Skip to main content

I Am a Particle and a Wave

  • 2883 Accesses


Perhaps the best known insight of quantum physics is that light, and all other entities in the physical universe, is both particle like and wave like at the same time. This chapter extends that principle to ourselves, arguing that we are both particle-like, distinct individuals, and wave-like social beings defined by our relationships. Thus chapter critiques both both Western radical individualism, and Eastern collectivism, and offers a model of “the quantum self” as a bridge between East & West. And the wave/particle, dual nature, of the self thus sets up the later discussion of how independent, self-organizing teams in companies are both separate entities in their own right and collaborating elements within the larger company system. Same applies to us as private individuals who are also citizens, and nations which are sovereign in their own right and at the same time constituent members of a larger global order.

The iconic American hero is the lonely cowboy, sitting astride his horse in the midst of a vast prairie and dependent on no one but himself to brave and survive the elements. His modern equivalent is the Superhero, who has special powers that enable him to single-handedly save the world, and the Taylorian CEO is a kind of cowboy or Superhero who bears sole authority and responsibility for running his/her company. Western society is based on this concept of the all-important individual, the “atom of society,” whose power to pursue his/her interests and protect his/her rights through the personal vote is the cornerstone of Western democracy. We have already seen that this sacred individualism is rooted in the atomism of early Greek philosophy and then enshrined as a defining principle of Newtonian physics. Western society is particle-like.

By contrast, when I suggested to one of my Chinese Ph.D. students that China boosts its soft power in the West by conceiving a Chinese Superhero and having him star in a block buster movie, the student protested that such a movie would not be Chinese. “We don’t believe in Superheroes,” he protested. “We recognize that heroic deeds are performed by teams working together, like the doctors in Wuhan, or by the Chinese people all acting in cooperation, as we did by wearing masks and obeying the Lockdown during the Covid crisis.” The modern Chinese government’s stop priorities are protecting the safety of the Chinese people and maintaining harmony in society, and few Chinese people put their own personal interest, or “rights,” before the best interest of all. This Chinese collectivism is rooted in the still influential Confucian philosophy that stresses the place and duties of the individual within family relationships, and the responsibilities of citizens and leaders to society as a whole. China is largely a wave-like society.

But quantum physics tells us that entities are both particle-like and wave-like, possessing both an individual identity and potential while at the same time evolving that individuality and expanding that potential through their relationship to other entities and to the environment as a whole. Discrete “individuals” play their active part in the system dynamics, but always as “team members” of the system, just as in the RenDanHeyi management model the “independent” microenterprises pursue their own targets and interests while these are always being reinvented through their relationships to other microenterprises and to the company system and the larger ecosystem as a whole. Thus, we would expect a quantum society to be both particle-like and wave-like (see Chapter 19), and the quantum persons who are its citizens to have this same dual nature. Let us look at how each of us is both an individual who stands out from the group and a person defined by our relationships within it, both a “particle” and a “wave” at the same time, and what this means for both employees and leaders of companies.

Both an Individual and My Relationships

At this moment, if I direct my attention toward myself, I feel very certain that I exist as an individual, that there is something it is right to call “me.” I know that I am the person who went to sleep in my bed last night and woke up there this morning. I know my name, remember most of my personal history, and have my distinct physical appearance that others can recognize. Individuals like me, whether of the human or subatomic particle variety, make things happen, and I have my own very particular responsibilities. It is an individual that I develop my character, as an individual that I possess integrity, and as an individual that others can rely on me. It is an individual that I must sometimes be “field independent,” stand against the crowd, when my values or intuitions demand, and as an individual that I make the unique contribution that only I can make. Quantum physics tells me that, like every other existing thing in the universe, I am a unique excitation of the Quantum Vacuum’s cosmic energy field, an important and irreplaceable “happening” in the history of events. As Ekhardt Tolle has written, “You are here to enable the Divine Purpose of the universe to unfold. That’s how important you are.”Footnote 1

As a mother and grandmother I have a distinct role in my family and things that only I can do, I am at the center of certain family and social events, and my distinct eccentricities add some spice and variety to the tapestry of family life—and are the source of many family “stories”! As one of my young grandsons commented recently in my defence, “If we were all the same, we would get very confused. And we would be very boring.” If I were not “me,” my entire family would be different because, while my individuality is important, my being “me” plays a defining role in all others in the family being who they are. I am not just an isolated “particle” free to be and do as I like, but also a “wave” whose being and doing affects both the kind of individuals others in the family are and what they do.

We have seen that quantum physics proves that in our quantum world, everything and everyone is related to, “entangled with,” everything and everyone else, and that it is their place in this vast network of relationships that determines both the identity and the behavior of each thing or person. Relationship makes reality. Every existing thing and person is in fact a dynamic, wave-like pattern of energy “written” on the background energy field of the Quantum Vacuum, a wave on the sea of cosmic energy that permeates all things and people. And just like neighboring waves on the sea, we overlap and combine, we amplify or reduce each other. We each contain the same “seawater,” and are stuff of the same substance. This is the quantum basis of the Taoist insight that each of us contains within ourselves the entire universe and everything within it. “I” am “you,” and “you” are “me,” and it is through our relationship that we create both ourselves and our shared world. There are no “others,” no “strangers,” and there is Zero Distance between each of us.

Thus, each employee in a company is both a “particle” and a “wave,” a unique and irreplaceable individual and an integral, defining part of the company. No matter what his or her role, no matter how seemingly large or small that role, every employee matters because of his or her individual potential and contributes that potential to the making of the company system. All employees and all roles are in a defining relationship with all others, and together they create the company system. There are no “others” because there are no borders. There are no less-equals because all are stuff of the same substance. There are no less important job roles, no unimportant people, because all, in their uniqueness, are integral and defining elements of the company system. If the employees were different, and their relationships different, it wouldn’t be the same company.

The Creativity of Our Relationships

To understand the creative potential of personal and company relationships, we could use the metaphor of a jazz jam session and contrast it with the performance of a solo artist or that of an orchestra. The solo artist, of course, shines on his own, and can have his own brilliance. He draws his creativity from reserves within himself and performs with reference only to his personal interpretation of a musical score. The orchestra is more like a bureaucratic organization, the player of each instrument performing his or her part of the score according to the guidance and interpretation of the conductor. Both the soloist and the orchestra stick to the score and surprise us only with their style and the manner or emotional tone of their interpretation. But participants in a jazz jam session do not follow a set score and there is no conductor. Instead, each one plays his or her instrument in an improvised response to the tone and rhythm of the previous one and with a shared, relational sense of their as yet together to be played whole. The participants create the piece they are performing as they perform it, and in a self-organizing, responsive relationship to each other and their shared project. The result is something fresh and surprising, a whole now unimaginable from the sum of its parts. This is the nature of all creative relationships, be they marriages, families, or companies. By spontaneously responding together to each other and to the way that each other spontaneously responds to challenges, opportunities, and the surrounding context of events, the participants in these relationships are constantly reinventing themselves and each other, and bringing something new into the world. The created whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.

Thus none of us is, by nature, either a selfish or entirely self-sufficient, isolated particle, nor simply a wave-like member of a collective relationship that diminishes the importance and responsibility of our individuality. Each of us is, rather, a quantum person who is both an individual in our own right, worthy of dignity, respect, and room to exercise our free will and to develop our potential, and a wave-like participant in our relationships, partially defined and created by spontaneously responding to others in those relationships, drawing value, nourishment, and even identity from them, while at the same time nourishing, adding value to, and cocreating further potentiality for both ourselves and others. It is this particle/wave duality of the quantum person that makes our friendships, marriages, teams, and companies meaningful, fulfilling, and creative. Each of us, as individuals, and through the relationships that we engage in, makes our family, makes our company, and makes our world. And we are responsible for what we make. But, as we will now see in the next chapter, this relational creativity can only emerge because each quantum person, both as an individual and as a partner in a creative relationship, has multiple potentialities and an adaptive ability to play many possible roles.


  1. 1.

    Eckhardt Tolle, The Power of Now.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Danah Zohar .

Rights and permissions

Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (, which permits any noncommercial use, sharing, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if you modified the licensed material. You do not have permission under this license to share adapted material derived from this chapter or parts of it.

The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2022 The Author(s)

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Zohar, D. (2022). I Am a Particle and a Wave. In: Zero Distance. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore.

Download citation