INTRODUCTION TO P.R. SARKAR’S CONCEPT OF MICROVITA
INTRODUCTION TO P.R. SARKAR’S CONCEPT OF MICROVITA
By Dr. Hans-Joachim Rudolph, Microvita Research e.V.
The article deals with the various theories and perspectives on the concept of space, including René Descartes’ understanding of space as a category, modern physicists’ view of space as a relative and derived medium, and the latest concepts of subatomic vacuum fluctuations. It’s also about mental spaces and a computer model that explains the generation of consciousness in interconnected systems (Integrated Information Theory, IIT). Subsequently, I explore the history of panpsychism, including its association with the idea of an imaginary space in the 16th and 17th century and its continued relevance in the work of the contemporary Indian philosopher Shri Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar. The article concludes by discussing the special role of Microvita in the relationship between subjective and objective spaces.
Before introducing P.R. Sarkar’s concept of Microvita, I should first give a survey about what we understand by vacuum and space.
Space has been discussed since times immemorial, but let me start with René Descartes, who understood space as a category: Because, as a philosophical realist, he was able to see categories as something existing in the objective world. In our times, however, we think that categories exist only in our human minds, because we have forgotten the position of philosophical realists, who took it as granted that these universals exist in reality, beyond mere thought and speech.
Now, later, Newton denied that space is a category, rather he took space as an object, which he called ‘the void’, to which he assigned a mathematical structure, namely that of Euclidean space. Even later, Einstein denied the Euclidean structure of space and showed that space can be deformed by masses contained therein. In fact, it can be deformed dramatically, so that its homogenity and linearity is lost and curvatures result, which are now known as the invisible structure of space- time.
Even later, Georges Lemaitre, a Belgium priest and physicist, demonstrated to the scientific community that space is neither eternal, nor absolute, but must have started a long time ago; and indeed, it was found that space started about 13.8 billion years ago, from a tiny area of quantum fluctuations, filled with an enormous amount of energy. And in that small volume, the energy was at such a high density, temperature and pressure, that its volume expanded rapidly in a phase of inflation, so that after quite a short time the universe reached a volume close to its present size.
Now, these vacuum fluctuations, which were the starting point of our universe, they existed not only at the beginning, rather they exist even today – but now, they are found only at the subatomic level. In this animation https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Quantum_Fluctuations.gif we can see how virtual particles are supposed to pop up from and disappear again into nothingness.
And if we could go to higher magnifications, towards the range of plank length, we would see that even ‘space particles’ are constantly popping up from and going back to so-called nothingness.
Next topic is mental space. What is mental space?
Usually we think of mental space as something existing only in the mind of humans. And we think that mental space is created by our brains, by the white and gray matter of our brains. So when we see an object in the external world, this object will be reflected in our mind, in our mental space. And for such reflections, there is a computer model, which simulates the same. It’s a very simple model. It consists only of two entries and two exits. The entries signify the sensory organs (only two) and the exits, signify the motor organs, and in-between, there are only four nodes which are able to interconnect among each other, but which are also able to produce signals on their own. And in the beginning, the interactions within this network are, of course, really chaotic.
But after about 30,000 cycles, there will be the formation of a pattern and as soon as such a pattern stabilizes, the model predicts that this is a sign of the emergence of consciousness. And the emergence of these patterns can be measured by a phi-value, which is a metric for effective group collaboration. So this model is not only applicable to brains, not only applicable to nervous systems, but also to other networks, networks like groups of people or networks of computers or other living beings like plants or even fungi, interacting among each other. And because of its generality, Integrated Information Theory (ITT) has lots of applications. However, it’s not able to explain any subjective experience. It is able to explain the reflection of external objects in the internal world, in mental space, but it cannot explain the subjective feeling, the impression of smelling a flower, the experience of seeing a red rose, or the feeling of being something, like a bat (Thomas Nagel) or something else. In philosophy, these subjective experiences are called qualia, as opposed to the properties of the external, the objective world.
As I said, IIT has lots of applications, and it’s not limited to humans as it tries to explain the emergence of consciousness; and as it is so general, it has been linked to panpsychism, which advocates the idea of consciousness being everywhere, throughout the whole universe. But of course, IIT can only apply its algorithms, if there are re-entry mechanisms. It works on the basis of re-entries.
So what is panpsychism? Panpsychism holds that mental activity is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of the whole universe and that all entities, including inanimate objects, possess some form of consciousness or mind. In the beginning of modern times, in the 14th, 15th and 16th century, there were quite a number of philosophers, who used imaginary space as a means to enable panpsychism. They used imaginary space under various aspects and with various emphasis and importance (1). In the West, the last proponent of this tradition was the German polymath G.W. Leibniz. He was a contemporary of Newton and in opposition to him, he advocated panpsychism, believing that the universe is made up of an infinite number of simple substances, which he called monads – with each monad being made of one metaphysical point (not a physical, but a metaphysical point), surrounded by an imaginary sphere (not a physical sphere). And this metaphysical point was supposed to project its perceptions and wants (conatus) onto this imaginary sphere. After Leibniz, the idea of Panpsychism lost its importance in the West, whereas it remained relevant in India. In the East, throughout these centuries, Panpsychism continued to be accepted in society, particularly in India. And one of the important proponents of modern panpsychism was Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, who also held that the universe is filled with consciousness, and that consciousness is present in dormant form even in inanimate objects. In this general form, however, it doesn’t have any relevance for scientists.
So he wrote this booklet for the scientists: “Microvitum in a Nutshell“ (2), so that they may reintegrate panpsychism into our modern science. I cannot summarize it here in this short introduction, but I can show you the conclusion. At the end of his booklet, he presents a table, i.e. his ‘Four Chamber Model‘. It consists of two rows and two lines. The rows denote for subjective and objective – these opposites have already been discussed – it’s about qualia on the subjective and quiddities on the objective side. But what does is meant by the lines, denoted as ‘complemented’ and ‘reduced’.
For this, it is helpful to consider Aristotle’s distinction between potentiality and actuality.
In fact, these terms are used in probability theory, where there are spaces of probabilities and spaces of actualities. So, in the case of dice, out of six (in the space of possibilities), only one appears in the space of actualities. And, of course, the probability by which this occurs is one to six. Applying this to the ‘Four Chamber Model’, we see that the complemented states are the possible and the reduced ones are the actual states. And we can distinguish subjective and objective possibilities as well as subjective and objective actualities.
Regarding microvita, I would summarize that space is supposed to be equipped not only with objective, but also with subjective dimensions. And that there are entities (Microvita), which allow for interactions between its subjective actualities and objective possibilities. Of course, there are interactions also between the other chambers, but those between the subjective actualities and the objective possibilities are of the main importance.
Now, to give an example for the emergence of consciousness, we need self-references. And the simplest case of self-reference is depicted in this small formula, where +1 multiplied by +i gives +i and +i multiplied by -i gives +1, completing a circle, which can be repeated again and again.
Putting it into words, we can say that the quiddity (the essence of some objective existence) is perceived as a quale and in return this quale is projected onto its existence. Consequently, this circle can become a feedback loop, which will produce some rudimentary form of self-awareness.
In the next step, we have four positions: +1 becomes +i, +i becomes -1, -1 becomes -i and -i becomes +1. Note that here, we always use the same operator, which is +i, the multiplying factor.
So we may ask, what is the importance of this? Does it have any relevance? Does it have anything to do with our lives and how does it feel?
Well, we are talking about space, but how space feels? Does it feel? Yes, it feels. Because we feel space when we breathe. When we breathe in, we feel an expansion and when we breathe out, we feel a contraction. So with closed eyes, we can breathe in, and we feel the expansion and when we breathe out, we feel the contraction. And in numbers this is represented by the same cycle. Inhalation is objective, exhalation is also objective, but the experience of inhalation and exhalation is subjective and so, this goes in the same circle.
Consequently, we can say that qualia and quiddities do matter, because qualia are our subjective experiences and quiddities are the essential, objective properties.
But, does it make sense to highlight this difference? Yes, it makes sense, because it’s the foundation of what we call consciousness.
Also, it’s an example of how small differences can become significant after repetitions, after many re-entries. This phenomenon is called the butterfly effect, a term that was coined in 1972, and even earlier Marcel Duchamp, an artist who was very much interested in scientific achievements, had coined the term infra-mince, which denotes the same: Very small differences can have huge effects, especially in transitions from subjective to objective and return.
Yes, these differences are important for microvita, and they are of a particular relevance in the study of contingency. So whenever we see something which is supposed to happen randomly or by chance, we can consider that in fact it might have happened due to microvita. Because microvita embody something, which is usually left out completely, that is, teleodynamics; which means that final causes can occur, although they are usually excluded from scientific considerations. Scientific considerations are usually focused on material and effective causes, whereas final causes are excluded. But microvita allow their reintegration into scientific discussions.
So these ideas have been laid out in one of our articles, which was published a year ago in an Indian paper (3). We also had quite a number of conferences and seminars in the last two decades and we released two books on the same topics (4) (5). Additionally, there are two books, which I would like to recommend. One is “Much Ado About Nothing” by Edward Grant (6), and the other is “Panpsychism in the West” by David Skrbina (7). And there are two articles, which I can recommend; they can be found in the Internet, one is “Is Matter Conscious?” (8) and the other is “Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness” by Valia Allori (9), where she also tries to solve the hard problem of consciousness along the lines of Panpsychism.
(1) Hans-Joachim Rudolph: Microvita in the context of European philosophy Part I. Prout Now (March 2, 2022)
(2) Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar: Microvitum in a Nutshell. Ananda Marga Publications, Kolkata (1991)
(3) Hans-Joachim Rudolph & Vimalananda Avadhuta: Space, Time and Contingency. Press Network of India (Dec 28 2021)
(4) Hans-Joachim Rudolph: From Imaginary Oxymora to Real Polarities and Return. Authorhouse, Bloomington (2012)
(5) Hans-Joachim Rudolph: Microvita – A New Science of Reality. Authorhouse, Bloomington (2017)
(6) Edward Grant: Much About Nothing. Cambridge University Press (1981)
(7) David Skrbina: Panpsychism in the West. MIT Press, Cambridge/Massachusetts (2017)