God, Nothingness and Stephen Hawkins
Hardev Singh Jammu
A few weeks ago, Stephen Hawkins, making the headlines of the news sheets, told the world that the universe did not require God for its creation. Rather, in contrast, he said: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing” Stephen made above statement depicting the theme of his forthcoming book ‘Grand Design’. Undoubtedly, he is a great scientist. But, even the most brilliant scientist is bound to talk in terms of philosophy where scientific analysis ceases to proceed. He goes hypothetical/ subjective and some of his efforts may be far-fetched.
No doubt, Stephen Hawkins has produced this hypothesis comparing scientific laws with some religious conceptions which had been attempting to explain the ‘nature of God’ and His relation with the creation. But is Stephen familiar with the philosophy of Guru Nanak (1469, first teacher of Sikhism) on this aspect? This question is important and interesting as well. Beyond any doubt, Stephen has never been to the philosophy of Guru Nanak. He is not at fault as he does not know about it. However, this is pertinent for any physicist to understand, that there may be something somewhere in the realm of philosophy pointing towards the existence of God differently in a logical way. Nanak brought the ‘nature of God’ out of prototypes Hawkins appears to be contending upon.
The understanding about God is not something to understand apart from the ‘forms of God’. God is an understanding, from His ‘formless’ existence to all ‘forms’ created by Him. He is not confined somewhere but omnipresent. He is not aloof from the physics, gravitation and their effects but all these laws are within Him. This is the depth of the philosophy of Guru Nanak. If Stephen Hawkins could know this, surely, he would have got interested to think upon it.
The ‘Grand Design’ is not released so far but Stephen Hawkins is found to be saying; “universe can and will create itself from nothing”.
In above part of statement Stephen goes close to the philosophical conclusion of Nanak when he says:
From this Primal Void, came the four sources of creation, and the power of speech.They were created from the Void, and they will merge into the Void.
Guru Nanak, Page 1037, AGGS)
Here Guru Nanak reveals nothingness as ‘primary’ in which all forms take place and go dissolved. But Stephen misses something important about it.
Now let’s proceed with this ‘nothingness’. ‘Sunn’ is an important word used in the hymns of Guru Granth Sahib (AGGS) which mean ‘nothingness’ or celestial void. It is used in different contexts. But here, in this discussion, we will try to analyze it in the context of a particular situation when the universe was not yet in existence. Meaning thereby, a situation of complete nonexistence of matter and anything related to it such as gravity. Guru Nanak says:-
In the celestial Void (Nothingness), the Infinite Lord assumed His Power. He Himself is unattached, infinite and incomparable. He Himself exercised His Creative Power, and He gazes upon His creation; from the celestial Void, He formed the mind soul. (Guru Nanak, Rag Maru, Adi Guru Granth Sahib)
In the same hymn Guru Nanak wrote further:-
From this celestial Void (Nothingness), the earth and the skies were created. He supports them without any visible support, by exercising His True Power. He fashioned the three worlds, and the rope of Maya; He Himself creates and destroys. From this Void, came the four sources of creation, and the power of speech. They were created from the Void, and they will merge into the Void. ( Guru Nanak, Rag Maru,Adi Guru Granth Sahib)
Scientific discoveries have proved many of religious faiths as superfluous. Discovering that sun does not revolve around the earth, the ‘logic’ proves that the early claim made about it was false. Thus one of the ignorance, related to the religion, got vanished. But rotation of earth around the sun does not mean that nature is not there. Rather such knowledge makes us to understand what nature is and what it is not. Similarly, we have to see what God is and what He is not.
Atheism is old. However, Stephen Hawkins name may brandish some old arguments in a new fashion. But rejoicing minds need to contemplate that some illogical explanations of God and religion do not necessarily mean what they are. Whether it is religion, economics or politics, all are useful and always exposed to go abusive. The struggle of mankind is to make good use of all these notions and not to deport them from human mind. We know with certainty that, most of miseries are primarily inflicted on the civilizations by economics and politics using religion as a tool. Even though, we can not imagine of a world without economics and political systems. There we all talk of reforms. But why some rationalists are not ready to accept a reformative understanding of religion?
Scientists tell us that the universe began to come into being about 15 billion years ago and this beginning, necessarily refers towards a situation of ‘not being’. For example, beginning of my existence establishes that at a point of time I did not exist. Yes, of course, there were the elements which caused my existence. The scientists are agreeing that the universe is expanding. If the proofs of the expansion of the universe are based on the scientific conclusions then, expanding universe itself proves, beyond any doubt, that it had a definite beginning. If, logically, we reverse the process of this expansion, then it will appear coming back to a point of the beginning. This point will be the proof of the beginning of the present form of the universe. It would also reveal about the reality that, once upon a time, even this point did not exist. There comes the nothingness. Then, definitely, the cause of this ‘beginning point’ was the ‘first one’ of the chain of the cause and effects. Meaning thereby, a ‘cause’ which was ‘Self-existent’. Evolution of the entire existence is a part or form of this ‘Self-existent’ cause’ and it is continued. This evolution is not the evolution of everything. Rather this evolution includes the devolution of many things. This is natural, positive and negative as well. This is something which is not to be supposed otherwise.
The attempts to investigate this ever expanding universe have accepted the theories of ‘Big Bang’ and ‘Black Holes’. But the human mind, while looking into the formation and existence of black holes and thinking of possible big bang would definitely go to the idea of a situation before the black holes. And when it happens, logic points towards nothingness or celestial void, neither matter, time nor space. Here space means the distances among the things. In this context, during his philosophical discourses with Sidhas (Learned Ones) Guru Nanak explained some important things while answering to their questions during philosophical discourses (Sidh Gosht)
Question of Sidhas regarding the creation of the universe:-
What can you tell us about the beginning? In what home did the absolute void dwell then? (Adi Guru Granth Sahib, p 940)
Reply of the Guru Nanak:-
We can only express a sense of wonder about the beginning. The absolute void abided endlessly deep within Himself then. (Adi Guru Granth Sahib, p. 940)
From His state of absolute existence, He assumed the immaculate form; from formless, He assumed the supreme form. ( Page 940, Adi Guru Granth Sahib)
There is need to understand the matter, time and space briefly. Guru Nanak has pointed towards the existence of God before matter, time and space (distances) we see. No doubt, our understanding about the beginning of time and space (distances) is related to the beginning of the creation of universe i.e. a point from where the scientists like Stephen Hawkins contemplate about the creation of the universe on the basis of available forms, scientific facts and ideas. But when mind, logically, thinks of an ambience, when there was nothing like universe, it finds itself standing within a ‘time’ and an empty ‘space’. In a time, where there is no reference to go back further in the time and, in a space, where there is no existence for any reference of matter. Here the space does not mean distance. This is a ‘timeless’ and ‘non-existent’ situation. At that time, entire forms of existence we see or imagine, appear to be like the needles of smaller watches moving within a ‘great timeless( incalculable) and amazing watch’ and expressions of the moments occurring within a timeless situation. When scientists prove that the universe started coming into being 15 billions years ago, then they appear to be talking about a time span and things within a timeless set of circumstances. But if we talk about the situation like 30 billions years ago, then the time, being not associated with any reference of existence, appears to be timeless because we don’t find anything as reference for the investigation or analysis of that timeless situation. This set of circumstances is referred by Nanak as ‘Sunn’. This is continuous because this is the only which is beyond the time. This Sunn, being timeless and formless is conducive to produce the time and forms. This capacity has a cause, a first cause. Meaning thereby, the cause of all other subsequent causes and their effects. This cause is revealed as God and His Hukam (Order) by Guru Nanak.
Guru Nanak says:-
You yourself are the Cause of causes, You Yourself are the Creator. (Adi Guru Granth Sahib, p. 563) And:
You are wonderful! Your creative potency is amazing! (Adi Guru Granth Sahib, p. 563)
When there was nothing there was Sunn, a complete celestial void. We need to contemplate about the ‘capability’ which had the capacity to produce something like universe within the empty womb of nothingness. Science is not able to establish anything firmly about this nothingness because, as discussed before, it has no base in its hands to conduct a scientific investigation to determine about celestial void. Here comes the point, where science itself requires a philosophy, based on logic, which may keep it alive to analyze the secrets which are beyond human understanding. Logic is the father of science. We talk about God. Even atheist talk about God. To abandon the quest for God after reaching a state of nothingness and logic of its capacity to produce ‘existence ‘would be like the declaration of ‘death of science’ in this field. Would Stephen Hawkins like to write its obituary?
On the other hand, if the matter was self existent in some form, was there a consciousness within that form of matter which kicked off the process of evolution of universe? Talking in terms of hypothetical ‘faith’ in pure materialism a materialist needs to concentrate on the questions that; behaviour of chaotic matter was not the basic consciousness of matter? Isn’t this the ‘seed’ of non evolved consciousness which, after reaching its zenith, had assumed the evolution of human mind? Certainly, we can not deny the behaviour of matter. Atom itself is bound within a specific behaviour. Obviously, it is the behaviour of matter which is the precondition for integration and disintegration to hold them together with in a universal system. Here we are encountered with three important questions. First; Behaviour precedes or the matter? Second; Matter precedes or gravitational force? Third; Was it the gravitational force which did all this or God’s hand helped it to happen by way of matter and its gravitational force? An affirmative answer to the second part of the third question appears to be the only option to reply former questions.
Why God did all this? We don’t know! We don’t have God in our hands to ask. But matter is in front of people like Stephen Hawkins. They would tell us the laws of gravity and quantum theory allowed the universe to appear spontaneously from nothing. They tell us that ‘how it happened’. But we need to know ‘why’ it happened? Hawkins can never satisfy this question. Referring matter as self existent, a materialist drops his weapon of cause and effect theory, used by him against the existence of God.
But philosophical leads of Nanak take us towards strong logic to analyze this complication. Definitely, there was something as ‘Super consciousness’ which was outside the matter and it had the capacity to produce embryo of matter and its behaviour within the womb of celestial void. Logically, we can be aware of it. We can only identify it by means of forms and laws created by this ‘Consciousness’ and accept the logic of its existence. And we can definitely accept the philosophy of Nanak when he says:-
You are wonderful! Your creative potency is amazing! (Adi Guru Granth Sahib, p. 563)
This is ‘One’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Formless’ and ‘Self Extinct Super Conscious Existence’. This is beyond birth and death but able to reflect and run within and outside all forms of a supreme form i.e. universe. Here Nanak does not describe God in slices. He talks about the nature of God in His entirety. He identifies nature as the shadow of God’s hand, Who, otherwise, is beyond any scientific or mathematical calculation. We don’t know all about the mind of God in calculated terms.
From His state of absolute existence, He assumed the immaculate form; from formless He assumed the supreme form. (Adi Guru Granth Sahib, 563)
O Nanak, the True One is the Giver of all; He is to be identified through His All-powerful Creative Nature. (Adi Guru Granth Sahib, p. 141)
God exists and identity of His existence is this entire Nature which ‘produces’ ‘brings up’ and ‘destroys’. Can Stephen Hawkins deny above identification? No doubt, he cannot! This is the proof of God as described in the Sikh Philosophy.
On this issue, further dialogue may take place after ‘Grand Design’ of Stephen Hawkins and his ‘associate’ surfaces.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2011, All