The emptiness of mind is not a state of mind; it is our original mind that includes everything within itself….the nature of mind is the unity of awareness and emptiness.

—Suzuki Roshi


 Relativity: the dreams that stuff is made of. Einstein, Minkowski, Lorentz and Poincaré developed what was published by Einstein in 1905 as “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” and became known as the Theory of Special Relativity whose postulates unified our four fundamental realities—space, time, matter, energy—in a left-brain, exoteric philosophical-scientific model. This radical Principle of Relativity—this “affront to common sense” (London Times)—established a new paradigm in science and philosophy that transcended, yet included the previous Galilean-Newtonian scientific paradigm.

Einstein accepted Minkowski’s four dimensional spacetime continuum, three dimensions or co-ordinates of space, and the temporal dimension of time. Einstein preferred  “Theory of Invariants” for the new principle because the second of the two basic postulates of Special Relativity asserts that the spacetime separation of two “spacelike” events connected by a light signal is the same, i.e. is invariant (absolute) in all inertial reference frames.

The motion or speed of light (c) is constant, invariant, always the same when measured in relative motion. There is no reference frame or system in which light is at rest. Light-energy is motion (constant change). The speed of light cannot be relative; it is absolute in all sensory-perceptual frames of reference. And this postulate is derived from Einstein’s first

postulate, the fundamental principle of relativity, that the laws of physics—the laws of mechanics and the laws of electromagnetism—must be the same for any observer in any reference frame anywhere in the physical cosmos. The laws of physics—the laws of nature—are the same in all inertial reference systems. No observer’s reference frame is privileged or “special,” not even ours on the earth.

We can do the same mathematics and physics anywhere in the physical cosmos. This postulate generalizes the Galilean-Newtonian relativity principle to include Maxwell’s laws of electromagnetism (but not gravity), beyond Newton’s laws of mechanics. And this resulted in the constancy of the velocity of light (c). Later, in 1915 Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity would generalize Special Relativity to include not just inertial systems but accelerated reference systems, and thereby define a new post-Newtonian theory of  gravity.

The Two Truths: our noetic wisdom knowledge doublet. “Form is empty, emptiness is form” (Shakyamuni Buddha). According to our noetic nondual (non-conceptual; no essential subject/object separation) pre-modern wisdom traditions—e.g. Madhyamaka Prasangika/Dzogchen, Essence Mahamudra, Saijojo Zen, Advaita Vedanta—the fundamental nature of kosmos (ultimate reality) and cosmos (physical reality arising therein) is “empty of attributes”, changeless and absolute. And the spacetime mental and physical phenomenal particulars arising and filling the world with light-form arise in and necessairly participate in that great unbroken whole (mahabindu, dharmakaya, emptiness, Tao, Nirguna Brahman). Thus do we have absolute or ultimate mind (Suzuki Roshi’s “Big Mind”), our primordial source-ground (by whatever name), and the objects of relative mind (“Small Mind”) arising therein. These two faces of nondual, ultimately subjective reality itself are the “Two Truths”—relative phenomena, and its ultimate ground—that are unified in the great prior trans-conceptual one truth that is invariant through all our cognitive reference frames—objective and subjective; exoteric, esoteric and nondual; conceptual and  contemplative; theistic and non-theistic.”The unity of the Two Truths is primordial Buddha” (Longchenpa).

Thus, Special Relativity has demonstrated in a left-brain conceptual,  verbal-analytic modality (relative truth) our subtler primordial wisdom truth of the Buddhist Madhyamaka Prasangika view that the inherent nature of all arising relative-conventional phenomena is the numinous luminous light energy arising and descending as spacetime mattter/form via E=mc². Let us then further explore this radical kosmic relationship.

Ontological relativity. Human cognitive frames of reference are perceptually,  conceptually and even contemplatively fabricated relative spacetime constructions of the consciousness—the cognition—of the perceiving subject, a thinking conceptual mind, or even a trans-rational, trans-egoic contemplative mind, and do not exist a priori in nature, apart from the relative operations of a relative mind. Yet such relative minds are spacetime instantiations of the unbounded whole itself. Kant understood this a hundred years before Einstein arose.

Therefore, it is through such operations of mind that we reify, designate and construct our local, relative-conventional spacetime reality. This view, that what we think (or don’t think) is what we get; that our realities are fabricated through our deep cultural background linguistic, semiotic cultural “web of belief” (Quine) is known as ontological relativity.

In the West, ontology—”what there is”—is based in this culturally given concept/belief system that is the modernist prevailing metaphysic of Scientific Materialism, that totemic “idol of the tribe” (F. Bacon) that insists on an independently existing, separate “real world out there” (RWOT), whether or not there is anyone in the quad, or in the forest, to observe it.

Of that great unbounded whole in whom appearing reality arises, there exists sentient beings whose perception or consciousness of systems of reference regarding the energy-motion of objects arising in the spacetime of that reality, are relative to the motion or velocity of light (c), which is absolute or invariant, the same for all observers, the light source, and of direction, position, and time.

Indeed, light disregards the (Lorentz) transformation laws of classical mechanics altogether. Paradoxically, the reference system of “the observer” (believer) is not privileged. That is, all reference frames are equally privileged. The privileged reference frame of Maxwell’s “luminiferous ether” is denied. Temporal relations are not absolute. Time is relative. Newton’s absolute, one directional time is refuted. Objective linear causality is  kaput!

The end of time. In Special Relativity the asymmetry of time, the forward flow of time—Eddington’s  thermodynamic “arrow of time”—is illusory. Thus Boltzmann’s temporal  time symmetry obtains at the microscopic level and the laws of mechanics do not preclude the arrow of time from moving in either direction! The Second Law of Thermodynamics is not deterministic, but probabilistic (Boltzmann’s S = k . log W). There is nothing that causes entropy to increase. Here entropy may increase or decrease. Time is dependent upon a particular reference frame, it has no independent existence. Time has no essential independent or absolute reality, but is merely a conventionally reified interdependent array of prior causes and conditions arising from a numinous, infinitely vast nondual “causal nexus”.

 For Einstein time exists only relatively, by intersubjective convention and conceptual designation. Past, present and future are absent any absolute or intrinsic reality. Events that occur simultaneously at separate locations in one frame of reference, will not be simultaneous in all frames of reference. Simultaneity is relative. Two observers in relative motion to one another see the others’ clock “run slow” with no contradiction. And all of this is relative to the subjective absolute in which arises objective light-energy-motion whose velocity in the quantum vacuum is absolute, a universal constant. On the accord of Einstein, “Time is an illusion, but a persistent one”.

As we have seen, this ultimately subjective source of objective light-energy-mass of the E=mc2 equation, by whatever name is, ipso facto beyond physics—metaphysics—and is therefore not objectively knowable to a conceptual mind. Yet this matrix source may be recognized, then subjectively realized by a trained yogic contemplative consciousness (pratyaksa, samadhi, kensho/satori, moksha: Wallace 2007, Begley 2007).

For Special Relativity some of the relations which deterministic Galilean-Newtonian mechanics had held to be invariant or absolute—spatial distance, time, mass—have been relativized. But two  critical Newtonian relations, the velocity of light and the universality of the laws of physics have been “absolutized.” So it is a mistake to assert that Special Relativity claims everything to be relative. What is relative is the spacetime arising appearances to a perceiving consciousness. What may appear to an observer relative to the reference frame of the earth as twenty-five years, may appear to an observer moving at near the speed of light as one year (the “twins paradox”). Appearing phenomena are dependent on the state of motion of the observer, and are relative to that reference frame. No conscious observer, no phenomena. No consciousness, no arising appearing reality.

General Relativity, the zen of spacetime. Special Relativity (1905) is “special” because it applies only for inertial systems in which gravitational forces (acceleration) are not present, that is, systems that move in uniform, not accelerated motion relative to one another.

With David Hilbert nipping at his heels, this “force” of gravity was included by Einstein in his Theory of General Relativity (1915), and applies to all observers, whether in uniform inertial motion, or accelerated motion. The General Theory— with Newton’s Principia Mathematica, perhaps the greatest individual intellectual accomplishment in human history—is a speculative theory of gravity, a geometric generalization of Special Relativity that includes Galileo’s and Newton’s classical theory as a limiting case. Einstein’s Principle of Equivalence, the essence of General Relativity, subsumed accelerated motion under gravitation making gravity not a “force” acting at a distance as Newton would have it, but a local result of gravity in curved spacetime. Spacetime is curved by local matter and energy; Newton’s gravity “force” became the curvature of spacetime. Both of Einstein’s relativity theories are classical theories in that they are incompatible with the post-classical Uncertainty Principle of the Quantum Theory.

Both relativity theories assert a classical realist “locality,” that no electromagnetic signal can propagate faster than the velocity of light. Neither relativity theory addresses the problem of non-locality—quantum entanglement—Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance,” the instantaneous, superluminal propagation of light waves, and of gravity waves.

 Indeed, no classical theory can, by definition, explain the mysterious nonlocal, superluminal connectedness (quantum entanglement) of quantum reality. (Classical Galilean, Newtonian and Einsteinian relativity limit particle interactions to the speed of light). Definitive theorems and experiments by John Bell, Alain Aspect and many others have confirmed this paradoxical, “spooky”, non-local, non-causal nature of hitherto “objective” appearing reality.

A most amazing paradox. So, the velocity of an object in motion can be determined only relative to the consciousness of an observer. A person running down the aisle of a train appears, from outside the train, to be moving at the speed of the train, plus 10 mph. This is known as a classical (Lorentz) transformation. Again, Einstein assumed that the speed of light

(c) moving between the two reference frames was constant, i.e. the same for observers in both frames. Therefore, an observer in each reference frame will perceive the motion differently. Both observers are correct! There can be no privileged reference frame which is really correct.

Again, time is not absolute, but relative. Again, simultaneity is relative. Time interval between two events is relative to the motion of an observer. This notion leads to the paradoxical result of time dilation. We have seen in the “twins paradox” that a space traveler moving at near the velocity of light (c) would be away for many earth years, yet only a few months will have passed in the reference frame of the space traveler. Synchronized clocks of any two observers in different reference frames will read differently.”Moving clocks run slow.” Clocks moving at the speed of light stop. Note: a moving clock does not run slower or stop compared to the clock of an observer at rest. A third clock must be used. Moreover, moving clocks do not really run slow. Remember, we cannot ask, “which reference frame is really correct. No reference frame is privileged; not even yours and  mine.

E=mc2  and ontological relativity.  Another result of Special Relativity is that the mass of a body in motion increases with its velocity until, at the velocity of light, its mass becomes infinite, a fabulous result, to be sure. As we have seen above, Einstein later developed this hypothesis into his famous E=mc2 , that the mass of a body is a measure of its energy content. Just so, space and time are not separate entities, but constitute the geometric continuum of spacetime. This paradigm shift creates an entirely different conception of mass than that produced by the classical “web of belief” paradigm of Galileo and Newton. Thus, this famous equation, E=mc2, was actually a footnote to Special Relativity, developed by Einstein between 1905 and 1907 when he published it.

The first of what Einstein termed the two “balance principles” of classical, Galilean/Leibnizian/Newtonian relativity is the principle of the conservation of energy, which states that arising primordial energy (jnana prana) cannot be created nor destroyed, only changed in form. For example, combustion converts stored chemical energy into thermal energy which may in turn be converted to kinetic energy to run a generator which produces the electrical energy that lights our homes. Throughout the conversions, energy is conserved, that is to say, neither created nor destroyed.

The second “balance principle” is the principle of the conservation of mass. Classical physicists extended the first of these principles to include not only mechanical energy, but also to thermal, chemical and electromagnetic energy, that is, to all physical fields. Energy is conserved through all possible changes. But what precisely is energy? What is the ontological status of this unity that is mass-energy? Nobody seems to know. Heisenberg, Bohr, Dirac, Stapp and Feynman suggest a nominalist view—that energy is not a local physical spacetime existing objective reality, but is merely a reified, stochastic mathematical conceptual abstraction, empty of an independently real inherent existence. This is of course, the ontological relativity and ontological interdependence (pratitya samutpada) of the Buddhist Middle Way Madhyamaka Prasangika view. Mass-energy arises within the relative-conventional, intersubjective  matrix of our causal conceptual “web of belief” (Quine) which determines our lifeworld reality.

Ontology—what there is—is cognitively relative to these non-objective assumptions of our deep cultural background conceptual and belief systems. And this is ontological  relativity.

Regarding this second principle, mass appeared to classical theorists to be the essential, invariant or absolute quality of matter. The classical mind reifies absolute entities and does not discern quantum event moments (vasana, qubits) arising from the process of reciprocal cognitive coupling of observer and that observed. But this view did not hold up to Special Relativity and was therefore transcended yet included in the principle of the conservation of energy which had, as Einstein put it, “previously swallowed up” the other energy fields.

Primordial light energy arising from its utterly ineffable source is always conserved. So now mass/matter are equivalent as mass-energy. Mass is solidified energy; energy is liberated matter.

Newton’s Foundation. The great classical mind of Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727) anticipated this truth of the equivalency of mass and energy in his Optiks when he asked, “Are not gross bodies and light convertible into one another.” The young Scots prodigy and later prodigious genius, David Hume referred to Newton, this greatest of all intellects as “the greatest and rarest that ever arose for the ornament and instruction of the species.” Even the poets loved Newton. Alexander Pope’s memorable epitaph for Newton: “Knowledge and nature’s laws lay hid in night. Then God said, ‘Let Newton Be,’ and all was light.” The great contemplative omniscient minds of the Buddhas and Mahasiddhas notwithstanding, only the astonishing syncretic genius of Aristotle, or of Al-biruni, or of Leibnitz compare.

By 1666, Newton, at the tender age of 24 had accomplished: 1) his explanation of G, the theory of gravity, 2) his three laws of motion, 3) his infinitesimal calculus, which later got us to the moon, and 4) his theory of optics, which explained the very physical nature of  light.

Without Newton’s calculus we would have to muddle through without jet planes, spaceflight, skyscrapers, Accuweather, MRI, nuclear bombs and financial derivatives. But then we have the calculus invented by the great Leibnitz, in the same year, to fall back on.

In 1687 Newton published what is usually considered the greatest individual intellectual achievement in human history, his Principia Mathematica which included these early discoveries, mapped the nature of the physical cosmos, silenced his Cartesian School critics,  transcended yet embraced the prevailing Aristotelian Scholasticism, and firmly established Francis Bacon’s Novum Organon, the new inductive scientific method. Meanwhile Newton was fluent in theology, alchemy, and mystical wisdom. The aftermath of this astounding display of genius was nothing less than the European Enlightenment and its cultural revolution that was to become the scientific and cultural worldview we have come to know and love as Modernity.

Back to the prodigious genius of Albert Einstein. His two relativity theories, E=mc2 (1905), the Theory of  Special of Relativity, along with his Theory of General Relativity (1915) are together, arguably the second greatest individual intellectual achievement of humankind. E=mc2 is Einstein’s 1905 mathematical formulation to express the physical relationship between  space and time; and the fundamental equivalence of matter and energy, where “E” is energy, “m” is mass (quantity of matter), and “c2“ is the velocity of light in a vacuum squared (multiplied by itself), a huge number. Therefore, there is enormous energy contained in the smallest bit of matter. This equation represents the mathematical formula for the conversion of mass (matter) to energy that occurs in the nuclear reactions of the sun and stars, nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs. Einstein explains  (1952):


The mass of a body is the measure of its energy content; if the energy changes by L, the mass changes in the same sense by L/9×1020, the energy being measured in ergs, and the mass in grams.


The E=mc2  equation applies not just to nuclear reactions, but to all energy transformations, thermal, chemical and electromagnetic. The most profound example of the equivalence of energy and mass is foundational “pair production,” the pair creation of particles of matter and antimatter arising as relative spacetime from the vast quantum vacuum that is the pure primordial energy base of the physical cosmos. This occurs in particle accelerators, black holes and Big Bangs that create the many universes of the oscillating Multiverse.

The wisdom of emptiness. Einstein’s E=mc2 demonstrates that all matter, all of material reality is actually light-energy (prana, shakti, lung, pneuma, ch’i) arising from its vast basal primordial emptiness matrix or source-ground, just as the Hindu Vedas, Upanishads, Buddhist Tantras and other teachings of our Great Wisdom Tradition have told from the very beginning. On the account of our wisdom traditions then, the physical cosmos is not simply a linear, material chain of cause and effect from the “Big Bang” (“First Cause”) to the present, but rather, an atemporal, continuous emanation, manifestation, objectification, solidification or reification of light-energy from its great timeless, ultimately or perfectly subjective, utterly ineffable (to concept-mind but not yogic contemplative mind) base or source, the “supreme source” (cittadhatu), of all-inclusive Kosmos (gross/physical cosmos, subtle, causal and nondual aspects of the reality dimensions of Body, Mind, Spirit), the primordial emptiness ground, Tao, Nirguna Brahman of our Great Wisdom Tradition. According to Tibetan Dzogchen scholar and meditation master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu:


It is the inherent nature of the primordial state to manifest as light, which in turn manifests as the five colors, the essences of the elements …to produce the elements themselves, which make  up the whole material dimension …The spontaneously arising play of this energy…may be enjoyed as such by an individual who remains integrated with his or her essential inherent condition, in the self- liberating, self-perfected state, the state of Dzogchen.

—Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, 1999


E=mc2, with its light-form energy, along with the inherent quantum emptiness of such matter, has bridged the gap, analogically, between space and time, physics and metaphysics, between the vexing Modernist dualism of the Cartesian/Newtonian objectivist worldview, and the inherent subjectivity of the quantum and Mahayana Buddhist worldviews.

It is from this great synthesis that arises the emerging 21st century integral Noetic Revolution that is now upon us.                                         11.15

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