BrahmandaChandogya UpanishadMundaka UpanishadShvetashvatara Upanishad

Upanishads and Quantum Philosophy Compared | 102

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Chandogya Upanishad refers to the origin of world from akasha, the space-time continuum. Thus the Upanishad says:

Where from do all these worlds come? They came from akasha and into akasha they return. akasha is indeed their beginning and  akasha  is the final end.

Taittiriya Upanishad refers to  akasha  or space as the first evolute. The field of modern science can be compared to this akasha . The Upanishads speaks of apah, prana and  akasha  in decreasing order of subtlety. Here akasha  is said to have come from prana. These three are active and things are produced from them and into them they return. This is the similar to the concept of the particles appearing from nowhere which again is the field. Thus apah, prana and akasha  can together be compared to the field of the quantum thinkers. Manifestation of the world begins with its first step, the appearance of the space time continuum. Consciousness draws the picture of the manifested world in the canvas of space-time continuum. An object is only a pattern in the field of consciousness. The field is enveloped by space time, the first fictitious creation of the consciousness force. In the state of pralaya the space-time is engulfed into the Absolute consciousness. Thus says the lore of India:

From atman-Brahman in the beginning came akahsa. From akasha came air, from air the fire, from fire the water. From water came solid earth. From earth came living plants. From plants food and seed; and from seed and food came a living being, man.

This is akin to quantum inter-connectedness which Wheeler refers to as quantum foam. Thus writes John Gribbin:

Quantum fluctuations in the geometry of space are completely negligible at the scale of atoms, or even elementary particles, but at this very fundamental level space itself can be thought of as a foam of quantum fluctuations – John Wheeler, who developed this idea, makes the comparison between an ocean that seems flat to an aviator flying high above it, but that seems anything but to the occupants of a lifeboat tossing about it on its stormy, ever-changing surface.

Sir James Jeans, the British psychologist points to the relative nature of space and time which according to him do not have separate existence in nature. He opines,

…nature knows as nothing of space and time separately, being concerned only with the four dimensional continuum in which space and time are inseparably welded together into the product we may designate as “space-time.” Our human spectacles divide this into space and time, and introduce a spurious differentiation between them; just as an astigmatic pair of spectacles divides the field of vision of a normal man into horizontal and vertical, and introduces a spurious differentiation between these directions. With astigmatic spectacles on, we incline our head and see the scene in front of us rearrange itself. Yet we know that nothing spectacles is subjective.

Einstein’s world view which he formulated before his death is worth quoting. “Space has devoured ether and time; it seems to be on the point of swallowing up also the field and the corpuscles, so that it alone remains as the vehicle of reality”. Scientists studying space and field have ruled out the pluralistic picture of the universe since they accept the space or field as a single continuous entity which is the basis of the pluralistic manifestation of the world. The new generation quantum thinkers realized the role of space in the creation and dissolution of particles. Particles come from and vanish into space. Space, time, and motion (matter) are the three principles in the world of ordinary experience. Like space matter also has a relative appearance, both  scientists as well as upanishadic seers opine.

The study of the microscopic world by the quantum physicists has proved the bizarre nature of matter. Determinacy and causality upheld by the classical physics gave way to the theories of indeterminacy and complementarity. Objective reality became an illusion or something subjective. The behavior of an atom or sub-atomic particle was found to be ghost-like. Marcus Chown’s humorous illustration of the ‘red Ferrari’ cited earlier in this work brings out the process of tunneling by particles. Being a wave and a particle, an atom is said to be present everywhere and would materialize when the consciousness desires to observe it. The ‘double slit experiment’ of Young is an excellent demonstration of uncertainty and tunneling of particles. The waves are in superposition. This is no theoretical fantasy. Experiments describe it possible to observe the presence of an atom at two places simultaneously just like a fairy tale character appearing simultaneously at many places. But this was not a matter of fancy to the ancient Seers according to whom ‘it’ moves, ‘it’ moves not, ‘it’ is far, ‘it’ is near, ‘it’ is within all this, and ‘it’ is outside of all this. (Isho upanishad). Individual consciousness is identical with the Universal or Absolute consciousness. The ultimate consciousness in its becoming decohered binds itself with ignorance or illusion and chooses for it one out of the innumerable possibilities. It thus becomes a part of the world of imperfection and limitation and forgets the unity it is the part of. While scientists call this collapse of consciousness, a Seer like Sri. Aurobindo calls it the involution of consciousness. Universal Consciousness is thus everywhere, become any thing with its bizarre nature. Aitareya Upanishad describes atman as got entangled in all cosmic phenomena.

(He) whereby one sees, or whereby one hears, or whereby one smells odours, or whereby one articulates speech, or whereby one discriminates the sweet and the unsweet; that which is heart(hrdaya) and mind (manas) – that is consciousness (samjnana) perception (ajnana), discrimination (vijnana), intelligence (prajnana), wisdom (medha), insight (drishti), steadfastness (dhrti), thought (mati), thoughtfulness (manisha), impulse (juti), memory (smriti), conception (samkalpa), purpose (kratu), life (asu), desire (kama), will (vasa). All these indeed are appellations of intelligence.

Upanishads sees material world as the expression of atman or pure consciousness through different stages. The Pure or undifferentiated consciousness variously designated as chit, purusha, brahman, atman etc gets de-cohered in proportionate to the worldliness it assumes or ajnana (ignorance) about itself. With ignorance vanishing, there is no day or night, no being or non-being. What remains is the indestructible atman which radiates in consciousness, says Shvetashvatara Upanishad.

Mandukya Upanishad explains the world of diversities citing the four states of the atman like waking (jagrat), dream (swapna), deep sleep (sushupti) and the bliss (turiya). In the Taittariya Upanishad atman has the following order of descend: From this Soul (atman), space (akasa) arose; from space, the wind (vayu); from wind, the fire; from fire, the water; from water, the earth; from earth, the herbs; from herbs, the food; from food, the semen; from semen, the person (purusha).

Descend is coincided with an ascend too. The self is capable of returning to its original state which Aurobindo calls the super human state and Teilhard de Chardin the omega point. To quote Amit Goswami,

In the last century, two philosopher-sages, Sri Aurobindo in India and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in the West, had the revolutionary insight that evolution does not end its journey towards increasing complexity with humans. According to Aurobindo, just as animals have been the laboratory for nature to evolve humans, similarly human beings are currently the laboratory for evolving super humans…The end of evolution is when we reach the omega point of perfection, according to Teilhard.

Usually body being deemed something that hinders the attainment of eternal liberation it was always given a secondary importance. But upanishadic thinkers took matter as the abode of spirit and material world as the laboratory of spiritual experiments. Matter is thus one of the many media through which the ultimate expresses itself. It is interesting to note how Spinoza uses his theory of modes to explain how the one single reality manifested into many. A mode is the modification of a substance which is expressed in and through something other than itself. These modes are experienced as reality by the choice of the consciousness which is an integral part of the mind, for matter was there even before human mind began perceive it and would be present even if mankind ceases to exist. Matter is the primary stage of divine involution, and it progresses to the stage of human mind which realizes matter as the basic expression of the Absolute. In the reverse process of evolution back to its original homogeneity, individual consciousness retraces its step through the same path and reaches the state of singularity. Bhagavad Gita says:

Beings, O descendant of Bharata!, have the Unmanifest as their beginning, are manifest in the middle, and have the Unmanifest itself; so why lament for them?

Through mind, the higher evolute of the Absolute, one comes to know of matter which is the evolute at the lower level. Hegel’s theory of the absolute coming down through the triads of thesis, antithesis and synthesis which culminates in the final synthesis of the realization of the Absolute mind through philosophy explains well how the Absolute consciousness degenerates into the world and how realization of the Absolute takes place in individual consciousness. Scientists have now discovered that the brain makes quantum jumps from one thought to another, coordinating and assimilating these thoughts in the light of consciousness which beacons throughout. The various secretions produced by the different organs of the human body in agreement with the fleeting thoughts of a human being or the chameleon changing its color sensing the surroundings point to the fluttering wave of consciousness. The famous scientist Eccles opines that the cells of brain work because consciousness works. This Bergson calls ‘elanvital’ or the internal awareness of being alive.

Rupert Sheldrake’s concept of ‘morphic resonance’ states that cell differentiation takes place as guided by the blue prints of genetic programs of the morphogenetic fields. It is quantum consciousness that makes the inherent trends match the soul. Here comes the importance of the theory of karma which deals with checking and evaluating one’s past karmas or deeds. Collapse of consciousness chooses the life, and the blue print of this selection comes in resonance with the morphogenetic fields. Even the idea of God ceases to be relevant in the theory of karma. Consciousness collapses in agreement with the blue print by past karma or action. Unlike Newtonian physics with its deterministic universe the new physics upholds free will and indeterminism. Some thinkers have still reservations about the quantum concept of participatory universe where the observer becomes one with the observed world which appears in tune with the angle it is looked from by the observer or the seeker, and the relativity of time which overlooks the past present future divide towards an already set future. Paul Davies clarifies it more when he says:

There seems to be a fundamental antagonism between the two theories that constitute the foundations of the new physics. On the one hand, the quantum theory endows the observer with a vital role in the nature of physical reality; as we have seen, many physicists claim that there is concrete experimental evidence against the notion of ‘objective reality’. This appears to offer human beings a unique ability to influence the structure of the physical universe in a way that was undreamt of in Newton’s day. On the other hand, the theory of relativity, which demolishes the concept of a universal time, and an absolute past, present and future, conjures up a picture of a future that in some sense already exists, and so cuts from under our feet the victory won with the help of quantum factor. If the future is there, does it not mean that we are powerless to alter it?

This dilemma is solved with one accepting the idea of quantum consciousness (without rebuking Einstein’s relativity determining the future and the role of the choice and participation by the observer). The future exists as an entanglement of possibilities, and the consciousness with the help of the morphogenetic blue print of the previous karmas chooses out of these possibilities. Here one needs to discipline and steady the mind and perform all karmas so that he is no more bound by the dualities and diversities and has become one with united whole. To use scientific language, traveling with the speed of light one is able to see the past present and future all at once (‘tachyons’). The noted quantum psychologist ken Wilber speaks of the integral theory of consciousness through his four quadrant illustration of consciousness. He illustrates how consciousness is embedded in the whole structural and functional aspect of the universe. To quote his words:

“In short, consciousness is not located merely in the physical brain, nor in the physical organism, nor in the ecological system, nor in the cultural context, nor does it emerge from any of these domains. Rather, it is anchored in, and distributed across, all of those domains with all of their available levels. The upper left quadrant is simply the functional locus of a distributed phenomenon. In particular, consciousness can’t be pinned down with ‘simple location’ (which means, any type of location in the sensorimotor world space, whether that location actually be simple or dispersed or systems-oriented) Consciousness is distributed, not just in spaces of extension (Right Hand), but also in spaces of intention (left hand), and attempts to reduce one to the other have consistently and spectacularly failed. Consciousness is not located inside the brain, nor outside the brain either, because both of these are physical boundaries with simple location, and yet a good part of consciousness exist not merely in physical space but in emotional space, mental spaces, and spiritual spaces, none of which have simple location, and yet all of which are as real (or more real) than simple physical space…

Quantum and relativity theories thus helped redefine God as Pure Consciousness. The findings of the bell theorem resulted in the development of a holistic picture of the universe. When Bell’s inequality was violated, objectivity and local causality accepted from the time of Newton which even Einstein believed right was violated. Objectivity and local causality were further refuted by the experiments by Alain Aspect and his team. Accordingly all particles are interrelated, communicating each other even though they are billions of miles apart. This reveals that in the beginning there was a single entity, a zero volume singularity of the scientists or a Cosmic egg (brahmanda) of the Vedic bards. One may thus logically conclude that the unifying factor behind the diversity of universe is Consciousness which abides in everything irrespective of whether they are micro particles or the macro type entities like stars, planets or galaxies. All cosmic entities are thus interrelated as explained in Bohm’s implicate order of the universe:

Parts are seen to be in immediate connection, in which their dynamical relationships depend, in an irreducible way, are contained, extending on the state of the whole system (and, indeed on that of broader systems in which they are contained, extending ultimately and in principle to the entire universe). Thus one is lead to a new notion of unbroken wholeness which denies the classical idea of analyzability of the world into separately and independently existing parts.

He writes further:

The implicate order would help us to see that … everything enfolds everything, to see that everybody not merely depends on everybody, but actually everybody is everybody in a deeper sense. We are the earth, because all our substance comes from the earth and goes back to it. It is a mistake to say it is an environment just surrounding us, because that would be like the brain regarding the rest of the body as part of its environment.

Brahman or the consciousness lying at the heart of the cosmos is the highest harmonizing force. In fact the destiny of the world itself is the result of synchronicity worked out by this universal consciousness or non-local intelligence. Thus sums up Dr. Deepak Chopra:

The final stage of living synchrodestiny occurs when you become fully aware of the interrelatedness of all things, how each affects the next, how they are … “in synchrony”, which means operating in unison, as one. Picture a school of fish swimming in one direction, and then in a flash, all the fish change direction. The fish don’t think, “The fish in front of me turned left, so I should turn left”. It all happens simultaneously. This synchrony is choreographed by a great, pervasive intelligence that lies at the heart of nature, and is manifest in each of us through what we call the soul.

The Upanishads explained Brahman as pure consciousness which is unbroken and undifferentiated. The world appears due to the force or ma=ya which is differentiated and broken consciousness. Ma=ya is the power or shakti of Brahman to manifest. Hence the indwelling consciousnesses in all worldly entities like animals, plants and even inanimate objects. Quantum physicists, observing the subatomic particles and their behavior, hold that the inanimate too posses consciousness. Erwin Schrödinger reveals the limitations of modern science before the enigmatic nature in his famous book What is Life and Mind and Matter. Science is not hesitant to accept the mystical ideas of Indian seers which it finds consistent with new discoveries. The relation as well as the difference between the local and non-local minds or the plural and singular consciousness is thus well explained by Schrödinger:

From the early great Upanishads the recognition ATMAN=BRAHMAN upheld (the personal self equals the omnipresent, all-comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world. The striving of all the scholars of Vedanta … was really to assimilate in their minds this grandest of all thoughts … To Western ideology the thought has remained a stranger … Consciousness is never experienced in the plural, only in the singular.

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