B. Alan Wallace, 25 Sep 2012
Teaching: Alan draws the teachings into the 21st century by dedicating this session to a brief history of science culminating in the view according to quantum mechanics. Early scientists like Galileo were devout Christians who attempted to understand reality from God’s perspective. The real world must be out there because 1) stuff happens when we’re not looking and 2) there is a commonality of perceptions. Modern physicists debunk this view. Anton Zeilinger said that reality is based only on information we receive. John Wheeler spoke of the participatory universe where its (physical world) come from bits (information). Based on bits, the conceptual mind makes the its. Andre Lindt asserts that perception is primary and that consciousness is needed to explain the physics observed in the real world. Stephen Hawking speaks of the quantum world which is in a superposition state (in probabilistic mode or realm of possibility). He notes being inside (causality and linearity) or outside the system (quantum world where observer creates both past and future). Without an observer, the universe is frozen. The observer breaks the symmetry of the quantum world, giving rise to the classical world. In sum, both the observer and information constitute essential links in understanding the world.
In buddhist epistemology, a cause which can never be seen cannot be inferred based on the effect. Appearances of the 5 sense domains arise in the substrate, not in physical space. We can only see the qualia of the 5 senses, not the things is physical space which are unknowable. Samsara arises from not knowing (avidya), reifying the its and not recognizing that come from the bits. In terms of Vajrayana, the ordinary self lies inside the system whereas rigpa lies outside the system. We can go outside the system by realizing the emptiness of self and phenomena and dissolving mind into rigpa. Just as in quantum mechanics where there is no absolute time, from the perspective of rigpa, Ground, Path, and Fruition are simultaneous. Given the indivisibility of primordial consciousness (yeshe) and dharmadhatu, we can know simultaneously who we are and how reality is.
Apologies, there has been a cut in the recording at: 29:13 and 1:10:38
There is no meditation today, rather a really interesting talk.
So I said yesterday that today we will venture into the 21st century, so this one lecture of this afternoon I think will probably go on a bit longer and that is because I have to my mind a really very rich set of notes, I did not write any of them it is quotes from other people, and then this afternoon session I like to solve the existence of the issue of the nature of the physical universe, the mind and body problem and the placebo effect. So it may take more than half hour, it could take thirty five minutes, I never can tell.
(1:42) So where we left off was with the Sautrantika system, which I really am very happy to call classic Buddhist philosophy, just as there is a very strong parallel as we speak of classical physics which is Newton plus James Clerk Maxwell . Electromagnetism, and with deep respect for both because they both are tremendous systems, both with tremendous practical applications all over the place so they have proven themselves, and as modern physicists know, classical physics despite its splendor, its magnificence, its pragmatic applications, is based upon some assumptions that are just fundamentally not true and you only get that by really penetrating very deeply into subtle issues [which notes Alan will explain in this session] pretending to velocity or speed and going right down to the building blocks of physical reality.
(3:00) And likewise the Sautrantika system as we have seen it has tremendous applicability, it is very well thought out, very intelligent, it is very rational and from Madhyamika perspective, Middle Way perspective, despite all of its practical efficacy, its value, it leaves unquestioned , some metaphysical assumptions or assumptions about the very nature of reality that if one does not question them, then it certainly calls a domain or whole bandwidth of not only ignorance but delusion remains unchallenged, and there is no way you can achieve liberation and be fundamentally deluded about the fundamental nature of reality.
(3:41) So we have seen in this Sautrantika system a really penetrating approach, analyzing, investigating, realizing experientially the nature of impermanence, the nature of suffering as well genuine happiness, the nature of non-self as in all phenomena are devoid of a self and are not owned by self, self as someone autonomous entity that is controlling and stands on his own.
(3:55) Now recall as well this is the segue into the twenty first century that this Sautrantika system says that:- that which is real, as opposed to merely conventually existent, that which is real, independent of any conceptualization at all, that is equivalent, that set of phenomena that is real, has causal efficacy, is equivalent to the set of phenomena lend themselves to direct perception, obviously we can perceive more things in the future than we have not yet, they are real, but they are, but they lend themselves to direct perception, they can be directly perceived.
Now let’s look that one right there. Saying that things that exist but are merely conventionally existent; exist only because of conceptual designation, they cannot be directly perceived like - who owns these glasses? Well there is just no way you can investigate them, you won’t see it, does not matter what method you use by looking at the glasses themselves you will never guess who the owner is. You might pick my DNA on it, but so what? All kind of peoples DNA can be on these glasses. So there is just nothing there, [in the glasses], from its side, that indicates its ownership.
(5:04) But now let’s just pause for a moment, in a spirit of truly radical empiricism, that is exactly the same empiricism that Buddha call for to Bahiya, “in the seen let that be just the seen”, right? Well here is a statement, Buddhist philosophy, Buddhist psychology, Buddhist epistemology, and that is among the five domains of sensory experience, there is no overlap. That’s a fundamental thing, you do not hear colors, you do not taste sounds, you do not hear smells and so forth. They are five non overlapping domains of experience, and moreover, to state something pretty obvious - colors don’t have sound, sounds don’t have tastes, tastes don’t have tactile qualities of solidity and so forth. So among the appearances arising in each of those five domains of experience none of them owns another one. In fact they are not owned by anything at all, the colors are simply colors, “in the seen let be just the seen”, the sounds are just sounds, they don’t belong to anything else. And of course none of these are absolutely out there, in the objective physical world, all of these appearances, by way of the five sensory as well as mental; all these appearances are arising where? In the Buddhist philosophy of course. Where are they arising? Where do they occur? What’s their domain? All these appearances, where they arising? They are arising at the substrate, the space of the mind, the space of awareness, which means all of these appearances are not arising in physical space, which is there whether or not we are looking at; they are arising in the space of the mind.
(7:10) Now, when I look at this computer right in front of me I see that the computer has a black screen, it just went dark, it went to sleep. It is silver colored, it has a silver color and it has smooth texture , it is rather cold, no , actually it is rather warm right now, it is quite solid and so forth, and it makes that kind of noise, and if I had a really good nose I would be able to detect some scent, some smell of the computer, probably had some taste , at least parts of it would, metallic and so forth, so the computer has all of these attributes, that is just flat out good English. I mean what else are you going to say? Right? What color is its screen? Screen has this color, right. Whoever perceives the computer, in terms of really perceiving of it, simply being a given? Whoever perceives the computer that has the shape and has the color and has the texture and so forth and so on, (the computer) that now suddenly becomes an owner? A possessor of attributes including the attributes of the sound, the computer made that sound (knocking the computer with his hand), that is the sound “of” the computer, that is the color “of” the computer and that is the shape “of” the computer, it is the smell “of” the computer. Exactly when do you perceive the computer that has all of these attributes? And moreover how can it have the attributes? How we say the computer has these attributes, how can we say that the computer has a black screen when black is a color and black arises in my substrate, whereas the computer does not arise in my substrate, this computer was made in China, and I can guarantee you that my substrate was not made in China. And so how can that computer made in China, have an attribute that belongs to my alaya? That doesn’t make any sense. It is smooth, it has a smooth texture and it has a smooth quality but smooth is a tactile sensation that arises in my alaya so how can that belong to the computer?
The computer exists in physical space, and so we are seeing the owner and of course I am just taking one of countless examples of objects that we assume to be out there independently, really out there in the physical world, that have all of these attributes that we pick up by way of the five sense doors. But how do they have when they are in the physical space and all the attributes are in my substrate? How do they actually reach out and grab them? It would seem that they should be devoid of, empty of everything that arises in my substrate because I bring my substrate with me, I go here and there and the computer can stay here.
(9:31) So this issue was addressed by Descartes by others in Seventeenth century, they were very well aware of the kind of colors we experience, the sounds we experience, the tactile sensations and so forth, are not simply out there in physical space, they knew this and so they called these - ‘secondary attributes’ - colors, smells, taste, smoothness, tactile sensations and so forth and so on. These are secondary attributes in the sense that they arise in the contact between the object which is out there in physical space, and our particular sensory faculties, and in dependence upon the meeting of those two, then we as human beings see this, this and this, whereas if you were a bat you would be picking sonar which we don’t as human beings, if you were dog, I believe they are color blind so they do not pick up the colors but they will pick up a lot more scents than we do, smells and so forth. So they stripped it back, they said ok, the computer really isn’t black, so now they kind of start violating language and say - well the computer screen is not really black because it does not have a color because the color is something that arise in dependence upon somebody visual cortex.
(11:08) And so now what is the computer have, and bear in mind there is an agenda here, there is a deep agenda, a profound agenda and that is: what’s there when we are not looking and only God is looking? For the whole physical universe, including what is right in front of you? What we see is always by way of our human physical senses, human physical sense faculties, it is always anthropocentric. You are looking with human eyes, smelling with human noses and so forth and so on. So it is always that relative to human being, human being, human being, right? That goes from the five senses.
But these were devout religious people. Descartes were a very devoted Roman Catholic, it is true of all of them, Copernicus was protestant, Newton was a protestant, Galileo was a devout catholic and so forth, they didn’t want to simply know what the universe is like from a human perspective, we are fallen creatures after all, we are sinful, we ate of the apple. Why would we want to make a big deal, why would we want to devote a whole life to know the nature of reality from an Italian perspective, or a German perspective or a human perspective, it is so limited, it is cramped? No, these were people with a very powerful theological motivation. They wanted to know what the universe looked like from God’s perspective. Now we are getting somewhere. Now we are getting to what’s real, because what we see as human beings? Ah, it’s subjective it is so subjective. Whereas what’s really going on, what does God see? When God views us, views our environment, views the Cosmos as a whole?
(12:31) So Descartes stripped this down to things like place, location, what’s really there when we’re not looking, when only God is looking? Location - ok, that’s absolute. This pair of glasses – it’s really located here, it’s mass, what kind of density does it have, okay that’s really there. It’s shape, now that is really there. Its velocity, it is moving through space, ok that is really there; it does not matter who is looking. So they strip these down to primary qualities but they are devoid, these entities, the invisible eye glasses, the computer that has no color on its screen, and so forth.
[Subscriber’s sum up: they thought: the real world must be out there because: 1) stuffs happens when we’re not looking and 2) there is a commonality of perceptions.]
(13:09) Now they [Alan is referring to the scientists mentioned above] are trying to imagine computers with none of the qualia, none of the qualities of our five senses, stripped down, denuded to their primary characteristics which are (now we are getting into emptiness pretty quickly here) which are inherently existent, that is absolutely there from their own side and you can detect it or not, you can think about it or not, you can label it or not, it does not matter because that is what God sees, and God is absolutely out there. This is why H. H. Dalai Lama often says: teachings on emptiness are really not compatible with theism, theism of that sort.
(13:40) Now I would have to respond, there are many types of theism, not just one form any more than there is just one form of Buddhism, one Buddhist philosophy. But if one notion of God is an absolutely valid observer of what is absolutely going on in the universe, because after all he created it, absolutely, it took six days and now he is watching, then there is just no way that view, that there is God’s eye view of what is absolutely going on out there, there is no way that is going to be compatible with the Buddhist teachings on emptiness.
(14:20) But now we come back to the Sautrantika , and then we will get to the twenty first century. From this perspective of radical empiricism, with my eyes I see colors and shapes, I don’t see computers. With my ears a hear sounds but don’t hear a computer, and don’t smell a computer, I don’t taste a computer, I don’t touch a computer. I am picking up earth element and earth element is not a computer, I am picking up fire element, it’s warm but fire element is not a computer. So exactly how is it that I am direct perceiving computer when I am not picking it up with any of my five senses and I am not direct perceiving it with mental perceptions either?
So if we go back to Buddhist causality, I find this point is really interesting and extremely relevant for modern science and for understanding reality, here it is: It has to do with inference.
(15:30) We are making inferences, we do it all the time, and we make inferences of the cause, that is we are knowing the cause on the basis of the effect that it produces. So a common example in Buddhist epistemology and logic - we see smoke billowing up from yonder hill, or over the hill, and so we know something by directly perceiving the smoke, we know something, be it beyond any reasonable doubt, we know there has got to be some combustion there, because only combustion produces smoke, so even though I can’t see it, I am inferring the cause based on the effect. Fair enough, we do this all the time, it happens in science and it happens in everyday life, we perceive the effect and on that basis, we infer the cause.
(16:16) Now here is the catch, Sautrantika. Buddhist epistemology says, this works, you can do this, we do all the time, but you can do it validly, you can come to certain knowledge, if and only if, you have the ability to on some occasion actually perceive, now we are back to perception which is a more direct way of knowing of course, if you can actually perceive that cause producing that effect, and you can perceive that it requires that kind of cause to produce that kind of effect. In the example of the fire, over where the fire is, there may be a man scratching his head, and that is right where the fire is starting, he is scratching his head and there is smoke.
Or the baseball player with the rabbit’s foot. I took this rabbit foot out and I hit a home run. Wow. So the baseball player brings out the rabbit foot, a little lucky charm, right? Hits a home run and thinks – wow, that really worked! And then next time he brings a rabbit’s foot with him, and he is now really confident. That rabbit’s foot is going to do it for me. With that greater confidence, that belief, that commitment, that intensity, he stands a better chance of getting a home run. So he does it again. Now he sees the pattern. It happened twice. Maybe a third or fourth time. Now we see it, a rabbits foot causes home runs. It is not enough to see it once, but you have to see it multiple times, to see that that is a regularity, a pattern, or what scientists call - a law of nature.
Just seeing it once, how would you know? All kinds of things happen just before he hit the home run. His wife sneezed. Sneeze wife! ( laughter) How many things are happening just before he hit the home run? An infinite number. How many are relevant to his hitting the home run? Well for that he will have to hit multiple home runs, right? And then you see the pattern, you see the pattern repeatedly and you say – ok I see it is the rabbits foot.
And likewise with the fire, the fire could be produced by coal, could be produced by wood and all kinds of things but then you look for the patterns but the crucial point here is that you actually see the fire is producing the smoke. You have to see that, there is the fire, there is the smoke, I get it, I am perceiving both of them now and I am perceiving the relationship. I am perceiving the fire producing the smoke, I am getting it. And then I am looking at other situations and seeing wow, that is simply a dust storm, that is wet wood and there is no fire and no smoke and you see the pattern then, and you say okay I have got it figured out now. In order for, and I have seen this repeatedly, I am seeing the pattern, the regularity and therefore I am seeing that without combustion you just don’t get smoke, so there we are, we do that all the time.
(19:30) So that was all kind of obvious, now something that is not so obvious - Buddhist epistemology, if you cannot even in principle, see the cause, then there is no way you can infer that cause based upon an effect. All you see is the effect. It is called a black box situation, philosophically speaking. It is a black box, if things are coming out of the black box but you can’t see inside the black box, just impossible and never will happen, then what inside of that black box is causing this to happen and that to happen? You can come up with all different kinds of ideas and the more intelligent and creative you are, as you see one effect coming at another, as you see one ingenious idea after another, what inside of that black box is producing that particular effect, but you never come to a resolution, because you are not seeing actually what is producing it, and you are not seeing that would be required to produce that effect, as you do when you are seeing fire and seeing it produces smoke and seeing you have to have combustion in order smoke arise. In other words, if you never can see the cause then you can never infer that cause, based upon perceiving the effect. Imagine that you come up with all kind of reasons, one cool hypothesis after another, but you will not be able to test them because you cannot see inside the black box.
(21:06) Now there are two areas now in modern science where this is flagrantly obvious, thus far, and that is we know there is life on the planet, that is an effect, all kinds of life. What caused it? What caused the initial emergence of life on our planet 3.5 to 4 billion years ago? Give or take 5 billion years, that’s a generous sweep. They don’t know. They come up with one ingenious idea after another, and they are really smart, these scientists are smart guys, one after another - and they are all incompatible.
(21:57) My favorite one is that the first life to emerge on planet earth come on a meteor. I love that one. It came on a meteor from some other galaxy perhaps and travelled through space in about three degrees kelvin, I mean it was like a really cold day and that meteor travelled for probably millions of years through space at three degrees kelvin, pretty close to absolute zero, and it had a little passenger, some little living organism. So imagine travelling millions of years at three degree kelvin, a long lonely ride and then finally, it was so lucky that meteor right comes and comes and it is drawn into the gravitation field of our earth, and it is drawn through our atmosphere, starts travelling thousands of miles per hour, and it heats up to something like two thousand degrees. Super hot. Zooming down at I don’t know how many thousand miles per second, per minute. It was at three degrees kelvin, now it is flaming hot, the little microbe is going, wow, hot day. And finally the meteor hits the earth and the little microbe jumps off and goes – ‘phew, home, thank God, I am home, let’s start bifurcating! Is there anybody around like me or am I okay by myself?” That is possible…that is possible, but they have other ideas – that they started in volcanic fissures in the ocean, and have they every been able to replicate life? Now that would be a slam dunk. Out of inorganic molecules you could simply get really complex and then get out of inorganic non living stuff – actually generate, that you would do it, and you would generate a living organism, that would eat and defecate and reproduce. Then you really got it, because you did it. They haven’t done it.
But they have others ideas but they are not even close. So thus far all the ideas, ingenuous as they are, it’s a black box.
(24:15) And likewise what causes consciousness? The origin of consciousness whether in the planet or individual human beings? It is also a black box. We do not know, number one we cannot even measure it. That is a problem.
So let’s come back to Sautrantika.
(24:13) When I am looking at right in front of me, the computer, let’s put it in the 21st century - there are photons streaming in, and photons are not black, but they catalyze the complex sequence of electro chemical events starting in my retina culminating in the visual cortex - and I see black. So the photons coming in are serving as cooperative conditions and without them I won’t even see black. But, they catalyze, they trigger a lot of electro chemical events, culminating in the visual cortex and then the neurons also serve as cooperative conditions because they don’t turn black, they don’t turn any color at all. Then they act as a cooperative condition for the emergence of the qualia, the vision impression - the color black. But none of those things actually transform into black, not the photons, not my neurons, not my eyeball, nothing here in the physical world transforms into black because black arising in my substrate which is non-physical whereas all of these is physical.
(26:00) But now beyond the veil of appearances, so we have these whole physical world out there and all the activities in that physical world of movements of matter, energy and so forth, are then acting as cooperative conditions, leading to, when they come in contact with our senses, the emergence of qualia, colors, sound, smell, taste and so forth. But we never see them. Those things in physical space that are absolutely out there independent of us, we never see them, all we are actually directly perceiving are the qualia, are the appearances through our five senses, but they are causing them, right? How do you know? You never see them. You never see a photon, all you see when you are looking a photon by whatever instrument of modern physics, you never see a photon, you are seeing appearances that arise in your visual substrate, the visual space. So how do you know that a photon is really, as it is really, out there independently of some real entity that is acting as cooperative condition for seeing black or red or anything else? How do you know? You never see it, it’s a black box - the physical universe is a black box. You can never rip open the screen, the veil of appearances and see, ok, what’s really, there from God’s perspective? All you are getting is more appearances and all the appearances are arising in your substrate. So how do you know what’s really out there, causing and necessarily causing, the emergence of the appearances that you actually see? The appearances are the effects. How can you infer on the basis of effects, the causes when you can never see the causes and you can never see the cause producing the effect, as you can perceive fire producing smoke?
(27:33) So the implication here would be that the entire physical world is fundamentally unknowable, physical world as it exist in and of itself, out there real and absolute, is unknowable because it is in a black box and all we are getting is appearances but you can’t infer the cause on the basis of the effect if you can never ever see the cause. And the physical world as it exists really out there absolutely from God’s perspective, no one sees, unless you are God, and none of us know whether the God even exists. Therefore, it’s flat out unknowable. So the universe as it exist out there, in and of itself, presumably acting as cooperative conditions for the arising all the appearances we have, is unknowable, in principle unknowable.
(28:28) Moving to the 20th century, let’s see one quick note from Heisenberg. He said, “let us not attribute existence to that which is unknowable in principle”. Well the universe as it exists in itself, absolutely out there, is unknowable in principle. Because number one you can’t see it and moreover you can’t measure it either - because as soon as you do a measurement what do you get? You get appearances to your awareness. It doesn’t matter which branch of science, you never say - never mind my being human, never mind my appearances, I am just going to look at nature itself – never happens. Whether you’re a scientist, an artist, a mother, a farmer, whoever you may be, all you are ever getting are appearances. So if we follow Heisenberg’s dictum, one of the greatest pioneers of quantum mechanics - “let’s not attribute existence to that which is unknowable in principle”, then the external objective, physical universe and whether is physical or not, that of course is a human construct, superimposed, is unknowable, therefore let’s not attribute existence to the universe as it exists independently of experience. (29:26)
Now that seems strange. He said wait a minute. We navigate ourselves, through this real physical world, by way of appearances although they arise in the substrate. After all, there has got to be a real world out there, where things are happening, without our watching. So, to say that there is no world out there, independent of us, is flat out silly. So there is one point – that causality is taking place whether or not we are looking. Food rots in your refrigerator whether you are looking or not. And then also as we look around, human beings in this room, we look around, if we begin to describe what we see we are going to come up with some very similar descriptions, so what accounts for that commonality, consensuality, among different individual’s perceptions? Well there has got to be something really out there. Acting as cooperating conditions for our perceptions and those cooperating conditions are absolutely out there. And we are seeing them with human eyeballs, canine eyeballs, or whatever, but there has got to be something, absolutely real. Give me a break. Right? So that is the response, there has got to be something out there. Kant got that far. But he said we will never know the universe as it exists in and of itself, the thing itself, independent of perception. So he was pretty deep. Scientists have pretty much ignored that, said we don’t want to hear about that. We will tell you what is really going on out there.
But he did say, you know we don’t know what’s really in and of itself, really out there, by its own intrinsic nature , independent of percept and concept, but there has got to be something out there. Otherwise what holds the whole thing together? But then he couldn’t say what because then he would have to start talking about the “thing in itself”.
(30:00) Is it possible to even imagine physics, this granddaddy of all the natural sciences, is it possible to imagine physics that does not even attempt to make truth statements about what is really going on, out there, in the real physical world? Is that conceivable? Or would that just make it no longer physics?
Instructions for one that is reading the transcript: the next theme is a little complex so there are parts that we are trying to sum up the essence of the teachings.
Let’s see Modern Physicist’s thoughts about the nature of the physical universe.
[Modern physicists debunk this view it means to understand reality from God’s perspective as did early scientists like Galileo and others that were devout Christians].
Just keep in mind let’s see what is written in the summary made by SB Institute staff: Anton Zeilinger said that reality is based only on information we receive.
Now let’s continue with Alan Wallace with a complete explanation:
Well let’s ask one of the premier experimental physicists living today, in the field of quantum mechanics, a world renowned, there is no debate about this, he holds the chair at the University of Vienna. I know him personally, my privilege to say his name is Anton Zeilinger, he is really absolutely world class that is not open for debate, he is really superb, world class. Here is what he says, direct quote*:
(32:05) One may be tempted to assume that whenever we ask questions of nature, of the world there outside, there is reality existing independently, of what can be said about it, or maybe attempted to assume? We ( Anton Zeilinger ) we will now claim that such position is void of any meaning, it is obvious that any property or feature of reality, out there, can only be based on information we receive. There cannot be any statement whatsoever about the world or about reality that is not based on such information”.
It therefore follows that the concept of a reality without at least the ability in principle to make statements about it, to obtain information about its features, is devoid of any possibility of confirmation or proof - that is as soon as you start making statements of the nature of reality really out there independent of any information we have about it, well now you may just as well go - bla, bla, bla, because you are not making any sense. Whatever you say cannot be verified or repudiated, which means you are making no sense at all. This implies that the distinction between information, that is knowledge, and reality, is devoid of any meaning. In other words just stop talking about the nature of reality out there, independent of the information we have about it.
Summary made by SB Institute staff: John Wheeler spoke of the participatory universe where its (physical world) come from bits (information). Based on bits, the conceptual mind makes the “its”.
Let’s go directly to John Wheeler, a person whom Anton Zeilinger holds in high regard, who passed away, he had a long life and he is probably one of the two greatest theoretical physicists in America in the latter half of the twentieth century. He is very renowned. He was at The Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton. So referring to him, another very fine contemporary of theoretical physicists, Master physicists Paul W. Davis, he writes, referring to John Wheeler and John Wheeler’s theory here of quantum cosmology:
(33:54) A true observation of the physical world, he ( that is that John Wheeler maintained) even something as simple as the decay of an atom must not only produce any indelible record, in other words has impact, it must somehow impart meaningful information. Measurement implies a transition from the realm of mindless stuff to the realm of knowledge, otherwise it is not a measurement.
(34:22) So it is not enough for Wheeler that a measurement should record a bit of information, that you have just some imprint on it, that lowly bit, that bit of information had to mean something, and that is - mean something for somebody who is intelligent, who understands. Applying as usual practice of extrapolating to the extreme, he envision a community of physicists from whom the click of the Geiger counter amounted to more than just a sound. It was connected via a long chain of reasoning to a body of physical theory that enabled them to declare - the atom has decayed. Only then might the decayed event be accorded the objective status as having happened out there in the physical world, in other words now information is primary.
(35:47) So he comes here with what he calls a participatory universe, it is John Wheeler’s theory, melding the participatory universe with “it” from “bit”, “it from bit” that is one of the John Wheeler’ slogans, and “it” is something like a photon, an electron, an atom, and bit of course is a bit of information, meaningful information that is it refers to something.
(36:35) John Wheeler’s theory of “it” from bit” is that all of our concepts about what’s really out there, from elementary particles up to galactic clusters, so from very small or the universe at large, all of our statement about the “its” out there, elementary particles up to galaxies – that is a big ‘it’ , that is a small ‘it; and all the ‘its’ in between, all of these “its” arise from bits, that is they arise from information. What the scientist, the physicist, the astrophysicist, what does that person actually know, actually perceive, is information gleaned from making measurements. Information is not physical, has no physical attributes whatsoever, it is not located in space, no mass, no speedy, no-charge, no velocity, no shape, has no physical attributes whatsoever, and that is all the physicists actually are directing dealing with, something non-physical.
(37:35) And on a basis of ‘its”, information they gleaned from looking into a telescope, electron microscope, Hubble telescope and so forth, based on the information that they directly know, from the measurements that they are taking, based on the information then they conceive categories of matter, energy, charge, particles waves, fields and so forth and so on. But all of those “its”, electromagnetic fields, particles, galaxies, trains, stars, planets and so forth, all of those are derivative from information and have no existence independently of information. Information is primary and the “its” are secondary derivative.
(38:19) So he said that there is a strange loop here, I find this fascinating and it’s really worth contemplating, he calls this a strange loop, the “its” from “bits”, and that is if we did not glean any information about the universe using our five basic systems of measurement as human beings, the measurement of the world around us, mainly five physical senses, those are our measuring devices and from them we are getting information, right, each one, the visual information, auditory information and so forth, from based upon the information, whether gleaned from our five raw physical senses or from the fantastic technology of modern physics; based on that, then “its” emerge in dependence upon information. In other words there would be no universe as conceived by the physicists with all of its “its” without the information that the physicists had gleaned by making measurements. The “its” actually arise in dependence upon the bits on the one hand.
(39:17) On the other hand, the story that we have now of the physical universe based upon marvelous measurements and sophisticated analyses is that our universe is about 30,7 billion years old, our planet’s about five billions years old, life on earth is about 3,5 billion years old, human species, homo sapiens about 100/200 thousand years old, and so for most of the history of the universe, according to the measurements that we have thus far, at least the universe we know about, our planet, there is no conscious life. I mean our planet didn’t even exist for the first of 8,5 billion years, that is a lot of time with no life, as far as we know. And then for the first billion and half billion or so no life, and then how long it took consciousness anybody is guess, there is no scientific theories that could be tested. So after some time then we have the first consciousness organisms and then they evolved and here we are.
(40:13) So had it not been for the prior history of the universe, the big bang, formation of galaxies five billions ago, our solar system, the sun, its various planets, were it not for all of those ‘its’ and the evolution of life on our planet, then human beings would not have evolved, physicists would not have evolved and would not have developed their system of measurement to get a lot of information.
(40:53) You have to have the “its” before you get the bits. Physicists were not there at the big bang for watching the first ameba crawl out of the ooze or whatever they did. So you have to have the ‘its’ before the ‘bits’, right? But no, the “its” are actually derivative of “bits”. It’s “its’ from bits, if there is no physicist then there will not be measurements, if there were no measurements there will be no categories of space, time, matter, energy, evolution, galaxies, big bang, inflationary period, and so forth. None of that would be anywhere so it is a strange loop, “its” giving rise to ‘bits’ and ‘bits’ giving rise to ‘its’.
Just to recall in Pratityasamutpada, physics style – in the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, which comes first?
(41:30) Melding the participatory universe with “it” from ‘bits’, participatory universe now, the role of the observer because there has to an observer in order to make measurement. Without someone who is informed there is no information, without having something about which you are informed, there is no information. So there’s three - the one who is informed, the information, and that about which you are being informed. They are all mutually interdependent. If you don’t have any information you are not informed. If there is nothing to be informed about, there is no information, but if there is no information there is nothing about which you are informed. Take away one and the other two vanish into thin air. They are all mutually interdependent.
So that’s the participatory universe, there is no information without observers, and an inert entity cannot measure another inert entity. It is just called bumping. It is not a measurement, there is no information. It’s just –bump, an indentation. Melding the participatory universe with ‘it” from ‘bit’ reveals the key concept of information laying at the core. One the one hand an observer involves the acquisition and recording of information. That is how information happens – there has to be an observer. On the other hand, an observer, at least of the living variety, is an information processing and replicating system. In both cases it is not information per say that is crucial, but semantic information. So he is making a strong point here. There are other ways of understanding information but not those ways, semantic information, meaningful information that has a referent, it’s about something. An interaction in quantum mechanics becomes a true measurement only if it means something to somebody. Similarly the information in the genome is a set of instructions, say to build a protein, requiring a molecular meilleur that can recognize the code and act upon it. The base para-sequence on a strand of DNA is just so much gobblydeegook, without customized, cellular machinery to read and interpret it. Whether machinery can read and interpret anything I think is an open question.
But it is now calling for, in a very deep or existential way, the role of observation, the very existence of the Universe as a whole. That is wasn’t just out there, and if it is, it’s forever unknowable so why should we talk about it? A world that is knowable is inextricably linked with the observer.
Summary: Andre Lindt asserts that perception is primary and that consciousness is needed to explain the physics observed in the real world.
Alan quoting what Andre Lindt said: “The standard assumption (whenever you see physicists say that you know they are about to say it is wrong) The standard assumption is that consciousness, just like space time before the invention of general relativity, plays a secondary subservient role, being just a function of matter, and a tool for the description of the truly existing material world.” Those are his words. That consciousness is just a little fluff, just a function of what is really there, matter.
In other words mind is what the brain does. But let’s remember that our knowledge of the world begins not with matter but with perceptions, backing to information, being primary.
(45:00) He continues, is it possible that consciousness, like space time, has its own intrinsic degrees of freedom? In other words, it is not just a function of something else, and that neglecting these will lead to a description of the universe that is fundamentally incomplete. And that is – a universe that is only objective. Where consciousness really plays no role at all. Where consciousness really, after all is said and done, is just brain function. And perceptions are brain function. And feelings are just brain function. In other words we are just like road kill. Flattening all subjective experience and demanding well after all, it has to be equivalent to something we actually know about.
The physical. And he said well maybe that is just not right, maybe that’s incomplete. He asked further, what if our perceptions are as real, or maybe in a certain sense, more real than material objects? Now bear in mind this is not a new-agey Physicist. He is really, really very main stream. He is asking one question after another.
So, Roger Penrose, another man who is anything but a light weight, regarded by some people as the greatest living mathematician, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, he writes: “ One needs a theory of consciousness to explain the physics that we actually perceive going on in the world. “ That is what we don’t have. A scientific theory of consciousness, not one that can be tested.
Summary: Stephen Hawking speaks of the quantum world which is in a superposition state (in probabilistic mode or realm of possibility). He notes being inside (causality and linearity) or outside the system (quantum world where observer creates both past and future). Without an observer, the universe is frozen. The observer breaks the symmetry of the quantum world, giving rise to the classical world. In sum, both the observer and information constitute essential links in understanding the world.
Text and Alan’s comments:
(47:47) This is not necessarily a direct quote but I can give you the source for anyone who is interested. “There is only one world, and this is a quantum world and it is in the superposition state, superposition state means - what is there is a field of possibilities, it is a probability function, not concrete real absolutely objectively physical entity out there, superposition state means is still in probabilistic mode, potential mode, not actualized into concrete discrete entities. “ (Superposition is a big important term in quantum mechanics.)
They continue – “It is simply that every component of the superposition taking separately, corresponds to what our consciousness perceives as the picture of the classical world, and to different superposition terms there corresponds different pictures.
Each classical world, classical world again - it is really out there, prior to our measurement, prior to our observation and so forth, these different projections, each classical world is just one classical projection of the quantum world. “
So what is a manner of speaking mentioning that what is really out there is simply a world of possibilities, a superposition state.
(48:43) Then, when we make a measurement like looking I just make a measurement. I just made a measurement of his shirt. But when we make a measurement then we see classical world. He has got a real shirt, it is right there, it is made of molecules, it is absolutely out there, I just happen to see it. So now something that is probabilistic becomes an actuality by the act of making a measurement.
These different projections are produced. (Reading the last sentence) “Each classical world, that is something really out there, is just one more classical projection of the quantum world.
These different projections are produced by the observer’s consciousness.
While the quantum word itself exists independently of whatever observer. “
In other words the quantum world is not dependent on your perceptions, after all something has got to be out there independently of our perceptions. The world wasn’t created with man.
(49:52) So something has got to be out there when we are not looking and what he is saying is yeah, quantum world and superposition state, only a world of possibilities. That is as soon a measurement is made, by us or people individual sentient beings on other planets, when they can make a measurement from their perspective, a classical world pops up, they are projected based upon their measurements. But what is out there independently? Possibilities!
Oh I love this one - Quote - “Like the surface of the sphere our universe has no definable starting point”. Ever you heard of the beginning of the samsara? Now you have heard that again.
(50:46) Quote: “Our observations of the Cosmos today, (now it gets weirder and weirder, this is still Stephen Hawking so we haven’t gone into ‘Flakeyville’, and it doesn’t mean he is absolutely right, I am not citing these people as if – now God has spoken, I am citing these people as incredible, brilliant, mainstream, highly respected, physicists, who I think should be taken seriously. And then refuted, if we can. Here they go again:- “Our observations of the Cosmos today are determining the outcome, in this case, the entire history of the universe”. Alan repeat: “Our observations today are determining the history of the entire universe.”
Alan’s comments: “it from bit”, the history of the universe is an “it” and it emerges from the information we get about it and the information we are getting about it is now. So the history is arising relative to measurements we are making in the present moment.
And measurement made in the present is deciding what happened 13 .7 billion of years ago. By looking out at the universe we assign ourselves a particular concrete history.
There is a middle way here, it is exactly a middle way, and that is one extreme is – this is a bunch of rubbish, the universe is already out there with or without God and it really absolutely happened and it was 13.7 billions years ago and we know an awful lot about it , even during the nano seconds after the big bang, we know about the galactic formations, the formations and everything going on, and we know what happened and it is all there independently of our knowing about it , and that is called metaphysical realism. It is already absolutely out there and we are just simply trying to reproduce or represent in our theories, what really absolutely happened. In the Madhyamika view that is called the extreme of substantialism, that it is absolutely out there, right?
(52:44) The extreme of nihilism is not just to say nothing exist at all, it is saying: whatever you think, it is your reality man, the hippies almost invented this. You do not think that George Bush is the President? Whatever man, whatever, it’s your reality. In another words nobody is ever deluded, because they are schizophrenic and so forth and so on, it’s your reality, let’s not mess with it. Well that is nuts. That would make a complete mockery of all of science, and I do not think science should be mocked, and I do not think sanity should be mocked either, and if it is true that ignorance and delusional lay at the root of suffering, then we shouldn’t be bowing and kowtowing to delusion. Unless we simply want to be perpetuating suffering.
(53:14) So , something in between those two: it is not just you make up as you go, and anything goes, and pass the dope, or is it absolutely out there, it is something in between and in between is, what I called, and I did not coin the term, anthological relativity. Given an certain system of measurements, a conceptual framework in which or by which you are making sense of your measurements, there are truths to be discovered that can be replicated and there are assertions that you can be made that can be repudiated, relative to your system of measurement, and the conceptual framework in which you make sense of, what you are measuring.
(53:40) Remember yesterday? It is nama that identifies objects and manas or mano that makes sense of them, right? And in dependence upon that we have categories of mind and matter and so forth and so on but they were not already out there. (53:54) Slapped together or something. So something in between, where there are truths to be discovered and maybe very expensive truths, I think this large Hayden Super collaborator is $6B. That is expensive. These are really good physicists, superb technology, but are they finding about what exists absolutely independent of their systems of measurements? Not according to quantum mechanics. They are finding and making deep insights, maybe even practical insights, about the fundamental constituents of physical reality, down to the level of elementary particles, relative to the systems of measurement they have designed, and making sense within the conceptual framework of the standard theory and so forth. They are true for that context, they are true relative to that framework, but are they true from God’s perspective, if God has an absolute perspective? No. No evidence. And moreover, if you say – yes they are – then prove it. You can’t prove the validity or invalidity, you can’t prove or disprove, any statement you make about reality independent of your system of measurement. Impossible. So you may as well stop talking, about what is meaningless, is what he said. Oh it gets better. If we could stand outside the world, we would be able to see the present affecting the past. If you could stand outside of time, we would be able to see the present affecting the past, as when an observer affects a photons path through the universe. That is a thought experiment that I think John Archibald Wheeler came up with. And it is fundamental quantum mechanics, and he made it large. That when you make a measurement, that act of making a measurement actually influences what occurred prior to that event in terms of the projector of the photon. That is just standard quantum mechanics. He applied this now to photos travelling through the universe, saying the measurement you make has a retroactive effect on the flight, the trajectory of the photon. An observer affects a photons path through the universe. That is from outside. But from inside the universe, here we are getting these classical pictures of the universe based upon our measurements, which we then reify, as being absolutely out there in and of themselves. From inside the universe though, from the only place we can possibly be, no observer sees because causality is violated; causality is violated if the effect is influencing the cause, you make a measurement and it influences something prior to that. That violates causality. Then go out and kill your grandmother and see what happens. That is the classic one – kill your grandmother then she can’t give birth to your parents, and they can’t give birth to you, and if you are not here then that means you can’t murder your grandmother. So inside the system, no that can’t happen. Outside the system? Oh yeah. What we observe in the present, the final state, is one entire causally consistent theory or another. And that’s where the theory makes sense, it is true or false, you can test it. One causally consistent history or another depending on the system of measurement that you use, because you chose the system of measurement. From within any given history, cause and effect proceed in the usual manner, in dependence on that cause, then subsequently this effect arises. Now just one more quote from Andre Lindt : “The universe becomes alive, time dependent (which is to say that the universe evolves, the last 13.7B years the universe changes, things happen in the universe. So he doesn’t mean literally alive. Alive, as in a sense of transforming, evolving, changing. “The universe becomes alive, that is time dependent, only when one would divided it into two parts, and observer and the rest of the universe.”
(58.33) Then the function of the rest of the universe depends on time measured by the observer. In other words, evolution is possible, only with respect to the observer, without an observer the universe is dead. So the problem of frozen time, very well known in modern quantum cosmology, the universe would be absolutely static were it not for the role of the observer and the observer participant universe. Paul Davies has written a whole book on this, it is called The Problem of Frozen Time. The way it works is essentially quite simple - and that is to say that time is not out there, objectively, otherwise the universe would go on, with or without observers, it is not their objective, it falls out of the equations, that’s a big deal. They took the standard equation for doing calculations of quantum mechanics and applied it to the whole universe. In which case time drops out of the equation, there is no objective time. And now we have ‘its’ from ‘bits’, the whole physical universe consisting of ‘its’ arises in dependence upon information, on the basis of information then the conceptual mind makes the ‘its’ and they causally interact with each other. But now there will be no time, apart from the intervention, on the part of an observer participant. And what does the observer participant do? What the observer participant does, is a little bit poetically, the observer says – now. Now. And now that I have said now, relative to now I can speak of the past, relative to now I can speak of the future and then the past is giving rise to the future, now everything flows through time.
But the Universe doesn’t say “now’, objectively, mindlessly, without measurement, without information. The Universe doesn’t say “now”, past present or future, it doesn’t say years, it does not change, it’s frozen. It takes an observer to break the symmetry, say now, which is different from not now, then and then, and now relative to the observer, you have a world that changes through time.
Let’s just take one final look at this short statement: If we could stand outside the world, we would be able to see the present affecting the past, that would imply that one could see the future affecting the present. Ever heard the phrase – Take the Fruition as the Path? Take something that hasn’t happened yet, namely your achievement of perfect enlightenment, and then saying, reaching in one or maybe a thousand lifetimes, I will take the effect as the cause, thank you very much, I will take the effect as my path. After all, time has no absolute reality anyway. There is no absolute time between now and the time when I achieve enlightenment. Is there time? Yes, but it is not absolute time. So he is saying, from that perspective, not from inside the system; so once again, if Alan Wallace says – “from my perspective”. Well one day I am going to achieve enlightenment, let’s take that one on faith, and therefore the Buddha that I will be, I , Alan Wallace am going to take that as my path, which means that I , Alan Wallace am a Buddha, (doesn’t feel all that different) and now I am going to super propel myself, put myself into warp drive, not three countless eons, I am going to put myself into warp drive and zip through three countless eons, of course accumulating merit. But if I try to do that from the perspective of Alan Wallace, it is just something to laugh at.
There is a perspective though, from which that is valid.
(1:03:40) There is a perspective from which that is valid otherwise all of Vajrayana would be a joke. Hey you can’t violate causality you can’t make the effect the cause, give me a break, from inside the system, from inside samsara, from inside space time , from inside our existence as human beings, but if you realize the emptiness of all of that of the physical universe, not just yourself, that is a small potatoes. Realize the emptiness of the entire whole works, the entire universe, that it arises only relative to measurement, only relative to information, it’s not already there, nor is a sheer whimsy. True statements, Tsongkhapa is so strong on that point, our valid and our invalid statements, valid and invalid cognition, boy he is strong on that point, within the system absolutely, just like in science.
(1:04:29) But if you see, ( now it’s Tsongkhapa all over again, or any of the great followers of Madhyamaka) , if you perceive or understand the entire physical universe and your presence in it, and consciousness, your mind, you identity, all is empty of inherent nature, none of them existing independently of measurement, independently of information, independently of conceptual designation, it is all constructed, then you deconstruct. That which you constructed you can deconstruct, from your perspective and you dissolve the entire universe, leaving not a single atom behind. You dissolve it into emptiness and you dissolve your mind into rigpa. Rigpa is out time. Rigpa is in the fourth time, it is not in the past, present or future, not even in the present, not within that demarcation of the past, present and future, it is outside the system, it is in the fourth time. Rigpa is viewing reality from the fourth time, outside of the time, in which the ground, path and fruition are all simultaneous. Dissolve everything, the entire phenomenal universe into emptiness, and then not there, that is not enough, then dissolve your awareness into primordial consciousness, viewing from that reality outside the system. Now the effect, the fruition, your Buddhahood can influence the cause, and you can take the fruition as the path, but only from that perspective. If you tried to take the effect from inside the system it is simply delusion, taking you in the opposite direction from enlightenment. You are your ordinary sense and oh, by the way, you are also the “manakaya”, you are a tulku, you are an enlightenment being, I don’t think so. So here is the final sense.
(1:06:30) So since science, since Copernicus, the rise of modern science, has aimed to model a universe in which we are mere byproducts, that is after all what we call ourselves, human beings, physicists, byproducts of a long, long evolution that never had us in mind, because it did not have a mind. I mean we are dealing with the modern twenty first century physics, God does not really play a role, so it is just a mindless big bang, and then 8,5 billion years of mindlessness, planet with mindlessness, planet with no appearances anywhere in sight, 3.5 billion ago mindless organisms, somehow, Merlin or somebody made them consciousness, and they don’t have a clue how, not in the scientific world, and then we evolve from the simple living organisms to where we are now. And this is pretty much, I mean I have heard this, consciousness is just byproduct, I mean I have read serious people, biologists, evolutionary biologists saying: what’s the use, what’s the function of consciousness, everything as we as evolved beings, as living organisms, everything we have, teeth, hair, genitals and so forth, they all have a function and function is to survive and procreate. That is bottom line, but was really necessary to be consciousness? Couldn’t we just kind of bumped around in the dark? What function does consciousness have? And then from the evolutionary biological framework, they try to conceive of what use is consciousness, like it could happen or could it not happen? And what is it good for? So in other words it’s just a byproduct. It is just one of those things. It made sex feel better. Or you know otherwise you could just have mindless sex. You could bump into another organism and go boink boink boink, and for no reason, because you are not experiencing anything, then you have more boink boinks and they are perpetuating all the planet, a bunch of little blind, mute, unconscious billiard balls, procreating. There it is I mean that is the view. That is just happened to have happened. Life just happened, whether it was that marvelous little traveler on a meteorite, long lived and very robust. Or one that pops out of a volcanic fissure, from lava, the chemical soup; they have got all kinds of very interesting ideas and none of them testable. And they take them so seriously, I am quite astonished. So the standard model is that we are mere byproducts. That this top down cosmology is look, everything we know about the universe is based upon measurements that are making in the present, because we were not there at the big bang, we were not there at the formation of the planet, we were not there before the human beings came along by definition, and so there is no such thing as bottom up cosmology. You can’t call a physicist here, who was there when the planet was formed and said, yeah, I was watching, you got it right. You can’t do it bottom up. There was nobody there to look at the causes.
(1:09:57) History is a black box. The present is an effect of the past.
Where do we see the past? All we ever see is the present, but the present is arising in dependence upon the past, right? When was the last time you saw the past. Remembering something? What you doing is perceiving images right now. The past is a black box; this is what Stephen Hawking is saying, the past, your past, the past of the planet, of the species, of the galaxies, of the universe, the past is a black box. The past exists in a superposition state, in the future and in the present are the possibilities waiting for a measurement and the measurement always takes place in the present. And who says present and who says now? Observers! Without their saying now, there will be no change, there would be no past and no future and no present. So the past is a black box. Your past is a black box, it didn’t absolutely happen. Your past arises relative to the measurements you are making in the present. (01:10:48)
It is never too late to have a happy childhood! Because what is your childhood? As soon as you start talking what you are talking about is measurements you are making now, what do you remember now, everything you say about your childhood is going to be invoked by making measurements right now. You can’t go off and make measurements five years ago. Five years ago you could, but who knows what you did then. And if you try to remember it, you are just envisioning, invoking images right now. You are making measurements right now. Your past exist in a superposition state, let alone your future, let alone the present.
(1:11:48) So, there is a moral here, lots of morals here, my favorite one is the following, I have not seen anyone else say this, it is so heretical, that if our community could burn people at the stake, I would definitely be a top candidate for what I am about to say. As a religious studies scholar, I was quite intrigued because I read 19th century philosophy and a lot of other things at Stanford. And one of the strong, quite very influential intellectuals was a man called Ludwick Lowenstein. A philosopher, very deep into theology, and he made a revolutionary hypothesis, it had a lot of impact on a lot of atheists, and his philosophy was that having read Christian theology, having read all the descriptions of God, God as a man, God as father, God as a punisher, a rewarder, a creator, God in charge with all of that, so you look at God, what is God? Who has ever God, this God that creates and punishes, who has ever seen him? This cause for which we are seeing only the effects? Who has ever seen that cause, who has ever seen the black box of God? And he said, what our 19th century vision, our concepts of God are, are basically just concepts of dad. Tough dad, but he is just, he can be mean as hell, and I mean literally, mean as eternal hell is pretty mean. But he can also be really benevolent, eternal life, salvation, when he wants to reward, man he can do a real number on reward. He is just, he is wrathful, but he is dad, what can you expect? He is jealous, but he is dad, what can you expect? All powerful? Yes, from a kid’s perspective that is sure. God is just your notion of Dad, projected on the whole universe and nothing more. Man created God, and since men were running the society, they decided God was a man. No person in charge is a woman. Then they would have to start respecting women. Who would want to do that? That is a downer. So let’s keep it in the gender, we men are in charge and the man who is super in charge, he has whiskers. So that really created quite a fuss. That God is nothing but a projection, superimposed on the universe as a creator. Nice Dad, powerful dad, infinite projection of a finite dad. Well.
(1:15:19) If the history of the universe exist in a superposition state then nothing absolutely happened, in other words there is no absolutely true account of what went on, because that is exactly the implication, that there are multiple histories. Stephen Hawking says elsewhere, you can choose your history of the universe based upon the system of measurement you choose, you get another history and another history all depends on what data you can collect and what information you are getting, and will be true or false, relative to, your cognitive framework of reference, system of measurement and conceptual framework. If that’s true, if there is no absolutely true history of the universe, then what are the implications for the big picture?
Let’s see the sequence:
(1:16:03) And that is for the first roughly 10 billion years, at least from as far as we know, because the only life we know is this planet, so speaking from this perspective, for the first 10 billion years there was only physics.
There was just inorganic physics, just matter energy, it’s chemicals. No life, no consciousness, no nothing, just chemicals. And then about 3.5 millions of years ago then, out of those inorganic chemicals, and nobody knows how, then organic chemicals and then the first living organisms emerged, so there is a sequence there- first physics and then we have living organisms. Highly unlikely those first ones were conscious. I do not know any biologist who thinks they were. Single cell organism that is aware of its environment, I don’t think anybody says that. Then with evolution from the single cell living organism, which was unconscious, they evolved, evolved, evolved, and at some point, we don’t know when, when was the first emergence of conscious living organisms? We don’t have a clue. Again, all is speculation, none of them scientifically testable, which means they are not scientific theories, they are just guesses. But at some point they had to have been, because we are consciousness and we weren’t here 5 billions of years ago, presumably, and so those unconsciousness living organism evolved into consciousness organisms and now we have a mind, primitive mind and they, in dependence upon the nervous system evolved, evolved, evolved, and then we have Einstein. So really big brains and an incredible intelligence, he is a good example, twenty century. So there it is, that is the standard picture.
(1:17:45) I think that is not a coincidence, that over the last 4 hundred years the evolution of science, Eurocentric science, started with physics, dominated through until the 19 century, it was just physics and chemistry, and then around middle of 19 century then Biology coming up, and in 1859 the origin of the species, Darwin, the first great revolution of the life sciences, Darwin. Mendel, coming a bit later and genetics. And then we get towards the end of the 19th century, and now for the first time there is a science of mind. There wasn’t for the first 3 hundred years of modern science. It took them a long time. It was a slow starter. William James and others pioneers began around 1875 started the scientific study, experimental science, making observations, applying the scientific method to mind. And so finally, having first the physical sciences very well developed, and out of them emerging the Biological sciences, reducing really understanding that biology really emerges from physics. And then psychology emerging. And then from the beginning many, many psychologists assuming that of course mind is really a function of the brain. They were assuming that from the beginning. A lot of them. Then out of Biology emerges the psychology, the science of the mind. And that is to this day then, they all continue evolving.
Physics continues to evolve the second revolution, how Biology evolves with DNA and marvelous evolutions of biology including neurobiology and then psychology riding that wave. Whereas psychologists many of them are intent on reducing psychology into Biology, and many Biologists, intent of reducing Biology to its fundamental components. So, there is a parallel there - that the history of the universe exactly corresponds in sequence to the history of the evolution of modern science for the last four hundred years.
(1:19:53)The whole history may be a projection of the history of four hundred years of Eurocentric investigation of the universe. We started with physics, the universe started with physics, then we got a good at Biology, then the universe created the life. Then we started to study the mind, and then the universe came up with mind. Ludwick Lowenstein all over again. We are saying that the entire universe, that the evolution of the entire universe reflects exactly, and is a projection of, the history of modern science over the last four hundred years. And that story has no existence independently of that four hundred years history of Eurocentric science.
(1:20:37) It is a really good story and it is a true story, based upon the measurement that we made. It was not whimsy. It was very expensive, and done by very brilliant people. Not whimsy, but it is also not absolute truth.
Maybe the whole picture is simply a projection of evolution of our science for the last four hundred years and nothing more.
And then one could imagine what if the first scientist rather than like Descartes envisioning a mechanical universe, actually envisioned the fundamental core of the universe being a life principle. And out of the life principle emerging the inorganic, like the dead skin. That the universe is fundamentally alive, that life is the core, the bottom line, the fundamental principle of the entire universe. Serious thinkers have thought along this line. They have a principal that the universe actually formed in the way it did with precise laws of the past to enable life to emerge. That life was a driving force for the evolution of the universe to occur as it did, all of its laws, its physical laws enabling life to occur, life is primary, dead matter is the dead skin. It is just the dead inhabitation for life to do its thing, but life was demanding to manifest, and it required a physical universe to do that.
There is another scenario - if the first revolution in science had been in Biology, maybe we would all have that view, that a long time ago there was the emergence of life and then out of that, the catalyzation of that, would emerge the physical universe.
What about if the first natural scientists were contemplatives, or psychologists who considered that no, it is not actually life principal, life is a derivative of consciousness. Consciousness is fundamental, out of consciousness emerges life and out of life emerges the dead matter, like the hair and the nails of the universe. The whole juice is all consciousness for which life is an emergence property. What if the first scientist had been focusing on consciousness? Would we then not have another history based upon other sets of measurements, maybe contemplative measurements rather than measurements of technology?
(1:23:24) So to take Stephen Hawking’s propositions seriously - that all of our classical pictures of 13.7 Billion years, six realms of existence, this that and the other thing, within the context of , all of these are classical projections superimposed by the observer, based upon measurements that seem to be absolutely real and out there, but they are all simply projections. We are participating in the creation of the universe that we experience. That independently of those conceptual designations, the universe is simply “cipa”, nice word in Tibetan, the word is synonymous with phenomenal world, and “cipa” means possibility. It is a Buddhist term. Prior to making designations it is just a realm of possibilities. Make a measurement, make a conceptual designation, and now something freezes and you get a real world that you lock onto and think is really out there, independently of the conceptual designation, and that is the root of samsara. Not knowing what’s going on and then imputing, designating, creating by conceptual projection, a world of “its”, no problem so far, but then reifying them as being absolutely out there. That is the root of delusional, in dependence upon which craving and hostility and all of the mental afflictions arise, and all karma is accumulated. From that fundamental delusion of reifying the “its” and not recognizing they come from bits. But then you think, oh, you mean information is absolutely real? Information does not even exist apart from one who is informing. Then you think, oh you mean the one who is informing is absolutely real? The one who is informed does not exist independently of information. The universe out there is absolutely real, that about which we are getting information, that about which we are getting information has no existence independent of information, it has no existence independently of the observer, of the informed, in other words - all empty, all the way up and all the way down.
(1:25:20) But is there a perspective on the nature of reality that is not from the inside the system, not from inside space and time, not from inside an evolving universe, not from inside samsara, is there a perspective? Of course, it is rigpa that is the view from outside the system. So that is just the opposite of the root of samsara which is avidya, not knowing, the opposite of that is vidya which is the Sanskrit for rigpa. So know rigpa and you know who you are, and knowing who you are you know the indivisibility of your own rigpa or your own yeshe, primordial consciousness, the primordial indivisibility of primordial consciousness which is the dharmadatu, the ultimate dharmadatu, the absolute space phenomena out of which relative space and time emerge, in dependence upon designation, and then you know reality as it is and you know who you are in the same breath.
(1:26:45) So we just moved from classical Buddhist philosophy to relativistic Buddhist philosophy. And that is where we are going, from Sautrantika to Shantideva. Shantideva is where we will be going tomorrow and Shantideva is going to come right back to the body.
Tomorrow we are going to Shantideva’s writing from the Madhyamika’s perspective and he is going to attend to the body, closely applying mindfulness to the body, not from the Sautrantika’s perspective, but from the Madhyamika’s perspective, the Middle Way. So big shift; true revolution. As the rise of quantum mechanics was a true revolution, just like Galileo started a true revolution, the first revolution in modern science. Einstein and so forth, true revolution, and that is that if you understand the implications of quantum mechanics, Stephen Hawking is certainly going deep, then you simply cannot view the physical world in the same way any longer. You have to experience it differently. View it differently. (1:27:26)
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by Cheri Langston.
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Posted by Alma Ayon