A56 Science And Philosophy: An analysis of similarities between scientific and spiritual views of the universe

It is a common belief; in fact a serious misconception, that the discoveries of modern Science are in conflict with the universal philosophical truths about the nature of the world. Actually the exact opposite is true. The latest discoveries in nuclear physics are amazingly in harmony with the metaphysical explanations of the universe. Unfortunately the average human mind today is conditioned by a belief system and a language based on a completely outdated understanding of the nature of the physical world. Most of us think and communicate in concepts and terms proven untrue ever since the discoveries of Albert Einstein in the early 1900’s. We think in terms of time and space as being separate and independent. We think in terms of only three dimensions although science has proven that time is a fourth dimension and most likely, there are still further dimensions to this reality which scientists have not yet discovered. We continue to think of objects and beings as being completely independent and unrelated even though scientists understand that all things and beings are related through force field, e.g. electromagnetic interactions. We continue to think of matter as something permanent, whereas scientists now know it to be only another manifestation of energy.


Physics and metaphysics are two parallel approaches whose common goal is to understand nature and its forces and laws of interaction. The approach of physics is to achieve this goal through the logical study of the external world through hypothesis, experimentation, observation, reasoning, inference and conclusions. These «conclusions» we now understand as only relatively true· for they are continually being found inadequate and are being modified so as to better describe the physical world as we learn more and more about it. The «laws» of physics have continually been modified and replaced throughout the history of man’s search for knowledge. This also means that there are few theories or conclusions which are upheld by all physicists at any time. Actually today there is a very serious crisis as there seem to be more (rather than less) unanswered questions than ever before. Every new discovery in the world of nuclear physics brings more questions than answers. Scientists are being forced to realize that in order to go further, they will have to completely restructure their way of thinking and viewing the world. There is disagreement among scientists today as to where the answer to these ever increasing questions lie. There are various theories and relative confusion as man tries to explain a reality beyond his conditioned concepts of time and space, mind and matter. A number of well respected scientists have begun to use successfully some of the metaphysical concepts in order to answer these questions. Metaphysics uses intuition in addition to reason and inference. Metaphysics investigates both the external material universe and the internal mental and supermental worlds. Metaphysics is the study of what is beyond the known physics. As the unknown becomes known, then physics and metaphysics will become one. The sage, mystic, saint or yogi who wants to «know» something has the mental control to direct all his thought power into the object or being he wants to study and discovers its reality from within. Such a being can actually become one with the tree, or the planet, or the atom which he studies and gains total knowledge of it. He can merge the limited lower mind with the unlimited universal mind in which all the knowledge of the universe is stored. Thus all information of all things and events past, present and future become available to him. This may be difficult to believe, but it has been proven by great men throughout history. Newtonian physics which has influenced and limited the present concept of the world holds true only for the reality we can see with our rather feeble unaided external senses. But as scientists now peer deep into the microcosm of the nuclear and sub-nuclear particles, they see that we need a whole new way of thinking and a new language by which to formulate and communicate these new truths about the «reality» of the physical world. The same is true for the discoveries made by the astronomers who are viewing further and further out into the universe. These new discoveries are causing a quantum level change in scientific thought; and the change is very much in direction of metaphysical thought. Physics and metaphysics are converging. Let us take a brief layman’s look at some of these new scientific concepts and how they corroborate the ancient spiritual truths. In doing so, let us remember that there is no one accepted view in either physics or metaphysics, as there are many schools of thought within both. Most of the following comparisons and quotations have been taken from the very excellent work on this subject, The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra. Mr. Capra is a Ph. D. physicist who has been doing research in theoretical high-energy physics at the University of Paris, the University of California in Santa Cruz, Stanford University, and the Imperial College, in London. He is presently lecturing at the University of California in Berkeley. Mr. Capra has been struck by the overwhelming similarities between modern scientific discoveries and theories and the ancient spiritual truths. He seeks to weave them together into a marriage of physics and metaphysics in his excellent book The Tao of Physics.


As scientists penetrate more deeply into the reality of matter they are realizing that matter is simply not the definite «Solid reality» which it seems to be to the naked eye. First of all the atom is really much more space than it is solid. The relationship between the nucleus of atom and the space it occupies is like that of a grain of salt at the center of a fourteen story building. Most of it is space and energy field. In addition the nucleus itself and the surrounding electrons seem to have simultaneously a particle and wave nature. It seems that all matter and all energy have both a particle and wave nature. It seems that it is difficult finally to distinguish between energy and matter. That is, matter can be converted to energy and energy to matter. In fact, scientists now measure the mass of these small particles in terms of energy rather than mass. Einstein has given us the relationship between matter and energy to be E=mc2. This means that the energy of a particle is equal to the mass of the particle multiplied by the speed of light times the speed of light. The speed of light is186,000 miles per second. Thus a very small amount of mass can be converted into a tremendous amount of energy. This is the basis behind the atomic bomb and the nuclear reactors which can provide so much energy. Furthermore, it seems that on the sub-nuclear level particles are appearing and disappearing spontaneously. Matter is being transformed into energy and back into matter again. The basis of the universe seems to be energy rather than matter. The further we search into the subatomic reality the more we realize that there is actually no concrete building block of the physical universe, that all things are manifestations and transformations of energy patterns which some times appear as matter and at other times as energy. We also begin to see that all forms are temporary. We learn that these subatomic particles do not have a steady permanent existence but rather go through innumerable transformations and mutations every second. We begin to see the world in terms of processes rather than in terms of objects and forms. When we think about matter in this way, we see that the wall in our room is actually much more space than solid, and that this matter is simply condensed form of energy, and that the particles comprising that wall are in a constant process of vibration and mutation. This same truth must hold for our own physical bodies. Our concept of a solid physical reality is shattered, and we come so very close to a Spiritual perception of reality. The following excerpts from Capra’s book point out this fact. «Once it (the matter) is seen to be a form of energy, mass is no longer required to be indestructible, but can be transformed into other forms of energy. This can happen when subatomic particles collide with one another. In such collisions, particles can be destroyed and the energy contained in their masses can be transformed into kinetic energy, distributed among the other particles participating in the collision. Conversely, when particles collide with very high velocities, their kinetic energy can be used to form new particles». «These dynamic patterns, or «energy bundles», form the stable nuclear, atomic and molecular structures which build up matter and give its macroscopic solid aspect, thus making us believe that it is made of some material substance. At the macroscopic level this notion of substance is a useful approximation, but at the atomic level it no longer makes sense. Atoms consist of particles and these particles are not made of any material stuff. When we observe them, we never see any substance; what we observe are dynamic patterns changing into one another – a continuous dance of energy». Capra likens this dance of the substance of the world to the dance of God, who creates, sustains and destroys the forms of the universe. The spiritual philosophies understand that the world is a world of processes in continual change. They understand that physical matter is a condensation of energy which is, in return, controlled by thought and consciousness. Thus they understand long before today’s physicists that the observer, the observed and the act of observing are intimately related and that no observation is completely objective. They have long understood the world in terms of energies, vibrations and thoughts, rather than in terms of objects. They have used the mind and will power to control energy and consequently matter itself. They have for over 4,000 years taught that this world of form is indeed illusory and has no absolute reality of its own. And now all this is corroborated for us by our scientists who have declared the illusion of «solid matter».


The origin of the universe has been a question which has enticed man’s mind into reflection for ever since he has existed on this planet. Both physics and metaphysics seek to answer this most elusive question as to how the world started. Each of the various religions offer their own creation stories, which try through their symbols to help man understand a process which is beyond the capacity of his limited mind to understand. The process of creation is a process beyond time and space, because it starts at a point in which time and space have not yet manifested – shall we say a point in which time and space were dormant or latent just as the tree is latent within the seed. Because our conceptual ability and language are limited by the concepts of time and space, there is no way we can understand the final truth about creation with words or the rational mind. The answer to this question lies within the higher mind which is able to transcend time and space and realize the answer through direct experience of the process of creation itself. That answer is, of course, incommunicable as our language does not offer the necessary terminology. The stance of Universal philosophy is that creation is not a event which took place millions of years ago but rather a process which is eternally happening in every second. If the Universe was not continuously created in every fraction of a second, it would cease to exist. There is a void, an infinite non-physical, unchanging, unmanifest Reality from which creation is constantly being projected somewhat in the way that an image is projected onto a screen by a projector. Remember that this Ultimate Reality is called by various groups; the Absolute, the Supreme Being, All that is, the void, the One, Universal Consciousness, Universal Energy, the Father, the Christ, the Logos, Brahman, God, Allah, the Monad, the Oversoul, Universal Spirit, the Primal Cause and various other names in other languages. Although this physical creation is in a constant rhythmic process of creation and destruction, this Ultimate Reality (as Spirit or consciousness) cannot be created nor destroyed. All of creation alternates between expansion into manifestation and contraction back into the latent unmanifest state. Just as we have the rhythmic cycles of night and day, summer and winter, we have the cycles of creation and reabsorption of the universe back into the Unmanifest. This concept is very much in harmony with some of the recent scientific hypotheses of the creation of the universe. Following are some comments by Mr. Capra on this subject.
«In physics we recognize the dynamic nature of the universe not only when we go to the small dimensions, to the world of atoms and nuclei but also when we turn to large dimensions, to the world of stars and galaxies. Through the powerful telescopes we observe a universe in ceaseless motion. Rotating clouds of hydrogen gas contract to form stars, heating up in the process until they become burning fires in the sky. When they have reached that stage, they still continue to rotate, some of them ejecting material into space which spirals outwards and condenses into planets circling around the star. Eventually after millions of years, when most of its hydrogen fuel is used up a star expands, and then contracts again in the final gravitational collapse. This collapse may involve gigantic explosions, and may even turn the star into a black hole. All these activities, the formation of the stars out of interstellar gas clouds, their contraction and subsequent expansion, and their final collapse can all actually be observed somewhere in the skies.
«The spinning, contracting, expanding or exploding stars cluster into galaxies of various shapes, flat discs, spheres, spirals, etc. which, again, are not motionless but rotate. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is an immense disc of stars and gas turning in space like a huge wheel, so that all its stars including the Sun and its planets move around the galaxies center. The universe is, in fact, full of galaxies, strewn through all the space we can see; all spinning like our own.
«When we study the universe as a whole, with its millions of galaxies, we have reached the largest scale of space and time; and again, at that cosmic level, we discover that the universe is not static, it is expanding! This has been one of the most important discoveries in modern astronomy. A detailed analysis of the light received from distant galaxies has shown that the whole swarm of galaxies expands and that it does so in a well orchestrated way. The recession velocity of any galaxy we observe is proportional to the galaxy’s distance. The more distant the galaxy the faster it moves away from us; at double the distance, the recession velocity will also double.
«An obvious question to be asked about the expanding universe is: how did it all start? from the relation between the distance of a galaxy and its recession velocity which is known as Hubble’s law one can calculate the starting point of the expansion, in other words, the age of the universe.
«Assuming that there has been no change in the rate of expansion, which is by no means certain, one arrives at an age of the order of 10.000 million years. This, then, is the age of the universe. Most cosmologists believe today that the universe came into being in a highly dramatic event about 10.000 million years ago, when its total mass exploded out of a small primeval fireball. The present expansion of the universe is seen as the remaining thrust of this initial explosion. According to this «big bang» the moment of the big bang marked the beginning of the universe and the beginning of space and time. If we want to know what happened before that moment, we run again into severe difficulties of thought and language in the words of Sir Bernard Lovell.
«There we reach the great barrier of thought because we begin to struggle with the concepts of time and space before they existed in terms of our everyday experience. I feel as though I’ ve suddenly driven into a great fog barrier where the familiar world has disappeared».
«As far as the future of the expanding universe is concerned, Einstein’s equations do not provide a unique answer. They allow for several different solutions corresponding to different models of the universe. Some models predict that the expansions will continue forever, according to others, it is slowing down and will eventually change into contraction. These models describe an oscillating universe, expanding for billions of years then contracting until its total mass has condensed into a small ball of matter, then expanding again, and so on without end». Physicist Capra goes on to say.
«This idea of periodically expanding and contracting universe, which involves a scale of time and space of vast proportions, has arisen not only in modern cosmology, but also in ancient Indian mythology. Experiencing the universe as an organic and rhythmically moving cosmos, the Hindus were able to develop evolutionary cosmologies which come very close to our modern scientific models». Thus the Big Bang of astronomy and the Hindu concept of the out breath (expansion of creation into manifestation) and in-breath (its absorption back into the unmanifest) of God the Creator are strikingly similar. Even the time factor suggested are similar. The scientific method mentioned here approximates the beginning of this expansion at 10.000 million years. The Vedas and other Indian scriptures estimate that the day of Brahman is a thousand ages and that the night is a thousand ages. This is explained by Swami Vishnudevananda in the following passage:
«Beyond the three worlds, as far as the abode of Brahma the creator of the universe, one thousand revolutions of the four yugas (4.320.000 X 1.000 human years) constitutes a day, and equal in length is the night, which is the night of the creator Brahma who withdraws all the three worlds into himself. This is the dissolution or opposite of evolution or creation. Again the cycle of creation begins at the close of the night of Brahma. The creation of the three world commences (as in the preceding kalpa or age) and continues for the day of the Brahma». According to Universal Philosophy this process of creation and destruction is also continuously happening on all levels of creation. Matter is not something stable and permanent. Nuclear physicists are now being forced through their findings to accept a similar point of view. Consider these explanations by Capra.
«The distinction between matter and empty space finally had to be abandoned when it became evident that virtual particles can come into being spontaneously out of the void, and vanish again into the void, without any nucleon or other strongly interacting particle being present… According to field theory, events of that kind can happen all the time. The vacuum is far from empty. It contains an unlimited number of particles which can come into being and vanish without end». In the same way the whole infinite universe of objects and beings lie potential in the Unmanifest One. Mr. Capra continues.
«Here then, is the closest parallel to the void of Eastern mysticism in modern physics. Like the Eastern void, the «physical vacuum» as it is called in field theory – is not a state of mere nothingness, but contains the potentiality for all forms of the particle world. These forms, in turn, are not independent physical entities but merely transient manifestations of the underlying void. As the scriptures say, (Form is emptiness and emptiness is indeed form).
«The relationship between the virtual particles and the vacuum is an essentially dynamic relation; the vacuum is truly a «living Void», pulsating in endless rhythms of creation and destruction. The discovery of the dynamic quality of a vacuum is seen by many physicists as one of the most important findings of modern physics. From its role as an empty container of the physical phenomena, the void has emerged as a dynamic quantity of utmost importance. The results of modern physics thus seem to confirm the words of the Chinese sage Chang Tsai:
«When one knows the Great Void is full of CHI, one realizes that there is no such thing as nothingness». That CHI is the prana, the life-energy of the universe, which is responsible for every process, interaction, force, form of energy and manifestation of matter. Mind directs and uses this universal energy of the universe to create, sustain and destroy the physical forms of the universe. It is exactly because of these virtual potentialities of the physical vacuum that great beings like Sai Baba are able to create whatever comes to their minds in a fraction of a second. The powerful will can transform this uncomprehended vacuum into whatever physical object it may wish to create. That «energy» may also be directed towards an illness to eliminate it and the person is healed. It is the mystic’s awareness of this energy which gives them such miraculous powers over form, and its changes such as birth, growth, decay and death. Because Jesus the Christ had power over this «force» (known to Christians as the Holy Spirit), He was able to raise the dead, walk on water, heal the ill, provide food, read the minds of all, change the water into wine, and many other miracles, all of which seem much more normal to the mind which understands the power of this «vital force» and its relationship to mind and matter.


Our concepts and communications about our everyday reality is very much conditioned by our concepts of time and space as absolute realities. Our minds are unable to understand a universe without the conditioned structure of time and space. Spiritual philosophies have for centuries expressed the idea that time and space are illusory and relative, that they are, in fact, creations of the mind. Time and space do not exist without the human mind. The Western perception, however, was very much affected by the ancient Greek thought which explained the world in the very definite terms of geometry. Capra explains, «it took an Einstein to make scientists and philosophers realize that geometry is not inherent in nature, but is is imposed upon it by the mind. In the words of Henry Margenau,
«The central recognition of the theory of relativity is that geometry… is a construct of the intellect. Only when this discovery is accepted, can the mind feel free to tamper with the time-honoured notions of space and time, to survey the range of possibilities available for defining them, and to select that formulation which agrees with observation». According to the relativity theory, time and space of an event is going to depend on the point of view of the observer. A similar event or object may exist in different times and space dimension to different observers. The truth of this is obvious for space. Two beings viewing any object from different vantage points will obviously see a different object or event. Every artist is acutely aware of this.. However, concerning time, «The temporal order of two events was assumed to be independent of any observer. Specifications referring to time – such as «before», «after», or «simultaneous» were thought to have an absolute meaning independent of any coordinate system».
«Einstein recognized that temporal specifications, too, are relative and depend on the observer. In everyday life, the impression that we can arrange the events around us in a unique time sequence is created by the fact that the velocity of light – 186.000 miles per second – is so high, compared to any other velocity we experience, that we can assume we are observing events at the instant they are occurring. This however, is incorrect. Light needs some time to travel from the event to the observer. Normally this time is so short that the propagation of light can be considered to be instantaneous; but when the observer moves with the occurrence of the event and its observation plays a crucial role in establishing a sequence of events. Einstein realized that in such a case observers moving at different velocities will order events differently. ” Capra then goes to quote physicist Mendel Sachs:
«The real revolution that came with Einstein’s theory… was this; the abandonment of the idea that space-time coordinate system has objective significance as a separate physical entity. Instead of this the relativity theory implies that the space and time coordinates are only the elements of language that is used by an observer to describe his environment». These statements are quite in harmony with Universal Philosophic concept that time and space are illusions fabricated by the mind in order to function in this temporary physical reality. It is well known to enlightened persons that the dimensions of time and space expand with the expansion of consciousness. The various levels of awareness perceive time and space in different ways. As it says in the Bible, «One day for God is 1000 years for man». Besides the fact that time and space are relative to each observer, we are also faced with the fact that we at times cannot distinguish between time and space. That is, time and space have a similar relationship to that of energy and matter. According to Capra;
«This is indeed an entirely new situation. Every change of coordinate systems mixes space and time in a mathematically well-defined way. The two can therefore no longer be separated, because what is space to one observer will be a mixture of time and space to another observer. Relativity theory has shown that space is not three-dimensional and time is not a separate entity. Both are intimately and inseparably connected and form a four-dimensional continuum which is called «space time» This concept of space-time was introduced by Hermann Minkowski in a famous lecture in 1908 with the following words:
«The views of space and time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality». The awareness of the interpenetration of time and space is very common among the Eastern mystics and philosophers. Compare the above quotation by a scientist and the following by Zen master D.T. Suzuki.
«The significance of the Avatamasaka and its philosophy is unintelligible unless we once experience… a state of complete dissolution where there is no more distinction between mind and body, subject and object… We look around and perceive that… every object is related to every other object… not only spatially, but temporally. As a fact of pure experience there is no space without time, no time without space; they are interpenetrating».


The concept of opposites is common in both physics and metaphysics. The various philosophies abound with concepts of the dual nature of reality which must eventually be balanced and harmonized. They speak of the forces of Yin and Yang, the qualities of Tamas and Rajas, the opposites of Good and Evil, activity and rest, of earth and spirit, and of mind and body. All these opposites are seen to exist in the material universe as forces comprising the natural laws under which the physical universe runs. It is understood however, that these opposites are unified into one higher principle upon the transcendence of the human mind which is limited to this level of duality. These dualities do not exist when the mind enters into a higher level of consciousness. Science too explains the universe in terms of laws of opposites such as positive and negative charges, waves and particles, matter and energy, motion and rest and existence and nonexistence. Mr. Capra comments:
«Force and matter, particles and waves, motion and rest, existence and nonexistence- these are some of the opposites or contradictory concepts which are transcended in modern physics. Of all these opposite pairs, the last seems to be the most fundamental, and yet, in atomic physics we have to go beyond the concepts of existence and nonexistence». Like the atomic physicists «spiritual truths deal with a reality which lies beyond existence and nonexistence». The famous atomic physicist and Nobel winner Niels Bohr was aware of this ability of the spiritual philosophies to resolve the various opposites in life into a complementary unity. Thus, when he has knighted for his excellent scientific work, he chose the Zen symbol of Yin and Yang flowing into each other creating a unity of opposites. More and more scientists are realizing the inherent unity underlying this world of opposites. Modern Quantum theory points to the fact that all objects and beings in this universe are related through the various types of force fields. No object or being is separate, but each is an integral and essential part of the whole. All things and beings are interconnected. Mr. Capra expresses it in this way;
«At the atomic level, then, the solid material objects of classical physics dissolve into patterns of probabilities, and these patterns do not represent probabilities of things, but rather probabilities of interconnections. Quantum theory forces us to see the universe not as a collection of physical objects, but rather as a complicated web of relations between the various parts of a unified whole». Consider the striking similarity between the following two quotations; the first by a scientist and the second by a person describing a spiritual experience.
The Scientist:
«The world thus appears as a complicated tissue of events, in which connections of different kinds alternate or overlap or combine and thereby determine the texture of the whole».
The description of a spiritual experience:
“The material object becomes… something different from what we now see, not a separate object on the background or in the environment of the rest of nature but an indivisible part and even, in a subtle way, an expression of the unity of all that we see». If in fact all beings and things are interconnected in some subtle way, then that means that the scientist and the phenomenon he is observing are also connected in a relationship more intimate than that of observer and observed. The observer is influencing the existence and behavior of the observed by his mere presence and process of observing. Thus it seems that the world becomes much more subjective, and we have reason to question the «objectivity» of the scientists’ findings; We begin to see that no object or event can truly be isolated for observation and that each of us is interconnected with the rest of the universe. Scientist John Wheeler comments on this point of view:
«Nothing is more important about quantum principle than this, that it destroys the concept of the world as «sitting out there», with the observer safely separated from it by a 20 centimeter slab or plate of glass. Even to observe so minuscule an object as an electron, he must shatter the glass. He must reach in. He must install his chosen measuring equipment. It is up to him to decide whether he shall measure position or momentum; to install the equipment to measure the one prevents and excludes his installing the equipment to measure the other. Moreover, the measurement changes the state of the electron. The universe will never afterwards be the same. To describe what has happened, one has to cross out that old word «observer» and put in its place the new word «participator». In some strange sense the universe is a participatory universe». This point of view is quite similar to the spiritual approach which maintains that an object or being can be known only through total participation with the observed. Actually in the highest means of spiritual investigation, the observer, the observed and process of observing become unified and cannot be distinguished in the super-mental consciousness. One understands a thing, being or process by becoming one with it. This type of perception gradually brings about a feeling of unity with all things and beings in the world. One begins to feel that he is related to the world in the way a cell is related to the body. The cell has all the chromosomes necessary to become the whole body. The cell has no physical existence outside its relationship to the whole body. Thus each human being is like a microsom of the macrocosm of which he is a part. Everything which occurs in the universe is in some way reflected in each individual, and each individual action is in some way affecting the state of the whole. We can see from the previously mentioned quotations that atomic physicists are moving steadily towards such a point of view of the interpenetration or interconnectedness of all things. Of course it will take many years before such concepts are agreed upon, and probably more than decades before the public mind is able to absorb these new concepts. Consider that most of these important discoveries and theories have been realized in the early 1900′ s and yet the common public opinion is that science is in some way disproving the spiritual truths. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather the opposite is true; science and spirituality are converging into a common point of view of the world. They are now arriving at the same point from opposite directions. Those who would like to further their investigation of this subject are encouraged to read the Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra or any of the many similar books which have been published recently by competent physicists.

Let us briefly review the points on which they are converging:

1. The illusion of solid matter. Matter is mostly space and is simply another form of energy.

2. The Creation of the Universe is from one unmanifest Primal Cause.

3. That energy is the basic reality behind the physical universe we are observing.

4. That all comes forth from a void which is full of every possible creation.

5. That time and space are relative and at some point interpenetrate. They are interpretations of the mind.

6. All forces, things and beings are ultimately connected and at some dimension of Reality are inseparably one.

7. Universal Philosophy would go further to say that Consciousness is the basic reality of the Universe. From it all the Universe, objects, beings, events, time and space are projected.

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