One of my favourite experiments from the world of quantum science is the double-slit experiment and, amazingly, it seems to confirm what shamans have been telling us for years: that reality really is what we make it.
Firstly, the experiment. Imagine a photographic plate that records when light touches it. A short way in front of this is a board with two vertical slits cut into it. A short way in front of that is a light source. When the light shines through the two slits, the pattern it makes on the photographic plate will comprise several vertical lines of light with darker patches in between. This is because light travels as a wave and, as it passes through the two slits, it is broken up before meeting again on the other side. This is rather like two ripples meeting on a pond. Where the converging waves form a peak, it registers as a light patch on the photographic plate and where the waves form a trough, it registers as a dark patch. So the effect of shining light through two slits is to cause a striped effect on the photographic plate.
Now things get odd. By using a machine capable of shooting only a single photon of light – the smallest unit of light there is; think of it like a bullet – and using it to fire many discrete photons over time, we would expect the photographic plate to register two vertical lines of light. This is because each separate photon can only pass through one single slit before hitting the photographic plate. Over time, some photons will go through both slits and two lines should form on the photographic plate. But that’s not what happens. Instead, the pattern recorded by the photographic plate is the same as when waves of light passed through the slits. That, realised the researchers, is impossible.
Somehow, the single photon of light divides before passing through the slits, making itself into a wave. Except that photons can’t physically divide in this way. Something else is happening. Scientists decided to investigate further and put small sensors just before the slits, trying to find out what happened to the photon. Remarkably, the result was now totally different and the photographic plate registered two lines of light as expected; the photons when observed behaved like normal photons. The implications of this are profound.
To sum up: photons of light act like a wave (which is impossible), unless we try to watch them do it, when they act like normal photons. Again and again the researchers got the same results. And there was no cheating; the photons always knew they were being watched. So what exactly is happening?
Now things get really odd. We know that the photon, in acting like a wave, cannot divide and so it must therefore replicate itself and, effectively, be in two places at once. This turns the photon into a wave. But not if we’re looking at it, in which case the photon can be in only one place and acts like a normal photon. It seems that we can determine whether and where something exists merely through observing it. As Einstein said: how do we even know that the moon exists unless we are looking at it? You can see why this is starting to look a little shamanic; we can determine where the photon exists and the outcome of the experiment purely through our intention: whether we observe it or not. That’s what shamans would tell us: our intention determines the outcome. But there’s more.
Some scientists do not believe that the photon replicates itself when it acts like a wave but that the entire universe replicates itself and there become many slits that a single photon can pass through, leaving the tell-tale wave pattern on the photographic plate beyond. So this experiment – providing we don’t directly observe it happening – shows a continuing process whereby the universe – our reality – consistently and continuously replicates itself into an almost infinite number of possibilities. The double-slit experiment just catches it at it.
That means that every time there is a change in our world (and there must be a finite number of changes but it’s a pretty gargantuan number) the universe replicates and the future will be different in each. But can we determine how it replicates and, in effect, which future we chose to experience? Shamans would say, yes, we can, and this is what they have been telling us for years. We can make our own destiny through our intention or, to use a phrase from the Shuar of South America: the world is how we dream it. Scientifically speaking, what this actually means is deciding which version of the universe you want to move into as it replicates and which you want to leave behind. Despite the double-slit experiment, scientists would be cautious and pronounce this impossible. But is it?
When you decided to read this blog, another you – now in a different universe – decided not to and is now doing something else (maybe that was a sensible move). Over your lifetime, there must be zillions of universes with you living different lives in each. If we return to the example of the photon of light, what is most important is that you didn’t replicate into two on each occasion but that the universe did. That means that you are the same in every single universe where you exist. But where does this leave your consciousness, the bit of you that looks around and believes that what you see is the only reality that exists? Where does that reside?
Perhaps we have only one consciousness but with many parallel lives. The immediate reality around us now swamps our senses until we believe that this is all there is. Maybe that happens in every life we are living. But if we use techniques that expand our usual consciousness – just as shamans do – then maybe we can connect to our other lives and access an almost limitless wellspring of information and knowledge. This may be why some people can predict the future, why some people can remember past lives, why some are telepathic, and others (such as shamans) seem to have access to information they could not possibly know under everyday circumstances. There is no trick; they are merely accessing information from the almost infinite lives they are living in different universes.
We must be careful not to run away with the science (and I am the first to admit that I am fond of doing so) but, as the scientists studying the nature of reality consider stranger and stranger possibilities, perhaps it is time to ask those other masters of reality: the shamans, who may just quietly nod and say, yes, we knew it all along.