The World of Niels Bohr

24 April 2018 / av pf-admin

Part 1 is based on a lecture held in Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland, Friday 31st of July 2015.

Part 2 is based on a workgroup on quantum physics worldview, which took place on the same day.

Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it. (1) Niels Bohr (1885-1962)

1: The challenges of the quantum theory

"He is suffering from thinking"

Everyone has heard the name Niels Bohr. And everyone knows that he was one of the greatest physicists in modern times, and one of the founders of quantum theory (QT). But commonly that is also the limit of our knowledge. It is not everyman’s business to say what novel insights about the world we gain from the quantum theory. Does it change our worldview? If so, then how? It’s no wonder that people are confused about it, because even Bohr pondered upon the same question. And this question kept him awake through many nights with intense discussions. But on one thing he was certain: whatever quantum physics has to say about our reality, it is definitely shocking news. Bohr put it this way: Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it.

This statement provides reason for some afterthought, especially when we see how many physicists today who consider it to be a professional virtue not to be shocked. They relate pragmatically to the new physics, and find that it works on the practical level. Insights gained from quantum physics (QP) have given rise to a variety of inventions, ranging from laser-technology and LED-lights to nuclear power and quantum computers. But this does not make the QT less shocking, rather more. Because it means that its paradoxical concepts and insights concern the reality we live in.

Bohr was not alone in developing QP, but he was the undisputed intellectual centre of its development. His closest co-workers were Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976) and Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958). But he also fought long and fruitful battles with opponents, who would not accept the Copenhagen school’s radical interpretation of QT. The two leading opponents were Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961) and – not least – Albert Einstein (1879-1955), who himself had cleared new land with the theory of relativity. We will return to that battle.

But let us first of all say a little about the person Niels Bohr. He was born in Copenhagen in1885, in a family that belonged to the city’s academic elite. His father, Christian Bohr, was a recognized professor of physiology. A close friend of the family was the philosopher Harald Höffding. And the young Niels, who decided to become a physicist, kept his life through an intense joy over philosophical discussions. They could last for hours, and usually over several days.

Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, who himself became one of the pioneers of QP, describes his first encounter with Bohr, which occurred in 1932. Weizsäcker was only 19 years old and in company with his mentor, Werner Heisenberg. On their way home from a Christmas holiday in Norway, they took a break in Copenhagen and went up to Bohr. Once they got through the door, an intense exchange of thoughts began between Heisenberg and Bohr. Weizsäcker says:

Drei Stunden sprachen die beiden über die Philosophie der Quantentheorie. Ich saß schweigend dabei: es war die wohl gedanklich wichtigste Begegnung meines Lebens. Nachher notierte ich in mein Tagebuch: ,,Ich habe zum ersten Mal einen Physiker gesehen. Er leidet am Denken.” (2)

Just as friendly and thoughtful Bohr was in social settings, he was intense and “reckless” in his thinking. A small anecdote, which may illustrate this: Erwin Schrödinger was, as mentioned, one of the opponents of the Copenhagen interpretation of QP. He could not accept the concept of the so-called quantum leaps, which Bohr and Heisenberg had assumed. He wanted to develop a pure wave-theory, which avoided the discontinuous interpretation. Heisenberg has portrayed a confrontation that took place in 1926:

The discussion between Bohr and Schrödinger began already at the railway station in Copenhagen and were continued each day form early morning until late at night. Schrödinger stayed in Bohr’s house and so for this reason alone there could hardly be an interruption of the conversations. And although Bohr was otherwise quite considerate and amiable in his dealings with people, he now appeared to me almost as an unrelenting fanatic, who was not prepared to make a single concession to his discussion partner or to tolerate the slightest obscurity. It will hardly be possible to convey the intensity of passion with which the discussion were concluded on both sides, or the deep-rooted convictions which one could perceive equally with Bohr and with Schrödinger in every spoken sentence. […] So the discussion continued for many hours throughout day and night without a consensus being reached. After a couple of days Schrödinger fell ill, perhaps as a result of the enormous strain. He had to stay in bed with a feverish cold. Mrs Bohr nursed him and brought tea and cakes, but Bohr sat on his bedside and spoke earnestly with Schrödinger: ‘But surely you must realize that…’ (3)

Schrödinger finally got up from bed. However, like Einstein, he was never reconciled with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory.

Goethe as a source of inspiration

The philosophers Bohr was mostly inspired by were Socrates and Kierkegaard, as well as the psychologist and philosopher William James. But Bohr also had inherited from his father a lifelong interest in Goethe’s works. (4, p.16) How Goethe is a source of inspiration for Bohr, is beautifully portrayed by one of his colleagues, physicist Jörgen Kalckar, in a Danish book with the poetical title (translated): The incommensurable. Pieces of a musical poem in D-Moll. Basso ostinato: Goethe-themes from the exchange of songs with Niels Bohr.

Kalckar quotes Bohr as follows:

Goethe’s religious feeling […] was woven into and stood in intimate harmony with all the insights in nature that he had learned through tireless studies, and which at least on several occasions were unusual foresighted in relation to his time. (4, p. 126)

According to Kalckar, Bohr could stop, in the middle of their professional discussions, and present a Goethe-quote to illustrate a point. And then he could be captured by this quote, and still retrieve it, as if to explore its deeper meaning. When the working day was over and Kalckar would take goodbye, and go home to his house, Bohr said, “I want to go with you a little bit on the road, just to say something simple.” And while walking on the forest road to Kalckar’s residence, the conversation about what Goethe had said continued. When they arrived at the gate, they stayed long in front of the house, until Kalckar suggested that he could follow Bohr on the way home. Then they went back and forth deeply in Goethe’s mind until darkness fell on, and Bohr’s family came with lanterns, looking for him. (4, p. 17-18)

Now, has this source of inspiration left any traces in Bohr’s own research? Let me mention three examples. The first is Goethe’s insistence on sticking to the phenomena, for example, where he says: seek nothing behind the phenomena; they themselves are the theory. (5) Like Goethe, Bohr was also unwilling to form speculative theories. The shocking character of QT is the experimental findings that were made. It was precisely because Bohr did not want to go “behind the phenomena”, but gave them the last word that the QT became so radical.

The second is Goethe’s concept of the archetypal phenomenon, i.e. a natural phenomenon that, in the form of an irreducible whole, reveals a natural law. An example of this is found in his colour theory, where he states that: The blue of heaven reveals to us the fundamental law of the colour theory. (5) Goethe compares the researchers who do not accept the archetypal phenomenon as the foundation for their understanding, with children who look behind the mirror to find the explanation – or source – of the mirror image.

Bohr likewise treats the principle of complementarity – for example that light reveals itself both as a particle and as a wave – as an archetypal phenomenon. And from 1935, after Bohr had his last major settlement with Einstein, he also began to use the term elementary phenomena or quantum phenomena about that, which he no longer could regard as classic physical objects. The quantum phenomenon must be regarded as an irreducible whole, a fact Bohr explains, inter alia, as follows:

The essential whole of a quantum phenomenon can be logically expressed in the fact that any attempt to analyse it in well-defined sub-phenomena requires a change in the experiment that no longer allows the phenomenon to occur. (6)

Therefore, we cannot go behind the quantum phenomenon (i.e. reduce it to something more fundamental), even if it violates our logic, as in the principle of complementarity. To seek an analytical explanation of the phenomenon, as Einstein was in favour of, would just be “looking behind the mirror”.

In the principle of complementarity, we may see the beginning of a logic, which is exceeding the contradiction principle of classical logic. Bohr articulates the distinction between “normal logic” and the novel one in this way: There are trivial truths and there are deep truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is a falsity. But the opposite of a deep truth, is another deep truth. (7)

The third trace of Goethe inspiration is the emphasis on how all phenomena are connected to one another. The fact that no phenomenon can be seen in isolation, but only understood within its context, was really something “extraordinarily foresighted” by Goethe’s approach. In Studien nach Spinoza (1784/85) he expresses it aphoristically and radically, in this way: All limited objects are in infinity. They are not part of infinity, they rather take part in infinity. (8)

We all agree that your theory is crazy. What we do not agree about is whether it is crazy enough to be true. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough. Niels Bohr to Wolfgang Pauli (pictured) after his presentation of Heisenberg’s and Pauli's nonlinear field theory for elementary particles, at Columbia University (1958).

Similarly, the QT shows us that quantum phenomena like electrons and photons, originating from the same event, can “take part in one another”, potentially over infinite distances. In a state of quantum entanglement, they do not behave as isolated classical objects that can only have local contact. Beyond the limits of time and space, they are still wholes. And generally, elementary particles being in so-called “superposition” (i.e. before we have measured them!) are described as non-local: they are “nowhere and everywhere”. Thus, they are not things (objects) in a classical sense.

If this is not upsetting news, what would upset us?

The quantum shock

The quantum shock must be seen in light of the world-view of classical physics, which it exceeded. (9) At the time when Bohr was born, classical physics – founded by Galileo and Newton, among others – stood at the height of its development. Around 1900 many physicists felt that the great discoveries were all done. Future physicists had no major tasks to look forward to solve, other than filling in the gaps that still existed.

In its most strict version, this world image included the following postulates:

  1. In the physical world, all events are determined; they happen with necessity, based on physical laws. Randomness only refers to our lack of knowledge.
  2. The physical universe is closed; it does not receive impulses from (or emit impulses to) anything outside of it.
  3. The material world is nothing but an accumulation of atoms; the characteristics of all things are due to their causal and lawful interactions.

The great French astronomer, Pierre Simon Laplace (1749-1827), formulated this world image in its most strict version. According to Laplace, all physical events can in principle be calculated, forward and backward. When we throw dice, we say that the outcome is random, that it can only be indicated by a statistical random distribution. If we throw the dice 100 times, we can expect to get around 17 sixes. But what we get the next time we throw is completely random. However, according to Laplace, we could pre-calculate the result exactly each time – if only we knew the initial conditions when the dice were thrown. And a being with insight into the position and movement of all atoms to a certain time would be able to describe in detail the development of the entire universe, from beginning to end. It goes without saying that this deterministic nightmare did not provide any space for free will.

The Greeks knew two gods who ruled over the events of nature: There was Moira (the necessity) and then there was Tyché (the coincidence). By the late 1800s, Moira apparently had conquered all reality. Tyché was only to be found in the dark hideouts that had not yet received the bright light of natural science. But then, surprisingly, Tyché returned strongly on the scene.

One of the basic postulates of QP is that uncertainty is a real phenomenon in nature. There are actually non-causal natural events on the subatomic level, events that can only be calculated with some statistical accuracy. An example here is the rate of radioactive decomposition, for instance of uranium. With a Geiger counter, we can register the particles that a certain amount of uranium emits; we hear each emission as a click. But the time-lap between each click is irregular. When the next click comes cannot be calculated exactly. It can only be stipulated with some statistical accuracy; in this case, it is Tyché and not Moira that has the upper hand.

In classical physics, random events were mentioned as evidence of our lack of knowledge. In Laplace’s deterministic world, they were ultimately anything but random. The Copenhagen interpretation of QT, on the other hand, described indetermination as a characteristic of nature. It was shocking!

Indeed, it was so shocking that Albert Einstein refused to accept it. He said: God does not play dice with the universe! Bohr replied: Einstein, you must stop telling God what to do with his dice!

Steiner versus Bohr

Bohr’s devotion to the spirit of Goethe stretched, as suggested, far beyond his poetry and aphorisms: Niels Bohr resonated deeply with Goethe’s phenomenological approach. As Bohr’s co-worker Werner Heisenberg expressed it:

… the detection of how things are related did not originate for him [Bohr] from a mathematical analysis of the basic assumptions, but from an intensive engagement with the phenomena as such, which made it possible for him intuitively to feel the relations rather than formally derive them. (10)

More than 50 years after Goethe’s death (1832), the national icon’s scientific works were not yet edited and published in a complete edition. The researcher, who received the extensive and honourable assignment, was the young philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), then a student at Vienna’s Technical College. (11) Steiner devoted 15 years to this work (1882-1897), which began three years before Niels Bohr was born. Goethe and his works inspired both Steiner and Bohr. And as we will see, there are indeed more parallels between Niels Bohr and Rudolf Steiner, in their lives as well as in their thinking.

Bohr’s first breakthrough in QT occurs in 1913, when he develops his famous atomic model where the electrons are bound to defined paths – or shells – around the core. The electron cannot be between these shells. And every time an electron changes state from one shell to another, it happens in the form of a so-called quantum leap. There is no floating, continuous movement, like a horse jumping across a stream. The electron is at no moment in the space between the shells! The transition thus happens outside time and space! (6) Again a shocking postulate, breaking with classical physics.

As we recall, it was these quantum leaps that made the genius Erwin Schrödinger ill. So one can only wonder how today’s physicists can be by so good health.

The final breakthrough occurs 12 years later. Bohr’s assistant, Werner Heisenberg, had retreated to the island of Helgoland in the summer of 1925, to work in solitude to find a mathematical formulation of QT. The hours he does not dedicate to his mathematical meditations, he uses to climb the island’s sandstone cliffs and to learn Goethe’s West-östlicher Divan by heart. After 10 days of lonely meditation, cliff-climbing and Goethe, the solution suddenly hits him one night. He described the breakthrough as follows: “It was pretty late at night. Painstakingly I had to figure it out and it worked! Then I climbed to a nearby peak, looked at the sunrise and was happy.” (6)

The central development of QT is thus happening in the 12 years from 1913 to 1925. It coincides with the time from the founding of The Anthroposophical Society until the death of Rudolf Steiner. Apart from this outer biographical coincidence, however, we also find many inner, thematic parallels.

Already in 1907, Steiner announced that the atomism of his time, as designed in classical physics, was in the middle of a breakdown:

The correct basic principle of science, to stand on the basis of the phenomena [facts], will lead science to a crossroad where it will be revealed whether the phenomena confirm the theories or not. And the phenomena do not confirm the theories, but dissolve them into dust like nothing! What has been considered the firmest foundation – the element, the atom – from which one has wanted to explain the spirit and consciousness, it collapses. What we want is certainty, and we can only get it by becoming aware of the spirit in us. (13)

By 1907 few physicists had recognised that crossroad for classical atomism. Yet, less than 20 years later, the collapse of classical atomism was a fact.

As mentioned, around the turn of the century physicists were everything but prepared for a breakdown of the world-view of classical physics, including its atomism. This is evidenced by a number of statements from this time. Physicist Albert Michelson, the United States first Nobel Prize winner in physics (1907), was already in 1894 able to conclude that:

The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote. (13)

The celebrated Lord Kelvin was no less sure. In an address to The British Association for the Advancement of Science (!) in the very year of 1900 he summarized the position of physics like this: There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement. (13)

The only little cloud in the sky seemed to be the phenomenon of black body radiation. We know today that the study of this phenomenon was the starting point for quantum physics (Max Planck, 1899/1900). But that development was not visible until 1913-1925. However, Steiner had formulated his criticism of classical atomism already in 1882, then in 1890 and again in 1896. In his Introduction to Goethe’s natural sciences, for example, he states:

The sensorial worldview is the sum of the content of our ever-changing observations, without an underlying matter. (15)

This was written in 1895! Just a few years later the pioneers of QT would say the same. As did for instance Max Planck:

There is no matter as such. All matter emerges and exists only as a manifestation of powers. (16)

Or, in the words of Heisenberg:

The smallest units of matter are not physical objects in common sense. They are forms, ideas that we can only express precisely in a mathematical language. (6)

If there is anything we can say about QT, it is that it buries the idea of the indivisible, solid, impenetrable, isolated elements that everything is made of – that is, the classical atoms. In fact, we have to be content with what appear as specific and changing phenomena … without an underlying matter.

At least one pioneer of quantum physics, Sir James Jeans, saw the big picture clearly:

Today there is a wide measure of agreement, which on the physical side of science approaches almost to unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. (17)

And finally, Niels Bohr himself, who buries the idea that quantum phenomena inhabit a world of their own, separate from our normal sense-reality:

There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract quantum physical description. […] All we call real is made of things that can not be considered [physically] real. (18)

And Heisenberg elaborates on the Copenhagen School’s position in relation to the so-called scientific materialism, as follows:

The ontology of materialism rested on the illusion that the kind of existence [we live in], the direct “actuality” of the world around us, can be extrapolated down to the atomic level. This extrapolation, however, is impossible.

[…] In the experiments with atomic events, we are dealing with things and facts, with phenomena that are as real as any phenomenon in our daily lives. But the atoms or elementary particles themselves do not have the same reality; they make up a world of forms, of potentials or possibilities rather than one consisting of things or facts. (18)

The latter point is extremely important: Quantum phenomena do not have the same reality as sensible phenomena; they have a different reality, namely a potential one. Here Heisenberg, and the Copenhagen School with him, re-introduces Aristotle’s concept of “the potential existence”. According to Aristotle matter has but this potential existence! Matter can assume many characters. It receives a specific existence only when, and as far as, it is formed as a given sensible object. And quantum physics can now add: It is even formed by our measurements and observations!

The re-discovery of the Aristotelian potential existence is a finding by the pioneers of quantum physics, which is rarely acknowledged. In his own thought-provoking way, Bohr formulated it thus: When we measure something, we are forcing an undetermined, undefined world to assume an experimental value. We are not measuring the world, we are creating it. (20)

And regarding the difference between living and dead matter, Heisenberg remarks:

The living substance is not only and not always a material formation, built of atoms and in accordance with the laws of physics and chemistry (or generally: the laws of quantum physics). It has only (and moreover always) these properties in the experiments, when we investigate its physicochemical behaviour. However, in other cases, the living substance may also be something else, for example an organic whole. As such, it follows the laws of biology. (6)

This is almost like saying, “Every time we open the refrigerator door, the light is on. But as soon as we close the door, the light is off.” To rephrase Bohr: That sounds completely crazy. And maybe it is even crazy enough to be true.

Necessity – Randomness – Freedom  

QP establishes a domain for Tyché (randomness) next to Moira (necessity). Are these the only fundamental causal principles of nature? It is easy to realize that there must be one more principle. For is not even mankind, with our thinking consciousness, a part of nature? To claim the opposite, that thinking is an unnatural or supernatural phenomenon, would in any case be unacceptable to a materialist. But if we now accept thinking as a natural phenomenon, is it then based on the principle of randomness or necessity? The answer becomes absurd no matter which way we turn it. What I’m saying (writing) here can hardly be called random. But is it then the result of the unbreakable laws of nature, triggered by mere physical necessity? Even this would be absurd.

If thoughts, and claims based on thoughts, were the result of neurological processes in the brain, clean causal products and nothing else, any thought would be compulsive. But in that case, the basis for all arguments would be dissolved. If so, there would be no reasons for what we say, only blind causes. But this would also hit the argument that led to that conclusion. Thus, the claim falsifies itself.

So, there must be a third principle beyond randomness and necessity, namely the freedom we find in thinking, and the choice of action that rise out of the motives we find in thinking itself. This was of course the central point in Steiner’s book The Philosophy of Freedom (1894), a work that preceded QP and like it shakes the determinism of scientific materialism. (19)

If The Philosophy of Freedom had been included in our cultural canon, we would have come beyond the stiff dualism between necessity and randomness. We would have come into real dialectic thinking, where these opposites are “elevated” into a higher synthesis:

Bohr was aware that physics gave an incomplete description of reality, and that free will (resp. thinking) was a third factor beyond necessity and randomness:

As we [quantum physicists] see it, the sense of freedom of will is a peculiar feature of the conscious life. Materially, it has its parallel in the organic functions, which are neither available for a mechanistic causal description nor can be described by the statistical laws of quantum physics. (6)

It was not, however, Bohr’s task to write a philosophy of freedom or to establish a new spiritual worldview. His task was to break the cocoon of determinism and atomism, which science (and our culture with it) in the late 1800s had spun itself into. It had to be broken, so that the butterfly – an unbiased and undogmatic science – could unfold its wings. Bohr succeeded in his task. But as a culture, we are still sitting confused in the middle of the broken cocoon, drying our wings.

"Socrates re-enlivened..."

“For the first time, I realized that Bohr was much more sceptical about his own theory than many other physicists, and that the detection of how things are related for him did not originate from a mathematical analysis of the basic assumptions, but from an intensive engagement with the phenomena as such, which made it possible for him intuitively to feel the relations rather than formally derive them.

Thus, originated an insight in nature, and first as the next step, one may succeed in clarifying it in a mathematical form and making it available for the full rational analysis. Bohr was primarily a philosopher, not a physicist; but he knew that in our time, the natural philosophy only has strength when it is in all instances subject to inexhaustible testing by the experiment.”

Werner Heisenberg

Niels Bohr, 1885-1962

“Bohr’s mind-set was essentially dialectical, rather than reflective. Even though, of course, especially in sleepless nights, he spent many hours of lonely consideration, he needed an incentive in the form of a dialogue to speed up his thinking. If there was one at hand, which would express doubt, the dialogue could develop very lively. As soon as Bohr saw the path to objective clarification, he maintained his point of boundless zeal and endurance – not to defeat the opponent, but to make him participate in his own pleasure over solving the difficulties.”

Léon Rosenfeld

Socrates, 470-399 BC

”But the most personal contact we had on the frequent occasions where Bohr invited some of us out to Carlsberg, where we – while we were sipping to the coffee after dinner – sat close to him, some of us literally at his feet on the floor – not to miss a word. Here, I felt, Socrates came to life again. In his gentle way, he threw challenges to us, lifting any argument on a higher level. By doing so, he pulled wisdom out of us, wisdom we did not know was in us (and which it of course was not). Our conversations range from religion to genetics, from politics to art. And when I rode home through the streets of Copenhagen, I felt completely animated by the flaming spirit of the Platonic dialogue.”

Otto Robert Frisch

2: An entangled universe

Quantum entanglement (QE)

Many physicists consider QE to be the most enigmatic phenomenon in quantum physics. And some, like Erwin Schrödinger, regarded it to be the key characteristic of quantum physics: “I would not call it one but rather the characteristic feature of quantum physics.” (13)

The phenomenon occurs when two or more “quantum objects” are correlated with each other beyond time and space and thus act as a whole. A pair of particles originating from the same source may, for example, have a correlated spin. As long as the particles are in the so-called “superposition”, the spin is indefinite, i.e. it can only be calculated with a certain statistical probability. As we force one particle to assume a specific spin, which happens at any measurement, simultaneously the spin of its twin particle is also determined. And this applies regardless of the distance between the particles, whether is 10 cm or 10 light years.

Albert Einstein called this a “ghostly distance effect”, and thought it only showed that quantum physics was “incomplete”. He expected that sooner or later there would be found hidden “local variables” that could explain the phenomenon, so that it was compatible with the laws of classical physics. According to these laws, nothing in the physical universe can move faster than the light, whose speed is about 300,000 km/sec. And this also applies to information, if it is communicated through time and space. Or so we used to think.

The phenomenon of quantum entanglement was theoretically predicted already in 1935, when Erwin Schrödinger introduced the term. Einstein’s objections came the same year, in a thought experiment called the EPR-paradox. (21) As mentioned, Einstein assumed that one would find hidden “local variables” to explain the “ghostly distance effect”. But already in 1964, the Irish physicist John Bell could provide a theoretical proof that no physical theory of local hidden variables could ever reproduce the predictions of quantum mechanics. (21)

What was left was to demonstrate QE experimentally. A series of experiments started in 1972. And in 1982, the so-called Aspect-experiment – using entangled photons – made the final breakthrough. (22) This experiment has been repeated several times. Nicholas Gisin (1998) repeated it for example with a distance of 11 km between the two twin-particles, and later (2004) with a distance of 50 km.

Entangled molecules

These experiments have now convinced most physicists that Einstein was wrong, in this case. Physicist Brian Greene put it this way:

The simplest reading of these data is that Einstein was wrong and that there can actually be amazing, bizarre and “ghostly” quantum connections between things “over here” and things “over there” […] This result is an earthquake. It’s one of the things that should take your breath away! (13)

If these findings do not imply any respirational problems to people (physicists included), it is probably because they regard these “ghostly” connections to regard a “quantum world”, having the same status as “Alice in Wonderland” – a playground for mathematicians, a Hilbert space.

To this, there are at least two things to say: The first is that, as previously mentioned, there is no “quantum world”; the other is that the aforementioned experiments have also been repeated at higher levels and prove to concern our “normal world”. Entanglement has thus been demonstrated for entire atoms (2001, 2004 and later) as well as for organic molecules (2005 and later). (13)

In a review of these experiments, New Scientist wrote in 2004:

Physicists now believe that entanglement between particles exists everywhere, all the time, and have recently found shocking evidence that it affects the wider, “macroscopic” world that we inhabit. (14)

Organic molecules belong to a material level, which at least for certain characteristics, belongs to our “normal world”, i.e. what we can see and sense. However, the series of experiments does not have to stop there. How about entangled brains?

Entangled brains

Imagine the following experiment: Two identical twins, A and B, are placed in separate dark chambers, which are soundproof and electromagnetically shielded. They are asked to think of each other. At uneven intervals, A will be exposed to a sharp light. This light will result in a marked change in the brain waves (EEG) of this twin. After a certain time, this has been repeated several times, there is an EEG pattern that accurately indicates at which time A was exposed to the sharp light. Now, we compare this pattern with the EEG pattern for B, who was not exposed to any light, but whose brainwaves have been recorded simultaneously with A.

Now, is there any possibility – or any reason to expect – that B would have an EEG pattern similar to A, showing the same peaks at the times when A was exposed to the bright light? Not according to the laws we know from classical physics and biology. But if this were the outcome, it would be a parallel, at the organ level, of the experiments with QE.

Well, how long do we have to wait to see this experiment executed? No time whatsoever. Experiments with “entangled brains” have been done dozens of times over the past 40 years. And they work! (13)

Entangled persons

It is no coincidence that A and B in the outlined experiment were identical twins. Although the experiment may also succeed with other people who show great ability to “participate in each other”, it is well-known that identical twins often show amazing abilities in this respect. In his praised classical Entangled Minds (2006), Dean Radin refers a series of observations and experiments made with identical twins, which is confirming this.

Let’s here only refer one such – certainly extreme – case from this research on identical twins, which extensively demonstrates the phenomenon of “entangled persons”: Two twins are separated at birth and grow up separately, in families who do not know each other and have no contact with each other. Both boys are called “Jim” by their adoptive parents. Each Jim marries a woman named Betty. Both get divorced and marry again. The other woman is called Linda, for both. Both Jim 1 and 2 were firefighters. And both built a circular white bench around a tree in their garden. (23)

To explain these phenomena with common genes is of course completely hopeless. There are no Betty-genes and Linda-genes, who could get Jim 1 and 2 to choose wives with the same name. And just as hopeless, it turns out to be to point to the environment that shaped them during their youth. If one knows no other foundation for the development of the personality than inheritance and environment, such cases must be completely incomprehensible.

But these phenomena are challenging even for spiritual world-views, such as the anthroposophical. For example, we may ask, on what level of reality are they operating? As we have seen, they seem to appear on all levels, from the physical, to the ethereal (organic molecules and brains) to the astral and the personal (ego-) level.

Who we marry and what profession we go for, are serious choices in our biography, highly concerning our karma. But could it be someone’s karma to build a white bench around a tree in the garden, or for that matter that one should marry Betty before Linda and not the other way round?

One thing is for sure: quantum physics is still a challenge – for us all.


1) From Werner Heisenberg (1971): Physics and Beyond. New York: Harper and Row. pp. 206.

2) C. F. v. Weizsäcker (1985): Niels Bohr. Phys. B1. 41. Nr. 9.

3) From Jørgen Kalckar (ed.) (1985): Niels Bohr Collected Works. Volume 6, Pages iii-xxvi, 3-495. Foundations of Quantum Physics I (1926–1932). Elsevier.

4) Jørgen Kalckar (1985): Det inkommensurable. Brudstykker af et tonedigt i d-Moll. Basso ostinato: Goethe-temaer fra vekselsange med Niels Bohr. Copenhagen: Rhodos.

5) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre, Chapter 43. (Also in Sprüche in Prosa 165, Maximen und Reflektionen, 488.)

6) From Jos Verhulst (1994): Der Glanz von Kopenhagen. Verlag Freies Geistesleben. Stuttgart.


8) Studie nach Spinoza:  [Alle beschränkte Existenzen sind im Unendlichen, sind aber keine Teile des Unendlichen, sie nehmen vielmehr teil an der Unendlichkeit.]

9) That classical physics was exceeded by quantum physics does not mean that the former was “wrong” but that it was “a limited truth”. And it was quantum physics that showed us its limits – by going beyond them.

10) From Aage Bohr (red.): Niels Bohr: Hans liv og virke fortalt af en kreds af venner og medarbejdere. J. H. Schultz Forlag. Kbh. 1964.

11) After his long-standing work as a Goethe-researcher (1884-1897), Steiner became known as the founder of anthroposophy, with its many social and artistic impulses – such as biodynamic agriculture, organic (“Goethean”) architecture, Waldorf-schools, etc.

12) Rudolf Steiner: Fra GA 56, s.59-61, public lecture in Berlin, 17th of October 1907: Die Naturwissenschaft am Scheidewege.

13) Dean Radin (2006): Entangled Minds. Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality. Paraview Pocket Books. NY.

14) Michael Brooks (2004): The weirdest link:

15) Rudolf Steiner: Einleitungen zu Goethes naturwissenschaftliche Schriften, Kap. XVII: ”Goethe gegen den Atomismus”, GA1, Dornach 1973

16) Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], lecture in Florence, Italy, 1944. (From Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797)

17) Arthur Koestler (1964): The Sleepwalkers. Hutchison. London. (Jf.

18) og

19) Rudolf Steiner (1894/1964): The Philosophy of Freedom. Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.




23) Targ, R. (2004):  Limitless Mind. Novato, CA: New World Library; Playfair, G. L. (2003): Twin Telepathy: The Psychic Connection. London: Vega.

Gi en tilbakemelding

*Må fylles ut korrekt