Quantum Koans Course


A Seminar for the Study of the Paradoxes of Quantum Theory



Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it.
- Niels Bohr

The existing scientific concepts cover always only a very limited part of reality, and the other part that has not yet been understood is infinite. Whenever we proceed from the known into the unknown we may hope to understand, but we may have to learn at the same time a new meaning of the word 'understanding'.
- Werner Heisenberg

Course Description

This seminar, which is periodically offered by CSS, is intended for anyone with a serious interest in deepening their understanding of the paradoxes and counter-intuitive features of quantum mechanics. The emphasis will be on how the paradoxes challenge our naive notions of reality and open our minds to new possibilities rather than on presenting, promoting, or adopting any particular view of physical reality. We will explore nonlocality and Bell's theorem, entanglement and decoherence, wave function collapse and the measurement problem, and examine different interpretations of quantum theory. Although no scientific or philosophical background is presupposed, discussions may at times be technical in nature, delving into physics and philosophy.

The seminar is led by Tom McFarlane, author of Einstein and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings. Tom has a degree in physics from Stanford University, and advanced degrees in mathematics and philosophy. Tom is also on the board of directors of the Center for Sacred Sciences.


Following is a tentative weekly schedule of topics and materials for the seminar.

  1. Overview of the seminar; The nature of theories
  2. The tenets of naive realism; science and religion
  3. Introducing quantum theory and the paradoxes
    • Quantum Physics Encounters Consciousness: An Interview with Bruce Rosenblum read the interview
    • Quantum Koans: Experiments that Confound, Perplex, and Bewilder watch the video
  4. Particles, waves, and materialism
  5. Measurement, wave function collapse, and observation
  6. Interpretations
  7. The Einstein-Bohr debates, EPR, and Bell's theorem
  8. The hard problem of consciousness
    • Exploring Actuality through Experiment and Experience by Piet Hut - read the article
    • Untangling the Hard Problem of Consciousness by Todd L. Duncan - read the article
  9. Volition and free will
  10. Summary / Questions and Answers / Discussion

The following books are recommended as supplementary reading prior to, during, and/or after the seminar.

Further Reading

If you would like to investigate these topics in more detail, Prof. of Physics Stanley Sobottka has a detailed and comprehensive website on quantum physics and nondualityA Course in Consciousness.

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