I died on July 30th, 2015.
That is, the body I had occupied since 1952 failed on that date. In the sixty-two years I had lived in it, I had been an electrical engineer and entrepreneur, the husband of an accomplished and wonderfully supportive woman and the father of another. I had also been a student of both modern physics and the ancient Indian philosophy called Advaita Vedanta.
Being a student of physics meant learning about the amazing, counterintuitive propositions that make up Relativity and Quantum Theory – notably that the “reality” we experience through our five senses, through our perceptions of time, space, and causation, is not ultimately real.
Being a student of Advaita Vedanta meant coming to appreciate that — just as physics tells us — the “reality” we experience is unreal, a magic show, but underneath it there’s something that is real. In a famous Vedanta metaphor, there’s a rope that we mistake for a snake. That underlying rope of reality is infinite, it’s unchanging, it’s undivided, and in ways that I don’t fully understand even now, it’s spiritual, accessible to us via consciousness. Perhaps it is consciousness.
If all that seems crazy, think about this. I came to my view of what is and isn’t real through my study of science. Science didn’t compete in my life with spirituality; it guided me to it.
I was a nerdy science kid and tinkerer in high school. When I first learned of and began to understand Albert Einstein’s Relativity theories, and then Quantum Theory, my worldview was shattered. What unsettled me then (and still does now) is this: these theories tell us that we can’t trust our gut feelings, our common sense, our own viewpoints to understand what’s going on in the universe or even in front of our very eyes. All of us experience the universe as an environment “out there,” separate from us – the so-called “world around us.” But the equations of modern physics suggest that we’re mistaken, that what we’re perceiving is actually not “out there,” not separate from us. There is no duality between ourselves and what we “see.” What we perceive as outside of ourselves is a kind of apparition.
The mind-boggling realities revealed by modern physics led me to ponder the role played in the construction of reality by the very minds that are boggled – that is, by our consciousness. I came to think – and still think now – that there are things going on behind everyday reality that we don’t understand, but that are important to each and every one of us. Whether we quite acknowledge it or not, we’re all trying to figure out what life and the universe are about. Relativity and Quantum Physics tell us that there’s something very, very weird underneath what we experience as the common everyday universe. That weirdness has been slapping us in the face since the early 20th century; I began wrestling with it early in life. Science could take me only so far in this wrestling match, but when I learned about Advaita Vedanta, I acquired new holds to use in grappling with the weirdness. I’ve never stopped, and never expect to.
But my body did stop, and while I’m certain I’ll continue my quest in a new body, as a different person, I worry about losing track, between incarnations, of what I’ve learned. So, with the help of my wife and daughter I’ve composed this book – about science, spirituality, how they relate to one another, and the nature of reality. I hope I’ll find it, and find it helpful, in my next life. I hope, too, that others may find my voyage of discovery interesting, and perhaps a spark for their own explorations.