Samkhya and quantum physics

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    I am presently writing a book on the subject of quantum physics vs Classical physics and what the implications are for everyday Life and ordinary living. One of the interesting differences are  that the old physics the whole universe and reality are  completly still and static, even time is already taken in as a parameter in the universe,this makes everything become deterministic.
    Quantum Physics is instead about becoming and progress, it is a change, and human will, consciousness and thinking is part of the creating process.
    Are there not many similiarities here when you come to Samkhya?

    Ashish Dalela

    Thank you for your question. One of the most fundamental and striking things about Sāńkhya (for me) has been the idea that the external world is not primary properties (such as energy and momentum) but the objectification of properties in terms of which we perceive (taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight). This is embodied in the description of five elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether) which are elements that encode the sense perceptions of the five senses.

    This is important because early in the rise of empiricism, it was argued that the world could not have the perceptual properties, because the world was independent of our perception, and if we acknowledged that the world has perceptual properties it would mean that it was somehow designed to be experienced. That division between physical properties and perceptual properties drove the wedge in science and Western philosophy between the observer and the world.

    However, the world still isn’t like our sensations and hence objective rather than subjective. This distinction is made through the difference between senses and sense properties (called tanmatra) as opposed to the elements that encode these sense properties. So, the world is objective, and yet it encodes our sense perceptions. One way to understand this dichotomy is to think of a computer file that encodes pictures in terms of symbols like 1s and 0s. The symbols are nothing like what we see, and yet they are representations of what we see. So, there isn’t a stark divide between the world and our perception (as in Western philosophy) and yet these two are not identical (as in Idealism). There is Realism in Sāńkhya and yet it is closer to Idealism.

    I describe this viewpoint in many places as the idea that the world is a symbolic representation of what we can perceive, think, judge, intend, and value. So, everything we experience has an objective counterpart which is why we can study the perception objectively, and yet it is not identical to that perception (which is why we have a subjective feeling about it). Accordingly, there are many types of senses beyond the five senses. Thus, for instance, the mind is a sense that perceives ideas. Intellect is a sense that perceives judgments. Ego is a sense that perceives intentions. And there is a moral sense that perceives if the world is ideal or not.

    So, on the one hand, our experiences are ‘real’ because there is a reality corresponding to our experience, just as we experience. On the other hand, there are many kinds of ‘deeper’ realities that are perceived by different senses, beyond the five senses of sight, sound, touch, etc. Our perception is accordingly hierarchical and this means that if we begin with sense perception, we can progress into concepts, judgments, intentions, and morals. Conversely, if we begin in morals, we can progress into intentions, judgments, concepts, and sensations.

    Accordingly, the process of material creation is described as one in which the moral sense expands into ego, intellect, mind, senses, and objects. And the process of annihilation is one in which the objects merge into the senses, the senses into the mind, the mind into the intellect, the intellect into the ego, and the ego into the moral sense. So, the hierarchy in our perception is used to describe the process of creation and annihilation. The theory of matter is tied to the process by which matter is created and annihilated, or expands and contracts.

    Returning back to your comments, much of what we consider will and choice in quantum theory is material in Sāńkhya, but a different kind of matter. For example, matter has a purpose, but this purpose is materially objective, and therefore conscious intervention is not needed to cause a change. When consciousness interacts with matter, it doesn’t interact with the material objects. It rather interacts with this purpose, which then automatically drives material evolution.

    Quantum theory is certainly a revolution for the classicist, but which direction must we proceed given the problems of the theory is not apparent to everyone. Yes, there seems to be a role for choice, but there are people who like to overcome this problem by talking about the multiverse. In Sāńkhya, before we can study consciousness, will, choice, etc. we must study matter in a different way. That different description will naturally pave the way for a complete understanding of will and choice. For example, if you have a choice, do you also have responsibility? If you make bad choices, is there a natural law that will make you suffer? If not, then will is tantamount to indeterminism and unpredictability of the future in science. So, it is essential to consider a broader set of problems when trying to understand how matter must be described differently.

    Devon Bonner

    Could you explain how  a coordinate reference frame orders events ? I can see how a coordinate reference frame  works on a quantum level but not on a macroscopic level, where the order of events seem to follow a universal time-frame.

    Ashish Dalela

    When you look at a picture, you see something foreground and something background. There are pictures in which you have the choice of changing the foreground and background, and then seeing something different. In the famous face-vase illusion, the vase at the center is white and the faces on the sides are dark. The picture is flat; however, you have a choice to decide whether the dark part is the foreground (and the light part is the background) or vice versa. Whatever you consider foreground becomes the focus of your observation, and the rest is relegated to obscurity. The background doesn’t disappear from the vision; it is accorded less importance.

    In the classical picture of the world, there is a fixed distance to everything from the vantage of the observer. There is no conception of a ‘focus’ by which something becomes foreground (and has a lesser distance) while something else becomes background (and has a greater distance). In human observation, however, this concept of distance–created by the observer–exists. In fact, this conception of distance is a choice of the observer, and distance becomes a choice.

    From this conception of distance, you derive a meaning–e.g. that the picture is two faces or a vase. So, choice plays an important role in interpreting the nature of reality, and the mechanics of this interpretation reduces to the creation of different distances to different parts of reality. These distances to different things form your personal coordinate reference frame. Objectively speaking, the distance to all parts of the picture is the same (because the picture is flat, and its parts are equidistant from you), but in the personal coordinate system, they have different distances. We can form a mental picture of the world based on the objective distance–e.g. that the picture has some colors. But to create objects out of this, we use prioritization.

    So, the contention that we understand coordinate frames at the macroscopic level is wrong. You are not talking about the macroscopic world, but the classical interpretation of the macroscopic world. And that interpretation (in which all distances are fixed) is incapable of explaining why you see foreground and background in a picture when everything has the same distance.

    Current quantum physics uses the classical notion of coordinate frames; so there is no difference between the classical and quantum notions of coordinate frames. If we want to understand the ordering of events we must realize that we are trying to perceive meaning, and some part of the meaning is foreground and other parts are backgrounds. In a sentence, for example, we first try to guess the ‘subject’ of the sentence, followed by the ‘object’. Then within the subject and object, we make further distinctions and organize them into a hierarchy. This is ordering, and it involves distances to the various words, due to which the sentence has an inherent hierarchy which is depicted by drawing the sentence as a tree structure. But from a classical perspective, the sentence is a sequence (straight line) of words without any hierarchy. So, when we speak about coordinate reference frames, there is a classical sense in which things are flat. And there is a semantic, relational, and personal sense in which things are hierarchical. To understand this hierarchical distance, we have to understand how we perceive rather than measure.


    Why thank you Ashish for your reply, very interesting indeed.
    I might be going out on a limb, but I see some parallel here with quantum physics and Samkhya, you mentioned that intention is an aspect of matter. That is vaguely similar to how an intention makes the wave-function to collapse, as to create matter (or wave). Considering this it is not very far fetch in this case to say that intention must be material.
    The reason for this is that it creates matter, and more precise it is just the other side of matter. (matter and volition is two sides to a coin) . Without intention there would be no matter, nor a collapse of the wave function. The choice of measurement is the creating force, or the discernment. After what was undetermined has collapsed it will be something more determined, like a particle. One could say that it goes from something more general through the measuring process to something more determined.
    My question here is; could this be like how in Samkhya where something that something that is general; Manas through a process of determination; prana, becomes the particular (or determined) Vak. I do see something of a parallel here to the collapse of the wave function, from an undefined state comes a something, a becoming.  In this becoming what one gets is space, because you get a determined local point (something, a here,  to compare with, to have space). And you have a before and after, a movement or a relation that we call  time. We have a localization, that gives a “here” (to compare to a there) and because it is a process; going from vak to manas, we get a “before” (to compare to with an after).
    Might be that I using the concepts a bit to liberal, but could there be some likeness of process here?

    Ashish Dalela

    I describe the ‘collapse’ as the outcome of the interaction of three kinds of possibilities. The first I call ‘ability’. It exists as the material body, and as the external material objects. Like a gun has the ability to shoot, similarly, all material objects are possibilities of action. The second I call ‘purpose’. It exists materially but it is not observable by the senses. The third I call ‘opportunity’, which is the availability to act. For example, to eat some food, you must have the ability to eat, the opportunity to eat, and the purpose or desire to eat. Eating combines these three.

    When quantum theory speaks about ‘collapse’, it is reduced to a ‘choice’, and consciousness is implied. But if we involve consciousness in this way, then how do we explain all the things that are happening in the body without conscious awareness — e.g. blood circulation, immunity, etc.? So, the ‘collapse’ needs a material explanation, not consciousness, but must involve different kinds of material categories, beyond the current material category of ‘ability’ in matter.

    The use of manasprana, and vak is not incorrect, but it is a partial explanation. It leaves out my desire and the opportunity. I may have the idea, and prana is used to express it in speech. But I must also have the desire to express, and the opportunity to express. The three kinds of possibilities, together with prana, are controlled by the influence of time. This is why events occur automatically without the conscious intervention of the conscious observer.


    Why, if I will continue to follow in the path of the collapse of the superposition and see how that could be interpreted when it comes to samkhya.
    Could it be that  the “ability” you mention be the same as prakriti (general potentiality), and the “purpose” be guna (aim or volition) and what is “possible” would then be karma (circumstances, or actual experiment situation)? So, this would be good for things that do not make conscious choices as well, like the unconscious processes that you mentioned.
    So, these different aspects are fueled by time and in they their turn express themselves as prana, which then changes the situation. If this is understood correctly then there is no real change, but it is rather prana that changes consciousness to give the new take of reality.
    There is an interesting form of physics called shape dynamics that especially in the form proposed by the British physicist Julian Barbour, comes to somewhat similar conclusions. Where time and space are derived from something similar to conscious selection, and therefore they do not have a separate existence as usually seen in classical physics of Newton. In his famous book “The end of time” he develops the idea that time is a derivation from a conscious choice, and that we find our way (or invent it) from an infinite number of possible selections of time/space frames or that are called “shape-space”. Events (time) are not ordered by some external impersonal power (absolute time) and space is no longer something separate from conscious choice (it is note seen as an absolute). This is of course not exactly Samkhya, but I find that he might have some pointers toward that direction. One could say that Julian Barbour have discovered that a physics where the observer is not part of the equation, i. e. classical physics, is not coherent according to its own standards. Consciousness therefore cannot be taken out of the calculation even when you try to make the whole world separate from the consciousness from where it stems as in the world view created by Sir Isaac Newton. Time and space in his view are completely static and impersonal, and that does not hold up on a closer examine.

    Ashish Dalela

    Yes, you are right about the first two paragraphs. As regards the third, there is an objective space and an objective time. By objective, I mean separate from us. The soul can leave the world, and the world would still be moving. So it doesn’t depend on any of the individual souls. However, as regards our experience is concerned, there is a subjective sense of time that appears as our age, and it can be elongated or shortened. Similarly, there is a subjective sense of space, which can be elongated or shortened, and it appears as the size of our body and the domain of our experience. In some sense, these personal spaces are ‘relative’, although not equivalent because they don’t produce the same experience. They can be called equivalent in terms of the laws of nature, as there is indeed a moral law of action and consequence that is universal. Time in Vedic philosophy is a cause of changes. Matter is inert. In modern science, matter is the cause and time is inert. Due to this inertness, even the arrow of time is unsolvable in modern science.

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