This article is a summary and conclusion of the earlier three part series of article on the Nature of Matter in New Physics, in the light of a consciousness perspective.)
The Three Steps of Knowledge:
Swami Vivekananda made the following significant observation in one of his talks.
“There are three steps, therefore in our knowledge of things; the first is, that each thing is individual and separate from every other; and the next step is to find that there is a relation and correlation between all things; and the third is that there is only one thing which we see as many.”
This insightful perspective by the Vedantic teacher of India is short and brief but pregnant with momentous and luminous suggestions and hints; it can give an indication of the present status of each science or a field of knowledge, in what direction it has to move to progress towards a higher state of knowledge and a luminous hint on what is the highest truth of that particular field of science or knowledge.
The New Physics in the Second Stage:
The new developments in physics, called as “New Physics” which we have discussed in some detail in an earlier series, is a clear example of this evolution of knowledge and a decisive progress from the first step to a second stage of progress in knowledge. Old physics conceived the atom, the fundamental unit of Matter as a discrete, material entity, distinct and separate from other atoms but combining with them to create the solid matter we see. But in New Physics there is a radical and revolutionary change in perception in which solidity of matter disappears in something immaterial. In this new perception matter is nothing but dancing patterns of energy in the four dimensional space-time continuums. As physicist and author, Fritjof Capra explains,
“Subatomic particles may be conceived as four dimensional entities in space and time. Their forms have to be understood dynamically as form sin space and time. Particles are dynamic patterns, patterns of activity which have a space aspect and a time aspect. Their space aspect makes them appear as objects with a certain mass and their time as involving the equivalent of energy. Thus the being of matter and its activity cannot be separated; they are different aspect of the same space-time reality”.
Thus New Physics has entered into the second step to knowledge and found the nature of Matter as an interacting and interrelated unity of energy. There is also a persistent quest in theoretical physics towards a unified theory of Matter which can link the four fundamental forces of nature: nuclear (strong and weak), electromagnetic and gravitational.
The next step in knowledge is to discover the oneness of Matter. This interacting web of energy and the four forces of material nature are probably the outer expressions of an indivisible oneness of a non-material or subtler something which could be the energy or substance (or both) of matter. Modern physics discarded the concept of ether or substance. There is perhaps no material ether or substance which can be detected through physical instruments. But there could be a subtler ether or substance which cannot be detected by scientific instruments. In new physics, space-time continuum is the underlying substratum of matter and it is regarded as empty. But it could also be the extension of a subtler ether or substance in which energy moves and vibrates in various patterns and configurations shaping matter into various states or forms like the fluid, gaseous and fiery. This is the ancient Indian conception of Matter based on a deeper and subtler inner vision beyond that of the scientific mind. According to Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the concept of substance is not confined to physical matter. Everything in creation at every level- physical, vital, mental and spiritual – is made of a corresponding substance. As the Mother explains,
substance means… how shall I put it?… it means the stuff of which the mental being is made. It could be said, for instance, that the cells are the substance of your body. It is not exactly matter, the mind is not quite material, but it is the very thing of which the mind is made. If there were no mental substance, there would be no mental being. It would be only a vibration; and even a vibration needs a medium to manifest itself. But if your body were not made of material substance, you wouldn’t have a body. This is what is called substance. It is the thing of which something is made. And precisely, what is important is that people usually think that mind is just a mode of activity, whereas there is a mental substance as there is a vital substance and physical substance. And as there is a substance, there is a corresponding world with an autonomous existence, that is to say, there can be a mind without any physical support. The physical body may disappear and the mind can continue to exist. It is here that it is important to understand that there is a mental substance which, obviously, is much more… (silence) how to put it?… immaterial than physical matter. Some people use a rather unclassical word, “rarefied”, but I don’t think it has exactly this sense. Well, you see, we say that substance has different densities, and the more material it becomes, the denser it is, the farther it moves away from matter, the less dense it is. But it is a substance all the same. There is even an etheric substance. I don’t say that this conforms with scientific theories; I don’t guarantee that I am not talking scientific heresies! But this is a cosmic fact.
In this spiritual perspective substance-energy-consciousness are the three principles of creation at all levels- physical, vital, mental and spiritual. Just like the physical universe is created by the physical energy vibrating in physical substance, the vital, mental and spiritual worlds are made of corresponding substance- energy-consciousness.
An invisible and eternal substance – energy-consciousness of the Spirit is the source of all creation and it is present in different forms at different levels. Within the creation in space and time, substance is the primal stuff of a world extending itself as Space and Energy is the movement or vibration of a creative force inherent in the substance or space, creating forms and objects of that world and also felt as the flow of time. Consciousness is the pervading intelligence which determines the patterns, laws, principles and purpose of the movement and creations of the Energy.
At the physical level, an invisible oneness of a subtle material-etheric energy pervaded by a consciousness is probably the primal source of Matter in the physical universe. This consciousness is present in every particle, movement, form or energy of physical Matter, manifesting itself as an intelligence organizing the physical universe through a system of Laws. This intelligence is not a mental or thinking intelligence but a submental, unthinking intelligence, instinctively working out a higher wisdom of the Spirit.
The modern science of Matter is yet to reach this highest step in knowledge. However there are tentative speculations in this direction. For example, E.H.Walker, a quantum physicist says,
“Consciousness may be associated with all quantum mechanical process… since everything that occurs is ultimately the result of one or more quantum mechanical events, the universe is ‘inhabitated’ by an almost unlimited conscious, usually unthinking entities that are responsible for the detailed working of the universe”