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Giorgio Piacenza Giorgio Piacenza is a sociologist student in the Certificate program leading to a Master's degree in Integral Theory at JFK University. .


The Mystery of 137

Calling for a new scientific
relationship with interiority?

Giorgio Piacenza Cabrera


During the last few centuries there has been a touchy debate on whether it is valid for scientists to search for evidence that the Universe is intelligently designed. This is because the rise of the modern scientific method was related to a radical departure from exclusive traditions in which ideology within religion was the primary and enforced way for explaining nature. To a degree, for this reason, a modern and post modern rebellious attitude against anything reminding of the concept of an underlying “intelligent order” has been part of the “politically correct,” orthodox view in modern scientific circles. In spite of this rather entrenched state of affairs, there have been steady hints that bring back challenging old intuitions that were frequently perceived by a number of idealist and rational philosophers. One of these hints seems to be the recently discovered fact that number 1/137 multiplied by various powers of 10 recurs every time we cancel the dimensions and form non dimensional numbers using atomic constants. An aspect of the integration of interior or qualitative aspects of reality with the exterior or quantitative aspects may be hinted in mathematics such as these serving to reveal a meaningful –and perhaps even- purposeful order associated to fundamental physical parameters. Maybe it's time for Integral Theorists to expand their range of interests and to delve into a more profound kind of multidimensional Kosmos being revealed by some scientists who also find themselves in need of an approach that can assist them to incorporate consciousness, meaning and interiority.

History and Relevance

There's a unique, non dimensional atomic constant in physics and it is essentially equivalent to 1/137. It is also known as “alpha” or the “Fine Structure Constant” and it is a number essentially related to the probability of electrons or other charged particles absorbing or emitting photons. When the “fine” or closely positioned double spectral lines of the hydrogen spectrum were observed by Sommerfeld in 1915, he decided to broaden Bohr's atomic model by allowing for elliptical orbits and how speed affected mass. While trying to find the frequencies of the spectral lines, he came up with “alpha” which can be understood as a fundamental constant and –because of being dimensionless- can also be understood as a ratio. The units of this number are Coulombs, meters per second and Joules per second but they cancel out, leaving a dimensionless ratio, applicable in any measurement system, a ratio which we could think of as independent from how our minds work or quantify. This ratio also represents the velocity of the electron in its first orbit divided by the speed of light. After its discovery, more than a few scientists and relevant thinkers regularly intuited (I believe, both rationally and transrationally) that there is a fundamental significance behind the ratio.

Although physicist Sommerfeld discovered it, it was perhaps Max Born (of Matrix Mechanics and probability amplitude fame) the first renowned scientist to highlight the importance of the number when, in 1935, he delivered a lecture at the Indian Scientific Association. The lecture was entitled, “The Mysterious Number 137.” Born said that –significantly- alpha derived from a combination of the electron's charge, the speed of light and Planck's Constant and, since those times, the “arbitrary” value of 137 has been understood by the majority of scientists as a matter of chance, while a few others like Paul Davies PhD, the number can be associated with an organizing o selective power in the Universe.

In “Wikipedia” I found these three relevant quotes:

“The mystery about á is actually a double mystery. The first mystery — the origin of its numerical value á ˜ 1/137 has been recognized and discussed for decades. The second mystery — the range of its domain — is generally unrecognized.”
—Malcolm H. Mac Gregor, Malcolm H. Mac Gregor (2007), The Power of Alpha, World Scientific, p. 69, ISBN 9789812569615
“If alpha [the fine structure constant] were bigger than it really is, we should not be able to distinguish matter from ether [the vacuum, nothingness], and our task to disentangle the natural laws would be hopelessly difficult. The fact however that alpha has just its value 1/137 is certainly no chance but itself a law of nature. It is clear that the explanation of this number must be the central problem of natural philosophy.”
—Max Born, Arthur I. Miller (2009), Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung, W.W. Norton & Co., p. 253, ISBN 9780393065329
“There is a most profound and beautiful question associated with the observed coupling constant, e the amplitude for a real electron to emit or absorb a real photon. It is a simple number that has been experimentally determined to be close to -0.08542455. (My physicist friends won't recognize this number, because they like to remember it as the inverse of its square: about 137.03597 with about an uncertainty of about 2 in the last decimal place. It has been a mystery ever since it was discovered more than fifty years ago, and all good theoretical physicists put this number up on their wall and worry about it.) Immediately you would like to know where this number for a coupling comes from: is it related to pi or perhaps to the base of natural logarithms? Nobody knows. It's one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man. You might say the "hand of God" wrote that number, and "we don't know how He pushed his pencil." We know what kind of a dance to do experimentally to measure this number very accurately, but we don't know what kind of dance to do on the computer to make this number come out, without putting it in secretly!”
—Richard P. Feynman (1985), QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, Princeton University Press, p. 129, ISBN 0691083886

According to my friend Keith L. Partain MA.Sc, alpha is indeed a fascinating number because “it is what underlies the emission/absorption of a photon by an electron…and is the ratio of the strength of electromagnetism compared to the strong nuclear force." Thinking about how qualitative elements are becoming more obvious in modern physics, I wonder whether non-dimensional or “pure” numbers in physics may represent fundamental proportions deriving from levels of organization connected to a complementary qualitative realm. It is said that Plato considered (in Pythagorean fashion) that the study of numbers 'without bodies' was the most important of all sciences. Perhaps Plato's basic intuitions and the dream of developing a science primarily based on reason still holds in spite of the emphasis recently give to empiricism. Maybe in today's scientific world, the ratio 1/137 is the look of a feel that cannot be extricated from a reality which includes interiority. Perhaps 1/137 serves to remind us of a higher call par excellence. Could the number only be a meaningless coincidence, a necessary but neutral mathematical consequence of reducing the constants to their common elements when canceling their dimensions or, perhaps, it might as well be the essence underlying the constants, thus “la Crème de la Crème” of our physical knowledge?

So, what else do we know about alpha or “The Fine Structure Constant?” We know that, in arithmetic, number 137 itself is the 33rd prime number and that, in physics, it is obtained by squaring the charge of the electron and dividing this by the speed of light times Planck's constant. We know that the number is required to know how specific wavelengths of light interact in precise ways with atoms and how electromagnetic forces hold atoms together. Hence we know that this number is one of the core factors that determine the size of the atoms and, therefore, the form and structure of the Universe. I also wonder if the degree of freedom implicit in alpha as it relates to the probability that a charged particle may absorb or emit a photon (also representative of the “quantum of action” which allows degrees of free will in nature, according to Arthur M. Young) may also relate to how much interiority, awareness, and choice can interact with matter.

Atomic constants have different values multiplied by different powers but, concurrently, depend on the units of mass, the electron charge, the speed of light (in the vacuum) and Planck's constant. When one cancels the dimensions or converts combinations of these constants into non dimensional numbers (using 1984 CODATA values), we obtain 137.03604 or alpha because the number can be derived from these basic constituents and, since it is non dimensional, it will indistinctively be useful both in the MKS and in the cgs systems of physical units. Is there a mystery in this or is it a delusion produced by the fact that the common factors that underlie the atomic constants themselves can all be found to be the same factors that constitute alpha, that is, the charge of the electron, the speed of light and Planck's constant? I send a call to physicists and mathematicians to clarify this issue.

In the noteworthy article “Where Mathematics Ends,” published in the September 16, 2000, issue of “The Tablet,” John Cornwell (director of the anti reductionistic “Science and Human Dimension Project” at Jesus College) wrote that due to the inherently mathematical nature of physics, Gödel's incompleteness theorems “apart from anything else, indicate that the universe does not contain within itself the reason for its own existence.” This raises the question of whether an external creator or factor is responsible for the universe we know. Could the ubiquity of 137 represent the hidden hand of a creator or another factor behind the other values required to make our universe behave as does?

Could some non-dimensional numbers related to the physical world also be elements that sufficiently escape the mathematical limitations of that physical system and act as information mediators between ontological realms of being? Cornwell continues his article by informing us that, recently, “a symposium of mathematical physicists at the University of Michigan came up with a list of conundrums suitable for the threshold of the third millennium,” and that the first one was: “Are all the (measurable) dimensionless parameters that characterize the physical universe calculable in principle or are some merely determined by historical or quantum mechanical accidents and incalculable?” Cornwell points out that Einstein had asked whether “God had any choice when he established the precise and seemingly random constants that make up the measurable universe,” and then call attention to the mystery of number 137.03604 by saying that “A remarkable illustration of fine tuning is this: when mathematicians, in search of a fundamental equation, square the charge of the electron and divide it by the speed of light times Planck's constant, the dimensions (mass, time and distance) cancel out, yielding the number known as alpha (also known as the fine structure constant) which is approximately 1/137. What is the reason for this peculiar number which appears to underpin the whole of nature? Some scientists believe that the solution could lead, ultimately, to a grand theory of everything.”

Fruitful Intercourse

Another interesting story behind the human interest for 137 was generated by two of the most outstanding XX Century intellectuals: Psychologist Carl Jung and physicist Wolgang Pauli. From information found in Deciphering The Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung written by Arthur L. Miller and The Innermost Kernel: Depth Psychology and Quantum Physics. Wolfang Pauli's Dialogue With C.G. Jung, written by Suzanne Gieser, I can briefly summarize that both Jung and Pauli searched for principles underlying the psyche and the material worlds and benefited from a fruitful exchange of ideas. While Jung sought a physical understanding of this number (thinking that physics held great clues for understanding mysteries of the collective unconscious), Pauli (of Pauli's Exclusion Principle, electron spin, CPT symmetry and beta decay/neutrino fame) sought a greater understanding of synchronicity, the unconscious and of uncanny physical events that occasionally happened around him. If I understood these books correctly, I'll mention that due to his exchanges with Pauli, Jung also came to understand that his concept of archetypes having a “psychoid” nature (both psychic and physical united at a deeper level) involved the psychic aspect more than previously expected with the physical world.

I found an interesting article in Wikipedia relating very specifically to the issue of psychic and physical blending at deeper levels of existence. (Please go to: Here's a brief excerpt:

“Jung proposed that the archetype had a dual nature: it exists both in the psyche and in the world at large. He called this non-psychic aspect of the archetype the 'psychoid' archetype. He illustrated this by drawing on the analogy of the electromagnetic spectrum. The part of the spectrum which is visible to us corresponds to the conscious aspects of the archetype. The invisible infra-red end of the spectrum corresponds to the unconscious biological aspects of the archetype that merges with its chemical and physical conditions.[5] He suggested that not only do the archetypal structures govern the behaviour of all living organisms, but that they were contiguous with structures controlling the behaviour of organic matter as well. The archetype was not merely a psychic entity, but more fundamentally, a bridge to matter in general.[6] Jung used the ancient term of unus mundus to describe the unitary reality which he believed underlay all manifest phenomena. He conceived archetypes to be the mediators of the unus mundus, organising not only ideas in the psyche, but also the fundamental principles of matter and energy in the physical world. It was this psychoid aspect of the archetype that so impressed Nobel laureate physicist Wolfgang Pauli. Embracing Jung's concept, Pauli believed that the archetype provided a link between physical events and the mind of the scientist who studied them. In doing so he echoed the position adopted by German astronomer Johannes Kepler. Thus the archetypes which ordered our perceptions and ideas are themselves the product of an objective order which transcends both the human mind and the external world.”

If archetypes do exist in the Jungian sense and they possess a “psychoid” aspect capable of “organizing the fundamental principles of matter and energy in the physical world” what would the role of 1/137 be? Perhaps that of a “master, coordinating archetype,” resting in an even deeper level (perhaps more psychic than physical) than that of the average archetype?

I would like to say that Pauli felt that archetypes could guide a scientist. His vivid dreams seem to have guided him. For instance, Pauli vividly dreamt with strange representations of number four and sought assistance from Jung who considered that this number represented a feminine kind of wholeness. Later, (after rejecting Eddington's own obsessed exploration with the number) Pauli became highly motivated to demonstrate that 1/137 could be inferred from a deeper theory of elementary particles and from quantum electrodynamics as well. He usually shied away from academic publications and preferred to share his ideas unreservedly; helping Heisenberg and other eminences to perfect their works and insights, thus challenging the competitive style that had already been well-established…

In fact, both Carl Jung and Pauli seemed to have been fascinated by the importance of number four. For instance, Jung discovered or disclosed the “four functions of consciousness”: Thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition and, Pauli, (challenging Bohr's model) discovered that a fourth, non visualizable “quantum number” was needed to describe the atom. Pauli's fourth quantum number became recognized as the electron spin represented by a half integer. It had intrinsic angular momentum (momentum whether the particle is moving or not) and was later found to apply to all fermions (or the particles that make the bulk of ordinary matter); particles that –if identical- can only occupy mutually excluding states in atoms of our space-time configuration, leading to the stability of the physical world at large.

The Professor

More than 18 years ago, Professor José Álvarez Lopez (now deceased), an original Argentinean scientist holding PhD's in Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry, began to work with alpha in relation to its recurrence within combinations of atomic constants. As a scientist, Álvarez Lopez had already produced several works in of General Relativity, intelligently bringing to question the Equivalence Principle and the constancy of the gravitational constant. I possess some of his publications in English and Spanish. Álvarez Lopez told me that his work had been held in high regard by Dr. De Puymorin and had created quite a stir in France's “Comission dell' Espace.”

In a formidable review of Einstein's “Principle of Equivalence” (which merits being looked at carefully after decades of partial neglect by the scientific community), Álvarez Lopez apparently found that Einstein may had confused two kinds of masses: 1) The relative mass of Special Relativity, where mass is a function of velocity and 2) the absolute mass of General Relativity, where mass is constant and, therefore, independent of velocity. For this and other contributions, Professor Álvarez Lopez was invited to give lectures at Stanford University, under the auspices of Professor Pierre Noyés, at the Royal Astronomical Society, under the auspices of Professor Herbert Dingle, and at The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, under the auspices of Professor J.L. Synge. Also, in 1976 Dr. Luis Alvarez from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA invited Professor Álvarez Lopez. This was for the express purpose of conducting practical research on an experiment created by him and proposed under the title: “The Behavior of Joule's Law in Electrical Coronas.” As an interesting note, I would like to add that Professor Álvarez Lopez possessed what could have been Einstein's last handwritten letter, with Princeton's stationary, postage and address, dated one or two days before the genius' death in 1955. I saw it and it simply said that he could not understand an issue that Professor Alvarez Lopez was raising.

Regardless, the professor's work with alpha lead to the seemingly valid discovery of what he declared to be a new physical principle that can even be used to correct measurement errors and to predict values a priori. He called it the “Principle of Unicity” and it states that

“All the non-dimensional numbers that can be obtained from the atomic constants are only determined by one number: 137.03604, multiplied by various powers of 10.”

A simple, cursory review of the atomic constants shows that their numerical values differ immensely. They don't seem to bear any relation to each other. If this is so, why, upon canceling the dimensions, all of these values become 137.03604 or a decimal place close to that number? If it simply because the factors that underlie all the constants can be simplified to the factors that produce alpha or does this equivalence show that the atomic constants are not the result of blind chance? I'm neither a mathematician nor a physicist but, somehow, this result seems too statistically significant to ignore and I'm calling for mathematicians and physicists to help me clarify. For Professor Álvarez Lopez, this “Principle of Unicity” also demonstrated the existence of an underlying order that could represent what many would call “God's mind.” While he was alive he seemed to be looking for evidence of design behind nature.

The professor's computer was programmed to search for instances in which combining atomic constants in simple second degree algebraic equations would result in this special number. He found hundreds of instances in which the dimensions canceled and 137.03604 came up, multiplied by different powers of ten. If this is evidence of a universal organizing factor or of the presence of design in our physical universe, can this evidence also support other particular theological ideas or all we can deduce from it are fundamental attributes such as existence, meaning, order and purpose? If only the latter were possible, it would still be of immense importance and, perhaps, eventually act as a foundation to develop a suitable convergence between theology, metaphysics and scientific enquiry.

Calculating the Non Dimensionals

* Table I shows 22 examples of atomic non-dimensional numbers determined by 137.03604. The results are easy to verify by replacing, where applicable, the letters that represent constants with their specific values and dimensions in mass, time, distance and temperature.

** Table II shows 18 atomic constants from I.C.T. and CODATA sources in 1984. These were the values used by Professor José Álvarez Lopez to determine that all non-dimensional numbers obtainable from the atomic constants are determined by number 137.03604. The calculations could be actualized with current values for the constants.

Pondering About 137

In my view, this alleged fundamental discovery –if proven correct- could challenge the materialist stance that there's no scientific evidence for meaning, design or purpose in the universe. So far, I've seen that this alleged discovery tends to be dismissed offhandedly by orthodox scientists that shy away from philosophical, spiritual or religious connotations that converge with science as its known today. However, the discovery has hitherto only been presented to a few members in the physics community and, for now, no undue mathematical manipulation has apparently been found. The only manipulation I can imagine at this point would be that the computer used various combinations of pi in order to force the result. Not being a mathematician, I have not determined if this is what is primarily taking place, but there's a curious fact about it. As was also pointed out to me by physicist Keith L. Partain: 4pi cubed + pi squared + pi = 137.036304, a number that is extremely close to alpha. Is this the main reason behind the results that Professor Álvarez Lopez obtained or is this just another demonstration of how truly fundamental alpha is, as it now also seems to be related to that essential ratio called pi?

Then, there might be the error of forgetting that the basic factors that are needed to produce alpha are also the underlying factors in all the other atomic constants. This might or might not eliminate the validity of the “Principle of Unicity” but the uniqueness of alpha or the Fine Structure Constant may remain for many other reasons.

Professor Álvarez Lopez liked to point out that the existence of powers of 2 are common in atomic physics, but told me that finding powers of 10, in what seem to be fundamental numbers for this discipline, is “outstanding, previously unknown in nature and quite mysterious for orthodoxy.” A related clue is that the findings apparently show that the only non-dimensional number in base 10 sub zero is the original Fine Structure Constant, but that all the other non-dimensionals 137.0360… are in base 10 sub n. I remember that Pythagoras considered 10 to be the “perfect number” because it was the result of the sum of 1 + 2+ 3+ 4 and he also considered 4 to explain the nature of the universe. In pondering about 137 and its mathematical accessories, are we, perhaps entering a blurry mind-matter domain in which the stringent rules of the objective scientific method need not apply, a domain in which we can validly rest satisfied accepting semi objective or “soft” elements of evidence? Can the principles of Integral Theory's “Integral Methodological Pluralism” apply to delve into an effort to disclose this domain, perhaps a less differentiated domain where a higher quadratic integration of mind and matter resides?

Professor Álvarez Lopez said that the decimal number is, naturally, a creation of man, because he is a creature that possesses a mind and ten fingers. Nonetheless, he told me that there may be a greater being, whom (as taught in the Kabhala), possesses 10 great emanations or “Sephirots” and that, for this reason, the decimal number has now also been found in nature. In the same vein of thought, the professor also thought that it was “beyond coincidence” that the word “Kabhala” (which, generally speaking, means “received”) itself is considered by esoteric Hebrew scholars to be the gemmatrial or numerological equivalent to number 137. Kabhala is formed in Hebrew by 4 letters whose values are 5, 30, 2 and 100, respectively. Some phrases in the Bible are also equivalent to the numerical value 137 (For instance, “The surrounding brightness” in Ezequiel 1.28). Interestingly, the word “crucifix” means “fixed to a cross” and adds to 137 in Hebrew gemmatria. Could this concept perhaps be adequately associated with a specific kind of specified quadratic manifestation in our universe? Am I deceiving myself or, perhaps, other (perhaps causal and also spiritual) aspects of our universe may (at least partially) express themselves through this number? Using Integral Theory's Integral Methodological Pluralism, can we validly combine (seeking coherent criteria of truth, truthfulness and goodness) the collective findings stemming from certain well-established esoteric systems like the Kabhala with the findings stemming of the collective use of the scientific method? Can this even be more appropriate if we are trying to understand deeper (and probably organizing or structuring) levels of meaning and order subjacent to mechanism in the physical sciences?

Although deriving from Planck's constant, the electron charge and the speed of light constant, which possess dimensions, is the dimensionless alpha the representation of a more fundamental, organizing holon? Also, why does 137 derive from three such crucial elements of physics involving the quantum world (in Plank's Constant) electromagnetism (in the electron charge), and Special Relativity and General relativity (through the speed of light)? Will it ever be connected with the efforts to make Quantum Theory and General relativity compatible? Will it regain importance within String Theory or within M-Theory?

This particular non-dimensional “constant” (which may or may not be a true universal constant, because of the very fact that it doesn't have any dimensions), also seems to have been the keystone around which Einstein's colleague, Arthur Eddington attempted to build a “Fundamental Theory” from whom other non-dimensional numbers useful to science would have been deduced using purely qualitative assertions rather than empirically acquired quantitative information. Granting that this were possible, can the materialist-mechanist-reductionist and, the more recent, materialist-emergentist viewpoints be successfully challenged or complemented by a more profound and effective return to a rational-deductive approach?

Did Álvarez Lopez's findings show that alpha is more fundamental than the values for the speed of light and the charge of the electron? This is also an abstruse matter that needs to be pondered ever more carefully. In fact, some recent cosmological observations have, once again, brought our notorious Fine Structure 'Constant' to the fore, but the implications are not well understood. Apparently, according to some observations, this “constant” (that may not be a 'true' constant since it has no dimensions, also changes over time).

Among some of the original debates emerging in physics and cosmology today are those that challenge the constancy of the Fine Structure Constant and that of the speed of light. In “Science”, vol. 293, number 5534, issue of August 24, 2001, pp.1410-1411, Charles Seife points out that recent observations of the spacing of doublets in the absorption lines from distant quasars, as compared to those of nearby gas clouds, are leading some scientists to think that the Fine Structure Constant may have changed over time and, actually, become about one millionth larger. This means that, even after introducing red shift corrections to account for the universe's expansion, spectral light from older and more distant sources seems to show a fundamental difference from spectral light detected from younger and closer sources. A recent interesting response from theoretical physicist Paul Davies is that what could be causing this change over time is a decrease in the speed of light, since, the equation for alpha is also dependent upon this “constant” and the observational findings can also be explained in this manner. Davies discarded the other possibility for the observed change in alpha, which is, a change in the charge of the electron, for the fundamental reason that, taking this alternative view, would contradict the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This contribution can be read in the article “Black Holes Constrain Varying Constants,” published in the August 8, 2002 edition of “Nature.”

Many other scientists presented previous works regarding the possible variations of “c”. One of them was Professor John Moffat, a physicist from the University of Toronto, who observed that the possibility that light was faster in the past could explain the recent discovery that the universe's expansion is accelerating due to an unknown repulsive force.

Going back to the questions that arise from Professor Álvarez Lopez's attempt to elevate, what was previously known as a series of uncanny “coincidences,” to the level of a new guiding principle in physics, could alpha represent an organizing ratio around which all other atomic constants (and, by extension, the way the laws of physics operate) must remain fine tuned or in a dependent relation? If the relationships between the results of our measurements for the atomic constants were substantially different, the dimensional cancellation process would not always result in the same essential number with so many decimal places of precision. It's as though constants with dimensions were not allowed to be any different than what they are…at least in the Universe as we know it.

Does alpha change if the speed of light changes with time? Could it be that constants with dimensions evolve along with the Universe, maintaining proportions with each other, perhaps under the grip of an evolving alpha? Is alpha involved in a regulatory process linked to shifting zero point energy vacua? Are there indications of a design that originates in a qualitative level capable of finding ways to organize the universe's quantifiable aspects around a common denominator? Are these arguments complementary to the “strong” “moderate” or “weak” versions of the “Anthropic Principle?” Can these arguments, perhaps, evolve into less refutable demonstrations for the existence of God or of an organizing Intelligence than the cosmological, ontological and teleological arguments?

What may also be in question are the foundations of important current theories like General Relativity. For instance, for Einstein, theory had to retain a classical or local view of the universe, and, in spite of General and Special relativity's many counter intuitive features, it also relied upon stating that nothing can exceed the speed of light and that no communicative signal can be sent faster than that limit. Regarding this theory, we need to know that, quite recently, light seems to have become more amenable to non local, quantum engineering and (for reasons not to be developed in this article) I am of the opinion that, in the not too distant future, light may even become an instrument to manipulate space and time. If alpha or the associated speed of light can vary (as some cosmological observations seem to show), maybe the absolute frame of reference for physical laws sought by Einstein is more complex or different than expected. Perhaps we'll need to find or to deduce a new frame of reference. Possibly the replacement of the idea of a physical aetheric medium with a particular interpretation of Lorentz Invariance in the beginning of the XX Century (in order to explain the inextricable connections between space and time and the non simultaneity of observations) was partially correct but overlooked some importance things too hastily. The proscription to send useful information signals faster than the speed of light could perhaps be a valid but local situation within a specific kind of physical universe; nonetheless, perhaps establishing superluminal connections between ours and other kinds of universes cannot be ruled out. String Theory seems to allow for the possibility of communication between universes by using gravitons.

Furthering and (Hopefully) Not Confounding Scientific Speculation

It may be germane to side step a bit here and to mention that in March, 2002, two teams of scientists connected to Harvard University's Department of Physics and to the Smithsonian-Harvard Center for Astrophysics, demonstrated, in laboratory experiments, that light from laser beams can be completely stopped by phase-entraining it with the shared quantum state of rubidium or sodium atoms in Bose-Einstein condensates. Perhaps the manipulation of what Arthur Young considered the “quantum of action” could lead to overcome the limits imposed by the speed of light and –for instance- retrocausal signaling to parallel universes may be possible.

For Arthur Young and, apparently, for other scientists, light as an expression of the “quantum of action” allows information and choice to express in the physical world. This may add to the idea that there may be deeper levels of organization directing the parameters of the physical world. In “The Theory of Evolutionary Process as a Unifying Paradigm” (an article by Frank Barr, MD summarizing Young's ideas) and posted on I got the sense that there are scientific interpretations of quantum physics which are compatible with Integral Theory's pansychist approach of self-organizing, holonic entities possessing interiorities across all levels. Here, I'll give a few examples:

“Finally, in tackling the domain of "ultimates," Young's process model features the ontological priority of "light"-the photon or "quantum of action" and its equivalence with rotation. Science relies on the so-called measure formulae (where M = mass, L = length/position, and T time) to describe the universe. The measure formula for "action" is ML 2 /T, which is the same as that for angular momentum or "rotation." (Action -- i.e., random/'purposive, unconscious,' conscious impulse, insight or decision -- is instantaneous, point-like, and "projective particular" and is not to be confused with the "objective particular" behavior which it subsequently activates. (See Table 1.) 

Advances in quantum physics, primarily derived from studies of the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) effect and Bell's Theorem (Stapp, 1983; Rohrlich, 1983; Davies, 1983), have recently culminated in a momentous series of experiments by a group of French researchers led by Alaine Aspect (1982) which have clearly established that the quantum of action has "non-local" properties. That is, light is in some sense "beyond/outside" space and time. [The "speed of light" is an absolute or invariant--i.e., unlike all other velocities, it is constant and can have no other value--and, as the theory of relativity suggests, it creates a boundary between the photonic quantum of action and all particulate matter.] The omnipresent, cosmic egg-like "quantum of action" (ML²/T, Planck's constant): 1) is itself counted (as are impulses, insights, and decisions, i.e., actions) and not measured. [As Young points out, you cannot lean out a window 1.42 times. Actions and quanta come in wholes without the fractions found in the measure components]; 2) contains the measure components; and 3) is the "window" of uncertainty/indeterminacy (free will), as noted by Heisenberg, which instantaneously breaks up (when observed or measured) into such measurable entities as energy and time, momentum and position, etc. In fact, through a process called "pair creation", the non-local, timeless, chargeless, massless photonic quantum of action literally creates time-bound, charge- and mass-containing particles (substance), such as the electron and positron or the proton and anti-proton. In other words, action appears to be ontologically prior to mass, charge, space, time, particles, forces, or fields. 

In a sense we could say that distinguished physicists such as John A. Wheeler and David Bohm joined Young in emphasizing the priority of the "elementary quantum phenomenon" or "light." In a recent Nobel conference and book, Mind in Nature, Wheeler (1982) reflects:

How did the universe come into being? Is that some strange, far-off process beyond hope of analysis? Or is the mechanism that comes into play one which all the time shows itself? Of all the signs which testify to "quantum phenomenon" (the quantum of action] as being the elementary act and building block of existence, none is more striking than its utter absence of internal structure and its untouchability. For a process of creation that can and does operate anywhere, that is more basic than particles or fields or space-time geometry themselves, a process that reveals and yet hides itself, what could one have dreamed up out of pure imagination more magic and fitting than this?

Bohm (1983) points out that light "determines itself to make particles....." and that matter "is condensed or frozen light." Furthermore, he emphasizes that light is primary and time is derived from it and that, in itself, light has no time, no space, and no speed. He stresses that light (in its full sense) is one continuous, unbroken, undivided whole " . . . especially if you consider the quantum theory which says that the action in it is undivided as well." To bring home the ultimate nature of light, Bohm clearly points out that: "Light is what enfolds all the universe. . . it's the potential for everything . . . the fundamental activity in which existence has its ground.." 

Fairly recently also, teams of scientists have also, apparently, demonstrated that the front waves of beams of light can be made to jump ahead of themselves –as if- into the future and to be in more than one place at once. In some cases, there may have been instances in which signals have been sent beyond the limits imposed by Einstein's theories, unless one considers them to be particular cases of a future, more inclusive theory that encompasses other physical aspects, like the engineering of variable vacuum energy densities. To find out more about how the limit of the speed of light if being “put to the test,” please google these names: Dr. Günter Nimtz of Cologne University, Dr. Lijun Wan of the NEC Research Institute of Princeton, physicists of the Italian National Research Council and the work of Dr. Raymond Chiao, from the University of California at Berkeley.

The possibility of building a time machine by circulating laser light which theoretically would produce gravitational frame dragging of space-time is also being explored by physicist and inventor Ronald L. Mallet PhD. In his book Time traveler: A Scientists' Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality. Whether timeline coherence would be maintained in our particular universe in order for our subjective experiences to coincide with exterior events may be considered. Whether affecting a different timeline in a parallel universe is possible needs also to be considered. There are many possible solutions but the experiments need to be carried out even while the role of consciousness and interiority remains enigmatically strong.

Quantum theory, normally interpreted in the practical but ontologically vague perspective offered by Bohr's “Copenhagen Interpretation” may be expanded and restated in a way that makes it sufficiently compatible with the intuitive sense of an ordered realm called forth by reason and probably suggested by the unique dimensionless atomic constant and ratio of 1/137.

“Quantum weirdness” is a phrase used to express the apparently unintelligible and counter intuitive character of the atomic world, for which concepts like “quantum tunneling”, “quantum entanglement”, “quantum randomness”, “quantum potentia”, “quantum reconstitution”, “quantum uncertainty”, the “wave-particle duality” and the “co-dependence between the observer and the observed,” have been created. Possibly, the subatomic realm of quantum physics can be better understood as a boundary condition between worlds or realms that define dimensional parameters and this is why we seem to be able to understand only part of it, by observing and interacting from the perspective and limitations of our classical and “molar” perspective.

If it is independently validated as a genuine discovery showing that the apparently unrelated values of atomic constants are indeed intelligently related, the “Principle of Unicity” may help us to accept in a collective manner that there's an intelligible order stemming from another fully functional realm, beyond the threshold of immediate quantum events. Perhaps this deeper “intelligible order” (that may include and transcend the statistical nature of uncollapsed wave functions in undetected quantum events) relates to an organization holding a coherence in the suspected membranes (or branes) of current M-(string) Theory, membranes which define how strings of energy may vibrate and produce matter and force particles in our 3 S 1 T “local” universe.

The evolving idea that there are hidden parameters and/or dimensions of reality transcending quantum superpositions and indeterminacy (and probably impinging on the, so called, “measurement problem”) is found in such theoretical advances such as “M-(string)Theory,” in relation to the search for the source of mass in the posited “Higgs Field,” in the rational alternative of David Bohm's proposal about quantum potential information variables (perhaps able to redirect zero-point energies) of his “Implicate Order,” and in the recognition of the crucial roles played by the energy density of the vacuum in relation to the properties of space-time. These are some of the advancements that may help us transcend the view that chance and meaninglessness lie at the heart of what is visible, at the heart of matter, the cosmic unfoldment and, possibly even, conscious, self reflective life. Maybe in this way, the next stage of physicists may, after all, come to agree with Einstein's early dictum that “God does not play dice with the universe.”

If a more profound science that includes the meaningful or qualitative aspects of reality finds good clues with which to develop, thinking people may feel more encouraged to explore the meaning of life in both complementary mystical and scientific ways. Then, we may be able to understand more clearly what could be these Interior-Exterior aspects of the world bridging and integrating cryptogram “137” which (like holons) seems to reside both in the domains of epistemological understanding and of ontological being.

Moving Into New Territory

So, how else can we work with the idea that there might be a level of order represented by number 137? Well, there may be many ways to relate what is known as (Ken Wilber's) Integral Theory with the deepening of a science that is embracing more of the inextricable roles of subjective meaning and interiority or counterintuitive understandings about objective reality. Attempts to interpret the “measurement problem” lead many respectable scientists to assume that consciousness is fundamental, that there are multiple possible and actual worlds or that there are hidden levels of order manifesting as non local effects. Attempts to combine General relativity with Quantum Physics leads us to assume the existence of ten dimensions of space, perhaps not only collapsed but extended into membranes that define how energy strings vibrate and give specific characteristics to specific universes. Can the Integral Theory notions of Gross, Subtle and Causal realms be useful to embrace the vision of these kinds of multiple universes and dimensions? What would the role of a deeper, more rational level of organization impinging on superstrings represent for our scientific understanding of holons possessing interiorities?

There may be a theoretical way to actualize Integral Theory by retaining the Vedantist idea that Absolute Being can assume and manifest the illusion of duality, interplay, separation and exteriority. We could use the idea of a gradation of illusion manifesting different degrees of interiority and exteriority across the different realms. That which is represented by symbols (interiority) is not that which is represented by signs (exteriority, forces). Nonetheless, both may be integrated at a deeper level of understanding because both are intelligible and convey meaning. Perhaps remembering that Plato's “ideas” included the possibility of exerting objective influence in the physical world could be an encouraging ingredient of the integration. Perhaps bringing together a plethora of (non necessarily mutually exclusive) mind-matter views like Bohm's “Implicate order” in which there's an integration of mind and matter within a deeper level can also be quite helpful. I suggest that the rational consideration of opposites under a “both-and” logic (as in Archie J. Bahm's work) can be very helpful in appreciating the independence, mutual dependence, exclusion, complementarity, inter penetration and mutual immanence of various mind-matter views that seem to be incompatible.

So far, a general pattern seems to be unfolding in the discoveries of physical science. The more physical science develops understandings of what lies in the depths of matter, the more the interior aspects of reality seem to increase in importance. This is seen not just in phenomena related to the “measurement problem” but in the fact that abstract forms of understanding replace visualizable forms of understanding. This pattern moving away from classical sensory-based objectivity may be due to the fact that levels of interiority are more pronounced and actualized the deeper we rest in the multi realm nature of existence. This may also be related to lesser levels of actualized exteriority in these depths, in which case (using the quadratic model in Ken Wilber's Integral Theory), in relation to the right side or exterior, objective, material quadrants, there would be a corresponding increase of potential. Following the same idea (that brings back the crucial philosophical notions of the interplay of potential and actual states of being), in the more exterior realms there should generally be less actualized interiority and instead more potential interiority. Nonetheless, the capacity to evolve and to undergo an increase of interiority and understanding (while in the Gross realm for instance) would relate with the complexification of exteriority as an interactive receptacle suitable for the reception of subtle energies, as explained in Ken Wilber's “Excerpt G.” These subtle energies would, in turn, carry with them more potential that is exteriorized in the Gross realm.

I think that future incarnations of this highly useful post postmodern “Integral Theory” ought to integrate the most advanced discoveries of science that require ontological philosophical sustenance with the theory's fundamental finding that Interiority and Exteriority are inextricable in all the realms of manifested, dual-appearing reality. The number of sub realms that impinge on what Integral Theorist's consider theoretically valid (within the general umbrella of Gross, Subtle and Causal realms) may be as large, as infinite (if we consider Everett's 'parallel universes') or as distinctive as the ten universe-coordinating spatial dimensions within the “bulk” or the “Multiverse” of M-Theory.

Even More Freely Said – Contributing to Integral Theory

Before concluding this essay, I want to indulge even more freely on the idea that Integral Theory can usefully expand its concepts of Interiority and Exteriority by daring to explore more boldly the scientifically valid subject of inter realm relations. I think that the relations between the parts and wholes and, therefore, the intensities of how quadrants are observed to be populated by quadrant-specific contents vary across the Gross, Subtle and Causal realms according to principles related to the nature of holons. Some of these principles have been known in the discourse of pre post modern discourse and need to be re-considered. In duality, as disclosed to reason, polar tensions don't just generate the four expressions of individuality-collectiveness, self and other, parts-wholes, stability and dynamics, depth and span, agency-communion, distinctiveness and incompleteness leading to holarchies, etc. They also coexist with pairs of metaphysical necessary concepts (like “initia” and “inertia” or “actual” and “potential”). The kind of metaphysics from which these concepts come is not a form of “otherworldly speculation.” It is serious, rational metaphysics that cannot be dissociated from the experiential accumulation of knowledge apparently favored within the Integral Methodological Pluralism of orthodox Integral Theory. I believe that this kind of adequate speculative but rigorous metaphysics brought many valid and important ideas that are fused within many current models about reality but the process of joining these ideas into coherent and grand explanatory systems suffered from distortions not just involving a battle of irrational personal preferences amongst philosophers but an excess zeal for a partially correct but incomplete) “either-or” kind of logical thinking in lieu of the more encompassing “both-and” thinking (which would also includes autonomy for the rigorous and differentiating “either-or”). We don't need to go back to a superstitious kind of “metaphysics” but to a serious, logical, rational, measured one.

I think that asymmetries may be greater among exterior parts in the (comparatively speaking) “denser” realms. Their contrasts in relation to the (comparatively speaking) subtler realms probably create an interactive dynamic that compromises mind and matter and how realms manifest. Why we understand the quantum world as represented by probabilities defining semi real objects until an interaction is detected may be due to the aforesaid differences across the Subtle and Gross realms. Perhaps what we abstractly deduce about this world are how the boundary conditions of the atomic world present themselves to our disclosure.

In spite of the latest scientific and philosophical preferences for empiricism at the occasional exclusion of careful thinking, I think that taking bolder steps to advance theoretical frameworks is mandatory. We need frameworks to understand differently. In the origins philosophy and science rational speculation was never shied away and provided the basis for creating an understanding that could later be challenged, refuted or improved. Finding a better framework to deal in an Integral manner with what I may call today's “Problem of Interiority in Matter” could probably be done by reviving some of the ancient philosophical concepts like the idea of what is “actual” coupled with the idea of what is “potential,” the idea of “agency” coupled with the idea of “potency” and the idea of that which is “absolute” coupled with the idea of that which is “contingent.” Perhaps then Integral Theory could have the bare elements to engage in a constructive dialogue with what seems to be an incipient multidimensional and multi-realm kind of physics that increasingly needs to incorporate or understand the roles of awareness, meaningfulness, and interiority.

How else could the study of inter realm relations be improved? Well, I think that Integral Theory's suggestions to consider that there's an “eye of the flesh” and “eye of the mind” and “an eye of the spirit” is very sound but should be expanded. Perhaps the idea of the “eye of the flesh” could also refer to all of what can be observed as the exterior aspects of Gross, Subtle and Causal because they are realms that include both exterior and interior aspects. These “higher” or “inner” realms also apparently have forms of energy, bodies, and maybe forms of matter and –if we could use or interact with these kinds of energies, bodies, forms of matter- we would be operating empirically as we are now in the gross body. Maybe (just as suggested by Integral Theory) a collective of well prepared (a “community of the adequate”) individuals able to become conscious and effective in their subtle bodies could undergo the same methods or procedures, gather experiences and check with each other to verify if there's agreement (Confirmation/Rejection). In other words, they would use the Integral Theory principles of valid knowledge to explore the exterior aspects of the Subtle Realm. Perhaps, one of the researcher's communally-validated findings could be whether these exterior aspects of the Subtle Realm are as explicitly rigid or unchangingly coalesced as the corresponding exterior aspects in the Gross Realm. My expectation is that the exterior aspects will be less established and definite than what we find in the Gross Realm. I would also expect the interior aspects to have a greater “say” or proportional influence, thus, perhaps, the researchers would have to learn to deal with clearer manifestations of “reality” adapting to expectations and personal histories. Yes, probably, taking into consideration “The Myth of the Given” would be more important for explorers of the exterior aspects of the Subtle Realm as exterior patterns of energy and form may be less explicit or less rigidly established.

Our experience of “quantum uncertainty” during experiments of atomic physics could be an indication of how we relate the openings or connections between subtle matter with our apprehending interiority which is temporarily focused in gross physical form. The uncertainty may be an outcome of the way the subtle realm's less actualized but more potential exterior (and its corresponding more actualized and less potential interior aspects) relate with the Gross' realm more actualized and less potential exterior (and its less actualized and more potential interior aspects). In our awareness, in the awareness of the observer cognizing a specific detection that “collapses the wave function” we might retain a non dual aspect of consciousness that transcends and integrates the aforementioned differences between realms. This could be consciousness as pure, unconditioned being, acting both within and without the illusion of form (regardless of the ratios of what is potential or explicit between realms). Here, Thomas' Aquinas idea of the Absolute God as pure agency could perhaps be adequately translated closer to Integral parlance as non dual Consciousness. This pure agency could also be understood as manifesting an almost complete and actualized interiority in the so called “causal” realm, a realm whose exteriority is almost completely nil or potential. Off course, 'beyond' the causal realm (if we can validly say this), all distinctions between Consciousness associated with exteriority and perhaps also the understanding of Consciousness as interiority-only cease to be.

Maybe, the less Consciousness perceives through the garments of illusory dualities, the less the exterior, quadratic aspects spoken about in Integral Theory are correspondingly explicit. Thus, (in a view similar to neoplatonism) we could say that there is a gradation of manifest being from closest to an unconditioned or absolute state to a highly conditioned or contingent state. Also, we could say that, in essence, when distinctions of exteriority cease to limit Consciousness, Consciousness manifests as pure agency onto itself.

Perhaps the element of pure agency, the true nature that we still retain during our sojourn in Gross realm awareness bridges the gap between the greater numbers of possible exteriorities found in the subtle realm in contrast to the more specific exteriorities found in the gross realm. Maybe this is why a plurality of superpositions described in the Schrödinger's “wave function” appears to collapse when we register a detection that can be communicated to increase our collective knowledge.

Perhaps the inside of the exterior quadrants can also be thought of a connection with interiority. Perhaps, along with the posited varying degrees of explicit and potential interiority and exteriority manifested across realms (from those closer to Pure Being or Agency to those most expressive of duality illusion, especially the illusion of non Being), we can also propose a similar scheme for degrees of individuality and collectiveness both expressed and potential across the same realms. Regardless of how we go about trying to expand Integral Theory to deal with today's scientific issues, we may also benefit from the use of a Second Tier, inclusive way of thinking related to polar analysis, a way of thinking that brings to mind all the plausible dialectical possibilities arising from the conceptual interplay of complementary poles (like agency vs. potency and like the poles depicted in Integral Theory's quadrants; i.e. the individual, collective, interior and exterior dimensions). The generation of holons and quadrants can also be deduced from the tensions, incompletenesses and mutual necessities generated by complementary poles. This means that reason is sufficiently strong to generate the same findings that Wilber came about with by observing patterns (induction). In fact, Bahm's original deductions came into our collective noosphere years and decades before Wilber's quadratic findings. In relation to the search for an Integral way to deal with seemingly incompatible but solidly established metaphysical positions on the nature of reality (Vedantism, Neutral Monism, Creationism, Dualism, Spiritualism, Emanationism, Emergentism and Materialism), the analysis of complementary poles can be very fruitful. For further research on all of these highly important matters which should strengthen our mindful attempts to deal with Interiority within scientific theories, I strongly suggest the works of the late professor emeritus in philosophy, Archie, J. Bahm. These works generally fall under the umbrella name of “Organicism” a concept that is also duly distinct from A.N. Whitehead's “Philosophy of Organism.”


The idea that there's a deeper regulatory intelligence reflected by 1/137 in relation to the other atomic constants seems to coincide at least with a Third Person of God perspective; that of a rational, universal Intelligence. Needless to say, if this ratio and non dimensional constant were any different maybe life as we know it wouldn't exist. It may be that the alleged mystery behind professor's Alvarez Lopez's (to be further tested) discovery has a prosaic explanation but still there are too many aspects in relation to this number pointing towards a role for meaningfulness and interiority rather than meaningless coincidence. This situation needs to be further studied by mathematicians and physicists in conjunction with well informed, open minded, post postmodern philosophers. Maybe the fact that this number remains regardless of the system of units used indicates that it is a fundamental ratio or rational reality-defining guideline applicable to our know Gross Realm or Physical Universe; a guideline subsisting besides our personal preferences. Perhaps this subsistence this can serve to support the idea that The Myth of the Given is not absolutely applicable in all circumstances in which knowledge is disclosed. If we came to understand why this number 1/137 has the value it has and –apparently- bridges the gap between interior purposefulness and exterior forms we may get a better grip on the interplay behind the psycho-physical interplay observed as relations (and not just as co-arising simultaneity) among the quadrants of Integral Theory.

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