The HyperTexts

The Very Mysterious Metaphor of Entanglement

by Michael R. Burch

There are two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle. -- Albert Einstein

If you're concerned about innocent children being terrorized by the debilitating fear that they're in danger of an "eternal hell" when they grow up, please read this article No Hell in the Bible before continuing.

Without "getting all technical," as we Southerners like to say, photon entanglement is a very mysterious quantum phenomenon that occurs when two or more photons become linked with each other and then (in seeming defiance of the cosmic "speed of light limit") are suddenly able to dance in instantaneous perfect unison even when placed at opposite ends of the universe. How this is possible, no one knows. But scientists have conducted experiments that seem to verify what Albert Einstein called "spooky action at a distance." While entanglement can occur with particles other than photons, photons are the "fairy dust" of the universe and will suffice for the purposes of this essay, which is about the metaphor of entanglement.

To come up with a layman's example, let's suppose that you and I have become entangled. Perhaps we ate sticky taffy together. Somehow you end up on planet Xerbyxl, one hundred million light years from earth. Still earthbound, I find myself in a dill of a pickle, perhaps caught in a hellacious crossfire between the KKK, Islamic Jihad and Moral Majority. I send a panicked "No intelligent life; beam me up!" SOS signal Xerbyxl-ward with a heavy-duty flashlight. Just as I finish flashing the final "S," I drop the flashlight and it lands on my big toe. Although it will take one hundred million years for my signal to reach your eyes, you immediately yell "ouch," looking down to see an enormous empathetic black-and-purple knot on your big toe.

Although this may sound like the most outlandish of science fiction stories (or sheer asylum-able insanity), let me refer you to an expert, Geneva University Professor Nicholas Gisin, who says: "What is fascinating is that entangled photons form one and the same object. Even when the [entangled] photons are separated geographically, if one of them is modified, the other photon automatically undergoes the same change."

Einstein never cared much for quantum physics, suggesting that "God does not play dice with the universe." Is God engaging in spectacular parlor tricks at the expense of our over-taxed brains, or is there perhaps a metaphor, a meaningful message for us, in quantum entanglement?

"And God said, let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs ..."

If God meant for lights to be signs, what about photons, those tiny, miraculous wave/particle packets of winking light that behave so mysteriously, so wondrously? Photons are the Tinker Bells of the universe. Being lights, could they also be meant for signs, for metaphors? It seems to me that St. Paul's vision of Christianity bears a striking resemblance to quantum entanglement. In Ephesians chapter 2, Paul says:

"... God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."

There are three utter mysteries in this passage. The first is that we are saved by God’s love, mercy and grace: not, as is commonly supposed, by being good, by trying to be good, or by striving to "behave like Christians" (with all that infers). Although we are at opposite ends of the universe from God, we do not have to inch toward Him in a voyage requiring infinite lifetimes. We are reconciled to God in an instant, made right with Him in a flash, bound to Him in a wonderfully entangled union. If grace is grace, there can be no strings attached. We are not bound to God by strings of rigorous religious requirements, but by invisible cords of love. We cannot see or grasp the infinite, and so when we experience love, it comes to us in "small packets," in little photon-like twinklings like those of "Kids on Love: What the Real Experts Have to Say."

The here is God’s grace, assuming such grace exists. We might make the mistake of thinking that if we're allowed to enter heaven, we’ll get in by the skin of our teeth: God may let us in, but probably not all that joyously. But what Paul is saying is that God absolutely longs and fully intends to pour out the exceeding riches of His grace on us because of the great love wherewith He loved us. That’s why the gospel is truly "good news." The good news is that God loves us, that we are no longer estranged from Him, and that He will bless us through all the ages to come because of his all-exceeding love for us.

The third mystery of this passage is that Paul doesn’t tell us we will one day end up seated in heaven some day; he says we are already seated in the heavenlies today! In his famous passage on love, Paul tells us that in this life we "see through a glass darkly." We are temporarily blinded to the glories and wonders of heaven by the thick, dull, heavy solidity and sensibility of the "real world." A pebble seems more real to us than God because we can pick the pebble up, feel it, examine it. But peering through wild, wacky lens of quantum phenomena reveals just how thick and obscuring the "glass darkly" really is: that seemingly solid pebble is mostly vacant space, here and there populated by tiny magical particles. The real world is comprised of fairy dust, as are we!

In closing, let me return to Albert Einstein, as my friend Zyskandar Jaimot astutely suggested I should after reading the first draft of this essay (or should I call it an assay, of the unknown and the unknowable?). It has been pointed out that many dog owners often look like their dogs, an idea that seems even stranger than quantum entanglement, but which also seems verifiably true. Entanglement was by no means Einstein's "prize pooch," but they bore more than a passing resemblance to each other. Einstein's second wife Elsa once remarked that her husband had "always aspired to be completely invulnerable to everything that touched humanity. Actually he was more vulnerable than any other man I knew." Einstein in his personal life reflected the strange photon-like duality of human existence. It was said more than once that his face shone like an angel's. Hiram Haydn, editor of The American Scholar, said of a chance meeting with Einstein that "it struck me forcibly that there was light coming out of his face ... that [his] face belonged to another, different species. And then he smiled at me. This act constituted the most religious experience of my life." And yet Einstein often behaved like a black-hearted scoundrel to those closest to him. With our many inexplicable quirks, men are the real quarks of the universe! Inexplicably, when asked to state his philosophy of life, Einstein's words came in the form of a repudiation of what Dennis Brian calls "his oft-proclaimed detachment from human ties." Please think of "ties" here in terms of entanglement. Einstein said, "How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose we know not, though we sometimes think we sense it. But ... we know from daily life that we exist for other people -- first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent." Friends, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to get this! Just read what the four-year-old did at the end of "Kids on Love: What the Real Experts Have to Say." What Einstein said so eloquently and profoundly (although the wise four-year-old knew what to do, sans words) leads us to what the metaphor of photon entanglement reveals: we are all particles of intensest light and darkest matter, inherently dual in our nature, inconsistent and inconstant, able to "catch and ride the wave" of light that is love, but all too often hitting the brick wall of creatureliness. The Bible tells us that God is love, that He is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. To repent is to turn from the darkness, to seek the light. But where do we turn? How do we find the light? Do we turn to Buddha, who at the end of his life was reputed to still be seeking the truth himself? Do we turn to the Old Testament, which begins with the curse of original sin, and whose closing words nigh a thousand pages later are "lest I come and smite the earth with a curse!" -- followed by 2,400 years of stony silence? In my King James Bible, the inscription at the end of the book of Malachi reads ominously, forbiddingly: THE END OF THE PROPHETS. If God is love, if God is light, how can I believe that His final word to man is "curse"? Or do I believe the strange book of Revelation, which says human beings will be tortured with fire and brimstone, in the presence of the Lamb and Holy Angels? Or do I simply believe that God is Love, or not believe at all?

The final word in the King James Version of the New Testament, before the "amen," is "all." In the last sentence, "amen" can be interpreted as "so be it" and therefore as an emphatic exclamation mark. Therefore, the closing passage reads: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!" The Old Testament concludes with the threat of yet another curse. The New Testament concludes with grace for all. Some people may conclude otherwise, but I like that final "all," for all humanity. 

If you're interested in "things mysterious," you may be interested in these other Mysterious Ways pages:

A Direct Experience with Universal Love
No Hell in the Bible
Two Tales of the Night Sky
Michael, Wonderful and Glorious
The Poisonous Tomato
Of Mother Teresa, Angels and the Poorest of the Poor
Thy Will Be Done (Iron Lung)
Did Jesus Walk on the Water?
Mysterious Ways Index

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Note: If you like this article, you are free to cut and paste it, to print it out, and to distribute it freely, however you see fit. I do ask that you abide by the following: (1) Please be sure to accredit the authorship of the article correctly and to cite as the original publisher. (2) Please be sure that this note is attached to the article whenever and wherever the article is printed out, forwarded, re-published, or otherwise distributed. My sincere thanks! Michael R. Burch, editor, The HyperTexts