By Sky Nelson-Isaacs. North Atlantic Books, 2021. 328 pages. $19.95/paperback; $13.99/eBook.
How do our choices lead us toward, or away from, wholeness? Sky Nelson-Isaacs, a theoretical physicist-composer-musician, intrigues this reviewer by combining original quantum physics research with foundational ideas about space and time. He views humankind, physics, and the cosmos as “fundamentally whole.” He sees reality—the wholeness of it all—as relational, and so do I, but the author warns that relationships (with people and with God) tend to suffer when we filter our personal attitudes and actions through a “legacy of hurt.” To make healthier choices, we need new paradigms. “While science can set the paradigm, we as individuals must decide how we operate within it.”
Nelson-Isaacs offers tools from science, religion, and psychology to help us adapt to disruption and to develop new modes of optimal functioning. To nudge readers toward more effective choices, he poses provocative queries: “How do you get something out of nothing?” The Big Bang theory and the Genesis creation story both start here, indicating a control-mindset. In contrast, the author—whose first book is titled Living in Flow—shifts to a flow-mindset: “How do we get something from everything?”
Some of his scientific concepts went over my head, but the explanation of “observer-independence” (a basic physics assumption) coheres with my understanding of “that of God in everyone.” Nelson-Isaacs writes:
In the relational universe, there is no bird’s-eye view that judges what really happened. Any possible description is from the view of somebody or something, and each person can only see what they can see. From every perspective, knowledge of the world is incomplete.
Quaker founders predated quantum physics by centuries, yet their relational viewpoint shaped the Religious Society of Friends. Nelson-Isaacs studied with Indian spiritual master Sri Swami Satchidananda, and might recognize truth in the teachings of George Fox, Margaret Fell, and William Penn. Friends who have experienced gathered meetings may well confirm the author’s conclusion:
[I]f we accept a relational multiverse and abandon the belief in objectivity, we can experience a shared reality that makes sense and is consistent, where we do really have free choice as we feel we do.
Activist Friends will find resonance in chapter 12, “Wholeness in Community,” where Nelson-Isaacs addresses White privilege from a professor’s perspective.
As a white person, I experience a flexibility of circumstances that may not be experienced by others of different race or socioeconomic group. . . . Racism itself is a filter on wholeness. . . . It is possible—in fact, rewarded—for white people to maintain a falsely filtered view of the world. . . . The gears of synchronicity [are] lubricated by class status.
The author uses familiar examples—rainbows, music, photography—to illustrate nature’s fundamental wholeness, and relate it to our lives. He touches tenderly on issues of isolation and grief, opportunities and mistakes, and the empowered choices that help us thrive. Alternating awe, wonder, and vulnerability, the Synchronicity Institute founder and author shows how everyday choices do lead us toward, or away from, wholeness.