Quantum physicists' interest in the Hindu Vedanta: science and soul conscioussness.

I mentioned previously Schrödinger's interest in the Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism.

I found another eminent quantum physicists, Eugene Paul Wigner, who also had an interest in the Vedanta.

Wigner wrote on Sri Ramakrishna:

The waves of religious thought rise and fall, and on the topmost one stands the prophet of the period. Ramakrishna came to teach the religion of today, constructive, not destructive. He had to go afresh to nature to ask for facts, and he got scientific religion which never says "believe," but "see." "I see and you too, can see"---said Vivekananda.

Until not many years ago, the existence of a mind or soul would have been passionately denied by most physical scientists. The brilliant success of mechanistic and, more generally, macroscopic physics, and of chemistry, overshadowed the obvious fact that thoughts, desires, and emotions are not made of matter and it was nearly universally accepted among physical scientists that there is nothing besides matter.

The Wigner's friend paradox is at the origin of the theory that it is consciousness that causes a quantum wave to collapse (but that idea is still very controversial):

Consciousness causes collapse is the theory that observation by a conscious observer is responsible for the wavefunction collapse in quantum mechanics. It is an attempt to solve the Wigner's friend paradox by simply stating that collapse occurs at the first "conscious" observer. Supporters claim this is not a revival of substance dualism, since (in a ramification of this view) consciousness and objects are entangled and cannot be considered as separate. The consciousness causes collapse theory can be considered as a speculative appendage to almost any interpretation of quantum mechanics and most physicists regard it as a non-scientific concept, claiming that it is 1) unverifiable and 2) introduces unnecessary elements into physics.

It has been claimed that the theory meshes well with ancient Eastern mysticism and philosophy, including that of Buddhism which includes a belief in the transitory, interconnected nature of all things and the illusion of separation of thought and existence. This is one of the major themes of the book The Dancing Wu Li Masters. It also meshes well with the views of the New Thought movement.

The view is also presented in the popular and controversial documentaries What the Bleep Do We Know!? and The Secret,

Note the added emphasis: not so long ago, scientists would have denied that anything beside matter exist. But we know now that matter is mostly made of emptiness and a bunch of sub-atomic particles whose behaviour is really bizarre. Now, scientists do not deny the existence of a soul or non-physical (non-material) consciousness. They merely say that is is not provable and thus conveniently brush the idea under the carpet.

I am happy with the scientist keeping the soul out of their equations. What I would like, though, is that the scientists on one side, the mystics on the other, and the rest of us in the middle be clear on the fundamental difference between the realms investigated by the two groups: to the scientist, the physical 3D world, to the mystics everything beyond that.

Thus, the idea is not to use science to prove or disprove the existence of a soul, but to understand that it is not necessarily its job to do so.

To Augustin

Hi! First of all thank you for this post as I did not knew that Schrodinger and Wigner were also influenced by Hindu philosophies. I notice your interest in ancient Indian knowledge and your keenness to establish a relation between consciousness and matter. Since I am from India, I should be able to help you out in understanding these topics better. For now I should tell you that the ancient Vedic knowledge was most profound and significant than any other knowledge that we have so far known. I recommend for you the Bhagvad-Gita, which is a jewel amongst all texts so far written. (Do not read its commentaries, which many books contain, they are not meaningful for first-time readers) I feel very helpless to see that people are unable to understand their objective. For example, a scientist who is hell bent on discarding the existence of God from all equations because he thinks he is pursuing rationality, does not understand that his such attempts have become profound reasons for encouragement of sinful activities. He thus fails his objective of being a human being first. It would not be exaggerating if I say that there is only one way to end all miseries of mankind and that is by following the guidelines of Bhagvad-Gita. It seemed utter nonsense to me when I first read it, but now after reading it perhaps more than 100 times, I understand amost of its implications and know now that there is only path to take. I would say goodbye now, you can discuss your things with me. :-)

Bhagvad-Gita - science and religion.

The Bhagvad-Gita is one of the Spiritual book that I wish to read ... and understand, one day.

I am still interested in the relationship between science and religions. I don't spend too much time on it right now, because I am working on other projects.

Still, I would like to understand better both science and religion. When people argue about one or the other, I often have the impression that they don't understand what they are talking about. They either have the wrong impression of science (modern science, and history of science), or of religion... or both.

One of my wishes was to use one section of this site to explore both in relationship to each other.

Re: Bhagvad-Gita - science and religion.

I totally understand your intention to understand science and religion, in relationship to one another. And just to endorse your view, I say that I have heard very few people who admit that science and religion hold their respective places.

The fact that science plays an important role in our life cannot be undermined. It helps in the understanding of Nature and makes that knowledge available to us for our benefit. However, its sphere of work is limited to that purpose. It cannot, for example, tell you what morality is or how to manage your thoughts and actions.

Science is a subject that I put into the category of what I call "auxiliary knowledge". On the other hand religion is not a subject; it is a way of life. The knowledge of the principles of life that are undisputable (as has been described in the Bhagvad-Gita) is what I put into the category of "core knowledge". This means that core knowledge has to be given precedence over auxiliary knowledge, but unfortunately the situation today is just opposite.

Please do not take offence of the fact that I name only Bhagvad-Gita or Vedanta when I talk about religion. It is nothing to with the fact that I am Hindu, but that extensive research has gone into this before reaching to such a conclusion. Hinduism, as it is called today, is the oldest religion of the world (at that time, the term religion would not have meant the same thing that it today means, for there was only one religion) and this alone has not originated out of any single person. Most of its philosophies originated well before the advent of any other religion and its knowledge is being reaffirmed by modern science.

You say that you are working on other projects. My advice to you would be to first complete your understanding of science and religion. For anyone to acquire a perfect sense of the world, it is important to realize the harmony of science and religion. (Please remember as to what I mean by religion.)

Books to read

I forgot to mention that there a few more books to read. Other Worlds by Paul Davies, The Tao of Physics by Fitjof Capra and Advait Vedanta & Modern Science by John Dobson.

Re: Books to read

I made the last post in a real hurry. In fact, I am always in a hurry heh. Anyway I wanted to say a few more things. These books have helped me immensely in understanding the world and that is why I recommended them for you or for anyone who wants to understand this world. But each of them needs to be read thoroughly and with complete analysis of subject matter.

Paul Davies is a scientist who takes a purely scientific route to accomplish answers of the ultimate. Although in one of his book he concedes in the last lines that perhaps the answers to the ultimate can be achieved only through the path of mysticism. He is a fabulous writer and pours every detail in the matters he discusses. What he unwittingly does to our purpose in his book Other Worlds is to give explicit details of the limits of physics in both microscopic and macroscopic domain.

Fitjof Capra's classic The Tao of Physics joins the loose ends of the scientific and religious cords and explains the parallelism between modern science and eastern philosophies.

Finally, there is something I want to say about Bhagvad-Gita. It is a text that cannot be understood, it can only be realized and there is only one way to realize it

Augustin:Really speaking


Really speaking both, Scientists and Spiritualists, are looking at the same question:

How does the Infinite manifest as the Finite?

The Scientists are asking how the Wave manifests as particle... and Spiritualists are asking how does "God" manifest as the Creation.

You quoted Swami Vivekananda - he said one thing very interesting that the Sanskrit word for "Creation" is Srishti (which means Manifestation, word for Creation in Sanskrit is called Kriti, which is never used for creation btw)

Although, I believe that Bhagwad Gita represents the MOST radical spiritual philosophy in the history of mankind in many ways - the book that I believe will bowl you over in context of Quantum mechanics is Vasistha Yoga. The English translation is by Swami Venkatesananda (SUNY publication).

Check this post on my blog out.


Scientists and Spiritualists are looking at the same question?

Hello Desh,

If you think Scientists and Spiritualists are looking at the same question that you mentioned, here is some food for thought. Science is completely incapable of answering this question, so scientists may seek to find the answer to that question but what they will always get is a smoke of answers, never the actual answer.
Whereas spiritualism does not seek answers, it is meant to seek experience (experience for the soul not for the mind). For a true spiritualist, the question is not how God manifests the Creation but rather what is his own ultimate end and how to get to that end, which is actually the source of his beginning.

The answer is laid down in the Gita and Upnishads quite explicitly, yet they do not catch everyone's attention. The reason - people become critical of these texts because they 'cannot' comprehend some of the messages. The Gita is not to be debated and not to be criticized, yet can be analyzed. Krishna has already warned in the 18th chapter that those who listen to Him without being critical and having total faith, only to those this knowledge would serve.

Follow the Gita, for example, begin with detachment. If you are able to guide yourself to function without any sort of attachment, you would feel the power of the Gita that very instance because then there is nothing to loose or gain from this world and you come to tranquility.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I have read your blogs and I see that you are more inclined to 'physical' knowledge of the world than the knowledge of the self. The knowledge of the self arises only from what has been suggested in the Gita and that happens only through realization of the Gita. Realization occurs not by discussion or thinking but inculcating the suggestions of the Gita through actions of both mind and body.

Vayne - thanks for your

Vayne - thanks for your thoughts... I can't comment on what you think I believe in because that is your evaluation based on your beliefs. I personally don't share your evaluation.

Regarding Gita, Lord Krishna was really unique. He had told Arjun in the very first chapter to go and fight.. if like other Saints, "Believe what I say without question" was how he wanted it all to be, then he set a very bad example indeed! After he instructed Arjun to fight in the 1st chapter, Arjun asks him in 3rd chap/1st "First you tell me Jnana, then Karma.. don't confuse me.. give me one way". Then 4th chap/1st verse "How do I know what you are saying is true?".. Not ONCE.. does Arjun say UNTIL he sees the Viraat roop, that "I trust what you say". He keeps questioning relentlessly!

Read Yoga Vasistha.. its the same thing. Ram keeps Maharishi Vasistha on his toes and keeps cross-questioning (Ram was the student in that case).

Belief was NEVER a virtue in Hinduism. Krishna was FAR GREATER than he is made out to be. He changed the paradigm of spiritual thought completely! Never before or after did anyone bring Love, Knowledge, and Action as relevant and valid "topologies" on which people could go to Freedom.

If what you are "seeking" is Infinite, then where is the need to go to "ultimate end"? Is that end, different from you? If the consciousness we "seek" is really infinite, then "from where" do you go "to where"?

The truth is that EVERYONE, EVERYTHING, EVERY ATOM is "Enlightened". It cannot be otherwise! Just that some have "realized" it and some have not. Thats all!

So, the realization that our "Truth" is not matter, but the Infinite is the only thing people try to work towards. Now its not something that you "get to".. but its like waking up.. you are where you are.. you will still be there....

And about downplaying "Jnana" read Gita again please.. Jnana is said to be important even for realization of the Bhakti (Love) and Karma (Action) paths. Without Jnana its all useless. Like Vasistha tells Ram in Yoga Vasistha.. Self effort or Purusharth is the key. Krishna says the same thing! (In fact Maharishi Vasistha goes on to tell Ram about how Krishna will give the message of Gita in the subsequent Yuga.. and then gives a summary - one of the BEST!)

If you think that lord Vishnu can be seen without self-effort, why do the birds and beasts not get uplifted by him? If it is true that the guru can spiritually uplift one without the need for self-effort, then why does the guru not so uplift a camel or a bull. No, nothing whatsoever is gained with the help of god or guru or wealth or other means, but only by self-effort at a complete mastery of the mind. What cannot be attained by the resolute practice of self-mastery coupled with uncoloredness (freedom from every form of mental conditioning) cannot be attained by any other means in the three worlds.

I see no difference in view

Desh - I am confused over your comment about what "evaluation" you do not share. If you think that I am downplaying knowledge then that is not what I meant. No doubt that our quests and endeavors begins with gyan and there is no substitute for it. However, what I meant to say was that knowledge takes you nowhere until you inculcate the knowledge through mind and bodily actions. It is karm that decides one's fate and not gyan. The repercussions are of karm and not gyan. That is why it is karm that matters, but without knowledge actions cannot be proper so knowledge is equally important however not the decisive one. So translation of good knowledge into good action is what is required in the end and not simply knowledge.

Now the Gita gives you two things - the Jnana-yog and the Karma-yog. The first explains what is the world and how one should live. The second explains how to perform actions. The second however is the decisive one. Jnana-yog is like a show-off without Karma-yog.

Also, you say we are seeking the infinite and so there is no ultimate end? Well, its a different kind of "ultimate end". You are right to say that "the end" is not different from us or separated from us by any distance, but that is the problem - the separation is not of space or of time - this separation is of ultimate potency and it is called Maya - the material universe around us and that's what separates us from our ultimate end. So how do we cross this separation? The only way is by following jnana-yog, karma-yog and bhakti-yog, that is by becoming Gunateet and purifying one's soul.

I want to correct you on one front though. Arjun never said "How do I know what you are saying is true?" In the 4th chapter he said - "How should I understand that you gave this knowledge to the Sun-god" and Krishna answered his query. (Perhaps you are reading the wrong texts) Yes, in the beginning he debated for once but that is natural as he was not composed.

Now as far as your thoughts on "questioning" is concerned, I would never say that questioning is bad. I questioned the Gita a lot when I started reading it but surprisingly, even to myself, I was never critical in my subconscious mind. However, questioning the one whom we call God is a different thing. If God comes to me in broad-daylight and tells me "Son! This is night" then I would surely discard my senses. Because God does not follows logic, knowledge or even righteousness, but instead these follow Him. What He says is ultimate and binding in one way or the other. But there is no problem in questioning Him till you are satisfied. But the longer you take to satisfy, the longer is your wait for a conclusion, and the longer is your wait for a conclusion, longer is your delay to follow the ultimate path that leads to the ultimate end.