Quantum physics looks at tantra


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
4 dimensions universe space-time
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.

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The view from inside space-time

What science tells us about reality

The history of Western science is well-documented, reaching back to Greek thinkers whose names are still remembered today: Aristotle, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Euclid, Democritus.

With the publication of Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia in 1686 CE, science gained a major new paradigm. What has come to be called Newtonian mechanics was created by many people, and it proved to be a powerful way of looking at the world.

In the Newtonian universe, matter was held together by forces, and energy moved in waves though fields. Each behaved according to a fixed set of laws, which we could discover through theory and confirm through experiments. The universe was vast and fixed, with galaxies bouncing off each other like billiard balls on a pool table.
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