Q: Is advaita provable, in the Western, scientific, empirical sense of the word? I guess part of the attraction for me is that it seems to be (along with some other Eastern thought systems) a methodical and thorough exploration of consciousness; consciousness being something (along with death) that Western culture can’t even define let alone explain and explore. Or is my thinking mistaken?
A: Who would prove what? Science is intrinsically empirical and could never say anything about the nature of reality. There are a couple of articles that you should read to clarify this. One by myself is in four parts, beginning https://www.advaita-vision.org/science-and-the-nature-of-absolute-reality-part-1/ and one by AchArya Sadananda in three parts, beginning https://www.advaita-vision.org/science-and-vedanta-part-1/. Nevertheless, Advaita’s explanation of the nature of Consciousness is not contrary to reason or to Western science and philosophy. See my book ‘A-U-M’ for this.
If you are comfortable with the language and ‘explanations’ of modern physics, try Amanda Gefter’s book ’Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn’. (I must confess I found this a bit hard-going at times!) This shows that the ‘frontiers’ of science are now beginning to think along lines not altogether too distant from the Vedantic scriptures!
(My Comments to a question in Quora) 17.5.18
Me: I agree with what you say, except saying or implying that consciousness can be ‘explained’. Yes, the brain is a transducer or vehicle from the immaterial to the material (subtle to gross), but consciousness is an ineffable entity, a ‘given’ (and unanalyzable entity), as existence is such. Scientists don’t like those terms, I know. Mechanism, cause and effect, and everything that is measurable or quantifiable can be worked with and potentially explained, as they have to do with empirical reality, but consciousness (and the hard problem or qualia) are not amenable to that kind of analysis, quantification and falsifiability. In the same way, philosophy is not (empirical) science – it will always go beyond. There is a philosophy of science, but not a science of philosophy, although the latter – philosophy – is not outside the realm of knowledge or what we can call such.
Space, time, and causality, though elusive concepts/’realities’ and formerly categorized as ‘metaphysical’ (they still are) can be scientifically studied, I can’t deny that, but consciousness is supra-ontological and cannot be a part of physics (the pre-socratic philosophers were called ‘physiologoi’, similar to theoretical physicists, but in fact they were ontologists or metaphysicians looking for the origin, or the principle or essence, of things, of nature); consciousness, however, is indefinable, unmeasurable and invariable or changeless. It is not a cause, and therefore cannot have effects or relationships – one can only say that it is a/the universal or background witness to/of everything, a witness that doesn’t do anything, only silently or passively reflect fleeting inward or outward phenomena. To add to the mystery, consciousness can be objectless (as in forms of meditation and contemplation). It is like the Tao. cf. Taoism – Wikipedia