There are two competing trends in modern society, one that is going in the direction of increased individualism. Already the 1980s, became characterised as the “Me Decade”, and the later millennium generation, is known to be the most self-absorbed generation in history.
The other competing trend is based on the notion that we are all parts of one cosmic unity. This trend combines the advances of modern physics and ancient eastern traditions and philosophies. The first author to recognise the similarities between the two was the Austria physicist Fritjof Capra, in his now classic 1975 book The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism.
Unlike the classical Newtonian physics, Einstein already in his 1905 theory of relativity, time and space, proposed that mass is a mere form of energy, and later quantum physics have shown that a subatomic elemental particle can be both in the state of a particle and a quantum wave simultaneously with a certain probability, and only if observed the probability is reduced to one. I have described this in my previous blog post on Schrödinger’s cat.
In the Eastern philosophy, there is also no separation between mind, matter and cosmos. Everything is part of the same “inner essence of all things”, whether it’s called Brahman as in the Hindu tradition, Dharmakaya, as in the Buddhist tradition or Tao (“the way”) as in the Taoist tradition. In all three traditions, this is a state of a higher consciousness that evades any intellectual description and could only be experienced through meditation and other spiritual exercises.
The inseparable and indestructible nature of things is not the only connection between modern physics and Asian mysticism, common to both is also that within this inseparable unity there are two different dimensions. As well as light could be described both as particles (photons) and light waves within the same relative space-time, all aspects of life, nature and cosmos could be described in two dimensions (yin and yang) belonging to the same unity.
Even the notion of time and space show similarities between the two schools of thought. In Einstein’s theories, the gravitational fields around matter are curving the space in which they exist, rather than filling it, and the gravitational fields are thus inseparable from the curved space. In the Eastern philosophy, Brahman, Sunyata and Tao are all described as formless and empty voids.
Capra himself described that the modern physics was in “perfect harmony with those of the Eastern mystical traditions which have always regarded consciousness as an integral part of the universe.” Realising that we are part of a bigger universal unity, could be a useful reminder and give us other perspectives in times when we are stuck in our own egos.