The book takes a sudden turn and expresses Sāṅkhya in terms familiar to modern scientists, or even ham radio operators – hence the title. Let me repeat the last point first, however, because it’s important.
Unlinke modern science, in Sāṅkhya’s sequence of events physical objects appear last. We have grown up to believe that contact with sense objects produces sensations but Sāṅkhya reverses it – it’s the desire for sensations, modified by karma, that produces sense objects. So, if we see something it doesn’t mean it’s there and has been there the whole time, but that it appeared to match with our quest for sensations.
This sequence also means that the mind is automatically aware of the sensations because it’s the mind that caused them. The mind might like it or it might not – that depends on karma, but if you step into the room and smell the air it’s this desire for smell that is primary and the mind is already working on it even before the odor hits you nose.
I don’t want to discuss the question “Does a tree falling in the forest make a sound if no one is there to hear it?” which is very relevant here. Our entire paradigm needs to be changed before such speculations will become useful. Right now I still operate on the assumption that the street behind the corner continues even if I can’t see now. I get this conviction because I turned that corner many times and the street was always there. Overturning this conviction would require some time.
On with the book.
In Sāṅkhya material objects are described as values of sensations just as they are described as values of properties in material science where an object would be defined by the value of its mass, its color, size etc. The difference is that in science these values are numerical, they talk about quantities of this or that property, while in Sāṅkhya the values are qualitative, they talk about different types of properties. In Sāṅkhya properties of color and shape are given values yellow and square, for example. Square is a type of shape and it’s refined further, I suppose. Only at the very last step when every value of every property is finally set, the object “appears” and can be perceived.
If you are reading this page in a browser like Chrome then you can right click on any of its elements and select “Inspect” or something similar. There will be a new panel or a window with all the properties of the selected element. When you click through them all you’ll realize that you have no idea what 99% of them are but they are all required to be set before the element becomes visible on the page. We just don’t realize how much information simple things must actually carry and all this information need to be present for things to become perceivable – just like in Sāṅkhya.
There’s a hierarchy in the appearance of senses as well. To understand an object we also must know it’s higher, more abstract nodes, too. If we hear something there already is a meaning because the mind that perceives meanings is more abstract and, therefore, higher in hierarchy than the sense of hearing. We can’t understand sound unless we know it’s meaning. Touch is the next sense that comes out of hearing and therefore it contains sound and meaning. Sight contains touch, sound, and meaning, and so on.
The sound is the first element in Sāṅkhya but it depends on meaning, which is perceived by the mind, and because the mind is more abstract than the hearing it, therefore, cannot be heard. Mind has a location in the space of material objects, both gross and subtle, but it’s not the space as we understand it in material science but rather a collection of meanings. The next more abstract object, the intelligence, also has a location in this space and it cannot be perceived by the mind, I suppose, but the author doesn’t go that far.
What we have next is a statement that all these objects are vibrating and we cannot hear the vibration of the mind because its frequency is too low. Frequency lower than we can perceive means that information there is more abstract. Okay. If the frequency rises up out of our hearing range it creates a sensation of touch. When it rises further and the touch can’t be perceived the vibration makes the object visible.
When we say that an object can be seen, tasted, and touched it means that all these frequencies are simultaneously present. As far as I remember from school, it’s perfectly possible to modulate a higher frequency so that it carries a lower frequency signal at the same time. This is controlled by amplitude and other properties of waves – wavelength, phase etc. I’ll just quote a sentence here: “E.g. in the detection of light, amplitude corresponds to the intensity, frequency to the color, waveform to the saturation, and phase to the form of an object.” I don’t see how exactly but it looks like it makes sense.
In this view there’s no such thing as empty space because locations in space represent meanings and so if there is no information then there’s no space either. Once again, we are not talking about flat space of modern science but a hierarchical collection of meanings. Unlike material space this space isn’t static but it always vibrates and this vibration creates “sound”, once again different from sound both in material science and Sāṅkhya, too. This “sound” can be abstract and detailed. Abstract “sound” is perceived by subtle senses and detailed sound is perceived by gross ones.
There are many receivers in the Vedic world, all tuned to different frequencies, amplitudes, wavelengths etc – sort of ham radio operators. At this point I might call them string theorists, too.
Locations in ether are not material points in space but rather forms of sound. Like a word or a phoneme carries a meaning but it also has a form. These forms of sound is how the ether is divided into locations within it. This meaning is detailed into this form and that meaning into that other form. That’s another concept hard to comprehend in full even if the principle is simple.
The rest of the chapter is dedicated to explaining inadequacy of modern science, once again. In Sāṅkhya the detailed objects can’t perceive their abstract predecessors but are rather the evidence of abstracts’ existence. The subtle body is the evidence of the consciousness (I think it’s more appropriate than the word “unconscious” the author uses here). The prāṇa is the evidence of the subtle body, and the gross body is the evidence of prāṇa.
Material science rejects prāṇa but what happens is that now they can’t explain gross objects behavior and end up with indeterminism of quantum theory. They should realize that they can avoid it by rejecting that causality lies in gross matter and induct prāṇa into science. They might call it differently but it acts the same for everyone regardless of the name. Eventually they’ll realize that prāṇa is inadequate, too, and then they would have to induct the subtle body. Subtle body will become inadequate, too, and they will have to induct guṇa and karma. In the end they’ll realize that none of it works without soul and, finally, God.
Fat chance we’ll see the completion of this process in our lifetime. In fact, it is not likely to happen ever as Kali’s progress is inevitable while scientists can’t get over themselves and keep working on wrong theories just because. The path to the Truth is clear but they don’t walk it anymore or as fast as they used to.