So I'm recently engaging with some advaita philosophy via youtube (my attempt of self education). It seems to me that the laws of physics would also be considered "all pervading." My question is does this philosophy have something specific to say about the initial conditions of the universe? In light of ideas such as:

Initial conditions and laws of physics

The (known) laws of physics can be formulated in such a way that one say: "initial condition" + "laws of physics" gives us a "final solution." I am thinking of something along the lines of an initial value problem (if the law is a partial differential equation) or Born rule (where the "final solution" is not unique). Along lines of argument in philosophy which argues for the removal of the distinction between the "initial condition" and the "laws of physics." An argument effectively doing this by saying the space (Venn diagram) of initial values is a point. If any other other values are inserted then the law breaks down (we get an unacceptable solution for example: divergent solutions)

Why this could possibly make sense (in physics)?



  • Are you analogizing laws of physics to the "all-pervading" Atman (this conception is not specific to advaita, it is shared by most Hinduist philosophies), to the effect that they should determine the initial conditions uniquely? Or, at least, narrow down which ones are allowed (it is pointless to make them unique in the presence of the Born rule as a law).
    – Conifold
    Nov 25, 2019 at 10:27
  • @Conifold Yes, I am. I am curious how the "advaita philosophy" handles this question in specific. I am uncertain how they: "to the effect that they should determine the initial conditions (non-)uniquely." About the Born Rule one could possibly use the many-worlds interpretation (which I dislike) and make claims the definition what constitutes of the "universe." Nov 25, 2019 at 10:35
  • @Conifold On a sidenote apparently the quantum measurement is not time assymmetric !?? journals.aps.org/pr/abstract/10.1103/PhysRev.134.B1410 (Don't have access to this paper) :/ Nov 26, 2019 at 2:52
  • to add to your confusion, according to advaita, the universe goes through 'kalpas' or cycles. Like a pulse or a breathing in and out. What you are describing as 'initial' is the transition from a period of rest, to a new 'projection'. The 'pulsations' have been going on eternally; there was no 'creation' in the sense of something coming out of nothing. Nov 26, 2019 at 4:34
  • @SwamiVishwananda "there was no 'creation' in the sense of something coming out of nothing" - is bad popularisation of physics. We do not have a theory of physics that takes us there yet (only speculation by some). The best mainstream theory (which does not take you back to the point of creation/singularity/initial conditions) is inflation. You might be interested in a non-mainstream theory by Penrose: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conformal_cyclic_cosmology ? Nov 26, 2019 at 5:14

1 Answer 1


My question is does this philosophy have something specific to say about the initial conditions of the universe?

It certainly does. The Father, First or Source would be self-generated and constituted as or by its own Knowledge. This is what the mystics mean when they say Knowing is fundamental. In the Gnostic explanation the First has three powers that are intrinsic. These powers are projected to form the Divine Intellect, which is constituted by the contemplation of its source. All else would follow.

I think you'll find that this explanation does away with the distinction between initial conditions and laws of physics in the way you suggest. By reduction the laws become expressions of what is, not separate from their source.

I have not seen a detailed explanation in the advaita literature but the Nag Hammadi Library has the text of the Zostrianos which gives an astonishingly detailed description. It explains that the projection of the Intellect and subsequent symmetry-breaking that leads to the emergence of form from formlessness is not the creation of more 'things' but an error of perception and a forgetfulness of our Origin.

There would not be two things. The First would encompass All just as Plotinus describes. The initial condition of the world would always be its underlying state such that nothing really exists or really happens and this would be the reason why we are able to know our Origin. But it can only be known as what it is so can only be verified or known by 'becoming'.

The laws of physics would be intellectual laws and this would be why they make sense to our intellect and are mathematically and logically sound. These laws, Lao Tsu tells us, would be as they are 'Tao being what it is'. Thus from the initial condition follows all the rest. For the mystic the world is Euclidean and so is its correct explanation.

The initial condition for physics is explained also by George Spencer Brown in his Laws of Form where he describes the emergence of form from formlessness. There are many other descriptions but the description in the Zostrianos is the best I've ever seen.

Have you checked out the advaita teacher Wei Wu Wei? He became a friend of Spencer Brown. I seem to remember he has some things to say about this and is always worth reading anyway. A follower of his is Ramesh Balsekar whose book The Ultimate Understanding you may also find useful.

They are, of course, describing the indescribable so we cannot expect to make much sense of all this without actually getting our hands dirty and indulging in the practices of advaita and self-enquiry. It would not be necessary to attain complete enlightenment to make some sense of it, but we would probably need to get our feet wet.

EDIT: Just noticed I didn't talk about 'all-pervading'. The initial condition would be all-pervading because nothing else would be truly or independently real. Space-time would be conceptual. In my speculations this would explain the weirdness of QM and in particular 'non-locality', which would be better called 'locality' because there would not be two places or two times.

  • I like how the definition of locality is left out :P for a debate between the physics pros see: math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=11056&cpage=1 . Nov 25, 2019 at 13:16
  • @MoreAnonymous - Thanks! A well-informed and fascinating discussion. I found it a tad naive philosophically but excellent for the way it reveals all the complications. ,
    – user20253
    Nov 26, 2019 at 13:20

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