Our Physical World

The Spiritual Art of Personality


The Mystical Society of the Future

©Casey Blood, Ph.D.

©dwij 2003

Article 8 in our series Future Link
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Casey Blood
received his Ph.D. in physics from Case Western Reserve. He served as a research assistant at Brookhaven National Laboratory and then took up his longtime position as Associate Professor of Physics at Rutgers University, from which he retired in 2000; retaining the title of Professor Emeritus of Physics

Dr. Blood has had a lifelong interest in religion, has participated in Native American rituals for many years, and has studied and practiced Tibetan Buddhism and Sufism.
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Our Physical World, The Spiritual Art of Personality, and The Mystical Society of the Future

A sketch of ideas from Casey Blood's book Science, Sense & Soul

"I am a mathematical (not an experimental) physicist. I have made forays into elementary particles, liquid helium, random numbers, and the theory of gases, and have even taught a few physics-related environmental courses. But my primary area of research has been in attempting to understand the mathematical roots of quantum mechanics and the implications of the mathematics for our view of existence. After receiving tenure in 1976, rather than doing traditional, specialized research in a narrowly defined area, I decided to concentrate on the deepest, interpretive aspects of physics: Do particles exist? Is there an objective reality? What are the chances that quantum mechanics is wrong, or incomplete? Is there a theory underlying quantum mechanics? Does quantum mechanics imply observers 'outside' the physical universe? "In the course of my studies, both scientific and spiritual, I began to question what might happen if we were to assume that quantum physics was the final theory of the physical universe, never to be superseded. And at the same time assumed that the best of the mystics had given us an accurate description of the true nature of existence. Could these two stances, the scientific and the mystical, I wondered, be unified into a single consistent scheme in which each complemented and illuminated the other? The answer, I found, was yes. "Consequently, in 1994, I began to plan seriously to write a book about this unification of science and spirituality. I realized at that time that a deeper knowledge of the functioning of the human brain was necessary for a better understanding of human nature, so I took a year off from physics to study a graduate medical school text in neuroscience. This drove home the point, which the mystics have been making for eons, that we are on automatic pilot most of the time, letting the brain, rather than "us," make our decisions about where we put our attention. When combined with the physics/mysticism connection, neuroscience also gives us a clearer understanding of how and why mystical practices work."

Suppose we try a broad-brush assessment of our modern world. On the plus side, there have been gains in physical well-being, gains in personal freedom, and gains in the ability to think more clearly and critically. Because of increased communication, a wider perspective is available. And there have been helpful insights and useful discoveries in science. On the minus side, the gains in freedom, economics, health, and access to ideas are uneven; the mental pace is too fast; there is too much psychological dis-ease; there are small pleasures instead of deep satisfaction; there is little vision; and there are rabidly held beliefs.

Because of the minuses, there are many negative ways in which our world could evolve. The disruptions caused by terrorists and rogue states could increase. The global economic or energy systems could collapse. The majority of people on the planet could subscribe to the materialistic view that more stuff is better. Friendship could wane and loneliness increase.

How do we avoid these negative outcomes? What positive visions can we substitute? And how do we bring these visions into being? The answers lie in a healthier form of religion and in the spiritual art of personality. Before we can accept these answers, however, we must be persuaded that there is something beyond this apparent physical world, something that implies more to life than me first.

My field of expertise is physics (I was on the Rutgers physics faculty for 30 years), so I will outline how physics can help to break the grip of materialism—the belief that this physical life is all there is. This approach has the advantage that it uses the language and wisdom specific to our time to corroborate and extend the insights of ancient and modern mystics. After establishing that physics supports the existence of the nonphysical world of the mystic, we will briefly describe the spiritual art of personality and the mystical society of the future.


To see what insights physics has to offer, we must see how it works. Physics uses experiments and mathematics to gain an understanding of the physical universe. A simple example, first done by Galileo around 1600, is to carefully observe falling objects. A little experimenting shows that (neglecting air resistance) all objects fall at the same rate—a remarkable "universal" law! More detailed experimenting shows that if one object falls for twice as many seconds as another, it will go 4 times as far—exactly 4 times as far; or, if it falls for 3 times as long, it will go 9 times as far, etc. Around the same time that Galileo was experimenting, Kepler found by observation that planets followed exact elliptical orbits around the sun.

These two investigations established a large part of the paradigm of physics: (1), perform experiments or make observations that are as numerically exact as possible, and then (2), find simple mathematical formulas that agree as closely as possible with the results. Because of this methodology, in which mathematical theories are checked many times and in many ways by exact numerical comparison with experiment, the theories of physics can be trusted to a very high degree.

A third idea in the paradigm of physics is that of generality and unity. In the 17th century, Newton discovered a very general theory for treating the motion of objects. It was general enough that it included Galileo's and Kepler's results as special cases, and it could explain many, many other observations as well. Newton's mathematical theory (he had to invent calculus before he could discover his theory) unified physics, with each particular problem—falling objects, planetary motion, how strong a bridge has to be, the generation of electricity, the shape of a wing that allows an airplane to fly—being a special case of the general theory.

Newton's mathematical "model" of the physical universe was deterministic; once the universe was set in motion, the future—including our thoughts and actions—was determined forever. But even though Newton's model did (and still does) extremely well at describing our daily world, it didn't properly describe all the attributes of matter. For example, it predicted that an infinite amount of energy should radiate from the white-hot filament of an incandescent light bulb. And it had no explanation for why neon atoms emit red light of a certain wavelength. To explain these and other results, the scientists of the early 20th century had to discover quantum mechanics.

Quantum mechanics does extremely well at predicting the properties of the physical world. For example, it predicts exactly how much light the white-hot filament of a light bulb emits. And it gives the exact color (wavelength) of the light emitted by a neon atom. In fact, there are an enormous number of observations that quantum mechanics accurately predicts, and there are no known instances where quantum mechanics fails! Because of this unqualified success, because of the incredibly large numbers of experiments (many millions) that have been done to check it, and because of its amazing unity and very tightly interlocking internal consistency, we can surmise that the essential ideas in quantum mechanics will never be superseded. Thus we can use quantum mechanics to deduce something about the fundamental nature of existence.

What are the essential ideas of the quantum mechanical view of the physical world? The first concerns the nature of matter. In Newtonian physics, the physical world is made up of particles—atoms, electrons, photons, etc. But in quantum mechanics, the world is made up of waves—similar to water waves or light waves or sound waves. The second, and more important essential idea, concerns how many (potential) realities there are! As we said, the world is deterministic in the mathematics of Newtonian mechanics; there is only one possible version of physical reality. But in the mathematics of quantum mechanics, there are many possible versions of reality! One example of this is the famous Schroedinger's cat thought experiment; in it, the cat (in the math at least) can be both dead and alive at the same time.

So we have this strange situation: quantum mechanics never gives wrong numerical answers, and yet—violating the simplest observation—it predicts many versions of reality instead of the single one we perceive. How are we to deal with this awkward fact? The traditional response in physics is that, because we perceive a single version of reality, there must be only a single version of reality. More specifically, physicists assume there is an as-yet-undiscovered Newtonian-like theory of particles underlying quantum mechanics. But there is absolutely no evidence this is true; and in fact the evidence points the other way. So we are consistent with physical theory if we assume there really are many versions of reality, all coexisting together!

This has enormous consequences. Since only one version of reality is seen but many are present, there must be something that perceives only that one version. This "something" must be outside the phsyical universe. Because it is nonphysical, it presumably survives the death of our physical body. One could call it our soul, if you like.

So what do we have here? At the very least, we see that science does not show that religion is just a childish way of thinking. But we see further that if the extremely successful theory of quantum mechanics is taken at face value, then there is a virtual proof of the existence of a nonphysical world akin to that spoken of by the mystics! Thus there is nothing in science that prohibits us from seeing the world from a spiritual point of view. And so we are free—at least in this sense—to begin the spiritual quest.

THE SPIRITUAL QUEST: Traditional Religion

Where to begin? One possibility is in traditional religion. The positive aspects of traditional religions are their sense of community and care for humanity. But when you really want to pursue the spiritual path, their ideology and methodology are usually insufficient. Why? Most religions have historical roots related to specific figures—the Jewish prophets, Jesus, Muhammad—who saw from a much wider and more accurate perspective than ordinary people. But after the prophets died, their followers, who didn't have real insight, codified their prophet's view. This lessened the power of the original vision through each generation, until now the different religions have rigid doctrines that are often at odds with each other—and with the perspective of a thoughtful person. So it is usually difficult for the modern person to ground their search in a traditional religion.


A more helpful beginning is to read; read from the great mystical traditions—the various branches of Buddhism, the Jewish prophets and the Kabbala, the Sufi poets, especially Rumi, the best of the Christian mystics. But as you read, remember three things. The first is that, as we said above, virtually all the traditions lose their truth as they age.

Second, remember that there are many different paths in religion. Eventually, they all converge to the same place. But each of us starts from a different place and has different inclinations. So as you read, be aware of the different points of view of the various paths. There are devotional paths, intellectual paths, compassionate paths, paths of social reform, paths that emphasize the group experience, paths that emphasize the monastic approach, active paths, passive paths, introspective paths, paths where answers are given, paths where you must figure most of it out yourself, paths that emphasize the role of the teacher. Look for these differences, and see which of the paths agree with you.

Third, in reading about all these different approaches, you must learn to trust your own judgement. In fact, trusting yourself is one of the goals of spiritual development.

At the same time as you read, it is good if you can find a group centered around a true teacher. Because you gain strength, encouragement and joy from them, it is an enormous advantage to be associated with a group that has a dedicated but balanced orientation.


Reading helps, but what you really need is to do practices, for the spiritual life is more experiential than conceptual. I will give a practice or two here. The first is: As you go about your daily life, simply be aware of your breath. The reasons why this works are beyond the scope of this article.

Be aware that, in spite of the simplicity of stating it, this practice is a skill. It will take a long time before you remember to do it often; think in terms of months and years, rather than days or weeks, for learning this skill. In the meantime, don't disparage yourself because you don't remember, or because you get tired of doing it. This basic practice can carry you very far along the path. It will help you become aware of the nonphysical, mystical world. And it will also reduce the tensions that severely limit your freedom and sap your creativity.


There are two parts to the life of one on the path. The first is one's relationship to God (or—if you don't like the concept of God—one's relationship to the nonphysical world of the mystic). And the other is what you do in this world. The breath practice is aimed primarily at the first part, the inner world, although it certainly helps in the outer world. The spiritual art of personality is more pointed towards the second part, although in the end it is absolutely essential for one's relationship to God.

The raw material we have is our selves. The personality of this self includes our habits, our aspirations, our desires, our fears, our perception of how others see us, our strengths, our interests, and so on. The goals of each self are creativity, friendship and freedom from that which limits us. Our personality should help us towards these goals rather than hindering us (by giving in to habits or being directed more by fears than aspirations, for example).

Education in the spiritual art of personality (which goes well beyond morality training and the surface personality) is of the utmost importance in our present world. For as we look at the world around us, we see that most of our problems, from individual to international—insensitivity to others, a narrow perspective, greed, corruption, intolerant fundamentalism, wars, and so on—are caused by "defects" in the personalilties of those involved.

PRACTICE: Personality

Become aware of personality, yours and others—what defines it, shallower and deeper levels, what motivates people at various levels, how fears and habits get in the way of creativity, friendship and freedom. But don't become critical of others, and be easy on yourself. Also, as with all practices, keep this in perspective. Don't obsess on it, don't become introspective, don't gossip. Keep in mind the gentle rhythm of the breath.

PRACTICE: Controlling Anger

This is a more specific practice than the last one. Suppose you often get angry (most of us do this more than we realize), and that you have decided this is a habit that wastes your energy and attention, a habit you would rather be without. To start the process of getting rid of anger, choose one hour a day and do not outwardly express anger during that time. Do this, at the same time each day, for thirty days.

This practice is difficult: We forget. We rationalize our right to be angry. Or we feel that anger is not really under our control; it is brought about by the events in our lives. But our anger is under our control. And we can, with practice, remember. So just stay with the practice for the full thirty days and you will see some progress.

When you're doing the practice, be easy on yourself; don't run yourself down. It's just very difficult to break mind-sets. If the practice doesn't agree with you, if it is inducing too many negative thoughts, give it up. There are many other practices to try.

There are a number of other "negative" personality traits one can use the same technique on—procrastination, negative views of yourself, etc. There are also other, positive, ways to affect the personality. If, for example, one concentrates on strength of will—or insight, friendship, compassion, wisdom, subtlety, true inner beauty or strength, and so on—for, say 10 minutes a day, you will begin to develop this quality. The concentration will somewhat automatically stay with you throughout the day, and you will begin to see how to develop that trait in a practical way. Whatever you concentrate on, you become.


Finally, consider the potential for society in a spiritual or mystical sense. It is difficult to comprehend. Think of your highest moments of intimacy, friendship and creativity, and imagine what life would be like if everyone were in that state—and even higher states—much of the time. The friction, the negativity, and the fears of our society would fall away and be replaced by the joy of existence. There would still be sadness, but it would not unduly weigh us down.

Mysticism would not be a belief; it would simply be the milieu in which we lived. Its practice would not be separate from ordinary life, as religious practice often is now.

Experience would be emphasized—not the reading, reasoning, and repetition which is a part of many religions—but true experience: the experience, before you die, of what awareness is like after you die; or the experience of knowing Great Beings, or even of being aware of God.

There would be little dogma, and no Bible or other absolute authority, but there would be a wealth of poetic, insightful writing that the student could use for guidance. Teaching and advice for students would be available, but there would be no compulsion towards a particular belief in this mystical religion, for compulsion does not lead to a proper appreciation of the truth.

There would be no strict applies-to-all code of conduct—about diet, dress, drinking, or even pacifism, for example (although there would certainly be mutual respect for each other). Such a code, especially at more advanced levels, would run counter to the goal of developing truly magnificent wise beings who are powerfully self-sufficient, compassionate, and capable of deep friendship.

The practices and outer forms of mystical religion would not remain the same from one time and place to another. Why? Because in each time and place, there is a mind-set that severely limits the world view of all those who are not mystics, and so the practices and outer forms must be tailored toward dissolving the blockages specific to the times.

Finally, the mystical religion of the future would be natural. The mystic's domain is the nature of existence, all of existence, so how could mysticism not be natural?

Casey Blood, Ph.D.

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Editors note:

The Future Link segment of the Forum brings together an array of scholars and educators who have expertise in two fields of great importance: the physical sciences and metaphysics. In our articles some authors will share with you only from their area of study; in other articles authors will merge both paths in a flowing synchronicity. All paths of exploration are valuable and will give you seeds of insightfulness. Enjoy; we look forward to your comments on our topics.

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