A straight line from science to god

I am a rocket scientist; science has been my religion, but I have found God through science. Not the God of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, or any other organized religion, but a very different God. Let me explain. I will take you step-by-step through the evidence in science that has led me to conclude that if there is a god, the god is within us.

I will touch upon these key theories in science to make my case — the Big Bang, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, how life emerged from matter, the path from a single-cell organism to a human being, the organ systems that make up the human body, the structure of the brain and how the brain processes information to create our reality.

Buckle up for the ride.

  1. The Big Bang: According to science, the Universe was birthed fourteen billion years ago at Big Bang. In the beginning, there was matter and energy. All the energy that existed during the Big Bang still exists because energy is neither created nor destroyed. Matter merged to form galaxies and planets. Our planet was formed four billion years ago. There is scientific proof for each step in this chain of events. What is not known is what was there before the Big Bang and what happened a few moments after the Big Bang (inflationary theory). But the evidence of what happened a few minutes after the Big Bang is solid. The religious faithful have alternate beliefs about the universe’s origin though the scientific evidence to support Big Bang is rock solid (pun intended).

Source: https://www.universetoday.com/54756/what-is-the-big-bang-theory/

2. How life emerged from matter: Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, and Phospate are the five elements from which life emerged, according to the latest theories in science. The prebiotic phase shown in the figure below is when the five elements combine to form the macromolecules of life. The macromolecules of life, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acid, are shown in the second figure. There are several scientific theories on what could have caused the creation of macromolecules, but there is no consensus. Religions doubt the entire theory of evolution because there is no proof for how life emerged from matter. Even if we accept legitimate skepticism about this one aspect of the theory of evolution, there is scientific proof for every step after that.

The third figure is my favorite. It shows the macromolecules and their essential role in our lives.

source fig 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis source fig2: https://quizizz.com/admin/quiz/57d2009c88b717d3f7fd454f/cho-cho-chon-chonp

source: https://quizlet.com/308628516/biomolecules-diagram/

3. Structure of a cell and DNA: Macromolecules took a billion years to form a living cell, and it was another billion years for the forerunner of the human cell to emerge in the conditions that prevailed on planet earth then. The image below shows the intricacies of a human cell. Every element identified in the picture is a marvel of nature. Each is assembled from macromolecules; for example, the cell membrane is made from lipids and proteins. My DNA makes me who I am and different from you and all other humans, alive or dead. The structure of the DNA, genes, and chromosomes is shown in the second figure. Our genes carry the instructions for making us who we are (physically). Each gene is a sequence of DNA with instructions for making a specific protein. DNA is the “god molecule.” It carries instructions for the development, growth, and reproduction of life. And it is constructed from just five elements hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and phosphate. Just FIVE!! Pause and marvel at this miracle of life. Many see the hand of God here. Science can explain the chemistry behind DNA, but it has competing theories about how the five elements combine to form the macromolecules, the building blocks of the DNA, or how matter becomes life.

source: https://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-a-cell/

4. Single-cell organism to 37 trillion-cell organism (us): It took 2–3 billion years since the emergence of a single-cell organism to evolve into us humans.

Source: https://www.amnh.org/explore/ology/marine-biology/what-do-you-know-about-life-on-earth

5. Cells to tissues to organs to organ systems to man/woman:

source:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJYUgDNhi-A

6. The ten organ systems that keep our bodies humming: 1. Skeletal 2. Muscular 3. Nervous 4. Cardiovascular 5. Respiratory 6. Digestive 7. Lymphatic 8. Endocrine 9. Urinary 10. Reproductive.

This video produced by National Geographic is an excellent primer for understanding these ten systems and their functions.

Science 101: Human Body | National Geographic Society

Media Credits The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional…

education.nationalgeographic.org

7. The crowning achievement of evolution is our brain: The human brain, to me, is the most amazing, breathtaking, extraordinary, and mind-blowing (pun intended) structure. If I had known then what I know now, I would have become a neuroscientist instead of a rocket scientist. I have spent the last thirty years trying to understand how our brains convert thoughts (intangible) to tangible matter (electrical signals), which move our muscles, and, conversely, how sensory information (electrical signals) is converted to perception (intangible). Simply put, if you understand how the brain works, you know yourself, nature, and god.

source: https://discover.hubpages.com/health/Anger-and-Traumatic-Brain-Injury
Source:https://www.nbia.ca/brain-structure-function/

These brain images, with descriptions of what each region of the brain specializes in, are key to understanding how we think, feel, remember, believe and act. Our beliefs about anything, including religion, science, and philosophy, result from neurons firing in the cerebral cortex. Yes, it all happens in the brain. This is how:

Our sense organs transmit information (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) about the world outside us as electrical signals to our nervous system. The nerves transmit this energy to the thalamus. The thalamus acts like an internet router; it processes information and passes it onto the cerebral cortex (parietal lobe), where perception happens, and electrical signals become our reality.

How the internet works might help us understand how our brains process information from our sense organs.

Source: https://www.hellotech.com/blog/what-is-the-difference-between-a-router-and-a-modem

Our sense organs are the modem; the thalamus is the router; the cerebral cortex is the computer that receives the signals, decodes them, and creates what we perceive. In computer jargon, the cerebral cortex renders our reality. It took me years to grasp the full implication; it blew my mind when I did.

This is not all; the brain takes the signals from the nervous system to create a perception of who we are, the “I.” No material or physical thing inside us is “I.” There is no homunculus. We create the “I” we think we are. The book by neuroscientist Prof. Antonio Damasio “Self Comes to Mind,” explains the neuroscience of how we construct our “I.”

Our brains not only create our reality but also create us. We are not who we THINK we are. Who are we? Who am I?

This is the question each of us should ask. This is the question that science made me ask. I did not know who I was. This is where religion came in for me.

After reading the scriptures, the Vedas, and Buddhist texts (the three religions I am familiar with), I have concluded that all religious texts are prescriptions for discovering who we are. The three religions say, in different ways, that there is a divinity within us, and that is who we are. All three have different approaches to getting in touch with this divinity. Prayers, meditation, and reading the scriptures are different ways to the same end.

I am committed to discovering who I am. I am religious in that sense. Science has led me to become religious but not a follower of any religion.

More from sunil mehrotra

I am a fairytale

“Tat Tvam Asi” say the Vedas.[i]

“Thou art That”

Who am I?

The journey of self-discovery is a journey inward. The journey starts at the outer layer- the body- and goes deeper inward and deeper still (Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate-Heart Sutra) only to discover that there is nothing there except emptiness. The body is made of atoms and atoms are mostly empty spaces; the atoms themselves are made of elementary particles which have no independent existence, they exist only when an observer is there to observe them. If elementary particles are not real then the atoms are not real, and the body that appears solid is just empty space. This is undeniably so, it is what modern physics tells us. We also know from neuroscience that “I”, the self, that I identify with is a figment of my mind and does not exist. The body does not exist, I do not exist.

The” I” that I identify with is a figment of my imagination. The I that I have grown up with and am fond of is not real. The I that has memories and hopes is not who I am. The “I” is a thought in the mind. This begs the questions what is mind, and whose mind is it? There are many theories of consciousness, one of the most radical theories is the one by Prof. Donald Hoffman, a cognitive scientist at The University of California, Irvine. His theory is that consciousness itself is a fundamental property of Reality, not space-time, matter-energy.

“I call it conscious realism: Objective Reality is just conscious agents, just points of view. Interestingly, I can take two conscious agents and have them interact, and the mathematical structure of that interaction also satisfies the definition of a conscious agent. This mathematics is telling me something. I can take two minds, and they can generate a new, unified single mind. Here’s a concrete example. We have two hemispheres in our brain. But when you do a split-brain operation, a complete transection of the corpus callosum, you get clear evidence of two separate consciousnesses. Before that slicing happened, it seemed there was a single unified consciousness. So, it’s not implausible that there is a single conscious agent. And yet it’s also the case that there are two conscious agents there, and you can see that when they’re split. I didn’t expect that, the mathematics forced me to recognize this. It suggests that I can take separate observers, put them together and create new observers, and keep doing this ad infinitum. It’s conscious agents all the way down.”[ii] Explains Prof. Hoffman.

Prof. Hoffman’s radical idea is that all that is there is consciousness itself. This view is amazingly similar to the Vedic view of Reality.

The essence of the Vedic view is captured in the Mahavakyas or Grand Contemplations[iii]. The Mahavakyas are a distillation of Vedic insights into the nature of Reality. If we substitute the term Consciousness for Brahman in the Mahavakyas below we see the parallel with Prof. Hoffman’s ideas.

Mahavakyas:

Brahman is real the world is unreal

Brahman is one without a second

Brahman is the supreme knowledge

Thou art that

I am Brahman

All that is Brahman

Reinterpreted:

Consciousness is real the world is unreal

Consciousness is one without a second

Consciousness is the supreme knowledge

Thou art that

I am consciousness

All that is Consciousness

Most physicists and neuroscientists, even to this day, have shied away from tackling the problem of consciousness. They consider consciousness to be the domain of religion and philosophy. Not so for the Vedic sages, who delved deeply into the nature of consciousness, which they called Brahman.

The root of the word: Brahman comes from the root brha or brhi, which means knowledge, expansion, and all-pervasiveness. It is that existence which alone exists and in which there is the appearance of the entire universe.

Not subject to change: Brahman means the absolute Reality, which is eternal and not subject to death, decay, or decomposition. In English, we speak of omnipresence or oneness. This is the principle of the word Brahman.

Not a proper name: Brahman is not a proper name, but a Sanskrit word that denotes that oneness, the non-dual Reality, the substratum underneath all of the many names and forms of the universe. Brahman is not the name of God. These contemplations neither promote nor oppose any particular religious concept of God.

Immanence and transcendence: One may also think of Brahman in theological terms, though that is unnecessary. Within that perspective, the scholars speak of two principles: immanence and transcendence. Immanence is the divinity existing in and extending into all parts of the created world. In that sense, the Mahavakyas suggest that no object contains or is not part of that creation.

It’s indescribable, as it is beyond form: However, if one chooses to hold the word Brahman, it is handy to remember that Brahman is indescribable. For convenience’s sake, it is said that Brahman is the nature of existence, consciousness, and bliss, though admitting that these words, too, are inadequate.

Seek direct experience: The real meaning comes only in direct experience.

Prof. Hoffman – “I’m claiming that experiences are the real coin of the realm. The experiences of everyday life — my real feeling of a headache, my taste of chocolate — are the ultimate nature of Reality.”

The conclusion of both the Vedas and Prof. Hoffman is that the experience of everyday life is the ultimate nature of Reality.

God is an experience. Every moment that we are fully alive and experiencing life without filters-preconceived ideas and beliefs- we are experiencing the divine.

All that is there is Brahman!

Thou art that!!

And that is that.


[i] (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRTlRScjd_s, n.d.)

[ii] (https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-evolutionary-argument-against-reality-20160421/, n.d.)

[iii] (http://www.swamij.com/mahavakyas.htm, n.d.)

Be a Voyeur

“You can observe a lot just by watching” — Yogi Berra

I have become a voyeur-a silent witness of my inner self. I can watch my thoughts, my emotions, and my bodily sensations. I am a voyeur of “me.” It is as if there are two “Mes”, there is one that is watching, and there is one that is being watched. I can watch all of “me” dispassionately, like a scientist. This is the single biggest step forward in my journey of self-discovery. One small step for the new me and one giant leap for the old me. Apologies to Neil Armstrong.

It has taken me many years to develop the ability to watch my thoughts and emotions without judging them. I have learned a lot about myself just by watching my thoughts, emotions, and sensations in my body. It is a skill I developed through practice. Normally, I get swept up in my thoughts, one thought leads to another and another, and the mind wanders off. I had to work at breaking this habit. I had to learn to let go of thought as soon as it appears. I had to train myself to look at a thought as a cloud wafting through the sky, watch without attachment, and see it as an object as it drifts. Slowly the thoughts stop coming when I do this now. My mind becomes still.

The act of watching, non-judgmentally, quietens my mind, quells my emotions, and removes tension in my body. My mind, body, and emotions become harmonized. Borrowing the language from the Vedas, my chakras become aligned, my nadis[i] open up, and I feel connected to the universe. In this state, there is no “I.” There is just emptiness. I am like an empty vessel, open, spacious, and accepting. And attuned to the wisdom of the universe.

Paraphrasing Yogi Berra, I observe a lot just by watching. There is no need for a guru; there is wisdom within us. There is a knowing beyond knowledge. We can access this wisdom. Unfortunately, we are not taught to get in touch with the wisdom within us. Some, like me, stumble into it, many turn to religion, and most never discover it.

Scientific methods cleave the observer from the observed. But the voyeur in us, or the silent witness, turns us, the observer, into the observed. Only humans have this capacity to observe themselves. I am an object to the voyeur in me that can be watched and studied “scientifically.” I can gather data on the workings of my mind and analyze it like a scientist. Equally importantly, I change the contents of my mind by watching and witnessing them. Quantum physics has proven that the very act of observing a phenomenon changes it. By observing my thoughts, I release the baggage associated with any negative thoughts I may be holding on to. Observing one’s thoughts erases the associated network of thoughts from the memory bank, leaving less material for the mind to dredge up. Over time this practice empties the mind and frees it from past conditioning. It opens the mind to experiencing life fresh and anew in each moment.

The Vedic sages were scientists of a kind. Their method of inquiry was from the inside out. Their starting point of inquiry was their mind (and emotions). Through this process, they transcended their minds and accessed “truths” that western science is just beginning to approach. The process of the sages was the inverse of the process of western science. The Vedic sages started with the subjective self and discovered that the rest was a projection of the self (mind). Modern scientific methods exclude the personal, the self, from their study of the phenomenological world. Thus, western science has not yet made the connection between the subjective and the objective — the world inside and the world outside.

“Science describes accurately from the outside; poetry describes accurately from the inside. Science explicates, and poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe.” Ursula K. Le Guin.[ii]

The voyeur in me is a scientist. The voyeur observes and collects data on me, just like a scientist. The very act of observing “me” changes me. The change happens automatically without additional effort. By watching one’s thoughts, the entire structure of related thoughts and beliefs is uprooted; it is like pulling out the root structure underneath a weed-. The practice of witnessing one’s thoughts and feelings is transformational because it empties our minds of past conditioning.

[i] (yogapedia, n.d.)

[ii] (Brainpickings, n.d.)

Heart Transplant

“it is with heart one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.

“The Caterpillar is the first character who tries to guide Alice on her journey. Since she’s tired of growing larger and smaller due to circumstances beyond her control, the Caterpillar teaches her to eat parts of the mushroom to control her size. Some critics, and especially people in popular culture, see Caterpillar as a representative of drug culture since he’s smoking a hookah and shows Alice how to eat a magic mushroom. But we prefer to see Caterpillar as a lackadaisical guru who helps Alice figure out how to control the imaginative world that she’s exploring. The Caterpillar also reminds Alice that changing in size and shape isn’t always a bad thing — after all, one day, the Caterpillar will metamorphose into a butterfly, and instead of being unnerving, it will be the high point of his life.” [i]

Everyone needs a lackadaisical hookah-smoking guru. After all, we also must be reminded that changing isn’t always a bad thing and could be the high point of our lives. Metamorphosis, for us, is akin to a “heart transplant.” Why?

The latest findings by neuroscientists are that the seat of all passions is the amygdala, two almond-shaped structures that sit on top of the brain stem. Daniel Goleman (Goleman, 2005), who popularized the concept of emotional intelligence, explains in his book that humans have two brains- the thinking and the emotional. The thinking brain is the neocortex, and the emotional brain is the amygdala. If the amygdala is severed, one loses the “ability to gauge the emotional significance of events.” A sad condition to have, as one becomes a robot devoid of feelings.

The Vedic sages did not understand the structure of the brain, but their exploration into human emotions led them to conclude that we have three bodies-the physical body, the emotional body, and the mental body. And they came to similar conclusions as the neuroscientists that the emotional body is impulsive and acts at times without “forethought,” hijacking the mental and the physical bodies. We have all experienced instances where we lost control and acted in ways that we later regret. In these instances, our thinking brain is no longer in control, and our emotions have taken over.

Emotions are powerful energies. In Hinduism, there is an imagery of a coiled serpent representing the energies trapped in our bodies. This energy is called Kundalini, best explained as a parable of Shiva and Shakti-two deities in Hinduism.

The parable, as described in (https://www.gaia.com/article/what-kundalini-awakening, n.d.), goes as follows:

“Lord Shiva symbolizes consciousness and the unmovable power of the observer. He is said to have meditated for thousands of years while Shakti danced for him. Her longing to be one, dancing with her beloved, provokes him to open one of his three eyes. She beckons for him to dance with her. He closes his eye and rests back in meditation for thousands more years, awaiting her absolute clarity that joining in harmonious union with him is her true desire. As her longing intensifies, she determines that she must dance with her Beloved Lord Shiva. At that, his three eyes open, dance together, and the universe unfold into creation all at once. All of nature is created as a result of their union.”

Both neuroscientists and the Vedic sages have concluded that when the emotional and the mental bodies/brains work in harmony, we reach peak performance levels. The ultimate state of being is when the mind, body, and heart are perfectly aligned and in harmony with nature.

“Nature is all that dances, moves, and changes in this world. The witness or seer within each of us is Shiva, and the nature of all things around us and within us is Shakti. When Shiva and Shakti are separate, spiritual awakening cannot take place. That separate state is known as a duality. The very merging of Shiva and Shakti obliterates duality and opens the spiritual river of oneness through which Kundalini flows.”[ii]

Our negative emotions are trapped energies (Shakti) seeking release. Our spiritual metamorphosing happens when we transmute our negative emotions into healing energies. It is the transformation that Gary Zukav refers to as the journey from the head to the heart. I have come to think of it as a heart transplant.

Learning to recognize my emotions and how to deal with them has been the most difficult part of my journey and the most transformative. I have learned to pay attention to my negative feelings. Negative emotions draw our attention to areas in us that need to be healed. The energies trapped in our emotions are looking to be released. We can release these energies consciously, or they will release themselves, often causing drama in our lives. Emotions held back and not released leave an emotional scar in us.

We often use the analogy of a musical instrument to describe our emotional state. We say that “our heart strings were pulled,” “we are high strung,” we are “tight as a drum,” “felt played like a fiddle,” etc. There is a good reason for it; our emotions are energies in motion that create sensations in our bodies. Each emotion has a unique “signature movement” in our body. Anger feels different than love, and sadness is different from joy. We respond emotionally to life events. It is as if life events strum our emotional strings to produce different notes in our being; Love, happiness, gratitude, and awe feel as if our entire being is in tune with the harmony in nature, whereas sadness, anger, fear, and disgust produce discordant notes in us.

“it is with heart one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.

I taught myself to watch my emotions. Emotions become objects to be watched. Watching releases blocked energy, which releases tension in the body. I began to track my emotions every day for eighteen months, built a database of my emotions and mental states, and recorded how my body felt in response to an emotional charge.

I have become a scientist of my own emotions. I can watch my thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations dispassionately. I have discovered a lot about myself just by watching. As the incomparable Yogi Berra[iii] said, “you can observe a lot by watching.” I learned that I can get my emotions off my chest by staying current with my emotions. I do not hold them in. They no longer fester in me, becoming toxic.

I have noticed that negative emotions feel different in the body than positive ones. The body feels weighed down with negative emotions, hence the expression, “I feel like I am carrying the weight of the world.” Positive emotions make my body feel buoyant, almost weightless. Not surprisingly, our emotional state affects others around us. Emotions are like vibrations emanating from us and creating a field around us.

Negative emotions in us bring negativity in others, and positive emotions positively affect others. Neurologists attribute this effect to mirror neurons in our brains. These are the “monkey see; monkey do neurons.” “When I see you smiling, my mirror neurons for smiling fire up, too, initiating a cascade of neural activity that evokes the feeling we typically associate with a smile. I don’t need to make any inference on what you are feeling; I experience immediately and effortlessly (in a milder form, of course) what you are experiencing.”, according to Marco Iacoboni[iv], a neuroscientist at UCLA.

Negative emotions alert us to the broken pieces of our psyche. They are the tip of the iceberg; we have to look beneath the surface and discover what in us triggers these emotions and why we feel the way we do. Heeding the message embedded in our negative emotions is a big part of self-discovery. If we fix what is inside, the outside will not matter.

[i] (https://www.shmoop.com/alice-in-wonderland-looking-glass/caterpillar.html, n.d.)

[ii] (https://www.gaia.com/article/what-kundalini-awakening, n.d.)

[iii] (https://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/09/the-50-greatest-yogi-berra-quotes, n.d.)

[iv] (http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/marco-iacoboni-mirror-neurons, n.d.)

No mind, no matter. No matter no mind

There is a tale about an Indian king that my father-in-law is fond of telling. The story goes that one night the king dreamt that he was a pauper; he woke up very disturbed because now he did not know whether he was a pauper dreaming that he was a king or a king who had dreamt that he was a pauper. We are like the king; how do we know we are not in a dream?

Even science can’t tell me if I am dreaming or awake at this moment. As I write this sentence, I could be dreaming that I am writing this sentence. The brain processes are the same when I am dreaming as when I am awake. The firing of neurons in our brains is how we see, feel or sense anything. Our senses bring information from the outside world to our brains through our neural systems. The trees we see, the birds in the sky, and other people, are all created in our brains. Every object outside us has a unique pattern of neuron firings. Each blade of grass, each cloud in the sky, everything has a unique pattern of neural firings in our brains. All that we perceive- the world outside us, our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations- are patterns in our brains. Our dreams are also made of patterns of neurons firing in the brain. How our dreams are made is no different from how reality is constructed in our brains. We create the world in our minds. Our world is a projection of our mind. It is all in our heads. What is inside is outside.

Our body, too, is a pattern of neuronal firings. I perceive my body as a pattern of firings in my brain. This does not mean that my body does not exist; all I can be sure of is that something exists. This “something” creates a pattern of neuronal firings, which my brain makes me believe is my body. For all I know, I might be a hat rack. Oliver Sacks’ book “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a hat”[i] is about a brain impairment called visual agnosia, wherein a person is unable to recognize objects. Sacks writes in his book about a man with visual agnosia who mistook his wife for a hat. The point is that our brain creates an image we recognize as our body. When the brain circuitry is impaired, as in the case of patients with visual agnosia, the image created to represent the body could be anything. Those afflicted with anorexia have a distorted image of their body, making them think that they are overweight when they are underweight. These examples illustrate what shaky ground we are on when we accept, uncritically, as real what our senses tell us.  

 “…few things about our beings are as remarkable, foundational, and seemingly mysterious as consciousness. Without consciousness- a mind endowed with subjectivity- you would have no way of knowing that you exist, let alone know who you are or what you think. “Antonio Damasio,[ii] professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, and the head of the Brain and Creativity Institute, in his book “Self Comes to Mind,” writes.

According to Damasio, our brain creates our conscious mind. Our conscious mind creates our reality. He continues, “The fact that no one sees the mind of others, conscious or not, is especially mysterious. We can see their bodies and actions, what they do or say or write, and make informed guesses about their thoughts. We cannot observe their minds, and only we can observe ours, from the inside and through a rather narrow window.”

Damasio offers a neuroscientist’s view of how our mind creates our reality. Damasio is saying that the contents of our mind create our reality. If we change the contents of our minds, we change our reality. Let this sink in. Each one of us exists in our reality. And, each of our realty is mind created. It is as if each of our lives is in our bubble or a simulated reality of our creation.

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, believes that the odds are that we are living in a simulation. His argument goes that the swift advancement of video game technology indicates we’ll be capable of creating a fully lifelike simulation of existence in a short period. In 40 years, Musk explained, we’ve gone from Pong to massively multiplayer online games with millions of simultaneous players, games with photorealistic graphics, and stand now on the cusp of a new wave of virtual and augmented reality experiences.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the museum’s Hayden Planetarium, put the odds at 50-50 that our entire existence is a program on someone else’s hard drive. “I think the likelihood may be very high,” he said. Somewhere out there could be a being whose intelligence is that much greater than our own. “We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence,” he said. “If that’s the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just a creation of some other entity for their entertainment.”

We each inhabit a different reality, a reality of our creation. Therefore, the truth that each of us perceives is relative. So, what is absolute Reality?

No matter, no mind. No mind, no matter. Which came first, mind or matter? This is the existential question.


[i] (https://www.oliversacks.com/books-by-oliver-sacks/man-mistook-wife-hat/, n.d.)

[ii] (Damasio, 2010)

Sacred Geometry and the mind of God

Nature is proof that She is a mathematician. It is as if math is Her preferred language for revealing Her deepest secrets. F=ma, Newton’s Second Law of motion, gave us the mechanical age and, Einstein’s mass and energy equivalence, gave us the atomic age. Through these equations, She gave man the power to harness her energy for his purposes. Physicist and futurist Michio Kaku believes that one day physicists will find an equation about “six inches long” that will explain all of nature. A single super equation would explain all of nature, from the behavior of subatomic particles to black holes and galaxies. To be sure, a hope and a dream, but as Einstein said, we want to know “the mind of God.”

We are familiar with equations in physics and the sciences, but what about describing a beautiful flower, a fern, a sea shell, or a perfect wave in the ocean? Does She reveal her creative nature through math too?
 Zn +1 = Zn 2 + C is the mathematical equation describing the Mandelbrot Set, named after the discoverer Benoit Mandelbrot, a Polish-born, French, American polymath. Mandelbrot coined the term fractals; he showed that “rough edges,” “mess,” and chaos found in nature, such as in clouds, shorelines, and seashells, have hidden order behind the chaos. He “invented the math” behind this chaos. The Mandelbrot Set is a fractal that describes amazing shapes occurring in nature. “Fractals are special mathematical sets of numbers that display similarity through the full range of scale — i.e., they look the same no matter how big or small. Another characteristic of fractals is that they exhibit great complexity driven by simplicity”.[i] Fractals are self-similar patterns of complexity driven by simplicity. The smallest unit of a fractal is similar to the whole. Fractals appear in nature in sea shells, galaxies, ferns, and even human lungs.

“The mathematical beauty of fractals is that infinite complexity is formed from relatively simple equations. Random outputs create patterns that are unique yet recognizable by iterating or repeating the fractal-generating equations many times.” (Mcnally, n.d.).

What amazes me about fractals is that they are so prevalent in nature. Not many consider this equation Zn +1 = Zn 2 + C beautiful, yet what it represents is beautiful. It makes me wonder if there is a hidden order in the universe that we have yet to uncover. Michio Kaku might be right that someday, we might find an equation that explains all of existence. We might know the mind of God. Until then, we keep discovering tiny pieces of Her creativity through math.


Xn = Xn-1 + Xn-2, a sequence of numbers known as the Fibonacci sequence, was invented by Leonardo Pisano, an Italian mathematician who was also known as Fibonacci (son of Bonacci). The sequence of numbers written out are 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55…these numbers appear mysteriously in nature repeatedly. This is why it is often referred to as nature’s secret code. This hidden code can be found in the number of petals on a flower, the structure of fruits and vegetables, the proportions of the human body, and even in the unique shape of spirals in nature. “Sunflowers are particularly fascinating as they show Fibonacci numbers in so many ways.  Count the petals on a sunflower–there are many! –and you’ll most likely count exactly 21, 34 or 55 petals–nothing in between. If you look closely at the center of a sunflower, you will see a spiral pattern. In fact, there are spirals in two directions. If you have the patience to count the number of spirals, it will always be a Fibonacci number. Count the spirals in the other direction and it will be an adjacent Fibonacci number. So, if you count 34 spirals going to the right, you know that there will be either 21 or 55 spirals to the left.” Source: Fibonacci in Nature.[ii]                                                (https://plantsandbeyond.com/2018/01/08/fibonacci-sequence-in-nature-and-plants/, n.d.)

Long before Tegmark, Mandelbrot and Fibonacci, there was Pythagoras, circa 400 BCE, who believed in divine geometry and started a religious movement based on this belief. Predating Pythagoras are mandalas–geometric patterns representing the universe– which first appeared in the Vedic text Rigveda. Mandalas are symbolic representations of the entire universe. The Vedic sages did not have knowledge of mathematics, but they intuited (or divined) that the physical universe was a symbolic representation of the “mind of God.” Mandalas, like physics equations, represent and reveal the hidden order in the universe.

Source: By Шантира Шани – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16480878

The Vedic sages believed that behind the forms in nature are deep patterns, and these patterns contain the inherent harmony in nature. Mandalas are representations of this harmony. The act of drawing mandalas and meditating on it brings man and nature into harmony.

Physicists and the ancient Vedic sages have come to the same conclusion that behind forms and appearances are patterns; these patterns have a “pattern” or rules made explicit through mathematics and geometry.

Mandalas, music, and mathematics are abstractions that transcend normal language and speak to us in ways that words cannot. Symbols make the unconscious conscious, in the words of Carl Jung. Symbols excite patterns of neuronal firings in our brain that normal spoken language does not. These patterns evoke feelings in us that no language can. The feelings they evoke have an “other-worldly” quality, which some regard as a spiritual experience. The mind of God is revealed through symbols, and the mind of man projects meaning onto them.

Paraphrasing Maria Popova, who wrote in her essay[iii]on Susanne Langer that great art requires a dual contemplation– “it asks the artist to contemplate her interior life and give shape to what she finds there in abstract form; it asks the audience to contemplate the abstraction and glean from it transcendent resonance with our own interior life.” Mandalas are sacred geometry that is “an act of translation–inner to outer to inner….in the act of that two-way translation, (they) transform us.”

What Susanne Langer wrote about great art is also true of mathematics. Mathematicians and physicists express what they find in their minds through the precise language of mathematics. Physicists reveal to us how intricate, precise, and beautiful nature is through the language of mathematics.

God is a mathematician. And Life is a Rorschach test.[iv] Music, mathematics, and abstraction make the unconscious conscious. They evoke in us feelings that no spoken language can. Life is symbolic. Life just is, devoid of any meaning. It is we who give meaning to it. 

“(Life) is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” Macbeth, by William Shakespeare.


[i] (https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/blogs/14-amazing-fractals-found-in-nature, n.d.)

[ii] (https://plantsandbeyond.com/2018/01/08/fibonacci-sequence-in-nature-and-plants/, n.d.)

[iii] (https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/04/21/susanne-langer-philosophy-in-a-new-key-questions-answers/, n.d.)

[iv] (https://psychcentral.com/lib/rorschach-inkblot-test/, n.d.)

God is a Mathematician

Mathematics is abstract, symbolic, structured, and precise. It is true everywhere and always, and mathematical laws cannot be violated. Math sounds a lot like the attributes of God-eternal, omnipresent and omnipotent. According to theoretical physicist Michio Kaku “”The mind of God we believe is cosmic music, the music of strings resonating through 11-dimensional hyperspace. That is the mind of God.” [i]  Vern Poythress, who teaches New Testament at Cambridge University and has two doctorates, a Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard and a doctorate in Divinity, argues in his book Redeeming Mathematics: A God Centered Approach[ii] that “the harmony of abstract mathematics, the physical world of things and our thinking depends on the existence of Christian God.” Srinivas Ramanujan, on whose life the book and the movie “The Man who knew Infinity” [iii] are based, is known to have said that “an equation to me has no meaning unless it represents a thought of God.”

The structures of the universe, from the tiniest (subatomic size) to the largest (cosmic scale), are networks or webs of connections. And these networks are interlocking, pulsating particles, exchanging, sharing, and transforming energy from one form to another. Physics is “spoken” through mathematics. Scientists have long used mathematics to describe the physical properties of the universe. But physicist Max Tegmark[iv] goes even further and believes that the universe itself is math. In Tegmark’s view, everything in the universe — humans included — is part of a mathematical structure. He says that all matter is made up of particles with properties such as charge and spin, but these properties are purely mathematical. And space itself has properties such as dimensions but is still ultimately a mathematical structure.

Mathematics, numbers, symbols, information, and energy are different ways physicists have attempted to describe the universe. Modern theories in physics are abstract and mystifying to most. For many, faith in the divine origin of the universe provides more certitude than modern physics does. Faith gives one certainty, which physics cannot do; this is the appeal of faith for many. Certainty in an uncertain world is comforting.

Scientific knowledge has an asymptotic relationship to Truth or Truth. Scientists are getting closer to the Truth but, I suspect, will never reach it. Scientists are like Adam reaching out to touch the hand of God but not making it, as depicted in the fresco[v] on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Physicists are peering into the outer reaches of the cosmos and probing deep into the inner sanctum of atoms, discovering realms beyond the reach of our senses. Most of us find these realms challenging to comprehend because we cannot see, touch, or feel them. No one has seen a quark or been able to visualize Einstein’s four-dimensional space and time. Hence, to some, modern physics is incomprehensible, abstract, hard to relate to, and indistinguishable from a myth.

Thankfully, we do not rely just on our senses to understand the universe; if we did, we would still be in the dark ages.

Physicists are looking for a single theory, or as Michio Koku states, “an equation about six inches long,” which can explain all phenomena, from the most significant (cosmos) to the tiniest (subatomic particles). The holy grail in physics is to find a theory that reconciles general relativity and quantum physics. Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman wrote in his book that science is searching for ultimate unity, the God Particle[vi]. Particle physicists build bigger particle accelerators, like the one at CERN[vii], in search of the God particle. At CERN, in the Large Hadron Collider, energy at the point of collision of the protons approaches the energy moments after the Big Bang, hoping to find the God particle.

The Truth is that the Truth might not be a particle. The Truth might not be a thing; it might be an abstraction, like an “idea in the mind of God,” as some have suggested, or perhaps as Max Tegmark posits, “There’s something very mathematical about our Universe, and that the more carefully we look, the more math we seem to find. ….. So, the bottom line is that if you believe in an external reality independent of humans, then you must also believe that our physical reality is a mathematical structure. Everything in our world is purely mathematical – including you.”

Theologists, scientists, and philosophers agree that Reality, absolute Truth or God, is an abstract reality. Not a reality can be detected by our senses or known through our intellect. In this view, mathematics is an expression of the mind of God. She is a mathematician!

Nature gives up its secrets to scientists through the abstract language of mathematics. Similarly, it reveals itself through symbols and abstractions unique to each of us. Reality plays hide and seek with us, and we get glimpses of it through activities such as listening to music, dancing, reading poetry, watching a sunset, or meditating.


[i] (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jremlZvNDuk, n.d.)

[ii] (https://frame-poythress.org/redeeming-mathematics-interview/, n.d.)

[iii] (http://www.robertkanigel.com/_i__b_the_man_who_knew_infinity__b___a_life_of_the_genius_ramanujan__i__58016.htm, n.d.)

[iv] (http://space.mit.edu/home/tegmark/, n.d.)

[v] (http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/cappella-sistina/volta/storie-centrali/creazione-di-adamo.html, n.d.)

[vi] (https://books.google.com/books/about/The_God_Particle.html?id=-v84Bp-LNNIC, n.d.)

[vii] (https://home.cern/topics/large-hadron-collider, n.d.)

The Cosmic Dance

The Choreography

The cosmic dance is not random motion but is beautifully choreographed, and the movements obey the laws of nature. The most fundamental laws of physics are the conservation laws–conservation of mass, conservation of energy, and conservation of momentum. These laws control all movement, interactions, and transformations in the universe. The laws are inviolate regardless of where in the universe one looks.

Nothing new in the universe has been created since the Big Bang, but only transformed from one form to another. What appears as creation or destruction is only a transformation from one state to another by physical laws. The laws are fixed, but the dancers and the dancing change. The dance never stops.

Since Newton, four hundred years of scientific progress have led us to understand that our universe is not capricious or ruled by demons and monsters of nature; instead, it is an elegant universe governed by laws. Thanks to science, we do not fear thunderstorms or cure diseases through exorcisms. We do not believe that the earth is flat or that we are at the center of the universe.

Science has unmasked nature to reveal that behind the many forms, everything is alike. Every electron, proton, or neutron is the same as every other electron, proton, and neutron. All forms are made of the same building blocks connected and interact through forces. “We ourselves are a mere collection of fundamental particles of the universe” Stephen Hawking.[i]

At a fundamental level (particles), there is no separation between us and what is outside us. It only seems this way because of the limitations of our senses. If we had X-ray vision, we would see no separation between a chair and the person sitting on the chair.

“About 99 percent of your body is made up of atoms of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. We also contain much smaller amounts of the other essential elements for life.

While most cells in your body regenerate every seven to 15 years, many of the particles that make up those cells have existed for millions of millennia. The hydrogen atoms in you were produced in the big bang, and the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms were made in burning stars. The very heavy elements in you were made in exploding stars.

The size of an atom is governed by the average location of its electrons. Nuclei are around 100,000 times smaller than the atoms they’re housed in. If the nucleus were the size of a peanut, the atom would be about the size of a baseball stadium. If we lost all the dead space inside our atoms, we would each be able to fit into a particle of lead dust, and the entire human race would fit into the volume of a sugar cube.

⦗….⦘

As you might guess, these spaced-out particles make up only a tiny portion of your mass. The protons and neutrons inside of an atom’s nucleus are each made up of three quarks. The mass of the quarks, which comes from their interaction with the Higgs field, accounts for just a few percent of the mass of a proton or neutron. Gluons, carriers of the strong nuclear force that holds these quarks together, are entirely massless.”

If our mass doesn’t come from these particles, where does it come from? Scientists believe that almost all of our body’s mass comes from the kinetic energy of the quarks and the binding energy of the gluons. We are not this solid, substantial-looking mass; we are empty space and particles in motion. In reality, instead of being made of flesh, muscles, and bones, as our senses have us believe, we are primarily empty space and particles engaged in cosmic dance. In this dance, there is no separation between what is inside of us and what is outside. Our skin which separates us from the outside, is itself particles interacting with particles on the outside or dancing with the particles outside itself. The particles do not “know” what is inside and what is outside. Only our senses make the distinction between inside and out.”[ii]

We are entangled with everything around us in a cosmic tango. Every atom in every cell in our body is entangled with atoms in other bodies and objects in the universe.

The dance is fluid, the movement continuous, the partners (atoms) changing positions at every opportunity. The dance is endless, and the music never stops.

When I look up at the sky and see the stars against a dark sky and imagine that my body is not solid as it appears but is full of “twinkling” atoms, buzzing around and dancing in the vast empty space inside and outside of me, I am Nataraja, the dancer.

My body is not separate from all that is outside it. It only seems so to my senses. I am entrained with everything around me in a cosmic dance. The ups and downs in my life are just the high and low notes of the song that I was born to dance to.


[i] (http://www.hawking.org.uk/, n.d.)

[ii] (https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/the-particle-physics-of-you, n.d.)

Dharma or Drama?

The journey of self-discovery is a journey inward. The journey starts at the outer layer- the body- and goes deeper inward and deeper still (Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate-Heart Sutra) only to discover that there is nothing there except emptiness. The body is made of atoms and atoms are mostly empty spaces; the atoms themselves are made of elementary particles which have no independent existence, they exist only when an observer is there to observe them. If elementary particles are not real then the atoms are not real and the body that appears solid is just empty space. This is undeniably so, it is what modern physics tells us. We also know from neuroscience that “I”, the self, that I identify with is a figment of my mind and does not exist. The body does not exist, I do not exist. So, what exists? What remains is the mind.

What then is the mind? The mind is pure consciousness say the Vedas. Physicist Donald Hoffman has a radical theory that the most elemental unit of existence is consciousness and that each of us is a conscious agent. We are not our body, we are not our mind, we are a conscious agent. The concept of conscious agent can be likened to Atman in Hinduism and soul in Christianity. The conscious agent gives rise to our mind which creates our reality. What makes each of us different and special according to the Vedas is our dharma. Dharma and Karma are concepts in Hinduism[i]that have found currency in the west. Dharma is an idea that I was dismissive of, at first, because I misunderstood it to mean one’s destiny. It means a lot more than one’s destiny.

Dharma, as I understand it now, means one’s essence. Our dharma is what makes us unique and special. Every living thing has its essence or dharma, which is unique to it. This is why an apple seed cannot grow into an orange tree. The closest thing in science to the idea of dharma is one’s genes. Richard Dawkins, in his book, The Selfish Gene, makes an assertion that is revolutionary-our genes are immortal, that is, they carry information that makes each of us unique, and this information is never destroyed, not even at death. This idea aligns with the concept in Buddhism that “we are never born and we never die.”

Our dharma is our essence. It is what makes us “us”. Our genes are about self- preservation and procreation, which is our animal nature, but our dharma is more than our genes. Our Dharma is our essence, it is who we are, beyond our animal nature. Our dharma includes our genes but is not proscribed by them. It is often said that dharma is our destiny and that our dharma is set by our karma(acts) in past lives and how we act in this life. This too is a limited view of what dharma is, in my opinion.

My dharma is my Truth. It is my religion, that is, it is who I am meant to be. Dharma is also understood to mean one’s duty, but, in my view, it is much more than that. Dharma is the seed in me from which emerged my mind. Self-discovery is about getting in touch with this essence in us. Our dharma is our Truth.

Either we live our Truth or are swept up in the drama of daily life. It is either Dharma or drama. When we live our Truth, we are in harmony with nature and all of existence. When we are living our dharma, we know it. It is a feeling.

 

[i] (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/dharma, n.d.)