A sample chapter from Origins.
HIGHER DIMENSIONAL SCIENCE
Absolute Complex Form
Consciousness and Superintelligence
Transmigration and Karma
A discussion of realms of experience and strategies of investigation transcending the limits of mechanistic science.
James D. Watson, codiscoverer of DNA, once said of the mystery of life, "It is very complex, but it can be explained by the laws of chemistry, by random thermal motion. It's complicated; there are many variables, but there's no doubt it's that."(1)
He recalled that this conviction had strongly motivated both himself and Francis Crick during their pioneering research into the structure of DNA. "We wouldn't have been doing it if we hadn't believed that chemistry would explain it. Up to then people felt that chemistry wasn't ever going to be enough, that you needed religion to explain life. But even when I was in college I was influenced by Linus Pauling's insistence that you can explain life on the basis of chemistry."(2)
His attitude toward religion is further illuminated in the following statement: "When I wrote the first edition of my text [The Molecular Biology of the Gene]. I thought, I am rewriting the Bible--actually going back and finding out what's up [our italics]."(3)
All in all, Watson's statements represent the general drift of scientific thought over the past several centuries--faith in explaining complex phenomena (such as life, the origin of species, the origin and structure of the universe, etc.) by simple, mathematically expressed natural laws. Some scientists and religionists have attempted to preserve some last role for God as the guarantor of the laws of physics, but this gives the laws of physics a status superior to that of God in the universe. With this compromise the substance of the original concept of the omnipotent God is completely eliminated, and one is left with a meaningless empty shell. Religions that have accepted this compromise should reevaluate their position.
For his part, Watson maintains an unshakable faith that physical explanation is always possible. "On the level of DNA it [the physical explanation of life] goes very well. On a more complicated level, we're still trying to figure it out. Embryology is much harder. And in neurobiology there are very few insights. But some [scientists] will have a moment when the light will come on . . . The problem of explaining consciousness in biological terms is a tougher one, but I'm sure it will fall out."(4)
Here the major shortcoming of modern science is brought into clear focus. Watson admits that fundamental aspects of living organisms have not been completely explained by physical laws; yet he insists that they can be and will be so explained, ruling out in advance any nonmaterial, nonmechanistic explanation.
But is this really true? Could it be that Watson's faith is ill-founded? All available evidence points clearly to the possibility that the complex forms of living organisms may never be explained by simple physical laws. One could perhaps say that Shakespeare's plays can be explained by the 26 letters of the alphabet, but there is certainly more involved than that. In the same way, scientists may say that life can be explained by a genetic code embedded in certain molecules, but as of yet this approach has failed to account for the complexity of even the simplest life forms. Just as no one has found any simple set of laws that could allow a computer to transform the 26 letters of the alphabet into a Hamlet or Macbeth, so no scientist has shown how any set of simple natural laws could transform a few basic molecular building blocks of life into a single self-reproducing cell.
So perhaps just as the fundamental laws of physics cannot be reduced any further, the material complexity we observe in living organisms cannot be reduced any further. A few freethinking scientists with the courage to challenge current preconceptions have taken this bold step. Reviewing the conclusions of his own investigations, prominent biologist Waiter M. Elsasser states that the complex biochemical forms of living organisms are "of a primary and irreducible type of natural order, on the same level as the more conventional laws of nature."(5)
Having failed to reduce complex things to simple principles, the scientist now has two choices. First, he can simply stop, saying these things exist but we can say nothing more about them. Second, he can go forward by searching for principles suitably complex to have generated the irreducible complexity he observes. In other words, he must consider the existence of an absolute complex form. He might then inquire about the nature of this form and by what route information is transmitted from this source to produce the forms and structures we see in the universe, such as living organisms. We need not have any preconceptions about the nature of this absolute complex form. From the standpoint of logic, there are many possibilities that can be considered.
For example, let us consider some alternative possibilities for an absolute irreducible complex form containing information capable of generating sequences of complex living organisms. Imagine that in the ocean of the primordial earth an early amoeba was situated in a certain fixed position and orientation. Imagine also that in outer space a particular precisely defined pattern of cosmic rays was hurtling earthward. By the natural course of events our hypothetical cosmic rays would pass through the earth's atmosphere and zap the genes of the amoeba in a particular way, thus giving rise to a new and higher kind of organism (like a trilobite).
In this scenario the particular pattern of cosmic rays and the particular situation of the amoeba represent a kind of absolute complex form containing information for the eventual production of a higher organism. Here we have deliberately chosen an unsatisfying example of what such an absolute complex form could be like. Once we have traced the origin of the higher form of organism back to the particular initial configuration of cosmic rays, we can go no further. We simply encounter a frustrating intellectual dead end. Therefore let us consider another possibility.
Imagine a more complete information source that originates simultaneously with the universe--a "cosmic computer" with a read-only memory (ROM) containing data for all the complex forms that are to be manifested. This proposal may seem outlandish, but if physicists can ask us to accept the hypothesis that the entire universe pops out from the quantum vacuum, why can't a universal computer pop out along with it? Astronomers Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe have proposed something like this in their book Evolution from Space. "So what if our progenitor were an extremely complex silicon chip? One thing looks right about this idea. It would not be possible for an intelligence, however great. to generate carbonaceous life (life based on carbon compounds] without performing an immense amount of calculation."(6)
Actually, the idea of a cosmic computer is simply a graphic way of breaking down the deeply ingrained conception that fundamental principles must be reduced to simple natural laws. Most scientists are obsessed with the idea of seeing natural phenomena as a progression from simple to complex, whereas in reality it appears the opposite is true--anything complex derives from something equally or more complex. Therefore we could imagine that the cosmic computer, using the information contained in its memory, might build spaceships that would journey to different planets, implant life forms in suitable environments, then return periodically to genetically alter them. In this way, varieties of organisms could be sequentially produced.
We have proposed that even the structure of a simple cell is of irreducible complexity. So we could account for this complexity by having suitable programs in our hypothetical cosmic computer. But in contrast to our cosmic-ray example, these programs could be more than mere arbitrary repositories of information. If we envisage organisms as being computerlike automatons, with some, such as humans, displaying a higher-order behavior we call intelligent, could it not be that the original cosmic computer might also possess the function of intelligent behavior and decision making! Here we begin to see how an original absolute information source might have interesting features that would make us want to study it in its own right.
Now we come to another feature of reality. We observe in ourselves a variety of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and perceptions that go beyond the simple ability of a machine to respond to external stimuli by some sort of data processing. In other words, our ability to function in an intelligent way is also accompanied by the phenomenon of consciousness. Consciousness is real--we all have experience of it. Yet although the behavior associated with consciousness is quantifiable, consciousness itself remains unexplained by quantitative methods. It cannot be accounted for by physical laws. So what is it and where does it come from?
We have been considering a cosmic computer exhibiting a higher order of intelligence as the original source of certain complex features of the observable universe. This suggests a beguiling idea--that this cosmic intelligence could be something more than a lifeless machine. It could possibly be a conscious superintelligent being from which originates not only the information that determines the forms of organisms but also the consciousnesses that animate them.
This conception opens up some interesting possibilities. If there were such an intelligent being, it would be capable of communicating exact information through means of its own choosing to those curious about ultimate questions such as the origin of living beings. And if it were benevolent it might be willing to do so.
This provides us with another possible strategy for obtaining answers to ultimate questions. The standard scientific strategy of assuming that ultimate causes are simple and then seeking such simple causes will certainly fail if the ultimate cause is irreducibly complex. But if the ultimate cause is a benevolent superconscious being, then the strategy of assuming that this is so and seeking a process for coming in contact with such a being may prove successful.
The obvious practical question is this: can we find explicit examples in which information has been communicated to human beings from an absolute intelligent source, with the communicated information containing ways and means of showing that it is bona fide? We propose that the Vedic literatures of ancient India provide one striking example of an internally verifiable body of knowledge of this kind. The Vedic literatures contain a general account of epistemology, the systematic analysis of the procedures for acquiring knowledge, and they also provide a thorough discussion of the nature and origin of the universe and of the living organisms that inhabit it. At this point we shall briefly discuss some important features of the Vedic world view.
The Vedas elaborately describe a complex process of evolution proceeding from subtle designs to the physical manifestation of these designs in matter. According to this account, the universal controller directly generates a primary subordinate controller who generates secondary controllers by an asexual process. These secondary controllers have the capacity for sexual reproduction. not only to generate their own kind but also to generate other species. They contain within their bodies design information for varieties of organisms. This information, which exists in seedlike subtle forms, originates in the intelligence of the universal controller, who transmits it to the subordinate controllers (demigods). Finally the lesser controllers manifest this design information in the forms of varieties of species, which go on to reproduce themselves. The Vedas, written thousands of years before Darwin's time, thus contain the world's oldest account of evolution. However, this Vedic process reflects the original meaning of the word evolution, which refers to an unfolding of something existing in an undeveloped form rather than the random production of something entirely new by physical processes.
The account of the origin of species given in the Vedas is similar to Darwinian evolution in that it involves physical descent from a common ancestor and the appearance of new species by sexual reproduction. The Vedic evolutionary concept differs from the Darwinian in that the common ancestor is a superintelligent being, not a single-celled creature. Also, the progression of descent is from more complex forms to simpler ones. It may thus be called "inverse evolution," with some of the first steps occurring beyond the earth.
Even some modern scientists have considered the idea of design information being transmitted from a higher source. Robert Broom, who discovered some of the the early australopithecus remains in Africa, wrote. "The origin of species and of much of evolution appears to be due to some organizing and partly intelligent spiritual agency associated with the animal or plant, which controls its life processes and tends to keep the being more or less adapted to its environment. But in addition to this there seem to be other spiritual agencies of a much higher type which have been responsible for what may be called greater evolution. . . . These spiritual agencies appear to have worked by directing from time to time the inferior agencies which are associated with the animals and plants."(7) Broom's idea, although not exactly parallel to the Vedic concept, shares with it the notion of higher directing intelligences.
Similar thoughts have been expressed by Alfred Russell Wallace, who along with Darwin is credited with the formulation of the theory of evolution by natural selection. He wrote in The World of Life, "If there is such an Infinite Being, and if . . . his will and purpose is the increase of conscious beings, then we can hardly be the first result of this purpose. We conclude, therefore, that there are now in the universe infinite grades of power, infinite grades of knowledge and wisdom, infinite grades of influence of higher beings upon lower. Holding this opinion, I have suggested that this vast and wonderful universe, with its almost infinite variety of forms, motions and reactions of parts upon part, from suns and systems up to plant-life, animal-life and the human living soul, has ever required and still requires the continuous coordinated agency of myriads of such intelligences."(8)
Unlike the majority of scientists, Wallace is prepared to accept that there is such a thing as purpose in the universe. But his statement about "the human living soul" shows he is adhering to the standard Western conception that only human beings have souls. The Vedas, however, teach that all living organisms have souls and that in addition to the evolution of physical forms, there is a second evolutionary process involving the transmigration of souls.
The soul is understood to be a unique indestructible unit of consciousness emanating from the universal conscious entity. These individual units of consciousness can be seen as identical in substance with the universal consciousness but much smaller in relative size and power.
The units of consciousness within the bodies of all species are thus qualitatively identical with each other, yet display a certain range of powers and abilities based upon the particular characteristics of the physical forms they inhabit. To understand this principle we can consider how a human driver can manifest different abilities according to the type of vehicle he is riding in. On a bicycle, a human can achieve a certain speed, but in a high-powered sports car, the speed and power increase. In an airplane, the human can fly and in a boat can cruise over water. In the same way, the conscious selves inhabiting different bodies manifest different powers and abilities, although they are all essentially identical.
Transmigration requires procedures to regulate the passage of the conscious self from one body to another. According to the Vedas, this process is carried out under higher laws of nature known collectively as the law of karma. The conscious selves within lower forms such as plants and animals automatically progress until they reach the human form. The progression from lower to higher forms corresponds to development from lower to higher states of awareness.
At this point, one might ask why a supreme intelligent being would put a conscious entity, or soul, through the experience of enduring birth and death in different kinds of bodies. The answer depends upon appreciating a fundamental aspect of the conscious self--its freedom to desire as it pleases. The constitutional position of every self is to knowingly and freely act in harmony with the desires of the Supreme. If a conscious entity misuses its free will to act independently of the Supreme, then He accommodates this desire by giving the entity a field of action in the material universe. There it must endeavor for survival in an environment of competition and conflict among millions of other beings motivated by material desires like its own. These interactions among conscious beings are governed by a principle of universal justice called karma, under which their successes and failures, and happiness and distress, are awarded according to their actions in past lives. Every conscious being is thus personally responsible for its destiny.
The varieties of bodies the conscious beings may enter exist for a dual purpose--the fulfillment of particular desires to experience material sensation, and gradual reformation of desire from material to spiritual. To the degree that a being misuses its freedom and acts in such a way as to harm itself or others, it must endure correspondingly greater restrictions in its ability to act.
The desire of God is that the soul return to the spiritual level of existence. But by its own choice the soul may remain in the material world. In life forms with consciousness less than human, the living entity is fully controlled by material laws. In the human form consciousness is evolved to the point where one can see how the material energy is being directed by the universal controller.
This is the key to freedom, because at this level one is able to make conscious choices affecting his status. The law of karma strongly influences the situation in which a person finds himself, but it does not strictly determine his future--there is latitude for free choice. The conscious being can choose to disregard the will and purpose of the universal controller and continue taking birth again and again in the material world, perhaps regressing to less-than-human forms. Or he can desire to act in harmony with this will and purpose and thus become liberated from the cycle of birth and death and engage in spiritual sensory activities.
Spiritual sensory activities are possible because sense perception is an inherent function of the conscious self. A physical sense structure such as the eye or ear is merely a mechanism for channeling a certain type of sense data to the perceiving self, known in Vedic writings as the jivatma. The brain is an information-processing device that is part of this sensory apparatus.
The senses and brain may therefore be considered an interface between the outside world and the conscious self (jivatma). But this interface is actually a limitation upon the original sensory capability of the jivatma, because the material sense structures are designed to register only certain material phenomena. This limitation is necessary if the soul is to function in forgetfulness of its spiritual nature and independently of its connection with God. It is always possible, however, for the soul to awaken its original sensory capabilities and perceive God directly. The Vedic literatures describe the histories of the great devotees and sages who have achieved this state of superconsciousness.
There are various levels of awareness and activity possible within the limits of the material senses. A person on the ordinary human level of consciousness will be aware of only the familiar material phenomena known to all of us. But beings with higher levels of awareness, including those such as devas, or administrative demigods, have access to deeper and more extensive aspects of material reality. For example an ordinary person looking at a television program sees only the forms of people on the screen. But an electrical engineer may understand exactly how the images are produced and have direct access to the electronic equipment that generates these images. Just as the engineer working at a television station operates in a more sophisticated environment than the person watching the television at home, there may exist in the universe higher and lower dimensions of material reality corresponding to different levels of material perception.
If there is a supreme intelligent designer of the universe. He must exist in a dimension beyond the material time and space that He generates and controls. The individual soul, being completely spiritual, may also enter this dimension. At this highest level of consciousness the senses of the jivatma become unimpeded in their operation, and one can directly perceive the cause of all causes.
Scientists have been engaged for centuries in a philosophical quest for an ultimate unity underlying the variegated universe. Today this takes the shape of the physicists' search for a grand unified field theory to explain everything from subatomic particles to galactic clusters. Such endeavors to find a unifying material principle have, however, not been successful.
It might therefore be fruitful to consider the unifying aspect of a supreme conscious entity. To understand this unifying aspect we can draw a parallel between the supreme conscious entity and the qualitatively similar individual conscious beings such as ourselves. Even as you are reading this your consciousness is unifying different aspects of reality--the magazine [or web page], your self, the environment, your thoughts--into an single integrated impression. Similarly, the one universal conscious entity, sometimes known as the Supersoul, is the integrating principle that ties the universe into a complete whole. All pervasive consciousness is the distinct characteristic of the Supersoul, in contrast with the infinitesimal living beings, whose consciousness is extremely limited in scope.
In the Brahma-samhita, a collection of hymns from the Vedic literatures of ancient India, the author describes how the universal conscious entity ties together all aspects of reality. "He is an undifferentiated entity. . . . All the universes exist in Him and He is present in His fullness in every one of the atoms that are scattered through out the universe. at one and the same time. Such is the primeval Lord whom I adore." Everything, right down to the atom. is the energy of the transcendental controlling intelligence, and is thus unified. Most concepts of unity put forward the idea of a oneness that underlies all phenomena and is devoid of qualities. But we are suggesting that the ultimate oneness is full of qualities, personality, and variegated form. Although our own intelligence can be applied to the forms and patterns of matter and thus lead us to certain conclusions about the existence of the universal controller, detailed knowledge about this supreme being and His transcendental actions must be obtained through another process. According to the Vedic account, the ultimate source of absolute information is providing information for the design of organisms. He is also providing information for the functional intelligence of living beings. enabling them to perform complex activities. In addition, this original being can provide information about Himself.
The Vedas give an elaborate description of how this absolute information is disseminated. Essentially this knowledge is communicated via sound vibration. The information is communicated to the first living being in the universe, Brahma. And then it is passed down from one spiritual teacher (guru) to another in a chain of disciplic succession. The Vedic sounds are qualitatively different from material sounds in that they embody rather than simply represent knowledge.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the world's most renowned Vedic scholar and himself one of the great spiritual masters in the disciplic chain descending from Brahma, states, "Before the creation the Lord was there, and therefore the words spoken by the Lord are vibrations of transcendental sound. There is a gulf of difference between the two qualities of sound, namely prakrta and aprakyta. The physicist can deal only with the prakrta sound, or sound vibrated in the material sky, and therefore we must know that the Vedic sounds recorded in symbolic expressions cannot be understood by anyone within the universe unless and until one is inspired by the vibration of supernatural (aprakrta) sound, which descends in the chain of disciplic succession."(9) A material sound is different from the object it represents. For example, the word water is different from the substance water, but Vedic sounds are nondifferent from the spiritual realities they represent. By receiving the Vedic sounds from the proper channel, the spiritual realities embodied in them are directly communicated to the receptive listener. The requirement is that one receive the knowledge as heard and pass it on without change. In this way the information remains perfect. At a certain point in history the Vedic sound vibrations were set into writing by the great sage Vyasadeva. These writings form a standard body of knowledge, and the teachings of spiritual masters can thus be examined to see if they conform to the Vedic texts such as Bhagavad-gita.
The ultimate goal of knowledge is restoring the conscious self to its original position free of matter. In the conditioned state, the conscious self attempts to exercise its faculties apart from the Supreme, but in the liberated state the self is able to reciprocate on a direct personal level with the supreme person. Bhakti, or the science of devotional service, is the means for cultivating this transcendental relationship.
The means for awakening this relationship vary throughout history. In the present age the Vedas recommend the chanting of mantras composed of the names of God, particularly the Hare Krsna mantra. The basic principle is that God is present in the sound of His name. When consciousness is covered by material conceptions, it cannot properly perceive the self or the Supreme. But the spiritual energies contained within the transcendental sound vibrations of the Hare Krishna mantra have the power to remove the material coverings of the self, thus awakening its original spiritual consciousness and freeing it from the karmic reactions that entangle it in the cycle of reincarnation.
Scientists have long criticized religion for proposing explanations that one can believe or not believe but which cannot be reliably tested. But the science of bhakti-yoga does have practical methods for elevating sensory perception so that one can actually perceive everything that we are discussing--the soul, the Supreme Being, and the higher spiritual dimension.
At this point some might claim that such experiences are available only to special individuals and are therefore not really acceptable as scientific. This charge can more accurately be leveled at material science. Particle physicists with access to high-energy particle accelerators may be able to confirm the existence of certain subatomic particles, but the average person is not equipped to do so. On the other hand, everyone has the potential to experience the spiritual knowledge that can be gained through the science of bhakti-yoga. No special equipment is necessary.
The reason that not everyone is able to immediately obtain direct perception of nonmaterial phenomena is that there are necessary conditions for the elevation of consciousness to work. This is also true in science. For instance there was an experiment performed by the renowned English physicist Henry Cavendish (1731-1810), for determining the gravitational constant. In this experiment, a dumbbell is suspended by a thin wire. Iron balls of a certain mass are placed opposite each end of the dumbbell, and by their influence the dumbbell moves slightly. When the iron balls are reversed, the dumbbell is moved in the opposite direction. By calculation one can determine the gravitational constant.
But if there is outside interference from traffic, for example, there is no possibility of getting an accurate reading. Extraneous influences must therefore be carefully excluded from the system. In spiritual science also, certain factors must be excluded in order to get the desired results. There are certain activities detrimental to higher consciousness. These disturbing influences, which according to the Vedas keep consciousness on the material platform. are gambling, meat-eating, illicit sex, and intoxication. A practitioner of bhakti-yoga therefore carefully avoids them. So-called yoga societies that allow their members to continue the above-mentioned habits cannot deliver real spiritual realization.
The ultimate stage of bhakti-yoga is understanding the activities of the supreme conscious entity in the spiritual dimension. The most confidential sections of the Vedic literatures describe some of these activities. We have already spoken of the idea of higher dimensions of existence, and we have indicated they become accessible by the attainment of higher levels of consciousness. The Vedic literatures reveal the existence of a spiritual realm that is quite distinct from this material universe and that in fact constitutes the major portion of the total reality. The Bhagavad-gita states, "Yet there is another unmanifest nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is. That which the Vedantists describe as unmanifest and infallible, that which is known as the supreme destination, that place from which, having attained it, one never returns--that is My supreme abode.
God does not create just the material universe. He has His own transcendental variegated realm in which He engages in pastimes for His own satisfaction. God is the supreme enjoyer, and innumerable spirit souls on the highest platform of consciousness live with Him and directly associate with Him. They serve the Lord constantly without selfish interests. The Lord reciprocates with them by serving them in turn, and thus both the Lord and His devotees experience varieties of spiritual pleasure that far surpass any material pleasure. The nature of these exchanges constitutes a science in itself.
In this magazine we have briefly presented an alternative to the mechanistic concept of the universe, a science based upon consciousness and personality rather than atoms and the void. W Heitler, a theoretical physicist at the University of Zurich, says in his book Man and Science: "Belief in a mechanistic universe is a modern superstition. As probably happens in most cases of superstition, the belief is based on a more or less extensive series of correct facts, facts which are subsequently generalized without warrant, and finally so distorted that they become grotesque. . . . The 'witch superstition' cost innumerable innocent women their lives, in the cruelest fashion. The mechanistic superstition is more dangerous. It leads to a general spiritual and moral drying-up, which can easily lead to physical destruction. When once we have got to the stage of seeing in man merely a complex machine, what does it matter if we destroy him?"(10)
Copyright (c) 1984 by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, International
Last updated on June 25, 2003.
© 2004 Govardhan Hill Publishing