QR7.1.4 Evaluating Dependence

By the divinity premise, an all-powerful divinity exists, and by the dependence premise, the manifest world depends on it, so the second premise essentially applies the first to the physical world:

  • Great Tao is all-pervading. It is available everywhere, on the right hand and on the left. Everything is dependent upon it for existence and it never fails them. It does all this but it claims no ownership.” (Tao, 34).
  • The biblical God is always: “… upholding all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews, 1.3)
  • The Koran says that “Every day He (Allah) exerciseth (universal) power.” (Koran, 60.29).
  • The Vedic divinity is also the source of all: “As from a fire, fully ablaze, fly off sparks, in their thousands, that are akin to the fire, even so, O good-looking one, from the imperishable Brahman originate many different creatures that return in the end to the same source.” (Mundaka Upanishad, II, p113).

In scientific terms, the alternatives are that the physical world exists by itself alone or that it needs something else to occur. This isn’t just that some physical events have a non-physical cause, but that they all do. These alternatives are mutually exclusive, as if physical reality exists by itself alone, nothing else is needed, and if it needs something else to exist, it doesn’t exist by itself alone.

If the physical world alone exists, physical causes should explain everything, but even today they still can’t explain the following universal effects:

  • Location. Where a physical event occurs without regard to physical history, so exactly where a photon of light will hit a screen isn’t predicted by physical causes (3.6.1).
  • Form. Molecules can transform in physically impossible ways, so the form observed isn’t predicted by physical causes (3.8.1).
  • Movement. When electrons tunnel past physically impassable barriers, their movement can’t be explained by any physical path (5.3.1).
  • Adjustment. The physical adjustments that instantly conserve properties between entangled entities at any distance is a faster-than-light effect that physical causes can’t explain (3.8.5).

In contrast, quantum theory explains these effects as follows:

  • The location of a physical event is chosen by quantum collapse, which isn’t a physical cause.
  • The form a physical event takes depends on quantum superpositions that can be physically incompatible, so one form can switch to another even if no physical means is possible.
  • The movement of matter depends on quantum waves that ignore physical barriers, to allow quantum tunneling, movement that no physical path allows.
  • Physical adjustments after quantum entanglement occur instantly, faster than any physical cause.

These effects, verified by experiment, apply to every physical event, whose location, form, movement, and adjustments are defined by quantum causes that current physics says don’t exist. The hypothesis that physical causes can in theory explain any physical effect is thus rejected because it can’t explain quantum collapse, superposition, tunneling or entanglement effects that are universal. That physical causes fully define the physical future is seen to be a myth with no basis in evidence. Those who deny that quantum events cause physical events must explain the above, which they haven’t, leaving no reason not to accept that they do. Nor is it unexpected that the physical events predicted by wave equations are caused by the quantum waves they describe.

By the first premise, the all-powerful divinity is invisible, and by the second, it made the visible world, but how can the invisible, that initially existed alone, create the visible from itself? And even if it did, an all-powerful divinity that makes what isn’t itself is no longer so. What is everything can’t make something not itself and still be everything, just as an absolute ruler who gives a kingdom to his son no longer rules absolutely. The scriptural premises seem to contradict each other!

It became apparent, to Asian mystics at least, that either divinity is real or the physical world is, but not both. For a world that exists by itself doesn’t need divine support, and a divinity that creates what isn’t itself is no longer all-powerful. The divinity premise, that a supreme divinity exists, and the dependence premise, that our universe depends on it, together imply that the visible world doesn’t exist by itself, and scriptures agree:

“Just as a dream and magic are seen to be unreal, or as a city in the sky, so also is this whole universe known to be unreal from the Upanishads by the wise.” (Mandukya Upanishad, II.31).

The Vedic Brahman thus projects the world as Maya, literally “ya” (that which) “ma” (is not):

It is beyond question that the phenomenal world couldn’t arise if it had any real existence. All this duality is nothing but Maya. It is non-duality in reality.” (Mandukya Upanishad, I.16).

Long before western dualism, the Vedas absolutely deny it, because a supreme divinity can’t create a real world and still be supreme, so one can have physical reality or divine reality, but not both. Buddhism reached essentially the same conclusion based on the nature of the physical world:

“The disciple must get in the habit of looking at things truthfully. He must recognize the fact that the world has no self-nature, that it is unborn, like a passing cloud, like an imaginary wheel made by a revolving flame, like a castle in the sky, like the moon reflected the ocean, like a vision, a mirage, a dream.” (Lankavatara, p320).

Or as we might say today, like a video game. This lack of self-nature is the doctrine of dependent origination, that everything physical has causes and conditions, for as Buddha’s disciple Sariputra recalls:

“I met the brothers Kasyapa who kindly explained to me the principle of the Lord’s teaching – that everything arises from causes and conditions (dependent origination) and therefore was empty and transient – and I realized the infinitude of Pure Mind Essence.” (Surangama, p234).

By logic, a system whose every event depends on other events is irretrievably circular, so it can’t cause itself. The world must therefore be empty of substance and caused by something else. Not all scriptures explicitly state the physical world is illusory, but all declare that it depends on divinity to exist:

The God who made the world and everything in it … is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts, 17.24-5).

The Koran agrees that the world is illusory:

The life of this world is but comfort of illusion.” (Koran, 3.185).

A divinity that causes all manifestations must therefore remain immanent to constantly sustain it:

“Man’s work merely consists of shaping a pre-existing mass. … Hence, once he finishes shaping his artifact he can leave it to its own devices, secure in the knowledge that it does not need him anymore. … (But) Before heaven and earth were created, they simply did not exist. … In such a situation, the creative force which brings them into existence must constantly recreate them in order for them to exist. Were this force to withdraw, for even the briefest moment, creation would revert to nothingness.” (The Tanya, Chapter 2).

The second premise of scriptures equates to the idea that the physical world is a generated virtual reality. It’s hard to find an aspect of online games that isn’t matched by scriptural descriptions of the world as an illusion, whether it is its transience, impermanence, or ultimate pointlessness. If no distinction can be drawn, the evidence in Chapters 4-5 supports the dependence premise by specifying how divinity generates the world. What then about the third premise, that human beings can survive death?