Talking of beginnings and endings makes no sense if there is no clarity in the way we regard what we don’t yet know, writes Bharat Bhushan Padmadeo
Does God exist? This controversy has been raked up yet again, this time by legendary theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in their new book, The Grand Design. "God did not create the Universe and the ‘Big Bang’ was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics. The fact that there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist." The concept they talk about, which they have named as ‘M-theory’, makes ‘Creator of the Universe’ redundant.
The oldest debate
The debate on the existence of God is as old as human existence itself. In the Indian context, many schools of philosophy that do not accept the authority of the Vedas do not acknowledge the existence of God. Even the Sankhya system, which otherwise acknowledges the authority of the Vedas, does not accept God as Creator.
Be that as it may, questions about the existence of God only enhance the credibility of the Vedantic concept of Advaita or non-dualism. Advaita, like science, holds the view that the manifest plural world with all its enormity and diversity is a reflection of a singularity — that there is a singular source of all animate and inanimate objects.
Coming back to the main question: Are scientists saying that the universe sprang out of nothing? Doesn’t contemporary physics begin and end with the Big Bang theory? Then why close a question that almost wills itself to remain: No rational mind must accept the argument that anything beyond one’s mental comprehension is non-existent.
Importantly, most scientists from the West speak from a perspective that includes an exposure to a Christian concept of God. Christianity assigns God an exclusive identity, different from the manifest, and which is not and cannot be accepted as the material cause of creation. Physics, on the other hand, hypothesises that all fundamental forces in nature, responsible for the making of this universe, must have existed in a unified state before they came into play.
Laws of physics
Can we deploy the laws of physics to discover answers to questions about how the universe came into being? The laws of physics continue to evolve, and often they are at complete variance with past findings. Physics has undergone several tectonic shifts since Newton gave us the laws of gravitation and Einstein, his theory of relativity. The laws underwent further changes when it emerged that the laws defining motion of gross bodies in the cosmos do not apply to the flight of energy particles at the sub-atomic level.
And now physics has added a new twist with its disagreement with Einstein’s equivalence principle, which states that the laws of physics are the same everywhere. John Webb of the University of New South Wales in Australia presents evidence to suggest that the laws of physics are not the same everywhere. Seen in practical terms, so far the laws of physics stand out as partial theories — these are still in search of a closure that Hawking seems to be thrusting upon his readers.
The laws of physics may be able to partly explain the cosmos. But, so far, physics has not been able to establish a correlation between the primal source and man. Science fails to establish a continuum between the source and the manifest in practical terms; findings of physicists become abstract academic exercises.
Perhaps an insight into the Vedantic concept of non-dualism, read along with the energy principle within the concept of Aum, may suit scientific minds better. For, it conforms to the three postulates of physics: Beginning from a singularity, Spontaneity and Chaos. The Vedantic concept acknowledges the existence of one and only primordial source — the boundary-less singularity, with no beginning or end — which remains the efficient and material cause of creation. In unmanifest state, it is perceived as being without form or perceptible attribute, but not without content. Evidently, such a state could be possible within the energy framework alone, so the primordial source is something of an energy-whole.
Vedanta describes Aum as pranava or primal sound associated with the first motion at primal source, following causal stress thereon. Causal stress increases, and becomes dense, and centralises the energy trinity — identified with ‘A’, ‘U’, and ‘M’ constituting Aum — gets excited with a roaring sound "Hum", a concept close to scientific perception; physicists acknowledge sound vibrations along with matter and light at the core of the universe. If the primordial source is taken as an energy whole, then it has to be a gigantic pool of unknowable quantities of energy particles. And with causal stress, because of mutual attraction among energy particles, the physical universe — very much in accordance with the laws of physics — is set into motion.
The primal source
The constituents at the primordial source, with their respective attributes, are so evenly balanced in their unmanifest form that they do not reflect any perceptible attribute. A particular mix of these constituents is evident in a person, and accounts for his individual specific traits. Second, the "consciousness element" emanating from the primal source, acting upon the particular energy platform identifiable with an existence, defines the varied dynamism of all beings.
In fact, the energy constituents and the consciousness element together hold the key to unity underlying all existences, and hence the continuum between the source and its manifest. In this light, the world becomes intensely interlinked; no individual component has an identity independent of the whole. With the power of free will, man can guide his actions by moral and ethical choices and even influence the environment through his efforts.
As the Mother, the spiritual associate of Sri Aurobindo, wrote, "Without Him, I exist not; without me, He is unmanifest." Such is the continuum between the primal source and man. Evidently, therefore, a knowledge that does not fully explain the complex inter-play between the two can never satisfy the searching mind.
Who or what is God?
In such a complex set-up, who or what is God? It is not a person. However, God is ever-personalising in the form of all individual things in the world. Or it can be called the aggregate of all such personalities everywhere in the Universe. And, it can be said to have a persona in the sense that the energy constituents emerging therefrom find reflection in terms of varying attributes in a man.
God is the phenomenon called the world. God is completeness, constituting the source, the manifest, and the laws driving this mechanism individually and collectively, including the functionalities of man. And, godliness is exploring the unity underlying all existences. In pursuing this line of gnosis, one realises that the world is an organic whole, where all constituents discharge their tasks in support of each other, and that the efforts of all put together carry forward this dynamic world. It then becomes possible to realise that we need to be in harmony with our internal as well as external worlds. The domain of God is, therefore, far wider than the abstract laws of physics, vital to our qualitative existence in holistic terms.