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The Quest


Always the hope and expectation of science has been to find a beautiful simplicity underlying all the multifarious complexities of the visible world. We have traced the enormous variety in the life forms of this planet back through the long course of genetic evolution to very much simpler forms. The chemical energies on which most of these life forms function we have traced back to sunlight, and yet further back to the gravitational energy of hydrogen dispersed in space. We have traced the materials of this sense world back to the ninety-two chemical elements which compose them and, in the latter half of the present century, we have traced the ninety-two chemical elements, through stellar evolution, back to hydrogen. The farther back we trace it the simpler it looks, and always there lurks the hope that if we trace it back far enough we’ll find that beautiful simplicity.

The same hope, of course, has driven the philosophers and the mystics, but unlike the quest of many mystics and philosophers the quest of those whom we call scientists has always been through the outside world, through questioning the external universe — what is called the objective universe. But how does the notion arise that the universe exists outside and independent of the observer? How can we be sure that the external universe-is not our dream? What is the evidence that the events of this universe are not conjured up by the observer himself?

The evidence that is usually pointed to is the agreement between the descriptions by various observers. If more than one observer can come to an agreement in the description of an event, it is usually presumed that the event could not have been conjured up by one of them. It is not that the descriptions need be identical, but only that the observers can reach an agreement on the nature of the event which, seen from their different points of view, would have given rise to their different descriptions. For example, two observers seeing an "object" in motion might disagree on the direction of its motion. One might see the object moving toward his right, while the other saw it moving toward his left. However, by understanding that one observer was facing north while the other faced south, they could immediately agree that what they saw was the same object. They understand that there is an objectivity in the series of events seen by both observers as the "moving object," and that the differences in their descriptions arose simply from the fact that they saw the "moving object" from different points of view.

The importance of our knowledge of geometry lies here. It is through a knowledge of geometry that we understand the objective identity of a series of events even though the description of that series of events made by observers from different points of view may differ. It is through our knowledge of geometry — our knowledge of the space-time framework — that we understand the relationships between the points of view of the various observers.

Gradually, over the course of several centuries of scientific investigation, the notion has grown that objectivity is the final test of truth. The ultimate quest of science has gradually come to be the quest for the final objective reality which underlies the vast plethora of our varied observations and experiences. Partly this quest has taken the form of a deep investigation into the nature of matter and energy, and partly it has taken the form of a deep investigation into the nature of the space-time framework against which we understand the variety of points of view. But curiously enough, it is just here, in the investigation of the space-time framework which supports the notion of objectivity, that we have run into trouble. It Is not that the ultimate quest of our science is in trouble, but only the notion that objectivity is the final test of truth. As the subsequent sections of this paper will show, Einstein’s relativity theory may be considered to be the last, brave attempt to save the notion that the objective observation by a plurality of observers is the final evidence for the reality of what is observed. We know now that that attempt has failed. Now, in the last quarter of the twentieth century, through an understanding of the consequences of relativity theory, and through an understanding of apparitional causation, we can see at last that underneath the apparent complexities of gravity, electricity and inertia and under the apparent duality of perceiver and perceived there looms the utterly simple. This whole notion of objectivity was based on the assumption of plurality, on the assumption of separation between one observer and another and on the assumption of a separation between the perceiver and the perceived — a separation which can no longer be supported by our physics.

We were after a nice, simple, single statement of what exists such that if we understood that single statement we could understand all this that we see. In a sense, the quest is done. The map is known. From our long investigation into the nature of the external, objective universe we have finally found that that which exists behind all this is completely devoid of complexity.

In the introductory section of this book we have seen how the notion of apparitional causation forms the main feature in the cosmological map of Advaita Vedanta. This feature was totally absent from the cosmological map of classical physics which was based entirely on Newtonian mechanics and Euclidean geometry. In this second section we shall see how Einstein’s insight has straightened out our understanding of geometry, and, subsequently, our understanding of matter and energy. Then, at the end of this section, we shall see how these new understandings, by implication, point to an apparitional causation underlying the appearance of the primordial hydrogen. In the third section, entitled Joining the Maps, it will be pointed out how, following the introduction of the notion of apparitional causation to the map of modern science, we no longer have two maps, but only one. In this third section we shall examine some very interesting consequences which follow from the joining of the maps. In the fourth, and last, section we shall be concerned not so much with the map as with the possible journeys suggested by the map, and with the way our point of view has been colored by our long genetic past.

We start, now, with the first great change in the map of modern science. What we now understand as modern science followed this change




 
 
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