A growing number of scholars, scientists and philosophers are leading us to an esoteric worldview without themselves being aware of this. While there seems to be much confusion on how to reconcile modern science with eastern and western esotericism most of the confusion seems to have come from choosing incompetent scholars for their study.
The paper not only gives the correct approach for reconciling modern physics with Advaita Vedanta but also puts the hypothesis of the ontological and philosophical similarities between the two ancient monistic systems Valentinian Monism and Advaita Vedanta on a much firmer ground. An ancient method is also proposed to test this worldview and the paper concludes with the profound implications that it might have for religion, science and philosophy.
The east is rich with linguistics and it could be hypothesized that it was their language which enabled them to describe the metaphysical worlds of the numinous with such simple words or short syllables of the late antiquity conveying a wide range of insights just as how the language of mathematics describes the world of Physics with such great beauty. One such eastern esoteric religion which has influenced in all forms of philosophical debates is the religion of Aryans with such giants like Erwin Schrödinger and Arthur Schopenhauer who said that ‘Upanishads have been the solace of my life and will be the solace of my death’.
When the architects of the Modern Physics got to know that science cannot give an objective account of reality some of them resorted to other forms of traditional knowledge existing in eastern religions and started to find parallels between these eastern religions and modern science but such an attempt has not only resulted in confusion among the public but has also resulted in the misrepresentation of the teachings of these traditional doctrines which have considerable differences between one another. The problems existing in the above field as well as with the recent developments in the field of quantum mechanics and its philosophical implications as espoused by Bernard D’Espagnat and in the field of Gnosticism as espoused by such reputed scholars like Elaine Pagels and others were the main reasons that resulted in bringing out this all important paper.
Methodology in the study of Esotericism
While esotericism has existed since millennia as a form of study of the esoteric essence and wisdom hidden in all ancient mystery religions, recently few have argued to push the field of Esotericism into the academic. One such attempt has been made by a historian of religion, Wouter J. Hanegraaff and argues that esotericism can be studied from an empirical approach where one can measure its influence from a historical perspective. Any student of esotericism who accepts the most authoritative definition of Antoine Faivre knows that esotericism deals more with the reality of the numinous and less with our historical past. Hanegraaff who is well aware of this implicitly admits that to truly know the truth behind these religions only the empirical approach would not suffice. A simultaneous perennialist approach is needed where an intuitive access to the numinous is albeit necessary in order to completely understand these esoteric religions which are inherently metaphysical as this paper shows and hence not falls under the positivism of science or the empirical method.
Based on this argument or assumption a competent scholar can be defined as one coming from the tradition and not someone from outside the tradition and one who has the competent skills and intuitive knowledge to interpret the works of our ancient people and give us a picture as these ancient people saw it and not as how one sees it individually which inevitably leads to conflicts based on how each one interprets these ancient works subjectively without any intuitive knowledge which our ancients claimed to have access to.
A few words about the Scholar chosen for this study -
A proposed reconciliation of Modern Physics with Advaita Vedanta
Jonathon Duquette, philosopher of religion from the University of Montreal is the leading philosopher working for the correct reconstruction of the dialogue between Modern Physics and Advaita Vedanta and in his thesis he clearly outlines the problems and confusion associated with this subject. He addresses the problems of finding parallels between Modern Physics and Advaita Vedanta through such early works like Fritjof Capra’s Tao in Physics and Panda’s Maya in Physics and questions the validity of their approach.
The argument that the vacuum fluctuation of Quantum mechanics has similarities with the Brahman of Advaita is illogical. Scholars who argue that Brahman is the substratum of the universe or the absolute and compare this with the vacuum of Physics don’t realize that our ancients didn’t knew about modern science or quantum mechanics and the Vedas or the Upanishads are not concerned with the empirical reality and it has nothing to do with it. Without understanding the epistemological foundations of these traditions and the vast wisdom hidden in them some scholars and thinkers desperately try to misrepresent these traditions, its sensitive issues and differences between them just to justify their illogical claims. The philosopher and historian of religion, Richard H. Jones points out this fact in his works,
Bernard D’Espagnat, a French theoretical physicist who has worked under the founding fathers of Modern Physics like Bohr and De Broglie, popularly known for his philosophical works in quantum physics argues that the multitudinous view of classical physics is in direct conflict with facts established from quantum mechanics and that we need to give up Einstein separability and Scientific realism to be in coherence with quantum mechanics. This gives support to the phenomenon of Kant which shows that the physical sciences is only dealing with the phenomena (i.e. things as they appears to us) rather than the ultimate noumena (i.e. things in itself).
Bernard argues that nonseparability and non-locality are the basic nature of our physical world which quantum mechanics has revealed to us. Bernard who was not afraid to tackle the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics which others did not went on to say that ‘What we call as empirical reality is only a state of mind’ and thereby gave up his belief on local realism.
Some cognitive scientists with in cognitive science argue that the problem of qualia should be taken seriously and also the problem of universals exist from the time of Plato while there is nothing in the empirical reality to compare with the categories of Kant, we must conclude that such categories exist outside of the empirical reality, we shall not go into the technical details of these problems in this paper.
So far what we have discussed is something which is well known in western thought but how is this related to eastern religions and what the eastern traditions have to say about these problems and that’s what we will discuss in further sections.
If what we call empirical reality is only a state of mind then what is mind?
This was the question asked by someone in Guardian and no one had an answer to it and not even modern science has an answer to it because cognitive scientists are reductionists and they see perception and cognition as neuronal activity in the brain but as Bernard D’Espagnat says even neurons fall under empirical reality which is only a state of mind. So what is mind then?
Here’s the answer:
The word esoteric means “intelligible only to those with special knowledge” – esoterically. The scholar uses the traditional way of storytelling or dialectic to convey his ideas which is common in most forms of wisdom literatures which give us knowledge about the divine and the nature of reality.
When Devudu uses words like sense organs and mind he is not referring it to biological organs and the brain instead he is talking of sense organs and the mind existing in the noumenal world which is responsible for the retrospective creation of our empirical reality which not only includes biological organs and the brain but everything which we see through our eyes. This is what Bernard D’Espagnat means that our empirical reality is a kind of Veiled reality and that there is an ultimate reality which is not embedded in space and time.
Bernard is one of them who believes that the noumenon of Kant can be accessed by other means, he argues that nonseperability is a slight clue which gives us some glimpses of the nature of this ultimate reality and his argument that the structure of consciousness should be outside of empirical reality seems to be accurate when one considers his claims from the perspective of the eastern mode of thought of the Upanishads. What this means is that for the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta to be true scientific realism must be false and it’s a conclusion which it arrives independently without any influence from other schools of thought, an all important fact which many scholars often miss in their approach to find parallels between Modern Physics and Advaita Vedanta. If this is true then neither science nor atheistic religions can give an objective account of reality only God, only He can give an objective account of reality. If there is ever, a Law of Religion and Science then this should be it,
‘What we call empirical reality is only a state of mind’
We are passing along a period of time where not just two but at least three different modes of thought are meeting at a single place making similar conclusions about the nature of reality and if this is true then the next few discoveries in our quest to understand the cosmos will be interesting and exciting to watch out for.
It should be noted that we arrived at this conclusion by assuming that science cannot give an objective account of reality, assuming that scientific realism is false but if science comes up with an objective account of reality independent of mind showing that scientific realism is true then Advaita Vedanta is directly in conflict with Modern Physics. Both Advaita Vedanta and Modern Physics will be in conflict with each other in such a case.
Is teleportation possible? What is the world made up of?
Our ancients neither knew about modern science nor did they knew about quantum teleportation and hence this should not be confused with such processes. According to major religions of the world, the world is made up of just five elements i.e. earth, fire, water, air and space.
According to Advaita Vedanta these five elements don’t exist in the empirical reality instead they exist in the numinous world and it recognizes this as the external physical world and hence it doesn’t teach solipsism where only one’s own mind is real instead it teaches us that Brahman is real, the empirical world is an illusion, the noumenal world is real and everything in that noumenal world is Brahman, it does recognize a world independent of mind but it is not the empirical world instead it is the numinous world of God or the pleroma of Gods.
Some scholars don’t recognize that Upanishads is the end of Vedas and therefore the worldview of the Upanishads should be in accordance with the worldview of the Vedas as the following quote of the Rig Veda (1.164.46) says,
The mind and the five elements are also recognized as anthropomorphic gods. This is the kind of world-view which Advaita Vedanta and Valentinian Monism embrace. We have been tantalizingly pushed into a world-view which inevitably leads to the following conclusion about the nature of our physical world,
What is Intelligence? Does Intelligence exist in platonic realms? Are strong Platonists like Roger Penrose correct in saying that strong AI is impossible?
Gödel through his Incompleteness theorems showed that there were Gödel statements for which we could know the truth value of these statements even though they were un-provable using the same axiomatic systems which those statements were derived from. This showed that mathematics can never be both complete as well as consistent.
This basic fact which showed that human beings can solve problems or answer questions for which no algorithm exists to prove the truth value of such statements led to the conclusion that human thought was in no way identical to the mechanical computations carried on such computational machines like the Turing machines.
Roger Penrose developed Gödel’s ideas and put forward a more substantial argument to show that strong AI is impossible and asserted that there is an element of non-computability in human thought which the current physics cannot in any way explain. So what does the eastern traditional school of thought have to say about this? This is what is discussed in the next section.
Since the positivism of science has spread across all fields of our investigation there is not only confusion as to what is real and what is not but other eastern traditions having a different epistemology are rarely taught or taken seriously by anyone in the academic.
The eastern traditions have non-positivist methods based on a different epistemology which give us the actual nature of the physical world and positively assert that these things do exist in a Platonic realm and the fundamental principle of the Aryans says that it is God who stimulates and direct our thoughts (Buddhi).
Similarities between Valentinian Monism and Advaita Vedanta
When Gnostic scholars began to see monistic expressions in the gnostic tradition of Valentinianism and the frequent assertions of this school of thought that the multiplicity of the world vanishes once one knows the fullness of the father through gnosis just as the Advaita Vedanta says that the multiplicity of the world vanishes once one knows the Brahman they started to hypothesize that there might be a connection between these two ancient monistic systems but they never took such a hypothesis too seriously. The following section shows why such a hypothesis is undeniable without giving reasonable explanations for the astonishing similarities seen between these two ancient monistic systems.
This is in so much similarity with the Gnostic view of the world which says that everything comes in dyads i.e. with male and female forms.
This shows that human beings don’t have free-will which is similar to the stoic view of providence and the Gnostic view of pre-destination and shows beyond any doubt the Hellenistic and eastern esoteric influences over Gnosticism.
This is the ontological view or the ontological reality of Advaita Vedanta i.e. the pleroma of (Aeons) gods (fullness) exist in every living being which is amazingly similar to the Gnostic view.
For the Valentinians the pleroma has a local platonic existence and forms the body of Christ and for the Vedic Aryans the Agnisoma Mandala has a local platonic existence and forms the body of Savithru, the solar deity. As you can see only names change in the way they describe the ultimate reality.
The word Pleroma means the totality of divine powers, all the Aeons and all these Aeons reside in Christ and form his mystical body.
The individual Aeons 33 in number as espoused in both Valentinianism and also in the Vedas like the human beings does not know that they are in the Father.
Beyond this is non-dualism and if we cannot even meaningfully speak about the Pleroma then one can imagine how fruitless it is to speak about the Unity, the all pervading Brahman.
None the less these Aeons are real and they exist in both the microcosm as well as in the macrocosm i.e. in human body as well as in the elements of the outer cosmos.
Advaita Vedanta is an ancient doctrine which existed prior to Gnostic Christians and is still the orthodox religion of India and is the very soul of India, therefore either there was a cultural diffusion at some point of time between these two traditions or they arrived about the nature of reality independently without any transfusion of ideas between each other. Whatever may be the answer, this hypothesis should be taken seriously and by testing such a hypothesis can reveal many things and have a wide range of implications.
An ancient method to test this worldview
The Aryans extensively relied on the yoga school of philosophical thought in order to access the numinous world. It can be argued that this practical knowledge is an inherent part of their tradition along with other schools of thought and not separate from it.
It’s the foundational basis for all forms of their knowledge, even though Patanjali is well known as the founder of the yoga school of philosophy different forms of yoga existed prior to him and all such knowledge including the yoga school of Patanjali can be traced back to Hiranyagarbha himself who was the god of the Aryans, whom the founders of Rig Veda worshiped him as the first-born.
As said earlier there are two ways to look at the Veda where one can study the individual lustrous rays of the Hiranyagarbha as separate gods of his pantheon i.e. Agni, Soma, Prana etc. or else one can study the whole pantheon of Hiranyabarbha as himself in his Samasthi swaroopa (total or whole form).
It was Vishwamithra who discovered a way to worship this mass of lustre of Savithru or Hiranyagarbha but that method is not addressed here as no one outside the tradition should perform it without first going through a series of rituals in the traditional way. However there are other ways to study his rays as a whole and one such method is given below which is called as Sun Salutations.
The scholar Devudu who hails from this tradition revealed us the secrets of the Isopanishad which were passed in a traditional way through his works. According to tradition Savithru, the supreme god of the Vedas, He himself had said to Yajnavalkya, the author of the Isopanishad that, “Those who read the Isopanishad as well as the Yajnavalkya Upanishad which deals with the life story of Yajnavalkya and clearly understand the deep meaning behind it, I will reveal myself to them without fail.”
Therefore the following verse of the Isopanishad is uttered before performing the method for those who only want to live the righteous path, as this was the sole purpose of their doctrine, different people perform this method for different reasons,
It means that the truth is hidden inside a golden egg from which the first-born Hiranygarbha originated and his light rays are preventing us from seeing the ultimate truth clearly therefore we should plead him to decrease the intensity of his impeding light rays so that we can clearly see him and attain the path of righteousness by understanding the truth behind it.
Though the ancient Aryans used to perform rituals in a holistic way for the good of the whole world irrespective of the nation, creed, race or the culture they belonged to, the rituals were also performed in a multitudinous way to fulfill personal desires. However they highly recommend us to perform in a holistic way which was the sole doctrine of the Aryans that the light of God exists in everyone irrespective of their race or their background. It is advisable to practice it to test the efficacy of this method under the guidance of a master and the verses after the asterisk (*) should be silently uttered in the mind when performing each step.
According to these esoteric religions it is very unlikely that God had used the Big Bang or the DNA to create the universe or the Humans in it and these religions enforce upon us to abandon such form of thinking at least when one is arguing based on these esoteric religions. It should be emphasized that there can be only one reality in the external physical world and if the objects of modern science like quarks, protons, electrons exist independent of the mind i.e. if scientific realism turns out to be true then the metaphysical world of the esotericists will be falsified. As one of the necessary postulates required for the existence of the metaphysical worlds of the above mentioned esoteric religions is that scientific realism must be false and such a test will guide us whether to abandon this form of esoteric thinking and move an alternative way forward or to move in the direction of our ancients.
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