Tag Archive: Einstein

Backwards and Forwards Through Time

Exploring the Simultaneous Nature of Cause & Effect

Mont Ventoux from the Baronnies

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Finale, Episode – “All Good Things…”

Q and Captain Jean-Luc Picard discuss the collapse of the anti-time eruption.

"The Trial Never Ends": Q and Captain Jean-Luc Picard discuss the collapse of the anti-time eruption.

Tom Simpson's Memorial on Mt VentouxI’ve just watched the double episode finale to the TNG Picard series just after the cyclists finished their ascent of Mont Ventoux in this years Tour de France.  It was “All Good Things…”(see link, link & link for full episode info)

In a nutshell, Picard, by the absolute faith that his crew have in him, across three different life-times, undoes a space-time anomaly of their own creation which saves life on Earth…

What I saw was a fine dramatic representation of the Buddhist principle of karma transcending time and space, and the principle that karma (all that we and our lives are) can be changed both backwards and forwards in time;  The simultaneity of cause and effect!

Well!  While all fine and dandy as a piece of fiction, how can I say that this is what it’s really like?

Deceased Ancestors

Nichiren

Nichiren

Nichiren Daishonin, the 12th century Japanese Buddhist monk, in a letter to the grandmother of Jibu-bo Nichii, one of his disciples, tried to explain a bit of the history behind a ceremony for the dead to her.  (A Buddhist service held for the repose of the dead. Such ceremonies were conducted annually, usually on the fifteenth day of the seventh month.) In it, he says, almost a conclusion  to his explanation,

The Venerable Maudgalyayana put his faith in the Lotus Sutra, which is the greatest good there is, and thus not only did he himself attain Buddhahood, but his father and mother did so as well. And, amazing as it may seem, all the fathers and mothers of the preceding seven generations and the seven generations that followed, indeed, of countless lifetimes before and after, were able to become Buddhas.  In addition, all their sons, their wives or husbands, their retainers, supporters, and countless other persons not only were enabled to escape from the three evil paths, but all attained the first stage of security and then Buddhahood, the stage of perfect enlightenment. –  On Offerings for Deceased Ancestors, WND, p820

ArrowI’ve highlighted the crushing significance that summarises the whole letter, both in it’s literal summary and as it’s sense and meaning.  Nichiren is saying that we can affect the past from now, as well as the future.  Like Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek episode, the past, present and future are as one, overlapped, affecting each other in a miraculous way.

It’s as if the arrow of time , something everyone experiences in their daily lives, does not exist.

Faith

Maudgalyayana gets killed

Maudgalyayana gets killed

Of course, faith is behind all of this; but if we accept both tales at face value there is much to commend it and the value system for life that they support.   Here’s how it panned out for Maudgalyayana….

He was a disciple of Shakyamuni, (the person we call “The Buddha”,  idolised in many lands).  Maudgalyayana was supposed to have supernatural powers, such as mind-reading, out-of-the-body experiences and walking through walls.  He also brought bad karma upon himself by killing his parents which led to his death at the hands of bandits. To change his karma, he studied the Lotus Sutra, so that later, when he met the bandits he ignored his powers and did not defend himself.

Harry Patch fought at the Battle of Passchendaele in World War I

Harry Patch fought at the Battle of Passchendaele in World War I

Shakyamuni said that even supernatural powers are of no use to avoid one’s karma, especially when it is so heavy…  That’s what was said and believed at the time.

But is it true?  Is any of this possible?

I believe it is so.  We can change the past as well as future. Harry Patch who died today aged 111, recalled shooting a German in the leg so as not to kill him (see here),  just after seeing a young man die.  He said,

“I fell in a trench. There was a fella there. He must have been about our age. He was ripped shoulder to waist with shrapnel. I held his hand for the last 60 seconds of his life. He only said one word: ‘Mother’. I didn’t see her, but she was there. No doubt about it. He passed from this life into the next, and it felt as if I was in God’s presence.  I’ve never got over it. You never forget it. Never.”

When they reached the enemy’s second line four Germans stood up, and one ran forward pointing his bayonet at Patch who, with only three rounds left in his revolver, wondered what to do. He then deliberately fired at the man above the ankle and above the knee….”You’ve got a memory. You’ve got a brain about the size of a tea cup. I’ve got a memory that goes back for 80 or 90 years and I think that memory goes on with you when you die. And that’s my opinion. Death is not the end.”

Experiences like this can be rationalised into the mere electrical workings of the brain.   But in a way, Patch’s actions shaped the rest of his life.  He didn’t die early, and maybe had the well-known “survivor’s guilt” for not doing so.  But like the fictional Jean Luc, he has communicated across the ages and affected people because of it.  Without being a Buddhist, his actions have nevertheless been Buddhist.

The follow up to the quote above (from a BBC documentary),  is that his three chums were blown to bits 6 weeks later.  His not un-natural words were;

“If I had met that German soldier after my three mates had been killed, I’d have no trouble at all in killing him”….

The thing is, he didn’t.  The order of events was different and as in the Star Trek story, who’s to tell what’s what?

Planck’s Constant and Entanglement

J B S Haldane: My own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

J B S Haldane: My own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

It’s been said that if Planck’s Constant were slightly different – or maybe not so constant – then we ourselves might have the supernatural powers to be able to walk through walls like Maudgalyayana.  In fact, the physics says that this must be so! The natural repulsions of atoms would be different and matter could diffuse through matter with less interaction (or be totally inert depending which way it went).

Surely this is a definition of supernatural?

Planck’s Constant is a derived measure from a complex suite of theory.  For physics, it’s as fundamental as pi – one of the most bizarre things in the universe – bizarre because most people have heard of it and can describe what it is, yet no-one can measure it, exactly, or say why it pops up in so many equations.

F. W. Dyson, A. S. Eddington, and C. Davidson, "A Determination of the Deflection of Light by the Sun's Gravitational Field, from Observations Made at the Total Eclipse of May 29, 1919"

F. W. Dyson, A. S. Eddington, and C. Davidson, "A Determination of the Deflection of Light by the Sun's Gravitational Field, from Observations Made at the Total Eclipse of May 29, 1919"

Surely this is a definition of supernatural?

Entanglement is another “spooky” quantum property.  Einstein did not like this because of the “simultaneity” which went plain against his experimentally provable Relativity theory (Edington proved this because light bends near large masses).  But it exists and experiments have now been done that confirm (at least so far) simultaneous action at a distance. (see Was Einstein Wrong?: A Quantum Threat to Special Relativity).  So experiments prove both instantaneous action at a distance and space-time bending….

Surely, this also is a definition of supernatural?

“My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.” – JBS Haldane

…although a better version, attributed to Edington goes,

Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.”

Good Merit

Nichiren, in his explanatory letter to the grandmother of Jibu-bo Nichii, follows the passage above with a quote from the Lotus Sutra saying,

Therefore, it is said in the third volume of the Lotus Sutra, “We beg that the merit gained through these gifts may be spread far and wide to everyone, so that we and other living beings all together may attain the Buddha way.”

This is also similar to a further sentence which I say twice every day,

But those who practise meritorious ways, who are gentle, peaceful, honest and upright, all of them will see me here in person, preaching the Law.  At times for this multitude I describe the Buddha’s life span as immeasurable…

When Patch first spoke about WW1 he said, “For eighty years I’ve never watched a war film, I never spoke of it, not to my wife. For six years, I’ve been here [in the nursing home]. Six years it’s been nothing but World War One. As I say, World War One is history, it isn’t news. Forget it.

He obviously hated everything about WW1.   But for his last 11 years, after living a life of gentle merit, he finally spoke and told his tale. Like the Venerable Maudgalyayana who changed his karma, bathed in the ‘queerness’ of the universe,  Patch changed his by finally telling his story after sowing the seeds so long ago.  He’s made sure people don’t forget it.  The Star Trek episode “All Good Things…” touched on this also.  Where the past meets the present, which meets the future.

when you are happy, you should remember that your happiness in this life is nothing but a dream within a dream

when you are happy, you should remember that your happiness in this life is nothing but a dream within a dream

It’s as if there is a common strand of semi-known knowledge across all of humanity that just needs to be awakened.

  • Sometimes it’s story-tellers,
  • Sometimes it’s traumatised soldiers,
  • Sometimes it’s scientists searching for truth…?

We all know it, we all know how to behave.  But we forget.

A Dream within a Dream

I suppose that all sentient beings are questing for “truth”.

  • Sometimes we need some proof, like the scientist.
  • Sometimes we need emotional trauma, like Harry Patch.
  • Sometimes though, the truth is self-evident, and is a belief, derived from universal truths beyond time and space, elucidated by an enlightened one and transmitted as a belief system and a way of life.

This later one we call Buddhism.

As Nichiren said, a dream within a dream….  the proof for this truth lies within the words and actions of ordinary people searching for this truth….

When the world makes you feel downcast, you should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, remembering that, although the sufferings of this life are painful, those in the next life could be much worse. And when you are happy, you should remember that your happiness in this life is nothing but a dream within a dream, and that the only true happiness is that found in the pure land of Eagle Peak, and with that thought in mind, chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. – The Fourteen Slanders, WND, p760

The inter-connectness of all things is how The Buddha described it.  His last words have various translations into English, but they all convey the same meaning that the universe is transient and an exhortation  to do one’s best!

e.g.

  1. “Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!” – link
  2. “All created things are impermanent. Strive on with diligence.” – link
  3. “Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation. Do your best.” – link
  4. “Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.” – link

  • See Harry Patch’s death today in my previous post here.

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Clueless? Home Office Subverts Language

Computer Shopper Interview with Home Office

Dawinderpal Sahota at ‘Computer Shopper’ magazine, part of the Dennis Publishing organisation, has published a fascinating interview that the magazine had with a UK Home Office rep on the subject of the government’s policy towards tackling child abuse websites.

  • ‘Computer Shopper’ gave all questions in advance so that the Home Office had plenty of time to get coherent answers.
  • The full text of the Q&A interview that followed is here.  Home Office clueless: The transcript

ObsceneWhat is clear from reading it is that either our Home Office is completely clueless about rules and responsibilities, or, they feel so secure that on this subject (child porn and censorship), they can send the office tea-boy to the interview with a set of answers cobbled together in the pub over a lunch-time drinking session.

A salient comment on it all from a person who chose to remain anonymous is here.  It’s a very good analysis on the current law as it stands, compared to what people, inc HM Gov, think it means.  The two are not the same.

There’s a general, pervading sense, because it’s said so often, that child pornography is the same as child abuse. This is patently not so because even though photoshopping a child’s head onto a naked person’s body counts as child porn – it’s certainly not child abuse…!!

War on Terror

In a similar way, the huge hysteria generated by Jacqui Smith and her push on ‘terror’ as she seeks to deflect the ballooning and damaging sleaze and corrupt expense claims scandal away from herself has it’s own set of language subversions…

In today’s big news push (which I first mentioned a few days back), the BBC, for instance, has three news articles all about the same thing;

Reading these, my heart palpably beats faster and I feel so insecure. – angry actually (SP)

But it’s crap.   The even righter wing Tories are now calling for …

more action against extremists!

So you see, in one instant, the whole focus is shifting and becoming ever wider.  Now, they make us think that a terrorist is the same as an extremist…???

Let’s make one thing clear; extremist views are not illegal.  They are only called ‘extreme‘ because they differ from the norm.  Having extremist views can be seen as showing some disrespect for another being, but by the same token, anyone fighting against an unjust police state with draconian laws and powers of imprisonment, a government that’s disregarded the UN Declaration of Human Rights – anyone like that would be called an extremist by that government.

China is like that.  So is the UK.

So an extremist isn’t the same as a terrorist – and yet they seek to make it so!

Another word being subverted to the ‘terrorist’ cause is radical, or radicalised.  In the same articles above, we are urged to be on our guard against them….???

Er… Einstein’s ideas on relativity and the Photoelectric effect in 1903 were radical. Max Plank’s quantum theory was radical.  But they’re not terrorist!

Conclusion

The UK Government and Home Office isn’t clueless.  Far from it.  They feel so confident in their power that they can say and do anything without reproach – from gibberish interviews to torture, illegal detention and fiddled expenses.  In an article in last Sunday’s Observer, PM Gordon Brown said;

But today, not only the police and security and intelligence officers, and our armed forces, but also the emergency services, local councils, businesses, and community groups are involved in state-of-the-art civil contingency planning. Tens of thousands of men and women throughout Britain – from security guards to store managers – have now been trained and equipped to deal with an incident and know what to watch for as people go about their daily business in crowded places such as stations, airports, shopping centres and sports grounds.

This is not just about training and equipping professionals, however. I believe that the better we inform the public, the more vigilant the public will be.

  • Q. What’s the difference between being vigilant and being a vigilante?
  • A.  The “E”

And so the climate of fear ramps up…  Brown says above that he believes that these measures are necessary.  This is wholly the wrong word.  Belief applies to religion and gods etc, not to freedom or security.

  • Security is a relative concept, not a belief.
  • Freedom is a right, not a belief.

I don’t believe I have a right to freedom, I fucking well know it mate!

And that’s what it means to be British.

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Haydn His Head

Who Needs Friends like Rosenbaum?

During my recent visit to Austria I picked up a little tit-bit from “The Rough Guide to Austria” about the composer Haydn who ‘lived‘ in the town of Eisenstadt where I was staying, for some years.  My sarcastic emphasis is because by all accounts, Haydn’s opinion of Eisenstadt and it’s folk  was at complete odds with his current estimation by the town.  Jillian Greenwood makes this point here.

Anyway, The Rough Guide off-handedly mentions that Haydn is in the squat church called the Bergkirche.  His mausoleum is round the back from the view in this picture.  This picture is from the church’s website as I forgot to take pictures when I was there mainly because there was a blizzard at the time.

Unlike the Rough Guide, I thought the church was quite cute looking like a large clay jumping spider about to pounce.

To continue, Hadyn’s glamourously carved resting place is not what it seems.  In the normal chain of events, most people die and either get cremated or buried – job done.  Hadyn, unfortunately, took 150 years for his head and body to be united after his death…

His ‘friend’, Rosenbaum, lopped of his decomposing head, then boiled off the flesh to analyse his skull for bumps (phrenology).  This was (and still is) a pseudo-science that people get sucked into, like crystal twirling etc.

Anyway, 120 years after Haydn’s death, the present mausoleum was made for his body, followed 22 years afterwards by his head!

Eisenstadt is proud of Haydn despite his own feelings towards the town.  They make a fair bit from the tourism.  There are seven organs dotted around the town that Haydn played and composed at, including one in the Bergkirche.  I don’t know which pieces were composed at which organ;  this information seems hard to come by.

This is probably the most well know piece by Haydn.  Surprised me too!

The tale of Haydn’s head has similarities with that of Einstein whose brain was removed for similar pseudo-scientific reasons, again, with a story ripe with controversy and intrigue.

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IT Conference and the Lotus Flower

Lotus Flower

Lotus Flower

I took this picture during an IT conference near Redditch a couple of weeks ago.  This has been cropped to show the true form of the Lotus Flower growing from the mud of a pond on a golf course.

The Lotus is symbolic in Nichiren’s Buddhism because it represents the simultaneity of cause and effect because it flowers and makes seed at the same time, and also, because it is seen as something beautiful emerging from a rank and muddy place – this means that anything and anyone can change, completely.

Einstein had trouble with simultaneity – hence the theory of relativity; however certain things are now known and measured in physics that come under the term Entanglement (part of quantum theory) – which could be said to be similar to the Nichiren Buddhist principle of Cause and Effect.

Personally, I think a universal description of “everything” is some way off but as long as we stick to Richard Feynman’s methods of testing and proofs for theories, the answer will come.  It just needs the right test.

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong” – Richard Feynman

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Nichiren and Einstein, words trancending time and space.

Who said what?

Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. What then does myo signify? It is simply the mysterious nature of our life from moment to moment, which the mind cannot comprehend or words express. When we look into our own mind at any moment, we perceive neither color nor form to verify that it exists. Yet we still cannot say it does not exist, for many differing thoughts continually occur. The mind cannot be considered either to exist or not to exist. Life is indeed an elusive reality that transcends both the words and concepts of existence and nonexistence. It is neither existence nor nonexistence, yet exhibits the qualities of both. It is the mystic entity of the Middle Way that is the ultimate reality.
I just want to explain what I mean when I say that we should try to hold on to physical reality.(…)For what is thought to be a “system” is after all, just conventional, and I do not see how one is supposed to divide up the world objectively so that one can make statements about parts. If you wish to free yourself from the sufferings of birth and death you have endured since time without beginning and to attain without fail unsurpassed enlightenment in this lifetime, you must perceive the mystic truth that is originally inherent in all living beings. This truth is Myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting Myoho-renge-kyo will therefore enable you to grasp the mystic truth innate in all life.
Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious. Though you may move among the most exalted company of court nobles, your hair done up elegantly like clouds and your sleeves fluttering like eddies of snow, such pleasures, when you stop to consider them, are no more than a dream within a dream.
Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here involuntarily and uninvited for a short stay, without knowing the whys and the wherefore. In our daily lives we only feel that man is here for the sake of others, for those whom we love and for many other beings whose fate is connected with our own. I am often worried at the thought that my life is based to such a large extent on the work of my fellow human beings and I am aware of my great indebtedness to them. I have believed it is most important to understand one’s obligations to others, and made it my first duty to repay such debts of kindness. In this world, we owe four debts of gratitude. One who understands this is worthy to be called human, while one who does not is no more than an animal.
My passion for social justice has often brought me into conflict with people, as did my aversion to any obligation and dependence I do not regard as absolutely necessary. I always have a high regard for the individual and have an insuperable distaste for violence and clubmanship.
All these motives made me into a passionate pacifist and anti-militarist. I am against any nationalism, even in the guise of mere patriotism. Privileges based on position and property have always seemed to me unjust and pernicious, as did any exaggerated personality cult.
Great individuals fight abuses of authority. The truly strong do not lord it over the weak. People of genuine strength and courage battle against the powerful and the arrogant, the authoritarian, the evil and corrupt-all who look down on the people with contempt.

Answer:
Einstein on the left, Nichiren on the right.

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