The New Paradigm
by Michael Bradford
We all have a set of beliefs about how the world works. The various faiths of mankind, and science too, each have their own general perspective on how creation happened and continues to unfold. This perspective is called a paradigm.
The paradigm being used by those in the various fields of science is very important, as it determines what theories they will propound, what experiments they will invent to validate those theories, how these experiments are designed, how the results are interpreted, and whether those results are accepted as valid or dismissed because they do not 'fit' the paradigm of the experimenter.
Most people have a paradigm which has been derived from their particular faith and / or their knowledge of science, combined with the experience of the world that they have had throughout their lifetime. What is of great importance with respect to scientific inquiry is that the paradigm held by the scientist defines what that person considers to be, or not to be, possible.
In general, the beliefs that comprise a person's paradigm are taken as a given. In other words, they are accepted as true, without need of proof or validation, and are used as a basis for which all new information is judged. As a consequence, few people—scientists or otherwise—actually stop to seriously question whether their particular paradigm is up-to-date, accurate, or takes into consideration recent scientific discoveries that have been verified experimentally. This is usually the case, as we shall see, because the evidence of the person's senses, combined with their notions of 'common sense', preclude them from accepting this new information as valid.
What this article will try to do is to look at the way the scientific paradigm of reality has changed over the last 100 years or so, and to incorporate new ideas and perspectives which confirm, enhance and clarify the direction in which these changes seem to point.
In order to see the direction in which the scientific paradigm is moving, we must first see how it has evolved in recent times. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the work of Sir Isaac Newton and others in fields such as motion, optics, chemistry and physics contributed to a general world-view which eventually became known as the 'Newtonian' paradigm.
The Newtonian paradigm can be described in three general ways. It was:
The universe was considered to be deterministic as it was believed that given sufficient information, it would always be possible (at least in theory) to determine how any physical system would change in time. The universe was like a gigantic clock, and the future was 'cast in stone'. This notion, of course, precluded the need for any higher power to be involved, as the future was totally predetermined. This belief had the effect of increasing the divide between science and faith.
The 'objective' aspect refers to the notion that the observer could always remain separate from an experiment being performed, and that the act of observing the results of an experiment would in no way affect it.
The third characteristic refers to the fact that the spacial dimensions of objects and the rate of flow of time were considered to be absolute and unvarying from all frames of reference.
As solid and indestructible as this paradigm seemed, before the 1st quarter of the 20th century had passed, it would more aptly be described by just the first letter of each of the three terms. In other words, it was D.O.A—'dead on arrival'.
The first crack in the Newtonian paradigm occurred late in the 19th century when two scientists—Albert Michelson and Edward Morley—conducted an experiment to measure variations in the speed of light. Since light, like sound, was known to be a wave phenomenon, it was surmised that in the same way that sound waves varied in velocity (which could be measured by pitch) depending on the speed of the observer with respect to the sound source, and the motion of the medium in which sound traveled (air), the same must be true of light.
They devised an ingenious experiment which split a beam of light into two, took one beam on a trajectory perpendicular to the other, then reflected both beams back to the source where they were reunited. At this point, the diffraction pattern created by the two beams recombining could be measured. It was surmised that depending on the direction and speed of the medium in which the light beams were traveling (referred to as the 'luminiferous ether'), the diffraction pattern would change with the orientation of the device.
But no matter how the device was oriented, the pattern did not vary in the slightest. This seemed to imply that the luminiferous ether was not in motion, which was difficult to accept given that the Earth is speeding around the Sun, and is rotating on its axis at the same time!
While most scientists of the day occupied themselves with trying to find the flaw in the experiment, one man took a very different approach. In the year 1905, a young clerk, unknown to the scientific world, working in the patent office in Zurich Switzerland, submitted a paper to the scientific journals for peer review. The paper was entitled, most unassumingly, On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies. The unknown clerk was, of course, a young Albert Einstein, and this paper has since come to be known as his Theory of Special Relativity (special since it deals with the special case of bodies in uniform motion with respect to each other). With one stroke, this paper would destroy the 'absolute' nature of space and time.
Rather than rejecting the results of the Michelson-Morley experiment because they conflicted with current notions of 'common sense', Einstein accepted the results as valid, and started with the premise that there was no 'luminiferous ether', and that the speed of light in a vacuum was constant from all frames of reference. This meant that if one travels towards a light source at 99% of the velocity of light, the measured speed of the light coming from that source would be the same as what it would be if measured by an observer at rest with respect to the light source.
In order for this to happen, the moving object appears to shrink along the direction of its motion, and the rate of flow of time of the moving object slows down. If force is used to accelerate the object, then most of the energy goes to making it more massive, rather than making it go faster (the e=mc2 equation). To make an object move at the speed of light would require infinite energy, the object would become infinitely massive, and time would slow down until it stopped.
With one stroke, the absolute nature of reality was gone. But as is often the case in science, the discovery of one principle leads to questions about other phenomena. And Einstein's theory of Special Relativity was no exception, One of the conundrums it created had to do with gravity.
If nothing could travel faster than the speed of light, how was it that the Sun appeared to be able to reach out instantaneously over vast distances and 'grab hold' of the planets with its gravity and hold them in their orbits? In order to explain this conundrum, Einstein made another huge leap in creative thinking and in 1915 formulated his Theory of General Relativity (general because it deals with objects that are accelerating).
This theory can be demonstrated quite simply by an analogy. Say we have a billiard table, and stretch a thick rubber sheet over it very tightly and nail it down on all sides. Then we take a very light ping pong ball and, from a position 1/3 of the way down one of the long sides, we roll it towards the other side of the table. It will travel across the rubber sheet in a straight line, until it reaches the other side of the table.
Now let us put a very heavy ten-pin bowling ball in the center of the table, which depresses the rubber sheet until it touches the table. If we repeat our experiment with the ping pong ball, one of three things will happen.
If we push it above a particular velocity, it will roll across to the other side of the table as before, but it will move in a line curving in the direction of the bowling ball. If we push it with less than a particular velocity, it will spiral in and eventually collide with the bowling ball. If we push it with the particular velocity which divides the first two scenarios, it will orbit the bowling ball indefinitely (assuming that there is no friction or air resistance).
In this analogy, the bowling ball is the Sun, the ping pong ball a planet, and the rubber sheet is what Einstein called the 'Space-Time Continuum'—a welding together of space and time into one single medium. So rather than reaching out over a vast distance and 'grabbing hold of'' the planet, the Sun actually distorts the medium (Space-Time Continuum) in which the planet moves.
This Space-Time Continuum is very subtle, and since the very fabric of space itself is bending, we cannot measure this curvature directly. And although it did not directly influence the Newtonian paradigm, it was very important in another way from the point of view of the evolving paradigm. In a general sense, Einstein took a phenomenon (gravity), which was contradictory to the accepted paradigm of the time, and resolved it by introducing a level of connectivity into creation (i.e. the Space-Time Continuum) that had not hitherto been known.
This discovery of an additional level of connectivity in creation was the beginning of a new trend in the evolution of the scientific paradigm, and set the stage for the next major development in physics—Quantum Theory.
Quantum Theory (or Quantum Mechanics as it is sometimes called) has been referred to by some of its more enthusiastic proponents as the most successful theory in the history of science. Without it, we would not have been able to harness nuclear power, nor develop such inventions as lasers, television, or the integrated circuits that power all our computers. In terms of predicting the behavior of large numbers of subatomic particles it is almost unerringly accurate.
Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist (1865—1962), who has often been called the 'father' of the Quantum Theory, once made the following remark: "Anyone who is not shocked by Quantum Theory has not understood it correctly". He made this statement because Quantum Theory showed that the laws that govern the way in which reality works at the subatomic level are radically different from those which operate in the 'macro' world which we experience with our senses.
A simple example of this is the half-life of radioactive isotopes. Each radioactive isotope has a period of time, called its half-life, after which half of the atoms in a given sample will decay into more stable elements. So for instance, if the half-life of an isotope is one hour, and we have 1,000,000 atoms, we know that after one hour about 500,000 of the atoms will decay and 500,000 will remain. After another hour, 250,000 of the remaining radioactive atoms will decay. After another hour 125,000 more will decay, and so on.
Quantum theory can predict with great accuracy how many atoms will decay, but if you ask a quantum physicist how to predict which atoms will decay and which will not, the answer is that you can't. It is not possible to know which will decay and which will not because there is nothing that actually causes a particular atom to decay. It decays according to the laws of probability, not causality.
Einstein had great difficulty with this idea, which led to his famous remark that he did not believe that God 'played with dice'. But this is only the beginning of the story. Both determinism and the objective nature of reality—the last two legs of the Newtonian paradigm—- seem to vanish at the subatomic level. A theoretical experiment will illustrate this quite dramatically.
If you take a spherical container and evacuate all the air from it, then fire an electron into it with an electron gun, then make an observation of where the electron is after a certain period of time, say a microsecond, you will find it at a certain place. But if you repeat this experiment 10,000 times in an absolutely identical fashion, Quantum Theory says that the probability will approach zero that you will find the electron in exactly the same position on any two of those repetitions. Determinism seems to have gone on vacation! Quantum Theory can tell you the probability of finding the electron in any given place in the container, but it is not possible to know for certain exactly where it will be found.
At first, this inability to determine exactly where a subatomic particle was located was thought to exist because the act of observing a particle disturbed it. But if we were to ask a quantum physicist if it is correct to say that the particle is there somewhere, but we cannot determine exactly where it is, the answer would be an unequivocal 'No'. It is not that the particle exists and we cannot locate it, but rather the particle has no actual existence until an observation of it is made! It has only the potential to exist until this is done.
When examined at the subatomic level, we find that the hard, solid matter of the objective world seems to dissolve into little more than ghostly shadows. The following quote by Henry P. Stapp, a quantum theorist at the Lawrence-Livermore Laboratory in the U.S, will illustrate one of the most shocking consequences of this principle.
"If . . . a description of the substructure underlying experience more complete than the one that [quantum mechanics] provides is not possible, then there is no substantive physical world, in the usual sense of this term. The conclusion here is not the weak conclusion that there may not be a substantive physical world, but rather that there definitely is not a substantive physical world."
With the advent of the quantum theory, the whole relationship between the observer and the observed phenomenon totally changed. Now, the objective nature of reality has vanished and the observer and the observed phenomenon are fused together into two aspects of the same thing. In the words of John Wheeler, Director of the Center for Theoretical Physics in Austin, Texas:
"May the universe in some strange way be 'brought into being' by the participation of those who participate? . . . The vital act is the act of participation. 'Participator' is the incontrovertible new concept given by quantum mechanics. It strikes down the term 'observer' of classical theory, the man who stands safely behind the thick glass wall and watches what goes on without taking part. It cannot be done, quantum mechanics says." ;
The idea that the world may only be there in a potential, rather than an actual state (until we observe it), may seem shocking and impossible, but there is a very familiar phenomenon in all of our experience which is based on a similar principle—the traditional television station broadcasting a signal to many television sets.
All around us the air is filled with radio and television waves which can, at any time, potentially manifest a picture and / or sound. But this will not happen (be actualized) until a television set is present and turned on. The pictures and sound, in the form of radio waves, remain in a potential state until this happens. And even though it may seem that the picture being displayed by the set is generated by it, the actual source of the picture and sound may be located far away.
THE NEW PARADIGM
So to briefly review, the discoveries in physics in the last 100 or so years have brought the three pillars of the Newtonian paradigm tumbling down. Einstein's Special Theory demolished the absolute nature of space and time by showing that events could only be described by taking the relationship between the observer and the observed phenomenon into consideration, and quantum theory showed that the other two primary tenets of the Newtonian paradigm—the objective and deterministic qualities of reality—do not exist, at least at the subatomic level.
But obviously the macroscopic world of the senses we live in works in a very different way than the subatomic one. Or does it? Why should it? Is there any sound, logical reason why one level of reality should work in a totally different way than another level? The relativistic effects of Einstein's Special Theory, for instance, which occur at very high velocities—time dilation and mass increase—are just as much in evidence at the subatomic level as they are at the macroscopic one. The perceived difference in how these two levels work is a glaring inconsistency in our world-view which should make us seriously
As an example of how the validity of these perceptions may be questioned, we can ask why it is that we perceive physical matter as solid when, in fact, it is almost entirely empty space.
If we could take an average atom, say of carbon, and expand it to the size of a domed stadium, the nucleus (which contains almost the entire mass of the atom) would be about the size of a grain of sand! It would be very difficult to even find it! How is it, then, that this almost total emptiness is perceived by our senses and mind as 'solid'?
Given this, how can we be certain that the way in which we perceive the external world is completely accurate, and that our limited sensory apparatus can be depended upon as the ultimate tool for the apprehension of reality?
At the subatomic level, quantum theory tells us that the physical world does not exist until we observe it. This implies that the observer and the observed phenomenon can never be separated from each other. If the macroscopic world were to work in a similar way to the subatomic one, and the observer and the observed phenomenon are simply two aspects of the same system, then we should seriously consider the proposition that the universe that we perceive as being external to, and separate from us is really a projection of our own consciousness. As shocking as this proposition may seem, there is no logical reason why it could not be true.
But if the external is really a projection of the internal, then there should be some evidence to support this in human experience. Such a way of perception would have to be radically different from our normal one. And, in fact, there is a mode of perception—the mystical vision or 'unitive' state—where we find evidence to support this view.
The following account, left by Gopi Krishna, the noted authority on consciousness research (1903—1984), is one of the clearest and most definitive descriptions of this state that has been written in recent times. In this account, he describes one of the most profound mystical experiences he had in the following way:
"The marvelous aspect of the condition lay in the sudden realization that, although linked to the body and surroundings, I had expanded in an indescribable manner into a titanic personality, conscious from within of an immediate and direct contact with an intensely conscious universe, a wonderful inexpressible immanence all around me. My body, the chair I was sitting on, the table in front of me, the room enclosed by walls, the lawn outside and the space beyond, including the earth and sky, appeared to be most amazingly mere phantoms in this real, interpenetrating and all-pervasive ocean of existence which, to explain the most incredible part of it as best I can, seemed to be simultaneously unbounded, stretching out immeasurably in all directions, and yet no bigger than an infinitely small point.
From this marvelous point the entire existence, of which my body and its surroundings were a part, poured out like radiation, as if a reflection as vast as my conception of the cosmos were thrown out upon infinity by a projector no bigger than a pinpoint, the entire intensely active and gigantic world picture dependent on the beams issuing from it. The shoreless ocean of consciousness in which I was now immersed appeared infinitely large and infinitely small at the same time—large when considered in relation to the world picture floating in it, and small when considered in itself, measureless, without form or size, nothing and yet everything.
I awoke from the semi-trance condition after about half an hour, affected to the roots of my being by the majesty and marvel of the vision, entirely oblivious to the passage of time, having in the intensity of the experience lived a life of ordinary existence. During this period, probably due to fluctuations in the state of my body and mind caused by internal and external stimuli, there were intervals of deeper and lesser penetration not distinguishable by the flow of time but by the state of immanence, which, at the point of the deepest penetration, assumed such an awe-inspiring, almighty, all-knowing, blissful, and at the same time absolutely motionless, intangible, and formless character that . . . the invisible line demarcating the material world and the boundless, all-conscious Reality ceased to exist, the two fusing into one; the mighty ocean sucked up by a drop, the enormous three-dimensional universe swallowed by a grain of sand, the entire creation, the knower and the known, the seer and the seen, reduced to an inexpressible sizeless void which no mind could conceive nor any language describe." ;
Although most personal accounts of the unitive or mystical state do not have the clarity or depth of expression that we find in the one above, the idea of a sense of unity with all of creation, coming from an experience which transcends time and space, the senses and the intellect, is a common feature of all who have it, at least to a certain degree.
It was Gopi Krishna's belief, which he hoped would one day be validated scientifically, that this mode of perception was the next step in the evolution of the race, and that eventually it would become a permanent feature of our mental makeup, in the same way that the intellect has become over time.
In Sanskrit, the 'point' referred to in the above account is called bindu, and is symbolically represented by the dot of sandalwood paste sometimes worn by Hindus on the forehead, between the eyebrows. In his seminal work on consciousness—The Serpent Power, first published in 1919, the noted Indologist Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe) explains the nature of bindu with respect to the objective and subjective or normal and mystical states of consciousness:
". . . it denotes that state of active Consciousness or Shakti in which the 'I' or illuminating aspect of Consciousness identifies itself with the total 'This'. It subjectifies the 'This,' thereby becoming a point (Bindu) of consciousness with it. When Consciousness apprehends an object as different from Itself, It sees that object as extended in space. But when the object is completely subjectified, it is experienced as an unextended point. This is the universe-experience of the Lord-experiencer as Bindu." ;
At another point, he comments on how this infinite Consciousness limits itself so as to have finite experience:
"Consciousness veils itself to itself, and projects from the store of its previous experiences (Samskara) the notion of a world in which it suffers and enjoys." ;
Another way to understand this is that, as Gopi Krishna has suggested, ; humanity has what may be termed a universal or group mind/ consciousness, from which each of our individualities is projected. In a sense, our individual minds would be analogous to television sets, manifesting a signal from this central broadcasting station of mind, with the difference that we each manifest a slightly different picture than the person beside us.
The problem that science has with this view of consciousness and mind, as Gopi Krishna has pointed out, ; is that it has not yet attained the degree of sophistication where it can detect and study media of such subtlety as that from which mind proceeds. The limitations in the view of mind that science currently takes can be illustrated by the following analogy.
Say we were to take a 'scientist' from the mid 19th century (before radio waves were discovered), bring that scientist forward to the present, and show them a portable television set. They would tinker with the controls and watch the picture change in size, brightness, or color. They might remove some of the components and watch the picture become distorted or disappear altogether. And then, not knowing in detail how the set worked, and without knowing about the existence of radio waves, they would come to the obvious (but erroneous) conclusion that the real source of the image being displayed was located within the set itself. Such is the current view that science has of the human mind.
In the same way that a beam of sunlight entering a room through a window lights the room up, giving it color, form, texture, shape and detail, the projection of our individuality from the collective consciousness lights up and vivifies the body and gives it intelligence, awareness and personality, via the instrumentation of the brain.
But it must always be remembered that as the beam of sunlight is not of the room, but rather is of the essence of the Sun, hundreds of millions of kilometers away, our true nature is not of the body, but is of the essence of the collective or universal consciousness. The fact that we are not directly aware of the source from which we come is another one of the great mysteries of consciousness.
DARK ENERGY, MAYA SHAKTI AND THE BIG BANG
The tendency towards convergence of the scientific and mystical paradigms is apparent when one compares the way in which each describes how the universe was manifested.
According to science, the universe came into being about 13 billion years ago in what has been called 'The Big Bang'. Seemingly, from out of nothingness, the universe, space, and time all came suddenly into being. Since then, the universe has continued to expand until it is now, according to NASA's most recent estimates, about 156 billion light years in diameter. This expansion appears to be driven by what cosmologists have termed dark energy (dark because it is invisible, and has not yet been detected), which pervades the entire universe.
In a recent documentary on the fate of the universe, Dr. Gary Hinshaw, an astrophysicist at NASA remarked, "One common misconception about the Big Bang is that we can identify a point in space where the Big Bang occurred. But in fact it would be more appropriate to think of the Big Bang as the simultaneous creation everywhere of space, which is then continuing to expand to the present day." From every point in it the universe seems to be expanding outward in all directions.
According to the mystical perspective, as expressed by Gopi Krishna, it is "as if a reflection as vast as my conception of the cosmos were thrown out upon infinity by a projector no bigger than a pinpoint." In both accounts, each individual is the 'center' of the universe, from which the cosmos seems to expand outward in all directions.
According to the Indian metaphysical systems, the ultimate reality, termed Brahman, is unknowable, but may be conceptualized as an infinite, all-knowing static consciousness, coupled with an all-powerful dynamic creative principle called Shakti, which is said to manifest the universe. The aspect of this principle which limits the infinite consciousness by veiling itself from itself, contracting it to a point (bindu), and projecting the world picture outwards from it is called Maya Shakti. The similarity between the concepts of Maya Shakti and dark energy are striking.
In the last 100 years, the deterministic, objective and absolute view of reality has been demolished. The trend towards more and more levels of connectivity in creation—first with Einstein's theories of relativity, and then with quantum mechanics—have made the possibility very real that consciousness, rather than matter, is the basal reality. From this consciousness, the physical world that we perceive as external to and separate from us is, in fact, projected from within us.
But in the same way that Einstein's theory of Special Relativity superseded or encompassed Newton's laws of motion, but did not invalidate them, this new vision of how we relate to the universe radically alters our understanding of how reality works, but at the same time preserves the general validity of the scientific paradigm at the sensory level.
The exploration of this new paradigm of reality will, without doubt, require a radical shift in our thinking. We are so accustomed to seeing ourselves as separate from objects and events around us that it will not be easy to change. What is needed, as Gopi Krishna has pointed out, is a comprehensive investigation of the processes in the brain and nervous system which bring about the state of mystical perception. If these processes are, as he has theorized, the next evolutionary step that the human race as a whole is about to take, then we must make every effort to explore and understand how these processes work, and how they can be developed in a safe and healthy way.
How that which is internal to us is made to seem separate and external is one of the most profound mysteries of our existence. The above ideas may seem crazy at first but, as Niels Bohr once said to a student who had proposed an idea that was, in the student's words, 'crazy'; "Your idea is crazy, but not crazy enough to be true!"
- ^Paul Davies, God and the New Physics, Penguin Books, , London, 1990, p 100
- ^Dr. Henry P. Stapp, quoted from Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Bantam New Age Books, New York, 1980, p 82
- ^J. A. Wheeler, K.S. Thorne, and C. Misner, Gravitation, San Francisco CA, Freeman, p 1273. Quoted from Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Bantam Books, New York, 1980, p 29
- ^Gopi Krishna, Living With Kundalini, Ed. Leslie Shepard, Shambhala, Boston, 1993, p 290-1.
- ^Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe), The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga, Dover Publications, New York, 1974, p 34.
- ^Arthur Avalon, The Serpent Power, Dover Publications, New York, 1974, p 32.
- ^Gopi Krishna, Kundalini: Empowering Human Evolution, Ed. Gene Kieffer, Paragon House, NewYork, 1996, Chapter 17
- ^Gopi Krishna, Kundalini—The Evolutionary Energy in Man, Shambhala, Boulder & London, 1970, p 107