A (Martin): It is difficult to fathom what time, and timelessness, are. When confronted with such a conundrum, St. Augustine retorted: ‘If no one asks me, I know; if I want to explain it to a questioner, I do not know’ — such are the limitations of our understanding of reality (physical and non-physical), even though physics and mathematics come to our aid in this and also with the phenomenon of space (space-time). What is more, philosophy and metaphysics have a better grasp of the non-physical dimensions of reality than science, aided and abetted as they are by (universal) intuition. For metaphysics, time does not exist outside of our minds, and it is the same, by implication, with the concept of the ‘present’, even though the latter is what gives a semblance of reality to reality tout court (all that is and ever has been) – almost incomprehensible to the ordinary mind. The concept of space is in the same category. In Advaita Vedanta space (Akasha) is postulated as the subtlest of the five physical elements, which gives rise to the other four and is characterized by pervasiveness. Three types of space are considered: physical, mental, and intellectual or spiritual.
Physical bodies are finite, corruptible, but are human beings just their bodies (and their finite minds)? There is a mysterious, undefinable, and unmeasurable entity called consciousness which appears to pervade all sentient beings and nature in general. Nature, all life, is conscious – dare we say? This entity – consciousness – is undeniable, for it is our most direct and unfalsifiable experience. Consciousness – by consensus of a majority of physicists – escapes all parameters of physics, neurophysiology, and brain studies. But not only consciousness, but so-called matter is also in the same category of the intrinsically unknowable, even if there are methods for measuring and experimenting with such entity as matter-energy.
Again, no one knows what eternity might be, such are the limitations of our means of understanding reality, even though physics and mathematics come to our aid in this and also with the phenomenon of space (space-time). What is more, philosophy and metaphysics have a better grasp of the extra-physical dimensions of reality aided and abetted as they are by (universal) intuition. For metaphysics time does not exist outside of our minds, and, rather than eternity-(duration), timelessness – or what is the same, that only the PRESENT exists – is what, as a concept, gives a semblance of reality to reality (all that is and ever has been) – incomprehensible to the unaided mind.
Wolfgang Smith [b 1930] is a nuclear physicist and mathematician who has also written on philosophy, religion, and metaphysics from the perspective of traditionalism or perennialism. As a young man, he spent two years in India and studied under Sw. Nikhilananda and also met Sri Anandamayi Ma. He took from the French philosopher René Guénon the idea of whole-s and how a (physical) whole is not just the sum of its infinitesimal parts – there is an Aristotelian substantial form inherent (in-forming) and causally related to the whole. A recent film about him (Wolfgang Smith) has recently been made: ‘The End of Quantum Mechanics’ (obviously all lay and not scientifically savvy people will not have a clue about what goes on in the discussions by several physicists in the film). Continue reading →
Hardly does a minute go by when a student of Advaita does not hear an analogy. The subject being so abstruse and abstract, the teacher ostensibly to make things easy to understand (सुख बोधाय), resorts to the method of using an “analogy.” Much like in Theoretical Physics and Quantum Physics, the concepts in Advaita too are usually counterintuitive and metaphor is a powerful tool to help drive home a difficult idea. The danger in using the metaphor is that it, more often than not, lulls the student with a sense as though s/he “got” it (the Oneness of All That-IS). Perhaps because of that, it is not seldom that we find even an advanced student of Advaita being tempted to extend a metaphor beyond the intended point and make his/her own inferences from such a wrong projection. (I am frequently asked questions on ‘reflected Consciousness,’ ‘Witness-Consciousness’ etc. based on such improper extensions).
No wonder that Physicists (particularly those in Science Communication) are concerned about the “use of metaphor” and the “understanding” it provides. Recently, I found the problem best articulated by Philip Freeman, a teacher of Physics. He has some interest in Philosophy also. He lives near Vancouver BC, Canada. I am copying from his reply to a question at Quora regarding the limitations of analogies. Continue reading →
The above are some of the questions that all curious and observant persons ask at one time or another. Those very questions are at the base of all human investigation – be it a scientific quest or a philosophical contemplation. Continue reading →
The unequivocal and uncompromising declaration of Advaita is that ‘Nothing is ever born; there is no creation.’
If so, what is ‘all this’ that we see?
Well, if such a question arises, the scriptures invoke the IkShaNa shruti – to explain creation. It is just a conceptual model – a fact which the shruti itself affirms. A throb in brahman is said to have engendered a formless Hiranyagarbha, as the Creator, whose thought then projects a world. Sage Vasishta explains very clearly in the Chapter on Origination in Yogavasishta that “Hiranyagarbha is born within the Supreme Self. He has no form. His body comprises his mind only. There is no physical body for him. The five fundamental elements are born from Hiranyagarbha through his mentation (thought process). Hence the five elements and the subsequent products arising out of them like the gross worlds do not have reality. They lack Beingness. They are not really born. They are like the horns of a rabbit.”
While answering the question of “What is this universe?” the physicists too figured out from their calculations a similar mechanism. What they find is that there is a high probability of a vacuum fluctuation in an absolutely quiescent thermodynamic equilibrium giving rise to a single conscious brain (mind) within it rather than the entire gamut of universes, galaxies, livable planets, living creatures. us and so on. Continue reading →
Let’s discuss the possibility that Brahman is nityaptasvarupa, no exceptions. Let’s talk about what it means to truly live from a place where Brahman is all that is – our ideas, experiences, loves, violence. I’ll start with some of the comments made on a previous post, ‘Consciousness of Choice’, because let’s face it, Dennis made some great points!
This article was previously published in two parts on the Beyond Advaita blog maintained by our Dr. Ramesam Vemuri, in continuation of an ongoing series of articles exploring the relevance to Advaita of some of the latest research in theoretical physics. Science is converging to a view that no description of reality can be complete without the observer, and that so-called “objective reality” is really more of a holographic illusion than anything truly solid or substantial. Today’s scientists are busy trying to tease apart Maya’s tricks to see how this illusion works. Leonard Susskind’s theory of Black Hole Complementarity (BHC) — the topic of this article — provides a good example of this driving curiosity in action.
The 53 min long Physics Video on “Illusion of Time” is now available on Youtube.
If you have not already seen it, you should not miss as a Vedantin.
Please watch it to know the latest developments in Physics on What is Time, Time travel etc. What does “Now” mean is covered from about 20th minute to 32nd minute. There is nothing like a ‘past’ that has given way to the ‘present’ in absolute one dimensional time.
As Dr. Albert Einstein said: “The distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion, however persistent. (In a letter to Michelangelo Besso, 21 March 1955).
One aspect not covered in the Video is this: It is easy to imagine for any one that the present “now” (at this moment) can develop into any number of different possible scenarios in the “future.” Each such possibility could happen in one or the other universe out of multiple universes (H. Everett’s hypothesis). Similarly then, because of time symmetry in physical laws, one can imagine that the present “now” (as an outcome) has multiple possibilities in the past. (One strange consequence is one can never be sure that one is definitely the child of only a specific couple!).