsweek editorial as "on the fringes of mainstream science."
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Difficult Questions in Troubling Times
By Dr. Fred Alan Wolf
Many of you in sending me your questions by email seem to keep coming back to the same questions about God, the Mind of God, the Unified Field, and the quantum field. Some of you would hope that I could give a consistent answer or better metaphor to describe such terms as these. I wish I could. I also wish that I could be consistent in my answers to you, however I am not able to do so simply because my views of what these metaphors or answers to these questions may be keeps changing as I learn more and more and think more and more about the meanings of my answers.
I am not alone in the predicament. Even the Buddha and Robert Oppenheimer the physicist-leader of the Manhattan atom bomb project faced this same problem.
One day a wanderer came into the village where the Buddha taught. His name was Vacchagotta. He asked the Enlightened One whether or not there was a soul (Atman). The following was their somewhat brief and one-sided conversation:
VACCHAGOTTA: Venerable Gotama, is there a Soul?
VACCHAGOTTA: Then Venerable One, is there no Soul?
VACCHAGOTTA: (Gets up and goes away.)
Later Ananda, a disciple of the Buddha, appeared and asked the Enlightened One to comment on his previous silence. The Buddha said,
Ananda, when asked by Vacchagotta the Wanderer, “Is there a Soul?”, if I had answered: “There is a soul”, then that would be siding with those recluses and brahmanas who hold to the eternalist theory. And when asked by the wanderer: “Is there no soul?” If I had answered: “There is no soul”, then that would be siding with those recluses and brahmanas who hold to the annihilationist theory.
Again, Ananda, when asked by Vacchagotta: “Is there a soul?”, if I had answered: “There is”, would that be in accordance with my knowledge that all dhammas [ways of inquiry, paths to enlightenment] are without soul? And when asked by the Wanderer, “Is there no soul?”, if I had answered, “There is no soul”, then that would have been a greater confusion to the already confused Vacchagotta [who earlier had inquired into what happens after death and was confused by the Buddha’s answer]. For he would have thought: “Formerly indeed I had a soul, but now I haven’t got one.”
We can compare this legend with one well known from quantum physics. One day a student wandered into the chambers of Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who in the 1940s headed the scientific team that constructed the atomic bomb. As the story goes the student asked Oppenheimer about the existence and movement of the tiny subatomic electron within the confines of the atom, to which Oppenheimer answered,
If we ask, for instance, whether the position of the electron remains the same, we must say “no.” If we ask whether the electron’s position changes with time, we must say “no.” If we ask whether it is in motion, we must say “no.” If we ask whether it is standing still, we must say “no.”
Oppenheimer’s quote and the Buddha’s response to Ananda regarding the soul point to the same thing. For in both Buddhist logic and quantum physics, it is necessary not to hold any fixed opinion but to see things as they are without mental projections—especially when such answers require you to have such mental projections in order to answer them.
I am sure that if I had chosen to simply remain silent to your many questions about God, the Mind of God, and the unified field most of you would have been upset at my silence just as Vacchagotta was. Since I chose to answer these questions as Robert Oppenheimer did, I would be faced with telling you different and seemingly contradictory answers from time to time as I apparently did thus as the Buddha predicted leading to confusion that the Buddha avoided by keeping silent, but I not being as wise as the Venerable One fell into the trap.
So now once and for all I ask your forgiveness if I have led you astray or caused you confusion. Frankly I felt frustrated when I saw that you kept asking me the same questions over and over again. There simply is no consistent answer to such questions regarding God as What is . . .? Enjoy life. It is a mystery.