Modern Physics = Eastern Mysticism?

"It is probably true quiet generally that in the history of human thinking, the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different li nes of thought meet." - Werner Hiesenberg.

This quotation seems to summarise what is attempted top explore in this article. Who would have thought that an abstract philosophical domain like eastern mysticism co uld ever be compared to the precise, pure and concise world of physics? But that is precisely what is happening in the minds and circles of open minded physicists all over the world.

The first question that would be asked is, why only eastern mysticism? As presented in "The Tao of Physics" by Frithof Capra, the difference between eastern and wester n philosophies lie in the eastern view of world as "organic". For eastern mystics, all things and events perceives by senses are interrelated, connected and are but di fferent manifestations of the same ultimate reality. Compared to this, western thoughts perceive world as a multitude of separate objects and events. Modern physics in this century have shown that there seems to be an underlying interconnectedness between different aspects of matter.

The interconnections between the two branches of "philosophy" are numerous. In this article we look ate three important and striking ones. They are:

(1) Unity of all Things
The most important characteristic and the essence of the eastern worldview are the awareness of the unity and the interrelation between all things and events, " the ex perience of all phenomenon in the world as the manifestations of a basic oneness". This basic oneness is called "Brahman" in Hinduism, "Dharmakaya" in Buddhism and "Ta o" in Taoism. The Sanskrit term for meditation - "samadhi" means literally 'mental equilibrium'. It refers to the balanced and tranquil state of mind in which the basi c unity of the universe is experienced.

The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory developed by Bohr and Heisenberg in 1920s reveals an essential interconnectedness of the universe. It shows that we can not decompose the world as we see it, into independently existing smallest units. In a way, it is a way of saying that any object is a manifestation of the interaction between the processes of preparation and measurements. As we penetrate into matter, we find that it is made of particles, but these are not the 'basic building blocks ' in the sense of Newton. As expressed by Niels Bohr, "Isolated material particles are abstractions, their properties being definable and observable only through their interactions with other systems.

Quantum theory has thus abolished the notion of fundamentally separated objects and introduced the concept of the participator to replace that of the observer.

(2) World of Opposites
Although eastern philosophy pronounces the oneness of world, it does not mean that they assume all things are equal. As a matter of fact, the awareness that all are po lar, and thus an unity, is seen as one of the highest aim in the spiritual tradition of the East. 'Be in truth eternal, beyond earthly opposites', is Krishna's advice to Arjun in "Bhagavad Gita". The eastern mysticism holds the view that all are opposite, polar and thus unity. This polar opposite is never a static quantity, but a dy namic interplay between two extremes. This state of polarity is seen in the Chinese concept of "yin" and "yang". "Yin" stands for the female force and "Yang" stands fo r male aspects of nature.

Many physicists have asserted that exploration into modern physics have reached a similar plane. Examples of concept of unification of opposites are in reality availab le in the subatomic levels, where matter is both destructible and indestructible, both continuous and also discontinuous, matter is both particle and also wave. With t he introduction of probability into this quantum world, physics have in a way shown yet another striking resemblance to the eastern mysticism. Describing the probabili ty of a particle to exist in a certain place, Robert Oppenheiner says,

" If we ask whether the position of the particle remains the same, we must say "no", if we ask whether the electron's position change with time, we must say "no". If w e ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say "no", if we ask whether it is in motion, we must say "no" ".

This closely echoes the words of the "Upanishads" a sacred book of Hinduism where it is said:

"It moves, It moves not
It is far, and It is near.
It is within all this,
And It is outside of all this."

(3) Dynamic Universe
Another intriguing parallelism can be found in the concept of dynamism of Universe.

The dynamic aspect of matter arise in Quantum theory as a consequence of the wave-matter nature of sub-atomic particles, and its need is more essential in relativity t heory, where unification of space and time implies that the being of matter cannot be separated from its activity.

The dynamic nature of the universe can be seen in its expanding nature. Einstein's equations do not provide a unique solution to the future of the expanding universe. Different models have been suggested, all of which obey the required equations. One of them predicts an oscillating universe, where the universe expands, like now, and after a critical time, starts to contract until the whole mass is condensed into a small ball of matter and then starts to explode and expand again.

This oscillating world seems to be a phenomenon that was quiet early predicted in Hindu mythology. One of the cosmologies of eastern world is based on Hindu myth of "L ila"- the divine play, in which Brahman transforms himself into the world and then back to himself again. "Lila", is a rhythmic play, which goes on forever, the one be coming many, and many becoming one.

The emphasis on movement and change in eastern mysticism can be found in the Hindu word "Aum" or "Om"- the creative word. It is said to be the cosmic vibratory power b ehind all the atomic energy. "Aum" of the Vedas is the "Hum" of Tibetans, "Amin" of Moslems, "Amen" of Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and the Christians.

Einstein's famous mass energy equation took atomic world a quantum leap ahead into the unknown. However, it seems that we have simply reached a plane that has already been explored by the eastern mystics! The equation caused the physicist to abandon the concept of mass as "stuff" and regard it as a bundle of energy. When we observe matter or particle, what we observe is dynamic pattern continually changing into one another.

A study of the works of the mystics have revealed that in their non-ordinary state of consciousness, they seem to be aware of the interpenetrating of space and time, e nergy and matter, and thus see the macroscopic objects in a way which is very similar to the scientist's concepts of subatomic particles.

There are more exciting parallels which point to the possibility that the world created by the mystics and modern physicists are just the same world, described and exp lained at two different levels, in two different 'languages'. However a large number of physicists are not convinced. They argue that it is not even fair to compare a pure science and an abstract philosophy like eastern philosophy.

It is up to the future developments of physics to tell who is in the wrong path and who intuitively guessed right.

Let the truth tell its tale.

Source Reference : "The Tao of Physics" by Fritjof Capra.