Shantena A. Sabbadini: Consciousness is Primary

In his 2015 talk at SAND Italy and subsequent interview, Shantena Augusto Sabbadini offers  a scientifically rigorous yet spiritually profound view of our understanding of reality.  With deep humility and fresh inspiration, he gets right to the core of the issue: The so-called “hard” problem of consciousness isn’t framed in a way that is consistent with our most basic experience, nor is it what Quantum Mechanics teaches us.  Since Bell Theorem shows that no realistic and local theory can describe the world, the question is not how consciousness arises out of inert matter, it’s how “the structured aspect of consciousness which we call matter” arise from an obvious background of consciousness.

Moreover, Shantena is convinced that the “collapse of the wave function” isn’t a real phenomenon, but just the appearance of reality as viewed from the location of a macroscopic observer.  In reality, the world remains a “superposition of all potential reality and experience.”

The essential questions, then, become: how come the world looks classical to us,  consistent over time, and consistent over the overlap between my experience and yours?  Shantena thinks  that beyond quantum decoherence, the deeper reason is that there is no experience of the world without a corresponding change in the world.  Since no observer is separate from the world, any observation, or recording of information, leaves a trace in the universe, thus creating a perspective from which the wave function appears to “collapse”.  But erase this recording, and superposition is fully restored.

Shantena also shows how Lao Tsu (Laotzi)‘s Tao Te Ching can be understood in the framework of this world view.

Shantena will be expanding on his views at SAND Italy 2016 this summer.  In the meantime, enjoy the freshness and humility which come through his presentation and interview of last year.

In the 60’s and 70’s Shantena worked as a theoretical physicist on the foundations of quantum physics and on black holes at the University of Milan and at the University of California. Longing for a more transformative personal and social practice, in 1976 he left the academic world and with a group of friends founded a spiritual-ecological farming community in Tuscany. In the late 80’s and early 90’s he worked as translator and consultant for the Italian publishing house Red Edizioni, travelled extensively in India, and he practiced and taught various meditation techniques. In 1991 he got involved in the Eranos I Ching Project and in the organization of the Eranos conferences. (Eranos is an international East-West research center located in Ascona, Switzerland, founded by Olga Froebe Kapteyn and C.G. Jung in 1933). The work on the I Ching at Eranos, together with the Dutch sinologist Rudolf Ritsema, produced two innovative translations: I Ching: Il libro della versatilità, Red Edizioni, Como, 1996, and The Original I Ching Oracle, Watkins Publishing, London, to appear in April 2005. Shantena regularly leads seminars using the I Ching as a tool for introspection in Italy, Switzerland and Scandinavia.

While walking this winding path through various involvements and endeavors, Shantena never completely lost sight of his initial interest in the philosophical aspects of physics. He occasionally lectured about these topics in Italy, Switzerland and the USA, and he kept reflecting on the interface between mind and matter, consciousness and the phenomenal world and wondering at the marvel of life in this mysterious universe. He feels that this kind of investigation is not the exclusive domain of the specialist, but concerns us all and is intimately connected with the longing for beauty and for making the world a better place for all living beings. Since 2002 Shantena is involved in the Pari Center for New Learning, where many of his essential interests naturally converge.


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