The Vibrating Universe Ancient and Modern Thoughts
(SRSG Nov.2010;from course on Kashmir Shaivism)
In Indian thought, a Shastra (a sacred scripture) was never simply a way of sharing intellectual thoughts, but was/is help to understand ourselves, our place and purpose in the universe and from there show how to live, how to be.
In November there was a month-long course on Kashmir Shaivism, and more specific the Śiva Sutras. In the introductory verses, the universe is described as Siva’s body, who is nothing but consciousness sent force as light from who’s radiance/vibration the entire universe is created. The Sutras then explain how from the most subtle vibration to the gross manifestation everything is HIS vibration. This idea of a vibrating universe is by no means limited to Indian philosophies; neither is the idea of a permanently evolving and dissolving universe from the subtle to the gross and vice versa as we know it from Sankhya (Yoga philosophy) ; nor is the idea of a universe evolving from consciousness. This is shared wisdom of ancient and modern cultures.
At present, we are living in a time of a mega-paradigm-shift (‘paradigm’, Greek meaning “pattern.”) A pattern of set assumptions in which science operates, and people think/act/live; such as the world is flat; Newton’s mechanics; Darwin’s theory of evolution etc. all these and more have at one time or other been such base patterns. When human consciousness shifts… a new paradigm arises.
The Buddha said: All descriptions of reality are temporary hypothesis. Physicists Brian Cox let us know, that “the body of scientific knowledge at any point in history, is only a collection of view-points and theories, which have not YET been shown to be wrong”. We, ordinary people, live from an understanding/paradigm (supported by our experience) - that the physical world is real, that space, time and energy are fundamental components of reality. This assumption is called a Mega–paradigm because it’s underlying all others.
However, modern Physicists such as Asmit Goswami (quantum physicist) and many others talk about consciousness as “Ground of all Being”; as “the fibre of which the universe is made”; “we live in a Self-aware Universe.” More and more scientists now work on the idea of an ever evolving unified field of existence (the body of Shiva? ) which is “conscious” ?
When scientists talk about consciousness, they talk about something tangible like a ‘cosmic knowing’ meaning something objectified we can “look at”, and not the subtlest level of ‘knowing’, a supra-consciousness (incomprehensible, indescribable…omniscience). However concepts are getting close.
How is this mega-paradigm-shift is happening?
During the late 19th century, a series of scientific breakthroughs forced physicists to re-examine the understanding we had of matter, energy, space and time. Ordinary people’s perception then and now was/is still the same as Aristotel’s believe, that the earth stands still at the centre of the universe --- and suns and moons rotate around it. How else could we say the sun rises in the East, or sets in the West? What is east and west, up and down?
Our everyday life perspective and behavior was and is shaped by this; it certainly doesn’t feel as though the earth is speeding through an unimaginable large universe. Yet we know the earth is a spinning ball in orbit around the sun, actually spinning at the speed of 67 000 miles per hour. No bad for a ‘stationary planet’.
It means: we go to bed and sleep for eight hours, and by the time we wake up, we will have travelled over a million miles. At the same time the sun, around which the earth travels, itself is travelling around the Milky-way at 486 000 miles an hour. To complete one orbit the sun (with the earth in tow) needs to cover a distance of 156 trillion miles….
So if you lie in your bed tonight, picture that the last time the spot where your bed is now, i.e. at that very same location within the universe - was approximately at the time of the dinosaurs….! It’s a nice number game, but sorry, it is wrong too, because our universe itself is in motion; for ever expanding at speeds we cannot imagine. So even if you lie in your bed, totally still … you are in fact moving and that fast!
Pondering this, is like pondering being in an airplane. We sit in our seats… we think we are still, and logically we are resting in one and the same place, i.e. our seat, yet we move a fare distance. Are we moving, despite being still…or not….?
After 10 minutes of flying (or riding in a train) we certainly are not in the same spot/place…yet we have never taken one step! Have never “moved”! The earth feels to us as being still, even though we know we are moving. So our concepts of space and movement need rethinking. Stillness and motion can be observed only relative to a fixed point. If your friend watches the plane you are in, he sees the plane (or train) and “you in it” moving, and that relative to the ground-position he has, a still-point! In this way we see the earth moving relative to the sun, or the sun relative to the earth, or both relative to the milky-way.
So relative to the ground you are moving; relative to your seat in the plane, you are not! So far so good, motion and space is relative, we knew that since Galileo! Let’s look at this at a much more personal level.
Hold your hand totally still in one place! Now become aware that there are a lot of blood-cells whizzing around the vessels in your hand; there are constantly little factories producing amino acids in your hand; there are constantly cells being born and dying - making you alive. There is permanent movement – in your “still hand”; so is your hand actually “still or is it moving?”
How about time? Time passes, we know of time passing because things have happened. We know of time because something has moved, be it the sun, the dial on the clock or we ourselves have moved, whether from our house to the office, from babyhood to adulthood, or from Washington to Tokyo… or indeed whether one planet or the sun from one side of the firmament has moved to another; time has passed means something has moved (whether physical or of an event) and so we measure time as progression of movements.
We just establish that movement is relative to something fixed, yet nothing seems truly fixed in the ever moving, ever expanding universe - then how do we measure time? It means there cannot be ‘time absolute’, there is only relative time, as there is only relative movement, in relative space. HM…to me as lay-person that sounds as though there is permanent processing/change in all dimensions, in fact in n-th dimensions as the physicist David Bohm pointed out. Everything is connected to everything else; this is what in Buddhist thought is called: “interdependence rising”, which is the backdrop for “impermanence” of all phenomena. Nothing is ever the same even for one Moment! What is the reason, the cause for this permanent change?
Enter: Michael Faraday, his research suggested that this permanent movement happens as a result of electromagnetic fields;…..hm what does that mean…? Throughout the cosmos we find electric pulses causing waves which interact with each-other; much like throwing a pebble into a still pond causing ripples, these ripples mark out a field of influence. (In the Śiva Sutras this initial (im)pulse, the first exertion, that causes the ripples is called Bhairava, an aspect of Shiva).
If I throw another pebble, the ripples interact and change each-other; and at the point where they meet there is a compacted “ripple”, a momentary form. We know the truth of this, we have experienced it. You might have walked over a nylon carpet and experienced that when you then touch the metal door handle afterwards, you get a little electric shock. For a moment an electric field has been established between you and the door handle, you experience it as ‘shock ’. Research of these fields has created a picture of the world as interacting fields of energy; a field vibrates with a certain frequency of electro-magnetic energy!
One of the amazing products of this new vision was the insight that we see and experience the world because these electromagnetic waves hit our eyes with the speeds of light. So “Seeing” is actually a game of ping-pong, where the balls of light, hit our retina (ready to be interpreted by our brain). This is the root knowledge from which came the next big discovery. Maxwell, discovered that, the electromagnetic waves that hit our eyes…travelled at the speed of light, which might be the only constant against which the movement in the energy fields can be “experienced”. This triggered a whole new set of thinking which suggested that all change seemed to happened in relationship to the speed of light. It wasn’t long before it was established that these electromagnetic waves themselves could be - what we call light!
Why is this important: finally we have a constant against which, space, movement and time can be perceived. Are you starting to see, why this is interesting in the context of Shaivism? Our universe starts to look to scientists as though it consisted of vibrations (Spanda in Shaivism) which are ultimately perceived by us as light , constantly interacting as energyfields!constantly creating the world of phenomena.
The insight that all is electromagnetic waves which appear to us as light triggered a new question: water waves travel on water. So what do light waves (or sound waves, or shall we say electromagnetic waves) travel on? At the turn of the 19th/20th century the answer was: ether. However if light-waves move through ether; what is this substance, and if it is a substance, however subtle there should be resistance, i.e. change when something (light) moves through it? Yet no change in the speed of light was found. So there is no substance in space other as “light” itself, is light the great constant, in fact is light itself simply great energy-field, whose vibration our mind interprets as light?
Are our concepts of space, time and motion/activity all caused by the same phenomena or do are their separate distinct features: Space and time (place and motion) ? and what on this background is “matter?
This is the moment when Einstein appeared, on the scene.
He focused on the fact that neither space nor time are what they seem; they are not only relative to something constant; but they appear also to us only in relationship to geography and topography; (re: curved space); furthermore Einstein reemphasized a scientific method that originated from Islamic science: i.e. a physical law in order to be true had to be checked against nature itself and not just relate to mathematical and abstract thinking.
So many experiments were taken and they became the very important proof of the extraordinary insights, that space is not the great constant that we think it is (it expands and contracts) and time is not something universal and absolute, both change according to the relative speed of light (and topography). Without going into too much detail, it was established that electromagnetic waves and their vibration, in one form or another, are actually the fundamental forces of the universe. (For now- until proven otherwise; as we know it always changes)
To consider it on the background of Shaivism (the “Doctrine of vibration” , Dyczhkowski) it seems Creation is a game played by electromagnetic waves (which some call electro-dynamic waves), or a dance, which we know as – the dance of Shiva! Śiva Nataraj. However it gets more intriguing. We said: “waves interact much like pebbles thrown into a lake, creating patterns” – this happens with the help of strong and weak nuclear forces. The strong nuclear force (draws together) i.e. sticks atoms together, and the weak one repels (i.e. radiates outward), dispersing them. Here we got creation and dissolution in the microcosm.
Again we have a parallel in the Śiva Sutras. In the cosmic dance of energies there is a “in-wink that goes inward and a out-wink that goes outward”- two forces act on the background of the potential of the electromagnetic field, creating the world of forms. Is our universe indeed an ordered dance, where subatomic particles dance with “instep” and out step.”….like Zorba the Greek or Morris-dancers and thus creating orderly patterns, some call ‘symmetry’ or others: fractals or any manner of names for organizing principles.
Next time you look out of the window “see” with knowing eyes, that even though the world around us seems created by our civilization (house /garden) or by something we call nature, it is in the eyes of the twenty-first century Physicist nothing else but the dance-steps performed by subatomic particles, on the backdrop of waves in electromagnetic fields, permanently moving into contraction - and out into expansion; moving together - moving apart; moving inward—moving outward! Creation and dissolution! The famous Dance of Shiva! And the steps are not wild and unruly, but reveal intelligent order.
This is not only so in the eyes of the twenty-first century Physicist, or ancient Indian wisdom! Many indigenous cultures share this view. They constantly live or lived in the awareness of these energies dancing the world; reading about or conversing with indigenous folks we discover that they literally “see the energy of the tree dancing the tree….” Or “sound vibrating a mountain into existence”. (re: ‘Songlines’ amongst Australian Aboriginals). The minds of these people have not yet totally closed, as ours have - to seeing only the most grossest matter, only the most superficial outer image; they indeed can see “subtler states of existence”. Their perception of the world is different, because their fundamental brain-computing has not this limitation of interpreting the world as solid. The limiting aspect of our minds is not there; we call them “primitive” because their minds are less limited than ours; how stupid of us! They are in fact “more conscious”, more advanced than we! There is much to learn from them (if only we would stop to extinguish them). They know particles moving through space create the illusion of space and form. They know: the dance that creates the illusion of time. And even more amazingly they can use this insight, for example to heal.
Space, movement, time happen as one, they can’t be separated. Einstein “woke up” to this great insight and coined the phrase “Space-time-continuum!” linking time and space as mutual dependency. From this Space-time causality appears: waves and movement of subatomic forces follow orderly patterns. The seed of a lettuce does not grow into a oak-tree (well not yet). It means everything inherently has this impetus to form patterns, to behave according to “natural laws” and these stem right from the original energy field - which is said to be light.
So ultimately it is light which moves bringing force the illusion of space and time and its result appears as waves that are contracting and expanding, dancing themselves into apparent particles we call mass or matter, “bringing forth the illusion of space and matter….” doesn’t that sound like Vedanta! So what we perceive as matter is light–waves compacted. Which brings us to Einstein’s famous quotation: E=mc2 Energy is mass which is potency of light.
To put it in another way: mass/matter held together by power inherent in the speed of light is energy! This implies one should be able to extract this power from mass/matter, but for that we need to know what mass or matter actually is. Even though it took scientists 50 years (after Einstein) to extract energy i.e. nuclear energy, actually no satisfactory solution has yet been found.
The number one problem in today’s world is finding sources of cheap energy. It is such a serious problem in today’s world that we even kill each-other over it. Amazing to think that nature has been working according with this formula efficiently for billions of years. Matter or mass holds inherently all the original potential of creation, i.e. it’s a store –house of all the energy needed for permanent change. Down to the minutest amoeba, or the ocean currents - through eons of time, matter has changed to energy and energy into matter according to this “stored energy”: sunlight; light.
And again we have to point out, that there are different levels of understanding light. Yes there is sunlight stored in all matter, there is light (electromagnetic waves) and yet there is that “light” beyond form, the indescribable origin, the subtlest level. Physicists talking about light (or indeed consciousness) today approach the subject from the manifest, yet today it seems that they too begin to glimpse a subtler unified reality. They start from the levels of the Bhutas (or elements) and gradually an awareness dawns that there is an original indescribably subtle source which through limitation and specialization has become that which “holds matter together”. We talk in Yoga Philosophty about this as the tattvas (be it 36 tattvas of Kashmir Shaivism, 96 tattvas of Tamil Shaivism, or 24 tattvas of Sankhya philosophy.)That “absolute source” – no matter what limiting form it has taken, is ultimately is still the original power: “There is nothing that is not Shiva” (Swami Muktananda), the intrinsic power is consciousness!
For thousands of years people have talked about the atom as the smallest part of existence, but now after splitting the atom and finding the nuclear power that held matter together, the inquiry continued, what is held together? Gradually the door to quantum theory opened; there were quarks, protons, leptons, gluons, photons, neutrinos etc. Finally we have particles which can be either a particle or something which is more like a wave – the waves we talked about earlier and these “units” behave sometimes like this, sometimes like that…(hence they were called quanta….i.e. quantum theory) . Science moves fast and even this is already “old news” and superseded by the string theory – suggesting that there are ultimately short strings; rays of light that appear in frequency bundles and so on and so on.
In the world of science –just as in the dance of Shiva, there is constant change. Yet in the permanent dynamism of the movement is also included the fix point, the stillness, the unchanging against which change can be observed. It seems that science today, just as Yoga aims at reducing the diversity of appearance to an underlying simplicity; i.e. that “unified field” that Einstein first hinted at, out of which electromagnetic waves rise and into which they collapse; creating and enfolding of vibrating fields of energy. The patterns formed by this process create patterns which appear as particles . The diversity of existence comes from the fact that these waves/particles/strings/ neutrinos (or what ever) – zoom around in what we can call symmetry. Everything in the universe shows this symmetry, this intelligent order; is nature, is the universe itself intelligent?
Furthermore: Can we call this intelligent force behind the universe “consciousness” from the Latin word: with knowing? So physicists, now- rather than mystics write numerous books on “Consciousness” , be they biologists, neuro-scientists, psychologist, philosophers and what have you.
One physicists describes it: it’s like a rider and a horse. Intelligence rides on electromagnetic waves, riding on light; two forces acting like one, ultimately working together!
Can you hear another dimension of that sentence....two forces acting like one! Shiva and Shakti, potential and potencia; source and action-power, and that on a universal and individual level.
Swami Veda said: Mind whether individual or the cosmic mind-field is an electric field with different currents, on many levels; many currents; and each layer vibrates at a higher frequency... Ultimately as light; Sri Aurobindu and many others agree: The universe is simply Light!
All the above levels can be experienced at the same time, meaning: “the universe is in each Moment”; or as the Zen master Dainin Katagiri says: Each Moment is the entire Universe.
“Nothing exists that is not Shiva”; motion and stillness, dissolution and creation, intelligence and energy – together as one; Shiva and Shakti.
We hear this, we assume we understand this, scientists even think of intelligence or consciousness as the ultimate source from which the universe has evolved. But does it help to look at the universe, our world, our relationships, even ourselves - with different eyes?
If we do then it means nothing is different from me, I am that point “in a spiderweb”, where waves of conscious energy cross; “I am..” , but I am not something different, just waves of vibrations crossing in an ocean of vibrating light.
This is a paradigm shift; where science and self-realization meet. I am, we are - nothing but Shiva, nothing but that consciousness vibrating that is described in the Shiva Sutras in the higher tattvas as suddha-adhva...as Light, as Vibration , as Spanda).
Once these are not just words, but one sees the universe as such, once our paradigm shifted - then the perception of the universe is not so very different from “The Dreamtime- consciousness” of the aboriginal people of Australia or the direct apprehension of life - we call mysticism or other revelations that lead to the great works of art or the insights of wise ones.
Just imagine looking around you and being able to see every being, every existence - from your own faeces to the most beautiful flower; from the cancerous growth to the most beautiful sunrise; from a rotting corpse to the smiling face of a child - all simply as vibration of light. We can call this “enlightenment...” whether it comes through science or mysticism, whether it is experienced by a Shaman, a Scientist, a Rshi or Yogi.
When a Yogi experiences such total awareness... he experiences Ananda... Bliss
When a scientists “sees” with such total awareness, when to him through his ways, the simplicity and unity of the world is revealed, he experiences what is called : “Ionian Enchantment”.....both are realizations leading to the experience of ecstatic bliss.
Abhinavagupta, the greatest Kashmir Shaivist writes:
“In the night of Brahman...Shiva rises from his rapture and dancing, sends through inert matter pulsing waves of awakening sound - and lo! Matter dances, appearing as a glory around him, he sustains all manifold phenomena .“ ( Coomaraswamy, AK; The dance of Shiva)