Some of physics' remaining secrets may actually relent through the human senses.By William C. Bushell, Ph.D. and Maureen Seaberg There are a number of significant and profound answers to these questions, which will be explored in this series. For now we will very briefly point out that in fact there have been people that understood (in their own particular way) that humans are potentially capable of perceiving on such miniscule, hyper-acute, and even microscopic scales. In fact, this knowledge has been held by such people in at least several cultures for centuries, people who practiced engaging these capacities for the very reason that they felt that the realized capacities could lead them to the direct sensory perceptual experience of fundamental properties of the world around them, of the universe. These cultures include the Tibetan, Indian, and East Asian, among others.
Over a decade ago, in Bushell's own research into the sensory-perceptual abilities of highly advanced, long-term, adept practitioners of special forms of observational meditation, he began to realize that some of these practitioners were actually specifically and explicitly attempting to study light with their own highly trained visual capacities, including attempting to perceive the most elementary, fundamental “partless particles” of light. In fact, they were in many ways following the same protocols that contemporary biophysicists and vision scientists employ for testing the human capacity for detecting the least amount of light. The basic protocol includes the following key factors: the need for a completely dark, virtually light-proof chamber, which produces in human vision what is called the dark-adapted scotopic condition; the need for relatively complete motionlessness, as movements can distract and distort perception; the need for extended periods of highly directed and sustained attention; the need for being able to engage in multiple trials of viewing light, i.e., training and learning of the task; the ability to discriminate between actual external sources of light and light spontaneously produced by the body, especially by the visual system itself (internally produced light phenomena known as phosphenes or biophotons). And while contemporary neuroscience research has not yet investigated the capacity of these practitioners to specifically perceive the quantum nature of light, a large and growing body of experimental research has demonstrated that these practitioners possess superior sensory-perceptual and attentional abilities in general, and specifically regarding other aspects of light (review in Bushell link above). Although Bushell’s scientific model is still very much under development (e.g., presentation at Victoria and Albert Museum, October 19, 2018, publication forthcoming), it may nevertheless be of considerable importance for the research agenda ahead on the potential human ability to perceive the quantum nature of phenomena, especially because one of the major challenges to this agenda is the range in the level of performance of the individual research subjects: successfully trained and skilled observers are in fact needed. Bushell’s model is based on “adept perceivers” who have trained extensively to enhance their sensory-perceptual-attentional capacities to very high levels of performance, as experimentally established in the Western scientific context, and such training may be critical for the success of this radical and historic new agenda of the fundamental sensory-perceptual relationship of humans to the universe.
William C. Bushell, Ph.D. is a biophysical anthropologist affiliated with MIT and co-director of ISHAR(Integrative Studies Historical Archive & Repository), a Chopra Foundation Initiative, the largest free and open access database/information center for the new field of integrative sciences, including physics and neuroscience.