People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.
What if the real world isn’t made up of objects at all. What if it’s a hologram?
—Three quarks for Muster Mark!
Sure he hasn’t got much of a bark
And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.
— James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake
The discoveries of modern science, especially in the fields of physics and astronomy, are revealing realms so enormous and so tiny and so strange, that they might as well be science fictions. The latest evidence is showing us that what we all call “reality” is probably just an illusion or perhaps some intricate cosmic joke, and in fact we live in a world where there is no time and no space and no solid matter. This journal you are holding in your hands may only exist in your mind!
From relativity to complementarity, from superclusters of galaxies to particles without weight to things that go backwards in time, there is another reality that has been emerging into view for over half a century now, but we still can’t see it. This latest truth has not yet begun to penetrate our collective psyche; modern science has not yet found its slang. Eventually, however, the new knowledge will deeply alter our philosophy and our behavior; perhaps even our religions will someday worship the forces that are just being discovered today.
Reading about the findings of modern science I somehow get a sense of peace. Here is Science bent to ease us, expanding our perspectives, increasing our wonder, confirming our understanding that this world and this life are a very small part of a much bigger story, just a freckle on the face of eternity, a spit in the cosmic ocean. As the scientists track the numerous and powerful forces that condition our existence, and chart the long and complicated stretched out chain of energy and matter that leads to us in this moment, we might be relieved a little of the burden of being ourselves. Personally, I am humbled by the complexity and awed by the dimensions of it all. But finally, modern science is teaching us that we don’t know very much about any of it, let alone what it could possibly mean.
I recall my fascination when I found out that over 90 percent of my body is actually water. Then I was told that water, the H2O molecule, is almost all empty space. But if that is the case, then what is holding my clothes on? How can I even stand up? With these puzzles I began to understand that this world is just a magic act. And I am part of the illusion.
I used to be concerned about doing something during my life that would live on after I died, a silly desire on the face of it. More than anything I wanted to write a song that people would sing forever. Recently I have been reading about the holographic paradigm, David Bohm and Karl Pribram’s theory of how all things are “enfolded” in an “implicate order,” a primary underlying reality that is beyond space and time. I am relieved. In the holographic universe my song is being sung right now in all times and all places. It has been recorded in a dimension that will never wear out, and it will always be on the cosmic charts. When there is no time and space we are all immediately immortal.
No doubt many of you are aware of the “one hundredth monkey” theory. It says that if enough members of a species learn something new, then at some point the entire species will spontaneously begin to understand it. Somehow when a certain critical number achieves an awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from being to being, even across large distances. Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of “morphic resonance” is a scientific attempt to explain how this occurs. I am hoping that you and enough of your friends will read up on this theory, and then maybe I won’t have to.
Just like Adam and Eve, the scientists took a bite of the apple from the tree of knowledge when they went searching for the deepest secrets of the world, the essence of matter. First they split matter open, and then they split it open again, and then again. Finally, they split it open again, and behold, there, inside this minute, infinitesimal piece of almost nothing they found—all of the energy of the universe! The Furies themselves were locked up inside this tiny particle, with the power to destroy the world and banish us forever from the garden. The scientists called it fission energy, but the politicians had them make a bomb out of it. The Knowledge became The Terror.
So now the physicists want to make amends and put the atom back together again. They call it fusion. All they have to do is create temperatures in the laboratory equivalent to those on the sun. No problem, say the scientists. They can now reach these temperatures routinely and soon will have perfected the technique to put the atoms back together. Someday, in laboratories across the country there will be machines generating temperatures as hot as the sun. No problem, say the scientists. No problem.
The latest speculation of the astronomers is that 99 percent of the universe is made up of so-called “dark matter,” and all the galaxies seem to be imbedded in massive clouds of invisible material. See if you can expand your Big Sky Mind meditation to include all that stuff.
Physicists have discovered particles that seem to go backwards in time, and some say that there may even be a whole universe that goes backwards in time. There are advantages and disadvantages. You get to eat dessert first, but the plots of movies are ruined.
Either the Buddha said, or someone said he said, that there are seventeen-trillion mind moments in every wink of an eye. Imagine! The Buddha slowed his mind down until he could count that many transformations in every second; he saw how little time it takes for things to arise and pass away. A few months ago, scientists at the University of California dedicated a powerful new laser machine called Nova, which can isolate and photograph phenomena taking place every trillionth of a second. They should have called that machine “Gautama.”
Do you have trouble believing in other realms of existence? British physicist Paul Davies is convinced there are as many as eleven dimensions. I wonder if he is counting the unconditioned state as one of them.
One of my favorite pieces of scientific wisdom is the Uncertainty Principle, sometimes called indeterminacy. This principle basically says that you can’t know everything; you can’t pin the universe down. What you find depends on what you are looking for. In one sense the Uncertainty Principle undercuts the whole scientific method; it liberates the subjective once again. Whether you like it or not, you do create your own reality.
Everything in the universe seems to be expanding away from everything else in the universe, equally in all directions. Whether you like it or not you are the center of it all.
What is the matter? For that matter, what is the anti-matter?
No matter? Never mind.
No mind? No matter.
THE FIRST CHURCH OF SCIENCE. I can picture it now. The ceiling would be a large revolving planetarium, displaying a continually accurate view of the heavens out to a distance of hundreds of millions of light years, to the limit of the astronomers explorations. The stained glass windows around the chapel would show scenes from the story of evolution, with current Homo sapiens pictured first as you enter the church, so that as you approach the altar you are moving backwards in a relative space-time, toward the unknown beginning, one of the few mysteries left to be solved. In the naves of the church would be bas-reliefs or statues of the Saints of Science, each of them at the moment of their revelation: Heraclitus standing in his ever-changing river; Galileo looking through his telescope at the stars, Euclid with his ruler and crude triangle: Einstein with his tongue sticking out, Schrodinger with a cat on his shoulder, Heisenberg looking uncertain.
The last of the stained glass windows shows a one-celled organism, and then, you reach the altar at the front of the church. On either side of the stage are giant replicas of hydrogen and helium atoms, while all across the back of the altar are electrified models of other atoms, enlarged and spinning in their orbits, crashing into each other and exploding into flashes of light, giving the feeling of an ever-moving and dynamic reality of charged particles. And there, in the center, where the Crucifix or Ark of the Torah normally stand, is the sacred symbol of the religion; six white dots on a field of black—a representation of the six known quarks! THE BASIC STUFF. The Holy Sextet; “Up,” “Down,” “Top,” “Bottom,” “Strange” and “Charmed.” AMEN.
As we enter the church, the congregation, all dressed in white lab coats, is reciting the table of basic elements and preparing to read from the new Scientific Version of The Bible. Genesis: “As far as our evidence now shows, in the beginning was the BIG BANG . . . . ” In the only significant prayer of the new church, the supplicants bow their heads and pray that somebody will soon come up with a Unified Field Theory. And finally, the congregation of the First Church of Science will chant their great Mantra, which not only contains the seed syllable of the universe but also the name of the seed itself, the Mahamantra; “ATOM AH HUM, ATOM AH HIM, ATOM AH HUM . . . . ”
And in conclusion, a little poem:
One word less.