WIE: In your book
Self-Aware Universe you speak about the need for a paradigm
shift. Could you talk a bit about how you conceive of that
shift? From what to what?
Amit Goswami: The current worldview has it that everything is
made of matter, and everything can be reduced to the elementary
particles of matter, the basic constituents - building blocks - of
And cause arises from the interactions of these basic
building blocks or elementary particles; elementary particles
make atoms, atoms make molecules, molecules make cells, and
cells make brain. But all the way, the ultimate cause is always
the interactions between the elementary particles.
This is the
belief - all cause moves from the elementary particles. This is
what we call "upward causation." So in this view, what human
beings - you and I - think of as our free will does not really
exist. It is only an epiphenomenon or secondary phenomenon,
secondary to the causal power of matter. And any causal power
that we seem to be able to exert on matter is just an illusion.
This is the current paradigm.
Now, the opposite view is that everything starts with
consciousness. That is, consciousness is the ground of all being.
In this view, consciousness imposes "downward causation." In
other words, our free will is real. When we act in the world we
really are acting with causal power.
This view does not deny
that matter also has causal potency - it does not deny that there
is causal power from elementary particles upward, so there is
upward causation - but in addition it insists that there is also
It shows up in our creativity and acts of
free will, or when we make moral decisions. In those occasions
we are actually witnessing downward causation by consciousness.
WIE: In your book you refer to this new paradigm as "monistic
idealism." And you also suggest that science seems to be
verifying what a lot of mystics have said throughout
history - that science's current findings seem to be parallel to
the essence of the perennial spiritual teaching.
AG: It is the spiritual teaching. It is not just parallel. The
idea that consciousness is the ground of being is the basis of
all spiritual traditions, as it is for the philosophy of
monistic idealism - although I have given it a somewhat new name.
The reason for my choice of the name is that, in the West, there
is a philosophy called "idealism" which is opposed to the
philosophy of "material realism," which holds that only matter
Idealism says no, consciousness is the only real thing.
But in the West that kind of idealism has usually meant
something that is really dualism - that is, consciousness and
matter are separate. So, by monistic idealism, I made it clear
that, no, I don't mean that dualistic kind of Western idealism,
but really a monistic idealism, which has existed in the West,
but only in the esoteric spiritual traditions. Whereas in the
East this is the mainstream philosophy. In Buddhism, or in
Hinduism where it is called Vedanta, or in Taoism, this is the
philosophy of everyone.
But in the West this is a very esoteric
tradition, only known and adhered to by very astute
philosophers, the people who have really delved deeply into the
nature of reality.
WIE: What you are saying is that modern science, from a
completely different angle - not assuming anything about the
existence of a spiritual dimension of life - has somehow come back
around, and is finding itself in agreement with that view as a
result of its own discoveries.
AG: That's right. And this is not entirely unexpected. Starting
from the beginning of
quantum physics, which began in the year
1900 and then became full-fledged in 1925 when the equations of
quantum mechanics were discovered, quantum physics has given us
indications that the worldview might change.
physicists have loved to compare the classical worldview and the
quantum worldview. Of course, they wouldn't go so far as to
abandon the idea that there is only upward causation and that
matter is supreme, but the fact remains that they saw in quantum
physics some great paradigm changing potential. And then what
happened was that, starting in 1982, results started coming in
from laboratory experiments in physics.
That is the year when,
Alain Aspect and his collaborators performed the
great experiment that conclusively established the veracity of
the spiritual notions, and particularly the notion of
Should I go into a little bit of detail about
WIE: Yes, please do.
AG: To give a little background, what had been happening was
that for many years quantum physics had been giving indications
that there are levels of reality other than the material level.
How it started happening first was that quantum objects - objects
in quantum physics - began to be looked upon as waves of
Now, initially people thought,
"Oh, they are just
like regular waves."
But very soon it was found out that, no,
they are not waves in space and time. They cannot be called
waves in space and time at all - they have properties which do not
jibe with those of ordinary waves. So they began to be
recognized as waves in potential, waves of possibility, and the
potential was recognized as transcendent, beyond matter somehow.
But the fact that there is transcendent potential was not very
clear for a long time. Then Aspect's experiment verified that
this is not just theory, there really is transcendent potential,
objects really do have connections outside of space and
time - outside of space and time!
What happens in this experiment
is that an atom emits two quanta of light, called
opposite ways, and somehow these photons affect one another's
behavior at a distance, without exchanging any signals through
space. Notice that: without exchanging any signals through space
but instantly affecting each other. Instantaneously.
Einstein showed long ago that two objects can never affect
each other instantly in space and time because everything must
travel with a maximum speed limit, and that speed limit is the
speed of light. So any influence must travel, if it travels
through space, taking a finite time. This is called the idea of
Every signal is supposed to be local in the sense
that it must take a finite time to travel through space. And
yet, Aspect's photons - the photons emitted by the atom in
Aspect's experiment - influence one another, at a distance,
without exchanging signals because they are doing it
instantaneously - they are doing it faster than the speed of
And therefore it follows that the influence could not
have traveled through space. Instead the influence must belong
to a domain of reality that we must recognize as the
transcendent domain of reality.
WIE: That's fascinating. Would most physicists agree with that
interpretation of his experiment?
AG: Well, physicists must agree with this interpretation of this
Many times of course, physicists will take the
following point of view: they will say,
"Well, yeah sure,
experiments. But this relationship between particles really
isn't important. We mustn't look into any of the consequences of
this transcendent domain - if it can even be interpreted that
In other words, they try to minimize the impact of this
and still try to hold on to the idea that matter is supreme.
But in their heart they know, as is very evidenced. In 1984 or
'85, at the American Physical Society meeting at which I was
present, it is said that one physicist was heard saying to
another physicist that, after Aspect's experiment, anyone who
does not believe that something is really strange about the
world must have rocks in his head.
WIE: So what you are saying is that from your point of view,
which a number of others share, it is somehow obvious that one
would have to bring in the idea of a
really understand this.
AG: Yes, it is. Henry Stapp, who is a physicist at the
University of California at Berkeley, says this quite explicitly
in one of his papers written in 1977, that things outside of
space and time affect things inside space and time. There's just
no question that that happens in the realm of quantum physics
when you are dealing with quantum objects.
Now of course, the
crux of the matter is, the surprising thing is, that we are
always dealing with quantum objects because it turns out that
quantum physics is the physics of every object. Whether it's
submicroscopic or it's macroscopic, quantum physics is the only
physics we've got. So although it's more apparent for photons,
for electrons, for the submicroscopic objects, our belief is
that all reality, all manifest reality, all matter, is governed
by the same laws.
And if that is so, then this experiment is
telling us that we should change our worldview because we, too,
are quantum objects.
WIE: These are fascinating discoveries which have inspired a lot
of people. A number of books have already attempted to make the
link between physics and mysticism. Fritjof Capra's The Tao of
Physics and Gary Zukav's The Dancing Wu Li Masters have both
reached many, many people. In your book, though, you mention
that there was something that you felt had not yet been covered
which you feel is your unique contribution to all this.
you say something about what you are doing that is different
from what has been done before in this area?
AG: I'm glad that you asked that question. This should be
clarified and I will try to explicate it as clearly as I can.
The early work, like
The Tao of Physics, has been very important
for the history of science. However, these early works, in spite
of supporting the spiritual aspect of human beings, all
basically held on to the material view of the world
In other words, they did not challenge the
material realists' view that everything is made up of matter.
That view was never put to any challenge by any of these early
books. In fact, my book was the first one which challenged it
squarely and which was still based on a rigorous explication in
scientific terms. In other words, the idea that consciousness is
the ground of being, of course, has existed in psychology, as
transpersonal psychology, but outside of transpersonal
psychology no tradition of science and no scientist has seen it
It was my good fortune to recognize it within quantum physics,
to recognize that all the paradoxes of quantum physics can be
solved if we accept consciousness as the ground of being. So
that was my unique contribution and, of course, this has
paradigm-shifting potential because now we can truly integrate
science and spirituality.
In other words, with Capra and
Zukav - although their books are very good - because they held on to
a fundamentally materialist paradigm, the paradigm is not
shifting, nor is there any real reconciliation between
spirituality and science.
Because if everything is ultimately
material, all causal efficacy must come from matter. So
consciousness is recognized, spirituality is recognized, but
only as causal epiphenomena, or secondary phenomena. And an
epiphenomenal consciousness is not very good. I mean, it's not
So, although these books acknowledge our
spirituality, the spirituality is ultimately coming from some
sort of material interaction.
But that's not the spirituality that Jesus talked about. That's
not the spirituality that Eastern mystics were so ecstatic
That's not the spirituality where a mystic recognizes and
"I now know what reality is like, and this takes away all
the unhappiness that one ever had. This is infinite, this is
joy, this is consciousness."
This kind of exuberant statement
that mystics make could not be made on the basis of
epiphenomenal consciousness. It can be made only when one
recognizes the ground of being itself, when one cognizes
directly that One is All.
Now, an epiphenomenal human being would not have any such
cognition. It would not make any sense to cognize that you are
All. So that is what I am saying. So long as science remains on
the basis of the materialist worldview, however much you try to
accommodate spiritual experiences in terms of parallels or in
terms of chemicals in the brain or what have you, you are not
really giving up the old paradigm.
You are giving up the old
paradigm and fully reconciling with spirituality only when you
establish science on the basis of the fundamental spiritual
notion that consciousness is the ground of all being. That is
what I have done in my book, and that is the beginning.
already there are some other books that are recognizing this
WIE: So there are people corroborating your ideas?
AG: There are people who are now coming out and recognizing the
same thing, that this view is the correct way to go to explain
quantum physics and also to develop science in the future.
other words, the present science has shown not only quantum
paradoxes but also has shown real incompetence in explaining
paradoxical and anomalous phenomena, such as parapsychology, the
paranormal - even creativity. And even traditional subjects, like
perception or biological evolution, have much to explain that
these materialist theories don't explain.
To give you one
example, in biology there is what is called the theory of
punctuated equilibrium. What that means is that evolution is not
only slow, as Darwin perceived, but there are also rapid epochs
of evolution, which are called "punctuation marks."
traditional biology has no explanation for this.
However, if we do science on the basis of consciousness, on the
primacy of consciousness, then we can see in this phenomenon
creativity, real creativity of consciousness. In other words, we
can truly see that consciousness is operating creatively even in
biology, even in the evolution of species.
And so we can now
fill up these gaps that conventional biology cannot explain with
ideas which are essentially spiritual ideas, such as
consciousness as the creator of the world.
WIE: This brings to mind the subtitle of your book, How
Consciousness Creates the Material World. This is obviously
quite a radical idea. Could you explain a bit more concretely
how this actually happens in your opinion?
AG: Actually, it's the easiest thing to explain, because in
quantum physics, as I said earlier, objects are not seen as
definite things, as we are used to seeing them. Newton taught us
that objects are definite things, they can be seen all the time,
moving in definite trajectories. Quantum physics doesn't depict
objects that way at all.
In quantum physics, objects are seen as
possibilities, possibility waves. Right? So then the question
arises, what converts possibility into actuality?
we see, we only see actual events. That's starting with us. When
you see a chair, you see an actual chair, you don't see a
WIE: Right - I hope so.
AG: We all hope so. Now this is called the "quantum measurement
It is a paradox because who are we to do this
conversion? Because after all, in the materialist paradigm we
don't have any causal efficacy. We are nothing but the brain,
which is made up of atoms and elementary particles. So how can a
brain which is made up of atoms and elementary particles convert
a possibility wave that it itself is? It itself is made up of
the possibility waves of atoms and elementary particles, so it
cannot convert its own possibility wave into actuality.
a paradox. Now in the new view, consciousness is the
ground of being. So who converts possibility into actuality?
Consciousness does, because consciousness does not obey quantum
physics. Consciousness is not made of material. Consciousness is
transcendent. Do you see the paradigm-changing view right
here - how consciousness can be said to create the material world?
The material world of quantum physics is just possibility.
It is consciousness, through the conversion of possibility into
actuality, that creates what we see manifest. In other words,
consciousness creates the manifest world.
WIE: To be honest, when I first saw the subtitle of your book I
assumed you were speaking metaphorically. But after reading the
book, and speaking with you about it now, I am definitely
getting the sense that you mean it much more literally than I
One thing in your book that really stopped me in my
tracks was your statement that, according to your
interpretation, the entire physical universe only existed in a
realm of countless evolving possibilities until at one point,
the possibility of a conscious, sentient being arose and that,
at that point, instantaneously, the entire known universe came
into being, including the fifteen billion years of history
leading up to that point.
Do you really mean that?
AG: I mean that literally. This is what quantum physics demands.
In fact, in quantum physics this is called "delayed choice." And
I have added to this concept the concept of "self-reference."
Actually the concept of delayed choice is very old. It is due to
a very famous physicist named John Wheeler, but Wheeler did not
see the entire thing correctly, in my opinion. He left out
The question always arises,
"The universe is
supposed to have existed for fifteen billion years, so if it
takes consciousness to convert possibility into actuality, then
how could the universe be around for so long?"
Because there was
no consciousness, no sentient being, biological being, carbon-based being, in that primordial fireball which is supposed
to have created the universe, the big bang. But this other way of
looking at things says that the universe remained in possibility
until there was self-referential quantum measurement - so that is
the new concept.
An observer's looking is essential in order to
manifest possibility into actuality, and so only when the
observer looks, only then does the entire thing become
manifest - including time. So all of past time, in that respect,
becomes manifest right at that moment when the first sentient
It turns out that this idea, in a very clever, very subtle way,
has been around in cosmology and astronomy under the guise of a
principle called the "anthropic principle." That is, the idea
has been growing among astronomers - cosmologists anyway - that
universe has a purpose.
It is so fine-tuned, there are so many
coincidences, that it seems very likely that the universe is
doing something purposive, as if the universe is growing in such
a way that a sentient being will arise at some point.
WIE: So you feel there's a kind of purposiveness to the way the
universe is evolving; that, in a sense, it reaches its fruition
in us, in human beings?
AG: Well, human beings may not be the end of it, but certainly
they are the first fruition, because here is then the
possibility of manifest creativity, creativity in the sentient
being itself. The animals are certainly sentient, but they are
not creative in the sense that we are. So human beings certainly
right now seem to be an
epitome, but this may not be the final
epitome. I think we have a long way to go and there is a long
evolution to occur yet.
WIE: In your book you even go so far as to suggest that
cosmos was created for our sake.
AG: Absolutely. But it means sentient beings, for the sake of
all sentient beings. And the universe is us. That's very
clear. The universe is self-aware, but it is self-aware through
us. We are the meaning of the universe. We are not the
geographical center of the universe - Copernicus was right about
that - but we are the meaning center of the universe.
WIE: Through us the universe finds its meaning?
AG: Through sentient beings. And that doesn't have to be
anthropocentric in the sense of only earthlings. There could be
beings, sentient beings on other planets, in other stars - in fact
I am convinced that there are - and that's completely consonant
with this theory.
WIE: This human-centered - or even sentient-being-centered
seems quite radical at a time when so much of modern progressive
thought, across disciplines from ecology to feminism to systems
theory, is going in the opposite direction. These perspectives
point more toward interconnectedness or interrelatedness, in
which the significance of any one part of the whole - including
one species, such as the human species - is being de-emphasized.
Your view seems to hark back to a more traditional, almost
biblical kind of idea. How would you respond to proponents of
the prevailing "nonhierarchical" paradigm?
AG: It's the difference between the perennial philosophy that we
are talking about, monistic idealism, and what is called a kind
of pantheism. That is, these views - which I call "ecological
worldviews" and which Ken Wilber calls the same thing - are
actually denigrating God by seeing God as limited to the
On the face of it, this sounds good because
everything becomes divine - the rocks, the trees, all the way to
human beings, and they are all equal and they are all
divinity - it sounds fine, but it certainly does not adhere to
what the spiritual teachers knew.
Bhagavad Gita, Krishna
says to Arjuna,
"All these things are in me, but I am not in
What does he mean by that? What he means is that "I am
not exclusively in them."
So there is evolution, in other words, in the manifest reality.
Evolution happens. That means that the amoeba is, of course, a
manifestation of consciousness, and so is the human being. But
they are not in the same stage. Evolutionarily, yes, we are
ahead of the amoeba. And these theories, these
ecological-worldview people, they don't see that.
rightly understand what evolution is because they are ignoring
the transcendent dimension, they are ignoring the purposiveness
of the universe, the creative play.
Ken Wilber makes this point
very, very well in his book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.
WIE: So you would say they have part of the picture but
that without this other aspect that you are bringing in, their
view is very -
AG: It's very limited. And that's why pantheism is very limited.
When Westerners started going to India, they thought it was
pantheistic because it has many, many gods. Indian philosophy
tends to see God in nature, in many things - they worship rocks
sometimes, that kind of thing - so they thought it was pantheistic
and only somewhat later did they realize that there is a
In fact, the transcendent dimension is
developed extremely well in Indian philosophy, whereas the
transcendent dimension in the West is hidden in the cave of a
very few esoteric systems such as the Gnostics and a few great
masters like Meister Eckhart. In Jesus' teachings you can see it
in the gospel according to Thomas. But you have to really dig
deep to find that thread in the West.
In India, in the
Upanishads and the Vedanta and the Bhagavad Gita, it is very
much explicit. Now, pantheism sounds very good. But it's only
part of the story. It's a good way to worship, it's a good way
to bring spirituality into your daily life, because it is good
to acknowledge that there is spirit in everything. But if we
just see the diversity, see the God in everything, but don't see
the God which is beyond every particular thing, then we are not
realizing our potential. We are not realizing our Self.
truly, Self-realization involves seeing this pantheistic aspect
of reality, but also seeing the transcendent aspect of reality.
WIE: In addition to being a scientist, you are also a spiritual
practitioner. Could you talk a little bit about what brought you
AG: Well, I'm afraid that is a pretty usual, almost classic,
case. The ideal classic case, of course, is the famous case of
the Buddha, who recognized at the age of twenty-nine that all of
his pleasure as a prince was really a waste of time because
there is suffering in the world. For me it was not that drastic,
but when I was about thirty-seven the world started to fall
apart on me.
I lost my research grant, I had a divorce and I was
very lonely. And the professional pleasure that I used to get by
writing physics papers stopped being pleasure.
But in that era, around thirty-seven, that particular
world - where God didn't exist and where the meaning of life came
just from brain-pursuits of glory in a profession - just did not
satisfy me and did not bring happiness. In fact it was full of
suffering. So I came to meditation. I wanted to see if there was
any way of at least finding some solace, if not happiness.
eventually great joy came out of it, but that took time. And
also, I must mention that I got married too, and the challenge
of love was a very important one. In other words, I very soon
discovered after I got married for the second time that love is
very different than what I thought it was.
So I discovered with
my wife the meaning of love, and that was a big contribution
also to my own spirituality.
WIE: It's interesting that, while you turned to spirituality
because you felt that science wasn't really satisfying your own
search for truth, you have nevertheless remained a scientist
AG: That's true. It's just that my way of doing science changed.
What happened to me, the reason that I lost the joy of science,
was because I had made it into a professional trip. I lost the
ideal way of doing science, which is the spirit of discovery,
the curiosity, the spirit of knowing truth.
So I was not
searching for truth anymore through science, and therefore I had
to discover meditation, where I was searching for truth again,
truth of reality.
What is the nature of reality after all?
see the first tendency was nihilism, nothing exists; I was
completely desperate. But meditation very soon told me that no,
it's not that desperate. I had an experience. I had a glimpse
that reality really does exist. Whatever it was I didn't know,
but something exists.
So that gave me the prerogative to go back
to science and see if I could now do science with new energy and
new direction and really investigate truth instead of
investigating because of professional glory.
WIE: How then did your newly revived interest in truth, this
spiritual core to your life, inform your practice of science?
AG: What happened was that I was not doing science anymore for
the purpose of just publishing papers and doing problems which
enabled you to publish papers and get grants. Instead, I was
doing the really important problems. And the really important
problems of today are very paradoxical and very anomalous.
I'm not saying that traditional scientists don't have a few
important problems. There are a few important problems there
too. But one of the problems I discovered very quickly that
would lead me, I just intuited, to questions of reality was the
quantum measurement problem.
You see, the quantum measurement problem is supposed to be a
problem which forever derails people from any professional
achievement because it's a very difficult problem. People have
tried it for decades and have not been able to solve it.
"I have nothing to lose and I am going to investigate
only truth, so why not see?"
Quantum physics was something I
knew very well. I had researched quantum physics all my life, so
why not do the quantum measurement problem?
So that's how I came
to ask this question,
"What agency converts possibility into
And it still took me from 1975 to 1985 until,
through a mystical breakthrough, I came to recognize this.
WIE: Could you describe that breakthrough?
AG: Yes, I'd love to. It's so vivid in my mind. You see, the
wisdom was in those days - and this was in every sort of book,
The Tao of Physics,
The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Fred Alan Wolf's
Taking the Quantum Leap, and some other books too - everywhere the
wisdom was that consciousness must be an emergent phenomenon of
And despite the fact that some of these people, to
their credit, were giving consciousness causal efficacy, no one
could explain how it happened. That was the mystery because,
after all, if it's an emergent phenomenon of the brain, then all
causal efficacy must ultimately come from the material
So this was a puzzle to me. This was a
puzzle to everybody. And I just couldn't find any way to solve
David Bohm talked about hidden variables, so I toyed with
his ideas of an explicate order and an implicate order, that
kind of thing - but this wasn't satisfactory because in Bohm's
theory, again, there is no causal efficacy that is given to
consciousness. It is all a realist theory. In other words, it is
a theory on which everything can be explained through
There is no freedom of choice, in other
words, in reality. So I was just struggling and struggling
because I was convinced that there is real freedom of choice.
So then one time - and this is where the breakthrough happened - my
wife and I were in Ventura, California and a mystic friend, Joel Morwood, came down from Los Angeles, and we all went to hear
And Krishnamurti, of course, is extremely
impressive, a very great mystic. So we heard him and then we
came back home. We had dinner and we were talking, and I was
giving Joel a spiel about my latest ideas of the quantum theory
of consciousness and Joel just challenged me.
consciousness be explained?"
And I tried to wriggle my way
through that but he wouldn't listen.
"You are putting
on scientific blinders. You don't realize that consciousness is
the ground of all being."
He didn't use that particular word,
but he said something like,
"There is nothing but God."
something flipped inside of me which I cannot quite explain.
This is the ultimate cognition, that I had at that very moment.
There was a complete about-turn in my psyche and I just realized
that consciousness is the ground of all being. I remember
staying up that night, looking at the sky and having a real
mystical feeling about what the world is, and the complete
conviction that this is the way the world is, this is the way
that reality is, and one can do science.
You see, the prevalent
notion - even among people like David Bohm - was,
"How can you ever
do science without assuming that there is reality and material
and all this? How can you do science if you let consciousness do
things which are Ďarbitrary'?"
But I became completely
convinced - there has not been a shred of doubt ever since - that
one can do science on this basis. Not only that, one can solve
the problems of today's science. And that is what is turning
out. Of course all the problems did not get solved right on that
That night was the beginning of a new way of doing
WIE: That's interesting. So that night something really did
shift for you in your whole approach. And everything was
different after that?
AG: Everything was different.
WIE: Did you then find, in working out the details of what it
would mean to do science in this context, that you were able to
penetrate much more deeply or that your own scientific thinking
was transformed in some way by this experience?
AG: Right. Exactly. What happened was very interesting.
stuck, as I said, I was stuck with this idea before:
consciousness have causal efficacy?"
And now that I recognized
that consciousness was the ground of being, within months all
the problems of quantum measurement theory, the measurement
paradoxes, just melted away.
I wrote my first paper which was
published in 1989, but that was just refinement of the ideas and
working out details. The net upshot was that the creativity,
which got a second wind on that night in 1985, took about
another three years before it started fully expressing itself.
But ever since I have been just blessed with ideas after ideas,
and lots of problems have been solved - the problem of cognition,
perception, biological evolution, mind-body healing.
book is called
Physics of the Soul. This is a theory of
reincarnation, all fully worked out. It has been just a
wonderful adventure in creativity.
WIE: So it sounds pretty clear that taking an interest in the
spiritual, in your case, had a significant effect on your
ability to do science. Looking through the opposite end of the
lens, how would you say that being a scientist has affected your
AG: Well, I stopped seeing them as separate, so this
identification, this wholeness, the integration of the spiritual
and the scientific, was very important for me.
"Look, don't divide your life into this and that."
For me it came naturally because I discovered the new way of
doing science when I discovered spirit. Spirit was the natural
basis of my being, so after that, whatever I do, I don't
separate them very much.
WIE: You mentioned a shift in your motivation for doing
science - how what was driving you started to turn at a certain
point. That's one thing that we've been thinking about a lot as
we've been looking into this issue: What is it that really
motivates science? And how is that different from what motivates
Particularly, there have been some people we
have discussed - thinkers like E. F. Schumacher or Huston Smith,
for example - who feel that ever since the scientific revolution,
when Descartes' and Newton's ideas took hold, the whole
approach of science has been to try to dominate or control
nature or the world. Such critics question whether science could
ever be a genuine vehicle for discovering the deepest truths,
because they feel that science is rooted in a desire to know for
the wrong reasons.
Obviously, in your work you have been very
immersed in the scientific world - you know a lot of scientists,
you go to conferences, you're surrounded by all of that and
also, perhaps, you struggle with that motivation in yourself.
Could you speak a little more about your experience of that?
AG: Yes, this is a very, very good question; we have to
understand it very deeply. The problem is that in this pursuit,
this particular pursuit of science, including the books that we
mentioned earlier, The Tao of Physics and The Dancing Wu Li
Masters, even when spirituality is recognized within the
materialist worldview, God is seen only in the immanent aspect
What that means is: you have said that there is
only one reality. By saying that there is only one
reality - material reality - even when you imbue matter with
spirituality, because you are still dealing with only one level,
you are ignoring the transcendent level. And therefore you are
only looking at half of the pie; you are ignoring the other
Ken Wilber makes this point very, very well. So what has
to be done of course - and that's when the stigma of science
disappears - is to include the other half into science. Now,
before my work, I think it was very obscure how this inclusion
has to be done.
Although people like Teilhard de Chardin,
Aurobindo or Madame Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophy
movement, recognized that such a science could have come, very
few could actually see it.
So what I have done is to give actual
flesh to all these visions that took place early in the century.
when you do that, when you recognize that science can be based on
the primacy of consciousness, then this deficiency isn't there
anymore. In other words then, the stigma that science is only
separateness goes away. The materialist science is a separatist
science. The new science, though, says that the material part of the
world does exist, the separative movement is part of reality also,
but it is not the only part of reality.
There is separation, and
then there is integration. So in my book The Self-Aware Universe I
talk about the hero's journey for the entire scientific endeavor. I
said that, well, four hundred years ago, with Galileo, Copernicus,
Newton and others, we started the separatist sail and we went on a
separate journey of separateness, but that's only the first part of
the hero's journey.
Then the hero discovers and the hero returns.
is the hero's return that we are now witnessing through this new