Some time ago, Greg Brown, who frequently comments astutely on my blogs as you may have noticed, sent me a few interesting quotes to ponder on. Let me share one with you. This particular one is from Steve Biller, Tutorial Fellow in experimental particle physics, Mansfield College, University of Oxford, England.
“Particles, in fact, don’t exist. Consider a particle we all know and love, the electron. They’re all the same. You know if you produced an electron on the other side of the universe, and you brought it here and compared it with an electron, they’re the same. Not in the same way you pick up two red billiard balls and say, “These are pretty similar”. We say they are identical. This is because the electron as a separate, distinct entity …. doesn’t really exist, They are merely bumps in something called ‘field’ which is a property of space and time. And if it’s true of fundamental particles, it’s true of everything they make up, including us. And so at some level we don’t exist.”
This is indeed a marvellous conclusion. The universe, which seems so real and physically imposing, has no more substance than, perhaps a thought or a dream. The Hindus, in fact believe that the Universe is merely a dream of Brahma. Astrophysicist, Sir James Jeans, wrote in the 1930’s:
“The stream of human knowledge is impartially heading towards a non-mechanical reality. The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of this realm.”
But then he, of course, added this cautionary note:
“The human race, whose intelligence dates back only a single tick of the astronomical clock, could hardly hope to understand so soon what it all means.”
The famous physicist, Niels Bohr in his book Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge wrote tellingly:
“For a parallel to the lessons of atomic theory we must turn to those kinds of epistemological problems with which already thinkers like the Buddha and Lao Tzu have been confronted, when trying to harmonise our position as spectators and actors in the great drama of existence.”
Our dilemma in trying to get a handle on reality is thwarted by the fact that we never confront reality directly. And then, because our representation of reality is so much easier to grasp than reality itself, we tend to confuse the two and to take our concepts and symbols for reality. The semanticist Alfred Korzybski pointed this out with insightful slogan “The map is not the territory.”
This problem has been identified by some of the world’s wisdom traditions. In the Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu wrote, “The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao.”
The knowledge that comes to us directly, without an intermediary, the Buddhists call ‘absolute knowledge’. Frtitjof Kapra in his 1975 classic, The Tao of Physics, in describing ‘absolute knowledge’, wrote;
“It is we are told by Buddhists the direct experience of undifferentiated, undivided, indeterminate ‘suchness’. Complete apprehension of this ‘suchness’ is not only the core of Eastern mysticism, but is the central characteristic of all mystical experience.”
Is this then not just an unleashing of consciousness? It has always seemed to me that the universe is but a manifestation of consciousness.
Bernard Haisch, astrophysicist and author of The God Theory writes:
“I am proposing, in The God Theory, that ultimately it is consciousness that is the origin of matter, energy, and the laws of nature in this universe and all others that may exist.”
Right at the basis of quantum theory we learned that at the level of fundamental particles we could not depend on any quantifiable outcomes until there was an observer. All quantum functions are prescribed by probability. They are smeared all over the place within determined probabilistic distributions. It is only when there is an observer that the quantum function collapses into something definite. It seems to me that there could never be a physical world with deterministic outcomes unless there was an observer. But there has always been an observer. The observer has in fact been the creator of all these phenomena. It is the Universal Consciousness that has unleashed a material manifestation. And we all are ensconced in it and share a little of its tremendous creativeness.
Sir James Jeans seemed to have hit the nail on the head for me. The universe is a great thought. And we are all privileged to be part of that thinking.