The Medium, the Mystic, and the Physicist
brickmar at EARTHCOM.NET
Thu Oct 9 14:45:31 CDT 1997
Vidyasankar Sundares, now nestled somewhere in the Himalayas, wrote, in the
second part of his October 3d response to my post:
>I would like to point out
>that when a scientist says things are deterministic, he is talking of
Physicists are now talking a lot about consciousness. It's a new way of
talking. The word was hardly around 75 years ago.
>The same scientists are now starting to talk of chaos theory
To be sure, the science of chaos has demonstrated that the precise details
of apparently regulated phenomena, such as the movement of a pendulum or
the formation of a fern leaf, are influenced by so many subtle and
disparate factors that it is impossible to predict their exact formation in
advance. But these same chaos theoreticians have also shown that
seemingly random phenomena, such as avalanches or cloud formations, have,
in fact, an underlying order to their movements that can be mathematically
ascertained. Through the use of non-linear "flowing" geometries, many
patterns in nature previously considered as arbitrary are now seen as
designed. The ultimate course of any apparently chaotic natural phenomenon
may be harder to predict than more obviously patterned phenomena (such as
the movement of a pendulum) but the evidence increasingly suggests that it
is far from random. As James Glieck put it in his account of this new
discipline, Chaos: Making a New Science, something like "universal laws of
chaos" are beginning to emerge.
>> accept the validity of precognition, if fate (as viewed through
> >conventional reality) is real then some very specific action at some
> >specific time "must" take place. Otherwise what is meant by saying
> >is fate"? Admittedly, up to a point, it _is_ possible to imagine
>See, you are absolutizing both fate and free will, so that you see that
>both cannot co-exist in an ultimate reality, and you opt for fate. My
>entire point is that words like fate and will are purely relative in their
>meanings, with practical uses. There is no point is making them into
>absolutes, and there is no point in saying that everything is fate nor
>that everything is free will.
I need you to expand on this point. I just don't get what you are trying
to say here. To say everything is fate, as evidenced by precognition, is
to point a finger toward Nirguna Brahma. To say anyone has free will is to
point a finger at an individuated self.
>Rather, in an ultimate reality, there is
>nothing that can be called fate and there is nothing that can be called
Give me one example of something that can be called anything in an ultimate
>As an aside, although many vedic statements model creation as an act of
>will on the part of brahman (saH akAmayata, thereby putting kAma
>(will/desire) as the cause of the universe), advaita denies that such will
>really characterizes brahman. Obviously, we cannot say that brahman is
>fated to produce the universe as we perceive it around us.
Obviously not, or Nirguna would have no meaning in relation to Brahman.
But meditation, as James showed, on the experience of will, also denies
will to an individuated self. It's a step in the right direction:
"'I am the real, Brahman'" and "'I act'" are two (contradictory) notions
witnessed by the Self. Of these two (contradictory notions), to give up
the one springing from ignorance (ajnana) would be thought, surely, to be
the most reasonable course." Samkara, the Upadesasahasri, Sloka 6, Chapter
"A man becomes liberated even in this life when he knows that God is the
Doer of all things...Not even a leaf moves except by God's will. Where is
man's free will? --Ramakrishna.
Belief in the non-reality of free will is not a theory, it is a result of
observation and meditation.
If you refer back to my original post on James's meditation on will, which
I offered as a template for the experience of will, you will see that James
could not find the answer to the question "Where is free will?" either.
And he _wanted_ to find it! I think Ramakrishna's question is as good as
Ramana Maharshi's "What is the I"? In fact, it is the same question.
>Where the absolute is known, there is neither fate nor will.
You're guessing :)
> >Free will has, for me, the status of an illusory existent. The
> >_non_-reality of free
>> will is not a bias of one's judgment but a
>> conclusion based upon introspection. It is not a raising but a
>>a deconstructing. Fate, on the other hand, as substantiated by
>> precognition, is not so much raised to an absolute level as already
> >existing there. Precognition substantiates many physicists beliefs,
>Why don't you deconstruct the precognition too? Maybe your own
>introspection would let you know that fate is also an illusory existent.
Fate, as a fixed sense of what the next moment of saguna Brahman will be is
an illusory existent. But the experience of precognition, as related by
some "sensitives" or clairvoyants is another matter. I get the feeling
that you have, like most academics, a disdain for these people. But they
are worthy of any advaitin's respect, if only in the minimal meaning of
that word--"to look again".
At least do a little research before dismissing the "clairvoyant reality."
Some of the writing, beyond the presentation of the evidence, even has
an exciting freshness, as if it is trying to push the spiritually degraded
English language beyond its limits:
"The falling of the barriers say that there is the dual process...the
hemming in the partioning off the localizing the selfing. All that is one
process. Now reverse it and say the escape, the unifying, the
delocalization of the soul that is nearer, get the thought clear testifying
to the existence of a whole...." British sensitive , Mrs. Willet, quoted
by Lawrence Le Shan in his recently re-released book, The Medium, the
Mystic, and the Physicist.
>The belief in an overriding fate is as erroneous as the belief in an
>unrestrained free will. Both are only beliefs, unsubstantiated by good
Once again I remind you not to make the all to common error of confusing a
belief in fate with fatalism. Fate is overriding only in the sense that
the individuated I is ultimately reading what he thinks he is writing. But
at the level of the individuated I it feels like writing. A belief
in the non-reality of free will gets you to hold the pen with less tension
in the hand.
I know no evidence for a belief in free will of any kind whatsoever. The
evidence for fate, as substantiated by precognition is, perhaps, better
than you realize. A new book, The Conscious Universe, featured on Brian
Josephson's web page, was written to address academic skeptics, looking for
the hard evidence. I personally find the anecdotal stuff more convincing.
...>the statement about the separation of past and future being
>a mere illusion does not necessarily mean that everything is fate. In the
>physical universe, yes, things are deterministic, but to attribute
>everything to physics is not very sound. Current philosophy of science
>takes a very reductionist approach, in which all human experience is
>biology, all biology is chemistry, all chemistry is physics, all physics
>is mathematics and there is nothing beyond mathematics.
This sounds more like a binge/diet approach than a simple reduction.
Somewhat unpredictable life, to predictable matter, to unpredictable
matter, to an underlying harmonia.
>A related joke about people who lead these fields - all good biologists
>are chemists, all good chemists are physicists, all good physicists think
>they are God, and God thinks he is a mathematician. The joke captures the
>basically flawed nature of the above reductionistic approach.
This joke falls flat for me at the end. It is funny up to the last point
that is true: Physicists think they are God. Indeed they do. And in
similar ways to how an Advaitin thinks he or she is God. Here is one of
the best physicists, Schrodinger:
"...the reason why our sentient, percipient, and thinking ego is met
nowhere in our world picture can easily be indicated in seven words:
because it is ITSELF that world picture. It is identical with the whole
and therefore cannot be contained in it as part of it."
P.S. Hurry back Vidyasankar. I could almost hear your groans through my
presario as you engaged this debate. But your more light than heat
approach is always appreciated.
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