From the god particle to the godly particle
“The god particle has zero charge, zero spin and a near-zero lifespan; it exists for less than a trillionth of a second. Does that sound like God to you?” I counter-questioned when asked after a recent talk whether the discovery of the god particle disproved the existence of God.
“No, not really,” replied the questioner, taken aback.
“Exactly,” I said emphatically, “Its discovery has very little bearing on the existence of God; it is just one step forward in one theory [the Standard Model] that deals with one sub-branch [quantum physics] of one branch [physics] of human knowledge [science], which itself studies one slice of reality [material nature].” I had anticipated questions on this topic and so was prepared. “Let me quote theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, as he wrote in an article in the Wall Street Journal in an article entitled The ‘God Particle’ and the Origins of the Universe:
“The Standard Model only gives us a crude approximation of the rich diversity found in the universe. One embarrassing omission is that the Standard Model makes no mention of gravity, even though gravity holds the Earth and the sun together. In fact, the Standard Model only describes 4% of the matter and energy of the universe (the rest being mysterious dark matter and dark energy).
From a strictly aesthetic point of view, the Standard Model is also rather ugly. The various subatomic particles look like they have been slapped together haphazardly. It is a theory that only a mother could love, and even its creators have admitted that it is only a piece of the true, final theory.”
So the theory is neither complete nor aesthetic. So even the full theory doesn’t have any of the attributes of God, what then to speak of one particle within the theory.”
Looking a bit unsure, he asked “Then why is the particle called the god particle?”
“Good question. The name is actually a deliberately chosen misnomer. When physicist Leon Lederman wrote a book about the particle, which is technically known as Higgs Boson, his publisher told him that the subject was too esoteric to have much appeal. So acting as an expert spin doctor, Lederman came up with a name that would catch the public imagination: the god particle. Most scientists dislike the name, knowing that it overemphasizes the importance of the particle. Science writer John Horgan emphasized the inappropriateness of the name on a Scientific American blog: “This is scientific hype at its most outrageous. If the Higgs is the “God Particle,” what should we call an even more fundamental particle, like a string? The Godhead Particle? The Mother of God Particle?”
Despite its inappropriateness, the name has stuck in the media. And the name is one important reason why the discovery attracted so much attention. This is not meant to discredit the hard work of the scientists in doing their research, but do we have to be misled by the hype induced by the misnomer?”
“No,” he replied, satisfied.
Conversations like these illumined a typical pattern: most people had very little idea what the god particle was, yet they were very eager to hear what spiritual teachers had to say about it. Therein lay the problem. Before they could understand any spiritual perspective on the issue, they needed to understand the technical side of the issue. And I had no intention of duplicating the work of scientists and science writers who have been trying to make an abstruse concept accessible to common people.
As I pondered the issue, it struck me that the research into the god particle had striking parallels to the research into the godly particle: the soul. [The Bhagavad-gita (15.7) states that the soul is an eternal fragmental part of God, hence the name “godly particle.”] In fact, I noticed that the whole field of modern science had broad similarities with the field of Vedic spirituality.
Here are four of those similarities:
(1) Things are not as they appear;
(2) The unapparent is stunningly greater than the apparent;
(3) This unapparent can be known not by ordinary ways, but only by ways appropriate to it;
(4) These appropriate ways require instruments and cultivation
(1) Things are not as they appear:
Scientists today dismiss derisively as naïve realism the idea that the world is as it appears. The scientific eye sees far differently from the normal eye. For example, consider the desk in front of me. It seems solid, but science says it isn’t; it’s mostly empty space. It seems static, but science says it isn’t; it is filled with electrons whirling around their nuclei a million billion times a second.
Like modern scientists, Vedic spiritualists assert that all is not as it seems. For example, let’s consider our own body. It seems to be the source of life, but, Vedic savants say, it isn’t. The Bhagavad-gita (2.17) states that life originates in the soul, which sends a current of consciousness streaming through the body and thereby animates the body’s biochemical machinery.
(2) The unapparent is stunningly greater than the apparent:
Science holds that the layers of existence that are inaccessible to our senses are far greater than those that are accessible. For example, the visible frequencies comprise only a tiny, narrow band within the spectrum of electromagnetic waves. Or for that matter, half an ounce of water spilled on a table seems insignificant to our eyes, but beyond what our eyes can see it contains 6.023 X 10^23-roughly 600,000 billion billion molecules.
Like modern science, Vedic spirituality states that what eludes the eye is far greater than what meets it. The spiritual level of existence is much greater and grander than the material. And the happiness available at that level is millions of times greater than that at the material level. In fact, the Srimad Bhagavatam proclaims that spiritual happiness is so oceanically great that when contrasted with it the best material enjoyment seems as insignificant as a puddle.
(3) This unapparent cannot be known by ordinary ways, but only by ways appropriate to it:
“Seeing is believing” has been historically popular as a polemical tool among religion-bashers: “Show me God & the soul, then I will believe you.” But today’s science finds itself at the receiving end of a reshaped version of this old anti-religious jab: “Show me the Higgs’ Boson, then I will believe you.” And scientists have to respond by using the same argument that religionists have always used: “It cannot be seen with the eyes, but can be perceived only by ways suitable to it.”
(4) These appropriate ways require instruments and cultivation:
In modern science, perceiving the Higgs boson requires ultra-sophisticated instruments. In fact, it requires the world’s most expensive and elaborate instrument: the $10.5 billion Large Hadron Collider that is housed in an 18-mile tunnel buried deep underground near the French-Swiss border. It also needed 10,000 scientists working on it. In addition to the instrument, but it also requires years of study, training and cultivation to comprehend the workings and the readings of the instrument. For those without this cultivation, the patterns on the sensors that detected the Higgs Boson will make little, if any, sense.
Similarly, in Vedic spirituality, perceiving the soul requires a sophisticated instrument, albeit an inner instrument: a refined and tuned consciousness situated in an evolved state called samadhi. Also, one needs systematic study of the philosophy and a diligent practice of the meditational techniques to discern the evidences as they appear on the sensor of the consciousness. For those without this cultivation, the changes in one’s consciousness will make little, if any, sense.
Given these substantial parallels, there’s a strong case for intelligent, enterprising individuals to embark on research into the godly particle. In fact, there are additional incentives for soul research that are absent in particle physics research:
- The Higgs Boson research is stupendously (or scandalously, depending on one’s perspective) expensive, requiring as it does billions of dollars John Horgan in the above mentioned article stated that a similar instrument in America (the Superconducting Supercollider) was closed down by the US government because it “was sucking up tax dollars faster than a black hole.” But in comforting contrast, soul-research doesn’t require any significant expense. We just need to refine our consciousness using time-honored meditational techniques centered on the Hare Krishna mantra that is available for free.
2.. Most of us who are not specialists in particle physics can never get the expensive and complex scientific education to personally verify the existence of the Higgs Boson, so we have to accept its existence as an article of faith. On the other hand, all of us can individually practice the simple meditational practices and experientially verify the existence of the soul. This is the bold, invitational approach of the Bhagavad-gita (9.2) to its spiritual message and process: though the soul may seem initially like an article of faith, it soon becomes a living reality. In fact, over time, we realize that the soul is the foremost of all realities, the ground reality that enables us to perceive and experience the world that we normally honor with the accolade “real.”
3. Most scientists are unclear about how the discovery of the Higgs Boson is going to practically benefit humanity. They suggest that it may possibly lead to development of better technologies. Even if it does, still it won’t add anything to our understanding of the meaning, value and purpose of life. In fact, the whole arena of particle physics is radically disconnected from the world we live in. David Berlinski in his book The Devil’s Delusion points this out poignantly: “Over there, fields are pregnant with latent energy, particles flicker into existence and disappear, things are entangled, and no one can quite tell what is possible and what is actual, what is here and what is there, what is now and what was then. Solid forms give way. Nothing is stable. Time and space contract into some sort of agitated quantum foam. Nothing is continuous. Nothing stays the same for long, except the electrons, and they are identical, like porcelain Chinese soldiers. A pointless frenzy prevails throughout. Over here, space and time are stable and continuous. Matter is what it is, and energy is what it does. There are solid and enduring shapes and forms. … Changes appear slowly, but even when rapid, they appear in stable patterns. There is dazzling variety throughout. The great river of time flows forward. We anticipate the future, but we remember the past. We begin knowing we will end.” He concludes the contrast by underscoring that scientists have, “no idea whatsoever how the ordered physical, moral, mental, aesthetic, and social world …. could have ever arisen from the seething anarchy of the elementary particles. It is like imagining sea foam resolving itself into the Parthenon.”
On the other hand, the discovery of the soul can bring immense meaning and immediate purpose into our lives. Nobel Laureate brain scientist Roger Sperry pointed out, “Beliefs concerning the ultimate purposes and meaning of life and the accompanying world view perspectives that mold beliefs of right and wrong are critically dependent … on concepts regarding the conscious self.” The discovery of the soul will help us understand that we are not fragile bags of matter doomed to destruction after a brief flapping in the tiny quota of time that is our present life. We will understand that we are indestructible souls destined for eternal happiness. All of us can reclaim that glorious destiny by wisely using our present lifetime for doing soul research and thereby transforming our lifespan into a launching pad for takeoff into immortality. This realization of our spiritual identity can also help us in this world: it can restore in humanity a sustainable balance between material and spiritual values in our lives, and thereby free us from the excessive materialism that is jeopardizing our economy and ecology today.
Can any discovery be as significant as that?