On with “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”. In a modern physical universe we assume we can easily travel from planet to planet and from place to place because physical universe is “flat”. In Vedic cosmology, otoh, such traveling doesn’t make sense or at best treated as trivial, it’s more like zooming in and out instead.
Vedic universe is hierarchical, you can’t just jump from leaf to leaf or from branch to branch, you can only go up and down your particular branch until you meet a fork. Forget cross-branch traveling for a moment, let’s talk about movement up and down instead.
We are talking about semantic universe, the universe of meanings and these meanings can be abstract or detailed. If you look at a tree leaf, for example, you don’t see it’s cellular structure – that’s one level of zoom. If you look through a microscope you can see the cells that make up a leaf but you don’t see the “leaf” anymore. I you use a more powerful microscope you could possibly see molecules, proteins and other tiny machines than make up cells and on that level of zoom you won’t be able to see previously observed cellular structures that were responsible for photosynthesis, for example.
That’s how the entire universe spreads out – by adding more and more details to abstractions, which can be compared to zooming in and out for a theoretical observer. As humans we see what we call macroscopic objects, that’s our native level of zoom. We need some sophisticated tools to see more details and we generally trust those instruments – that what they show to us on the microscopic level is “real”.
We have a much bigger problem with trying to zoom out, especially under current Kali Yuga conditions. Under the influence of atheism we refuse to accept thoughts, ideas, and consciousness as real but rather treat them as complicated interactions of physical matter. The funny thing is that no one really does that because it goes against our self-experience as conscious beings inherently superior to dead matter. We, even the scientists among us, assume that our consciousness makes us the controllers rather than slaves to molecular interactions.
Really clever among us, however, exploit the obvious superiority of ideas to their full satisfaction. Take modern entertainment, for example. One can discuss some recent movie in minute details, the acting, the plot, special effects etc but to studio owners it’s not much more than “let’s make another Superhero movie, people will pay to watch it.” They do not dwell on details of production, they have thousands and thousands of people ready to make this rather abstract idea into reality.
One can treat it even on a more abstract level than that – “this year we need a romantic comedy for February, superhero blockbuster for summer, an animation, an action movie, and something about Santa Claus for Christmas. That’s it, my job for the year is done, let the hired hands make it happen because I can’t be bothered with any of it myself”.
Hollywood is choke full of creative types, or so we heard, who run around pitching their ideas to studio executives. They know that it’s all they need – to have a good idea. Once the idea is recognized the rest will magically happen by itself, millions of dollars will be spent and you can be set for rest of your life.
Consequently the reality of Hollywood life is very different depending on where you are in its hierarchy. Movie stars see it one way, movie producers see it from a different perspective, and perception of caterers, extras, CGI animators are totally different from those, too.
All of these descriptions are real for those who observe them. We can recognize that the reality of Hollywood is different for others but we can’t really experience it for ourselves and so we treat experiences of other people as “surreal” instead – be it the struggle to make ends meet for those at the bottom or wasteful spending of millions of dollars by those at the top.
The funny thing is that for a scientist it won’t make any sense and none of the above can be considered as real – all these dramas, emotions, struggles, or gloating and overindulgence – it’s nothing but neuron interactions in people’s brains. Unlike Hollywood experienced by those living there, science does not recognize its hierarchy. Unlike for scientists, for real people physically traveling to Hollywood is a meaningless action unless you specify in what role you go there – as a tourist gawking at mansions, as a illegal gardener, as an aspiring actor etc.
That’s another thing I wanted to clarify – when the book talks about universe of meanings it doesn’t mean that all the ideas are the same. The universe is not mental, we are talking about ideas that lead to meaningful experiences, not just random thoughts of an unhinged brain. The universe provides us with experiences and these experiences come at different levels of abstractions.
A studio executive decides to make a movie about robots, for example. It offers a job to a director who thinks that making such a movie would be perfect for him. The studio exec is obviously not going to do this directing stuff himself, he’s above it. The direction, in turn, is not going to do any acting, he might only give general ideas of what he wants to see but he is not going to spend hours learning the lines and perfecting facial expressions. Actors, in turn, are not going to waste time on doing make up, they have someone else who is perfectly content with fixing their hair and applying lipstick. All these experiences are hierarchical and most of the time they are closed to those on different rungs of the ladder.
We can discuss this theoretically and it will be pretty much like zooming in and out on different levels of a power pyramid, which in Vedic cosmology is described as a tree. We can be content simply knowing that someone would be there to turn the lights on or we could ask that person about his life, his wife, his kids and all the other things that make him come to work everyday and do his job.
In this way we can get a pretty good idea of what a particular society is, how it is seen from different perspectives, what kind of sense enjoyment is available at each level, what flavors are savored at the top and what passes as “happiness” at the bottom.
Physical location itself, within physical universe, is of very little concern here, and yet atheists tell us that it’s physics that are “real” and all the experiences described above are not. In the meantime no one, not even atheists themselves, wait for the science to come up with “accurate” description of Hollywood (or whatever society you happen to live in) from subatomic particles perspective. To us it’s the experiences that are real, not quarks and fermions.