The Duality of Matter and Energy – 2

I.K. Taimni – India

Energy as the basis of the Universe

Theosophy IKT b

We have seen in the last chapter that matter and energy constitute a duality according to Science, being interconvertible and constituting one reality underlying the physical world. Science stops at this idea, and though it has investigated the behavior of matter and energy very thoroughly and can utilize them in innumerable ways with perfect confidence, it does not go very far in understanding the essential nature of these two basic constituents of the physical world. Occultism, on the other hand, has not investigated with such precision and thoroughness the behavior of physical matter and energy, but it has investigated and knows with certainty their essential nature, not only on the physical plane but on all the planes of the manifested universe. But before we deal with this occult conception let us first summarize some simple relevant scientific facts with regard to matter and energy in their physical aspect.

  1. According to Science energy is of two kinds, potential and kinetic. Kinetic energy is either vibrational as in the case of radiation or molecular as in the case of motion of atoms and molecules. How are the two related? They are interchangeable. Vibrational energy of radiation can set molecules and atoms in motion as happens when i sunlight falls on physical objects and they get heated. Conversely, metals and other objects when heated begin to give out radiant heat and when heated beyond a certain limit also light. So, radiant and molecular energy are interchangeable.
  2. Potential energy, according to Science, is energy in which no movement is involved and it is based upon force as kinetic energy is based upon motion or movement (vibrational or molecular). What is the nature of the force? It may be force of gravitation or any other force like that present in a coiled spring. In the atoms and molecules, various kinds of forces of attraction and repulsion etc. are locked up in equilibrium and provide the potential energy, while the movements of electrons and atoms provide the kinetic energy.
  3. In considering the duality of matter and energy we should note that energy is the basic element and matter is derived from the condensation or congealing of energy. In one sense the two elements of a duality may be considered on a par since both are present in manifestation in a state of equilibrium but looking at them from a deeper point of view, we can see that one of them is the basic or essential constituent. Thus taking the duality of time and space, we can see that space is the basic element of the duality, for, there must be mental images in chidäkäsha or " mental space " before those mental images can change and produce the impression of time. Similarly, we can see that in the duality of matter and energy, energy is the basic constituent. For, we can imagine all' matter to be converted into energy and remain in that form without any admixture of matter but we cannot imagine matter without energy, for, if all energy is converted into matter, energy will still remain in matter in a congealed form.

Let us now consider what Occultism has to say about the duality of matter and energy. As far as the relation of matter and energy is concerned the occult conception is broadly the same as that of Science. Both regard matter as a derivative of energy produced by the condensation or “bottling up” of energy. But Science knows practically nothing about the source of this energy. It cannot explain where the tremendous amount of energy found in the universe, both in the form of matter and force energy, comes from and how it was raised to the high potential which it must have had when the universe began its career. There is no dearth of theories with regard to the nature and origin of the physical universe, but these arc speculations based upon very meagre and uncertain physical data. The discovery of quasars and of objects in distant galaxies travelling with speed greater than that or light has resulted in utter confusion of thought in the scientific world and cast serious doubts on the validity of modern theories with regard to matter, energy, and the nature of the universe.

The Occult Doctrine with regard to these fundamental questions is quite clear. According to it the whole of the manifested universe, in its objective aspect, is a product of Energy which is an expression of Divine Power. It is this Energy which in its infinite permutations and combinations gives the illusory impression of all kinds of forms and of an objective world in the mind. It is this Energy which, on losing its dynamism progressively, assumes increasingly dense states of so-called matter.

How this Energy is derived from Divine Power is not easy to understand because the whole complicated mechanism of manifestation is involved in this question and this mechanism can be known in the real sense only when we are able to transcend it through the practice of Yoga as pointed out in aphorisms 111-53 and IV-33 of the Yoga-Sütras. But let us dwell for a while on this interesting question so that we can at least gain a general idea of the principles which are involved in the appearance of an objective world in consciousness,

It has been pointed out in other contexts that power, the potential source of energy, is an attribute of consciousness, inseparable from it and related to it in a mysterious manner as a polar opposite. Every manifestation of power or energy must therefore be associated with, and have its source in consciousness. And as consciousness can express itself only through a mathematical point all manifestations of power or energy must, at their source, be associated with mathematical points and find expression through such points. Every expression of energy must be associated with its own specific point and cannot exist apart from such a point just as every limited expression of consciousness must have its own specific centre from which it is projected in the realm of manifestation.

Recalling what has been said in a previous chapter with regard to the proliferation of centers of consciousness from the Mahäbidu and the gradual unfoldment of consciousness through them, and also the fact that consciousness and power are indissolubly linked together, we can see easily that even in the initial stage of the appearance of an individual centre from the Mahäbindu these two aspects of Reality, Consciousness and Power, must be present together side by side. On the one hand, each such centre must be initially a centre of consciousness with infinite potentiality for unfoldment of mind and on the other hand, it must be a centre of power through which can find expression an infinite variety and amount of energy, And both these potentialities must by their very nature and relationship, unfold pari passu.

It is true that it is power which is the correlate of consciousness and not energy but when we are dealing with the expressions of integrated consciousness as the differentiated states of mind we have also to deal at the same time with the expressions of integrated power as the differentiated forms of energy. In the realm of manifestation we have to deal mostly with the expressions of mind and energy though these are rooted in and derived from integrated consciousness and integrated power respectively.

It follows from what has been said above that each ultimate unit of such expression, such as an electron, photon or atom must be simultaneously a rudimentary expression of mind and energy. Just as all expressions of mind are centered round the I and coordinated by the individualized centre of consciousness so all expressions of energy are centered round the centre of mind and cohere in that centre and can find expression wherever that centre of mind manifests. When an individual incarnates, it is not only his mind which finds expression in his life according to its evolution but all the energies—mental, emotional and spiritual—which have been released during the course of his evolution. In the case of elementary particles like the atoms or their combinations in the form of various kind of organisms we cannot see the expressions of mind or consciousness but only that of energy. Manifestation thus appears to be a grand display of Divine Power or Shakti expressing itself in myriad forms of energy. Divine consciousness and mind, being subjective, remain in the background, invisible. It is only those who can dive into the deepest layers of consciousness where these energies have their source who can perceive the Divine Mind and Consciousness behind these expressions of Energy.

The Divine Power which lies at the basis of the manifested universe expresses itself in innumerable ways corresponding to the countless functions of Divine Consciousness in manifestation, such as the powers of love, knowledge, creation, destruction, illusion etc. The powers of producing motion or force from which kinetic and potential energies are derived arc only two of these countless powers. But these two powers, finding expression in innumerable permutations and combinations of energy, provide the basis of the objective universe as has been explained in other contexts.

This Divine Power which is inherent in Divine Consciousness and is the source of all kinds of energies needed in a manifested system is infinite, both qualitatively and quantitatively, because it is an integrated state. When we use the word infinite in relation to such a state we mean really " infinite " and not merely tremendous or very great. That is how any amount of energy at any potential which is needed in a manifested universe can come forth from the integrated Divine Power which is present potentially in the Unmanifest. This fact is pointed out very clearly in many aphorisms found scattered throughout occult literature such as the following two:

Ananta shakti khachitam Brahma saneshvareshvaram

“Brahman, the One Reality, who is the Supreme Ruler even of all the Ishvaras in a manifested universe is endowed with infinite and boundless Power.”

Tadä Sarvävarapa—maläpetaya jiänasyänantyäj jieyam alpam.

“Then, in consequence of the removal of all obscurations and impurities, that which can be known (through the mind) is but little in comparison with the infinite knowledge (obtained in Enlightenment)” (Y.S. IV-31)

Consciousness and Power being correlatives or polar opposites, integrated consciousness and integrated power must exist at the same level and should go together. Similarly, knowledge in the realm of the mind and powers in the realm of manifestation, being differentiated products of integrated consciousness and power respectively, should also be correlatives.

It is a well-known doctrine of Occultism that manifestation is a Self-imposed limitation on Reality. It follows from this that when infinite integrated power descends into the realm of manifestation it loses its infinite character and becomes finite however great it may be. Similarly, when the infinite knowledge present in the world of Reality descends into the realm of the mind it loses its infinite character and becomes limited however great it may be. The two Sanskrit quotations, given above, bring out. clearly the distinction between the two states of knowledge and power existing in the realm of the manifest and the unmanifest.

The first aphorism points out that the Power of Brahman, the transcendental Reality in the Unmanifest, is infinite and, as knowledge is a correlative of power, the, knowledge present in that state of consciousness must also by implication be infinite. In fact, this power is that of Brahman and infinite power can be associated only with infinite knowledge.

Since all the Ishvaras function in the realm of manifestation and are omniscient and omnipotent, as far as their particular system is concerned, their knowledge and power though tremendous must be relatively finite. This distinction of both—knowledge and power—in the realms of the Unmanifest and the manifest is indicated very clearly in the Yoga-Sütras of Patanjali.

It is also a well-known Occult doctrine that the Logos of any manifested system derives both his plan and the power to execute that plan from the Unmanifest. The source of such a universe which is boundless and contains countless systems in manifestation must necessarily have infinite knowledge and infinite power. Not only this, but that Brahman the Unmanifest Reality must be the Supreme authority exercising in a mysterious and invisible manner sway over all the manifest Deities.

The second aphorism from the Yoga-Sütras given above points out the same truth from the point of view of consciousness. It emphasizes the important fact that the nature of knowledge in the two states—manifest and Unmanifest— is fundamentally different. The one referred to as Jneyam is alpam or limited while the other is ananta or unlimited or infinite. It is not only infinite but of a different quality altogether. The integrated state of knowledge not only contains all the differentiated states in a potential form but is of different character, just as white light is remarkably different from all colored lights and is not merely their summation.

Those who have made a study of the Yoga-Sütras must have noticed that Patanjali deals with all the questions of spiritual life from the point of view of consciousness, knowledge or perception and the presence of power is only implied in all that is said about knowledge. It is only in dealing with omniscience that omnipotence is also definitely mentioned as a correlative (aphorism 111-50). The fact is that the path of Yoga is essentially a means of gaining knowledge concerning the superphysical states of existence and the Yogic powers are considered only as by-products of this knowledge and not aimed at directly. This truth is clearly emphasized by the fact that the Yogi has to renounce all powers, and in the last stage even omnipotence, before he can gain Self-realization and enter the world of Reality.

On the other hand, in the Tantras Reality is generally seen and sought as Divine Power, and the knowledge which is associated with that Power and is attained by becoming one with that Power, is only implied. It is true that in some of the Tantras there is an unhealthy emphasis on the acquisition of different kinds of powers, sometimes by questionable means, which has made them suspect in the eyes of the students of occultism. But the highest philosophy and technique of Tantras is really concerned only with the question of Self-realization and though this is sought to be attained by the invocation and intervention of Divine Power, it is knowledge of Reality which is the object of Sädhana.

How the Ultimate Reality which is pure consciousness in the subjective state assumes, step by step, the state of energy in the form of forces and motions of different kinds and thus provides the objective basis of the universe, is a question which involves the whole field of the Unmanifest and the manifest, and is too transcendental and complicated for the limited human intellect to grasp. It is a question which is resolved in consciousness when the. individual is able to free himself from the veils of the mind and becomes established in the world of Reality. This question involves really the mechanism of the world process in its entirety and can thus be resolved only when the world process is transcended in the last stage of Self-realization. This fact has been clearly indicated in aphorisms 111-53, IV-32, IV-33 of the Yoga-Sütras.

But though we cannot grasp the nature of this world process in the real sense a glimmer of the truth underlying it can be obtained from a deep study of the Occult doctrine concerning the One Reality and its descent, step by step, into lower and lower states of itself. This question has been. discussed in other contexts and it has been shown that the main links in this process of descent may be broadly indicated as follows:

Reality → Consciousness → Mind Energy → Matter. From this Energy is elaborated the five-fold universe through the agency of the Panch-bhütas generally referred to as the Five Cosmic Elements in English.

What has Science to say about the role of energy in the universe? Recent developments in the field of physics and chemistry have shown that matter and energy are not two separate realities and that matter is nothing but “bottledup” energy. It follows from this that the essential basis of the universe is nothing but energy and the objective universe is thus an energy phenomenon. As far as this principle is concerned Science and Occultism are therefore in broad agreement.

But the researches in quantum mechanics have brought Science still closer to Occultism and have further corroborated the Occult doctrine with regard to the role of energy in manifestation. It is not possible for the layman to understand the, mathematical aspect of quantum mechanics but he can acquire a general idea of some of its implications which will enable him to appreciate the significance of these researches for the student of Occultism. He will be able to see at least how all these developments which have bewildered scientists are bringing them nearer to the realization that the purely materialistic philosophy of Science is not adequate and it is worthwhile examining the Occult doctrine to see whether it can throw some light on their problems. And he will also see the wisdom of holding his judgment in suspense if some of the conclusions at which Science has arrived do not agree with or are even in direct contradiction with the doctrines of Occultism.

The cause of all bewilderment in the scientific world caused by the recent researches in quantum mechanics is the puzzling nature of the quantum, the mysterious atom of action " which eludes the comprehension of even 'those who have discovered it. It is well known that in all radiation phenomena, like light, X-rays, gamma-rays etc., energy is emitted or absorbed not continuously but discontinuously, and whatever the nature of the radiation the amount of energy emitted in one of these periods of emission multiplied by the period of emission is always the same and is equal to 6.55 x 10-27 ergs—seconds. This invariable unit of action is called a quantum or “atom of action.” Evidently, all kinds of radiation, as in the case of matter seem to be divided into particles. As we cannot have less amount of an element than an atom so we cannot have less light than one quantum, but whereas there are 92 different kinds of material elements there is only one kind of quantum or "atom of action."

Leaving aside the other interesting facts discovered concerning the nature of the quantum let us refer here briefly only to one point of great significance to the student of Occultism. This point concerns the amount of energy packed in a single quantum. It follows from the nature of the quantum that though it is the same for all kinds of radiations the amount of energy packed in a single quantum will differ according to the wavelength of the radiation. Each quantum carries an amount of energy given by the famous equation of Planck:


where v is the frequency of radiation and n is Planck's constant, a very small number—6.6 x 10-27

It follows from this equation that if the frequency could be large enough or, what is the same thing, if the wavelength could be short enough one single quantum could have all the energy of the universe. To the physicist this is merely an interesting though puzzling conclusion arrived at with regard to the nature of the quantum on the basis of mathematical considerations. But to the student of Occultism this is a fact of great significance and shows how the doctrines of Occultism are being gradually corroborated by the researches of modern Science.

In order to appreciate the significance of the scientific conclusion regarding the relation of the wavelength of the radiation and the amount of energy associated with the radiation we have to remember that when a line is progressively reduced in length it is ultimately reduced to a point and its length under these conditions becomes zero. It follows therefore from e the above equation that when the wavelength of a radiation is zero and the radiation takes place through a point an infinite amount of energy can be packed in the radiation. In other words, in the peculiar conditions when there is influx of energy through a point from a higher dimension, an infinite or unlimited amount of energy can be released in the world of lower dimension.

This is exactly the Occult doctrine regarding the source of the tremendous amount of energy which we find in the physical universe and which modern Science cannot account for satisfactorily. The Reality which is present at the heart of a manifested universe has inherent in it an infinite amount of potential power and when this Reality manifests through a point it can release any amount of energy needed in the manifested system. It is this energy which in its infinite permutations and combinations forms the objective basis of the universe, and through the agency of the three Gunas produces the impression of an apparently real world in the minds of the Monads who are involved in the manifested system. The law of conservation of energy applies only to the energy which has been released in manifestation through a point, not to its source.

[From: Science and Occultism, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar 1975. The author, Iqbal Kishen Taimni, (1898 – 1978) was a scientist, leader of the Theosophical Society (Adyar), and scholar in the fields of Yoga and Indian Philosophy.]

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