The aim of The Quantum Society is not so much to define quantum physics as to use the model of a quantum reality to express a philosophical and social vision. This reality, the authors claim, is to be found in the particle-like and wave-like aspects of "things" in quantum physics. A diagram of dots from which circles radiate outwards overlapping with circles around other dots illustrates this. In Danah Zohar's quantum vision the particle and wave aspects must co-exist.
The Newtonian atom, Zohar and Ian Marshall set out to show, has until now been our western model for individualism. As a reaction against this philosophy, collectivist theories of society, such as those of Marx or Rousseau, encouraged a more wave-like model. Our particle-like aspects help us to maintain our individual characteristics, while our wave-like, entangled contact with others is necessary for our "growth". The mind/matter dualism created by Plato can thankfully be bridged, as can the subject/object dualism of Descartes, or the mechanistic vision, which stresses the separateness of parts, of Newton.
The book's vision is primarily a metaphor, powerful because it reinforces deep-seated and rich literary and religious archetypes already embedded within us. That we are all soloists in a dance - each dancer remaining distinctly him or herself while acquiring a new identity as a member of the company whose emergent dance is a free-flowing, ever-changing creative movement - is a wonderful image. It is wonderful because it is poetic, so do we really need physics to tell us of the interconnectedness of all things?
Coleridge's Ancient Mariner tells us that in shooting the albatross the delicate balance between man and nature was unhinged. Centuries ago alchemy insisted on the connection between microcosm and macrocosm. In psychology Jung found the 'collective unconcious' to be nature's way of connecting us all. Gaia is now part of our modern conciousness.
But why should our rich archetypes not be reinforced by a truth from physics, so that now there are no boundaries to the dance?
Maryanne Traylen holds a PhD in literature, University of Wales.
The Quantum Society:: Mind, Physics and a New Social Vision
Author - Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall
ISBN - 0 00 654793 1
Publisher - Flamingo
Price - £6.99
Pages - 319pp