«By convention there is color,
by convention sweetness,
by convention bitterness,
but in reality there are atoms and space».

Dimocritos (c. 460 – c. 400 B.C.)

The reality which we perceive is subjectively influenced by our belief systems and subconscious programming. Thus each person experiences a different type of reality. We perceive the same events and the same people in different ways.

Take a man named John for example. To each person he is something else. To his wife, he is a husband, a lover, a partner in life. To his children he is a father, an authority, a disciplinarian, a representative of manhood. To his siblings he is a brother with positive and negative behaviors. To his parents he is a child, who gave them many lessons, and he will always be their child. To his friends he is a man who can be trusted in times of need, a person to share ideas and activities with. To his co-workers he is the man with whom they must work with eight hours a day; a man who they may know very little about. To his neighbor, he is the man of a family who makes much noise. To his enemy he is an inconsiderate slob who is the cause of all his enemy’s unhappiness. To his employee, he is the insensitive boss who doesn’t take his needs into consideration. To the woman looking for a mate, he is a fair game even if he is married. To himself he is combination of all these realities which the others see, plus thousands of other internal fantasies which others do not perceive.

Thus the man John is a different reality to each person, depending on the various subjective factors involved in their relationship. What then is the reality of John? Who is the permanent John? We each perceive our own personal reality through a vast matrix of preconceptions, expectations, desires, hopes, needs, fears and subconscious conditioning, which gives each person, object and event a unique form for us.

We see people in terms of their profession or political affiliation. We label them. He is a doctor, a policeman, an actor, an artist, a businessman, a communist, a capitalist, a Democrat, a Republican. Some others categorize people in terms of their astrological sign and then are satisfied that they «know them inside out». They say, he is a Cancer, a Scorpio, a Gemini, a Pisces and identify that person with some stereotyped idea of that sign which they have read in some book or magazine.

Still others experience the people around them in terms of their religious or philosophical beliefs. «He is a Christian, a Hindu, a Moslem, a Buddhist or a Jew» and they feel they know him then. Still others classify persons in terms of their physical appearance and manner of dress. The one with the blond curly hair, who wears the blue dress, with the antique silver necklace. And they now know «who she is».

Is it possible to describe who someone is in any of the above terms? Obviously not. These ways of seeing reality are partial, superficial and extremely limited to our capacity to love and see reality as it is.

Sathya Sai Baba says that we are three people:

1) The one others think we are.
2) The one we think we are.
3) The one we really are.

Who is this real self which we really are? Let us begin to analyze the basis of the reality which we see around us. We observe reality through our five senses. These senses bring a myriad assortment of colors, forms, sounds, tastes, smells and tactile sensations. These inputs pass through our programming and belief system and form the subjective reality which we experience. Let us take our friend John who is something different to every one. Let us analyze him in terms of what we know about physics.

1) First let us remove his clothing. We know that he can put on and take off his clothing at will and cannot be his clothing. So we cannot describe his real nature in terms of his clothing or anything else he may wear on his body.

2) Now let us look at his physical body. It is made up of may trillions of tiny cells. These cells carry out the various functions which keep John’s body alive. Millions of these cells are born and die each day. Thus John’s reality cannot be his cells.

3) Each of these cells is made up of large molecules called DNA. These large complex DNA molecules seem to be the basic structure from which living beings are made of. These DNA molecules are made up of atoms of Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and other elements. These atoms are connected together by intermolecular forces. So far we can say that John is a complex conglomeration of various atoms which are held together by the attractive forces between them.

4) What are these atoms made of? They are made of three basic particles, with many minor particles. In the center of the atom we have the nucleus, which is the basic «material» part of the atom. Extremely tiny electrons orbit around the nucleus. These electrons have virtually no mass and sometimes we cannot determine if they are waves or particles. In order to understand how tiny an atom is, we can use the following analogy. If we took an orange and expanded it until it was the size of the Earth itself, then the atoms in the orange would be about the size of a cherry. At the same time, the atom is mostly space. If we take the atom itself and magnify it until it becomes the size of the largest dome in the world (St. Peter’s in Rome) then the nucleus in the center will be a barely visible grain of salt in the center of the huge magnified atom.

Thus the actual matter of an atom is an incredibly small speck in the center of a proportionally large space occupied by the energy field of the electrons surrounding the nucleus. We might imagine that the sun is an atom in the body of a giant whose body is the whole universe, and that the earth and other planets are the electrons orbiting around the sun. The space occupied by that one atom in this incredibly gigantic body is the space occupied by the solar system.

Thus we can understand that the atom is mostly space. (In the same way there might be other minuscule beings who live on the nucleuses and electrons of the atoms of our body who will experience our bodies as a whole universe.)

Thus the physical matter we see around us is not the solid reality which our limited senses describe. It is almost entirely space, with a very little particle substance, located in the center of various force fields created by the electrons orbiting around the nucleus.

Our picture of our friend John is changing. The only thing we can say about him so far is that he is made up of a lot of space which is made up of particles and force fields.

5) But this also describes every other object in this universe. So at this point we can no longer differentiate John from any other body in the universe. John at this level of reality is the same as every other person, wall, tree, building, machine, insect, ocean, cloud, or mountain.

John is just protons, neutrons and electrons, like every other material object in the universe. There is no difference. We are left with a view which Democritos realized 2,400 years ago; «By convention there is color, by convention sweetness, but in reality there are atoms and space».

6) As we investigate the nucleus of the atom more deeply, we find that there are many subatomic particles moving around in there. And we come to the extremely strange realization that, in some mysterious way, these subatomic particles are coming into existence and then fading out again. They are not stable. They come into being and then disappear. At one moment they seem to be particles and in the next they appear in the form of energy. Energy seems to become matter and change back into energy. Nuclear Physicist Fritjof Capra, the author of THE TAO OF PHYSICS, can explain this much better than I.

«Once it (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 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 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».

7) Now we are really confused. What seemed to be our friend John has become a mass of energy, now appearing as energy and then appearing as matter. Thus every object in the universe is nothing more than condensed energy. This energy can express itself as energy such as heat, electricity or light, or as the bond between two particles, or as the particles themselves. Thus energy is holding more dense forms of energy together and we call it John, or a table or a wall.

8) As we continue our research into the basis of reality, we begin to discover that particles are actually coming into existence out of the void, out of empty space and then disappearing again. We have just accepted that we cannot distinguish between matter and energy and now they tell us that we may not even be able to distinguish between matter and empty space. Are these physicists or metaphysicists? I ‘ll let Mr. Capra explain it to you:

«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».

«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 world. As the sutra says, (Form is emptiness and emptiness is indeed form)».

«The relationship between the virtual particles and the vacuum is 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 of 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 that the Great Void is full of CHI, one realizes that there is no such thing as nothingness».

9) The «CHI» which the Chinese sage Chang Tsai refers to, is the Bioenergy (Prana to the yogis) which fills the universe. Now we get a picture in which there is this empty space which contains within it an invisible, undetectable subtle bioenergy which can at some point manifest to our senses as various forms of energy or particles or some combination of the two, i.e. a particle in motion, or a being capable of movement. Our dear friend John now appears to us as empty space, which has formed itself into various types of energies, which can be expressed as matter or energy.

We cannot distinguish John from any other object or energy in the universe. On a molecular level John is not distinguishable from any other person or object in the universe. This is the level of Prakriti as understood by the Yogi. This is the basis of the material reality.

10) But what causes this empty space to differentiate and appear as separate objects like John, Mary and the table, the wall and the car, and the ocean? There are all one, and yet they appear different. Now we are really confused.

11) Since the first visible sign of the empty space manifesting itself is that bioenergy, let us start our investigation here. Recent accidents and experiments with photographic film have revealed that the bioenergy around animate and inanimate objects can be photographed.

It seems that the pictures of great holy men and saints with halos around their heads are not products of imagination. It is now scientifically proven that man, and all beings, have an aura, an energy field which surrounds and permeates their bodies. The great name in the art of photographing the Aura is the Russian Kirlian from whom we get the name Kirlian photography. As this science continues to generate reproducible results, we begin to understand that this energy field is in some way linked with the state of vitality, health, and emotional and mental condition of the being. This energy seems to be a connecting link between the systems of the body and the mind. This energy seems to flow through specific channels in the body and even between the body and the environment. Lyall Watson comments on this in his book SUPERNATURE.

«One of those to make the pilgrimage to see the Kirlians in Krasnodar was Mikhail Gaikin, a surgeon from Leningrad. After looking at the cavalcade of lights in his own hands, he began to wonder about their origin. The strongest flares shone right out of the skin like searchlights, but their positions corresponded with no major nerve endings in the body, and the pattern of their distribution showed no correspondence with arteries or veins. Then he remembered his experiences on the Zabaikal front in 1945 and the lessons he had learned from a Chinese doctor in the art of accupunture. Acting on his hunch, he sent the Kirlians a standard accupunture chart of seven hundred important points on the skin – and they tallied exactly with charts that the Kirlians had begun to prepare of the fires visible under their high-frequency machine».

12) Mr. Watson, also points out other evidence which indicates that this energy field is independent of the physical body and, in some way, has the power to organize the formation and function of the cells of the body. Here he refers to his bioenergy field as «biological plasma».

«If a biological plasma body exists, I would expect it to be produced by the organism. Once it exists, it is possible that it could exercise some sort of organizational function over the body that made it. There is one study that showed that a muscle that was surgically removed from a mouse and cut up into small pieces would regenerate completely if this mince was packed back into the wound. But perhaps the best example is provided by the sponge. There are some colonies of unicellular animals that get together in large social groups, but sponges are more complex than this and are classified as single organisms. The cells in their bodies are loosely organized but occur in several forms, which fulfill different functions. There are collar cells, which live in cavities and wave whips to create the currents of water that flow through the animal’s pores to bring it food and oxygen; there are sex cells, which produce eggs and sperm; and there are cells that build supporting skeletons of such superb geodesic construction that they serve as inspiration for aircraft designers. Some sponges grow to several feet in diameter, and yet, if you cut them up and squeeze the pieces through silk cloth to separate each cell from its neighbor, this gruel soon gets together and organizes itself – and the complete sponge reappears like a phoenix to go back into business again. A persistent plasma body would provide a perfect template for regeneration of this kind. Whatever it may be called, «bioplasma» or «aura» or «life field», it is becoming difficult to avoid the conclusion that our sphere of influence does not end with the skin. Beyond the traditional confines of our bodies are forces we seem to produce and may be able to control.»

13) From this new information we can begin to understand that this bioenergy (prana) which seems to come out of the empty space has the power to give form to a being or an object. We might suppose that crystals have such fields which govern the specific way in which the crystals will be formed.

Each being has a different type of energy field or energy body (if you like the term) which seems to determine the qualities of the physical form or body. Other scientific experiments lead us to believe this.

Kirlian photographs were taken of chickens eggs throughout the process of development of the embryo. These photographs clearly showed that the energy field of the embryo appeared long before the actual development of the physical embryo. The energy body seems to precede the physical body.

14) Now as we consider our friend John, we see that he is a conglomerate of particles and energies which are given a unique form by an energy body which seems to come out of the void. It is the energy body which forms his body into something unique and separate from the universe.

When John «dies» that energy body leaves the physical body and that hump of particles and energies falls and decomposes into the earth and becomes one with the material universe again.

15) Now we want to know where this energy has come from and why it has taken the specific shape as opposed to some other type of shape. The most likely explanation for this is the mind.

The mind can cause the energy to lift the hand or cause the body to walk. When the mind is upset, the energy flows in a violent way. When the mind is relaxed, this energy has a different color and is flowing harmoniously. As a person changes his ways of thinking, his body begins to go through drastic changes. We sometimes cannot even recognize an old friend who has gone through significant philosophical changes in his life. There are cases of healing in which one person is able to change the flow of bioenergy in the other person by thought power. This has been done in experiments with Kirlian photography.

Up to now we have has physics backing us up, but as we get into the mind we have to move into metaphysics for our answers. There is much evidence which causes us to believe that the mind is involved in an intimate relationship with energy field which then determines the physical form.

This may explain how some great beings, who have become masters of their bodies, energy and mind are able to create an object by simply thinking of it. The thought form causes the energy to gather out of the void, and physical matter condenses around the energy field in order to form the object. It seems logical enough in terms of what we have discussed so far. We can imagine that the thought is like steam which condense into water (energy), which freezes into ice (matter).

16) Now we are going to have to proceed with speculation and help from those who have tread before us. There are beings who have investigated the mind and what is beyond it and at the base of it from within. They are the many yogis, mystics, saints and great thinkers. Their findings are quite consistent with one another and probably are more in agreement than the various schools of nuclear physics today.

Great scientists today, after penetrating through the illusion of matter and coming out the other end, have been very understandably accepting the age old answers upon which all religions and spiritual philosophies are based. Here an article called «SCIENTISTS IN SEARCH OF THE SOUL» by John Gliedman printed in Science Digest (July 1982) refers to the ideas embraced by Sir. John Eccles, the great physiologist and winner of the 1963 Nobel Prize for Physiology for his research on the nerve synapse.

«Eccles strongly defends the ancient religious belief that human beings consist of a mysterious compound of physical matter and intangible spirit. Each of us embodies a nonmaterial thinking and perceiving self that «entered» our physical brain sometimes during embryological development or very early childhood, says the man who helped lay the cornerstones of modern neurophysiology.

«This «ghost in the machine» is responsible for everything that makes us distinctively human: conscious self-awareness, free will, personal identity, creativity and even emotions such as love, fear and hate. Our nonmaterial self controls its «liaison brain» the way a driver steers a car or a programmer directs a computer. Man’s ghostly spiritual presence, says Eccles, exerts just the whisper of a physical influence on the computer-like brain, enough to encourage some neurons to fire and others to remain silent.

«Boldly advancing what for most scientists is the greatest heresy of all, Eccles also asserts that our nonmaterial self survives the death of the physical brain. Eccles is not the only world-famous scientist taking a controversial new look at the ancient mind-body conundrum. From Berkeley to Paris and from London to Princeton, prominent scientists from fields as diverse as neurophysiology and quantum physics are coming out of the closet and admitting that they believe in the possibility at least of such unscientific entities as he immortal human spirit and divine creation».

17) Now what do we see when we look at John? We can imagine that there is an immortal human spirit which is imperceptible to our senses. According to Yoga Philosophy and most religious teachings, this Spirit has no physical qualities such as sex, age, nationality, race etc. It is pure Consciousness, Eternal existence and unending bliss. We cannot prove this to our senses. We are, however, told by those who have made it their life pursuit to investigate the mind and transcend it from within, that we are indeed immortal spirits which have manifested these minds and bodies.

So it seems that Spirit permeates the empty space and at a particular time and place (in relationship to our senses) project a mind, which forms an energy body in the womb of a chosen woman. This energy body governs the combination of genes which produce the unique self which we call John. This spirit supports the existence of this mind and energy body through their growth and development in the physical world until the physical vehicle is no longer useful.

18) From the point of view of Yoga Philosophy the Universal Spirit occupies all space. It is like space itself, undisturbed by the events taking place within it. Space is not in anyway changed by the formation of an object in it or the movement of an object through it. In the same way the spirit is unaffected by the objects and movements occurring within its being.

For some reason, which is not capable of being comprehended by our minds, which are limited by the concepts of time and space, the universal, omnipresent, immortal spirit enters into relationship with matter (Prakriti). Each religion has its own mythology representing this process of the One becoming many, and the descent of spirit into matter. All religions agree that this has happened, but each uses another story to explain the reason and process. These stories are communicated in terms of a space-time relationship, which exists in our minds, and not in the ultimate reality. Metaphysics points out that time and space are creations of the human mind. Modern science also agrees. Let us refer again to Fritjof Capra’s book TAO OF PHYSICS:

«The real revolution that came with Einstein’s theoryΖ was this; the abandonment of the idea that space-time coordinate system has objective significance as a separate physical entity. Instead of this, 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».

«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 today before you having sprung from the solid 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».

19) Thus we are trying to explain an event such as the beginning of process of creation which has no beginning and is not limited by time and space in any way. Creation and destruction, expansion and absorption are taking place continuously and endlessly. The concept of beginning and end, is something created by our limited minds, which makes the reason and process of the «One becoming the many» and the interacting of spirit a matter incomprehensible to us. We may understand it only through direct mystical experience, in which the rational mind is transcended. Thus we are forced to accept the answers given by those who have had such mystical experiences. Their answers are something like the following:

20) The Universal Spirit manifests itself as the many individual spirits which exist. We may imagine this to be like the one cell which divides into two. The second is exactly like the same. The first has not been diminished in any way by its becoming two. The two become four and so forth until we have the billions of individual cells or spirits. The concept of the flame may also help us. One flame exists. A second candle is lit from the first, and then billions of candles are lit from the first self-lightning flame. The first flame exists now as all of the billions of candles lit from that same flame lightning up many bodies. The same Divine Spirit is vitalizing life force of all the trillions of beings.

21) When an individual spirit wants to incarnate onto the earth, that is to enter into relationship with matter, it must form around itself a series of bodies or instruments with which to interact with the physical world. The type of body the spirit will project will depend on the memories or impressions recorded in the spirit’s previous interaction with the material world. These will determine whether the spirit will project the body of a plant, animal, human or other type of living being.

The characteristics of the individual will also be determined by those characteristics developed in the spirit’s previous experience here on the earth. This is the source of uniqueness. This is what makes John appear different from all the other beings on the earth – his accumulation of tendencies or impressions from past lives.

Remember that first cell which separated into two. These two cells then started to have indifferent experiences. These experiences caused them to develop, throughout the ages, different qualities in harmony with Darwin’s concept of evolution and the survival of the fittest. In the same way, each spirit has experienced a unique set of past experiences in his evolutionary pattern. This causes his expression of his character in the human body to appear unique from all other beings. Thus the cause of the illusion of our separateness lies in our different experiences and the reactions to those experiences which are stored in our soul-memory (in the causal body).

22) Thus John is one with, and indifferentiable from, all the universe on the atomic level, the energy level and the spiritual level. The illusion of difference starts in the mind which is affected by the impressions of the causal body. This programming of the mind causes a unique formation in the energy body which causes the unique body which we call John. The mind’s identification with the impressions stored in its deep subconscious and with the physical body (which is the result of those impressions) is the cause of the feeling of difference and separateness which we feel when we look at the world around us.

23) Let us take the example of a movie projector. There is the projection light which shines steadily. It is pure white light. This is the spirit. It is the same as all other projection lights. It has no color. It is not differentiable from any other projection light. The projection light is the individual spirit. Pure white light itself coming from no particular source is the Universal Spirit. This light then passes through the film. The film is the mind. The images on the film are the samskaras or impressions in the soul memory. The changing pattern of light, flowing toward the white projection screen, is the energy body, or bioplasma, or prana, however you would like to call it.

The image upon the screen is the physical body and the world of physical events. The unchanging white screen is the «atomic reality of “Prakriti” or “Maya” according to yoga philosophy.

Thus we can understand that the projector light (the spirit) and the White Screen (the atomic reality) are the only permanent realities. They are the BASIS OF REALITY. All the changing lights, films and images are a passing show which catches our attention and makes us believe that it is real; just as we get caught up in watching a film and lose light of the white screen which is the basic reality.

24) The reality of the mind, energy body and physical body in their unique separate experience is only a temporary relative reality which is continuously changing and will end. When it ends there will be only undifferentiated spirit and undifferentiated atomic reality.

So the individual we call John, is only a temporary phenomenon, like a wave upon the sea, which will soon fade away into the Basic Reality from which it has apparently separated itself, just as the wave fades back into the sea and loses its individual reality.

25) According to Yoga Philosophy, the atomic reality itself has emerged out of the unmanifest God, in the same way that Mr. Capra described the virtual particles appearing out of the void. It is believed that this atomic reality (Prakriti) exists solely for the use of the spirit (Purusha) in its evolution through matter. Theoretically all this atomic reality will be once again reabsorbed into the unmanifest void; as it is perhaps happening in what we call Black Holes, where great stars are collapsing into themselves and disappearing into a tremendous gravitational field.

This process of manifestation and reabsorption of the physical world supposedly occurs rhythmically as does the coming of day and night, or the incoming and outgoing breath. It is for this reason that we cannot talk about how it all began. Exactly, because there was no beginning. Where does the circle begin? where does it end? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? We think in straight lines, and the universe works circularly, rhythmically, undisturbed by our limited thinking.

26) Our image of John has been drastically altered. He has become the unmanifest itself which is expressing itself as spirit, energy and matter. He is a spirit, eternal and unlimited. His expression, as that particular body which we see, is the unique thought formation caused by his previous experiences as an entity involved with matter. This thought formation condenses itself as an energy body and then as a physical body. The basis of his reality is spiritual and atomic.

There are temporary changes going on in the formation of this mental, emotional and physical reality which we call John. These are a passing show which do not in any way affect his basic reality, which is like the unchanging projector light and the unchanging screen.

We unfortunately get all caught up in the play of emotional and mental images, and form likes and dislikes, friends and enemies, loves and hates, attachments and aversions based on this illusory drama. When we can change our focus from this changing emotional and mental melodrama to our spiritual and atomic unity, we will experience the BASIS OF REALITY which is our oneness with John and all of creation.