Sankara And Modern Physics
Sankara and Modern Physics
By N. Subramanian
2. Author's Preface
3. Nature of the Phenomenal World
4. Nature of Knowledge
5. Relationship between Subject and Object
6. Causality and Determinism
7. The Nature of the Absolute
Sri Sri Jagadguru Shankaracharya Mahasamsthanam,
Sharada Peetam, Sringeri - 577 139 (KARNATAKA)
Shri N. Subramanian has submitted his work on "Sankara and Modern Physics" for blessings. To go through such an original study and comparative treatment of Advaita philosophy and well-developed thesis of modem physics is in itself stimulating. Shri Subramanian has done commendable hard work in endeavouring to give a comparative valuation of Sankara Bhagawatpadal's expositions and the assertion of modern physicists. The extensive quotations that the author has made from Bhagawatpadal's writings and those of well-known modern physicists reveal the wide and intensive and earnest study made by the author. What Shri Subramanian has done in this work is something original and His Holiness, Sri Sankaracharya Dakshinamnaya Sri Sarada peetam, feels happy in giving His blessings to this book and to Shri Subramanian and His Holiness expresses the fervent hope that the book will have a large circulation in all circles of philosophers and physicists in this Country as well as many Countries abrond where such comparative studies will attract keen attention. His Holiness is further happy to note the generosity of Shri Subramanian in that he has said the proceeds of this book will go to the Sankara Hall and Sankara Institute of Philosophy and Culture, Calcutta, a unit of Sri Sarada Peetam, Sringeri which is doing valuable work from Calcutta for the propagation and understanding of Sankara Bhagawatpadal's life and writings.
With Narayana Smaranams,
Private Secretary to His Holiness the Jagadguru
Sri Sankaracharya Dakshinamnaya
Sri Sarada Peetam
The book is a pioneering attempt at a scientific evaluation of Sankara's philosophy. The tenets of Advaita philosophy are subjected to the rigorous tests of the philosophy of science. Without being unduly biased in favour of Eastern philosophy or Western scientific culture, the author has attempted the comparative study in the spirit of the ancient seekers of truth and the modern research scientist. With copious citations from Sankara's writings and the writings of modern physicists, the author has attempted a comparative evaluation of the basic points of agreement between the two schools of thought, separated in space and time and has discovered a unity between the two. It is a book which reveals the deep interest of the author and his keen sense of the fundamental unity behind the divisions of time, space and consciousness and his earnest desire to understand the forces currently influencing the people's life.
The author has analysed fundamental questions of philosophy, ethics and higher understanding of basic concepts of life and drawn out solutions that will impress enlightened minds.
In a short span of about 100 pages the author has discussed problems of great significance. The arrangement of matter is logical, starting from what we see going on to what we think we see and what makes us see and finally to the identification of the seer and the seen and the entire universe into one. The book is in the best traditions of our culture and shows evidence of the vitality and inquisitiveness which characterised our thinking in the past and which show a way to developments in the future. We commend the book to all students of science, to all students and savants of philosophy and culture and to all those who seek truth and understanding.
The intense effort put in by the author with commendable devotion needs appreciation on all hands and we are happy that we are able to bring out this publication of enduring value under the auspices of Sankara Hall and Sankara Institute of Philosophy and Culture. If, as the author has expressed in his introduction, the book creates a desire in the mind of the reader to make a deeper study of the subject, the author's hard work and the publisher's objective in regard to the publication will be more than amply rewarded.
We also gratefully acknowledge the author's gesture in donating the sale proceeds of the book to Sankara Hall and Sankara Institute of Philosophy and Culture.
Committee of Management Sankara Hall and Sankara Institute of Philosophy and Culture
Sringeri Sri Sarada Peetam Sankara Hall
93 Southern Avenue
Calcutta - 29
26th June, 1977
"When we view ourselves in space and time our consciousnesses are obviously the separate individuals of a particle picture, but when we pass beyond space and time they may perhaps form ingredients of a single continuous stream of life. As it is with light and electricity, so it may be with life. The phenomena may be individuals carrying on separate existences in space and time while in the deeper reality beyond space and time we may all be members of one body". These sentences from the book "Physics and Philosophy", by Sir James Jeans form the point source for this book. In the same book Sir James Jeans raises the following questions also. "Are we for instance automata or are we free agents capable of influencing the course of events by our volition? Is the world immaterial or material in its ultimate nature, or is it both? If so, is matter or mind the more fundamental? Is mind a creation of matter, or matter a creation of mind? Is the world we perceive in space and time the world of ultimate reality, or is it only a curtain veiling the deeper reality beyond?
2. These questions have agitated the minds of the Indian philosophers for the past several centuries. There have been discussions and counter discussions on these questions. Thanks to the acquaintance in early life with many learned pundits, I have been myself asking these questions may be in different form. Learned scholars have been discussing these questions and giving answers or partial answers from the Hindu Scriptures and Philosophical treatises. I have been fortunate to attend many of these discourses, but these took place so long ago and too early in my life when I could not pursue these questions for a more detailed and concentrated study. But the background was there in my mind which was occupied by these questions.
3. When later on in life I turned to the books on modern physics and the philosophical implications of the developments, I could recapture and recollect the points discussed in the Hindu Philosophical treatises. There is a lot of similarity between, the thoughts and declaration of idealist physicists like Sir James Jeans, Arthur Eddington and the idealist philosophers of the East like Sri Sankara, Vidyaranya and others. Some of these sentences from the books of the idealist physicists almost recall the identical sentences found in the Upanishads and the Advaita treatises of Sri Sankara. For Eg., "all matters as originally understood is an illusion, nothing exists in reality except mind". Again the assertion, "that methods of physics cannot reveal absolute truth or even fragments of absolute truth, concedes the main point that knowledge obtained by them is absolutely subjective". These two are essentially the tenets of Sri Sankara's philosophy of the idealistic universe. "Again the recognition that philosophical knowledge is structural knowledge abolishes all dualism of consciousness and matter. Dualism is based on the belief that we find in the external world something of a nature incommensurable with what we find in consciousness. But all that physical science reveals to us in the external world is group structure and group structure is also found in consciousness". This almost tallies with the view of Sri Sankara that the essential nature of the world is the same as appearing to consciousness both in dream and reality. It is only the difference in the nature of consciousness that makes the difference in the degree of reality.
4. "There is no reality different in kind from that we associate with a mere mental concept. The mental concepts are the pure thoughts of a thinker. We have reduced the whole of nature to a mental concept". These sentences uphold the concept of Sri Sankara that the phenomenal world is only an idea in the super mind and is real only to that extent. In the sentence, "matter as originally understood, the matter of solid objects and hard particles, has no existence in reality and only appears to exist through our observing non material things in a confused way through the bias of our human spectacles" is an echo of the Maya Vada of Sri Sankara.
5. The above will show that the idealists among the modem physicists hold almost similar beliefs as the ancients held. In fact the developments in modem times in modern physics and the philosophical implications of the theories bear a close resemblance to the speculations and declarations found in the Upanishads. What the present day physicists have found by observation, experimentation and inference, the ancients were able to intuitively infer from mere thought processes. In fact idealists have declared that all fundamental laws of physics which operate in the world can be deduced from purely epistemological considerations.
6. Though there are many fields of developments in modem physics, the principles which have considerable philosophical implications are in the field of micro physics and macro physics. The classical laws of physics propounded by Newton, Kelvin and Kepler, still continue to govern the ordinary levels of day to day experience. The following principles of modem physics among others have very deep philosophical implications:
1. Hiesenberg's uncertainity principle
This principle states that the position and velocity of an electron cannot be observed simultaneously and accurately at any particular point of time.
2. Pauli's exclusion principle:
This principle states that no two electrons in the outer orbit of an atom can occupy the same level of energy or the same orbit at any particular point of time.
3. Mach's universal principle:
This principle states that the position and velocity of a particle in the universe is dependent on the position and velocity of the other particles in the universe.
4. Bohr's principle of complementarity:
This principle states that a rigorous causal sequence for individual processes cannot be realised simultaneously, the one or the other must be sacrificed. In fact later on Mr. Bohr extended this principle to other similar concepts which are complementary in nature.
5. The principle of the constancy of the velocity of light: This is one of the aspects of Einstein's theory of relativity. It states that velocity of light is the same to all observers in the universe irrespective of his position or motion in the universe.
6. Planck's quantum theory itself, which states that energy or action takes place or is transmitted in small finite quantities and not by a continuous process.
7. There are other principles and concepts in the developments in modem physics which have deep philosophical implications. But making a list of these principles will serve no purpose. When the fundamental questions are discussed, the relevant principles or ideas in modem physics will be touched upon.
8. The structure of the atom has now been explored and the most common and elementary view is that the atom consists of a hard core with a positive charge of electricity with some loose electrons orbiting it and carrying a negative charge of electricity. There are two views about the status of these free electrons. Observation and study have led to the inference that the behaviour of this free electron is far too much complicated. There is a 'spin about its own axis which cannot be accounted for. The spectral effects of this electron cannot also be accounted for. Sometimes the electron jumps from one orbit to another without any apparent reason. The orbit of its revolution around the nucleus cannot also be accurately traced. The presence of the negative charge in the electron combined with the positive charge residing in the nucleus, operates against the stability of the atom. Therefore, many adjustments and modifications have been made to the fundamentals of this theory in attempts to account for the stability of the atom. In some such attempts, particles of antimatter have been advocated. The last word has not yet been said on the structure of the atom. Physicists themselves are divided into two groups according to their view of the electron as a material particle and they explain some of the phenomena on the basis that the electron is a material particle. The other physicists like Schrödinger view the electron as having a wave pattern and they explain some of the other phenomena observed. Thus loosely it may be stated that the electron behaves as a particle sometimes and as a packet of waves at other times. In a way of saying, it is sometimes stated that the electron is a particle on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It is a group of waves on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The electron is not known on Sundays because it is a day when the Lord takes rest. These are some of the problems and ideas found in the field of microphysics.
9. Similar questions in the area of macrophysics are the concepts of expanding universe, the origins of creation and other such topics. The theory of motion of galaxies, the speed of recession of the stars and the theories of stability of the universe raise many questions about creation, sustenance and destruction of the phenomenal universe. The nature of the concept of time and of biological processes such as ageing, birth and death are also to be considered. In this context the theories of Hoyle, Eddington are significant. The theory of expanding universe, the steady state theory, the bang theory of creation will all be considered in the relevant places in the text.
10. These developments and ideas in physics have implications on the following five questions of philosophy:
1. The nature of the world and the relation of the phenomenal world to the observer.
2. The nature of knowledge and the source of knowledge.
3. The role of causality and determinism in the universe,
4. The relationship between the subject and the object.
5. The nature of the absolute.
These will be discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book.
11. Though there is a lot of similarity between the views of our ancient philosophers and the philosophical implications of the principles mentioned above, it may be pointed out that it is the Advaita philosophy expounded by Sri Sankara that comes close to the recent, developments of physics. In modem physics the principles can be stated in precise terms and more or less understood by those who have had training in appreciating the terms and concepts involved. But the principles of Sankara's philosophy cannot be stated in such compact language. They have to be gathered by a study of the large volume of his writings and treatises. 1 must confess 1 have not made a detailed study of all his writings. But I have tried to gather the relevant portions from his writings which will serve our purpose of a comparative study. This is done with the hope that before long there will be reconciliation between the scientific philosophy of the West and the speculative philosophy of the East.
12. Having outlined the scope of the latter chapters of this book, I must now attempt to answer the question, why this book? Some of the science scholars who have a good training in science and who also have some acquaintance with philosophy have frequently stated that both in science and philosophy there is a concept that an iron law holds over the world. In the Eastern philosophy it is known as the law of "karma", or in other words the principle of Fate. In Western science it is known as the principle of determinism. The first principle states that man is a result of past actions. What he enjoys today is a result of his past karma and what he does today is further performance of karma which will lead to further action. In other words, what he does now is a result of past action and will also determine his future. Therefore, he is in a prison (whether of his own making or of God's will, which, we do not know) and he has no means of escape. If that is so, why philosophy and why science? Why ethics and restraint? Why not freedom to act as the mind and instincts tell you to do and either enjoy the consequences now or in the future as and when they come. Correspondingly, the scientific principle of determinism also states that all of man's action is controlled by his environment or the operation of forces beyond his control. He is at the mercy of either internal or external forces. He has no choice in the matter of actions. Everyone does according to his past upbringing or background and will enjoy what his actions decide for him. Freedom of action is a myth and therefore do as your instincts tell you and take the consequences when they come.
13. This line of argument also serves as a defence to the libertine and to the indolent. It supports the evil and the sadist. It also robs life of all purpose and meaning. There is no direction in life. There is no encouragement to the good, to the gentle and to the pious. It sets at naught all the exhortations of the Ten Commandments and the imperatives of the Upanishads like Satyam Vada, Dharmam Chara, Ahimsa Paramo Dharma etc. This line of argument among the youth has given rise to movements like escapism, rejection of social constraints and others. There is no moral, social, or ethical basis for the conventions of society. Each one as he pleases instead of as he wills becomes the rule and the motivating force. Restraint and control lose all meaning and thus humanity is slowly being led to chaos.
14. The leading scientists both in the field of pure science and applied science do not discuss these problems in their treatises except for some of the idealist physicists whom I have mentioned above. This is probably because they are not trained to discuss these fundamental questions of life and find the answers for the same. Perhaps they feel they are incompetent to discuss such questions. They think that these questions do not belong to the culture of science. The philosophers who can and do discuss these questions do not command the same authority as the scientists, because the philosophers are dismissed as armchair speculators who are not actively involved in the world and whose views cannot form a basis for day to day conduct in this strife torn world. There are very few scientists who have studied philosophy and there are fewer philosophers who have studied science. There will be less who have studied modem physics and Eastern philosophy. Though I cannot claim to have made any detailed study of modem physics or of Eastern philosophy, I have some acquaintance with both these subjects and have made as far as practicable the study of these two streams of thought.
15. But the doctrine of free will and freedom of action does not answer some other questions like the inequality in the status of men and the squalor obtaining in real life. We also see frequently that goodness and honesty, decency and morality are not rewarded. We see only the dishonest and the impure thriving in life. There is a fundamental dilemma. It is not easy to give a solution or convincing argument in favour of either theory. But the truly scientific spirit requires that we must understand and appreciate the evidence available in favour of either theory. It is not proper to expect a ready and acceptable solution. The limitations of science and philosophy should be understood.
16. Though these ideas have been in mind for some years, they could not find expression until recently when there was a talk under the auspices of the C. P. Ramaswamy lyer Foundation in January, 1974. Some of the persons who attended the talk made a request that the ideas may be expanded and may be published in the form of a book. This gives the background and the genesis for this endeavour.
17. If the thoughts expressed and discussed here lead to a further attempt at a deeper study of the points raised, both by the scientists of the West and the philosophers of the East, I would consider my efforts amply rewarded. It is in this spirit of service to the aspirants and earnestness of the student of philosophy, that I place this book at the hands of the readers.
NATURE OF THE PHENOMENAL WORLD
According to Sri Sankara the phenomenal universe has no substance. The impression of the universe which we get is through the five senses of perception and it is recognised by consciousness with the help of the mind. He says that the subjective impressions which we get are the only realities. Objects in themselves are not known to us and cannot be comprehended by the human being. This version of Sri Sankara's explanation of the phenomenal universe is sometimes misinterpreted. It is stated that according to Sri Sankara the whole world is an illusion and a myth. Since this clashed with our day today experience, it is stated, that Sri Sankara is too obtuse, and his theory is not based on reality or on experience. This interpretation of Sri Sankara's Mayavada is based on a misconception of his philosophy. Perhaps, the professional interpreters of Sri Sankara's philosophy have erred in stressing on this aspect of the phenomenal universe.
When we compare Sri Sankara's views about the unreality of the objective universe with the advanced theories of modern physics, we find striking resemblances. The comparison may therefore start with the nature of the phenomenal universe according to Sri Sankara and according to the latest developments in modem physics.
According to Sri Sankara the true nature of things is to be known personally through the eye of clear illumination and not through a sage. What the moon exactly is, is to be known with one's own eyes, can others make him know it? (V.C. 54).
The universe does not exist apart from the sense perception and the perception of its separateness is false like the quality of blueness in the sky. Has a superimposed attribute any meaning apart from its substratum? It is the substratum which appears like that through delusion. (V.C. 235).
What Sri Sankara says here is that the sky which is perceived as blue is not really blue in its nature. The blueness of the sky appears to the observer. He, therefore, argues that the blueness of the sky has no meaning or existence apart from the substratum viz. the atmosphere.
Another favourite analogy of Sri Sankara is that of clay or of ether. All modifications of clay such as a jar, which are always accepted by the mind as real are nothing but clay.
Akasha divested of the hundreds of limited adjuncts such as a jar, a pitcher, a receptacle for grains, or a needle is one and not diverse (V.C. 251 and 385).
None of the objects that are made of clay such as pots, and jugs is eternal, for they perish and cease to be. But the clay remains at all times. (S.V.S. I7)
Perceptions arise as a result of consciousness only. But there being different kinds of perceptions (like sound, colour etc.) these must have some external existence apart from consciousness. Since these changes themselves are felt by consciousness it, itself, must be changeable. Since consciousness itself perceives and recognises the differences it must be changeless: otherwise, the differences themselves will not be be cognised by a changing entity. Just as a rope snake, the water in a mirage and such other things are found to be non existent except only as the knowledge by which they are known, so the duality experienced during the waking and dream has reasonably no existence except as the knowledge by which it is known.
Here Sri Sankara means to convey that according to some of the observers, phenomena have no real existence but as long as phenomena are observed as appearing to be real we apply all the tests of reality. He applies this principle to everyday experience also. Thus, Sri Sankara propounds his doctrine of superimposition. There is a basic substance which constitutes phenomenal universe. But on this basic substance, which is common and which is universal each percipient puts on a gloss and imagines the Mea of the phenomenal universe. But a thing in itself can be known to the mind only through the doors of perception. The theories as to the understanding of the universe also vary. The perception of the individual also varies from time to time and varies with the different levels of consciousness, perceptions and appreciation. Basically, the nature of these perceptions is the same. There is no reason to attribute different degrees of realities to the different levels of observations and perceptions. The waking state is as good or as realistic as dream state and the super conscious state.
Let us now examine the theories of cognisance or how things manifest to the observer.
Here Sri Sankara says that observation or perception is itself a Yagna or a sacrifice (V. C. 168). He says that the mental sheath is the sacrificial fire which fed with the fuel of numerous desires by the five sense organs which serve as priests and set ablaze by, sense objects, brings about this phenomenal universe.
It is the veiling power or the power of Tamas which makes things appear other than what they are. But for delusion, there can be no connection of the self which is unattached, beyond activity and formless with the objective world.
As in the case of blueness etc. with reference to sky, it is the mind that produces all the sense objects.
As the place, time, objects known etc. called up in dream are all unreal so also the world experienced here in the waking state, for it is all an effect of one's own ignorance.
What is erroneously supposed to exist in something is, when the truth about it has been known, nothing but that substratum and not at all different from it. The diversified dream universe (appears and) passes away in the dream itself. Does it appear on waking as something different from one's own self? On waking the external and internal universes, are now perceived to vanish.
When the mind functions are merged in the absolute, none of this, the phenomenal world is seen.
This apparent universe has its root in the mind and never persists after the mind is annihilated.
That which is superimposed by the grossly ignorant can never taint the substratum. The great rush of waters observed in a mirage never wets the desert tracts.
Objects of knowledge exist in the intellect as long as it is there but they do not exist in the opposite case. The knower is always the knower. Duality therefore has no existence. Rest and motion are in the intellect.
Difference is caused by adjuncts is posited by false knowledge and is not absolutely real.
As dream and illusions are observed to be unreal, even so all this universe of duality in its entirety is seen to be unreal.
Sri Sankara then discusses the three levels of consciousness viz. Dream state, Waking state and super conscious state. According to him, perceptions in these three states are basically same. Only the level of consciousness and level of appreciation varies.
The dream state is a state distinct from the waking state where it shines by itself. In dreams Buddhi by itself takes on the role of the agent and the like, owing to various latent impressions of the waking state.
In dreams when there is no actual contact with the external world, the mind alone creates the whole universe. Similarly in the Waking state also all this phenomenal universe is the projection of the mind.
Like Iron manifesting as sparks through contact with fire, the Buddhi manifests itself as Knower and known through the inherence of Brahman. As these two (knower and known) the effects of the Buddhi are observed to be unreal in the case of delusion, dream and fancy; similarly the modifications of the different Prakrithi from egoism down to the body and sense objects are unreal.
In the dream state one feels with body and experiences peculiar pleasures and pains. But none of these can make the dream real. In the same way, the delusion of time and space of the universe and Ishwara which are the products of Maya should be deemed to be unreal. In as much as waking and dreaming are correlative, if one of them is unreal what is the guarantee that the other is also not unreal. (S. 764).
Both waking and dreaming are subject to the illusion that intellect imposes on us. In this respect, there is no difference between them. In both these levels of consciousness, there is the triple distinction among the knower, the known and the means of knowledge. The waking moment is also as unreal as dream.
Both these levels of consciousness are the products of our ignorance. In both these states of awareness, the triple distinction among the seer, the seen and process of seeing should be regarded as being unreal.
In deep sleep both the waking and dreaming cease to exist. Both these levels of consciousness should be regarded as unreal.
Unperceived in deep sleep but perceived (in waking and dream) by those only who are ignorant, the whole of this universe is an outcome of ignorance and therefore is unreal.
Man's experience is distinguishable into three states. Waking (Jagrat), dream (Swapna) and deep sleep (Sushupthi). In dream, he creates an inner world of images and imagines that he is a denizen thereof. In sleep, the sense of plurality is lost and there is awareness without awareness of anything. Waking is only a segment of experience. As dream and illusions are observed to be unreal even so all this universe of duality in its entirety is seen to be unreal.
Sri Sankara says that there is a basic reality and the phenomenal world is an abstraction from this basic reality according to each observer's predilections, make up and capacity of abstraction. In V.C. 135, he says "The supreme self different from the Prakrithi and its modifications, of the essence of pure knowledge and Absolute directly manifests this entire gross and subtle universe in the waking and other states as the substratum of the persistent sense of egoism and manifests it as the witness of Buddhi, the determinate faculty.
Upon the evidence of visual perception, people say 'This is a jar'. But when we examine it, we find there is no jar. For all that there is, is a form of clay.
Again and again Sri Sankara refers to this analogy of the basic substance viz. clay taking its forms according to the capacity of the maker and use to which the person wants to put it.
Owing to its connection, with the superimpositions, the supreme self even though naturally perfect and eternally unchanging assumes the qualities of the superimpositions and appears to act just as they do like the changeless fire assuming the modifications of the iron which it turns red hot.
Neither this gross, nor this subtle universe is the Atman. Being imagined they are unreal like the snake seen in the rope and like dreams. Perfectly eliminating the objective world in this way by means of reasoning, one should next realise the oneness that underlies Eswara and the Jiva.
The disc of the sun is caught between the forefinger and thumb. But the dimensions of the sun are million times this. What is perceived by the senses cannot be said to be final.
The universe undoubtedly exists in its own real nature. At no time is it Sunya or the void. Just as a banyan tree is at first a seed and then a sprout, so also this whole universe unfolds itself as the effect of manifestation from that which was the cause of it. In the stage of deep sleep, there are no objects of knowledge and there is no mind to comprehend them.
If consciousness is changeless then why are there the states of dream and waking? The mere fact that consciousness is able to differentiate between the two states shows that the substratum is unchangeable. The difference arises only at intervals and not persistent. In deep sleep there is no consciousness of knowledge. There is no argument, there are no objects of knowledge but knowledge itself exists and does not cease to exist.
Sri Sankara then examines the nature of substratum or the basic matter of the phenomenal universe. All the sensual happiness is in reality nothing more than the reflex happiness of the mind. The insentient objects by themselves cannot confer happiness. 'Every attribute is of value in so far as it distinguishes any one object from another. 'Whatever is an object of knowledge whether it is conscience or the intellect or the gross world around us, whether it is understood mediately or immediately has its basis in ignorance and has no existence, apart from it. That which is supremely real is non duality. Through Maya it appears as diverse even as the plurality of moons on account of defective eyesight or the rope appearing differently as snake, water streak etc. In reality the self is partless. Duality which is of the nature of difference is said to exist because it is perceived and is practically useful. Therefore, perception, practicability are not the criteria for the reality of duality.
In modem physics the consensus of opinion is that the impressions of the phenomenal world which we get is through our sense perceptions. Though we try to make measurements and codify the working of nature, the laws of physics tell us only about the relationship between the sense impressions which we get about the outside world. Things in themselves are not available to us for direct perception. We will now examine the views of the leading modem physicists.
Sir James Jeans has made a special study of the philosophical implications of the developments in modem physics. He says that our impressions can never step out of the prison house to investigate the real nature of things which inhabit this mysterious world beyond our sense organs. We are acquainted with such things only through messages we receive from them through the windows of our senses and these tell us nothing as to the essential nature of their origin. We can never understand the true nature of reality. Speaking about the quantum mechanics, he says that the quantum mechanics contains a statement of facts in abstract mathematical form whereas the wave mechanics consists of pictorial representation of these facts in which the pictorial details may or may not correspond truly to the realities of nature. In Heisenberg's model the electron dropped altogether. It had to because it exists only as a matter of inference and not of direct observation. For the same reason the new theory contains no mention of atoms, nuclei or protons or of electricity in any shape or form. The existences of these are matters of inference. The p and q of the uncertainty relations ceased to be mere quantities of any kind, each becoming a whole group of quantities.
Radiation cannot be pictured as particles when it is travelling through empty space. Similarly, electron cannot be pictured as, waves when it is travelling through empty space. The electron inside the atoms remains unobserved and unobservable and there is no solid justification for supposing that it resembles the electrons we see or so nearly see outside. The electron is a moving particle. We see that no experiment can fix both its speed of motion and its position in space with complete certainty. High up in the vault of the head inside the brain, the world comes to light. Sensations, perceptions, memories weave their images. In that tiny tenement all experience comes to focus. Is this moving picture a projection of a real world existing outside or is the picture itself the whole stuff of the world?
The new physics disenchants us as to the firmness and fixedness of substance. The quantum mechanics does not deal with things whose laws we seek to discover, instead from observations we constitute things. Atomic physics deals with the nature and structure not of atoms but of the events which we perceive when observing the atom.
The particle picture is obviously more suitable when radiation is falling on matter and the wave picture when it travels through space. The wave picture and the particle picture do not show two different things but two aspects of the same thing. The space of protons is ordinary physical space while the space traversed by the waves of the undulatory theory is a conceptual space. Indeed it must be since the waves, as we have seen are mere mental constructs and possess no physical existence. John A. Young writes "In some sense we literally create the world we speak about. Our physical science is not simply a set of reports about the outside world. It is also a report about us and our relations to that world whatever the latter may be like".
Physicists themselves have come to recognise this and have found themselves forced to adopt principles as they say of relativity and indeterminacy. The point to grasp is that we cannot speak simply as if there is a world around us of which our senses give information. In trying to speak about what the world is like, we must remember all the time what we see and what we say depends on what we have learnt, we ourselves come into the process. The word 'atom' or 'electron' is not used as the name of a piece. It is used as part of the description of the observation of physicists. It has no meaning except as used by people who know the experiments by which it is revealed.
Heisenberg in speaking about the philosophical problems in nuclear physics says, that if the quantum theory is correct the elemental particles are not real in the same sense as the things in our daily life e.g. trees, stones, etc. They appear as abstractions derived from observed materials which in a literal sense are real. The modem physics in the final analysis has already denied the concept of the truly real. The elementary particles of modem physics are defined by the requirements of mathematical symmetry. They are not eternal and unchanging and they can hardly be therefore strictly termed real. And the mathematical Pattern is in the final analysis an intellectual concept.
D'ABRO, another writer who has codified the latest developments in modern physics says that it is nonsense to accept the theory of relativity on the one hand and to deny the fourth dimension to the world continuum on the other. Only when we wish to discuss the underlying reality which may manifest itself in one way or other according to the conditions of observation must the impersonal four dimensional conceptions be adopted. We may say that the corpuscular aspect of the electron is brought into existence by our observation of the electron's position. We must suppose that the electron comes into existence as a corpuscle only after an observation has been made. If notwithstanding this fact we erroneously attempt to assign a position to the electron before the observation, we shall be attempting to give meaning to a meaningless concept. The particle aspect and the wave aspect must be viewed as complementary and as exhibiting two different aspects of the same underlying reality according to Bohr.
The waves of Schrödinger’s theory are regarded as mere mathematical symbols so that the wave picture cannot claim any physical reality. Ultra violet radiations are in all truth observable only indirectly by the effects they produce and in order to connect the effects actually observed with the invisible ultra violet radiation. The fact that the co-ordinates of the potential energy etc. are now represented by Matrices shows that these magnitudes have lost their original meaning and that a tremendous step has been taken towards increasing abstraction. Practically, all physical magnitudes lose their familiar association, so that we seem to be penetrating into a new world whose abstruseness baffles the imagination. The source of our knowledge of the physical world resides in the sensations of light, heat, sound, touch and the like which we experience directly. In the new quantum theory the observed magnitudes are connected by an elaborate mathematical superstructure of the most abstract type. It can be visualised only when we represent it in a space which has an infinite number of imaginary dimensions.
In the theory of relativity, Einstein says" Geometry sets out from certain conceptions such as 'plane', 'point, 'straight line' with which we are able to associate definite ideas. The concept 'true' does not tally with the assertions of pure
Geometry as it is not concerned with objects of experience. A stone dropped from a moving train appears to fall in a straight line to the passenger in the train. The path appears to be a parabola to the stationary observer. Considered logically the concepts of space, time and event are free creations of human intelligence. The attempt to become conscious of the empirical sources of these fundamental concepts should show to what extent we are actually bound to the concepts. In this way, we become aware of our freedom of which, in case of necessity it is always a difficult matter to make sensible use. There is no such thing as empty space i.e. space without a field. Space time does not claim existence on its own but only as a structural quantity of the field.
De-Broglie says "the wave aspect should also be exhibited by matter. But these waves are not material waves which transfer energy because their velocity is greater than that of light". Continuity and discreteness seem to be the antithesis of each other and appear incompatible. But De-Broglie, by interpreting the discreet stable orbit of Bohr's theory by means of a condition of stability imposed on continuous waves showed that the two opposites could be reconciled. Why indeed should waves of light be regarded as symbolic and photons as real? In any case when we pass to the higher atoms with their several electrons the introduction of the hyper space cannot be avoided. Hyper space is obviously a mathematical fiction.
In Heisenberg’s theory the position, the orbit and the motion of electrons in the atom are assumed to be unobservable and so no use is made of such magnitudes in the theory. On the other hand the frequencies, intensities and polarizations of the radiations emitted by the atoms as also energy levels are claimed to be observable.
Dirac’s theory of the electron is an abstract mathematical theory which combines wave mechanics and the theory of relativity. Dirac’s relativistic wave equations of an electron in an electro magnetic field is compatible with two kinds of solutions those in which the kinetic energy of electron is positive and those in which the kinetic energy is negative. Experiments demonstrated that the atom is stable and that it consists of a nucleus and electrons and that it can emit rays if its state of equilibrium is disturbed. These rays have strictly definite wave length. Bohr's scheme gave no indication about what happens to the electron during the jump or so to say in its flight between the two stationary states. But at some instant it struck him that the electron just never happens to be 'between' stationary states, it simply does not possess such a property. And what was there? There was something that he did not as yet know how to call, but was sure that it should depend only on to where and from where the electron jumps. The point is that we cannot perceive an atomic object directly by means of our five senses. Instead we employ accurate and complicated instruments that have been invented.
The atom does not possess such separated properties. An atomic object is some thing entirely different and not simply the sum of the properties of waves and particles. This 'atomic' something is imperceptible to our five senses but it is real nevertheless. The electron has no definite position within the atom. When we deal with a separate atom we can never be certain where its electron is; where it will be in the next instant and what will happen to the atom as a result. No single word of our speech is capable of accommodating all the diversities and complexities of this concept. We have constructed an image of the atom for ourselves.
Relativity involves an analysis of how measurements depend upon the observer as well as upon what is observed. From relativity emerges a new mechanics in which there are intimate relationships between space and time, mass and energy. Together with special relativity, the wave particle duality is central to an understanding of modem physics. The true nature of 'light' is no longer something that can be visualised in terms of every day experience.
The consequences of uncertainty principle are:
Electron cannot be present within the nucleus. The certainties proclaimed by Newtonian mechanics are illusory. Instead of two sets of physical principles, one for microscopic universe and one for the macroscopic universe, there is only a single set and quantum mechanics represents our best efforts in formulating it. For the sake of convenience, the physicist speaks of just one concept of current. Strictly speaking, Bridgeman believes we should recognise different concepts, each defined by a different operational procedure of measurement. If the customary procedure among Physicists is followed the various concepts of current will be replaced by one concept The concept "electron" is so far removed from simple direct observations that it is best to keep it theoretical, open to modifications by new observations.
According to Sankara, there is an objective universe outside of ourselves. But we have no means of observing or of inferring such an existence. We can accept it as a fact on the basis of revelation or on the strength of Sruti or Smriti. The universe which an embodied individual perceives or infers does not represent the reality of the external universe. Our inference and understanding are based on our state of knowledge, of consciousness and of the capacity of perception and understanding and finally on our sense of discrimination between the vital and the insignificant.
In modem physics also the consensus is that the physical laws do not give a description of the universe. Physical laws are devised to explain our understanding of what we see as phenomena. They have sense and meaning only to those who understand the experiments that are to be done to appreciate the concepts and the process involved. Physical laws do not govern the events which we observe but are only our mental constructs employed to explain and convey our understanding of the external universe. Thus it follows that the state of our knowledge of the external universe depends on our capacity to construct mentally the concepts involved. Thus each one is free and at the same time constrained to conform to his understanding of the external universe and no one version can claim to be more real or more objective than another.
NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE
While discussing the nature of knowledge available to an observer of the universe, we find striking resemblances between the conclusions to be drawn from the latest developments in physics and the original Advaita theory of the philosophy of Sankara. In many places, Sri Sankara has described the nature of knowledge available to a man and how futile his enquiry into the source of knowledge which resides in the external universe. He says that mere observations will not be enough without the straight forward perceptions. Very often he asked the question whether the knowledge obtained by an observer is within himself or is external to him. While discussing this, we may consider also the Gestalt theory of psychology. It is while discussing the theory of knowledge that Sri Sankara propounded the theory of super imposition. It is wrong to say that Sri Sankara denies objects in themselves or the existence of an objective universe. What he says in effect is that it is the sense of perception that makes the difference between one observer and another. In this context we may also refer to the theory of relativity which also proclaims this difference according to the position in space and time of different observers.
Sri Sankara's observations with reference to the real knowledge and ignorance relate to the realisation of fundamental truth which we may call Brahman. He says that knowledge of Brahman is intuitive and based on instant perceptions.
In (V. 55). He says that who but one's own self can get rid of the bondage caused by the fetters of ignorance desire, action and like even in a 100 crores of cycles.
Neither by Yoga nor by Sankhya, nor by work, nor by learning but by the realisation of one's own identity with Brahman is liberation possible. (V. 56).
Without causing the objective universe to vanish and without knowing the truth of self, how is one to achieve liberation by the mere utterance of the word 'Brahman'. It would result merely in an effort of speech. (V. 63).
Avidya or Maya called also the undifferentiated is the power of the Lord. It is to be inferred by one of clear intellect only from the effect that it produces. It is Maya or Avidya which brings forth the whole universe. (V. 108)
Sri Sankara says that the objective knowledge which one presumes, one gets, is the creation of one's own mind. It therefore depends on the state of one's mind, the training which one gets, one's level of perceptions attained by the mind and the intellect.
One, is overpowered by ignorance mistaking a thing for what it is not. It is the mistaking of transitory things as real that constitutes bondage and imperfect knowledge (V. 138).
All the defects of knowledge is the evil of superimposition. (V. 179).
What is erroneously supposed to exist in something is, when the truth about it has been known, nothing but the substratum and not at all different from it. The diversified dream universe (appears and) passes way in the dream itself. It does not appear on waking as something different from one's own self (V. 253).
Sri Sankara also raises the question as to how one can deny the existence of the universe of which we infer from our perceptions. He raises the relevant question, "Is not sense perception one of the valid means of the knowledge?" (SVS. 273).
He says that sense perceptions are really valid means of knowledge. But one cannot rely only on the sense perceptions for getting at the truth or the reality of substance of the universe. He says that (SVS. 287) upon the evidence of visual perception, people
Say 'this is a jar'. But when we examine it we find that there is no jar, for all that there is is a form of clay. What he means is that what is given generally by our senses are only the realisation of the forms of things. It is only the world of Nama and Rupa which is available to the senses but beyond this universe of Nama and Rupa is fundamental reality which knowledge cannot be obtained by sense perceptions. Such knowledge is available only by constant training of the mind and by developing the intuitive perceptive power.
Sri Sankara also develops the theory of different levels of consciousness. The three levels of consciousness are the Dream, or the illusory world, the waking world and the super conscious world. While he places the first two at par, it is the third level which gives the insight to the real nature of things. In (SVS 766) he says that both the levels of consciousness are the products of our ignorance. In both these states of awareness the triple distinctions among the seer, the seen and the process of seeing should be regarded as being unreal.
Neither by means of mind (SVS. 771) nor by words is the ultimate known.
One should turn to Sruthi with the help of reason and ascertain the truth of the Atman. (SVS. 816).
One should have all one's doubts cleared by means of continuous thinking until one realises the nature of that which is to be proved. The object is the gradual removal of this ignorance.
Unperceived in deep sleep but perceived (in waking and dream) by those only who are ignorant, the whole of this objective universe is the outcome of ignorance and therefore is unreal.
While discussing the observations made in Physics and the nature of inference drawn from these observations we also come to the conclusion that the inference which we draw are only attributes of our minds and the training which the physicists receive. The observations and laws of physics do not say anything about the things in themselves. The laws of physics are only laws which our thought processes employ to visualise and explain the observations made by our senses. And this has been achieved by the training given to and understanding between the physicists.
Sir James Jeans says that nothing but mechanical explanation can be satisfying to our minds and such an explanation would be valueless if we attained it. We see that we can never understand the true nature of reality. Our studies can never put us into contact with reality and its true meaning and nature must forever be hidden from us. We find that there is something in reality which does not permit of representation in space and time. Space and time cannot contain the whole of reality but only the messengers from reality to our senses. Questioning our own mind is of no use. Just as questioning nature can tell us truths about nature so also questioning our own minds will tell us only the truths about our own minds. The tools of science are observation and experiment; the tools of philosophy are discussion and contemplation. The Philosopher tends to think in terms of what the mathematician calls finite differences, whereas the Scientists think in terms of infinitesimals. Past and present no longer have any objective meanings since the four dimensional continuum can no longer be sharply divided into past, present and future. The world lines are merely constructs we draw for ourselves. The space time frame work of the classical mechanics is inadequate for the complete representation of natural phenomena. The so called electric and magnetic forces are not physical realities, they are not even objective, but are subjective mental constructs which we have made for ourselves in our efforts to interpret the waves of the undulatory theory. Energy may be transferred from place to place but the waves and electric and magnetic forces are not part of the mechanism of transfer, they are part simply of our efforts to understand this mechanism and picture it to ourselves. Before man appeared on the scene there were neither waves nor electric nor magnetic forces.
The medieval philosopher Hume writes. 'Our knowledge of the outside world consists entirely of sensations.' We now understand that there are in physics as in other spheres of thought un-askable which is to say meaningless questions. e.g. What is the location of electron when it jumps from one orbit to another? Is the orbit of its destination already determined at the instant of jump? What happens to the radiation if the process is interrupted before the emission of one quantum is completed? Many intuitively obvious notions have turned out to be untenable such as that of a material corpuscle having an individual identity. Nature is much queerer than we can suppose. It does not mean however that nature is capricious or that causality is dead. There can be no talk of a final verdict.
According to Galileo, in medieval system there was always an un-surmountable boundary separating the two realms of truth. There was an immanent and transcendent truth, a human and a divine truth, a truth of reason and a truth of revelation. As soon as we have reached the real truth according to Galileo, the truth of mathematics this artificial fence breaks down. Mathematics is indivisible. Galileo insists that if there is any truth, this truth must be one and indivisible. Cassirier.
Another writer of modem physics John. J. Young, says that our naive way of talking about a world distinct from man and divisible into pieces of matter enduring in time is not adequate. All that the uncertainty relations convey is that direct measurements cannot furnish a simultaneous knowledge of position and momentum. The wave picture merely symbolises the scheme of probabilities which issues from our more or less vague knowledge of actual conditions. In particular, our Hydrogen Atom must be associated with a single De-Broglie wave in a configuration space of six dimensions. This complication itself proves the symbolic nature of the waves. The method for obtaining the wave equation is extremely symbolic and appears to have no physical interpretation. It is strange to find that the abstract mathematical scheme founded on such slender clues (Matrix Algebra) should be capable of giving definite answers to physical problems. Here is an instance which shows that the abstract mathematical concept can lead to interpretation of observable phenomena. This mathematical concept can never be attained by any untrained and unperceptive mind.
Owing to the uncertainty principle, the limit of accurate knowledge has already been reached in the quantum theory. Beyond lies a fog of uncertainty due to the peculiarities of nature herself. All that we can know are probabilities. There was a permanent wall in the way of total knowledge, a. wall built by the inherent nature of the universe itself. Here again we find striking echo of Sri Sankara's statement that by merely intellectual argu-ments and reasoning we can never understand the reality of the world or the nature of Brahman.
The existence of uncertainty need not be a source of humiliation for science. To know the limits of the knowledge is itself an item of knowledge of the first importance. Any truly profound phenomenon of nature cannot be defined uniquely by means of the words of our language and requires at least two mutually exclusive or incompatible complementary concepts to define it. This is the principle of complementary of Neils Bohr. The quantum mechanics is a mathematical scheme which enables the physically measurable characteristics of atomic phenomena to be calculated. The power of science is in its capacity to discover, understand and make use of the laws of nature and not in violating them. Quantum mechanics is a system of formulas, concepts and images that enable the observed properties of atomic objects to be pictured, explained and predicted.
We must suppose that the electron comes into existence as a corpuscle only after an observation has been made i.e. observation is a creation. Each observer is a creator and is a unique one at that. Again, the world is subjective. The world is a reality only if we want it and mind wills it. The uncertainty relations apply to waves as well as particles. The former is a mental concept and the latter a physical concept. Both are equally affected by the uncertainty relations. This shows that the uncertainty relations are a constituent of knowledge itself at the ordinarily level of experience. They affect only knowledge which is subject to occur in pairs viz. position and time, energy and time, action and time. This also shows that only if we have two different concepts like the pairs mentioned above, we come across the uncertainty relations. Once we get over these pairs of opposites and go to the truth directly and intuitively, there are no limits to our knowledge like these uncertainty relations. This is the truth which has been repeatedly emphasised by Sri Sankara and other philosophers, of Advaita.
Speaking about the duality point of view, of Bohr, we may say that every physical entity be it a light quantum, an electron or any other atomic particle presents two sides of a medal. On one side it can be treated as a particle on the other side as a wave. The reality, he feels can be reached only when we talk about pairs of opposites like pain and joy, hot and cold. As soon as we go over to the symbols of physics, temperature and the like, the reality thins out. This is Riezler's judgement of the nature of the physical laws. The construction of a physical theory is not limited by man's power to visualise, in fact modem physicists had moved steadily away from what can be directly observed and imagined. The total system of physics is no longer required to be such that all parts of its structure can be clearly visualised. If there is an electro magnetic oscillation of a specified frequency, then there is a visible greenish blue colour of certain hue. Here something observable is connected with a non observable micro process. There is no answer to the question "exactly what is radiation"? Does it reside in the unobservable electro magnetic oscillation? Does it reside in the visual perception of colour or does it reside in the brain of the observer? There is no way a theoretical concept can be defined in terms of observables.
From the above discussion, it appears that Sri Sankara's theory of knowledge compares well with the theories of perception of modem physics. Both the systems agree that all knowledge resides in the observer. If there is no intellect or capacity to draw inference from observations then pheno-mena have no meaning. It is therefore correct to say that the reality of the external universe has meaning only in the presence of Chitta or the intellect. In the absence of Chitta the inanimate universe has no meaning or existence. Events in the outside world have meaning only when they are cognised by the faculties of man. Then which description of the nature of knowledge is correct? Does knowledge constitute mere perception and the mere recording of what is there outside of us? Or does knowledge reside in the combination of perception, conception and interpretation of events. Oscillations of different wave lengths give rise to different sense perceptions. The meaning and interpretation which an individual cognising entity ascribes to external phenomena vary according to the capacity, training and level of attainment of the individual Chitta. Does this mean that knowledge ultimately resides in ones own Chitta and not outside of one? The representational theory of perception says that what is given to an observer is only a cross section or carving out of external phenomena. The Gestalt theory of perception says that perception occurs when the mind comprehends as a whole what is given to it in fragments. Whatever theory of perception appeals to a person depends on the stage of his development and there is no single theory of perception which is universally applicable. The same holds good for theories of knowledge also. It is in this sense that it is the observer who creates the objects and that there is no difference between the subject and object and process and cognition. This will be discussed in the following chapter.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SUBJECT & OBJECT
Sri Sankara was the first philosopher in the East as well as in the West who denied the separate existence of subject and the object. He was the first person who made the bold statement that in the highest reaches of philosophy the distinction between the subject and object is very thin. Very often he raised the question whether the subject who sees and the object which is seen has any inter relationship or are they completely independent of each other. He also examined the question whether the self can be an object of knowledge and if so, in that case, what is it that the observer is and what is that that was observed. Of course he extended this question of the relationship between the subject and object to the ultimate relationship between the individual self and the world at large.
In V. 183, He says that the mental sheath cannot be the supreme self because it has a beginning and an end, is subject to modification and is characterised by pain and suffering and is an object whereas the subject can never be identified with the objects of knowledge.
That which is perceived by something else has for its witness the latter. When there is no agent to perceive a thing, we cannot speak of it as having been perceived at all.
In V. 239, He says that the sages realise the supreme truth, Brahman in which there is no, differentiation of knower, knowledge and the known which is infinite, transcendent and the essence of knowledge Absolute.
Perfect discrimination brought on by direct realisation distinguishes the true nature of the subject from that of the object and breaks the bond of delusion created by Maya.
Like iron manifesting as sparks through contact with fire, the Buddhi manifests itself as knower and known through inherence of Brahman. As these two (knower and the known) effects of Buddhi are observed to me unreal in the case of delusion, dream and fancy, similarly modifications of Prakriti from egoism down to the body and all sense objects are unreal. In the state of deep sleep there are no objects of knowledge and there is no mind to comprehend them.
Both waking and the dreaming are subject to the illusion that intellect imposes on us. In this respect there is no difference between them. In both these levels of consciousness, there is the triple distinction among the knower, the known and the means of knowledge. The waking moment is also unreal as the dream.
Both these levels of consciousness are the products of our ignorance.
In both these states of awareness the triple distinction among the seer, seen and the process of seeing should be regarded as being unreal. When ignorance is destroyed, knowledge destroys the effects of ignorance.
Brahman is an object of knowledge when it is endowed with the attributes of existence, knowledge and bliss. But reality is not an object of knowledge and transcends knowledge.
The knower is external knowledge only. The knower and knowledge are not different as they are in argumentative philosophy.
The objects of knowledge exist in the intellect as long as it is there, but they do not exist in the opposite case. In BSB, He says that there is no difference consisting of the object of knowledge the knowing subject and the knowledge process which is a projection of nescience.
Duality which is of the nature of difference is said to exist because it is perceived and is practically useful. Therefore, perception, practically are not the criteria for the reality of duality.
It is amazing that the idealists among the physicists also propound this view that the process of observation affects both the observer and the observed.
Here is what Sir James Jeans writes :
“The complete objectivity can only be regained by treating observer and the observed as parts of a single system. It now appears that this does not consist of something we perceived but of our perceptions. It is not the object of the subject object relationship but the relationship itself”.
The waves of electron cannot have any material or real existence, apart from us. They are not constituents of nature but only of our efforts to understand nature. The waves of undulatory theory of light and the waves of wave mechanics are now seen to represent our knowledge about electrons. Both sets of waves are mental constructs of our own; both are abrogated in conceptual spaces.
If the waves of a free electron or photon represent human knowledge, then what happens to the waves when there is no human knowledge to represent? The simple but surprising answer would seem to be that when there is no human knowledge there are no waves. We may always remember that the waves are not a part of nature but of our efforts to understand nature.
The complete closed world consists of three parts, substratum, phenomenal world and the observer. By our experiments we draw up activities from the substratum into the phenomenal world of space and time. But there is no clear line of demarcation between subject and object and by performing observations on the world we alter it. Dirac in his theory introduces operators of an abstract mathematical kind, to represent the effect of dragging an activity up to the surface.
The world is given to me only once and not one existing and one perceived. Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have broken down as a result of recent experience in the physical science, for this barrier does not exist Furthermore, the theoretical possibility of the cognitive act being realised must always be taken into consideration when we wish to gauge the nature of the disturbance generated by a measurement. It is the disturbance generated which is controlled by the uncertainty relations of Heisenberg. The truly isolated system is represented by the entire universe where the observer and his measuring devices are contained within the system. Here the distinction between subject and object becomes confused and so observation is impossible.
Heisenberg in his lectures had also discussed this problem. "The chain of cause and effect could be quantitatively verified only if the whole universe was considered as a single system, but then physics has vanished and only a mathematical scheme remains. The partition of the world into observing and observed systems prevents a smart formulation of the law of cause and effect".
In the classical scheme clear cut separation between subject and object was deemed to be justified. But in modem theory the outside world is deeply affected by the actions of the observer. A clear cut distinction between the knowing subject and the passive object ceases to be possible. In Atomic physics the phenomenon and its observations are inseparable from each other. Essentially, an 'observation' is also a 'phenomenon' and far from being one of the simplest. The concepts of 'phenomenon' and its 'observation' exist independently only in our minds and even then only with restricted accuracy. Observation destroys the primary phenomenon.
In fact Heisenberg was bold enough to say that all statements in physics are relative to the means of observations used. The Science of quantum mechanics does not deal with things whose laws we seek to discover and instead from observations we constitute the things. Atomic physics deals with the nature and structure not of atoms but of the events which we perceive when observing the atom. Galileo, the medieval physicist insisted that if there is any truth then this truth must be one and indivisible.
John Young, another writer of modern physics thinks on the same lines. He says "our naive way of talking about a world distinct from man and divisible into pieces of matter enduring in time is not adequate. In some sense we literally create the world we speak about. Our physical science is not simply a set of reports about an outside world. It is also a report about us and our relationship to that world whatever the latter may be like. Physicists themselves have come to recognise this and have found themselves forced to adopt principles as they say of relativity and indeterminacy. The point to grasp is that we cannot speak simply as if there is a world around us of which our senses give information. In trying, to speak about what the world is like, we must remember all the time that what we see and what we say depends upon what we have learnt, we ourselves come into the process. The word "atom' or "electron" is not used as the name of a piece; it is used as part of the description of the observations of physicists.
Another writer viz. Harold Schilling says, "The world in which natural science operates is that part of the world that science community has carved out for this particular attention and study that it has extracted or abstracted from the totality of reality and existence and for the exploration of which it has developed special techniques. This world has become far remote from the public domain of everyday life from the world of experience and thought of the common man. According to Prof. Williams, "All knowledge without exception is derived from a critical interpretation of what has come in human experience".
CAUSALITY AND DETERMINISM
The Central problem in philosophy both eastern and western is the problem of causality and determinism. In the medieval ages both eastern and western philosophy accepted the principle of determinism. This principle also ruled the scientific world. Those were the days of classical mechanics of Newton and it was a period of discovery and inventions. Man found himself limitless and he was flushed with discovering, the explanations for all the workings of nature. Man thought that he had discovered the principles underlying the phenomena of nature. While that was the trend in western philosophy, and culture, in the eastern philosophy also the principle of determinism held sway until the advent of Sri Sankara in the 8th century. In fact, the earlier scriptures were all in favour of determinism though there were occasional dissents from this principle.
The question of causality and determinism is fundamental to philosophy and ethics and in fact rules the conduct of man in all spheres. The doctrines of Karma and transmigration of souls also appeared to favour this principle. In fact, this principle is the central philosophy of Gita. Modernists who have studied Gita superficially raise these questions. Man is a creature of nature. He is bound by his upbringing and the social set up in which he finds himself. All his actions are predetermined because he is merely an instrument to work out the commands of Providence or God by whatever name one calls it. If a man does good according to Providence or God, he also does evil according to the same commands. Therefore, he has no responsibility. Action is neutral towards the question of evil and good. In fact if man is a mere instrument then evil is as much part of man as the good. He cannot become responsible if he does evil action. It is as much part of working out God's will as doing good. If this is so, what is the role of ethics? Why should a man do good actions? What happens to man if he does good or evil? What determines what is the motivation to do a good or to choose between good and evil? What is the role of retribution? These are all the central questions of philosophy which have been asked down the ages and even in the present day. Philosophy as such has no answers, for such questions. Each one has to discover the answers for these questions for himself. In any case, the modem developments in physics have dealt the death blow to the principle of scientific determinism. The strangle hold of the law of determinism or the second law of Thermo Dynamics which held sway two or three centuries ago has been driven away from the scheme of physics. The new theory of expanding universe or oscillating universe has also questioned the principle underlying the theory of evolution, propounded by Darwin. Modem physicists no longer believe in the iron law of nature. Quantum mechanics has questioned the principle of uniformity in natural phenomena.
Sri Sankara also examined the theory of creation, the principle of causality and determinism. In his times, the principles of Karma and transmigration of soul were so much accepted principles of Hindu Religion and philosophy, that he could not dare attack these principles. Therefore, his writings on these questions are not extensive but here and there he has raised these fundamental questions.
He says, "As you who are possessed of consciousness you exist for yourself and are not made to act by any one else. For an independent conscious being is not made to act by another as it is not reasonable that one possessed of consciousness exists for the sake of another possessing consciousness, both being of the same nature like lights of two lamps.
There is no real causation; the world is but an illusory appearance; even as the snake is in the rope". Sri Sankara tackled the question of causality and determinism with his theory of superimposition. According to him nature itself and the observed phenomena are the projection of minds. Once this principle is accepted the question of causality is meaningless. In fact, he says, Vivartha Vada, the theory of phenomenal appearance is against the Parinama Vada, the theory of evolution. The experience of men is because of the conditioning principle of Maya. Since Maya is indeterminable (Anirvachaniya) the question of observation and inference of causality has no meaning. In Mandukya Karika Bhasya he says, those who theorise about creation think that creation is the expression of God.
Those who are intent on the supreme truth, however, do not support the creation.
In another place, he says that the theory of creation is futile. No world either evolving or dissolving exists. If this is so, what about the portions of Vedas regarding the creation etc.
Sri Sankara says, "The creation texts are not true but only for teaching the oneness of self, one and only source, identity of all objects etc".
In another place, he raises the central problem of Ethics. He refers to some people saying 'I cannot but make it, I am not independent. I am made to act by someone else'.
In another place he says, "If it be so, why do the Srutis speak of diverse ends to be obtained their means, and so forth, as also the evolution and dissolution of the world".
Sri Sankara's answers to these questions are given in V. 47. He says it is through ignorance that the one who is Supreme self finds oneself in the bondage of non self. The fire of knowledge bums the effects of ignorance.
In short, he says that these questions of creation, causality and determinism, questions of ethics etc. are only for the lower levels of advancement in theology. Once a person advances in knowledge, all these questions lose importance, and are no longer fundamental to the problems of philosophy. This is also the finding of modern physics on this vexed question.
It is on discussing this question of causality and determinism that all the writers of modem physics have spent lot of time and thought. Idealist, physicists like James Jeans, Arthur Eddington have tackled this question in their earlier writings. Heisenberg and Schrödinger were asked these specific questions. Einstein was also specifically asked these questions.
According to the law of Rutherford and Soddy atoms of radio active substances broke up spontaneously and not because of any particular conditions or special happenings. We find that the atomicity of radiation destroys the principle of uniformity of nature and the phenomena of nature are no longer governed by a causal law or at least if they are governed the causes lie beyond the series of phenomena as known to us. If we wish to picture the happenings of nature as still governed by causal laws, we must suppose that there is a substratum lying beyond the phenomena and so also beyond our access, in which the happenings in the phenomenal world are somehow determined. The law of causality acquires a meaning for us only if we have infinitesimals at our disposal with which to observe the system without disturbing it. But this requirement goes against Mach's universal principle. This principle states that the position and velocity of any one particle in this universe, depends on the position and velocity of all other particles in the universe. Also at least one quantum of photon of light is immediately necessary for observing the phenomena. If both these principles are true then we cannot observe the position and velocity of an isolated particle in this universe so that we can follow its movements in space and in time, and so arrive at the causal link. Since these two principles are fundamental to nature and to limits of human observation, the law of causality has no meaning and can neither be proved nor disproved by observation or by laws of physics.
Another theory viz. "the half life period theory" of radio active substances also makes it impossible to locate and identify the particular atom to disintegrate and the mode of disintegration. Einstein supposed that the standing house of cards could not only be knocked down by the impact of radiation but that they could sometimes collapse of themselves in the same way and according to the same laws of atomic nuclei collapse in the radio active disintegration, the rate of collapse being entirely independent of environment and physical conditions. Every atom in the universe is not only liable to spontaneous collapse but also does collapse at frequent intervals. Thus the abdication of determinism appears to be complete, not only from the domain of radio activity but from the whole realm of physics.
On the man-sized scale and indeed far below, nature is to all appearances strictly deterministic. But in the realm of atomic and sub atomic phenomena the principle of determinism disappears.
Exhaustive studies by many investigators have shown that the fundamental laws of nature do not control the phenomena directly. The laws are our mental constructs said to explain and understand the workings of nature. The substratum activities A, B and C lead to corresponding phenomenal activities a, b, c and also to composite activities AB, BC and AC and have no direct counter parts in the phenomenal world. AB may give rise to a or b but never to both, and there is a definite probability as to whether a or b will appear. After elaborate mathematical discussion Dirac reaches a formal theory of a very complex kind. The matrix mechanics of Heisenberg and the wave mechanics of De-Broglie and Schrödinger are then shown to be included in the theory as special cases. It is an essential feature of Dirac's theory that events in the phenomenal world are not uniquely associated with events in the substratum. Thus uniformity of nature is jettisoned and causality disappears from the world we see. The mathematical equations of both forms of the new quantum theory, the wave mechanics and the matrix mechanics are completely deterministic in form. (This relates to our knowledge of events but not of events themselves). Causality disappears from the events themselves to reappear in our knowledge of events. But since we can never pass behind our knowledge of events to the events themselves, we can never know whether causality governs the events or not. This is in striking accord with the views of Sri Sankara. According to Sri Sankara also the question of causality and determinism is a subject of controversy only as long as our knowledge is limited. Once we rise above these limitations of knowledge, the question loses its importance.
The central controversy in modem physics is between the particle picture and the wave picture. Both these pictures apply to the electron and the process of radiation. For explaining some phenomena the particle picture is used. For explaining some other phenomena the wave picture is useful. This also explains that the laws of physics are laws which apply to our mental processes to understand and explain the laws of nature. Nature itself is not governed by these laws. Particle picture is indeterminate. The more trustworthy wave picture gives us determinism. The wave picture does not show the future following inexorably from the present but the imperfections of our future knowledge inexorably from the imperfections of our present knowledge.
According to Schrödinger, Heisenberg's indeterminacy principle can be interpreted as a flat denial of causality in the atomic domain. It does not merely state that the causal links at this level are beyond man's power of detection, it clearly implies that the links do not exist. The indeterminacy principle has ostensibly ruled out precisely definable conceptual models. Bohr proposed as a substitute the use of complementary pairs of imprecisely defined concepts viz. position and momentum, wave and particle and so on. Schrödinger raises these fundamental questions. What is determinism and what is indeterminism? What is the meaning of the word 'Cause'? Is it a hypothesis, a principle or a law? Is it an indispensable crutch of thought? Or is it a mere fashion of speaking? How is causality related to determinism? His answer is "the causal idea emerges from the fact that imagination and understanding cannot escape the constraint of association and the force of habit. It is because the formulas of Leibnitz and Laplace which made predictability the criterion of causality that we still cling to this meaning of causality. According to Max Planck, although predictability is an infallible criterion for the presence of a causal nexus, we must not infer that predictability is equivalent to causality.
According to Cassirier, every genuine causal proposition, every natural law contains not so much a prediction of future events as a promise of future cognition. According to Planck, quantum theory exploded the notion of continuity, it created a special body of laws for small things inapplicable to large things; it dethroned determinacy and made randomness king, it made philosophers take to heir beds and physicists to flee to insanity. Quantum mechanics is a statistical discipline. It presents no exact description of an individual particle and makes no exact prediction of its behaviour.
According to Heisenberg, what are the implications of the uncertainty principles? Does it contain the denial of causality? Heisenberg's specific answer was 'Yes'. As a matter of principle we cannot come to know the present in all its determinative factors. Many physicists share this opinion. We must not ask of the notion of cause more than it can give and we must not misapply it. Not only is a test of rigorous causality excluded for practical reasons, but it is also seen to be impossible in theory at least in this world of ours.
A rigorous space time description and a rigorous causal sequence for individual processes cannot be realised simultaneously the one or the other must be sacrificed. This, in essence is the principle of complementarity of Bohr. This principle does not require that in all cases strict causal connections for individual process be impossible. The principle merely denies the possibility of our picturing with accuracy a sequence of causally related events in space time. A test of rigorous causality is impossible in mechanics.
It appears that Einstein was much perturbed by the abolition of the principle of determinism in modem day physics. He was not satisfied that the affairs of the world should be carried on with the principle of indeterminism. That this will lead to chaos was his considered opinion. He thought that the abdication of determinism in the affairs of the world is only a passing phase. But those who have contributed most to the development of new quantum mechanics resist Einstein's views and insist that rigorous causality is a myth.
Bohr's principle of complementarity mentioned above is today generally accepted by the leading quantum theorists. It is a compromise between classical causality and indeterminism. The uncertainty relations may be derived from phenomena involving an individual process and so are not due to vagueness involved in a statistical outlook. There is no causality in atomic physics. Most physicists do not accept determinism in the strict sense in which the term is used.
The question of causality and determinism has important consequences in man's conduct and in the field of Ethics. Can a man choose between different possible actions or is his feeling that he has freedom of choice a delusion? Without causality in the world there could be no point in educating people, in making any sort of moral or political appeal.
These questions are not direct consequences of the uncertainty principle. The uncertainty in quantum theory is so very much smaller than the uncertainty in daily life arising from the limitations of knowledge. Here is a man in a world as described by classical physics. There is a man in a world as described by modem physics. There is no difference in the two descriptions that would have any significant effect on the question of free choice and moral behaviour. In the macro world with which human beings are concerned, the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics plays no role. For this reason, it is a misconception to suppose that indeterminacy on the subatomic level has any bearing on the question of free decision. However, a number of prominent scientists and philosophers of science think otherwise.
It is wrong to suppose that the principle of indeterminacy relates to the actual process of measurement. It is also erroneous to think that with more refined instruments the principle will vanish. The indeterminacy is inherent in the nature of things and is the absolute limit to the knowledge that can be obtained by a man by ordinary physical processes.
The spectral line emitted by the atom is because of the disturbance in the path of free electrons. The spectral line or radiation is observed by means of light or other form of energy. Which is the source of observation of a spectral line, is it in the electron? Or in the means of observation? or in a combination of both? In other words, this means that either the electron which emits the spectral line is observed directly or the process of observation brings into the field of vision the spectral line. The dimensions of electron is of the same order as Planck’s constant or photon. This means that electron cannot be observed or measured by an equi dimensional thing, viz. light. This is because the unit of measurement must always be smaller than the object to be measured.
It is pertinent to note here that the uncertainty relations apply to waves as well as particles. It has been mentioned earlier that the waves are mental concepts, whereas the particle is a physical concept. It is seen that both are equally affected by the uncertainty relations. This shows that the relations are constituents of knowledge at the ordinary level of experience. They affect only knowledge which is subject to occurrence in pairs, viz. position and time, energy and time and action and time. Once we get over these concepts which occur in pairs, the uncertainty relations do not come into the picture. This is exactly what Sri Sankara proposed in his Advaita theory, viz. that when one transcends the idea of opposites or pairs then the limitations of knowledge vanish. There is direct intuitive perception.
There is another way of looking at the principle of causality. The concept of cause and effect arises because of the passage of time between two events. Naturally with the changes in the concept of time, the concept of causality also will change. If we are to apply different concepts of time, we arrive at different theories of cosmology and theories of creation of the world, stability of the universe and other related subjects. This problem is related to the theories of steady state universe, expanding universe and oscillating universe. These are different theories prevalent in cosmology.
According to Shri Jagjit Singh,* if instead of kinematical time, 't' the observer adopted Milnes Dynamical time 'T', the time recorded by say the rotating earth, we would find that the universe is not expanding nor was it created at some finite past. Time would appear to stretch backwards and forwards forever in agreement with the common sense world view. But this system of time reckoning forces a modification of our concept of space which is no longer Euclidian but Hyperbolic.
The concept of time and flow of time is central to the theme of causality and determinism. The concept of time, in its turn is linked with the concept of light and its measurement. The essence of Planck's theory is that energy x time is a constant. The bang theory of creation of universe supposes that to start with it was infinite energy. At that instant time was zero. Therefore, the product viz. infinity and zero was the constant. This same constant is being maintained by the decrease of energy and with the passage of time. In other words, this supports the steady state theory of universe which states that the universe will continue for ever in the steady state. But then this is inconsistent with the concept of passage of time. At this stage, the law of Entropy comes into operation. This means that the energy level of the universe will become zero and there will be death of universe. This idea was prevalent in the early years of this century. This prospect of the death of the universe was not to the liking of many scientists. Therefore, a group of scientists had advanced the theory of creation of extra matter or stores of energy. There are difficulties in accepting this theory also. If matter is to be created afresh then from what is this matter created and what is the process of creation? It therefore appears that the theory of expanding universe will not suit the state of knowledge existing at present. There is another difficulty with the theory of creation. If there is creation there must be destruction also. This action leads to the death of the universe. These conflicts arise because of the fundamental assumption viz. Energy x Time is a constant. In an attempt to get round the difficulties created by this concept, a group of scientists led by Milne propounded a new theory of time which will provide for variations and interpretations of these fundamental conclusions. With the modified concept of time, the concept of creation and the concept of destruction vanish. This is also the theory of Sri Sankara who says that the theories of creation and destruction are because of the limited concepts available to our limited knowledge. Once we transcend this limit of knowledge the concept of creation, existence and destruction vanish.
The conclusions which one can draw from the above discussions are that the principle of causality and determinism. the principle of uncertainty of Heisenberg, the principles of complementarity of Bohr are all applicable only to certain spheres of knowledge available to man. Once we transcend these limits these concepts will not come into operation and man will be able to achieve the miracle. The miracle is what may be termed as understanding of nature of the absolute or the nature of ultimate principle which man can perceive but which he cannot observe. This leads us to the next chapter where we will discuss the nature of the absolute according to Sri Sankara and the nature of the absolute according to the modem developments in physics.
THE NATURE OF ABSOLUTE
The main question in Philosophy is about the nature of the absolute. Is there any unifying principle underlying the phenomena of nature? Is there any unity which binds the living creatures with the objects found in nature? What is the nature of the universe? Was the universe created; if so, is there any end to the universe? These are questions which have attracted the attention of philosophers in the West as well as in the East. In fact, we may say it is the difference in the interpretation of the relationship between man and God that distinguishes one religion from another and one philosophy from another. Therefore, no discussion of the philosophical problems will be complete if we do not discuss the nature of the absolute, or the fundamental principle operating in the universe.
The theory of philosophy propounded by Sri Sankara is known as Advaita theory. According to Him, there is no difference between man and the external universe. Since he denies anything external, to man, the other questions mentioned above do not really call for a detailed discussion. According to him when man reaches certain stages of evolution then all these questions cease to agitate his mind and they lose their importance. At that stage, he attains supreme bliss and there is perfect union. In V. 125. He says. "There is some Absolute Entity, the eternal substratum of the consciousness of egoism.
This Atman is a self cognised entity because It is cognised by Itself. Hence the individual soul is itself and directly the supreme Brahman and nothing else.
The Universe does not exist apart from the individual's soul and the perception, of its separateness is false like, the qualities of blueness in the sky. Has a superimposed attribute any meaning apart from its substratum? It is the substratum which appears like that through delusion.
That which is untouched by the six fold wave meditated upon by the Yogis heart but not grasped by the sense, organs, which the Buddhi cannot know.
In S. 761 He says, 'Inasmuch as Brahman is not an object of thought, It is devoid of all attributes and transcends all verbal definitions. Tranquil in itself, it is without beginning or end. It is infinite in nature subject to no modifications incomprehensible by means of reasoning transcending thought and beyond the reach of knowledge.
It can be reached neither by means of mind nor by word.
Seer, seeing and the Seen is a false notion.
In essence, Sri Sankara says that the universe which the person observes is only the universe which he thinks he sees. The process can be compared to the observation of a snake in piece of rope. When a person thinks that he sees a snake, does the process of seeing consist in the object which is the piece of rope or does it reside in the cognitive process of his mind? If the question is to be decided by perception, then the person does see the snake but the snake has no reality and never existed. Once knowledge dawns on him, the idea of snake leaves his mind. But the very idea of snake can occur only if there is something there on which he superimposes an idea of snake. Does this mean that there is objective existence which corresponds to rope? According to Sri Sankara there is such an objective thing. In other words, the universe has an objective existence apart from the observer as long as the observer accepts the difference. Real knowledge consists in getting rid of this notion of the acceptance of a thing apart from one's self. Earlier we have discussed this question and we have observed that the process of seeing, seer and the seen have no independent existence. If a person crosses the boundary of sensual perceptions then the question of an objective thing existing apart from the consciousness does not arise. This is the fundamental truth which had been repeatedly stressed by Sri Sankara. He also says that this realisation of truth can never be achieved by observation or by reason or by intellect.
In S. 841, He says, 'I am not limited either by the body or the sense organs, or the intellect'.
In S. 773 he says. 'Thou art not the physical body, nor the vital forces nor the sense organs, nor mind, nor the intellect nor the ego. Thou art not any of these either individually or collectively. That Supreme witnessing consciousness Thou art that'.
In Mandukya Karika Bhashya He says 'It is not as if the snake that is assumed illusorily in the rope existed there in fact and then was removed through discrimination. And non duality is the supreme truth. No world either evolving or dissolving exists'.
Pure conscious self is self existent. No one can disprove its independence of other things inasmuch as it never ceases to exist.
Sri Sankara says that the consciousness is the only reality in the universe. Consciousness exists always and every person is aware of this consciousness. Therefore, there is no need to prove the existence of consciousness. All other consequences follow from the mere existence of consciousness.
Once consciousness is developed to a high level then the other questions of less importance lose their significance and consciousness rules without being disturbed by other limiting conditions. This, according to Sri Sankara, is the highest goal which the conscious human being should always try to reach.
Almost identical is the core of the implications of the latest developments in modem physics. The principles which have deep philosophical implications are (i) Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (ii) Bohr's principle of comple-mentarity (iii) Mach's universal principle iv) the theory of relativity of which the main feature is the constancy of the velocity of light for all observers in the universe (v) the principle that radiation is transmitted in discreet quantities called quanta.
Heisenberg has himself interpreted his principle thus. The chain of cause and effect can be quantitatively verified only if the whole universe were considered as a single system but then physics has vanished and only a mathematical scheme remains. The partition of the world into observing and observed system prevents a sharp formulation of a law of cause and effect.
Bohr also comes to the same conclusion that the ordinary level of perceptions will not give us an insight into the truth of nature. He says, 'indeed we find ourselves here on the very path taken by Einstein of adapting our modes of perception borrowed from the sensations to the gradually deepening knowledge of the laws of Nature. The hindrances met with on this path originate above all in the fact that, so to say, every word in our language refers to our ordinary perception'. The truly isolated system is represented by the entire universe where the observer and his measuring devises are contained within the system. Here the distinction between subject and object becomes confused and so observation is impossible. Bohr has interpreted his principle as implying that an exact localisation in space time on the one hand and rigorous causal relations on the other illustrate two different aspects of reality. Reality itself is not depicted correctly by the one or the other of these two modes if considered singly.
D' Abro another writer says, 'In the sub atomic world mechanical representations and classical concepts are no longer of much avail except as props to a bewildered imagination which is unable to feel at ease in its new surroundings. Waves and particles seem to dissolve one into the other as though they were the same and yet not the same. The thing to remember is that the uncertainty principles set limit to the accuracy of knowledge. Beyond lies a fog of uncertainty due to the peculiarities of nature herself. All that we can know are the probabilities. It is unnecessary at this stage to venture an opinion on the merits of the new quantum philosophy for in any case our conclusion remains unchanged. Absolute truth is beyond our reach. We cannot give expression in words to new concepts that differ widely from those of the common place level. Only by perseverance and prolonged meditation can an idea of what is implied forces itself upon us.'
The essence of modem physics lies in the capacity to measure and interpret the measurement. Pressing logically to the end, we come to the conclusion that there is a limit to the process of measurement beyond which we cannot proceed. The only way whereby we can measure the length between the two adjacent points is by means of light. But light itself has a definite wave length. If the two points are at a distance which is less than the wave length of light, then the two points are observed as coincident. It. therefore, follows that the physical means of measurement must naturally limit the precision of measurement. Whatever we may do we cannot overcome this limit. This is a physical limit to the knowledge process.
If we analyse this point further, we come to the conclusion that the old abstractions (like the point) position and instantaneous velocity) have to give way to new abstractions. Naturally such abstractions cannot be cast in the image of anything that we can intuitively derive from our everyday experience of the macroscopic world. This sets a limit to intellectual knowledge of process and perceptions. Combined with the physical limits mentioned above, these intellectual limits also reiterate the observation of Sri Sankara that knowledge as such both physical and intellectual cannot understand and describe the fundamental truth.
Einstein in his theory of relativity says 'considered logically the concepts of space and time and event, are free creations of the human intelligence. An attempt to become conscious of the empirical source of these fundamental concepts would show to what extent we are actually bound to these concepts. In this way, we become aware of our freedom of which in case of necessity it is always a difficult matter to make sensible use. There is no such thing as empty space i.e. space without field. Space time does not claim existence on its own but only as a structural quality of the field'.
Isaac Asimov in his book "Understanding Physics", says "in actual fact a complete analysis is impractical even by present day techniques because of the sheer difficulty of the mathematics involved. There was a permanent wall in the way of total knowledge, a wall built by the inherent nature of the universe itself. The existence of uncertainty need not be a source of humiliation for science. To know the limits of knowledge is itself an item of the first importance".
In his book, "The Rise of new Physics" D'Abro says, "the invariant velocity of light which is the basis of Lorentz transformation becomes inter woven, as it were, into the very fabric of the world. Both the theory of relativity and quantum theory displace our attention from the infinite (whether great or small) to the finite (great or small). "Discussing the implication of wave theory, he says when we pass to the higher atoms with their several electrons; the introduction of hyper space cannot be avoided. Hyperspace is obviously a mathematical fiction.
The power of science is in its capacity to discover, understand and make use of the laws of nature and not in violating them. The point is that we cannot perceive an atomic object directly by means of our five senses. An atomic object is not simply the sum of the properties of waves and particles. This 'atomic' something is imperceptible to our five senses but is real none the less.
Bohr's principle of complementarity says that 'Any truly profound phenomenon of nature cannot be defined uniquely by means of the words of our language, and requires at least two mutually exclusive or incompatible complementary concepts to define it. "Such complementary pairs of concepts are, wave and particle continuity and discreetness, causality and chance, phenomenon and observation. This principle may be compared to the concepts of duality which according to Sri Sankara is necessary to describe the phenomena of the world in the ordinary levels. The strength of philosophy lies in overcoming these dual principles and intuitively observing the oneness behind these apparently incompatible dualities.
Knowledge of quantum mechanics is a certain emotional process that compels one to go through its whole history again. The abstract knowledge once acquired, irreversibly influences the whole subsequent life of a person. It influences his attitude towards physics, towards other sciences and even his moral criteria. One realises that the questions concerning the completeness of physical knowledge and the essence of phenomena are not within the scope of physics and cannot be answered by physical means. A.N. Whitehead expresses the same sentiment when he said, 'I am impressed by the inadequacy of our conscious thoughts to express our sub conscious. Only at rare moments, does that deeper and vaster world come through into conscious thought or expression".
In his book 'Concepts of Modem Physics' Arthur Biesler writes, "Relativity involves an analysis of how measurements depend upon the observer as well as upon what is observed. From relativity emerges a new mechanics in which there are intimate relationships between space and time, mass and energy". Together with special relativity, the wave particle duality is central to an understanding of modem physics. The 'true nature of light is no longer something that can be visualised in terms of every day experience. Speaking about the consequences of uncertainty principles, he says that electrons cannot be present within the nucleus. The certainties proclaimed by Newtonian mechanics are illusory.
A detailed investigation of the sources of our ideas has shown that there is only one type of model or picture which can be intelligible to our restricted minds viz. one in mechanical terms. Yet a review of recent physics has shown that all attempts at mechanical models or pictures have failed and must fail. For a mechanical model or picture must represent things as happening in space and time while it has recently become clear that the ultimate processes of nature neither occurs nor admit of representation in space and time. Thus an understanding of the ultimate processes of nature is for ever beyond our reach. The true object of scientific study can never be the realities of nature but only of our own observations of nature.
The new physics places two partial pictures before us, one in terms of particles and one in terms of waves. Neither of these can tell the whole truth. The pictures we draw of nature show limitations, these are the price we pay for limiting our pictures of nature to the kinds that can be understood by our minds. In transcending space and time, the new quantum mechanics finds a new background which makes for far greater simplicity and so probably comes nearer to ultimate truth. So long as we are concerned only with our sensations, it is all the same whether we regard the world as a Mental Construct or as having an existence of its own, independent of mind. The doctrine of materialism asserted that this space and time and material world comprised the whole of reality. It interpreted thought as mechanical motion in the brain and emotion as a mechanical motion in the body. The new physics suggests that besides matter and radiation which can be represented in ordinary space and time there must be other ingredients which cannot be so represented.
Many philosophers have regarded the world of appearance as a kind of illusion, some sort of creation or selection of our minds which had in some way less existence in its own right than the underlying world of reality. Modern physics does not confirm this view. The new quantum theory has shown that we must probe the deeper substratum of reality before we come to understand the world of appearance. In addition to the dualism of appearance and reality many pictures of the world have exhibited a second dualism that of mind and matter or of body and soul.
The physical theory of relativity has shown that the electric and magnetic forces are not real at all, they are mere mental constructs of our own. The relativity theory of gravitation because of its close association with pure mathematics seems to carry us yet further along the road from materialism to mentalism and the same may be said of most of recent development of physical science. The final picture consists wholly of waves and its ingredients are whole mental constructs. And now that we find that we can best understand the course of events in terms of knowledge, there is a certain presumption that reality is wholly mental.
Sri Sankara says that the importance of the questions of science lies in the fact that it stresses the questions about the nature and meaning of life. These questions cannot be answered by science alone. The men who have sought to conceive the world as a whole have failed in the opinion of both science and mysticism.
Heisenberg, while discussing the philosophical problems in Nuclear physics says, "Modern physics in the final analysis has already discredited the concept of the truly real. Matter exists because energy assumes the form of elemental particles. The elemental particles of modem physics are defined by the requirements of mathematical symmetry. They are not eternal and unchanging and they can hardly, therefore, strictly be termed real. And mathematical pattern in the final analysis is an intellectual concept.
1. Viveka Chudamani by Swami Madhavananda - Published by Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta.
2. The Quintessence of Vedanta - Published by Sri Ramakrishna Advaita Ashrama, Kalady, Kerala.
3. Sankaracharya by T. M. P. Mahadevan - Published by National Book Trust, New Delhi.
1. Physics & Philosophy - Sir James Jeans
2. The Mysterious Universe - Sir James Jeans
3. Nature of the Physical World - Sir Arthur Eddington
4. One, two, three infinity - George Gamow
5. Thirty years that shook the world
6. Mind & Matter - Schrodinger
7. Science & Religion - Harold Schilling
8. Philosophical Problems in Nuclear Physics - W. Heisenberg
9. Relativity - Einstein
10. The Rise of Modern Physics
Other books and authors I have not mentioned by name.
Thanks are due to:
The Printers who have done such a good job so willingly and wholeheartedly.
The C. P. Ramaswamy lyer Foundation, Madras, who first gave me an opportunity to deal with my thoughts on the subject.
The stenographer Krishnan who has been responsible for typing the manuscript.
My profound respects and pranams to the Jagadguru His Holiness Sri Sankaracharya of Sringeri for His blessings to my first humble endeavour.
N. Subramanian M.A. LLB. LRS.