Ivan Frimmel

PARALLELS BETWEEN MYSTICISM & SCIENCE From the time of arrival of the relativity theory and quantum physics on the scientific scene there have been
some very exciting and revolutionary developments in science, especially in the field of quantum physics. Many long-held scientific theories have been challenged, some had to be modified and some abandoned in favour of better ones, i.e. better corresponding to the reality of the world in which we live. Physicists arrive at their conclusions through scientific experiments, mystics through their meditative insights or divine revelations, but their discoveries and utterances now seem to resemble each other more and more. The old, mechanical, Newtonian view of the Universe has taken the back seat to a more appropriate, organic view, in which the Universe is seen as One Organic Whole, consisting of interdependent events (rather than separate “things”) affecting each other even at great distances. This is what some mystics and sages have been saying for millennia. Greek philosopher Heraclitus (536-470 BC) maintained that all things in the Universe are in a constant state of flux; the starting point of Buddha (born about 563 BC) was his teaching about impermanence (anicca); in The Upanishads there are references to Brahman as unformed, immortal, moving impersonal being, who transcends all forms, and Shiva as being involved in a perpetual cosmic dance; Tao, the unmanifest and unseen origin of all “things” may be “seen” by observing the interplay between its manifested, interdependent, inseparable, seemingly opposite but harmonious events... The modern physicists are now beginning to confirm what mystics have been saying all along: that nature, at least on the atomic level, is not composed of some solid, static, fundamental building blocks, particles, “things”, but consists of networks of dynamic, interrelated events, probability waves, processes and patterns. (Thus, in language, verbs would be more appropriate for describing WHAT IS, rather than nouns). The holistic mystical awareness of the essential Unity and mutual interrelation of all events as part of the same Ultimate Reality is now slowly but surely finding its way into the realm of science, medicine, psychology, education, etc. In the old scientific paradigm scientific descriptions were believed to be objective, i.e. independent from the human observer and the process of obtaining his knowledge. Heisenberg challenged this notion and pointed out the crucial role of the observer: the role the observer’s intentions, hypotheses, expectations and methods play in obtaining the results of any experiment. In quantum physics the observer and the observed can no longer be separated, as they affect each other. The Buddha, Lao Tzu, Hui Neng, Krishnamurti, Wei Wu Wei, Alan Watts, Ramana Maharshi, Osho and many other mystics had similar insights about the true nature of reality. The “solid” foundations upon which the old science (and epistemology – the philosophy of knowledge) has been built is crumbling up and being replaced with a more flexible network of interrelated scientific (and linguistic) models that may be applied to reality - but always only conditionally and locally, i.e. only within certain limits and boundaries. This makes all scientific theories and models (and the language we use) limited, relative, symbolic and approximate. The new metaphor of knowledge as an interrelated network of events with no firm, solid, permanent foundation blocks, the realisation that nothing is absolutely certain, only a probability, that “empty” vacuum is the background of all energy, and other seemingly paradoxical conclusions of quantum physics may be still quite uncomfortable to some scientists and philosophers. Perhaps they can find some comfort in the statements of many mystics, ancient and modern, who have been telling us that everything comes from nothing, void, and that we can find security and certainty only by plunging into the heart of insecurity and uncertainty, in the flux of life.

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