by Prof. Amit Goswami (August 10, 2008)
Can science and religion be integrated? What comes to mind immediately is that religions themselves cannot agree with one another whereas science is basically monolithic. How can there even be trade between the two, let alone integration?
First, it is only a perception that religions are pluralistic and science is not. Science is monolithic only so far as science of matter–physics and chemistry–is concerned. Psychology, the science of the psyche, has three different paradigms–behavioral-cognitive consisting of hard science orientation, depth psychology consisting of Freudian psychoanalysis and Jungian analytical psychology and their derivatives with psychotherapy orientation, and humanistic-transpersonal-yoga psychology with positive mental health orientation. Both the later paradigms of psychology acknowledge downward causation and subtle bodies in some form or other. Medicine has the conventional allopathic medicine and also alternative medicine practices that complement it. A prominent part of alternative medicine is Eastern medicine that emphasizes subtle energies called variously as prana, chi, and ki. And biology is in transition right now. The materialist biology is highly developed but with some unsolved (maybe unsolvable) problems. Alternative biology is biology that sees life as the handiwork of a purposive designer with the power of downward causation; but at present it is so poorly developed that hardly anyone can call it a genuine alternative biology.
On the other hand, there is common ground for all religions in three respects: 1) all religions agree that there is God–an agent of what they call downward causation. This is to be distinguished from materialists’ upward causation model; namely that all cause originates from the base level of matter, the elementary particles. Religions don’t necessarily disagree with materialists’ upward causation, but they additionally posit occasional intervention by a (nonmaterial) God. Creation events for example.
2) All religions also posit the existence of non-material “subtle” bodies connected with our internal experiences–feeling, meaning, and values–in addition to the material body. The subtle bodies correspond to the pranamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, and the vijnanamaya kosha of the Upanishads.
Finally, 3) All religions posit the importance of certain values as the goal of life; values such as, love, truth, beauty, justice, good. These godly qualities are what give our life meaning, religions maintain, because God designed us.
Currently, the overall perception of science is that it is materialist. The belief is that science cannot be done without the dogma of material monism: all things of our experience have a material origin.
It is only logical that the practitioners of materialist science should have something to object and negate about the three religious contentions about reality enunciated above. The first, downward causation, scientists negate because, How does a nonmaterial God interact with matter? It is dualism. For the second, the postulate of subtle bodies, the same objection is posed–How do the nonmaterial subtle bodies interact with the material body? Dualism again. Dualism is not scientifically feasible because two bodies that have nothing in common cannot interact without a mediator. And there is no mediator that we can see, these scientists maintain.
Materialists also posit that God, consciousness, mind, feelings, values, all things internal besides what we experience externally, matter, are explainable in material terms. However, so far this has only been a promissory idea that the renowned philosopher Karl Popper called promissory materialism.
As for the third contention of religions, the importance of values in our lives, materialist science does not exactly deny it. But they maintain that values originate in matter as genetic programs but no programmer is required. Instead these programs evolve through Darwinian evolution (natural selection) because they help the organism to adapt to environmental changes.
So the first problem of integrating science and religion is to generalize science to include downward causation and the subtle bodies in a way that dualism does not ruin the integration. This is the problem that has been solved by this author (for details, read my book The Visionary Window) using some ideas of quantum physics.
Quantum physics has a very obscure opening; this is what I call a visionary window. If we look through the window, new light appears that enables us to generalize materialist science in the appropriate way. The new light consists of a shift in the metaphysical base of science, from matter base to consciousness base.
In quantum physics, objects are not determined things of Newtonian vintage. Instead, they are waves of possibility. When we observe, these waves “collapse” into actual events in our experience. Instead of spread-out waves what we observe is a localized particle. This is the famous observer effect.
A comedian in Calcutta was walking the sidewalk when a certain container of rasagullas in a display window grabbed his attention. The fellow went into the shop and asked the mithaiwalla for some rasagullas. But when the mithaiwalla started to bring out the rasagullas in the display window, the comedian stopped him. “I don’t want those; don’t you have some of the same kind in your backroom?” The confectioner was offended. “Sir, all my sweets are fresh and good,” he said indignantly. The comedian said, “No, no. I don’t doubt that. But people have been looking at those rasagullas!”
Looking affects objects according to quantum physics. But if consciousness is a brain phenomenon as materialist science posits, the observer effect is a paradox because then brain and its consciousness both consist of possibilities only. Possibilities acting on other possibilities cannot make actuality; try it and see.
Imagine possible cars in a car lot. Also imagine possible money in your bank account. Now imagine hard and combine the two possibilities! Do you expect a car manifesting in your garage?
The resolution of the paradox is to turn the materialist view of consciousness upside down. Let consciousness be the base of the world and let matter consist of waves of possibilities of consciousness. Consciousness chooses from the possibility waves of matter within it to collapse the actual events that we observe.
Note that in every event of observation, there is the object the observer is looking at and a second object consisting of the observer, a brain. Before observation, before collapse, both are waves of possibility. When consciousness chooses, only then the brain is actualized along with the external object as experiences, as appearances in consciousness. Consciousness identifies with the brain due to a specialness of the brain, a specialness that makes an object with a brain an observer. This conscious identity is what we call the self, what we experience as a subject looking at the collapsed object. Consciousness, the chooser, transcends both the immanent subject and object.
In this generalized science within consciousness, upward causation gives us the waves of possibility to choose from; downward causation consists of the act of choice. Both modes of causation are incorporated. And there is no dualism; the subject-object duality is seen to be an appearance!
Back in the nineteen seventies, when quantum physicists were first proposing that we choose our own reality, many people in America and Europe tried to manifest beautiful expensive cars for themselves. When they couldn’t, they tried at least to manifest parking spaces for their cars in crowded downtown areas, but even then the success rate was not encouraging. Obviously something was missing!
The next step was to realize that the choosing consciousness must transcend personality, must be unitive–the same for all of us. If this were not so, you could look at a multifaceted quantum possibility wave and choose one facet and simultaneously somebody else could look and choose an alternative contradictory facet. The world then would be pandemonium.
For the materialist model of individual consciousness associated with each brain, the solution is called solipsism. Only your consciousness is real; everybody else is a fragment of your imagination.
Many of us feel this way of course. A woman meets a friend after a long time, gets excited and takes her to a café to “catch up.” Over coffee, she talks and talks and suddenly becomes aware and says, “Oh. Look at me, talking about myself all this time. Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”
Nevertheless, for obvious reason, solipsism is not a palatable solution. Consciousness saves the situation by being objective, unitive. Behind our apparent individuality, it is our unity consciousness that chooses actuality from quantum possibilities. This unity consciousness is what religions call God. The Upanishads remind us of our God-consciousness with the statement, “You are That.”
We don’t ordinarily experience ourselves as God-consciousness because of how the brain works. Our brain sifts all experience through our past memory. In the process, we become conditioned. We respond to a familiar stimulus as we responded before, we acquire an ego-individuality based on our habit pattern. And yet, whenever we are capable of rising above conditioning, God is there to enable us make a creative choice.
Once we see consciousness as the ground of being that the Upanishads call Brahman and see matter as possibilities within it and see conscious collapse as the origin of subject-object appearance of experience (resembling the doctrine of dependent co-arising, patticha sammupada of Buddhism), it is not hard to generalize further. Matter gives us the experience of sensation; but we also have experiences of feeling, thinking and intuition that religions associate with subtle bodies. Suppose the subtle bodies also consist of quantum possibilities, what then? The event of collapse then not only consists of choice from the material waves, but also choice from the other compartments of possibility waves. So you look at a car and think, This is a car. Consciousness has collapsed both your brain (the sensation) and your mind (the thought) mediating the mind-brain relationship. In this way another problem of dualism is solved: consciousness is the mediator between matter and the subtle.
I hope you agree that that this is a good beginning for a genuine integration between science and religion. How about the question of values? Are they adaptive as the materialists claim? Or is there God’s handiwork in that issue? Space does not permit me to go into details but scientific advances are finally enabling us to conclusively argue that feeling, meaning, and value cannot be adaptive epiphenomena of matter. Our feelings come from our direct experiences of nonmaterial morphogenetic fields that the biologist Rupert Sheldrake posited. And the mathematician Roger Penrose has demonstrated that computers (matter) cannot process meaning, let alone values that provide contexts for meaning. In this way, if matter cannot even process feeling, meaning, and value how can it present these qualities for adaptation or natural selection?
The Good News Experiment: We Are One
The good news is that not one, but three separate experiments are now showing that quantum consciousness, the author of downward causation is nonlocal, is unitive, is God. The first such experiment proving it unequivocally (that is, with objective machines and not through subjective experiences of people) was performed by the neurophysiologist Jacobo Grinberg and his collaborators at the University of Mexico. Let’s go into some details.
Quantum physics gives us an amazing principle to operate with–nonlocality. The principle of locality says that all communication must proceed through local signals that have a speed limit. Einstein established this speed limit as the speed of light (the enormous but finite speed of 300,000 km/s). So this locality principle, a limitation imposed by Einsteinian relativity precludes instantaneous communication via signals. And yet, quantum objects are able to influence one another instantly, once they interact and become correlated. The physicist Alain Aspect and his collaborators demonstrated this in 1982 for a pair of photons (quanta of light). The data does not have to be seen as a contradiction to Einsteinian thinking once we recognize quantum nonlocality for what it is–a signal-less interconnectedness outside space and time.
Grinberg, in 1993, was trying to demonstrate quantum nonlocality for two correlated brains. Two people meditate together with the intention of direct (signalless, nonlocal) communication. After twenty minutes, they are separated (while still continuing their unity intention), placed in individual Faraday cages (electromagnetically impervious chambers), and each brain is wired up to an electroencephalogram (EEG) machine. One subject is shown a series of light flashes producing in his or her brain an electrical activity that is recorded in the EEG machine from which an “evoked potential” is extracted with the help of a computer upon subtracting the brain noise. The evoked potential is somehow found to be transferred to the other subject’s brain onto his or her EEG that gives (upon subtraction of noise) a transferred potential (similar to the evoked potential in phase and strength). Control subjects (those who do not meditate together or are unable to hold the intention for signal-less communication during the duration of the experiment) do not show any transferred potential.
The experiment demonstrates the nonlocality of brain responses to be sure, but something even more important–nonlocality of quantum consciousness. How else to explain how the forced choice of the evoked response in one subject’s brain can lead to the free choice of an (almost) identical response in the correlated partner’s brain? As stated above, the experiment, since then has been replicated twice. First, by the London neuropsychiatrist Peter Fenwick in 1998. And again by the Bastyr university researcher Leana Standish and her collaborators in 2004.
The conclusion of these experiments is radical. Quantum consciousness, the precipitator of the downward causation of choice from quantum possibilities is what esoteric spiritual traditions call God. We have rediscovered God within science. More over we have a new integrative paradigm of science, based not on the primacy of matter as the old science, but on the primacy of consciousness. Consciousness is the ground of all being which we now can recognize as what the spiritual traditions call Godhead.
The Power of Intention
I hope you did not miss one of the most important aspects of the experiment of Grinberg–the power of our intention. The parapsychologist Dean Radin, in the nineteen nineties, has done additional experiments demonstrating the power of intention.
As an indicator of the intensity of intention, Radin measures the deviation from randomness of what are called random number generators that translate random quantum events of radioactivity into random sequences of zeroes and ones. He found that the random number sequences deviated from randomness maximally precisely at those times when the field of intention generated by people was high. What does this mean? The philosopher Gregory Bateson said, “the opposite of randomness is choice.” So the correlation proves the creative power of intention.
In one series of experiments, Radin found that random number generators deviate from randomness in meditation halls when people meditate together (showing high intention), but not at a corporate board meeting!
Downward causation occurs in a non-ordinary state of consciousness that we call God-consciousness. Yet we are unaware of it. Why the unawareness? Mystics have been telling us about the oneness of God-consciousness and our consciousness for millennia, but we haven’t heard for the most part. Why this lack of hearing?
The Upanishads of the Hindus says emphatically, You are That, meaning you are God! Jesus said, no less emphatically, You are all the children of God. This is a key. We are children of God; we have to grow up to realize our God-consciousness. There are mechanisms that obscure our Godness giving rise to our ordinary I-separateness that we call ego. This ego creates a barrier against seeing our oneness with God and oneness with one another. Growing in spirituality means growing beyond the ego.
A key point is that quantum downward causation of choice is discontinuously exerted. If choice were continuous, a mathematical model, at least a computer algorithm, could be constructed for it and the choice would be predictable and not free and its author could not be called God. Our ordinary waking state of consciousness–the ego–smoothes out the discontinuity by compromising our freedom to choose. To be aware that we choose freely is to jump beyond the ego taking a discontinuous leap, call it a quantum leap.
If you are having difficulty picturing a discontinuous quantum leap, an idea of the great physicist Niels Bohr can help. Electrons go around the atomic nucleus in continuous orbits. But when an electron jumps from one orbit to another, it makes the jump in a very discontinuous way, it never goes through the intermediate space between the orbits. The jump is a quantum leap.
How does the cosmic, nonlocal quantum consciousness, God, identify with an individual, become individualized? How does continuity obscure the discontinuity? Primarily via observership and secondarily via conditioning. Before observership, God-consciousness is one and undivided from its possibilities. Observership implies a subject-object split, a split between the self and the world as explained before. However, before conditioning, the world experiencing subject or self is unitive and cosmic. In this primary experience of a stimulus, God-consciousness chooses its response to the stimulus from the quantum possibilities offered to it by the stimulus with total creative freedom (subject only to the constraint of the laws of quantum dynamics of the situation, God is objective and is lawful whenever warranted!). With additional experiences of the same stimulus, the responses get prejudiced in favor of past responses. This is what psychologists call conditioning. Identifying with the conditioned pattern of stimulus responses (habits of character) and the history of the memories of past responses gives the subject/self an apparent local individuality, the ego. When we operate from the ego, our individual patterns of conditioning, our experiences, being predictable, acquire an apparent causal continuity. We feel separate from our unitive whole self and from God. It is then that our intentions don’t always produce the intended result.
The Art of Intention Making
The inquisitive reader is bound to ask about how to develop the power of intention. The fact is we all try to manifest things through our intentions, sometimes they work, but less often than not. Now we see that this is because we are in our ego when we intend. But how do we change that?
This is a very good question. An intention must start with the ego; that is where we ordinarily are, local, selfish. At the second stage, we intend for everyone to go beyond selfishness. We don’t need to worry, we haven’t lost anything, when we say everyone that includes us, too. In the third stage, we allow our intentions to become a prayer: if my intention resonates with the intention of the whole, of Ishvara/Allah/God, then let it come to fruition. At the fourth stage, the prayer must pass into silence, become a meditation.