Hinduism & Quantum Physics

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Vedanta as the synthesis of Science and Religion

Modern Physics and Philosophical Reason
The basic oneness of the universe is not only the central
characteristic of the mystical experience, but is also one
of the most important revelations of modern physics.




'Om Isha vasyam idam sarvam, yat kincha jagatyam jagat'

"All this- whatever exists in this changing
universe, is pervaded by God"
-Isa Upanishad

"Om purnamadah purnamidam purnaat purnamudachyate,
purnasya purnamadaya purnamevaavashishyate"

"That (pure consciousness) is full(perfect); this(the manifest universe of matter; of names and forms being maya) is full. This fullness has been projected from that fullness. When this fullness merges in that fullness, all that remains is fullness."
-Peace invocation- Isa Upanishad

"The Supreme Brahman(God) is the only Reality. The idea of the phenomenal universe is falsely superimposed upon it."
Swami Nikhilananda of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Centre, New York.


In recent years physicists have had to address the interplay of consciousness and the physical world. In Quantum Physics much has been made over Bell's Theorem. The implications of this theorem and the experimental findings that flow from it are staggering. They force us to consider that the entire notion of a purely objective world is in conflict not only with the theory of quantum mechanics, but with the facts drawn from actual experiments. These findings point insistently to a profound interaction between conscious mental activity and the physical world itself.


The Rishi's vision of a world in which man participates in a seamless existence, indivisibly united with the universe around him, resonates through a discovery called "BELL'S THEOREM". This discovery, first proposed in 1964 by the physicist John S. Bell was first confirmed by experiment in 1972 by Professor John Clauser at Berkley. It is an almost unbelievable result - unbelievable because the logical mind has great difficulty in comprehending how it can be true. Its impact on the physics community has been enormous. Professor Henry Stapp, a physicist at Berkley and an authority on the implications of Bell's Theorem, has called it THE MOST IMPORTANT DISCOVERY IN THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE.

A description of the proof of Bell's theory, as given by Stapp reads:

"If the statistical predictions of quantum theory are true, an objective universe is incompatible with the law of local causes."

Although formidable at first glance, Bell's Theorem seems simpler once key terms are understood.

First, an "objective universe" is simply one that exists apart from our consciousness.

Secondly, the "law of local causes" refers to the fact that events in the universe happen at a speed that does not exceed the speed of light. Things happen, in other words, always at the speed of light or less.This limitation is imposed by Einstein's special theory of relativity, and is a mainstay of modern physical theory. To be accurate, in actual experimental situations, it is not Bell's Theorem that is tested, but the predictions of Quantum Mechanics.

In 1935, Albert Einstein, together with Nathan Rosen and Boris Podolsky proposed through flawless mathematical reasoning that if the quantum theory were correct, then 'A change in the spin of one particle in a two particle system would affect its twin simultaneously, even if the two had been widely separated in the meantime'. And 'simultaneous' is a dirty word in the theory of special relativity, which forbids the transmission of any signal faster than the speed of light. Obviously, a signal telling the particle 'what to do' would have to travel faster than the speed of light if instantaneous changes were to occur between the two particles.

The dilemma into which Einstein, Rosen and Podolsky dragged the quantum theory was a profound one, coming to be known as THE ERP EFFECT.

In 1964 Bell's Theorem emerged as a proof that Einstein's impossible proposition did in fact hold true: instantaneous changes in widely separated systems did occur.

In 1972, Clauser confirmed the statistical predictions of quantum mechanics, working with an elaborate system involving photons, calcite crystals, and photo multiplier tubes The experiment has since been run several times with the same consistent results; Bell's Theorem stands solid.


Even for the physicists involved, the implications of Bell's Theorem are practically unthinkable. Mathematics and experimentation have taken us where our logical mind cannot go. Imagine, two particles once in contact, separated even to the ends of the universe, change instantaneously when a change in one of them occurs!

Slowly, new ideas are emerging to explain these unthinkable occurrences. One view is that, in some unexplainable way, the separated particles are still in contact although separated in space. This is the suggestion of the French physicist Bernard D'Espagnat. In 1979, writing about quantum reality, he said that "the entire notion of an external, fixed, objective world now lies in conflict not only with quantum theory, but in facts drawn from actual experiments.... in some sense all these objects constitute an indivisible whole."

Physicist Jack Sarfatti of the Physics/Consciousness Research Group proposes that no actual energy-requiring signal is transmitted between the distant objects, but 'information' is transmitted instead. Thus no violation of Einstein's special theory of relativity occurs. Exactly what this information is is unclear, and it a strange thing which might travel instantly and require no energy to do so.

Nic Herbert, a physicist who heads the C-Life Institute, suggests that we have merely discovered an elemental oneness of the world. This oneness cannot be diminished by spatial separation. An invisible wholeness unites the objects that are given birth in the universe, and it is this wholeness that we have stumbled into through modern experimental methods. Herbert alludes to the words of the poet Charles Williams: "Separation without separateness, reality without rift."

It would be a mistake to suppose that these effects operate only with relevance to the invisible world of the atom. Professor Henry Stapp states that the real importance of these findings is that they translate directly to our microcosmic existence, implying that the oneness that is implicit in Bell's Theorem envelopes human beings and atoms alike.

The interrelation of human consciousness and the observed world is obvious in Bell's Theorem. Human consciousness and the physical world cannot be regarded as distinct, separate entities. What we call physical reality, the external world, is shaped - to some extent - by human thought. The lesson is clear; we cannot separate our own existence from that of the world outside. We are intimately associated not only with the earth we inhabit, but with the farthest reaches of the cosmos.

Certain quantum physicists now say that each part of the universe contains all the information present in the entire cosmos itself (similar to a giant oak tree producing an acorn that contains all the information to replicate itself).

This assertion is so audacious that it would be dismissed out of hand were it not for the scientific stature of its chief proponent David Bohm, a former associate of Einstein, professor of theoretical physics at Birbeck College of University of London. He is regarded as one of the pre-eminent theoretical physicists of our day.

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Bohm maintains that the information of the entire universe is contained in each of its parts. There is, he says, a stunning example of this principle in photography: the hologram (literally whole message).

Hologram is a specially constructed image which, when illuminated by a laser beam, seems eerily suspended in three dimensional space. The most incredible feature of holograms is that any piece of it, if illuminated with coherent light, provides an image of the entire hologram. The information of the whole is contained in each part. The entire representation of the original object is contained in each portion of the hologram. This principle, says Bohm, extends to the universe at large, that the universe is constructed on the same principles as the hologram. His theory rests on concepts that flow from modern physics. The world is an indivisible whole.

For Bohm, order and unity are spread throughout the universe in a way which escapes our senses. In the same way that order and organisation are spread throughout the hologram. Each part of the universe contains enough information to reconstitute the whole. The form and structure of the entire universe is enfolded within each part.

For many working physicists, these concepts are inescapable conclusions that flow from quantum mechanics and relativity. It is crucial to appreciate the scope of these implications. We frequently assume that quantum physics applies only to the diminutive realm of nature - electrons, protons etc., and that relativity has only to do with massive objects of cosmic proportions -stars, galaxies, nebulae etc. But Bohm's contention is that we are squarely in the middle of these phenomena. Ultimately the entire universe (with all its 'particles' including those constituting human beings, their laboratories, observing instruments etc). has to be understood as a single undivided whole, in which analysis into separately and independently existent parts has no fundamental status.

What are the implications of a holographic universe? As part of the universe, do we have holographic features ourselves that allow us to comprehend a holographic universe? This question has been answered affirmatively by Stanford neurophysiologist Karl Pribram. In an attempt to account for key observations about brain function which for decades have puzzled brain physiologists, Pribram arrived at a radical proposal: the hologram is a model brain function. In essence, the brain is the 'photographic plate' on which information in the universe is encoded.

When the proposals of Bohm and Pribram are conceptually joined, a new model of man emerges: we use a brain that encodes information holographically; and it is a hologram that is a part of an even larger hologram - the universe itself.

Pribram's radical suggestions are founded on work that originated in the laboratory of one of the pioneers of modern neurophysiology, Karl Lashley. At a time when it was popularly believed that there were specific centres in the brain for practically every human function - such as speech, vision, appetite, sleep etc.,- Lashley demonstrated that this was apparently not true for memory. Working with animals, he found that even when bulk of the cerebral cortex was surgically removed, leaving only a remnant intact, the memory of how to perform specific tasks remained. The rapidity and accuracy of the performance was frequently attenuated, but the knowledge was retained.

These findings fit poorly with existing theories about how information is stored in the brain. It was as if memory was spread everywhere in the cortex - but how? Pribram reasoned that the brain contained the memory in each of its parts. The analogy to a hologram was obvious. The entire memory pattern could be found throughout the cerebral cortex if the information had originally been encoded holographically.

In most right handed persons, the left side of the brain is presumed to control the movements of the right side of the body. In instances where the left side of the brain is injured - for example through a stroke or with a trauma -paralysis or profound weakness of the right side of the body is the predictable result. A physician, Richard Restak, has reported a case, in a twenty one year old female in which the entire left side of the brain was removed surgically in order to control epileptic seizures that were unmanageable with any other known form of therapy. The results of the therapy were astonishing.

Although the seizures were stopped, within a few weeks the woman began to regain control of the right side of her body. She was able to return to work and to lead an active social life. Where did the right side of her body receive its motor information with the left side of the brain in the surgeon's pail?

In 1975 a similar case was reported by Smith & Sugar. A six year old male underwent total removal of the left cerebral hemisphere because of intractable epileptic seizures. Conventional neurophysiological wisdom asserts that the left side of the cerebral cortex is responsible for our speech, mathematical reasoning and logical thought in general, and that the right cerebral hemisphere controls our intuitive, non-rational, non-verbal forms of thought. Yet this young man grew up to become a gifted student, proficient in verbal reasoning and language abilities, testing even into the gifted range of on standard intelligence tests.


This indivisibility also applied fundamentally to space and time. Relativity has shown that they are inextricably linked, and cannot be teased apart.

Recall one of the possibilities embodied in Bell's theorem involving non-local features of the universe: objects once in contact, though separated spatially, even if placed at distant ends of the universe, are somehow in inseparable contact. Since any change in one immediately and unmitigatedly causes change in the other, this is a nonlocal occurance, meaning that any information passing between the two objects would have to travel faster than the speed of light to cause such instantaneous change. Since it is impossible for the speed of light to be exceeded, according to the special theory of relativity, this event is said to be noncausal-i.e. not caused by the transfer of any conceivable kind of energy passing between the distant objects.

Although these nonlocal and noncausal descriptions are worked out for objects separated in space, Bohm states that the implications of quantum theory also apply to moments in 'TIME'.

What is crucial is that, according to the theory of relativity, a sharp distinction between space and time cannot be maintained.

We all have roots in the universe. Conscious mental activity exerts measurable effects on the physical world - a world that includes human bodies, organs, tissues, and cells. Mind becomes a legitimate factor in the unfolding of health and disease. The inter-penetration of all matter is the rule. The dividing line between life and non-life is illusory and arbitrary. There is only one valid way, thus, to partake of the universe and that way is characterised by reverence - a reverence born of a felt sense of participation in the universe, of a kinship with all others and with all matter. A reverential attitude that bespeaks a oneness with the universe can transform the commonest act.

Bhagavad Gita, Ch.13,Verses 15 :

"Without and within all beings the unmoving and also the moving; because of Its subtlety, unknowable; and near and far away is That(God)".

Bhagavad Gita, Ch.13, Verse 16:

"And undivided, yet He exists as if divided in beings; He is to be known as the supporter of beings; He devours and He generates."

No division in Consciousness is admissible at any time as it is always one and the same. Even the individuality of the Jiva must be known as false, like the delusion of a snake in a rope. Shankaracharya (Aparokshanubhuti.43)

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By Larry Dossey , M.D.

"In 1980, subjects with elevated blood cholesterol levels were taught the technique of transcendental meditation. Serial determinations of the blood cholesterol level were made. It was found that in subjects who practiced this technique the cholesterol level fell on the average of 20 percent. While this fall may seem modest, it should be noted that there are no drugs that are consistently more effective, safe, and inexpensive as this method of voluntary relaxation and mental quieting. Moreover, blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate, as well as the blood levels of insulin, hydrocortisone, adrenaline, and norepinephrine are modified to more desirable levels."

- Cooper and Aygen "The effect of Meditation."

The significance of these observations is inestimable: by taking thought in ways which 'elongate' the time sense, time-sick individuals can alter many of the devastating effects of the time syndrome.


Our sense of time affects our health by influencing the development and course of specific diseases. This is nowhere more obvious than in persons who have been called Type A individuals by Friedman and Rosenman. Type A persons have "hurry sickness." Their lives are oriented around goals, deadlines, and objectives, which they seem to react to in a driven fashion. They are unable to approach a task in a healthy, balanced way, but in extreme cases seem almost consumed by a need to accomplish and achieve.

Not only do they have an inward sense of urgency, their outward behaviour suggests the same quality. When sitting they may be in constant motion, not only with thoughts, but with body parts- hands, fingers, legs, feet. They are usually vocal, verbally expressing the products of a mind that cannot rest. This behaviour frequently generates discomfort and tension in those around them.

It is as if Type A persons are "time sick." Type A persons are usually ambitious and frequently are highly successsful, having succeeded in harnessing their high motivation and sense of purpose.Yet for all the qualities for which they are admired- their vision, energy, and dedication- they possess, as a group, a characteristic that nobody envies: they have a high mortality rate from heart disease.Type A individuals as a group, die earlier. Their behaviour puts them at risk for the most frequent cause of death in our society, coronary artery disease.

The importance of the exaggerated response to time , the sense of urgency displayed by Type A individuals, is that it is translated into physiologic effects. These effects are pervasive and are seen long before heart disease supervenes. These physiological events are so characteristic of time-sick persons, they could be called the time syndrome. Among them are increased heart rate and blood pressure at rest; elevation of certain blood hormones such as adrenaline, norepinephrine, insulin, growth hormone, and hydrocortisone, all of which are ordinarily secreted in an exaggerated way during times of urgency or stress; increased gastric acid secretion; increased blood cholesterol; an increased respiratory rate; increased secretory activity of sweat glands; an increased muscle tension throughout the body. The time syndrome is a body-mind process with effects on all major systems.

As we learn to meditate, or when we become familiar with the states of consciousness through techniques employing deep relaxation, we develop a familiarity with a new sense of time. We begin to experience time in new ways. We begin to feel at home with time as it expands. Phrases such as "the ever-present now" and "the eternal moment" become full with meaning. Above all, we develop a friendliness with time.

The health-sustaining role of social support systems

We affect the health of those about us. Human events such as caring, loving,touching and confiding exert profound consequences on health.

In Alameda County, California, 4700 men and women were followed over a nine year period, and mortality rates from all causes were examined. Mortality rates in men were significantly higher among the unmarried. Those men who chose fewer social contacts with friends and relatives, and those who were not church members,demonstrated a higher death rate.

A striking result was found in an experiment at Ohio State University. A group of investigators were studying the effects of a diet high in fat and cholesterol in rabbits. At the end of a certain period the rabbits were sacrificed, and certain arteries in their bodies were examined for evidence of atherosclerosis. This process of cholesterol deposition forms obstructions and ulcerations in arteries, and in humans results in vascular disease of various types, such as heart attacks and stroke.

The results of the study should have been rather predictable. But when a certain group of the test rabbits demonstrated atherosclerotic changes which were 60 percent less than that of the overall group, the investigators were astonished! The rabbits who were affected less severely were those who were fed and cared for by one of the investigators who, during the course of the experiment, regularly took them from their cages and petted, stroked, and talked to them.

In order to test this 'coincidence', systematic controlled studies were designed in which two groups of rabbits were again fed the same diet and were treated identically except that one group was removed from their cages several times a day for petting, and were talked to each time by the same person. The results? The petted and talked to group once again demonstrated a 60 percent lower incidence of atherosclerosis.

Not content with the possibility of two coincidences, the Ohio State investigators repeated the study. The results were the same. Touching, petting, handling, and gentle talking emerged as a crucial determinant in the disease process.

A task force in Massachusetts reported to the Secretary of H.E.W. their findings on the likelihood of survival from atherosclerotic heart disease. They found the most reliable factor in determining survival was not smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, or high blood cholesterol levels, but job satisfaction. And the second overall predictor was what the task force termed "overall happiness."

Angina pectoris is the term applied to the pain experienced by patients with atherosclerotic heart disease. Medalie and Goldbourt followed 10,000 Israeli males aged forty years and older to determine the impact of risk factors on the frequency of angina.Most of the commonly known risk factors were correlated with angina, but so too were anxiety and severe psychosocial problems. Most surprising of all was the finding that, among men with severe anxiety, those who perceived their wives to be loving and supportive had half the rate of angina of those who felt unloved and unsupported.

Brown and his colleagues have conducted a series of studies in the United Kingdom, investigating the incidence and prevalence of psychiatric disorders. In a variety of settings (urban and rural) and among different social classes (working and middle class).

The most potent protective factor against psychiatric illness was the presence or absence of an intimate and confiding relationship with a husband or boyfriend; that is, one in which feelings could be shared, whether or not sexual intimacy occurred.

One of the most stressful events in life is the death of a husband or wife. Holmes and Rahe, in assessing the relative stress imposed by various events rated the death of a spouse as the single most stressful occurrence in life.

Krause and Lilienfeld found that age-specific mortality ratios for widowed men and women were two to fourfold higher than for those who were married.

Schleifer found that bereavement, a profoundly stressful event, produce changes in the body's immune system, compromising the defense against infection and cancer.

How do such human experiences as job satisfaction, happiness, and meditation get into the cells? There is a physiology of loving and caring, ranging from embarrassing facial blush to palpitations, sweating and stammering. Feelings of love generate physical events.It may seem a distant transition from being in love in one's teens to being a confidant or a supportive spouse later in life, but physiologic changes are involved on both ends of the spectrum. These changes are not trivial. They can make the difference between life and death.

Social support systems are important for survival

Loving, caring and confiding are crucial matters; matters of life and death.

"A solitary individual wholly independent of others is largely a fiction. In reality, most or even all living beings exist in more or less integrated communities, and the ability to maintain these associations entails some co-operations, or at least, 'proto-co-operation."- T.Dobzhansky, New York.

Our urge toward associating with those of our own kind is rooted in our earliest beginnings.

"Dependency and interdependency are the indispensable conditions of life." - A.Montague, "On Being Human."

Separated from their companions, individual amoebae begin immediately to find their way back to the group.

Wilhelm Roux shook apart the cells in a frog's eggs early in the course of its development and separated the cells at some distance in water. The cells slowly began to approach each other, eventually making contact. There are endless examples in the plant and animal world that social systems are important in the reproductive cycles and survival of living organisms.

If our health is coupled with the perpetuation of our genes, it is also tied to our association with members of our species. As G.G.Simpson has said in 'Life of the Past':

"No animal or plant lives alone or is self-sustaining. All live in communities including other members of their own species and also a number, usually a large variety, of other sorts of animals and plants. The quest to be alone is indeed a futile one, never successfully followed in the history of life."

The psychological effects of urgency - stress, anxiety, tension- do not stay in the psyche. They are translated into the body where they eventuate in physical ailments. The sense of urgency generates infirmity, disease and death.

In contrast, the psychological sense that accompanies the perception of time as static and nonflowing is one of tranquility, serenity and peace. It is the sense of oneness of unity, the feeling of calm and release. Mind and body are intrinsically united, and consciousness is the fulcrum of health.

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Vedanta as the synthesis
of Science and Religion
By Swami Ranganathananda, Ramakrishna Math:
Extracts (abridged)

The spirit of enquiry finds expression in any department of scientific study in the gathering of relevant facts and their rational interpretation. The practice of religion is nothing but a ceaseless quest after the facts of the inner life. A dispassionate study of these facts constitutes the science of religion which seeks to unravel the mystery of our inner being- the lights that guide us and the laws that mould us.

If 'man, the known', constituted of his body and its environing world, is the subject of study of the natural sciences, 'man. the unknown' is the subject of study of the science of religion. The synthesis of both these sciences is the high function of philosophy as understood in India. It is this function which Vedanta has performed in this country (India), ever since the time of the Upanishads. Exercising a pervasive and effective influence on our national thought and culture, Vedanta has spared us not only the fruitless opposition of reason to faith and vice versa, but also the more dangerous manifestation of this opposition in the form of intolerance, persecution, and suppression of opinion.

The need for a Vedantic approach to science and religion is insistent today when both have shed their respective prejudices and come closer to each other, imbued with the passion to serve man and save his civilisation. It is only such a synthesis of philosophy which blends in itself the flavour of the faith of religion and the reason of science that can reconstruct modern man, by restoring to him the integrity of his being and the unity

The 'Within' and the 'Without' of Nature

Explaining this Indian approach to religion and the cause of the misunderstanding between science and religion, Swami Vivekananda said:

"Religion deals with the truths of the metaphysical world, just as chemistry and the other natural sciences deal with the truth of the physical world. The book one must read to learn chemistry is the book of (external) nature. The book from which to learn religion is your own mind and heart. The sage is often ignorant of physical science, because he reads the wrong book - the book within and the scientist is too often is ignorant of religion, because he, too, reads the wrong book - the book without".

The practice of religion is a ceaseless quest after the facts of a man's inner life, at the innermost depth of which it finds the truth of God, which it defines as infinite existence, infinite knowledge, and infinite bliss, the Sat-Chit-Ananda Brahman it comes across, at the intermediate depths, and all higher values which find expression in man's ethical, moral, and aesthetic experiences. A dispassionate study of these facts constitutes the science of religion, the science of art of the spiritual life.

It is the eternal glory of Vedanta that the great thinkers of the Upanishads grappled with these questions: What is this universe? What is man? What is his destiny? Long ago they discovered that the universe of experience consists of two broad categories, the subjective and the objective. It is important to remember that this idea is basic to an understanding of Vedanta and to an understanding of whither science is going today. Now, when we apply this classification to the whole universe, we get the corollary that modern science is the study of only one of the two categories, namely, the objective field. But modern science is also trying to understand the subjective field.

Psychology is one such science. But Western psychology has suffered from too great a dominance by psychology . By resorting to time and space methodology, we get a knowledge of the 'without' of things, but not of their 'within'. Much of psychology in the West is behaviouristic psychology: it is a study of the human mind through the study of human behaviour.

But Western psychologists have also tried to break from this kind of limitation and have developed, through psycho-analysis, the beginning of what is called depth psychology. This is just the beginning of a great movement in modern psychology which, if continued steadily and penetratingly, will bring it to the truth of the real nature of man which Vedanta reached ages ago in India - the eternal, undying Self of man, the Atman.

Vedanta and modern science are close to each other in spirit and temper. They are close to each other in their objectives and in very many of their conclusions as well. Even in the cosmology of the physical universe, we find so many points of contact. The fundamental position in the cosmology of both science and Vedanta is what Swami Vivekananda calls the postulate of a self-evolving cause. Vedanta says that there is one self-evolving cause, Brahman, behind the universe. Science says that behind this universe there is one self-evolving cause, the background material, in the words of astronomer Fred Hoyle.

Both believe in the theory of a cosmic evolution. There are a number of such similarities. The truths expounded in the Upanishads are impersonal, Apauruseya, not deriving sanction from any person. Scientific truths are similarly impersonal, objective, not deriving sanction from any person. Because they are impersonal, they are universal, and provide a clear insight into the nature of the world. That is science.

When we study the development of science during the last hundred years, we can trace the higher reaches of science slowly appearing on the horizon, and trace also the slow emergence of a non-materialistic outlook in science.

Modern Physics and Philosophical Reason

In countless ways, every department of physical science today is extending the bounds of man’s knowledge of fundamental unity behind the manifold diversities of the universe. Physical science started with the exploration of the mysteries of external nature; but at the farthest end of this search, it finds itself face to face with the mystery of man, of his mind and consciousness, the deepest mystery of all.

The philosophies of the East, particularly the Vedanta of India, including Buddhist thought, directly faced this mystery of man, more than two thousand years ago, by initiating the exploration of the internal world and carrying it through to its depths. And, today, we witness a steady convergence of these two indirect and direct approaches in the steady emergence of a common philosophy of the one behind the many.

Physicists of the first quarter of the twentieth century, faced with the challenge of the revolutionary discoveries of relativity and quantum physics, turned into bold philosophical thinkers, initiating the development of reason of physics into Buddhi or philosophical Reason, by transforming it into a critique , not only of the observed sense-data of the physical world, but also of man the observer. Starting with Eddington, Jeans, Max Planck, Einstein, Shrodinger, Niels Bohr, Heisenberg, and other great creators of twentieth-century physics, this philosophical trend has grown through the last five decades, culminating in The Tao of Physics of Berkeley University Physics Professor, Dr.Fritjof Capra.

Concluding his Space, Time and Gravitation, Eddington hinted at the emergence of the mystery of man from the study of the mystery of physical nature:

"The theory of relativity has passed in review the whole subject-matter of physics. It has unified the great laws which, by the precision of their formulation and the exactness of their application, have won the proud place in human knowledge which physical science holds today. And yet, in regard to the nature of things, this knowledge is only an empty shell- a form of symbols. It is knowledge of structural form, and not knowledge of content. All through the physical world runs that unknown content, which must surely be the stuff of our consciousness.

Here is a hint of aspects deep within the world of physics, and yet unattainable by the methods of physics. And, moreover, we have found that, where science has progressed the farthest, the mind has but regained from nature that which the mind has put into nature. We have found a strange footprint on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origin. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the footprint. And lo! It is our own."

Hints such as these, given by the earlier philosopher-scientists, have developed into positive affirmations in Dr.Capra. The very title of his book: ‘The Tao of Physics’, is significant in this connection, apart from the masterly and fascinating exposition he gives, in the course of the book, of his main thesis that:

"the basic elements of the Eastern world-view are also those of the world-view emerging from modern physics,"

and that:

"Eastern thought, and more generally, mystical thought, provide a consistent and relevant philosophical background to the theories of contemporary science."

Noting that, through the two centuries of association with the philosophy of materialism and the contemporary reaction against the ravages wrought by over-technology, the image of science in the eyes of modern man has suffered much damage, Capra seeks to restore the image of pure science as the discipline in the pursuit of truth and human excellence, not in opposition but in tune with the spiritual heritage of man, and more especially, of the spiritual heritage of the East:

Capra writes:

"This book aims at improving the image of science by showing that there is an essential harmony between the spirit of Eastern wisdom and Western science. It attempts to suggest that modern physics goes far beyond technology, that the way–or Tao-of physics can be a path with a heart, a way to spiritual knowledge and self-realisation."

Echoing the voice of Vedanta and all mystical thought that the fundamental search for reality takes man beyond the senses and the sensory world of phenomena, Capra says:

"On this journey to the world of the infinitely small, the most important step, from a philosophical point of view, was the first one: the step into the world of atoms. Probing inside the atom and investigating its structure, science transcended the limits of our sensory imagination. From this point on, it could no longer rely with absolute certainty on logic and common sense. Atomic physics provided the scientists with the first glimpses of the essential nature of things. Like the mystics, physicists were now dealing with a non-sensory experience of reality and, like the mystics, they had to face the paradoxical aspects of this experience. From then on, therefore, the models and images of modern physics became akin to those of Eastern philosophy."

Referring to the basic unity of the universe, as upheld in Eastern mysticism and modern physics, Capra says:

"The most important characteristic of the Eastern world-view- one could almost say the essence of it- is the awareness of the unity and mutual interrelation of all things and events…. The Eastern traditions constantly refer to this ultimate indivisible reality, which manifests itself in all things, and of which all things are parts. It is called Brahman in Hinduism, Dharmakaya in Buddhism, and Tao in Taoism…"

"The basic oneness of the universe is not only the central characteristic of the mystical experience, but is also one of the most important revelations of modern physics. It becomes apparent at the atomic level, and manifests itself more and more as one penetrates deeper into matter, down into the realm of sub-atomic particles. The unity of all things and events will be a recurring theme throughout our comparison of modern physics and the Eastern philosophy."

Both speak of reality as transcending space, time, and causality. Referring to this kinship, Dr.Capra says:

"The space-time of relativistic physics is a similar timeless space of a higher dimension. All events in it are interconnected, but the connections are not causal. Particle interactions can be interpreted in terms of cause and effect only when the space-time diagrams are read in a definite direction, e.g., from the bottom to the top. When they are taken as four dimensional patterns without any definite direction of time attached to them, there is no ‘before’ and no ‘after’, and thus no causation".

"Similarly, the Eastern mystics assert that, in transcending time, they also transcend the world of cause and effect. Like our ordinary notions of space and time, causation is an idea which is limited to a certain experience of the world and has to be abandoned when this experience is extended. In the words of Swami Vivekananda (Jnana Yoga):

‘Time, space, and causation are like the glass through which the Absolute is seen. … In the Absolute there is neither time, space, nor causation.’ –Swami Vivekananda

Capra continues:

"The Eastern spiritual traditions show their followers various ways of going beyond the ordinary experience of time and of freeing themselves from the chain of cause and effect- from the bondage of Karma, as the Hindus and Buddhists say. It has therefore been said that Eastern mysticism is a liberation from time. The same may be said of relativistic physics."

Again Capra says:

"Subsequent to the emergence of the field concept, physicists have attempted to unify the various fields into a single fundamental field which would incorporate all physical phenomena. Einstein, in particular, spent the last years of his life searching for such a unified field. The Brahman of the Hindus, like the Dharmakaya of the Buddhists, and the Tao of the Taoists, can be seen, perhaps, as the ultimate unified field, from which spring not only the phenomena studied in physics, but all other phenomena as well"

"In the Eastern view, the reality underlying all phenomena is beyond all forms and defies all description and specification. It is, therefore, often said to be formless, empty, or void. But this emptiness is not to be taken for mere nothingness. It is, on the contrary, the essence of all forms and the source of all life. Thus the Upanishads say (Chandogya Upanishad, 4-10-4):

‘Brahman is life, Brahman is joy.
Brahman is the void. …
Joy ,verily, that is the same as the void.
The void, verily, that is the same as joy’".

Atomic physics is confronted with the problem of consciousness through the datum of the ‘observer’ or to use the new, and more meaningful term coined by physicist John Wheeler, ‘participator.’ Accordingly, Dr.Capra says:

"In modern physics, the question of consciousness has arisen in connection with the observation of atomic phenomena. Quantum theory has made it clear that these phenomena can only be understood as links in a chain of processes, the end of which lies in the consciousness of the human observer. In the words of Eugene Wigner (Symmetries and Reflections- Scientific Essays):

‘It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.’ – Eugene Wigner

Dr.Capra continues:

"The pragmatic formulation of quantum theory used by the scientists in their work does not refer to their consciousness explicitly. Wigner and other physicists have argued, however, that the explicit inclusion of human consciousness may be an essential aspect of future theories of matter."

"Such a development would open exciting possibilities for a direct interaction between physics and Eastern mysticism. The understanding of one’s consciousness and its relation to the rest of the universe is the starting point of all mystical experience. … If physicists really want to include the nature of human consciousness in their realm of research, a study of Eastern ideas may well provide them with stimulating new viewpoints."

Referring to spiritual kinship between modern science and ancient Vedanta, Swami Vivekananda said in his speech at the Parliament of Religions held at Chicago in 1893:

"Manifestation, and not creation, is the word of science today, and the Hindu is only glad that what he has been cherishing in his bosom for ages is going to be taught in more forcible language, and with further light, from the latest conclusions of science."

Confirming this view of Swami Vivekananda, that the physicist and the mystic reach the truth of unity, though following different approaches, Dr.Capra says:

"In contrast to the mystic, the physicist begins his inquiry into the essential nature of things by studying the material world. Penetrating into ever deeper realms of matter, he has become aware of the essential unity of all things and events. More than that, he has also learnt that he himself and his consciousness are an integral part of this unity. Thus the mystic and the physicist arrive at the same conclusion; one starting from the inner realm, the other from the outer world. The harmony between their views confirms the ancient Indian wisdom that Brahman, the ultimate reality, is identical to Atman, the reality within."


Understood in this light, there is no conflict between science and religion, between the physical sciences and the science of spirituality. Both have the identical aim of discovering truth and helping man to grow physically, mentally, and spiritually, and achieve fulfilment. But each by itself is insufficient and helpless. They have been tried separately with unsatisfactory results. The older civilisations took guidance mostly from religion; their achievements were partial and limited. Modern civilisation relies solely on science; its achievements also have turned out to be partial and limited.

The combination today, of the spiritual energies of these two complementary disciplines in the life of man will produce fully integrated human beings, and thus help to evolve a complete human civilisation, for which the world is ripe and waiting. This is the most outstanding contribution of Swami Vivekananda to human thought today. This synthetic vision of his finds lucid expression in a brief but comprehensive testament of his Vedantic conviction:

" Each soul is potentially divine.

The goal of life is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external (through physical sciences, technology, and socio-political processes) and internal (through ethical, aesthetic, and religious processes):

Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy-by one, or more, or all of these-and be free.

This is the whole of religion. Doctrines or dogmas or rituals or books or temples or forms, are but secondary details." -Swami Vivekananda

This science and technique for realising the true glory of man, followed with scientific thoroughness and detachment by the sages of the Upanishads, and revalidated by a succession of spiritual experimenters down the ages from Buddha to Ramakrishna, is glowingly revealed in one of the immortal verses of the Svetasvatara Upanishad:

"Hear, ye children of immortal bliss, even ye that reside in higher spheres! I have found the Ancient One, who is beyond all darkness, all delusion; knowing Him alone, you shall be saved from death over again."