Anthropic Principle in Physics and Spiritual Philosophy


The anthropic principle is often used as a weapon in the tiresome debates between “creationists” and “scientific materialists”. Resistance of “scientific materialists” to the idea of Divinity is rooted in their individual psychological development and the sociology of the academia today. Not all scientists are “scientific materialists”. Many scientists believe in God and appreciate the Cosmic Mystery but they cannot express these feelings in their academic settings. The “creationists” who are the followers of particular dogmas are thinking that way because of their psychological development and social settings as well. The endless debates have nothing to do with science but a lot to do with psychology.

It is worth mentioning that even the staunchest atheists say they believe in spirituality. Often, when people claim that they are atheists they actually mean that they don’t believe in a particular dogma. There are many conceptions of God. Most atheists reject the commonly held conceptions of God but they secretly believe in the Cosmic Mystery and the existence of spirituality which is love.  When I say to them that “God is Love” they are puzzled but they don’t reject that conception of God.

The followers of religious dogmas are good people too. They have an emotional need to follow the dogmas. It is their personal choice, we cannot judge them but when they try to impose their literal interpretation of the scriptures on the society and apply social pressures to restrict free-thinking we must oppose them. The criterion should be the ideal of the pluralist democracy. The free-thinkers are always in minority. We must make sure that free-thinking is not suppressed.

Scientists and people practicing spirituality have something in common: open-mindedness and respect for rationality. We think dogmas of all kind (religious or scientific) prevent human progress. We should approach the discussion of the anthropic principle with these principles in mind.

When I present the viewpoints of the spiritual philosophy below, you may question my certainty. A scientist would never be that certain. Does the spiritual philosophy become a dogma when expressed in such certain terms? I think not because spiritual philosophy is based on personal discovery of the Reality. So, whatever I say in this article regarding Nirguna Brahma, Saguna Brahma, or the Cosmic Mind has to be internalized by you. The concepts of spiritual philosophy were discovered by the great sages in the last 10000 years. I pay attention to these concepts because they provide a framework for synthesis of human knowledge.

Dogmas are, by definition, close-minded. Dogmas create divisions and debates. Dogmas and science are not compatible. Dogmas and spiritual philosophy are not compatible either.

The commonality between science and spiritual philosophy is the open-minded worldview. Science approaches Reality using a different methodology, however. Science is analytical. Yes, there are major efforts towards “unified” theories but science is essentially analytical. Analysis is often the opposite of synthesis. This is where science and spiritual philosophy differ. Spiritual philosophy is about synthesis not analysis.

Unwritten Rule in Science

The unwritten rule in science is that attributing the cause of any phenomena to God is not an explanation because it has zero predictive power. Scientists try their best to find a rational explanation without attributing the cause to God.

Scientists dedicate their lives to the discovery of the laws of Nature. Einstein was writing mathematical formulas hours before his death. Imagine the dedication! Most scientists are equally dedicated.  They would not have become scientists if they did not believe that there were laws to be discovered. Scientists are certainly in awe of the Nature but they block the fundamental question in their mind: why laws exist at all? Some brave phycisists started discussing this question and came up with an answer known as the “cosmic landscape”. I will explain their argument and add my commentary on the “cosmic landscape” idea.

The spiritual philosophy has no problem with the methodology of science which is analysis. Spiritual philosophy leaves the discovery of natural laws to the scientists and accepts the scientific explanations but it is not satisfied with the intellectual understanding. The spiritual practice is about experiencing the Reality and spiritual philosophy is about the methodology leading to that Experience. The methodology of synthesis may lead to that Experience. In the process of forming the synthesis, the spiritual philosopher discovers the concepts that are actually relevant in science. Scientists of this age may or may not recognize the relevance of these concepts but the future scientists will appreciate the concepts of spiritual philosophy. I am sure of that.

Strong Anthropic Principle

Fine-tuning of physical constants of the universe was not an accident but implies a grand design.

Weak Anthropic Principle

The physical constants of the universe are such that they make life and consciousness possible.

Physicist Views of the Anthropic Principle

Physicist Don Page summarized the anthropic principle as follows:

Weak Anthropic Principle: “what we observe about the universe is restricted by the requirement of our existence as observers.”

Strong-Weak Anthropic Principle: “In at least one world…of the many-worlds universe, life must develop.”

Strong Anthropic Principle: “The universe must have the properties for life to develop at some time within it.”

Final Anthropic Principle: “Intelligence must develop within the universe and then never die out.”

Physicist Freeman Dyson once said “It’s as if the universe knew we were coming.”

Physicists Vera Kistiakowsky says “The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.”

Physicist Steven Weinberg does not believe in the strong anthropic principle: “It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-les farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes, but that we were somehow built in from the beginning.”

Physicist Heinz Pagels was once impressed with the anthropic principle but then he lost interest because he thought the anthropic principle had no predictive power. He claimed that the anthropic principle leads to a tautology: “we are here because we are here.”

For a very thoughtful examination of the fundamental questions in science including the anthropic principle I recommend Paul Davies’ books [1] [2]. Paul Davies articulates the position of a significant number of scientists when he says: “I belong to the group of scientists who do not subscribe to a conventional religion but nevertheless deny that the universe is a purposeless accident. Through my scientific work I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact. There must, it seems to me, be a deeper level of explanation. Whether one wishes to call that deper level `God’ is a matter of taste and definition. Furthermore, I have come to the point of view that mind – i.e., conscious awareness of the world – is not meaningless and incidental quirk of nature, but an absolutely fundamental facet of reality. That is not to say that we are the purpose for which the universe exists. Far from it. I do, however, believe that we human beings are built into the scheme of things in a basic way.” [1]

Cosmic Landscape and Multiverse

There is a growing school of thought known as the “cosmic landscape” among the particle physicists. The cosmic landscape approach was pioneered by Leonard Susskind. The “landscape” is the list of all possible designs of hypothetical universes. According to String/M theory 10^500  (10 multiplied by 10, 500 times) (1 followed by 500 zeros) distinct kinds of environments are possible. There is also a growing understanding among the cosmologists that our universe is part of a Multiverse. For a classification of Multiverse theories see Tegmark’s recent article [3].

Physicist Leonard Susskind has complex views on the anthropic principle. He takes the principle seriously but concludes that there is an illusion of intelligent design in our universe. He claims that when seen from the perspective of the Multiverse (he calls it Megaverse) there is no intelligent design. He likens the emergence of life and intelligence in this particular universe to the evolution of biological species. Enormous number of possibilities and the sufficiently long time allows life, consciousness and intelligence to emerge in infinite time. Cosmic landscape theorists answer the question of “why laws exist at all?” by saying that there are different natural laws in different universes and a particular set of laws in a particular universe is a random choice in the sense that there is enormous number of possibilities. I understand this argument but I say that we are replacing one fundamental question with another one: Why so many possibilities? What is the source of 10^500  (1 followed by 500 zeros) possibilities?

As spiritual philosophers we may critique the “cosmic landscape” approach but we also think that it is a good development in science. It represents an expansion of the mental horizons of the scientists. The “cosmic landscape” approach allows intuitive physicists to talk about  the Cosmic Mystery without being stigmatized in the academia. The vastness of the Multiverse brings physicists even closer to the idea of Cosmic Consciousness.

Multiverse/Megaverse is perfectly consistent with the basic tenet of spiritual philosophy which is the concept of Absolute Monism or the Unity of Being. I will explain this in the next section. The spiritual philosophy does not agree, however, with Susskind, on his conclusion that the emergence of intelligence is a random process. Remember the unwritten rule in science. Scientists are simply trying to find an explanation without attributing the cause to God. To them, Multiverse seems to be a rational answer to the fundamental question. To me or to anyone who sees life from the perspective of spiritual philosophy, Multiverse only enhances our view that the basis of all existence, the Cosmic Consciousness is vast and there are infinite possibilities within the Cosmic Consciousness. We agree on the vastness, we reject the randomness.

At some point scientists will have to accept the fact that everything including universes and mental structures of those universes were created out of pure consciousness and that there is nothing random in Cosmic Consciousness.

Anthropic Principle and Spiritual Philosophy

Universal spiritual philosophy is based on the concept of Absolute Monism which is the same as the concept of Unity of Being. Irrespective of the terminology people use, the basis of existence is ONE. There is only ONE Being.

I prefer the  Sanskrit terminology of Tantra Yoga so I use the terminology of Nirguna Brahma* (Absolute Unqualified Consciousness) to refer to the ultimate reality and the basis of existence. Spiritual philosophy also emphasizes that the Nirguna Brahma is the infinite ocean of love and bliss. You may substitute other terms such as Nameless, ALL, Absolute Being, Ein Sof, Alam-i Hahut, or Divine Love for Nirguna Brahma.

When a  portion of the Absolute Unqualified Consciousness transforms itself into the never ending cosmic life we refer to that as the Saguna Brahma (Qualified Consciousness). There are many other names, of course, to refer to the Manifest Divinity (Saguna Brahma): God, Allah, Creator, Parama Purusa, and many others. Nirguna Brahma is Nameless, Saguna Brahma is Name. This is a subtle philosophical point. I briefly talked about the subtle difference between the “Name” and the “Nameless” in my first article “A Fundamental Principle“. The witnessing entity (life-giving nucleus consciousness) of Saguna Brahma is known as Puruśottama or Atman. The witnessing entity is formed when the “Unqualified” consciousness is “Qualified.” Witnessing implies substantiation of existence.

Within the infinite life (Saguna Brahma)  the Cosmic Mind and an infinite number of unit consciousnesses are formed. The witnessing entity of the Cosmic Mind is the one and only Puruśottama/Atman. Each unit consciousness (jivaatman) has a special connection (Otta Yoga) to Puruśottama/Atman. We should think of the Cosmic Mind as Cosmic Mind/Life because it is both infinite life and infinite wisdom.

Cosmic Mind creates the universe(s) and guides the unit minds (witnessed/substantiated by jivaatmans) towards a realization of their connection to Puruśottama/Atman over many lifetimes. Each unit mind has the potential to evolve and merge with the Cosmic Mind thereby enriching it in infinite ways and eventually uniting (Yoga) with Puruśottama/Atman. The Cosmic Mind will create and guide the unit minds and universes as long as the Puruśottama/Atman exists.

The physical universe is a thought projection of the Cosmic Mind. The physical universe is the necessary mechanism for the emergence of unit minds and the multiplication of the Cosmic Mind. One can write volumes talking about how ONE appears as MANY within Creation. ONENESS is always preserved. Appearance of MANY can be described as the internal self-reflections of Purusottama/Atman which is the witnessing entity (substantiator) of the Cosmic Mind. At this point you might want to look at the summary provided in a table form in the article “Layers of the Mind.”

The physical universe is the necessary mechanism for the emergence and growth of the unit minds. The universe and the infinite number of unit minds within the universe were created for the maximization of the expression of Cosmic Consciousness. This is the “Strongest Anthropic Principle”.

The belief in the Strongest Anthropic Principle does not prevent us from practicing science.  Learning the secrets of the Cosmic Mind, or knowing the Mind of God as Einstein used to say, and eventually becoming integral part of the Cosmic Mind/Life is our human destiny. We are already here and we are part of it but I am referring to becoming an integral part which means being  fully conscious of the Cosmic Mind/Life. Spiritually advanced teachers tell us that we become an integral part of it when the ego dissolves. Ego is a necessary mental structure for the growth and evolution of our unit consciousness but eventually it has to dissolve.

Even though the ideas of the Multiverse were motivated by the avoidance of the the Creator concept, from the point of view of the Spiritual Philosophy, Multiverse makes sense. Think of the infinite ocean of Nirguna Brahma. Within this infinite ocean of existence many universes are possible. Why not! We always refer to Divinity as INFINITY. Multiverse is another expression of INFINITY.

The Concept of Creationism is Counter-productive

The concept of “Creationism” is counter-productive and hurting the sincere efforts of the spiritual philosophy. Why do you insist that God created the universe fully formed? He could have done that but He could have created the universe in stages as well. Since there is no concept of “time” in the Cosmic Mind this discussion is pointless but let me clarify what I mean.  The “time” appears when the physical universe emerges  as a thought projection within the Cosmic Mind. The “time” effect is the root cause of evolution. The physical universe evolves as designed by the Cosmic Mind. The laws of evolution were designed by the Cosmic Mind as well. Everything is happening within the Mind of God. There is nothing outside of it. Evolution is happening within the Mind of God too.

Another philosophical description of the Cosmic Mind is “ordering principle” which originates in the “causal” (Mahat) layer of the Cosmic Mind. The words “causal” or “ordering principle” refer to a grand design. Time is not manifest yet but a design, a cause, an ordering principle is created within the Cosmic Mind before the creation of the physical universe(s).

Some people refer to the  “Cosmic Thought Projection” as the “Cosmic Dream”. Spiritual Philosophy does not have a problem with that description either. The “Cosmic Dream” also contains the concept of “evolution” and the concept of a plot, a theme, and a scenario.

Mental structures within the Cosmic Mind observe each other as “real”. What is an “idea” to the Cosmic Mind is “real” to us.  The laws of the nature are designed by the Cosmic Mind who can override them when necessary but it seems that the rule of law is the basic principle of Creation.

Belief in the Creator is only the First Step

In spiritual practice the belief in the Creator is the first step whereas in philosophy it is treated as the final step. The spiritual seeker (sadhaka) feels the love of the Creator, or tastes a glimpse of the Infinite Wisdom, or simply appreciates the Cosmic Mystery and this sets him on his spiritual journey. The spiritual seeker does not need a proof of the obvious. The spiritual seeker is trying to find the source of Love and merge in that infinite bliss. Philosophers, on the other hand, are trying to find a proof of the existence of God. In my humble opinion, this is rather silly. You can never find a proof of the existence of God. Proof is a mental procedure. The mental realm is a sub-domain of the Cosmic Consciousness. You cannot comprehend God or find a proof of Its existence while staying in the mental realm. I would like to remind you that this is the way cosmic play (Liila ) was setup. We cannot comprehend why Cosmic Consciousness is hidden when seen through the eyes of the ego and why it shines brilliantly when the ego dissolves. Why do we have the ego then? Why do we have individual identities? Why do we have the unit souls? The problem and its solution is part of the cosmic play.


* Shrii Shrii Anandamurti uses the nominative case of  “Brahman”  throughout his writings.

[1] Paul Davies, “The Mind of God”, Simon & Schuster (1993), ISBN 9780671797188

[2] Paul Davies, “The FIFTH MIRACLE: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life”, Simon & Schuster (2000), ISBN 9780684863092

[3] Max Tegmark, “The Multiverse Hierarchy

About Suresh Emre

I have worked as a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory. I am a volunteer for the Renaissance Universal movement. My main goal is to inspire the reader to engage in Self-discovery and expansion of consciousness.
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