THINK OF A SUNSET. As soon as you see this image there is a binary code of photons coding for that experience in your brain. Think of a dark room with the flame of a candle. Now if I were able to look inside your brain, there would be no candle there - just a binary code of photons flickering on and off. The question is, where was that image before I asked you to think of it? The point I am trying to make is that when I ask you to envisage a sunset or a candle flame, before you remember it that information is not in your brain. The information shows up in your brain as soon as you have the intention to remember. So where was it before that? It existed as potential in consciousness but it wasn't in your brain.

My memories therefore are not in my brain. This is a very important point because the reductionist model says our memories are in our brains. Why does it say that? Because when the brain is damaged people have damaged memories - whether through Alzheimer's disease, or a comatose state, or through drunkenness. But the argument is fallacious: it's the same thing as saying my radio set is damaged and no music is coming out, therefore the music must be manufactured by my radio. The radio doesn't manufacture the music; it only actualises the music. My television set doesn't manufacture all those people that I see inside the box; it only actualises them from somewhere else. So, too, your brain is not the source of your thoughts.

Your brain is a quantum instrument that causes the collapse of wave functions that exist as possibilities before you actualise them as space-time events. So your brain takes possibilities and actualises them into space-time events. It's a quantum instrument that converts possibility into actuality. It takes the unmanifest and makes it manifest, both in imagination and also as sensory experience. What is a space-time event? It is a frozen moment of intention. All perception is the collapse of wave functions in a sea of possibilities constantly transforming and moving, and my perception freezes that external reality, but even by the time I have perceived it it has moved on. It's just a moving phenomenon in the sea of possibilities. So what is in this world of discontinuity?

All things exist as a sea of infinite possibilities and all exist as pure potential. Potential has no beginning and no ending. It exists as potential. Science says, first there is matter, then there is energy and then there is information. What is information? Information is a sea of possibilities waiting to be asked questions. That's what information is. Is the universe wave-like? Is the universe particle-like? Well, it depends on your question. If you do an experiment that is wave-like then it's wave-like. If you do an experiment that is particle-like then it's particle-like, and it's never both simultaneously. That's the essence of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Whether it is particle-like or wave-like depends on the question. Before you ask the question - what is it like, particle-like or wave-like? - it exists as both potentially.

It is your question that compels the universe to make a choice. Before you ask the question the universe hasn't made a choice. As soon as you make the choice the universe is compelled to respond. So at the most fundamental levels of nature, the universe is a sea of infinite possibilities that are compelled to make choices for space-time events once you ask the question. The universe is a big question mark before it becomes actual.

An interesting phenomenon that scientists are now totally comfortable with is a phenomenon called 'non-local correlation'. Non-local correlation was something that was accidentally described by Einstein in his attempt to actually invalidate quantum physics. Einstein was very uncomfortable with certain aspects of quantum physics. One of them was non-local correlation. Another was Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. In fact, when Heisenberg went to explain the uncertainty principle to Einstein, he made that famous comment, "God doesn't play dice with the universe," because our mechanistic laws say if we know enough about the universe we will be able to predict everything. In a nutshell, non-local correlation works like this: if you have two sub-atomic particles, A and B, and they collide, they exchange a little energy and information, so A becomes A1 and B becomes B1: they are slightly changed, just like when you and I collide we are slightly changed, we exchange information and energy also, so you are not the same person quite and I am not the same person quite. At the most fundamental levels, when sub-atomic particles collide they exchange energy and information; then let's say A1 starts to move to one end of the universe and B1 moves to the other end of the universe, but for all of eternity they remain instantly correlated.

Instantly correlated means that if I know what A1 is doing I will be able to tell you what B1 is doing. If I know where A1 is I will be able to tell you where B1 is. That knowing a quality of behaviour of A1 I will be able to tell you a quality of behaviour of B1. Now where Einstein differed was that he said it is just a mathematical correlation and that there is no mystery to this. Furthermore, the correlation is unmediated, which means there is no mediation of energy from here to here that tells me that by knowing one I can know what the other is doing. So, it is unmediated and it is unmitigated - unmitigated means that there is no diminution of the robustness of the correlation - with distance in space.

Normally, when you employ energy signals or electromagnetic signals the Law of Inverse Proportions comes into play - so the further you have two objects that are correlated with each other (like gravity for example), the weaker the signal gets, and it gets weaker in inverse proportion to the square root of the distance. But unmitigated means there is no diminution in the robustness of the correlation. It remains the same no matter how far you go. Now distance in space is also distance in time. When I look at the night sky I might be seeing a star that is fifteen million light years away, which means that I am looking at something that existed fifteen million years ago. If it blew itself out five million years ago I won't know that for another five million years because when I am looking at the night sky I am looking at the past. Distance in space is also distance in time; but unmitigated means the robustness of the correlation moves outside the boundaries of space-time: it is instant. So the third property of the correlation is that it is instantaneous.

Einstein believed this was only a mathematical concept, but then John Bell came along and proved it beyond doubt. It is now an established fact that there is a fundamental level in nature where everything is instantly correlated with everything else. This gives us mathematical and experimental proof of what we could call omniscience or omnipresence or omnipotence - where everything is correlated, everything is organised, everything is connected instantly with everything else.

I'll tell you why Einstein was uncomfortable with this: it was because he was thinking in terms of all phenomena existing in space-time, but what this is describing is a domain that is beyond space-time and causality, outside the domains of space-time. Now scientists totally acknowledge that you cannot explain biology without invoking non-local correlation. How does the human body think thoughts, play a piano, kill germs, remove toxins and gestate a baby all at the same time? And whilst it's doing all that it correlates every activity with every other activity, all instantaneously without mediating the activity of your liver cell with your kidney cell, with the manufacture of the new baby.

Not only that, but your body is tracking the movement of stars whilst it's doing this because the biological rhythms that you call your body are actually the rhythms of the ecosystem and the universe. Everything is correlated with everything else, and it's not only correlated with everything else: it's instantly correlated. There is no time, there's no energy involved because energy is in space-time. It's without the use of time signals or energy signals: it's instantaneous. It is the basis of what we call synchronicity. Non-local correlations are the most impressive and most dominant aspect of nature's activity. It is totally understood mathematically; it is totally understood in terms of quantum physics - it is totally understood experimentally.

ANOTHER PROPERTY OF discontinuity is a proliferation of uncertainty. The deeper you go into the discontinuity the more uncertain it becomes. Let's look at Heisenberg's uncertainty principle: all phenomena are simultaneously wave-like and particle-like until you do the experiment, and then they are one or the other. If you measure one, then you preclude yourself from knowing what the other is. So if I measure the position then I preclude myself from knowing the momentum. If I know it as a particle then I cannot know it as a wave at the same time. It has nothing to do with the limitations of our experimental methodologies; it has to do with the laws of nature. It doesn't behave particle-like or wave-like until I ask the question.

Furthermore, when I start to do calculations at this level of nature I have to use irrational numbers. An irrational number is a number that you cannot conceptualise. So infinity is an irrational number: you can't conceptualise it. Pi is an irrational number because it has infinite decimal places. The square root of -31 is an irrational number. I can't imagine what that would be but I can do calculations. In order to calculate fundamental behaviours of the universe, I have to use irrational numbers that I cannot conceptualise. And even though the margin of error is very little, the margin of the error multiplies when I extrapolate from fundamental levels of behaviour to macroscopic levels of behaviour. So, in fact, the more I examine the levels of existence at the most fundamental levels, they become more and more and more uncertain. It's like God says to me, "At this point in time I am not going to reveal my secrets to you. I am going to allow you to come this far but from now on you have got to trust me, and I am not going to tell you any more."

Uncertainty is actually the reason for creativity at this level, which is the fourth property of the quantum domain. It is creative. And it's creative because of the proliferation of uncertainty. If you are certain about everything, where is the room for creativity? Creativity starts with uncertainty. If I know everything then that's the end of the story, but if I don't know then there is room for creativity, and the more I don't know the more room there is for creativity. So at this level nature's creativity is based on the proliferation of uncertainty. This creativity is quantum in character.

What does that mean? It has something to do with healing because all healing is biological creativity. All healing is biological creativity. Nature is constantly creating. Just look outside: all this creation is happening right now. It didn't happen once upon a time; it is happening at this moment. At quantum levels photons are collapsing, wave functions are precipitating as space-time events, and our brains are quantum instruments that are translating the collapse of wave functions into … a tree. But that tree is actually being born and is dying at the speed of light right now. God is creating it. If you don't believe in God then a causal non-local quantum mechanical interrelated field is creating it! But some mystery is creating it and it's doing it right now. The whole of creation is happening right now. Not only is it happening right now but some emergent property will emerge which is totally unpredictable as that creativity continues, because creativity repeats itself, the patterns of collapse are repeated and then suddenly there are quantum jumps and those quantum jumps are called emergent properties. That means they didn't exist before and you didn't know what they were going to be before they existed.

Let's look at biological evolution: we see it is punctuated by these discontinuities. Discontinuities in quantum physics are when a sub-atomic particle moves from one place to another without going through the space in between. So now it's here and then it's there and it didn't go through here or there. And also it's instantaneous: as soon as it disappears here it shows up there without any time-lag. If you have ever watched the American TV programme called Star Trek, you know that when Captain Kirk says, "Beam me up, Scottie," Scottie presses a button and Kirk disappears from here and shows up in another galaxy - and there is no time-lag. That's called a quantum leap in physics. It's happening all the time.

At the beginning of this article, I had you create quantum leaps in imagination. I asked you to think of a sunset, think of a candle in a dark room - those were quantum leaps in your imagination. Patterns of photons that were behaving in certain ways switched to behaving in other ways with no time-lag. Like that, nature 'imagines' through quantum leaps. So the transition from amphibians to birds is a quantum leap in nature's imagination.

Classical Darwinian evolution would say an amphibian acquired feathers because it wanted to escape predators by flying - survival of the fittest - but actually acquiring feathers is a biological disadvantage. It makes the creature more cumbersome. It also has to acquire a new metabolic rate because the metabolic rate of a flying creature is completely different from the metabolic rate of an amphibian. It requires a new musculoskeletal system; it requires, of course, wings; it requires navigational skills. Everything about an amphibian is different from everything about a bird. So that transition has to be simultaneous; the metabolic rate, the feathers, the musculoskeletal system: all of that transition has to be simultaneous. Each of these has to be non-locally correlated with the other and it has to be sudden, otherwise the bird will fall prey to the predator. It requires the simultaneity of non-local correlated events. Otherwise there is no bird in evolution.

Similarly, the transition from primates to human beings: here we are sitting as human beings and there are chimpanzees out there who share 99.999% of the same DNA. But as far as we know, chimpanzees don't ask themselves who God is and whether they have a soul, or what the nature of existence is. That took a quantum leap. The creativity of nature is quantum.

THE FINAL POINT is the observer effect. The observer effect means that unless and until the moment of observation the universe exists only as a possibility. Until you observe it, in other words without a conscious sentient being, the universe doesn't exist. This is John Wheeler's contribution. Wheeler was a student of Einstein; he is now 93 years old. He is one of the greatest giants of physics of the last century. He says that the universe remains ambiguous, a ceaselessly flowing quantum soup, until a conscious being observes it. The conscious being could be a honeybee or a chameleon, or it could be you. That without consciousness the universe does not manufacture itself into physical form.

The points I have discussed above are the qualities of your soul. Why? Because your soul is not a thing; it is a field of infinite possibilities. Your soul is omniscient, your soul proliferates and embraces uncertainty in order to create, and your soul is co-creating with God. God remains unmanifest unless you participate.

What is the definition of a soul? The soul is the observer that interprets and makes choices. If you want to expand it a little bit, say it interprets through memory and makes choices through desire. The five soul attributes are

  1. Field of infinite possibilities
  2. Omniscient (or correlates non-locally)
  3. Embraces uncertainty
  4. Infinite source of creativity
  5. Co-creates with God and co-creates with the mystery

Everyone has an observer; everyone is observing based on memory and interpretation and is making choices based on desire; and everyone has that common ground which is infinite possibilities, non-local correlations, uncertainty, procreation and creativity. That's what the soul is. What is the difference between the soul and the mind? The mind is the process of observation. The soul is the observer. What is the physical reality including that of the body? It's the object of observation. You observe through your mind and you observe the body and you observe other bodies. But remember that other bodies and everything else that you observe are a translation of bodily processes in your own self by your nervous system. So when I observe you out there, actually I am observing bodily processes in my mind that I interpret as you. So everything happens in our body, mind and soul. The observer is the soul, the process is the mind, and the physical body is the object.

Read the first part of this article Flaws of Perception

Deepak Chopra is Director of Education at the Chopra Center, which offers training programmes in mind-body medicine, and is author of many books, most recently Grow Younger, Live Longer.