Visionary Window: A Quantum Physicists Guide to Enlightenmentby Amit Goswami
Does God exist? Can spirituality be integrated with science? Is happiness possible? Do miracles really happen? Not only does The Visionary Window answer " yes" to all of these questions, but it skillfully combines the fields of philosophy, cosmology, religion, and psychology to form a new way of thinking about science and spirituality. Stepping beyond the classic
Does God exist? Can spirituality be integrated with science? Is happiness possible? Do miracles really happen? Not only does The Visionary Window answer " yes" to all of these questions, but it skillfully combines the fields of philosophy, cosmology, religion, and psychology to form a new way of thinking about science and spirituality. Stepping beyond the classic work of prominent seventies physicist Fritjof Capra, Goswami details his own pioneering exploration of science and spirit, revealing the complete integration between modern science and spiritual traditions. Using stories and colorful examples from pop culture, Goswami addresses complex issues in language and terminology easily accessible to the lay reader. He provides quantum physics-based theory and new experimental data verifying the metaphysical truth that exists when employed in the context of a new science, science within the primacy of consciousness. With a new holistic worldview, Goswami also discusses the creativity of the body to self heal; the power of spiritual practice and how to choose a meditative path; and the five stages of spiritual growth, culminating in the ability to transcend the physical laws of nature. Readers, scientists and spiritual leaders alike will find answers to many of life’s deepest mysteries.
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The Visionary Window
A Quantum Physicist's Guide to Enlightenment
By Amit Goswami
Theosophical Publishing HouseCopyright © 2000 Amit Goswami
All rights reserved.
Quantum Yoga: Can Science and Spirituality Be Reconciled?
* * *
I ONCE PARTICIPATED in a panel discussion in Berkeley, California, on the question "Can scientific and spiritual traditions carry on a dialogue?" The first speaker, an American Buddhist, expressed uneasiness. The two traditions have diverged so much, he said, that both may need to return to basics and start over; maybe then they can have a dialogue. I spoke next. I think I surprised him and probably many in the audience by saying that not only can there be dialogue, there can and will be complete reconciliation between the two traditions. In fact, I asserted, the reconciliation has already begun. How is this so?
When my Buddhist friend was talking about science, he meant science based on classical physics, the physics that Isaac Newton founded in the seventeenth century and Albert Einstein completed in the first decades of the twentieth century. And his uneasiness was justifiable. Most biology and psychology and virtually all of our social sciences are carried out day to day on a Newtonian basis. Newtonian science has given us some strong prejudices—such as determinism, strong objectivity, and materialism—that are appropriate when we investigate the order of the outer world. But the purpose of spirituality and religion is to investigate our inner reality, to establish order in our inner life, where ordinarily disorder, conflict, and unease reign. The spiritual quest is to find happiness beyond the discord; it is an investigation of consciousness. Since spirituality requires that consciousness plays a causal role, it is difficult, if not impossible, to make room within objective, materialist science for spirituality.
This was May, 1996, and I, too, was right because science had changed. Classical physics was replaced in the 1920s by a new physics called quantum mechanics. And now, after seven decades, this new physics is causing a major revision in how we think of living systems and how we do biology and psychology and thus all social sciences (Goswami 1993; Herbert 1993; Stapp 1993; Eccles 1994). In the new paradigm there is a window of opportunity, a visionary window, through which to recognize that consciousness plays a major role in shaping reality; then spirituality can be reconciled with science.
The word quantum comes from a Latin word meaning quantity and signifies a discontinuously discrete amount. In classical physics all things vary in a continuous manner, but in quantum physics things change in both continuous and discontinuous ways. Continuous change is materially caused, even in quantum mechanics. But what brings about discontinuous change? If we posit that consciousness causes the change, we have the proposition that prompts the shift from a divisive paradigm to one that integrates science and spirituality (von Neumann 1955). But there is more to consider here.
We have made enormous progress in science; why have we not made similar progress in religion in spite of the efforts of spiritual traditions for millennia? In science, once a few scientists discover the laws of universal order, the job is done; the rest can read those scientists' work, and that is enough to be able to appreciate the harmony of the outer world. In the realm of spirituality, however, great strides have been made by figures such as Buddha, Plato, Lao Tsu, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. But their discoveries have not brought harmony and happiness to everyone. We remain by and large, even today, a violent and unhappy bunch. Why is this so? The objective of spirituality takes much longer to accomplish because one person's spiritual realization and happiness does not proliferate to others. Finding happiness and establishing inner harmony are fundamentally individual processes.
The Sanskrit word yoga means union, integration. I have coined the phrase quantum yoga to signify the integration of the quantum message into a comprehensive new worldview that unites science and spirituality in a personally meaningful way. This book is not only an introduction to the visionary window that quantum physics opens for us, but also a guide to the practice of quantum yoga leading toward personal enlightenment.
The word dialogue originated from two Greek words: dia, meaning through, and logos, meaning word; thus, dialogue generally means communication through words. Physicist David Bohm defined dialogue more significantly, as "a free flow of meaning between people in communication." Can there be dialogue between science and religion in this Bohmian sense?
Initially, a dialogue between science and religion seems rather unlikely. Both science and religion are endeavors in the search for truth. Both are based on the intuition that truth is unique, not pluralistic. The problem is that even when we haven't gone far enough in our search, we try to impose our limited truth upon others. This is what many exoteric religions have done traditionally; now science is doing the same thing, which has led to the present polarization of science and religion.
A Brief History of the Rift in the West
To grasp the meaning of someone else's system it is essential to understand the metaphysical basis behind that system. And there is the rub. The metaphysics of science, as developed mainly in the West in the last three hundred years, seems diametrically opposed to the metaphysics behind the dominant religion of the West, Christianity.
In brief, Christianity, as popularly practiced, holds that a nonmaterial power, God, created the world and has supervised its affairs ever since in order to align them with his purpose, which is good. But there is also evil, the banishing of which restores order and happiness in our inner reality. The purpose of religion is to help people conquer evil and follow goodness—God's way. We learn by experience: God rewards our good deeds and punishes evil ones. We also learn about good by loving God. We have free will to choose good or evil, to love God or not. We must have faith in order to choose good: faith in God's goodness, faith in the authority of the Bible, faith in the authority of religious leaders, and so on.
In medieval times in the West even material reality itself was neatly divided into earth, where imperfection reigns, and heaven, the abode of God and perfection. In this dualistic picture God is separate from the world and heaven is separate from earth. Popularly, heaven was understood as outer space: the abode of the moon, the sun, the planets, and the stars. Science grew out of the intuition of a few people—Galileo, Kepler, and Newton principal among them—that the laws that govern "imperfect" earthly movement and the laws that govern "perfect" heavenly movement in fact may not be different. First, they showed that heavenly movement is not perfect at all (for example, the planets are not perfect spheres and they move in imperfect ellipses, not perfect circles). Next they demonstrated that the same set of laws governs objects both on earth and in heaven (outer space). This led eventually to the bold claim that God is not needed to explain movement either on earth or in heaven, at least as far as the material world is concerned.
By the twentieth century, science's success had led to a series of metaphysical notions of reality based on science, each one antithetical to notions of popular Christianity. One of these ideas is strong objectivity, which was already mentioned—reality is independent of us, so our free will, our decisions to love God or to follow ethics, do not make any difference in the affairs of the world. Other ideas are material monism and its corollary, reductionism—all things are reducible to matter and to its elementary particles and their interactions. The dualism of God and the world was openly questioned: if the God-substance is different from the world-substance, how does God interact with the world? Therefore, it makes sense to postulate that there is only one substance, matter.
Classical physics, with such luminaries as Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein at the helm, introduced other philosophical prejudices. I have already mentioned causal determinism—if the movement of things, the way they change, is causally determined, there is no room for divine purpose. Another tenet is continuity—all movement is continuous. Still another tenet is locality—all causes and all effects are local, mediated by interactions or signals that travel through space in a finite amount of time. Continuity and locality make it difficult to conceive of any way that a nonmaterial agency could interact with matter. Any nonmaterial intervention would seem discontinuous and nonlocal from the point of view of the material world.
The success of science done under the banner of these metaphysical assumptions prompted one more, epiphenomenalism—all subjective phenomena, such as consciousness and self, are epiphenomena (secondary phenomena) of matter; they are merely ornamental, having no causal efficacy of their own.
The conglomerate of these six metaphysical tenets—objectivity, material monism and reductionism, determinism, continuity, locality, and epiphenomenalism—is called by various names: material realism, physical realism, scientific realism. In sum, this view holds that only matter (and its correlates: energy and force fields) is real; all else is epiphenomenal.
In the early days of science, the physicist-philosopher René Descartes divided reality into mind and matter, mind being the domain of God and religion and matter the domain of science. Matter was postulated to follow physical laws. Mind was allowed free will and the power of dominion over the earth including plants and animals. The philosophy of modernism that Descartes promulgated defined the modern human: the prerogative of being human is to predict and control nature with the help of science and technology.
Since mind was God's domain, religion and spiritual transformation toward good at first continued to make sense within modernism. But because of the concept of epiphenomenalism, this temporary truce between science and religion came increasingly under attack. The argument was this: the material world contains both order and disorder, both harmony and disarray. For example, the periodic motion of the planets about the sun is harmonious, while according to the entropy law, entropy (the amount of disorder) always increases. Why can't the mental world be understood in the same terms? Unhappiness and sorrow (mental disorder) as well as happiness and joy (mental order) may be simply part of the natural law of matter—in this case the brain. There is neither the ability nor the need to transform. In short, religion is superfluous.
Furthermore, the methodology proffered by religions—faith—is diametrically opposite to the methodology developed by science. The scientific method is founded on trial and error: try it and see. Make a theory and verify it. Experiments, not authority, are the ultimate arbiters of truth. Science's widespread success speaks for the effectiveness of its methodology. In comparison, only a few have claimed to have achieved transformation through faith, and many of these accounts are debatable in the eyes of science. In this way modernism slowly gave way to postmodernism: existence was regarded as preceding essence or God, and the notions of spiritual good and order and any metaphysics that gave value to these notions was "deconstructed."
The defenders of religion—predominantly Christianity in the West—have not fared well against this frontal attack from science. Take the case of biology. Biologists in the West make a fairly good case against Christianity's teleological ideas of how God creates the world according to his purpose. They claim to understand all of life through Darwinian ideas of evolution, according to which chance mutations produce genetic variations and nature selects the fittest among them to survive. God's purposive intervention is not required; all is chance and the necessity of survival. The champions of Christianity respond to Darwinism with "creationism," pointing out gaps in the scientists' arguments. The most famous gap is the absence of continuous fossil evidence that shows how plants became animals or how reptiles became birds. But creationists posit only the Biblical account as an alternative to evolution: God created the world and all life within it in six days circa 4000 B.C. This account precludes any explanation of fossils at all, except as God's whimsy.
The religionists have fared no better in responding to challenges against dualism: if God and the world are separate, what mediates the interaction between the two? Such interaction, according to science, would require an exchange of energy; but according to the law of conservation of energy, the energy of the world is a constant. Any dualistic divine intervention must be a "miracle," in violation of the law of conservation of energy! Why, the materialists ask, should God be lawful in the affairs of the external world, but invoke miracles in the affairs of the mind, which after all must be a phenomenon of the brain? Why should we expect God to obey our rules? retort the religionists. The debate goes on.
How can there be a dialogue, a meaningful communication, between a scientific tradition that scoffs at such "unscientific" notions as miracles and teleology, and a religious tradition that abhors "scientism" (science practiced as religion instead of employing strictly scientific arguments against God)? The debate in the West has failed to penetrate this impasse. This is the basis of the pessimism of my Buddhist friend mentioned earlier.
Most unfortunately, the debate has led to cynicism regarding values. A lot of people in the West don't really believe that anybody can be good except a simpleton like the title character of the movie Forrest Gump. Imagine that Forrest Gump dies and goes to heaven, where Saint Peter stops him at the Pearly Gates. "Sorry. You have to answer three questions to get in," says Saint Peter. "The first question is, how many seconds are there in a year?"
"That's easy," says Forrest Gump. "Twelve."
"How did you get that?" asks a surprised Saint Peter.
"Count them. January second, February second, March second—"
"I see," interrupts St. Peter. "Well, I'll let you have that one. Now for the second question. How many days in a week start with a t?
"Four," answers Forrest Gump confidently.
"How do you get that?"
"Easy. Tuesday, Thursday, today, and tomorrow."
"Alright, I'll give you that one also," Saint Peter says with a chuckle. "But you must answer this one correctly. What is the name of God?"
"Andy," says Forrest Gump.
"What on earth gave you that idea?" asks Saint Peter in exasperation.
"I learned it singing hymns at church. 'Andy [and He] walks with me, Andy talks with me—'"
And with that, an amused Saint Peter ushers Forrest into heaven.
Simple-minded people tend to be good out of the belief that there is a heaven and there is God. Few sophisticates do, although they may sympathize with that belief and its values: it would be nice if society followed them. Religious values are merely inconvenient to the cynical many who are busy competing and taking care of "numero uno"; after all, isn't that what scientific realism is all about? As biological beings, isn't survival our only value?
The Story of the Rift in the East
Spiritual traditions in the East dance to a different metaphysical tune. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism posit that a transcendent consciousness, rather than matter, is the ground of all being and that all else is epiphenomena, matter and self included. These traditions see the spiritual quest for unblemished happiness as the quest for the true nature of our being, our wholeness.
Excerpted from The Visionary Window by Amit Goswami. Copyright © 2000 Amit Goswami. Excerpted by permission of Theosophical Publishing House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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