If you want an integrated life, at some point you must integrate your understanding of the objective world with your own subjective insight. What better place to start than by observing the interplay between objective quantum physics and subjective tantra?
Let’s see how the insights match up by looking at a tantric description of reality in terms of quantum physics. A concise and classic tantric description can be found in the twenty statements in the eleventh century C.E. Pratyabhijñā-hrdayam.
Classical tantric descriptions of reality are very condensed and highly technical. You could almost call them equations of consciousness. For example, pratyabhijñā-hrdayam means heart of recognition. Heart of Recognition means the heart of the teachings concerning recognizing who you are in the fullest sense. Who You are in the Fullest Sense is you fully expanded into the universe.
Each Sanskrit word in the equation can be translated into English in multiple ways. For simplicity, we will rely on the excellent English interpretation of Swami Shantananda in The Splendor of Recognition.
There is one initial explanation to make. Quantum physics has re-defined the word universe to mean eleven dimensions, so what used to be called the universe is now more properly referred to as space-time. We can translate between quantum physics and classical Tantra as follows:
|Type of universe||Tantric term||Quantum physics term|
|11 dimensions||Consciousness or spanda||universe|
In the Pratyabhijñā School lineage of Swami Shantananda, the universe is often referred to as Consciousness. In the Spanda School, the universe is referred to as spanda, or vibrating energy, a term closer to the language of quantum physics. We will keep both meanings in mind, as we explore how the objective insights of quantum physics relate to the subjective insights of tantra.
1. Consciousness, in her freedom, brings about the attainment of the universe.
The seven dimensions of the universe outside space-time create space-time.
Quantum physics and Tantra seem to agree on the fundamental nature of reality, with Tantra emphasizing the consciousness and will of the universe.
2. By the power of her own will, she [Consciousness] unfolds the universe upon a part of herself.
The universe folds together seven dimensions to create space-time, and space-time is still part of those seven dimensions.
Both quantum physics and tantra suggest that space-time is created in just part of the universe.
3. That [Consciousness becomes] diverse because of the division of reciprocally adapted objects and subjects.
Space-time becomes diverse because the energy flowing in from the other seven dimensions create many different interacting patterns of energy in space-time.
Whether your preferred term is consciousness or quantum foam, everything made of one wave of energy outside space-time becomes differentiated inside space-time.
4. Even the individual, whose nature is Consciousness in a contracted state, embodies the universe in a contracted form.
Individuals who have space-time boundaries are the embodiments of seven-dimensional energies contracted into the four dimensions of space-time.
Every strand of space-time has the seven dimensions outside space-time twisted around it. Every pattern of energy, including individuals, is composed of the energy of the whole universe, even in a form ordered by the rules of space-time.
5. Consciousness herself, having descended from the expanded state, becomes the mind contracted by the objects of perception.
The energy of the universe, having been twisted into a four-dimensional space-time, becomes the energy within and affected by space-time.
Once the energy enters space-time, it is affected by space-time. Tantra adds the implication that the awareness of the seven-dimension universe is also affected by the new environment.
6. One whose nature is that [the mind] experiences māyā.
Awareness contracted into space-time experiences space-time.
Māyā is the illusion which surrounds us, the illusion that the universe is no larger than space-time. Quantum physics has implicitly adopted the position that our senses are restricted to space-time, and uses mathematics to infer possible properties outside of space-time (parallel universes, multiverses, holographic universes, etc.).
7. And so he is one, is of two forms, consists of three, is fourfold, and is of the nature of the seven groups of five.
The energy (one) arising out of the quantum foam creates dualities (two), and separations between energy patterns, perspectives, and forces (three). Energy patterns are layered within each other (fourfold). The energy coming from the seven dimensions outside space-time create everything (seven groups of five, referring to the 35 categories of reality (tattvas)).
All of the numbers here are symbolic and point to all the distinctions that classical Tantra makes in consciousness and reality. The more important point is that everything arises from the flow of the universe’s energy, including space, time, and the material world.
8. The positions of all philosophical systems are stages of that [Consciousness].
All theories are reflections of of our understanding of reality and can only be partly true.
Even quantum physics doesn’t have a Theory of Everything that is big enough. Physicist Stephen Hawking suggests it may never happen.
9. That which is full of Consciousness, due to contraction of its powers, becomes a transmigratory soul, covered by impurities.
The energy of the seven dimensions outside space-time becomes constrained by the form it takes within space-time.
Did we mention that the Tantric language of consciousness is highly technical? The impurities referred to here are separateness, differentiation, and action.
10. Even then, the [transmigratory soul] performs the five acts like (Shiva).
Within space-time occur patterns of creation, maintenance, and dissolution. Humans, as well as other energy patterns, are both within space-time and connected to the dimensions outside space-time.
The first three acts are creation, maintenance and dissolution. The fourth is concealment, which is feeling separated from the universe, and the fifth is grace, which is feeling connected.
From here, the next ten sutras in the Pratyabhijñā-hrdayam leap into a discussion of human consciousness, which quantum physics does not address. Even so, in the ten statements above we can see the broad outlines of very similar views of reality:
- The universe is larger than space-time.
- The universe creates space-time out of its energies.
- Space-time is a contracted (organized and bounded) form of the other seven dimensions, and is still connected to those dimensions.
- Everything in space-time is composed both of space-time and also of the seven dimensions.
- Everything in space-time is bound by the laws of space-time, even while being composed of seven other dimensions.
Quantum physics isn’t sure how the seven dimensions outside space-time create space-time. The other seven dimensions appear to twist through Calabi-Yau manifolds and emerge on this side as space-time. The mathematics says the best description is in eleven dimensions, which suggests that all dimensions are “in play.”
So there are still many questions that could be asked. But it seems clear is that both the objective science of quantum physics and the subjective insight of Tantra have come to very similar conclusions about the fundamental nature of reality. And that provides a very interesting starting point for looking at everything else.