quantum psychology and yoga – an interview with yaz yazicioglu

Ever since I was 16, I have been madly in love with the field of human psychology, and later neuroscience. I remember very well my first book on the topic, Eric Berne’s “The Games that People Play”, something that my dad had in his library. Even my choices in fiction reflected my desire to learn about the human psyche: I absolutely adored the French realists for having a profound understanding on the issue (Honoré de Balzac, Emil Zola, Stendhal, André Maurois).

About 8 years ago I got fascinated by astronomy and later by quantum mechanics. I devoured all the documentaries I could find online that dealt with the subject, subscribed to Science magazines, took free online science courses, read books… To my great regret, the Ukrainian high school I went to killed any kind of interest in the sciences, and so I had to rediscover this lost territory later on in my life all by myself.

Put these two passion together, and you get into quantum psychology. It’s not really a proper field in academia just yet, but more and more people publish books and lecture about how the findings in the quantum theory question our common sense notions of reality and produce a whole new world view that demands a completely novel system of interacting with it.

Just very recently I had a chance to hear one such lecture at the Soho House Berlin given by Yaz YazicioÄŸlu. Yaz has a degree in Engineering, but during his studies he developed a keen interest in quantum psychology, having taken both psychology and physic courses simultaneously. Yaz is one of those very beautiful interdisciplinary minds who is inspiring to watch and to listen to.

Even before attending the lecture, I have noticed a lot of parallels between psychology, quantum mechanics, and yoga. During the lecture, it was clear to me that they are in fact connected. For me personally, being a scientifically-minded individual of the Western world in the 21 century, it is important to think about and understand some of the ancient and archaic concepts from the Eastern philosophy that yoga is a part of in terms of quantum psychology.

Below is an interview with Yaz YazicioÄŸlu that shines more light on this connection between quantum psychology and yoga.

Anastasia Shevchenko for YOGI TIMES : For those who are very new to the concept, very briefly, what exactly is quantum psychology and how did you get into it?

Yaz YazicioÄŸlu: My first introduction to quantum psychology was when I was around 10 years old. I was watching “The Road Runner and Coyote” cartoon. In this one episode, the coyote has the roadrunner cornered on small cliff overhanging a deep ravine. As the coyote approaches the roadrunner, thinking that he has finally caught him, the mainland connected to the cliff falls off, while the cliff with the roadrunner keeps on hanging suspended in mid-air. This is where the roadrunner pulls out a sign that says: “I did not study gravity, so it does not apply to me”.

This got me thinking: if we don’t study or know about something, does that mean it does not exist?

Much later in life, as my studies in psychology and engineering progressed, I got involved with quantum physics, and hence connected the two interests into one.

AS: Based on what you have learned so far, what are the 3 key concepts that the findings of quantum physics introduced into the field of psychology and please explain each one in a few words.

Yaz YazicioÄŸlu:

1.Superposition – This is the idea that all particles exist in a quantum state that makes it possible for them to be in all places at all times, until the time that a measurement takes place and the wave function of countless possibilities for this particle collapses from the observer effect, forcing the particle to take one definite position.

2. Entanglement – That’s the idea that some particles are connected and acting upon one of them immediately affects the other one, where the communication happens instantaneously, regardless of the distance between them.

3. The observer effect – Is the idea that the observer has an influence on whether a particle would behave as matter or as energy (wave), where the person is thus not a passive observer of the phenomena, but rather is an active participant in the creation of reality.

Ever since the discovery of these 3 main principles of quantum mechanics, our perception and understanding of the world has been changed in dramatic ways. Quantum psychology tries to investigate just to what extend the principles of quantum mechanics should be integrated and applied into the human psychology.

AS: Which prominent scientists, researchers, and thinkers have you been drawing upon for inspiration and self-directed learning on the topic of quantum psychology?

Yaz YazicioÄŸlu: There are too many to list. However, the top 4 scientists and philosophers that have helped shape my theories are:

– Alan Watts, with the PhD in both Western and Eastern philosophy, is famous for his insightful books and lectures on the nature of the Self.

– Max Planck is known for his Planck Time reference and the discovery that light can be considered not only as a wave, but also as a particle, started the so-called quantum revolution.

– Fred Alan Wolf, a modern day quantum physicist who deals especially with quantum consciousness.

– Charles F. Haanel, in his book “The Master Key System” [Haanel], proposes a brilliant system of thinking that allows one to influence and shape one’s reality.

AS: First, let’s touch upon the topic of entanglement. According to wikipedia, quantum entanglement is a “physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the others, even when the particles are separated by a large distance—instead, a quantum state must be described for the system as a whole.”

How does that relate to the field of human psychology and what are the implications of this new concept on the way human beings should be perceiving reality? Is that kind of implying that, just like according to the spiritual concepts behind yoga, we are all entangled, or connected, to one another?

Yaz YazicioÄŸlu: Well, to put it simply – Yes. We are all connected. There is only one consciousness or only soul if you want to call it that. We are all part of a bigger, greater organism. Regardless of our psychological/neurological influences on each other, we are essentially all interdependent on each other for the creation of reality as we know it. This is difficult to fathom given our physical bodies and a sense of separateness that comes as a result of them, but under the state of the universal mind, we are all the same and equally connected to the same Source or the Fountain.

AS: Now, let’s get to superposition. Quoting wikipedia again, the principal of quantum superposition states “much like waves in classical physics, any two (or more) quantum states can be added together (“superposed”) and the result will be another valid quantum state; and conversely, that every quantum state can be represented as a sum of two or more other distinct states.”

Seen from a psychology perspective, to me it basically sounds like there is a possibility for a human being to experience a quantum state of uncertainty and indeterminacy when making sense of the reality and acting upon it, entertaining any of the possible set of concepts, including those that are contradictory and opposite to each other.

In yoga, we talk about reaching a state of acute awareness, where we can simultaneously perceive a multitude of perspectives/possibilities that could be even each other’s opposites, and that would grant us the true wholeness of any experience, a liberated life. What do you think about that?

Yaz YazicioÄŸlu: The message is the same. There are many different ways to say “water” in all the languages; this does not change the actual substance of water, only the manner in which we describe it. Philosophically speaking, to know the existence of something, you must also know the absence of that same thing. So very much like a coin: it cannot exist or be called a coin without both sides existing at once.

AS: I think a lot of the people who are into yoga, spirituality, and ways to expand one’s consciousness know by now what the observer effect is. Basically it sates that the reality is probabilistic, where the nature is not governed by some rigid rules of causality, but rather responds to the intention of those acting upon it.

As a result, there has been a lot of talk on the power of belief and prayer, positive thinking, and manifesting one’s dreams, etc. But it’s not as simple as that, isn’t it? According to you, what is wrong about this kind of new-age ideas?

Yaz YazicioÄŸlu: I don’t believe anything to be wrong with such paradigms. They are all forms of expressing the singular truth that they are all derived from. However, I do think that assigning too much value to external variables, causes, forces, etc pulls us from the truth that we are in control of our experiences, and not simply under the influence of some greater power or forces. Another side of the observer effect is the idea that the “I” that we so often use to describe our individualistic selves, is actually an observer of the events that we ourselves are participating in. We observe our own emotions and feelings, and by doing so, we actually create them at the moment we need to observe and/or witness them.

AS: In the quantum psychology talk that you gave recently, you discussed a very simple yet powerful idea of how we can affect our mental states by acting upon our bodies. So, for instance, when you’re depressed, it’s not enough to try to think positive out of your depression, rather you need to work on the physical representation of your depression to get out of it: on your body language, on your facial expression, on the biological processes that respond to your depressive mood such as the breathing, the heart rate, the work of the hormones and neurotransmitters, etc.

That is exactly what we do in yoga: we use our physical bodies to produce a positive change in our minds. Why do you think this method is so powerful?

Yaz YazicioÄŸlu: Much of this has to do with the theory of quantum paradox: we should first accomplish the things we wish to achieve before we ever set out to achieve them in the first place. Our physical manifestation (our bodies, the objects and people that surround us) is an echo of what we have already accomplished giving us the courage, forethought, and willingness to undertake that endeavor.

What does that mean? Well, I cannot change my state of mind without first indirectly addressing it through my physical body.

Take a look at Murphy’s law: once something bad has happened, a series of bad events continue to take place based on the first physical event that set our mind and body to a particular state of receptivity of all the bad things that did and would happen, and so they continue to happen indefinitely. To break out of this vicious circle, you must go through the physical body change that would in turn influenced your state of mind. Think of what kind of physical state you need to find yourself in to set yourself up for a more positive outcome, embody that state, and that will in turn reflect you state of mind and produce a positive change in the course of actions that follow.

This idea might seem quite paradoxical, but is simple to apply if you don’t over think it. 🙂

AS: When you spoke about the power of perception, you mentioned the idea that there is no objective reality “out there,” but rather we create our reality, each one of us, according to the subjective states of mind that we are constantly changing between. On top of that, the human eye tends to see things in a certain way, which is determined by the way our sensory organs and brains process the visual spectrum, which reminds us that even “objective” things such as the position of objects in space are rather “subjective” to the point of reference and the ability of the perceiver.

In the traditional yoga, there is a talk of maya, the illusion that we perceive our reality to be, but there is also talk of the “absolute truth”, which is usually connected to the idea of god. What do you think about that?

Yaz YazicioÄŸlu: Again, all of these are just forms or words in varying languages meant for expressing the same thing. As we discover more and more in the psychical world, we realize more and more just how much this physical world is shaped by our own ideas and thoughts, or the metaphysical world. Now, the question is, where do these ideas and thoughts come from

Imagine that your left and right hands had a mind of their own. You are the universal self that wishes to bring them both together to make the sound of a clap. The left hand (your left hand self) would think that it’s moving towards the right hand as a result of its own free will and not as a result of being controlled by a greater force (your universal self). Same goes for the right hand (your right hand self) as it moves towards the left.

Both are coming from different directions and both are expressing themselves differently, until which point they collide and make the sound of clap (produce some kind of joint “reality”). That sound produced would be perceived by both hands to be the result of “their” intentions, some kind of idea of causality. However, you as the universal self would know that it was actually your intention from the very start to clap your hands.

This is what happens to us all as we interact and create “reality” alongside each other, colliding together in life, thinking of ourselves as having a free will, whereas in actuality it is the Universal self that is pulling all the strings. Hence, the only absolute truth is the one that our individualistic self receives directly from our universal self, or god, whatever you call it.

AS: You spoke about the idea of each one of continuously engaging in the hard work of re-creating the story of the self, what we call “the ego” in yoga. It seems that the ego evolved to be a part of the human structure out of practical reasons and is important for mental health and functioning in the society. However, we all know the price we have to pay for it: the ego limits our perceptions and understanding of the self and the ultimate nature of reality.

In yoga, we accept the ego for what it is, but we try to free ourselves from the limitations that the ego imposes on us. What is your proposed solution to the problem of the ego as you see it from the perspective of quantum psychology?

Yaz YazicioÄŸlu: The ego is not a problem, it is a by-product of the psychical consciousness. To say we must be rid of our ego or absolved of it, would be like saying you must eat without defecating. It’s just not possible! The ego is there to keep us bound to the material reality where all of our expressions and experiences are relevant for the universal self to exist. Otherwise, we would have not existed in the physical world.

We can only part from our egos by witnessing the universal self through techniques like yoga, meditation, transcendental mind, astral travel, etc. Becoming the observer of our-selves, witnessing our universal self, demands a physical body.

AS: Finally, just very quickly, what are the 3 practical life lessons coming out of the Quantum Psychology that you would like the readers to apply to their lives to make them better?

Yaz YazicioÄŸlu:

1.Know that we are all one and the same, part of greater whole. There is no evil in your own body (ego) as it is part of the Divine Expression whether you realize it or not.

2. Remember that all diseases and health conditions are directly connected to your manner of thought and belief.

3. Realize that just by wishing something to be true you cannot make it come true: you must visualize, feel, and embody the desired.

Finally, concentrate on what you want, and not on what you DON’T want.

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