Current Update as of June 11, 2006
Inspired by The Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies
Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.
our explorations of the big questions of universe, life, and consciousness,
and the existential questions of morality, reincarnation, and immortality,
it is time to get down to the most fundamental question of all.
What is the real nature of the world we live in? If we do not create
our reality but just experience it, there should be something
there even when we do not experience it.
But just what is the reality that underlies our experience of the world? The reality of a reenchanted cosmos must be a different reality from the reality of a materialistic and mechanistic universe. There, reality is basically matter moving about in space and time. What is reality in avant-garde sciences current concept of the world?
first thing we should note is that our experience of the world does
not give us reality in its total and pristine purity. Reality may
be like a precious diamond: it may have many facets. In human experience
we get only one facetthe humanly experience-able facet.
if science cannot grasp a transcendent ultimate reality, there is
more to the humanly accessible facet than what we can see, hear,
taste, smell, and touch. Scientists, like everyone else, inspect
the world with their eyes and ears but, unlike other people, they
also inspect it through instruments that extend the power of their
Belief in the consistency and coherence of the world is a fundamental pillar of science. Scientists can accept that nature has indeterminate and even chaotic aspects, but cannot accept that it is entirely incoherent and haphazard.
the immediately sensed domains of reality with the domains one assumes
lie beyond is a tried and tested way of proceeding, for the world
of direct experience is not a humanly meaningful world. Animals
live in such a world, but humans have gone beyond it from the very
beginning of history.
leap beyond the directly experience-able domain of reality
is carefully reasoned and thoroughly tested. Even then, sciences
concept of reality is not necessarily the final and ultimate truth,
for every scientific theory must remain open to correction and even
The Concept of Physical Reality
begin with sciences concept of physical reality. Like all
theories of science, this concept is open to revision. Yet the current
concept may not actually be in need of revisionat least in
regard to what it is not. We can affirm with a high degree of confidence
that physical reality is not confined to matter in space and time.
realization that the vacuum that subtends all things in the universe
is the fundamental medium of physical reality may be the bright
new idea that physicists believe is required to get them out
of their current impassethe impasse of trying to evolve so-called
string theory into the master theory known as the Theory
In string theory (which is the theory physicists look to for creating a ToE), vibrating strings replace the concept of particles. Strings vibrate at different frequencies, and each frequency defines a corresponding kind of particle: one note on the string makes for an electron, another for a neutron, still others make for bosons and gravitons, the particles that carry the forces of nature.
impasse physicists face now is a kind of embarrassment of riches:
there are far too many solutions to the equations of string theoryperhaps
of the order of 10500! Worse than that, each solution describes
a different universe: a universe with different laws and properties.
string theory faces a problem that is still more vexing: it requires
space and time to contain the strings, but it cannot show how the
strings would generate space and time. Space and time must preexist
independently, and if string theory does not account for space-time,
it is not a true ToE.
new fundamental idea that more and more physicists now believe is
needed to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the nature of
physical reality is before our eyes, and it is not actually new.
It is to consider space as the fundamental medium of the cosmos.
a century later, in a paper entitled The Concept of Space,
Einstein wrote, We have now come to the conclusion that space
is the primary thing and matter only secondary; we may say that
space, in revenge for its former inferior position, is now eating
the structure of space have shapes and variations? It
can, for we now know that space is neither empty nor flat. In the
second half of the twentieth century empirical evidence became available,
which shows that space is a superdense field of turbulent virtual
energies (or, in a more technical formulation, that it is a field
of action-quanta that generates energy).
can further agree with Clifford that the shapes and variations
in the vacuum are waves. There are propagating waves in the
vacuum, such as the photons that carry light and the bosons that
carry force; and there are standing waves that make up the vast
variety of the seemingly solid entities we call matter.
evidence is forthcoming that the vacuum is a complex, extremely
dense, and strongly interacting field. In experiments already noted
in chapter 2, physicists at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider
at Brookhaven National Laboratory discovered the gluon-field
that binds quarks and endows them with additional mass.
is significant that the vacuum proves to be a dense field with the
properties of a liquid even at temperatures 300 million times higher
than the surface of the Sun.
If the vacuum is the fundamental medium of the cosmos, and if it is superfluid and all things in it produce waves, we should expect that of the two aspects that define particles, namely the corpuscular and the wave aspect, it is the wave aspect that is fundamental. We have reason to believe that this is the case.
ingenious experiment by Shahriar Afshar, a young Iranian-American
physicist, demonstrates that even when the corpuscular aspect of
a particle is observed, the wave aspect is still there (since the
interference patterns that build up on the screen in the classical
split-beam experiment do not disappear when the photonsseemingly
discrete entitiespass the slits one by one).
Einstein, and Schrödinger were right. In the words of former
MIT physicist Milo Wolf, the wave medium, that is, the cosmic vacuum
in which the waves appear, is the single source of matter and natural
law in the universe.
Why is it, then, that we see solid material bodies when they are actually waves in the vacuum? The answer is: because vacuum-waves are like solitons (so-called solitary waves)they appear to be discrete and detached bodies, yet they are waves in the medium in which they appear.
soliton phenomenon was first reported to the British Association
for the Advancement of Science in 1845. J. Scott Russell recounted
riding beside a narrow channel of water and observing a wave rolling
with great speed, assuming the form of a large solitary elevation,
a rounded, smooth, and well defined heap of water, which continued
its course along the channel apparently without change of form or
diminution of speed.
solitons that appear in the vacuum are the matter and force particles
of the observable universe. When the particles are in their virginal
statenot observed and not interfered withthey are in
a sense everywhere in the vacuum: they are distributed,
like information in a hologram.
Although what we perceive with our senses is solid matter moving about in empty space, physical reality is different. In the final count the material universe, including particles, stars, planets, rocks, and living organisms, is not material: all these matter-like things are complex waves in the quantum vacuum.
In light of the latest findings, we can specify the pertinent features of the vacuum, the space-filling medium that is the fundamental element of physical reality. This medium:
all of space and endures through all of time;
The cosmic vacuum is responsible for:
gravitational attraction among particles and objects built of particles;
energies, the G-field, the EM-field, the nuclear fields, and the
A-field are specific manifestations of the unified vacuum.
The Nature of Spiritual Reality
Sciences concept of physical reality is not final: like all theories in the empirical sciences, it is subject to revision and improvement. Although this vision is integral, it is not complete, for the natural sciences do not deal with all aspects and dimensions of reality, not even of humanly experienced reality. In addition to the physical aspect or dimension of reality, human experience testifies that reality also has another aspect: a spiritual dimension.
the exploration of the spiritual dimension of reality scientific,
or is this endeavor mystical, esoteric, religious, or just imaginary?
Although mainstream scientists would contest it, the investigation
of the spiritual aspect or dimension of reality is also within the
scope of science, becausejust like realitys physical
dimensionit, too, reposes on the testimony of human experience.
concept of physical reality, we have seen, extends beyond immediate
sensory experience to include elements that render this experience
coherent and consistent. This is true also of explorations of spiritual
reality. The difference between sciences concept of physical
reality and explorations of spiritual reality is not in the conceptual
superstructure through which we seek to comprehend the world, but
in the starting point.
we derive a concept of the nature of spiritual reality from the
fact that we have consciousness? Consciousness, after all, is private:
it is my consciousness; it is only experienced by me.
*The position that the entire world can be considered an element of conscious experience is eloquently argued by physicist-philosopher Peter Russell in part three, below.
It is reasonable to hold that sciences concept of physical reality is too important to be dismissed as a projection of my consciousness. If so, we should view physical reality as an aspect or dimension of the real world, the same as spiritual reality. They are two aspects or dimensions of one and the same reality.
On this assumption we get a logical and coherent account of the nature of spiritual reality. Other things exist in the world beside my own consciousness, and these other things also possess consciousness, although they could possess consciousness of a more rudimentary (or perhaps a more advanced) form. In an impartial view reality is not just physical: it is psychophysical.
is the origin of the consciousness that resides in some form in
all things in the psychophysical cosmos? If the spiritual dimension
of reality is a dimension of the same reality as the physical dimension,
the answer to this question is evident. Consciousness has the same
origin as the things that make up physical reality: its origin lies
in the quantum vacuum.
Do we have evidence for this claim? Can we tell that the vacuum is not only a superdense virtual energy field from which spring the wave-packets that appear as matter, but is also the seat of the consciousness that infuses my body and brain the same as the rest of the universe?
there is no way we could tell by reference to everyday sensory experience,
or even by observations and experiments based on direct experience.
Consciousness cannot ordinarily be observed in anyone but ourselves.
The thought experiment we envisage is to enter a profoundly altered state of consciousness and attempt to identify ourselves with the quantum vacuum. Assuming that we succeed, would we experience a physical field of fluctuating energies? Or would we experience something like a cosmic field of consciousness?
cannot exclude the latter possibility. Grof and other transpersonal
consciousness researchers claim that in deeply altered states people
experience a form of consciousness that appears to be that of the
universe itself. This most remarkable of altered-state experiences
surfaces in individuals who are committed to the quest of apprehending
the ultimate grounds of existence.
who practice yoga and other forms of deep meditation report the
same kind of experience. This was the basis in the Indian Vedic
tradition for the affirmation that consciousness is not an emergent
property that comes into existence through material structures such
as the brain and the nervous system, but a vast field that constitutes
the primary reality of the universe.
is a noteworthy parallel here between insights that have been present
to the human mind for thousands of years and the implications of
the latest findings of the sciences. In regard to the physical dimension
of reality, the coincidence concerns an element of ancient Hindu
latest cosmologies re-discover the cyclically self-renewing universe,
a cosmos that takes off from, and returns to, an enduring fundamental
medium. The ancient Hindu cosmology can be restated in contemporary
scientific terms simply by substituting quantum vacuum
we move from the physical dimension of reality to its spiritual
dimension, the parallel between ancient insight and sciences
new vision of reality continues to hold true. According to many
traditional cosmologies, in the course of time the universes
undifferentiated, all-encompassing consciousness separates off from
its primordial unity and becomes localized in particular structures
Human consciousness is a high-level articulation of the consciousness that stems from, and is rooted in, the quantum vacuum: the superfluid universal field that is the fundamental element of the integral reality of the psychophysical cosmos.
*Copyright © 2006 Ervin Laszlo. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Inner Traditions.
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