The Secrets of the Inner Plane articles are not intended to be an exposition of physics; for that, much better informed and comprehensive sources are available. Rather, the series looks to find parallels between scientific theories and the actualities of the inner realm. The articles make use of present scientific knowledge and hypotheses as a means to help broaden our understanding of the inner reality. The boundaries between physics and mysticism have become more and more blurred and other such comparisons have already been drawn, such as between Buddhism’s concept of emptiness and the inherent emptiness of matter on the subatomic level.
There are significant challenges in trying to do these comparisons. The first one is that virtually all of the concepts at the root of non-dual traditions were given to us by individuals in the Far East who were effectively philosophers. Even though many of these people were also practitioners of various spiritual disciplines, in most cases their understanding was more intellectual than experiential. The traditions which developed from these early concepts were only later inherited and repeated by more experienced mystics. The second problem with the history of such comparisons between eastern mysticism and science is their authors have lacked any depth of spiritual realization within themselves. This means they have been discussing a variety of mental ideas, rather than basing their comparisons on actual direct experience.
As an example, the emptiness found in physical reality is very different to the experience of the emptiness of the original void. In fact, the contrast between the two far exceeds that of day and night. In order to compare the inner and the outer realities with any validity, it is impossible to do so without having had one’s own direct experience of the inner realm, and it is equally important to note how the two differ qualitatively.
Only once one actually has access to the inner realm is it reasonable to seek to identify potential analogies between the findings and theories of science and the spiritual dimension. Those who approach such an exercise from science are often much more intellectually accomplished than those who do so with a spiritual background. Although the scientists may have less direct experience of their pure nature (and in most cases none) they are masters of the efficient use of the power of the mind.
The interconnections and relationships between spirituality, philosophy and science were more accepted in the past, but that is now no longer the case. Science has become so complex and equation-orientated that philosophers no longer even try to keep up. They have increasingly lost touch with empirical reality and now pretty much confine themselves to the realm of ‘pure thought’. This is why the physicist Stephen Hawking has said “philosophy is dead”, although that somewhat overstates the situation.
Somewhat analogously, but for different reasons, there are spiritual teachers who have completely failed to integrate a higher level of intelligence with self-realization. The result is that spirituality has not only stagnated, but has been going backwards. While new scientific discoveries and hypotheses have been growing exponentially, spirituality has remained frozen in time and lost its connection to the principles of intelligence and wisdom.
While these articles describe in broad strokes the analogies between the external realm, as shown through physics’ discoveries and theories, and the internal realm of the spirit, not all concepts from the science of physics can be as seen as direct reflections of the inner spiritual reality. Nevertheless, in the limited number of parallels shown, such as is described for time and space and the space-time continuum being tangibly mirrored in the dimension of pure subjectivity, it may be entirely conceivable that the physical universe is an outer reflection of the inner realm (its lower octave). This would bear out the wisdom in the saying, “As above, so below” written on the legendary Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus.
Primordial Black Hole of the Absolute
Any star must constantly maintain a balance between the inward pull of its gravity and the enormous outward pushing pressure of its boiling gases and other particles. At the critical time that a star runs out of fuel, its gravity becomes stronger than the outward pressure and the star begins to collapse inward. When a giant star – one which is at least 20 times bigger than our sun – dies, it gradually collapses through the sheer force of its own gravity, falling into the so-called ‘gravitational well’. It then becomes a mysterious entity which has been called a black hole. The concept of the black hole was first put forward by John Michell in a letter in 1783, describing an object of such density that the force of its gravity would be too powerful for any light to escape from it. One of the best known experts in this subject is Stephen Hawking, who has spent his life trying to understand the phenomenon of black holes. They may provide the answer to the beginning of the universe. One theory is that the collapse of a black hole leads to gravitational singularly, a condition in which mass becomes infinitely dense, which is thought to replicate how matter was in the beginning, before the big bang and the expansion of the universe.
A comparable concept can be found in Hindu scripture, the Rigveda, which describes a cyclical universe that starts from a single point (Bindu), expands out and then collapses back into that single point again (what in physics is called ‘the big crunch’) at the end of the cycle. Astronomers have observed that all of the galaxies move away from each other and, the more remote they are, the faster this expansion is. This suggests some kind of initial explosion, the big bang, at the core of the universe pushes the energy outward (with the possible additional help of hypothetical dark energy) driving the exploded matter further apart.
The classical view of a black hole is that its gravity is so powerful that nothing, not even light, can escape from it, and that it draws in and devours anything that comes near enough to it. There are billions of black holes in the universe and even a supermassive one in the very center of our Milky Way galaxy. In fact, there is usually a giant black hole in the center of every galaxy, serving as a gravitational axel for its planets and stars to rotate around.
It is not really understood whether the collapse of the black hole results in singularity or in something else. Stephen Hawking recently came out with a new theory for black holes. He suggests the traditional concept of them should be redefined to ‘metastable bound states of the gravitational field’ which have a collapsed and chaotic interior instead of singularity.
The place where the boundaries of the influence of the black hole become absolute is called the ‘event horizon’ in physics. An event horizon represents that point of entry into the black hole after which nothing, not even light, can escape. These days, Stephen Hawking seems to have modified his view of the black hole to be less extreme. Not only is he not sure about the gravitational singularity of the black hole, but he has also suggested that the edge of the black hole is defined not by an event horizon, but by an ‘apparent horizon’, with a wildly fluctuating space-time, from which energy and even light might be able to escape. This is an update on an earlier theory of his that black holes might emit ‘virtual particle’ radiation causing their eventual evaporation.
Previously, Hawking theorized that the physical information inherent to matter and energy entering a black hole is lost. This was due to the black hole’s evaporation caused by ‘Hawking radiation’ and by singularity. This was considered to be a paradox, because physics is based on the fundamental principle that information can never be lost. However, more recently scientists have come to the conclusion that information entering a black hole may not be lost, but retained and even emitted from it. Hawking himself has conceded that information may be returned from a black hole. Hawking’s views, while probably the most reported on, are only some of several proposals on the functioning of black holes.
Whatever the latest hypotheses are, we can be sure that the conditions in the black hole are so extreme that they defy many of the laws of known physics. They may lead to singularity, evaporation of the black hole, or even be ‘wormholes’ (thin tunnels of space-time with two ends) serving as passageways to other dimensions or universes. The latter would mean that, instead of forming singularity at the epicenter of its gravitational field, the black hole’s gravity may take us into another dimension or another universe. While information may still be lost on our side of the black hole, it may be transferred to, and survive in, another universe or dimension in which there is no black hole. The existence of parallel universes is not just a fantasy from science fiction, but a real possibility considered by many physicists based on their attempts to explain various contradictions in quantum physics. It is possible that, where one black hole ends, there is a ‘white hole’ on the other side entering another reality, another universe amongst many possible universes.
The classical view of the black hole is that nothing can emerge from it due its extreme gravity. Such infinite gravity holds prisoner anything that enters its field. Gravity is not to be underestimated. For instance, our physical bodies are prisoners of the earth’s gravity. We cannot free ourselves from it unless we use a propulsive anti-gravitational force, like boarding a rocket that has enough power to take us far enough into space to be free of the earth’s influence. Of course, we can just jump up in the air, but how long can we stay up? Not long – gravity will bring us down very quickly.
It was gravity that originally allowed the cosmic dust (the result of the big bang) to form into stars, planets and galaxies. Without gravity there would only be chaos. On an ordinary level, gravity gives our body stability and prevents us from flying away into outer space. Without gravity even our muscles and bones would waste away. We tend to forget that we are in fact children of the earth’s gravity. This gravity gets weaker as we move away from the earth’s influence, until we reach a point where we are either just suspended in space (where gravity is close to neutral) or begin to be drawn by the gravitational force of other celestial bodies.
As far as the big bang is concerned, there is also an alternative theory called the ‘big bounce’. This theory has been developed within a branch of physics called ‘loop quantum gravity’. Its hypothesis is that the structure of space-time is comprised of regions divisible into discrete volumes and areas in the form of tiny one-dimensional loops, somewhat like atoms. These loops are seen as the most basic building blocks of space and time, no longer divisible and granular in nature. Taken together, they can be thought of as an extremely fine woven fabric or network of finite loops. Because of this quantum structure, space can never reach infinite density. Instead, as it contracts more and more it reaches a limit and bounces back, creating the inflation or expansion of the universe. In short, the big bounce theory says that our universe was never a singularity. Instead it ‘rebounded’ like a spring following the gradual collapse of its previous state.
While interesting, it is not particularly important for our purposes whether we accept the big bang or the big bounce. The spiritual principles that we can extrapolate from the phenomena of black holes remains the same.
The Doorway of the Inner Black Hole
How can the black hole be compared to, or seen as a reflection of, the spiritual dimension? This teaching has long used various metaphors to describe the mysterious entry to the unmanifested, or the absolute. Even though the concept of the black hole should not be taken as a literal representation of this critical spiritual threshold, because the passage to absence is governed by quite different laws, the parallels between the two are very striking.
The doorway to the unmanifested is a mysterious place. While it is not really here, we pass to it from here, the dimension of presence. In this sense, the unmanifested resembles the black hole, which is located in our universe, but the unmanifested transcends many of the universe’s physical laws and leads to dimensions well beyond it.
The physical representation of the portal to absence is tan t’ien, an energy center in our lower belly. It is in our body and yet it is not in our body. Similarly, when you look at an ordinary door on the exterior of a house, it is part of the house but, when you open it from the inside, it becomes a passage to the outer world; this empty space of an open door is not a ‘thing’, it is an opportunity to pass through. In Zen the term ‘gateless gate’ is used, which describes this paradox very aptly: the tan t’ien is a gate, in the sense of being a boundary separating us from the higher reality, but it is also a ‘no-gate’ in the sense of being a wide open passage into the beyond. When the door is open, it is not a door any longer – it becomes an opening. The concept of a door is valid only in regards to it being open or closed. When it is truly open, is it still a door or is it a passage? Or is it just the beyond? One thing is certain: when we pass completely through the inner door, that door is transcended. But the paradox of the human soul is that she lives on both sides of that door simultaneously. She is the true bridge, including the consciousness of unity, between the outer and inner realms.
The issue of whether we realize our true self within the context of the body or need to go beyond identification with the body has puzzled many spiritual thinkers. This question cannot be answered by the simple, linear mind. To solve what seems to be a contradiction in terms in this question, it must be viewed from a higher perspective. When Ramana Maharshi spoke about the spiritual heart, he pointed to his chest, but also said that it is not in the body. Was he just confused? He was not confused in a spiritual sense, but his seeming mixed message could be misleading conceptually. While he felt the doorway to the self in his physical center, he was also experiencing his true self beyond the body as a point of reference. His preconceived non-dual notions led him to believe that the physical body is inert and insentient and that we need to root out the idea of it being the self. He said, “The foundation for all miseries is the impure vasana [mental tendency], the belief that holds the body to be ‘I’.” Ramana could have helped resolve the confusion over this seeming paradox by questioning his traditional advaita-based assumptions.
This issue continues to puzzle many seekers. For instance, most teachers on the subject of consciousness do not even know that it is experienced in the head. How can they not know such a basic fact about it and yet teach on this subject? Most of them claim consciousness to be ‘everywhere’ (whatever that means) and contend that limiting it to a single part of the body amounts to sacrilege. The truth is that ‘everywhere’ is just an idea, while ‘somewhere’ is an actual experience. No one has ever really experienced ‘everywhere’. Some think they have, because they had a temporary loss of a sense of boundaries in their internal reality, but this is not a positive experience. Boundaries are important. As individuals we must maintain our relative autonomy. If we lose the boundaries between our individuality and the world, we become vulnerable to being hurt by the world. This is why we live in separate bodies, which we must nourish and care for in numerous other ways, to ensure our survival in external. On the spiritual level, not only must we awaken, but our survival as individuals is similarly important.
The doorway to reality is the meeting place between somewhere and transcendence. To define transcendence simply as the concept ‘everywhere’ vastly underrates and makes a mockery of the reality of its experience. Transcendence is beyond both somewhere and everywhere; it is a mysterious land that cannot be grasped by our ordinary concepts. A higher logic and intelligence is required, one that is able to open the door to true clarity while also embracing paradox.
Returning to the subject of the doorway to the unmanifested, or absolute: it is both in the body and beyond the body. As any door, it is an exit from one reality and entrance to another. It is an opening from inside the ‘house’ of our body which takes us to what lies beyond it: the inner realm. As long as we live in our body, it is a relative point of reference which needs to be respected. Otherwise, we are in danger of confusing false ‘mystical experiences’ with higher reality. There are several portals, or doorways, in the body, but tan t’ien is unquestionably the most important. Tan t’ien is our personal black hole which on one hand can threaten us with dissolution but on the other, is our only chance for transcendence.
Tan t’ien is a door that points in two directions: towards our individuality and towards our absence. In science, the black hole is mostly seen as the place of infinite gravity that pulls the universe into increasing density and, finally, singularity. Hawking has theorized that the black hole may radiate energy from the event horizon, but saw it more as the last emanation of a dying star. After reaching the condition of singularity, the black hole might also explode into manifestation, but it cannot radiate energy and explode. In this respect, the concept of the tan t’ien transcends the one of the black hole, or perhaps the concept of the black hole needs to be modified.
The tan t’ien is not only a doorway to the absolute, but also, passing through it in the opposite direction, the doorway to our individuality. It is also the center of our vital force. Many people work at energizing their tan t’ien through various practices, such as Tai Chi or Qi gong. There is nothing wrong with these practices, but the hidden dimension of tan t’ien will not be discovered through these practices. In using the tan t’ien as a doorway to the absolute, we are not strengthening our individuality, but transcending it by giving birth to its universal dimension.
The Event Horizon of the Inner Black Hole
Does our inner portal to the absolute have an event horizon like the one the black hole has? It has, and that is the point of no-return beyond which the soul cannot come back to the dimension of presence. What this means is that pure me of being (and later on pure me of heart and consciousness) has permanently moved into the state of absence; no force can pull it out of the absolute, and there is no return to the state of presence.
An ordinary realization of being refers to the condition of approaching the gravity of the absolute, but only when we cross the event horizon do we actually enter the source of being. Before the event horizon is crossed, one has to cross the ‘apparent horizon’, where one’s energy is in-between presence and absence. This explains why the initial shift into the absolute state can be lost: the apparent horizon is not holding one in absence strongly enough; without fully crossing the event horizon threshold, the pull of the absolute’s gravity is insufficient. The matter is complicated further because, initially, it is not the whole of the soul that enters the absolute, but only the pure me of being. The process of stepping into the unmanifested can be likened to a gradual submersion in the ocean: first by being, then the heart, and finally by consciousness. Crossing the event horizon applies to each pure me of the soul, so that all of them can at last transcend the dimension of presence. Therefore, pure me of being may have crossed the event horizon into absence and the absolute, while the other dimensions of the soul are still on this side in presence.
How does the entry of the soul into the absolute affect our identity? Does our human identity also cross the event horizon? Our human identity, or personality, is the base from which we live normally in the world and the start point for our spiritual journey. When we have awakened to our pure me, or soul, that then becomes the new center for our identity. Our human identity, with all its memories and ability to manage in the world, is not lost, but becomes subservient to our soul, the new home and identity from which we live. It is in our center as the soul that we cross the event horizon into the unmanifested and absence. Our human consciousness can only function in relation to external perceptions or thoughts and is unable to enter the absolute’s dimension of absence. It becomes the vehicle of the soul in the dimension of presence. However, since the human consciousness now belongs to the soul, our human identity is also profoundly affected by the soul’s absorption in the unmanifested. So, on some level, our human self also feels as if it is living in the soul’s inner realm. This is because we come to experience our human reality from the soul, and realize the intrinsic unity of the inner and outer planes of existence. It could be said that, once properly crossed, the event horizon becomes like a transparent window between the two realms, now looking from absence to presence. What we call the ‘sealed state’ represents the maximum transfer of the soul’s energy into the inner reality, leaving behind just the minimum remaining energy of our human identity to continue operating within the laws of the dimension of presence.
The Receding Gravity of the Absolute
Gravity is a mysterious force. Even though considered as fundamental to our reality, it is surprisingly weak. So much so that it is called ‘a weak force’ in physics. In comparison, electromagnetic energy is tremendously more powerful than gravity and so is the so-called strong nuclear force that holds quarks (the elementary particles of which protons and neutrons are composed) together.
However, there is a concept in the superstring theory that gravity only appears to be a weak force because its power is hidden in other dimensions. According to string theory, the hypothetical units of gravity, gravitons, are made of closed loop strings that can travel between dimensions. So what we call gravity does not have to have a center in the mass of a large object, such as the earth, but can be a doorway to another reality. String theory is not aware of the inner realm of the source, but rather hypothesizes about other dimensions of the manifested universe. But perhaps string theory’s conjectures have involuntarily intuited the presence of elementary forces which function as the bridge between manifestation and the realm of absence.
If gravity were infinite and its center were to have a finite location, the surrender to gravity would inevitably lead to gravitational singularity. In samadhi we do experience this kind of singularity in the primordial state, but at the same time we also experience never-ending free fall into the receding absence. This means that both are true, the black hole of the absolute leads to singularity on one level (the primordial state) and goes beyond it on another level (through the further surrender of pure primordial me and universal me). It is both the place where the original essence of existence is realized as primordial singularity and as a doorway to the inner dimension of creation. Even though the absolute has an open-ended center of gravity (hence receding absence) the realization of singularity is still possible because the essence of this gravity is embedded in the original rock of primordial isness.
As we reach the absolute, we realize it with increasing levels of depth. The primordial absolute, the deepest level, represents the dimension of absence which no longer exists in contrast to presence. Hence, when it is attained it is immediately integrated with the presence of me. The merging of conscious me with the primordial absolute is the realization of primordial me, or the innermost singularity of consciousness.
The Primordial Black Hole of the Absolute
In physics, they have a concept of the ‘primordial black hole’, a type of black hole that was formed not by the gravitational collapse of a large star, but by the extreme density of matter present during the universe’s early expansion. If they exist, it is thought there could be more than one of these co-existing with the universe as we know it. This suggests that the absolute of this universe may be one of many absolutes in existence. To draw an analogy, the inner primordial absolute can be said to be the one absolute that both contains and transcends all the dimensions of the void within the inner creation. When we reach the absolute state, we arrive at what could be considered to be the absolute of this universe, which itself can be seen as a doorway to the deeper realm of absence. We must understand that the inner void exists always as a kind of counterbalance to one of the dimensions of presence that it contains. The deeper the dimension of absence, the deeper it’s mirroring of the dimension of presence be. In our reality, the dimension of presence is relatively primitive and superficial, and hence the absolute we realize that it mirrors it is rather basic: it could be seen as more of an entryway to the inner reality, just a beginning of our journey into the beyond.
The much more profound, primordial absolute is the universal root-foundation of all of the dimensions of creation, both inner and outer. It is not merely a reality at the bottom of the pyramid of creation, as it has no location and exists beyond the dimensions of the inner and the outer. It is the supreme isness, the primordial core of the original light of I am. As far as human life as we know is concerned, it is the bedrock of our isness: our final deliverance.
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