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Aum heem kreem voodoo vector!

Rohit Gupta | Updated on January 08, 2018 Published on September 01, 2017

Body language: Is that a new asana or are you just happy to see me?

The algebra of abracadabra, locality versus spooky action

Superstition can often be distinguished from science by a specific relationship between cause and effect. Magicians and gurus claim to possess forces that act non-locally; for instance, telepathy between two individuals without the contact of spoken language, or murdering an enemy by puncturing his likeness in a doll with a needle. Evil tantrics threaten to burn the unbeliever with a mere look of their eyes, incinerating ( bhasma) the person on whom they cast their solar gaze.

The idea that light rays emerge from the human eye and fall upon the world outside — the theory of extramission or emission — was widely believed in the ancient world. Around 500 BC, Empedocles attributed this lighthouse-like vision to Aphrodite, who “lit the fire in the eye which shone out”. One can see echoes of this in the Mahabharata too; the blindfolded queen Gandhari opens her eyes once, to irradiate her son’s body, making his flesh as strong as iron.

This mythical light emerging from the human eye could act at a distance, and exert pharaonic power over distant matter. Even as early as 300 BC, it was easy to see the problem with this theory. If light emanated from the eyes, objects in the dark should appear brighter and brighter with more people around it.

In modern physics, forces act locally upon contact, such as two billiard balls colliding, or billions of atoms ricocheting inside a gas. Newtonian gravity was a non-local force, acting across the vastness of space without any aid. The sun held the planets together by its very gaze, like the tantric or the queen above, by some sort of black magic. This unholy marriage of science with alchemy remained, until gravity was recast by Einstein into a ripple that traverses the fabric of space-time, as local as a wave crashing upon an infinite beach.

George Musser writes in Spooky Action at a Distance (2015): “Until atoms bang together, they glide through space in straight lines, oblivious to one another’s presence. This is an early version of the principle of local action, which Einstein formalised in his theory of relativity. It lets you explain any event as the outcome of earlier events.”

It isn’t always easy to separate science from superstition; the centuries-long war between locality and non-locality continues to this day. The phenomena of quantum entanglement, where two photons separated by galaxies seem to “communicate” instantly, is a form of non-locality that unnerves the entire edifice of modern physics.

In other words, locality is the key to preserving a sequence of events — a history of the universe, the arrow of cosmic time. Without locality, the past, present and future would merge into one coplanar entity, and there would be no possibility of a science such as physics. This is also when mythology becomes a non-local substitute for history, and inhabits the present as if nothing has ever changed.

In his book Sinister Yogis, David Gordon White writes that “In the Brahmanas and Upanisads, the inner selves of individuals are portrayed as tiny points of light, with each linked, at birth and at death, to a ray of the sun.” In such a universe, White adds, “...the phenomenal world with its multitude of creatures is transformed into a network of diminutive suns (embodied selves), linked to one another through their individual rays of perception, all linked to the great sun in the sky through its infinite rays.”

This universe above is completely entangled with itself, atoms reflect suns within them, and non-locality is not the exception but the law. Even the wild deliberations of godmen hide within them a shadow of non-local paradoxes. If you have the power to affect objects from a distance, the act of sex is unnecessary to penetrate a woman — it can be done through telekinesis. If you have, through yoga and abstinence, become extended in antariksha — “coterminus with the limits of the universe” (non-local) — why engage in the acquisition of earthly wealth (locality)?

A shadow of extramission remains with us in the form of 20th-century cinema, where the projector emits a series of images on the dark screen through an eye-like aperture. It is worth noting that inside a theatre, no one sees the same film simultaneously. The geometry of the hall skews the image for everyone a little bit — even if you sit in someone’s lap. A deranged tantric guru of the future could certainly claim that the entire universe is like a cinema hall, where the projector is inside the mind, and the movie is a higher-dimensional hologram whose actors and the audience are the same (but do not know this); that what feels like physical matter and gravity is indeed merely a projection of the reel.

Believe them, but don’t pay for the ticket.

Rohit Gupta explores the history of science as Compasswallah; @fadesingh

Published on September 01, 2017
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