Fabric of the Cosmos

Fabric of the Cosmos cover

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Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (FC) says,

What is reality? We humans only have access to the internal experiences of perception and thought, so how can we be sure they truly reflect an external world? Philosophers have long recognized this problem. . . . And physicists such as myself are acutely aware that the reality we observe–matter evolving on the stage of space and time–may have little to do with the reality, if any, that’s out there. Nevertheless, because observations are all we have, we take them seriously. (ix)

The overarching lesson that has emerged from scientific inquiry over the last century is that human experience is often a misleading guide to the true nature of reality. Lying just beneath the surface of the everyday is a world we’d hardly recognize. Followers of the occult, devotees of astrology, and those who hold to religious principles that speak to a reality beyond experience have, from widely varying perspectives, long since arrived at a similar conclusion. . . . Assessing existence while failing to embrace the insights of modern physics would be like wrestling in the dark with an unknown opponent. By deepening our understanding of the true nature of physical reality, we profoundly reconfigure our sense of ourselves and our experience of the universe. (5)

I studied the nature of reality, including ultimate reality, my whole life. I am a mystic with a strong rational, scientific aptitude. I especially apply myself to entering an alternative reality called Braj that is free of the ill effects of spacetime. This is an internal subjective experience that may be more real than our outer lives since it puts me and other practitioners in relationship or entanglement with the Ground of Being–God-dess, Radha-Krishna–who will be fully realized at death when I fully cross from this dimension to the next.

As I practice the way of natural devotion, I like to keep my mysticism grounded in what may be understood as the latest social construct of reality based on quantum physics and cosmology. I turn to science hoping to get facts and proven theories about the cosmos and our place in it only to find that they don’t really know how it works or what it is–although they claim to be making progress and new experimental results clear things up while perhaps also making them more mysterious. I like the scientific way of holding provisional truths, but being willing to change them when proven wrong or a better explanation is provided.

However, it is unfortunate that the scientific community, which is heavily influenced by materialism and atheism, goes to extreme lengths to avoid the issue of consciousness and the possibility of a conscious creator, which is the logical obvious cause of the big bang. As Greene says, “Things become definite only when a suitable observation forces them to relinquish quantum possibilities and settle on a specific outcome. (11)” God-dess’ gaze collapses the potential universe to a compact particle that then inflates to create the observed universe. The One becomes many and yet remains one supporting all.

Natural devotion comes from the Vaishnav tradition that proposes the existence of innumerable material universes that are distorted reflections of the spiritual universe, which is the infinite, eternal reality underlying this illusory apparent reality. Ancient sages pondered the same questions as today’s scientists and had some similar insights. Intuitive realization plays an important role in scientific understanding today as it did in antiquity. “Classical physics provided a rigorous grounding for human intuition. (8)”

Instead of the three spatial dimensions and one time dimension of common experience, superstring theory requires nine spatial dimensions and one time dimension. And, in a more robust incarnation of superstring theory known as M-theory, unification requires ten space dimensions and one time dimension–a cosmic substrate composed of a total of eleven spacetime dimensions. As we don’t see these extra dimensions, superstring theory is telling us that we’ve so far glimpsed but a meager slice of reality. (18)

Even decades before superstring theory’s discovery, visionary scientists, including Einstein, pondered the idea of spatial dimensions beyond the ones we see, and suggested possibilities for where they might be hiding. . . . And the room provided by large extra space dimensions might allow for something even more remarkable: other nearby worlds–not nearby in ordinary space, but nearby in the extra dimensions–of which we’ve so far been completely unaware. (19)

I picture the spiritual realm of Braj existing in another dimension that pervades the one we currently inhabit–including our collective consciousness. All these added theoretical dimensions certainly provide room for this spiritual world and others to exist undetected by material means but accessible via a spiritual journey.

Greene says,

I wanted what Feynman described: to assess life and to experience the universe on all possible levels, not just those that happened to be accessible to our frail human senses. The search for the deepest understanding of the cosmos became my lifeblood. (21)

I had similar aspirations, but I chose to pursue them through mysticism.

Each generation takes over from the previous, pays homage to its predecessors’ hard work, insight, and creativity, and pushes up a little further. New theories and more refined measurements are the mark of scientific progress, and such progress builds on what came before, almost never wiping the slate clean. Because this is the case, our task is far from absurd or pointless. . . . we undertake the most exquisite and noble of tasks: to unveil this place we call home, to revel in the wonders we discover, and to hand off our knowledge to those who follow. (22)

Just as Greene and other scientists advanced understanding by building on what came before and adjusting their course as new revelations became available, I did the same thing for the cause of spiritual understanding in my Universalist Radha-Krishnaism building on previous teachings but adapting to new revelations. I pass on this wisdom with the hope that others will pick it up and advance it even further. There is certainly more to be revealed in science and spirituality.

The big bang started the universe off in a state of low entropy, and that state appears to be the source of the order we currently see. In other words, the current order is a cosmological relic. (171)

Or we could say, whatever banged was highly ordered in such a way that its unfolding led to our current existence just as the unfolding of an acorn leads to an oak tree.

Incredible order at the beginning is what started it all off, and we have been living through the gradual unfolding toward higher disorder ever since. (174)

Greene says, “The puzzle then is to explain how the universe began in such an unlikely, highly ordered configuration. (176)” I and many theologians point to a conscious designer rather than mere chance interactions that are most unlikely to produce a livable universe like this.

An observation today can therefore help complete the story we tell of a process that began yesterday, or the day before, or perhaps a billion years earlier. An observation today can delineate the kinds of details we can and must include in today’s recounting of the past. (191)

People and processes begun in the distant past influence us today. We can’t change the past, but we can change the way we view the past and how we allow the past to influence us. I did that in a couple of ways–such as writing Universalist Radha-Krishnaism (URK), which revisions Chaitanya Vaishnavism using contemporary theological and scientific ideas, and writing An Authentic Life: A Spiritual Autobiography, which puts the events of my life in a satisfying, successful perspective from the vantage point of my life today so that all the struggles were worthwhile and fruitful. Thus, I revitalized my spiritual tradition and my personal life by looking at them in new ways based on current information and consciousness.

If there were perfect symmetry between how things are now and how they were then, if the change from moment to moment were of no more consequence than the change from rotating a cue ball, time as we normally conceive it wouldn’t exist. . . . there’d be no sense in which the universe evolves or changes. Time would be an abstract feature of this reality’s arena . . . (226)

As I and others conceive of Braj, it is a world unaffected by time. It’s inhabitants’ bodies do not change–they do not experience birth, death, old age, or disease. The environment does not change in essence, but pleasing new manifestations constantly unfold giving the appearance of day and night and a sequence of events. It exists in the eternal now, and a moment can last an age. Multiple realities can coexist at once since Radha-Krishna are able to make each devotee think they are only with them in a personal relationship. Thus, residents of Braj enjoy eternity in ever novel divine play.

For reasons that will become increasingly clear, the highly successful laws of physics developed in the twentieth century break down under such intense conditions, leaving us rudderless in our quest to understand the beginning of time. (248)

Metaphysics deals with those things beyond physics such as the beginning of time. Mysticism, theology, and spirituality over the millennia searched for the primary cause, and they came up with a variety of theories. When metaphysics combines with the latest revelations of quantum mechanics, astronomy, and cosmology, perhaps a truer vision of existence may be gained. Anyone who at all keeps up with the news knows we sorely need a new vision that can unite the world for the common good soon.

Researchers refer to the emptiest space can be as the vacuum, and so we learn that the vacuum may actually be permeated by a uniform Higgs field.

The process of a Higgs field’s assuming a nonzero value throughout space–forming a Higgs ocean–is called spontaneous symmetry breaking and is one of the most important ideas to emerge in the later decades of twentieth-century theoretical physics. (260)

However, most physicists do believe that were it not for the Higgs ocean, all fundamental particles would be like the photon and have no mass whatsoever. (263)

The emptiest empty space need not involve a state of absolute nothingness. Without invoking the spiritual, therefore, we may well closely brush up against the thinking of Henry More . . . in our scientific quest to understand space and time. To More, the usual concept of empty space was meaningless because space is always filled with divine spirit. (269-70)

The detection of Higgs particles would be a major milestone, as it would confirm the existence of a species of field that theoretical particle physicists and cosmologists have invoked for decades, without any supporting experimental evidence. (427)

These Higgs particles were recently detected at the Large Hadron Collider, ten years after this was written, confirming the theoretical claims. Some dubbed them the “God particle” because they give mass to other particles. Perhaps a better description of them from a Universalist Radha-Krishnaism perspective may be the material energy of God-dess that gives otherwise massless spiritual energy a mass making it matter.

This raises the intriguing possibility that there might actually be a single fundamental force of nature, that through a series of cosmological phase transitions has crystallized into the four seemingly different forces of which we are currently aware. (266)

According to Universalist Radha-Krishnaism, God-dess is that single force pervading all as the Ground of Being.

God-dess possesses infinite energies, but according to Chaitanya, the spiritual energy, material energy, and individual spirits are primary. They exist in God-dess’ nature. Spiritual energy constitutes the intrinsic self of God-dess, and forms the substratum of the transcendental world where God-dess displays transcendental forms and activities. Material energy externally relates to God-dess and causes the material world. It relates to God-dess in the sense that all energies ultimately inhere in God-dess. God-dess’ perfect selfhood transcends the duality of matter and exists totally free of its influence. (85)

Greene goes on to say:

A common misconception is that the big bang provides a theory of cosmic origins. It doesn’t. The big bang is a theory . . . that delineates cosmic evolution from a split second after whatever happened to bring the universe into existence, but it says nothing at all about time zero itself. And since, according to the big bang theory, the bang is what is supposed to have happened at the beginning, the big bang leaves out the bang. It tells us nothing about what banged, why it banged, how it banged, or, frankly, whether it ever really banged at all. In fact, if you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that the big bang presents us with quite a puzzle. (272)

I put it this way:

Creation of the material universe begins the spacetime continuum. Before creation, there was no space or time. Without beginning or end, God-dess exists in the eternal now. The logos Om manifests in the big bang. The event horizon bursts from the primal singularity. The one becomes many. On this level of reality, spacetime begins.

No one can adequately explain the beginning of creation or what existed before it. No one was there–not scientists or religionists. Both speculate. Yet people want to know how creation began. Where does this universe come from? Science and religion try their best to explain the unexplainable and give people something to hold on to. (URK 101)

Greene continues:

According to inflation, the more than 100 billion galaxies, sparkling throughout space like heavenly diamonds, are nothing but quantum mechanics writ large across the sky. To me, this realization is one of the greatest wonders of the modern scientific age. (308)

This means, as I discussed in “Quantum Enigma–A Response,” the whole universe lacks objective reality yet is interconnected in a mysterious way as if it is the mind of God-dess that pervades and sustains all and ultimately is all.

This success has convinced many physicists of the inflationary theory’s validity. What is of equal importance, these and other precision astronomical measurements, which have only recently become possible, have allowed cosmology to mature from a field based on speculation and conjecture to one firmly grounded in observation–a coming of age that has inspired many in the field to call our era the golden age of cosmology. (310)

The great religions of antiquity often included cosmologies based on their current scientific understanding. It is amazing to me that some Christian and Hindu groups want to have their outdated cosmologies taught on a par with today’s science. When it comes to understanding the material world and its workings, scientists do that well. When it comes to metaphysics and meaning, it is best that science leave that alone–especially with today’s crop of materialists.

The puzzle we encountered is to explain how this high-order, low-entropy starting point came to be. (314)

It’s . . . this early state of order . . . that primed the universe for the subsequent evolution to higher entropy and hence provided the arrow of time we all experience. With our current level of understanding, this is the most complete explanation for time’s arrow that has been given. (322)

Clearly the universe began in a state of high order that did not result by chance from chaos. Nothing comes from nothing. In the beginning, there was a highly ordered something that became the universe as we know it today. That original something came from something or someone that ordered it to work in such a way to produce a life sustaining universe.

the single species of string can account for a great variety of particles because the string can execute a great variety of vibrational patterns. . . . At the ultramicroscopic level, the universe would be akin to a string symphony vibrating matter into existence. (347)

Most strikingly . . . string theory has revealed that the fabric of the cosmos may have many more dimensions than we perceive directly–dimensions that may be the key to resolving some of the universe’s deepest mysteries. (374)

[T]he most straightforward reading of string theory says that the extra space dimensions are every bit as real as the three we know about. (529)

The unifying master theory has tentatively been called M-theory, M being a tantalizing placeholder whose meaning–Master? Majestic? Mother? Magic? Mystery? Matrix?–awaits the outcome of a vigorous worldwide research effort now seeking to complete the new vision . . . (379)

It is not necessarily that the extra dimensions are extremely small. They could be big. We don’t see them because of the way we see. We see by using the electromagnetic force, which is unable to access any dimensions beyond the three we know about. Like an ant walking on a lily pad, completely unaware of the deep waters lying just beneath the visible surface, we could be floating within a grand, expansive, higher-dimensional space . . . but the electromagnetic force–eternally trapped within our dimensions–would be unable to reveal this. (393-4)

That scientists are coming to these conclusions is encouraging to me. Vaishnav theology portrays the universe as floating in a vast causal ocean that is a small portion of the infinite spiritual universe that encompasses everything.

Everything exists within the infinite Absolute. The infinite existence of God-dess logically excludes the existence of anything other than God-dess. All existence consists of the energy of the absolute, who remains intrinsically related to it. Everything exists within God-dess, and she-he exists within everything. (URK 82)

Greene continues,

Right now, right next to you, right next to me, and right next to everyone else, there could be another spatial dimension–a dimension beyond left/right, back/forth, and up/down, a dimension that’s curled up but still large enough to swallow something as thick as this page–that remains beyond our grasp. (400)

I see the spiritual and psychic dimensions interpenetrating the physical. Materialistic scientists long dismissed such nonphysical dimensions, but now the role consciousness plays in physics, lack of scientific reality, and universal interconnectedness described in Quantum Enigma make them harder to deny.

There may be much more to space and time than we anticipated; if there is, what we consider to be ”everything” may be but a small constituent of a far richer reality. (412)

This is certainly true. Exploration of the inner realms of consciousness can provide a rich life unavailable elsewhere. When we connect our individual consciousness to the cosmic consciousness of God-dess it enlivens our being and allows us to glimpse our eternal self. Natural devotion entails visualizing our life in Braj and increasing our desire to be there, which is the key to entry.

No doubt, when it comes to extra dimensions, I’m biased. I’ve worked on aspects of extra dimensions for more than fifteen years, so they hold a special place in my heart. But, with that confession as a qualifier, it’s hard for me to imagine a discovery that would be more exciting than finding evidence for dimensions beyond the three with which we’re all familiar. To my mind, there is currently no other serious proposal whose confirmation would so thoroughly shake the foundation of physics and so thoroughly establish that we must be willing to question basic, seemingly self-evident, elements of reality. (426)

I’m biased too. I’ve worked on aspects of extra dimensions for forty-eight years, so they hold a special place in my heart as well. I bought this book hoping to find scientific corroboration for their existence. I like my beliefs to be in tune with actual existence as we best understand it today. It turns out my beliefs may be more in line with current scientific thought than one might imagine although proof is far off if ever to be attained.

I think some things like spiritual dimensions and God-dess are beyond proof. They remain in the realm of faith and the subjective experiences of those who dare venture on the spiritual quest for self-realization. A person may find adequate experiential proof to keep their faith strong, but it is not necessarily adequate to convince a skeptic. The path to God-dess realization is long and arduous with few willing to commit to the task.

The journey to discover the nature of space and time has been long and filled with many surprises; no doubt it is still in its early stages. During the last few centuries, we’ve seen one breakthrough after another radically reshape our conceptions of space and time and reshape them again. The theoretical and experimental proposals we’ve covered in this book represent our generations sculpting of these ideas, and will likely be a major part of our scientific legacy. (436)

Similarly with our understanding of God-dess. There have been many advances by great thinkers and mystics through the centuries. Spirituality is a progressive path leading to fuller realization. I offer my sculpting of ideas, Universalist Radha-Krishnaism, to the spiritual legacy of my generation. However, just as there are those who reject scientific facts such as evolution, there are those who think only old religious beliefs are worth following. I am not one of them.

This tricky issue–to what extent is our personal identity tied to our physical being?–has been debated for years in a variety of guises without being answered to everyone’s satisfaction. While I believe identity all resides in the physical, others disagree, and no one can claim to have the definitive answer. (441)

Of course, I disagree and believe identity and consciousness reside in the individual spirit. I’m surprised at how many people today think they are simply their physical body and death is the end. I actually sat across the table at Thanksgiving dinner with a man who said he was a “meat computer.” How sad. At least I admire Greene’s openness that is part of his scientific mindset.

Physicists spend a large part of their lives in a state of confusion. It’s an occupational hazard. To excel in physics is to embrace doubt while walking the winding road to clarity. The tantalizing discomfort of perplexity is what inspires otherwise ordinary men and women to extraordinary feats of ingenuity and creativity; nothing quite focuses the mind like dissonant details awaiting harmonious resolution. (471)

This kind of thought also drives me on the spiritual quest. I constantly doubt and question. Critical examination of my beliefs and practices only strengthens my faith, making it my own–not a hand-me-down from someone else.

In due course, space and time as currently conceived may be recognized as mere allusions to more subtle, more profound, and more fundamental principles underlying physical reality. . . . Physicists sometimes sum up this possibility by saying that spacetime may be an illusion–a provocative depiction, but one whose meaning requires proper interpretation. (471)

I say:

The material universe exists as a reflection of the spiritual world, like a tree reflected on water. The tree is real; the reflection is ephemeral, yet based in reality. The material universe exists as a temporary modification of the spiritual world. (Plato’s theory of forms is a similar concept.) It appears real like the dream world sleepers inhabit seems real, but they wake up and realize its temporary nature. People consider the waking world real, but it forms another level of dream. However, it shares many features of the real spiritual world. (URK 102)

Instead, composite spacetime would mean that an even more elemental description of the universe–one that is spaceless and timeless–has yet to be discovered. (FC 472)

In a panentheistic sense, infinite, eternal God-dess is the universe itself and that which contains it.

We are thus led to ask: if the clues described in the last two sections are pointing us in the right direction, and familiar spacetime is but a large scale manifestation of some more fundamental entity, what is that entity and what are its essential properties? (FC 477)

God-dess who is eternal consciousness bliss.

Again, there is no question that regardless of future discoveries, space and time will continue to frame our individual experience; space and time, as far as everyday life goes, are here to stay. (FC 492)

Yes, that’s my experience also. Living in the material world is where day to day life unfolds. We best understand, accept, and work with it to the best of our ability for as long as we are here. It is also divine if seen with the proper vision.

Thus, the “timeless” photon perspective is limited to massless objects (of which the photon is an example), and so “timelessness is permanently beyond what all but a few types of particle species can ever attain. (497)

Individual spirits and spiritual energy are not matter and hence have no mass, therefore they are timeless. Individual spirits are much more compatible with spiritual energy than material energy, but they are able to travel between both and can identify with matter.

I can’t help but like Brian Greene despite his material perspective. He is open minded and writes about complex subjects clearly and without formulas. I highly recommend The Fabric of the Cosmos to anyone who wants an up to date understanding of this place we call home.

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