Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Science and Nonduality Conference
San Rafael, October 2009

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A Short Guide to the Scientific History of the Universe, Part III of III

It is returning, at last it is coming home to me �
My own Self and those parts of it that have long been abroad
Friedrich Nietzsche

It was Einstein�s prot�g�, David Bohm, who put together a fascinating model of reality in a theory, which he called Wholeness and the Implicate Order. In it, he postulates that the phenomenal world as we know it, consisting of time and space and causality, is the �unfolded� or explicate order of the universe; supporting this unfoldment is the �enfolded� or implicate order, a substratum of information, if you will, within which the archetypal templates of reality are contained.

So, tying this up with the observations made in quantum mechanics and wave/particle complementarity � the implicate order consists of waves; the explicate order represents collapse or unfoldment into particles. Bohm then goes on to say that underlying both orders is what he calls the holomovement, an undivided wholeness in flowing movement, where all parts of the universe, whether they be at the microscopic or macroscopic levels, are united in one indefinable and immeasurable totality.

Indeed, the modern theories about the way the brain works in terms of processing memory and conscious content are very much in keeping with such a model. The psychologist, Karl Pibram, was deeply impressed by Bohm�s Wholeness and Implicate Order theory and collaborated with him to develop his own theories pertaining to the cognitive functions of the brain. He postulated that the brain stores and processes information throughout its cellular structure in a manner akin to a hologram, rather than in any specific location, by utilising its neural networks like a web of data storage, coining the term �holonomic� to describe the ubiquitous nature of mental activity.

More recently, two eminent living scientists, Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff, have proposed their own theory suggesting that �moments� of conscious experience are orchestrated by gamma wave synchrony, which are mediated by microtubules present in brain tissue and which are used as instruments of information processing.

Indeed, EEG experiments performed on Tibetan monks chosen by the Dalai Lama found that levels of gamma synchrony were the highest ever recorded in terms of amplitude, frequency and degree of coherence (as compared to a control group of college students).

And thus, throughout the last century, scientists were exploring ever deeper into the microscopic levels of nature to discover what it is that constituents the very foundations of reality, both in terms of matter and mind. And yet, always, there was one big problem they perpetually faced, one that had even eluded Einstein and not until recent years, in theory at least, has been resolved � how to reconcile all the forces of the universe into one grand unifying theory of everything; in other words, harmonising the Theory of General Relativity, which describes gravitation and applies to the macroscopic universe (planets, stars and super clusters), with quantum mechanics, which describes the three remaining fundamental forces of nature (electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces).

The theory, essentially known as Superstring Theory, proposes that the fundamental constituents of reality are �strings�, which vibrate at resonant frequencies, measurable at the Planck scale, the smallest unit of length.

The best way to understand Superstring Theory is by way of an analogy: think of a guitar string that has been tuned by stretching the string under tension across the guitar. Depending on how the string is plucked and how much tension is in the string, different musical notes will be created by the string. In Superstring Theory, as in playing a guitar, the string must be stretched under tension in order to vibrate. Every string has a unique vibration or harmonic; different harmonics determine different fundamental forces and thus the very makeup of the physical world � a glorious symphony of harmonics, overtones, and fundamentals filling the universe with its melodious chords.

Sadly, the theory is not a watertight as some would hope � there are currently five superstring theories and the hunt is still on for the Mother of all Theories, even a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) of everything. Indeed, experiments conducted within the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (which went operational on 20th November 2009) is expected to provide evidence of the existence or non-existence of the infamous Higgs boson particle, dubbed as the God Particle by the media, which would further aid scientists in their interpretation of Superstring Theory and refining their understanding of the universe.

Other variations include the Unified Field Theory, for which Albert Einstein famously spent the last two decades of his life searching. Instead of resonating strings, the deepest level of the universe comprises a field of potential energy, akin to David Bohm�s holomovement, where gravity, electromagnetism and all the nuclear forces are united at the Planck Scale where time and space and causality all come together, like ripples on an ocean of infinite being, of totality, of limitless information and intelligence.

And so what, ultimately, has science to do with advaita? On one level, ultimately nothing. And yet, what contemporary scientific theory is pointing to is that at the fundamental level of existence, the universe is essentially one, from which all manifest phenomena are born. Indeed, when consciousness is taken as a priori, the mind/matter problem, the classical/quantum dilemma, no longer appear to exist. The universe is now perceived as a hierarchical structure, with every level of the physical word � macroscopic, molecular, atomic, nuclear, sub nuclear � having has own inner logic, its own inherent truths, and yet all the while sustained by an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent source.

Indeed, rather than being an epiphenomenonal process, consciousness is fundamental to the universe, pervading all levels of nature and giving rise to conscious experience. Everything in the cosmos � planets, trees, human beings, thoughts � are a manifestation of consciousness, are a celebration of That.

And out of this dynamic subjectivity, the universal all-pervading Self, we as human beings individualize our consciousness through the filter of our nervous systems, our body-minds, giving rise to the experience of �I�, and the apparent divisions between knower and known, observer and observed. Knowing this fundamental paradoxical premise � that diversity is inherent in unity and unity is inherent in diversity � is called self-knowledge and is the inherent message of advaita Vedanta philosophy.

Like the metaphor of the guitar in Superstring Theory, the literary critic, Terry Eagleton, in his book, The Meaning of Life, also uses the analogy of music to conclude his philosophical analysis of the value of human existence in terms of individuality manifesting in the collective whole:

Take as an image of the good life, a jazz group. A jazz group, which is improvising and obviously differs from a symphony orchestra, since to a large extent each member is free to express herself as she likes. But she does so with a receptive sensitivity to the self-expressive performances of the other musicians. The complex harmony they fashion comes not from playing from a collective score, but from the free musical expression of each member acting as the basis for the free expression of the others. As each player grows more musically eloquent, the others draw inspiration from this and are spurred to greater heights� There is self-realisation, but only through a loss of self in the music as a whole� There is pleasure to be reaped from this artistry, and � since there is a free fulfilment or realisation of powers � there is also happiness in the sense of flourishing. Because this flourishing is reciprocal, we can even speak, remotely and analogically, of a kind of love� that when we act in this way, we realise our natures at their finest.

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Paula Marvelly

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