Print this page

Observations placeholder

Wheeler, Professor John – On thinking out of the box and using your students to do it



Type of spiritual experience

A description of the experience

John Wheeler’s Participatory Universe - Marina Jones February 13, 2014

Wheeler had a reputation pushing his students into a place where logical thought would not necessarily take them. Former student Richard Feynman, to Kip Thorne, declared, “Some people think that Wheeler’s gotten crazy in his later years, but he’s always been crazy!” [Reference: Princeton] Wheeler was willing to make a fool of himself, to go anywhere, talk to anybody, and ask any question that would get him closer to understanding “how things are put together.” 

Wheeler believed that the real reason universities have students is to educate the professors. But to be educated by the students, a professor had to ask good questions. “You try out your questions on the students”, he wrote, “If there are questions that the students get interested in, then they start to tell you new things and keep you asking more new questions. Pretty soon you have learned a great deal.” [Reference: Cosmic Search Vol. 1 No. 4]

Wheeler had a fantastic sense of humor. Often he engaged in Koan-like expressions that puzzled and amused his listeners. He saw beauty in strangeness and actively sought it out. He declared, “If you haven’t found something strange during the day, it hasn’t been much of a day.”

The source of the experience

Wheeler, Professor John Archibald

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image


Observation contributed by: Rosie Rock-Evans