The Movie of Life


As you drive down a dark road in the night, your headlights make a flood of light that moves along the road with you, lighting up one section of the road after another, always lighting up the road where you are. In a logically identical manner, the viewpoint of consciousness moves along your worldline ‘lighting up’ each moment in turn. As stated by Weyl, quoted in The Avant Garde, it is the moving viewpoint of consciousness that gives rise to the experience of the passage of time. The sequence of viewpoints, each one ‘a section of this world’ in Weyl’s description, is illustrated in The Now.

Experiencing Time

This image illustrates the worldline of an observer, the trajectory through the four-dimensional space-time of the world, going up the page into the future. Each of the flat planes symbolises one moment in time where an observation is made.

A worldine
A Worldline

The viewpoint of consciousness passes up the worldline as Weyl describes, which is what gives rise to the experience of the passage of time. This is easy to imagine as it is so exactly what we are experiencing. The Now is in constant motion into the future. In the static block universe defined by relativity this is the only workable explanation.

As described in Consciousness, this is necessarily universe consciousness, a third-logical-type phenomenon. This is very difficult to imagine. Nonetheless, this is the only explanation for how the linear dynamics of quantum mechanics actually comes to operate in the static universe. This is exactly the result as the viewpoint of the experiencing consciousness progresses through space-time, along the worldline.

Quantum Time

As well as operating this dynamics, the movement of consciousness is also operating at another level. It also brings to life the ‘quantum concept of time’. As the renowned physicist David Deutsch in explains in Chapter 11 of his book The Fabric of Reality (1997), there is second, completely different kind of time to the time of space-time. This is ‘quantum time’.

This means, firstly, that the whole world exists, past present and future, defined by a specific quantum state. This he calls a ‘snapshot’ of the whole world, defined by a specific quantum state. Secondly, every possible state exists. This universe of many worlds exists in ‘Hilbert space‘, a type of possibility space.

Just as described in relativity, the universe is static in this description also. Nothing happens. As stated by Julian Barbour, a physicist who specialises in time:

The quantum universe just is. It is static. (1999, 256)

The Cycle of the Standard Formulation

Just as the movement of consciousness brings the time of space-time to life, the movement of consciousness also brings quantum time to life.

This image illustrates the worldline of an observer, with the probabilities of the future observations as the blobs. The future defined by the wave function becomes more and more indeterminate, which is why the possibilities of the future grow more diffuse over time. This is a snapshot.

A worldline with blobs of increasing size represening increasing indetermiancy of observations
A Snapshot with probabilities expanding.

As shown by the white arrows in the image below, consciousness passes up the worldline, bringing the world to life. The passage of time is experienced, and the linear dynamics of quantum mechanics effectively operates.

Then, when an observation is made, the viewpoint of consciousness passes to a different snapshot, as shown by the black arrows. The Now passes to a different state of the world defined by a different quantum state. This is the effect of the change of the world hologram, and thus the class of worlds, as the observation is added to memory. Thus the quantum concept of time is brought to life. Effectively, in experience, there is the collapse of the wave function to a specific outcome.

A sequence of worldlines in a progression of observations
A sequence of snapshots in the quantum concept of time

The whole problem of the interpretation of the quantum theory comes from assuming just one world. This is the category error that leads to the great paradox of the measurement problem, as described in The Avant Garde. The collapse dynamics cannot operate in a specific world. A specific snapshot does not change, as Deutsch describes.

The Participatory Universe

As described in Consciousness, the Now passes into the future because to experience the wave function is to experience of the linear dynamics that it defines in action. In other words, to experience the reality defined by the wave function is to experience the functioning of the wave function. This is how the effective enactment of the linear dynamics arises. And the passage of time effectively operates. Then, when an observation is made, there is the experience of the world hologram changing. And to experience the world hologram changing is to experience the transition to a different snapshot – one in which the observed event has determinately happened. Effectively, the collapse dynamics operates as quantum time is enacted. And change of the world effectively happens.

Thus the cyclic enactment of the standard formulation is experienced. The consciousness is the ‘motor’, the ‘operational engine’. This is ‘spirit’.

The status of the consciousness is a vital understanding without which the new physics never quite makes sense. A third logical type phenomenon is a requirement, as described in Consciousness. When the experiencing consciousness is recognised as operationally significant in this manner, we see the truth in Wheeler’s prediction. In some sense, he suggested, reality grows out of the act of observation, and thus consciousness itself. The universe is ‘participatory’. He was right. As has been described, the relative world is defined by the record of observations. And each observation adds a new determinacy to this world. This is where the steering of the personal world operates. As in all spiritual practices, let us approach these great unknowns with awe.