By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP, Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Chapman University, P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)
The modern world was created with a simple editing stroke when Truth lost its capital “T.” Instead of pursuing the Truth, with a hundred paths stemming from philosophy and religion, the rise of science taught us to seek lower-case truth, which consists of a body of verifiable facts. We have inherited a suspicion about Truth that can be heard in everyday speech. How often do people say, “Well, it’s all relative.” There’s no such thing as truth with a capital ‘T’.” Between them, relativism and the mountain of data assembled by science have suffocated the notion of Truth.
The search for lower-case truth is no less ambitious than the search for God, the soul, higher consciousness, and a transcendent reality that lies beyond the physical world. Those were the basic elements of Truth as it was revered in the past but repudiated by science. We think it’s valuable to try and reconcile science and spirituality, but let’s skip over that for the moment. The truly important issue is to know if we should be going after truth or the Truth. It’s a question that touches everyone’s life personally, because in hidden ways our whole lives are governed by what we believe about truth. Is it just a mass of verifiable facts? Or are facts secondary to an overarching truth that people should live by as they once lived by faith in God an adherence to religious rules?
We’re not proposing the return of religion in its former guise, or a back-door argument for a new kind of worship. When it had a capital “T,” truth defined the essence of reality. To say, “God created the world in seven days” was a foundation of reality, an absolute that was superior to everything else that might be observed in the physical world. If a fossil dating back a hundred million years contradicted the Book of Genesis, faith required an argument that preserved the absolute Truth, no matter what the cost in rationality.
It hardly needs to be said that science turned this scheme on its head, and now we know better than to accept any absolutes about the nature of reality. Not only have God, the soul, and higher worlds flown the coop, when science itself proposes to obey the laws of nature, such as gravity and the speed of light, these new absolutes are open to question. Time and space were absolutes in Newton’s classical physics until Einstein proposed his General Theory of Relativity. Now, at the cutting edge of cosmology, the discovery that dark matter and energy exist, and that they constitute 96% of creation that emerged after the Big Bang, has raised doubts about factors that Einstein assumed to be constant, such as gravity and the conservation of matter and energy.
At first glance, the toppling of constants seems merely technical. Ordinary life isn’t impacted by contending theories of quantum gravity and superstrings. Dark matter is pulling the expanding universe apart at an accelerating rate, a startling finding that has profound consequences for how the cosmos might end, but who will be around billions of years from now when the end-point arrives? Anyway, quantum physics is becoming spookier and more ambiguous – as if it wasn’t ambiguous enough thirty years ago – which only shows that the Truth is being undermined even more.
Yet appearances are deceiving. Science finds itself in a troubling place when it comes to explaining reality. New findings are already nibbling away at the edges of the three foundational principles that all of science is based on.
1. There is an objective universe “out there.”
2. The universe reveals itself through the collecting of facts, measurements, and data.
3. Once enough objective data has been assembled, we will understand the universe completely, which is the same as saying that we will understand reality.
These statements are the equivalent of holy writ for scientists; they are assumed without question to be valid, and as anyone can attest who has mounted an argument that doesn’t depend upon these principles, cries of heresy arise. Rational researchers suddenly become hot-headed and ad hominem. One is quickly branded an enemy of science. When tempers cool, personal hostility turns into a more rational dismissal: To speak of a reality beyond the physical universe, one that isn’t known by collecting data, is simply “not science,” or “metaphysics.”
In this series of posts we’d like to formulate a new picture of truth that replaces the flawed principles of science as it exists today. What is needed is an expanded science that grows out of facing – and correcting – some mistaken beliefs. Science follows wherever reality leads it. We think that reality has led to a place that doesn’t resemble the model laid down by quantum physics, even though it was quantum physics that opened the door. A new set of principles is needed to replace the current ones.
1. There is no objective universe. What we perceive as physical objects and events are actually reflections of how the human brain perceives things.
2. Reality is one, a constantly shifting whole. It is pure process in which every event is connected to every other. The process is falsified when it is frozen and chopped up into isolated bits and pieces of data. As Wordsworth rightly said, “We murder to dissect.”
3. We live in a participatory universe. The observer is blended into the thing he observes. Ultimately, there is no distinction between observer and observed. Both are expressions of consciousness as it unfolds in time and space.
Stated this baldy, the principles of an expanded science sound arcane and far-fetched. But that’s the nature of a paradigm shift. Everything gets reinterpreted in a radical way, and if you don’t buy into the shift, the reinterpretation sounds outlandish. To a mainstream scientist, nothing is more outlandish than the following statements:
– Consciousness is the ultimate reality. There is only one consciousness, which pervades existence.
– Out of primal consciousness all the matter and energy in the universe emerged.
– Primal consciousness continues to play itself out as the evolving universe. But the source of consciousness is inconceivable, since it lies beyond time and space.
– The human mind is an expression of primal consciousness, which is why we are able to perceive reality in the first place.
– Mind comes first, matter second.
– To finally know reality, our subjective experience is a truer guide than the collection of facts.
In the new paradigm, a purely objective science is a chimera, an illusion kept intact by excluding the actual experience of life as lived. One of the dogmas of current science is that everything can be known through the reductionist method. In other words, the whole is understood by breaking it down into its component parts, the way anatomy breaks down the body into cells, tissues, and organs. Yet the reductionist method is exactly what keeps us from seeing the larger reality we are all participating in. A skeptic will protest, “If you don’t believe in reductionism, you aren’t a real scientist.” To which one can reply, “I’m still a real scientist, just not the kind you are.”
We want to show in these posts that truth is very different from the measurements that science relies upon as it explores finer and finer levels of Nature. Like it or not, the pursuit of the truth is edging us closer to the Truth, as conceived of in Plato’s idealism and Indian Vedanta. The universe has a source, and it is consciousness.
(To be cont.)
Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 70 books with twenty-one New York Times bestsellers, including co-author with Sanjiv Chopra, MD of Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and The American Dream, and co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being (Harmony). Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation and host of Sages and Scientists Symposium – August 16-18, 2013 at La Costa Resort and Spa.
Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director of the Center of Excellence at Chapman University, co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, Who Made God and Other Cosmic Riddles. (Harmony)
P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina and a leading physician scientist in the area of mental health, cognitive neuroscience and mind-body medicine.
Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), co-author with Deepak Chopra of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)