an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

 Volume 13, Winter 2016/2017, ISSN 1552-5112                                                                                                            



God’s Casino, or Faith in Physics at the Chelsea Hotel



Nick Ruiz

Ryan M. Castle






“There is no universe.”

David Bowie (1947 –2016)


A mathematician/astronomer/minister and philosopher/artist get together for a fireside chat about dark matter, spirituality and faith in physics, art and philosophy. (Part I)


RMC: I don't know where to start about dark matter. I have been reading a lot lately on Jewish and early Christian mysticism so when I start to think about the intersection of theology and physics my mind wanders toward the Polkinghorne book because of the parallels he draws between quantum mechanics (which was his field before abandoning physics and becoming a priest) and theology. But "when push comes to shove" his defense-at-all-costs of the Trinitarian view of things starts to get iffy.


NRIII: We can’t find it! (laughter) Seriously, though the XENON100 dark matter experiment failed to find dark matter, some scientists remain optimistic, arguing that with bigger detectors, there is still much hope that dark matter may be found.[1] Pollkinghorne et al. all seem to approach the ‘argument’ regarding the relationship between science and religion from a proselytizing point of view. That sort of view is rarely indicative of facts, and most often serves to pin down tenets of faith, meaning that nothing is solved or resolved in conclusion regarding a religion vs. science debate. Such argument is not logical, nor scientific – it’s creative and artistic, and there is nothing wrong with it, where it serves a creative experiential context.

One must recognize that science is an entirely different enterprise, which by definition seeks to relieve itself from artistic duties in favor of reproducible facts and experiences; something art-infused endeavor can never be. One’s experience of God and Ganesh, or Led Zeppelin and the Atlantic Ocean, will never be the same as someone else’s experience. In contrast, when a person is infected with say, the Zika virus, scientifically, that infection may be indentified across individuals, continents and cultures – and one’s creative belief or experience regarding such an infection does not change the presence or lack thereof of the virus. Mysticism too, contributes mostly creative energy to such a discussion, no? May there be a mysticism of dark matter? Clearly, many of us would like to know what the universe is per se, and where it is going, and also, where it came from!


RMC: Dark matter is only known to us through the force of gravity. I find it not unreasonable to entertain the thought that our knowledge of physics may simply be incomplete - as is certainly the case when we try to reconcile general relativity with quantum mechanics! It is essentially only through our modeling of galactic dynamics, our assumptions of how objects “should” gravitationally interact with each other on large-scales, that the need for dark matter is forced upon us. But we are arrogant creatures of the universe, so the argument for a modified physics seems to have been firmly given the back-seat (in this case only, it would seem) to the pursuit of some strange new matter to explain our observations. Taking my cue from that nuclear sage Heisenberg, who said: “Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think,”[2] I wonder if your view of mysticism is really all there is to say on the subject? What do we mean by mystical visions, for example, anyway? Some scholars argue that we must distinguish such experiences from, say, hallucinations (which is what I used to attribute them to). For example, it has been argued that hallucinations are delusions in which nothing real corresponds to what is reported. OK. In a vision, however, the quality of the experience often suggests that the “content of the perception is real, a direct, unmediated contact with a non-ordinary aspect of reality that is external and independent of the observer[3].” Spooky action at a distance, anyone? That the net result of much of the writing on the complimentary nature of science and religion by Polkinghorne, et al., often ends up being proselytizing and hand-waving, there is no doubt. His arguments, though, resulting from the humbling and bewildering implications of quantum mechanics, do seem to point to something more, something ‘just beyond’ our comprehension through the internal rational schema that we seem designed to view the world with; I ask, can our finite hominid minds really grasp the infinite? I think Heisenberg really was on to something.


NRIII: It sounds like you’re saying that reality has an unknown component, which is probably a safe bet, in any case. There’s always a ‘just beyond’ what is known. We cannot ‘know’ everything, I think. (laughter)

However, if the immeasurable or the unknown is ‘undetectable’ – here is where a problem lies. 

My intuition tells me that questions regarding dark energy and dark matter, and quantum entanglement, may be related to questions of faith and spirituality, since they seem to share what appears to be an ‘undetectable’ or an observed, but poorly differentiated nature given our instrumentation; and they also appear to be everywhere, if you will. I do not dismiss the idea of mysticism, rather I believe that mysticism is analogous to a leap of faith; that it is a ‘creative’ leap, in the sense that when a person acknowledges the ‘just beyond’ or ‘unknown’ and attempts to engage it – then one is necessarily bound to the idea of its ‘creative’ construction, since what lies ‘just beyond’ is truly unknown, and perhaps immeasurable and/or undetectable. And since we cannot identify the ‘just beyond’ objectively, the only alternative is to identify it subjectively, which is to say, we participate in its creation through intelligent speculation and where possible, experimentation.

I imagine that as an intellectual category, or example, the ‘just beyond’ may function sort of like many categorical examples in particle physics, where we cannot observe an entity, or particle, without affecting it. Or for example, as in Erik Verlinde’s argument that dark matter does not exist. Verlinde suggests instead that dark matter is an illusory side-effect of observed dark energy and the emergent nature of spacetime and gravity, where both spacetime and gravity are actually emergent properties of quantum entanglement within a holographic image that arises out of quantum matter.[4]

In such thinking, our entire universe is simply an incredibly sophisticated image, albeit a very complex one that we, astonishingly, inhabit!

Moreover, entanglement is a necessary condition of such a theoretical holographic framework. Perhaps an engagement with the ‘just beyond’ may involve simply ‘thinking’ about it, and may include other means of engagement such as meditation, prayer, etc. I do wonder how all of these subjects (e.g. dark matter, prayer, dark energy, meditation, etc.) may interact, if at all.

            Scientific experimentation shows that “everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter - adds up to less than 5% of the universe” and even NASA quips, “Come to think of it, maybe it shouldn't be called ‘normal’ matter at all, since it is such a small fraction of the universe.”[5] When we talk about ‘spooky action at a distance’ we’re really talking about quantum entanglement, or the principle of quantum nonlocality. We expect things to work in ways we can understand: microscopically, macroscopically and otherwise – but often, we cannot understand much of what we observe. Research on prayer and mediation is ambiguous, and the same is also true of research on quantum entanglement and nonlocality. Is that because many of the universe’s machinations are hidden in the 95% of dark energy and dark matter, or within the universal holographic schema suggested by some physicists? Why not? Does that correlate with faith and spirituality? Perhaps. But how so? Arguably, we might expect that quantum entanglement would have to function through something, through some sort of material process, no? At the same time, spirituality, faith, psychic phenomena (now commonly referred to collectively as ‘psi’ research) - essentially, all of what heretofore was known as metaphysics, would also have to function through something as well. What if these things share something ‘physical’ in common? Something to do with dark energy and dark matter, quantum entanglement and nonlocality?

            This is not unfamiliar territory, but it is controversial: physicist Wolfgang Pauli and psychologist Carl Jung covered this ground in the 1930s through the 1950s, and referring to the phenomenon of material, psychological or even spiritual relatedness and coincidence, Jung used the term synchronicity to describe the phenomenon, conceptualizing with Pauli that it functioned through a quantum field of some kind. Perhaps we are better placed now to ask similar questions, given new data and understanding. Charlene Burns discusses some of what was at stake in Pauli and Jung’s work in an article from 2011:


Jung and Pauli were convinced that synchronistic events reveal an underlying unity of mind and matter, subjective and objective realities. Synchronicity was (and continues to be) a prime target for criticism of Jung that for decades bordered on outright dismissal by many in the scientific and academic communities. For example, historian of science Suzanne Gieser writes that she finds Pauli’s interest in Jung “unusual” because “most of those with an academic or scientific background dismiss Jung totally.”  Following Pauli’s death in 1958, Pauli’s wife actively opposed including any of his correspondence with Jung in the collections of his papers.  The chairman of CERN’s Pauli Committee recently wrote that, “inclusion of letters dealing mainly with psychology … was much debated by the committee.” In the end, they did decide to publish the correspondence, explaining that, “it is of no importance what we think of Jung and his psychology. The important thing is that Pauli was a convinced adherent of Jung’s teachings.” A brief look at the evolution and content of the decades-long correspondence between these two men will reveal the possibilities and problems inherent in efforts of even the most brilliant of specialists to transcend disciplinary limitations.[6]


Interestingly, Burns too, like you, includes a quote from Heisenberg at the front of her essay!: “The same organizing forces that have shaped nature in all her forms are also responsible for the structure of our minds.” Burns’ quote comes from Heisenberg’s book, Physics and Beyond (1971). Sounds like reasonable mysticism to me!






an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

 Volume 13, Winter 2016/2017, ISSN 1552-5112



[1] Jennifer Oulette, “No Sign of Seasonal Dark Matter After Four Years of Searching” New Scientist, January 12, 2017

[2] Werner Heisenberg, “Across Frontiers”

[3] Felicitas Goodman, “Visions” page 282

[4] Erik Verlinde, “Emergent Gravity and the Dark Universe” Cornell University Library, arXiv;1611.02269v2

[5] “Dark Energy, Dark Matter”, online:

[6] Charlene Burns, “Wolfgang Pauli, Carl Jung and the Acausal Connecting Principle: A Case Study in Transdisciplinarity” Metanexus, 9/1/11