Vedanta And Quantum Consciousness

satyameva jayate nānṛtaṁ, satyena panthā vitato devayānaḥ, yenākramantyṛṣayo hyāptakāmā, yatra tat satyasya paramaṁ nidhānam - Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.6

Truth alone triumphs; not falsehood. Through truth the divine path is spread out by which the sages whose desires have been completely fulfilled, reach where that supreme treasure of Truth resides.

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Classical Physics

Classical Physics is a term used to explain the Physics that existed till the period of the emergence of Quantum Physics (around 1900 CE). In the boundary of Quantum Physics and Classical Physics sits the Theory of Relativity of Albert Einstein. The principal laws of classical Physics was formulated by Isaac Newton. It culminated with the works of Albert Einstein. The primary discovery of classical physics was the discovery of the laws of gravitation. Based on these laws, Gravitation was conceived as a fundamental 'force' that act upon 'matter' which has a fundamental property called 'mass'. Subsequently all the four fundamental forces of the Universe like electromagnetism, strong and weak forces are discovered. All these forces, the laws governing the application of these forces on matter having various properties like 'mass' and 'charge' together were considered as sufficient to explain all the reality of the world.

Time was considered as independent of Space and was conceived as 'flowing' freely and at equal 'rate' for all entities in the universe. Time is considered as having a single dimension (duration) and space was considered as having three dimensions (width, breadth and height).

The contributions of Albert Einstein changed this picture dramatically but it still lied in the realm of classical physics. Einstein shook the notion of Time and stated that space and time are not distinct entities but together formed a construct called space-time having four dimensions. He also proved that this space-time can be curved in certain areas and this curvature generates the illusion of mass and the force of gravitation. Thus Newtonian concept of gravity was revised and reduced where gravity became viewed as an intrinsic property emerging from the geometry of space-time.

Another big change introduced by Einstein is the notion that energy and matter are not distinct entities but together formed a single entity.

Both Newtonian classical physics and Einsteinian classical physics explained the marco-scopic Universe (universe at the level of people, planets and galaxies) very well but failed to explain the micro-scopic Universe (universe at the level of sub-atomic particles). Both Newtonian and Einsteinian world view considered the Universe as a continuum.

Quantum Physics

Quantum Physics emerged as a part of physics that studied the sub-atomic particles. The major discovery of Quantum physics is that at micro-scopic level the Universe is not continuous. Thus the notion of the universe as a continuum collapsed. Space-time existed not as a smooth sheet but as chunks of units called quanta at a microscopic scale called the Plank scale (10 ^ -34). But that was just the beginning. The sub-atomic particles or the quantum particles did not follow any deterministic laws. They exhibited 'dual nature' and behaved both as 'particles' and as 'wave', which derives from the classical energy-matter equivalence. This enabled a quantum entity to exist at two or more places at the same time. Entangled quantum entities exhibited telepathy like communication even when separated in space and time. The events in quantum world were governed by probabilities and choice making. The position of a quantum entity cannot be stated with certainty but only with a certain probability. Thus instead of 'position' we speak of quantum 'superposition'. A quantum superposition of 'states' (eg:- 'yes-no') chooses to collapse into one or other classical states (eg:- either 'yes' or 'no') based on random choices which is sometime influenced by the quantum space-time geometry. The act of 'observation' of a quantum event affected the 'outcome' of the event.

Determinism and Materialism

In the paradigm of classical physics, reinforced by the laws of Newton, there is no room for any random events to occur and hence there is no free will or freedom of choice. There is no room for probability there, as everything is derivable through certain laws or mathematical equations. The universe is conceived by Newton as a giant machinery where the motions of every constituent part of the universe are all predictable including the motions of each and every atom of the universe and each atom in the human brain. The scientists of Newtonian era believed that human brain is another such giant machinery and that human consciousness is the result of the motions of its constituent parts. They thought that science will be able to figure out all these motions if not today then tomorrow. This belief or concept is defined in a nut shell as 'determinism' (the 'classical determinism').

Another specialty of Newtonian era was the absoluteness of matter, that matter is the fundamental 'substance' of the universe. This belief in the absoluteness of matter is called 'materialism'. Since consciousness is considered as a property emerging from matter and its interactions with force fields, 'consciousness' is relegated as secondary or unimportant or at the most an epi-phenomena of the interactions of matter and energy.

Influence of Determinism and Materialism on Atheism

These two concepts viz. 'determinism' and 'materialism' reigned supreme and influenced all thought in those days, not only physics but also allied sciences like chemistry and biology. It even influenced sociology and shaped the world view of social, economic, political and religious leaders as well. The world views of Carl Marx and other communist leaders are all based on this 'determinism' and 'materialism'. In fact all the atheistic traditions both old and new derive their basis from this belief. The old traditions of atheism include those found as part of the Hindu ecosystem of world-views, such as those expounded by Kanaada and those world-views known by the name of 'Naasthika Vaada'. What we now know as communism is just a new form of the ancient atheistic view, which has assumed a political and religious dimension, in today's world.

Influence of Determinism on Religions

Even though it was Newtonian laws that gave a scientific basis to determinism and materialism, these are very old principles or beliefs held by human thought since bygone eras. For example we see the same determinism at work in some of the axiomatic principles of certain religions like Christianity and Islam. The axiomatic principle of Christianity that salvation is achieved only through Christ and those who believe that Christ is the only son of god are 'determined' to go to heaven and those who do not believe in this principle are 'determined' to go to hell - this is a sign of influence of determinism. Similarly the axiomatic principle of Islam that those who believe that Mohammad is the last prophet and Allah is the only God are 'determined' to go to heaven and the rest are 'determined' to go to hell - this again is an influence of determinism.

Materialism and Religions

These religions however remained independent from the influence of materialism in varying degrees. For example these religions conceived the possibility that there could be something other than the material matter in the universe and called it spirit, in the form of the all powerful God and individual souls. But this independence was not complete. At the most, these religions conceived spirit as some sort of substance similar to matter but independent of matter and superior to matter with the ability to control matter.

This partial independence of religions like Christianity and Islam from the concept of materialism and the full dependence of communism and classical physics on materialism is the primary source of conflict between science and religion (This conflict is in reality, a conflict of classical science / Newtonian physics with respect to Christianity and Islam). This is also the basis of conflict between Communism with respect to Christianity and Islam.

Such a conflict of science and religion never existed between science and Hinduism, mainly because Hinduism is not a monolithic religion like Christianity and Islam based on some dogma but it is a complete ecosystem of many diverse thoughts which included atheism as well as the world view of classical physics as part of it. Thus instead of conflicting with classical physics and concepts like materialism and determinism, Hinduism contained them.


Vedanta is a distinct school of thought which is part of the Hindu ecosystem of thought streams. There are several variants of Vedanta, such as Advaita, Dvaita and Vishistaadvaita. These distinctions will be discussed later. When compared with non Vedantic school of thought, all Vedantic schools share certain common principles which allow us to talk about them in the single umbrella term 'Vedanta'. These common principles also make all Vedantic schools distinct from other Hindu thoughts and other general thoughts found in other religions, other philosophies and those thoughts found in the realm of science.

Determinism and Materialism vs Vedanta

One of the central aspect of Vedanta (all the Vedantic school of thoughts) is that it is independent of determinism and materialism. Vedanta envisions a human consciousness independent of matter. Consciousness can be conditioned by the limitations and qualities of matter but it is independent of matter. Vedanta considers matter as something that is projected from the creative power of consciousness. Thus matter is conceived as a secondary entity that is really non-existent but projected from consciousness though the illusory power (called Maaya) of consciousness. Thus materialism is completely absent in Vedanta.

Consciousness exhibit the property of free will or the ability to choose. This free will and choices leads consciousness to various states of existence. In Vedanta, there are no dogmatic rules that affects the free will of consciousness or impose any restriction upon its choices. Thus Vedanta is independent of determinism.

Consciousness in Vedanta

Depending up on the specific Vedantic school of thought, this consciousness is considered singular (like in Adviada school) or plural (like in Dvaida and Visistadvaida).

When we say that consciousness is plural, it means, the consciousness of each individual is distinct and separate from each other and is also separate from the consciousness of the supreme being (which other religions and thoughts calls 'God').

When we say there is only a singular consciousness what we mean is that there is only one consciousness that appear as many. In other worlds the feeling of our identity as distinct is an illusion where as our sense of being conscious is real. Our consciousness is thus nothing but the Universal Consciousness itself. One feel like there are others because of an illusion called 'Maaya'. This is the basis of Vedantic statements like "Aham Brahmaasmi" (I am Brahman), "Tat-Tvam-Asi" (Thou are That (Brahman)) etc.

Quantum Consciousness

Quantum Consciousness is a new concept that is emerging in the field of Quantum Physics (2000 CE). We have already seen the distinctive features of Quantum Physics. The act of making choices and making observations are indicative of consciousness, as these are nothing but attributes of consciousness. Since we speak of 'making choices' and of 'making observations' the notion of consciousness became of paramount importance in the field of Quantum physics. Thus consciousness became a primary subject of physics with the advent of Quantum physics.

Many of its conclusions are strikingly similar to the conclusions of Vedanta. As per Quantum Consciousness theories, consciousness is inherent in the quantum space-time geometry like the way gravity is inherent in the same quantum space-time geometry.

Consciousness Projects Matter

Consciousness with its 'free will' or 'the freedom to choose' is the basis of the Quantum Reality (the reality of the weird quantum world where entities exist at more than one location and where uncertainty, probability and random choices rules at the expense of the classical determinism or certainty) as well as the Classical Reality, (the reality that you and me perceives). Consciousness is that which collapses quantum possibilities into actuality by the act of 'observation'. This way it is consciousness that creates or projects this illusory material world, by creating matter by collapsing quantum probability wave functions. From this understanding derives the inference that Consciousness is transcendent (all pervasive), consciousness is unitive (a singular entity) and that consciousness is 'us'. This, amazingly is the long standing position of Vedanta, for many thousands of years!

Impact on other classical notions

The well accepted notion that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain is thus shaken! Along with it, the idea - that we can produce artificial intelligent systems that are conscious OR that one day computers will become conscious - is going into the drain. Consciousness lies independent of the brain! It lies in the microcosmic quantum structure of universe. Brain is just a sophisticated receiver of this universal consciousness. For want of an analogy, brain is just like the TV set and consciousness is like the TV signals and TV programs.

There was also this belief that since classical physics describe the macrocosm very well but not the microcosm and quantum physics describe the microcosm very well but not the macrocosm a new theory which can explain both may emerge. This belief stems from the assumption that macrocosm is somehow independent of the microcosm and all that we see in our macroscopic world such as the solidity of matter etc is real. However the illusory nature of macrocosm and its emergence from the microcosmic phenomena is now well established. Two entities that were left out of quantum physics were gravity and consciousness. These both now turn out to be intrinsic to quantum space-time geometry. Thus we are very close to a unified theory.

Impact on Vedic practices like Yoga and Tantra

The theory of Quantum Consciousness validates the Vedic practices like Yoga and Tantra. In both these practices, the focus of conscious thought is taken away from the realities of the physical body to inward into consciousness itself. Thus focus shift from projected entities like space-time and energy-matter to the 'source' which is pure consciousness.

Vedanta also speak of our composition as composed of a gross body and a subtle body. Gross body is our physical body. Subtle body is mind and intellect. Vedanta defines mind as emerging from intellect when the intellect 'desires' something. Thus intellect is pure intelligence where discrimination and accumulation of knowledge occurs while mind is where desires, wishes and wants and act of choosing occurs. Sometimes these bodies are considered as layered. The outer layer is the physical body (composed of matter) and within the physical body lies the subtle body. Within the subtle body lies consciousness which is called Atman, which is the pure state of 'being' or existence. Thus Vedanta make a distinction between mind, intellect and pure consciousness (Atman) considering its ability to chose based on desire, discrimination and pure existence. Vedanta goes beyond and speak about absolute consciousness or Universal consciousness which is not bound by any subtle bodies of intellect, mind or matter. It also state that the consciousness that is entangled with subtle and gross bodies when freed from such entanglement becomes one with the absolute / universal consciousness and such a state of union or loss of separation / identity / distinction is called Yoga or Moksha. This is also what happens in the final stages of Kundalini awakening process in Tantra meditation.

From the understanding derived from quantum consciousness studies, it becomes clear that this 'subtle-body' spoken of in Vedanta is nothing but a network of entangled quantum entities. Thus the gross body is the classical body / materialistic body and the subtle-body is the quantum body / entangled quantum entities. The properties of mind-intellect subtle-body system is similar to the entangled quantum particles as both are telepathic and can be non local. The distinction between mind, intellect and Atman may be clear as the theory of Quantum Consciousness progresses further when it will be able to resolve quantum consciousness responsible for pure sense of existence, discrimination and desire based choice making.

Studies of Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff

Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff has studied Quantum Consciousness in a promising and unique approach where investigation is directed to neurons in the brain and specially to the micro-tubules inside neurons and inside many single cellular organisms. Microtubules are more fundamental to cognition than neurons. Their studies concluded that the cognitive phenomena found in microtubules can be explained as a quantum phenomena. They brought forth the idea of Orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR) a way of collapsing of quantum superpositions where quantum states reduce into classical states which in turn results into moments of consciousness.

Stuart Hameroff says:- "Consciousness is a self-organizing process on the edge between the quantum world and the classical world, and a connection between biological systems and the fundamental level of the universe. Orch OR is consistent not only with neurobiology and physics, but with spiritual traditions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Kabbalah".

Whereas we may have 40 conscious moments per second, a simple worm may have only one conscious moment per minute (and of far less intensity than ours).

Consciousness beyond brain

"OR may also possibly occur in cosmological situations such as gigantic Bose Einstein condensations in neutron stars. By our definition, such OR events would be conscious, but lack cognition (OR without Orch)." - In other words Stuart Hameroff is saying that stars are conscious but lacks cognitive ability! This again is a long standing position of Vedic philosophy that consciousness exist in the whole universe.

Glimpses of Cosmic Consciousness

Did the universe exhibit consciousness at the time of big bang? "Astrophysicist Paola Zizzi has suggested that the period of inflation during the Big Bang represented a quantum superposition of the incipient universe which was terminated by OR. Thus the universe at its birth had a moment of cosmic consciousness (the "Big Wow") - the macrocosm of our individual conscious microcosms."

Here again the position of Vedanta is validated by Quantum Consciousness Theories.

Significance of these studies to 2012 and 21st century

What we have seen in the first decade of 21st century is the merger of Western Science and Eastern spirituality! Western science acted as a primary opponent of eastern spirituality in its early state in the form of classical physics, with its materialistic and deterministic world views. Yet, the final metamorphosis of western science, viz. Quantum Physics started validating the conclusions of Vedantic philosophy! The merging point of these seemingly different disciplines is Quantum Physics (especially the studies of Quantum Consciousness) and Vedanta (especially Advaita Vedanta). This is in line with the changes that were long expected to take place in 2012 where 'the world is supposed to end'. What is revealed is that it is not the world that is ending but our long cherished notions about the materialistic world that is ending. In a way it is like the 'shattering of the material world' as we know it from the view point of western science, especially during its classical materialistic phase. Thus the world ends! The notion of a 'material world' is 'destroyed'!. The material world no longer remains as the focus of our thought -process as our focus shifts towards the consciousness that projects this world.

The progression of Changes

These changes were thus not initiated in 2012 or in 2000 CE but right since 1900 CE with the advent of Quantum Theory. With the emergence of Quantum Consciousness Theories in 2000 CE we have rightfully reached the defining moment of 21st century and time way beyond that. Materialistic view of the world is now a thing of past. Future is going to be based on a view of the world where consciousness takes the central stage. Hence we are heading to a new world-order based on spirituality.

Era of Spirituality and Universal Consciousness

Rather than searching God in the outside, individuals will now seek reality of the Self, within, by looking inside of themselves. This is the era of meditation, Yoga and spirituality. In this era, religions that taught humanity to search God in the outside will have very little role. We are yet to know what this new phase in human history has in store for us. We have already tasted the fruits of materialistic science in the form of various technologies that it has provided to humanity. Now it is time to enjoy the benefits emerging out of spirituality. It is hoped that this new era will be an era of harmony where humanity will experience the oneness with nature and the whole Universe. From being the citizens of the globe we emerge as the citizens of the Universe!

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