On our recent trip to the ranch, we listened to an NPR podcast entitled, Invisibilia. The hosts, Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, explore “the invisible forces that shape human behavior.” We listened to the entire first season on our 6+ hour drive to the ranch, so we got to know Lulu and Alix (pronounced aLEES) a bit, since this is a show that reveals snippets of their personalities along the way. These delightful and intelligent women are on a quest to spelunk – among other things – the caves of scientific arcana. As they did in my favorite episode titled, Entanglement.
They launch the show with an on-site interview with a grad student in physics from the U. of Maryland named David Huckle. David escorted Lulu and Alix through his lab, showing them lasers and mirrors – bits and pieces of an experiment which he was conducting in an effort to perform what’s called a quantum entanglement. That’s where you take two separate atoms and, using his laser, turn then into the same thing.
At the simplest level, entanglement is just the idea that two things that are separated in space can still be the same thing. You can have an object that exists in two different spaces and it’s still the same object. I mean that’s wild. That’s totally weird, right?”
Geoff Brumfiel, Science Correspondent at NPR.
As strange as this sounds, it’s true – and not just at an atomic level. Entanglement occurs on a much more obvious scale with people. Some people, like Amanda (not her real name) who physically feels what those around her physically feel. Those feelings have been with her since she was about three, when she was at a birthday party for a little boy and experienced a version of all the hugs he was receiving from those who loved him. Now as an adult, she feels the physical sensations of the person on whom she is focusing.
The phenomenon has been documented by scientists for years. Alex and Lulu spoke with Dr. Michael Banissy, Senior Lecturer, and neuroscientist who runs the brain stimulation laboratory at Goldsmith’s University of London. What he and his team see when they look as subjects like Amanda, is that when those people see someone get touched, the touch centers of their brain go wild. The area of the brain associated with this kind of physical empathic response become hyperactivated in people with this condition.
We all do this, says Lulu (I think it’s Lulu – their voices are very similar), but on a much smaller scale. When we see someone get hugged or slapped we all get a tiny burst of activity in the mirror neurons of our brains. Usually, that activity is very quiet. With Amanda, and other with her condition, those mirror systems are hyperactivated to the level of a conscious experience. They actually feel what other people feel. And is isn’t limited to physical sensations. People with this condition experience mirrored emotional responses as well.
So, all of this set me thinking about the possibility of spiritual entanglement. Since neither Lulu nor Alix delve into spiritual caverns in their explorations, I was left to my own devices. It strikes me that the Lord Jesus became the ultimate expression of spiritual entanglement when,
God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.” 1 Corinthians 5:21
He didn’t witness sin in us and, somehow vicariously experience the effects of sin on our behalf. He became sin for us. He identified so intimately with our sin that absorbed our sin. Of course Jesus also is eternal God, so that in His earthly life he perfectly reflected the character of God the Father (“If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” John 14.9). In that sense He didn’t absorb the character of God because He already was God the Son. But his identification with the Father through shared character is no less compelling (or unfathomable) than His identification with sinful man by being made sin. By becoming sin for us he was able to bear them away (Is. 53:4-6, 10) as our substitute. That’s one side of the coin. The other side has to do with our entanglement with Him and with each other.
We are “in” Christ (Romans 6:11), AND we are “in” His body, the church, and so we belong to one another (Romans 12:5). Jesus even prayed that we Christians “may be one, even as we [Jesus and the Father] are one,” (John 17:11, 22).
There is much to be gained from an understanding of how God has wired us for connectivity – with Him and with one another. I’m just beginning to get my head around the idea of the idea of atomic and neurological entanglement. The caves of spiritual entanglement await. I’m grateful for the expedition, and for the treasures that are ours through our entanglement with the Lord Jesus Christ.