Year : 2019 | Volume
: 51 | Issue : 1 | Page : 17--22
Psychiatry, spirituality, and quantum science
Hitesh Chandrakant Sheth
Department of Psychiatry, Psychiatrist, Hospital for Mental Health, Vadodara, Gujarat, India
Hitesh Chandrakant Sheth
Hospital for Mental Health, Karelibaug, Vadodara, Gujarat
It would be impossible to comprehend the complexity of a human brain by a single cell organism; similarly, it would be impossible to understand the complexity of “Reality ”or “Ultimate Truth ”by a human brain hampered by limitations. At best, it can arrive at approximations of truth, which would vary from a person to person and a being to being. That is why, Jain philosophy while explaining Truth stresses on “Anekāntavāda” multiple aspects of Truth or Reality. Vedas too, while explaining Truth says, “Ekam sat vipraa bahudhaa vadanti” which is literally translated as “Truth is one, but the learned ones refer to it in different names. ”If a human mind is made to understand that what it claims as sole truth may be an aspect of truth or a truth distorted by its understanding, then it would be humble enough to respect and accept the opinions of other minds. This Socratic paradox (The only thing I know is that I know nothing.) may keep our mind open and flexible enough to discover the deeper truth of psychiatry, spirituality, and quantum science and may lead to their synthesis into some deeper science or truth.
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Sheth HC. Psychiatry, spirituality, and quantum science.Yoga Mimamsa 2019;51:17-22
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Sheth HC. Psychiatry, spirituality, and quantum science. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Sep 23 ];51:17-22
Available from: http://www.ym-kdham.in/text.asp?2019/51/1/17/260364
“Reality ”is one of the most commonly used and misused word in common parlance. When one speaks about “Reality, ”most of the time, it means “commonly accepted reality. ”Even in day-to-day experiences, our conflicts, opinions, priorities, goals, preferences, and prejudices depend on how we perceive Reality in comparison to other people. The same word also has a special place not only in yogic experiences but also in various streams of sciences including psychiatry. The whole base of a psychiatric diagnosis hinges on way one perceives Reality. The major criterion that separates psychosis from neurosis is, in former, there is a gross misperception of Reality while in the latter, there is minor distortion in perception of Reality. However, in a language of psychiatry, “Reality ”means a peculiar way in which a majority perceives, processes, and accepts the same experience. The yoga has a different take on this issue as it claims that whatever one perceives is Maya or illusion. Illusion means not the absence of Reality, but Reality perceived in a different way.
Limitations of Modern Science
The brain is an illusion generating organ, that helps us to make some sense of Reality, which otherwise is stupendous, unknowable, and unthinkable and would overwhelm our fragile mind. Already our brain, by a process of sensory gating, filters out countless (400 billion bits) stimuli and presents us with the limited number (2000 bits) of stimuli that make sense to us (Freedman et al., 1987; Dispenza, 2007). A brain of different species would see and interpret the same Reality in different ways. Even within a human species, all do not see the same Reality in a same way. The scientists have found a tetrachromat woman with 4 cones, who can see a hundred million colors; while normal human being with three cones can only distinguish one million colors (Jordan, Deeb, Bosten & Mollon, 2010). We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are (Anaïs, 1961, p. 124). In fact, there exists no color in the natural world, and no sound – nothing of this kind, no textures, no patterns, no beauty, and no scent (Chopra & Kafatos, 2017, p. 2). Reality, as we know it, is a faceless entity made up of atoms and empty space, but the senses Photoshop it in the precincts of the brain to make it comprehensible for us. At the quantum level, measurement is everything and Reality does not exist if you are not looking at it (Manning, Khakimov, Dall & Truscott, 2015). This finding is not different from the findings of Vedas which claims that God – The Ultimate Reality - in one of the aspect of its existence – is also without attributes or qualities.
The scientist says that we only use 5%–10% of our brain capacity and that too in an imperfect way. Before doing any scientific study, it is necessary that the instrument we use for research is without any defects or limitations. The astronomers put the Hubble telescope in the space so that it can receive the images of the cosmos, undistorted by our earth's atmosphere. Therefore, studying Reality by an imperfect instrument like the brain, that too while using its 5%–10% capacity, the findings of which are often distorted by a biased mind, would yield results that would be probably far from the truth. May be researchers of mind have lost in mazes of mind because they use their own minds – about which they know very little – to study mysteries of mind (Sheth, 2009). With such an imperfect instrument like the brain and mind at disposal, a science studying Reality is not different from an amoeba studying the human beings. Precisely for this reason, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad while describing the ultimate reality, boldly proclaims, neti, neti; means it is neither this nor that, as ultimate reality is beyond any description (Deussen, 1997). The reason we do not perceive reality in an accurate way is, we can only tolerate reality in measure, and too much Reality may be blinding for us. This was a reason Arjuna trembled when Lord Krishna gave him a divine vision to see glimpse of a future bloody war (Prabhupada, 1998, p. 686; Aurobindo, 1993). That's why divine Maya veils our vision to shield us from dazzling aspect of Reality that is splendid like the thousand suns simultaneously blazing forth in sky. That's why rishis and seers perform penance and austerities, so to prepare themselves to bear manifestation of divine Reality and truth in their minds.
Normality, Material Reality, and Spiritual Reality
Materially speaking, there is no Reality apart from the Reality imposed on by the dominant group, species, or societies. Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real (Bohr, 1938). The quantum object exists indefinitely as a wave smeared in space until it is being observed directly. The very act of observation changes the wave function of a particle. In physics, this phenomenon is known as the “observer effect. ”We perceive tree leaves as green because it absorbs all spectrums of light and reflects only green light to our eyes, and the same is true for a color of the sky. If certain people are unable to perceive the red or green color, we labeled them as colorblind. If there is a change in scenario in which 99% of people are unable to perceive green and red color, they would claim that there is nothing like red and green color and the people who perceive the red and green color are hallucinating and therefore unfit for a job of say, pilot.
The humans have trichormacy means they have three types of photoreceptors while pigeons and mantis shrimps have five and twelve types of photoreceptors, respectively, so they can detect a more range of colors vividly than human eyes can do. Even the plants such as Arabidopsis possess at least 11 types of photoreceptors, compared to our measly three. In that sense, plants can see, smell, hear, and feel (Chamovitz, 2012). Unlike human beings, there are animals, birds, and fishes, endowed with better senses that enable them to detect infrared heat, see polarized light, and perceive electric currents for communication. The world when seen through the animal senses may unravel the unexpected mysteries of this strangely beautiful world. The physical world is nothing but a sea of energy perceived by animals and human beings in subjective ways and thus interpreted and dealt with in the different ways. There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know (Rumsfeld, 2002). Perhaps among all the universes or multiverses, we are living in a mental universe wherein physical laws, moral laws, and all other laws are random.
In the famous book Flatland, a Square residing in Flatland receives the knowledge of a three-dimensional Spaceland from a Sphere. But when the Square, tries to convince his guru Sphere and his disciple Point (inhabitant of lineland), about the possibility of existence of four or more spatial dimension, he fails to do so. Eventually, the Square meets the fate that many of our prophets and scientists met, when he is imprisoned on charge of preaching the blasphemous knowledge (Abbot, 1888).
We may be existing in more than three dimension with many more sheaths (Annamaya kosha [INSIDE:1], Pranamaya kosha [INSIDE:2], Manomaya kosha [INSIDE:3], Vijnanamaya kosha [INSIDE:4], Anandmaya kosha [INSIDE:5]) of the body other than the visible physical body (Barton, 2009, p. 9; Wilbur, 1993). All things are relative here, perhaps that's why our scriptures say that this world is nothing but Maya. Albert Einstein said the same thing in different words, “Reality is an illusion albeit a persistent one (Alice, 1996). ”Recognize that the apparent is unreal, while the unmanifest is abiding. This existence is just imagination. It is nothing in reality (Nityaswarupananda, 1996). There is only a “one in billions ”chance that we're not living in a computer simulation right now (Solon, 2016; Bostrom, 2003, p. 9).
Relativity of “time”
A word Kala means both, Death and Time in Indian philosophy. Death and Time are used interchangeably in Indian philosophy as Time (Kaladevata or Yama) ultimately devours all, including sentient and insentient beings. Hinduism is unique in a way that it worships an abstract concept like Time. Mahakala is a Sanskrit word made by combining two words maha (great) and kala (time/death), which means “beyond time ”or “death of death itself (Mookerjee, 1988, p. 69). In India, the God is also worshipped as Mahakaal and/or Mahakaali, which means a great being who existed before Time, lords over Time and lives after Time. Mahakala and Mahakaali devolute entire universe. In Yogavasista, Time declares that he has destroyed countless being including the Gods that presides over the universe (Venkatesanada, 1993, p. 149). In Bhagvad Gita, Lord Krishna proclaims that He is the lord of time himself, intent on destroying the warriors on the battlefield (Prabhupada, 1998, p. 688). Mahakala (Absolute time) is God himself without origin, who encompasses “Kala (Relative time) ”within which all events takes place. According to Hinduism, time is a mental concept created by the movement of our senses, the celestial objects, and our perceptions. In God's consciousness, there is no division of time; because there is only the present moment – one continuous, indivisible, and indistinguishable state of existence (Jayaram, 2003).
According to quantum physics, time is relative, and its speed is inversely proportional to gravity and a speed of light. Einstein's theory of special relativity states that as the speed of the observer increases, the time slows down and its length contracts. At the speed of light, when gravity becomes immense as in case of “Black Holes, ”time stands still. Therefore, faster we travel, slower will be a speed of time and if we travel at the speed of light, our aging process would stop and our body would always look the same way. Therefore, if we stay in such a place, we would always remain young. Something similar occurs in the occult worlds which stand behind the physical world. There are several different worlds organized like the rings of an onion. At the summit of manifestation, it is possible to see the past, present, and future in a single glimpse. This is denoted as Triple Time Vision (Trikal-drishti) (Aurobindo, 1990, p. 854; Joshi).
The ancient Indians were familiar with the concept of space and relativity of time, as they distinguished the cosmic time of Gods and earthly times of ours (Yogi, 1967, p. 253). The story goes that once a king named Kakudmi went to Lord Brahma to seek advice about his daughter Revati's marriage. When they arrived at Brahmaloka (abode of Brahma), Lord Brahma was listening to a musical performance, so they waited patiently until the performance was finished. When the show was finished, the king said to Lord Brahma about the reasons of his arrival. Hearing that Lord Brahma laughed and told the king that many successions of ages have passed while he was listening to his songsters, meanwhile the height of a human being had also decreased considerably (Sanford, 2012, p. 73). There is a similar story of king Muchukunda who took part in a battle to help the Gods. At the end of the battle when he was ready to return to earth, the Gods told him that all his generations had died when he took part in the battle (Campbell, 1968, p. 180). These stories explain that everything is relative here on earth. As J. B. Haldene said, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose ”(Haldane, 1927, p. 286).
Quantum reality is a place that exists without linear time and local space. In the quantum world, time is not linear but simultaneous, which is why a quantum particle can exist in many places at once (Robens, Alt, Meschede, Emary & Alberti, 2015; Skow, 2015). It is a place where the observer and the observed, interact mysteriously, to decide an observed outcome. In divine supramental consciousness, there is simultaneous eternity of Time in which past, present, and future exist together forever in the self-knowledge and self-power of the Eternal and those who possess the divine consciousness would have the knowledge of the three times, trikaladristi (Triple Time Vision), not as an abnormal power, but as its normal way of time knowledge (Aurobindo, 1989). The divine eternity is an “eternal now ”(nunc aeternitatis) that embraces our temporal past, present, and future comprehensively (totus), holding them together in God's consciousness or knowledge all at once (simul) (Hunsinger, 2004, p. 166).
And because of such nature of Time, Sri Ramkrishna Parmahansha was able to surmount the limitation imposed by the senses and was able to prophesize about the greatness in Swami Vivekananda even when he was a young student unknown to the world (Life of Swami Vivekananda, 1989). Because of the same ability to transcend the limitation imposed by Time, sage Agastya with his power of asceticism was able to know the past events in Lord Rama's life when he had gone to his hermitage to meet him (Maharishi, 8-9 BCE). Due to the same power, Lord Krishna prophesized about the destruction of Kauravas and victory for Pandavas (Prabhupada, 1984. p. 689).
Timelessness and Time are two terms of the eternal existence. The Timeless Eternal is not measurable by years or hours or eons, the experience of it has been described as the eternal moment (Aurobindo, 1930, p. 502). An intelligence knowing all the forces acting in a nature at a given instant, as well as the momentary position of all the things in the universe, would be able to comprehend in a single formula the motion of the largest bodies as well as the lightest atoms in the world, provided that its intellect were sufficiently powerful to subject all data to analysis; to it nothing would be uncertain, the future as well as the past would be present to its eyes. To such intelligence, nothing would be uncertain; the future, like the past, would be an open book (Laplace & Laplace, 1902. p. 4).
Time, Superconsciousness, and Psychiatric Disorders
Depersonalization is a condition in which one experiences “detachment ”from one's mind or body in such a way that a set of properties normal to self feels like alien to oneself (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). It is as if the individual is not a person with a set of feelings, emotions, thoughts, sensations, and physical activity (Simeon). Common descriptions of depersonalization order are feeling disconnected from one's physicality; feeling like one is not completely occupying the body; not feeling in control of one's speech or physical movements; and feeling detached from one's own thoughts or emotions; experiencing one's self and life from a distance; a sense of just going through the motions; feeling as though one is in a dream or movie; and even out-of-body experiences (Simeon & Abugel, 2006, p. 62). For those afflicted with depersonalization disorder, time often does not unfold in the normal manner; past, present, and future can seem indistinguishable, as if they were all happening at once (Terr, 1983). Time perception is often greatly altered, most commonly characterized by a sense of slowing of time (Amiel, 1885/2005, p. 145). One philosopher poetically described depersonalization as a disconnection from time frozen in an infinite present, a statue on the banks of the river of time. Individuals experiencing derealization may report perceiving the world around them as foggy, dreamlike/surreal, or visually distorted. The individual who experiences derealization feels that the world around him does not exist or exists on its own. The individual feels detached from his surroundings. The world around seems to be “hallucinatory, ”“elusive, ”and “dreamlike, ”as if projected on a screen (Simeon, 2004).
The experiences diagnosed as derealization or depersonalization may be the higher yogic experiences of a mind entering into some higher realm of consciousness or another dimension of existence. These descriptions of derealization or depersonalization match with the “experience of self-discovery, ”described by the seers. Swami Vivekananda too had a similar realization in childhood when Ramkrishna Parmahansa touched him and produced a complete revolution in his mind that made world appear like a dream (Sardananda, 1978).
Perhaps, the universe perceived by our brain as a three-dimensional structure is a gigantic hologram painted on cosmological horizon and we are living in simulated reality or in other words in a physical world which is nothing more than a detailed illusion (Bekenstein, 2003, p. 31; Anderson, 2000; Sheth, 2018). Or maybe we (made up of the same stuff as dream) are living in a dream of Lord Vishnu while seeing the dream within a dream.
When an untransformed mind enters into some higher yogic consciousness, it is dazzling and devastating for it. It is like billion suns arising simultaneously in the front of eyes that have accustomed to live in the dark. The untrained mind, attuned and habituated to live in a mundane reality, fumbles as Arjuna trembled in front of Lord Krishna while seeing his world occupying and dazzling form (Prabhupada, 1998, p. 692). When an unprepared mind entered in altered reality of time and space or dimension unknown to it, it gets bedazzled and benumbed. If our present mind untransformed by the supramental influence tries to enter into the timeless, it must either disappear and be lost in the trance of Samadhi or else, remaining awake, it feels itself diffused in the Infinite where there is perhaps a sense of supraphysical space, a vastness, a boundless extension of consciousness, but no time self, time movement, or time order.
The modern science coming across such cases that perceive Reality in different ways, might put them in a category of depersonalizaton or derealization disorder or psychotic disorder (Sheth, 2016). Schizophrenia, a psychiatric illness, is often associated with time perception abnormalities (Papageorgiou, et al., 2013). However, it is also possible that the so-called psychotic patients' minds unknowingly reach the hitherto unknown dimensions of time and space, experiences of which they are unable to integrate with the experiences of our earthly space and time. Researchers' belief in a sole truth concocted by human senses, has given rise to the antipsychiatry movements (Sheth, 2013). Often the people who are on a spiritual journey experience altered states of consciousness that are diagnosed and managed as neuropsychological disorders, or dissociative states through suppressive medication, as the psychiatry influenced by western minds often lacks expertise to understand and deal with these states (Grof & Grof, 1986; Grof & Grof, 1989).
Therefore, to diagnose a mental illness in a person because he experiences the Reality different from the normal population is a tad unscientific, unless it is done with humility that the diagnosis one putting is just a temporary label of the condition about which one knows very little. It is also possible that the so-called psychotic patients perceive the Reality in a different way, which they are unable to comprehend and are unable to integrate in real-life situations. The researchers may argue that some drugs by altering the chemistry of the brain produce the symptoms of psychosis. Therefore, they surmise that psychosis is produced by altered balance of neurotransmitter in the brain. However, it is also possible that neurotransmitter altered by some drugs such as amphetamine or by some disease may put patient's mind in touch with other dimensions of reality we are unaware of.
There is possibility that truth we know, the Reality we sense and the universe we see, has many more facets than our limited mind or brain could ever conceive, less it can perceive. Nobel Prize-winning physicists have proven beyond doubt that the physical world is one large sea of energy that flashes into and out of being in milliseconds, over and over again (Assaraf). As Newton said that even though he had discovered the pebbles of truth at seashore of life, still the great ocean of truth laid all undiscovered before him (Brewster, 1885). As there are limitations of the brain, there are limitations of psychiatry invented by the brain. As ancient people were not fully aware of scientific knowledge of the human body, we might also not be fully aware of the hidden realms of a mind or even a body. Therefore, due to imperfect knowledge, we may be pathologizing the experiences that are out of normal range of human experiences. Instead of pathologizing the experiences of the so-called mentally ill, we should try to study and investigate their experiences with an open mind, which may help us to discover the hidden realms of the human brain and consciousness (Sheth, 2013). If the reality is a persistent illusion, then to diagnose a psychiatric illness because the other person perceived Reality in a different way is not a best way to deal with the situation. Sometimes, Reality seems to act as a chameleon so to match a wavelength of a scientist's mind and in processes pleases him by yielding results that matches his preconceived notions. It is open mind which would help us to discover not only the secret of the universe but also the hitherto unknown secrets of the grain of sands, which we walk on.
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